The Stand Ins
I finally got on the bandwagon and discovered Okkervil River this year. It's really a shame that "Plus Ones" from 2007's The Stage Names didn't come out this year--I listened to it probably a hundred times, and it would almost certainly be my favorite of 2008.
"Lost Coastlines" isn't quite as good, but it's got the same appealing sadness, masked by Will Sheff's witticisms and frantic pace. Listen to that jaunty bassline, and then listen to the melancholic strings that layer over it in the final minute and a half of the song, and you'll know everything you need to know about the ability of "Lost Coastlines" to mix the manic and the depressive.
Meanwhile, we're also given the contrast between the hyperactive, obsessive, paranoid yelp of Will Sheff and the cool, collected, sarcastic croon of Shearwater's Jonathan Meiburg. They mix together and somehow end up saying something deeper and more meaningful than either of them could have managed on his own.
Sheff never lets up on his frantic rhymes, but it'll feel like the intensity decreases when Meiburg's vocals kick in. It doesn't. Sheff is the wave, Meiburg the undertow. Both of them drag you further and further away from the shore.