Tuesday, December 9, 2008

My Top 30 Songs Of '08

“The fight isn’t over whether you’re alternative or mainstream.
It’s how you tune the mainstream to a different frequency”. – M.I.A.

That quote sums up what I think about popular music these days. It seems that gap between what is considered “Underground” and what is considered “Mainstream” has been getting smaller and smaller with the progression of the internet and decline of physical sales of music. Music is more available to a wide variety of people and now it seems that everyone else has heard of any band you mention which makes it harder for you to recommend something to an acquaintance that they haven’t heard before.

In case you didn’t know holding my coveted “Number 1 Song of The Year” is quite the honour and carries with it a lot of clout and gusto. My number one song last year was Arcade Fire’s “My Body Is A Cage” it is now being immortalized on film, in one of my favourite directors new movie: “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”. In case you haven’t seen the TV spot you can check it HERE.

This year’s list seem to have a wide variety of types of songs ranging from Remixes and a cover song to Mainstream Pop to what I consider to be almost “Gangster Rap”. I always have to write this every year that this is truly “My” list – what I enjoy. I hope you enjoy them as well, of course, I’ve provided download links for your convenience. I realize that
You’re going to disagree with about half of the shit I’m going to write but the beauty of it is you’re going to recommend me songs as well and I’m going to be all the better for it.

Before you start reading (Or skimming, you ASSHOLE) you can click these two links and download the 30 tracks I’ve listed. The download should be completed by the time you finish reading this, unless you’re a mouth reader.
Download tracks 30 to 16 : HERE and tracks 15 to 1 HERE.

To start off the list is a song who’s beat is constructed solely on a “Mouth and a bell” And just an FYI they are F.L.Y. they squeaked in the list and beat out songs like: “The Stations” by the Gutter Twins; “The Perfect Plan” by Wale; and “Magic Spells” by Crystal Castles and Kim & Jessie by M83, my 30 spot goes to:

30. What Up Man? by The Cool Kids
Tick, tick, clap, tick, clap, clap, bass, bass, bass. Yes, very repetitive but you probably would not have noticed if I didn’t tell you. Yes, some of the lyrics and obscene but I think the amazing beat and the amusing lines that are spewed override that. The Cool Kids were one of most entertaining bands that I saw at Lollapalooza this summer.

29. Dying Is Fine by Ra Ra Riot
Ra Ra Riot, terrible name and definitely can be accused of jumping on the Vampire Weekend bandwagon but this song is a catchy little number. I enjoy the strings that can be heard in the background and this song somehow is quite cheerful despite its grim outlook on life. I really love this chorus.

28. Get It Up (Radioclit Mix Ft. M.I.A. & Gorilla Zoe) by Diplo And Santogold
When Santogold first hit the scene I read many articles and blurbs that commented on her similarity to M.I.A. so it’s quite interesting that they are together on this track. I love the tribal chants and think that the two mixed well together. I should have maybe made this entry higher considering I snubbed M.I.A. hard for not even putting “Paper Planes” in last year’s songs list. I feel in love with that song like 2 days after I posted that list, I swear.

27. This Is Your Life by The Killers
Considering that “Day & Age” recently leaked it is quite the accomplishment for a song to rocket straight into my 30 but this song managed to do it. t seems like I’m one of the 4 people that liked “Sam’s Town” which comforts me because the general population’s taste sucks, instead we got this 80’s infused, neon 80’s album.

Why is this song so special? Because it has cheesy 80’s movie written all over it. What immediately grabbed me about this song is that it reminded me of a song off of the third Ninja Turtle movie and after much searching I found that Baltimora’s “Tarzan Boy” is the song I was thinking of. Take it as a bad sign or a good sign but The Killers killed it on this track. (See, what I did there? Har. Har.)

26. American Boy (Ft. Kanye West) by Estelle
OK, this is the ONLY entry Kanye West is getting in my lists this year. Actually maybe he’ll get a Hong-nourable mention but it’s a remix. Anyways, the female version of Ludacris’ “Area Codes” was really hard for me to put on the list because of its association with will.i.am, damn a little piece of me died as I’m actually giving props to someone apart of my most hated band: Black Eyed Peas. Great beat, catchy chorus and if you would have asked me this summer maybe a Top 10 Song Of The Year. Blasphemous I know, how can you take anything I write with a grain of salt? If you remember last year’s 15, you should not be surprised.

25.Strawberry Swing by Coldplay
Yeah, I followed up Estelle and Kanye with a Coldplay song. I know I’m going to lose a lot of people after 5 songs but I think that Coldplay made a really good album and tried out a new sound. And while that alienated a lot of their fans I think that this song is a song that all Coldplay fans can agree on. The lush drums and the acoustic guitar create a nice soothing atmosphere within the song and sometimes that I all I really want. I’m comfortable with my sexuality to write that I like Coldplay if you are still using that joke you’re an unoriginal asshole unless you are using that joke in an ironic way.

24. My Drive Thru by Santogold. Pharrell & Julian Casablancas
Remember like 3 or 4 years ago when Justin Timberlake did that really LAME McDonalds song and Nelly sang about Air Force 1’s? Those songs probably were the pinnacle of music’s marriage with commercials. These days you have corporations or brands acquiring and renting songs to make their product/company seems cool. Commercials and Television shows are the new MTV and MuchMusic.

“My Drive Thru” is probably the BEST song I’ve heard that has been written specifically for an advertising campaign for Converse. Aside from Pharrell’s lame “Uhhhs and Awws” this song is almost flawless. Amazing beat, Julian sounds really clean and the parts he sings are the best and even a semi decent video. It’s the best thing Julian has been a part of since “Room On Fire” yes, I rescind every positive thing I’ve said about “First Impressions Of Earth”. It’s a terrible album.

23. Video Tapez (Ft. Del The Funky Homosapien) by Amplive
AmpLive’s “Rainydayz Remixes” was embroiled in some controversy before it was released on the web. Seems like its getting harder and harder to sample songs and even though Radiohead practically gave “In Rainbows” away for free and AmpLive was going to do the same with these remixes suits still almost found a way to mess it up. Probably my favourite track from the album (Videotape ) is remixed with Del The Funky Homosapien rapping over it. Great re-work if you love the original you should like this.

22. Feel The Love by Cut Copy
You can drop your Virgin Mobile phone and listen to this great and catchy song that opens Cut Copy’s “In Ghost Colors”. This is a dance-rockish track that has steadily grown and grown over the year. It mixes robot voices with acoustic guitars and Euro-beats. You’ve probably heard this song before but don’t know who it is. Think last year’s “Pogo” by Digitalism. Damn, I want to bake me a cake and buy a Blackberry.

21. Phantom Other by Department Of Eagles
This song is a stark contrast to all of the pop, dance’ish tracks that have so far made my list thus far. It has an orchestral feel; it’s mellow and beautifully composed. Think of a Disney song, not new-school Disney, but Disney when they were blatantly racist, this is the atmosphere I get from the song (Minus the racism part). The song is really just basically a 3 minute and 49 second buildup to an AMAZING conclusion. That buildup is still good in of itself though.

20.Wild International by One Day As A Lion
In a year where the Chinese get democracy and pigs can apparently fly we FINALLY get new material from this year’s number 2 anarchist (Joker being number 1): Zack De La Rocha. Even though we only get 5 songs it was still great to hear. Even better that he teamed up with an AMAZING drummer Jon Theodore (Formerly of The Mars Volta). Zack doesn’t change up his style at all but the backing track is really different with a keyboard synth replacing a bass line. Interesting lyrics and an amazing return from a long time favourite of mine, lands this track at the 20 spot.

19. Agoraphobia by Deerhunter
“Come for me/ Cover me/ Come for me/ Comfort me” is definitely the best use of alliteration I’ve heard in a song this year. This is a very dreamy and poppy song and is the best and most comforting song about an anxiety of the outside world I’ve ever heard.

18. Electric Feel by MGMT and the Justice Remix
MGMT blew up this year and Electric Feel and “Time To Pretend” are the two songs that have seemingly ushered the duo into the mainstream (It was ridiculous to try and watch their set at Lollapalooza) . There are so many things I can write about this song but I get the feeling that everyone has heard this already. It is super catchy, the lyrics are ridiculous to the point of accomplishment and the little bass line has you head bopping constantly. The tough part is not deciding whether you like the song or not. It is deciding if the Justice Remix is better then the original. As much as I want to hate this hippie band they have won me over, well half one me over.

17.I Stand Corrected by Vampire Weekend
Probably the most overly hyped and talked about band this year has to go to Vampire Weekend but they back up that hype with tracks like this. A short two and a half minute apologetic pop song accompanied by simple drums and very simple lyrics a contrast to many of the more bombastic songs on the album. This is definitely a song that will float into your ears and drill into your memory.

16. Gamma Ray by Beck/Jay Reatard
This gem by Beck (And awesomely covered by Jay Reatard) is probably the best and grooviest songs to ever be written about global warming. While Beck’s version seems hazy and borderline psychedelic Jay Retard’s cover is a minimalist punk song, they both reeled me in as a listener. The plucky guitar and catchy bass line make this one of my favourite tunes of the year.

15. Halfway Home by TV On The Radio
I’m not going to front, this song can easily be higher on this list but I put it at 15 because its title fit into the halfway mark of this list. Yes, it seems that this cheeky moves reeks of lack of integrity but you the reader would have to assume I have integrity to start with,

Anyways, TV On The Radio continues to kill it on opening tracks and this song is no different. The borderline jazz/doo-wop atmosphere of this song mixed with the handclaps pace TVOTR’s letter to science. I love Tunde’s voice and it really soars on this song, 4:19 and onward, to me, is auditory bliss.

14. Anything ‘Cept The Truth by Eagles Of Death Metal
Eagles Of Death Metal perfect their shtick on their latest album and this is a prime example of it. This is a pure sexed up and 80’s tinged rock n’ roll song. Maybe I have a fetish for opening songs that are accompanied by handclaps but there was no way that this song could not make the list.

13. GfC by Albert Hammond, Jr.
If you are not a fan of the Strokes, it is safe to say, that you probably have not heard of Albert Hammond, Jr. Well, its really time to change that because since the Strokes’ last album he has put out two really good albums that are compromised of amazing pop-rock songs and GfC is one of them.

I don’t have a clue what GfC stands for but the starting of the song reminds me of a lullaby and seems that the song really won’t amount to much and then suddenly a little bunchy guitar kicks in with an “Oh” followed by a killer chorus and then really you have no chance not to be hooked on this tune. There is a nifty little guitar solo at the end too, for you heroes out there.

12. (Are There) Ways To Come Home? By Sebastien Grainger
R.I.P. DFA1979. While the bass half, Jesse Keeler, went on to form MSTRKRFT and abandon all of rock and roll tendencies and focused on dance music, Sebastien Grainger slowly crafted a rock based comeback. This is not really comparable to DFA1979 but that is not a bad thing. It seems Grainger has found his sound and this track displays it. I really can’t find anything I dislike about this song. The “Sleeping alone can feel….” line with the crashing cymbals and Grainger’s yell and enough to make this one of my favourite songs of the year.

11. Tape Song by The Kills
This track shot up my list the last couple of weeks. A great musical duo that I very unfortunately have to leave off of my albums list but this track scores big points. “Tape Song” reminds me of “Fever To Tell” Yeah Yeah Yeahs, it is a raw but somewhat poppy punk song, of course, fronted by a female vocalist. Listen to this three times and you won’t be able to get the song out of your head. What they could have improved on though is the musicvideo, pretty lame for such a kick ass song.

I guess I can take a little time here to drop a couple “Hong-nourable” mentions here before we move onto the top 10. DJ Earworm’s mashup of Radiohead’s “Reckoner” and Kanye West’s “Love Lockdown” is perfect. I hate myself for enjoying the Black Kids’ “Hit The Heartbreaks” enough to put them in here. “Goodnight, Travel Well” by the Killers is probably the best closing track I’ve heard this year but not good enough to claw its way into the list. Little Joy’s “Brand New Start” and Does This Offend You, Yeah?’s “Let’s Make Out” were close as well. Okkervil River’s “Lost Coastlines” was awesome. I just got into Passion Pit and the song “Sleepyhead” has been getting a lot of play and Jack White’s and Alicia Keys “Another Way To Die” is really good as well. I know there are more songs that I really liked that didn’t make the list but I’m tapped out right now. Download the Hong-nourable Mentions HERE.

10.An Animal In Your Care by Wolf Parade
Probably the most hyped Canadian album this year was Wolf Parade’s sophomore effort (Sorry Nickelback fans). Anyways, one of the reasons why I love this song is that it reminds me of my childhood. Why? Well, I’m a first generation Canadian and the music I had in my household was anything but popular. Instead I had really lame and annoying traditional Chinese music, you know with the high pitched singing and the sparse xylophone? Well, if you don’t its OK, but this song DEFINITELY reminds me of the music I was raised with.

This song starts off slow then builds but when the keys come in at around the two minute mark with the accompanying guitar sounds a couple seconds later you know that this song is building and getter stronger and stronger. At first I thought this song was, like 87% of popular music, about girl troubles and I was trying to figure out a metaphor in which the guy is the “Animal” in a girls care but when it comes down to really listening to the lyrics the song is really just about someone lamenting on their pet’s death. A weird number 10 but I stand by it.

09. Echoplex by Nine Inch Nails
If you have seen Nine Inch Nails on tour this year you will know all about the visual that goes with this song and how it revolves around this drum track. The beginning of this video shows NIN rehearsing it and this is the visual I got to see live. The guy yelling Vanna White was a nicely added touch.

Anyways, this song breaks the tradition of NIN album closers as the only songs to make it onto my year end lists (Right Where It Belongs and Zero Sum made the ’05 and ’07 songs lists). “Echoplex” immediately caught my ear when I downloaded it (After Trent gave away “The Slip” for free) and was the song I wanted to hear live the most off of the new album. If you like NIN you’ll like this song, if you don’t like NIN you should still give it a shot just because of the awesome “La La La La Las” that are in the background of this track.

08. Even Cowgirls Get The Blues by The Gaslight Anthem
Props go to my BFF Chris MacGregor for introducing me to this band. I’m a stubborn asshole and rarely take recommendations from anyone but I was really urged to download this “The ‘59” Sound”, I never listened to it and then one day this song popped up on random and I haven’t stopped listening to it since.

It’s basically punk mixed with Bruce Springsteen story telling. You know songs about “Sandy, Johnny or Mary” getting older but not growing up, something that really hits a cord with me right now (Listening to All My Friends” by LCD Soundsystem also gives me this same feeling). It would be cheap to compare it to last year’s seemingly token punk song “Thrash Unreal” by Against Me! but they are both great songs that tell very relevant stories with killer fuckin’ choruses.

07. Big Ideas by LCD Soundsystem
First off, I want to state that listing “Al Of My Friends” at the 27th last year was criminal and maybe it’s why I’m ranking “Big Ideas” so high. While the horrible blackjack movie “21” unleashed “Time To Pretend” by MGMT to the mainstream, the movie’s soundtrack also gave birth to James Murphy’s attempt to make a stadium rock song rooted in electronic dance music. “Big Ideas” is the result of that experiment and it is safe to say he pulled it off. It has a super catchy chorus that you won’t get out of your head, a nice little “Woohohohoooo”, its similar to “AnimaL In Your Care” in that this song is a builder and comes to an amazing finish.

06. L.E.S. Artistes by Santogold
Yes, this is Santogold’s third and final entry on this list. She straight up dominated this year and this is the track that started it all for me. This is an amazing pop song and while some may look at Santogold as a guilty pleasure and not worthy of such high acclaim, I beg to differ. She actually writes her own songs and takes tries many different sounds.

It seems that I don’t have any other descriptive things to say other then “killer chorus” but the term is appropriate for this as well. She has been compared to M.I.A. and Gwen Stefani but I think she’s similar to Karen O and this was probably my song of the summer.

05. Touch Me I’m Going To Scream by My Morning Jacket
When I first downloaded “Evil Urges” I could not get pass the second track because I kept this song on repeat. “Touch Me I’m Going To Scream Pt.1” is definitely deserving of the 5 spot and for a brief time I was considering it to be my favourite track of the year.

Jim James has an amazing voice and it is beautifully layered on this track, My Morning Jacket uses a didgeridoo on this as well. What I love most about this song is the subtle bass bopping and the yearning in James’ voice when he sings this chorus a moving song that has dominated my Ipod in ’08.

04. Shoot Me Down (Ft. D. Smith) by Lil’ Wayne
If it weren’t for Axl Rose, Lil’ Wayne’s “Tha Carter III” would be the most hyped album in ’08, it definitely already wins the best cover art of the year and two publications (Blender and Time) have already named it their number 1 album.

Anyways, Weezy has had a monstrous year and while “Lollipop” was a huge single and “A Milli” has been played to death I think that this mellow track is the lynchpin to Wayne’s latest album. After watching the heir apparent on SNL, guitars should have a restraining order against him but I’ll let him near a guitar note on this track. Really, the lyrics are nonsense and unrelatable but the guitar tinged beat; the brooding bassline and D. Smith’s hook make this one of my favourite tracks of the year. I drank Lil’ Wayne Kool-Aid.

03. Closer by Kings Of Leon
As soon as I heard this song I immediately knew that it was going to be on this list somewhere. I was never really a big fan of Kings Of Leon but this track won me over, the song has a dark atmosphere and seems to be written for a disaster movie.

I love the sonar sound and the distorted guitar that are the base of this track. Followill’s voice is amazing as well. For a band that is likened to a Southern version of the Strokes it’s a pretty fuckin’ dark song, nothing like the singles that have come from this album. While some people did complain about the polished sound of KOL’s new record I think it’s perfect especially when a polished sound is necessary for such a precise and vast song.

02. DLZ by TV On The Radio
The only band two have two entries on this year’s list is Brooklyn’s TV On The Radio. Now, this song and the next song could be tied for my favourite song of the year but “DLZ” has a lot to live up too because TV On The Radio have already won my ’06 song of the year with “Wolf Like Me”. I think because of that I had a hard time making this track number 1. Think about it like Dirk Nowitski getting his MVP even though Steve Nash deserved it more – he had already won the two years prior but that worked against him more then help him.

Things I love about this song: Tunde’s voice on this is amazing. Dave Sitek engineered a great atmosphere. The dreamy “La La La La La Las” carry this song. I adore the sparse horns that remind me of Radiohead’s “Kid A”. And the aggressive way that this song is sung make it a perfect song and this year’s bridesmaid. “DLZ” is a song that I instantly loved and I really have no idea what it is about. I assume it’s about Enlightenment or absence of it in this day and age. To me, it sounds like the end of the world and if this is the end I got to say that the rapture has a money soundtrack.

Sorry no number 1 fake out this year, folks.

01. Teen Creeps” by No Age
You know when you hype something up to a person and usually they end up disappointed and don’t like what you have hyped to them? I get the feeling that this is going to happen to this track.

No Age’s “Teen Creeps” is simple, it’s just a 3 and a half minute noisy, loud and distorted punk/garage rock song. Why is this number 1 and why does it rank higher then the more complex and catchier songs on this year’s list? That is hard to answer especially since I gave a litany of reason to why I loved this year’s 2.

To me this song is just perfect in its archaic and distorted simpleness. I love how the song comes straight out of nowhere and pummels the listener with sound; it reminds me of Blur’s “Song 2”. They were both short and simple but amazingly effect rock songs. I love the little “Dada doo doo doo” sound the guitar makes before kicking into the verses and even though I’m a young adult I can still someone enjoy a song most likely about “Teen Angst”. This song may not be in a movie trailer next year but, in my opinion, it encapsulates all that was great about music in 2008.

So that was my year in song, I hope you enjoy. This blog was 8 pages single spaced in Word, I fucking wrote an essay. If you’re a stressed out student who needs a witty, self-deprecating and somewhat entertaining essay to be written for you AND you have some extra cash you know who to email. My top albums of the year will be up in a week or so. Peace.


C. said...

I'm just realizing how much I love that Deerhunter song.

M.Ho said...

It was a tough call to pick a song I liked best on that album. Nothing Ever Happened, Saved by Old Times and Never Stops are just as impressive.

Jeff said...

Great list! Your #1 and 2 are especially solid.