Monday, January 12, 2009

Even More Songs for 2008

Rumor has it that it's 2009 now. If that's true, then it's probably time for me to wrap up my obsession with the best of 2008. I've said enough about my Top 100, but I'd like to say a few words about the great songs that slipped through the cracks.

These are the 40 best songs from the Rolling Stone and Pitchfork lists that, for whatever reason, did not make my list. Most of them should have. Sorry, songs.

1) The Gaslight Anthem - The '59 Sound (Rolling Stone #62)

Maybe confusing to see them in the top spot here, since I recently blogged that they sound like "the Goo Goo Dolls covering 'Heartbreak Beat' by the Psychedelic Furs." That's probably still accurate, but I didn't mean it to sound snarky - that's a good song. Originally, I was upset with them for not sounding enough like the Hold Steady despite having similar influences, but that's probably unfair to them.

2) The Mae Shi - Run to Your Grave (Pitchfork #16)

There's an excellent "sing and clap along" moment at about 1:40 of this one, and the music is so incredibly happy that it takes you a second to realize that the lyrics go as follows: "Don't bury your body with your diamonds / Cuz you know they'll dig up your grave." Probably the first grave-robbing anthem to receive any critical praise. It's a big moment.

3) Why? - Fatalist Palmistry (Pitchfork #94)

This album is dark and weird and tortured to the point where it kinda creeps me out to listen to it on the bus at night. And yet this song is this little gem of happiness in the middle. Then again, I probably just don't understand what half the lyrics mean.

All I know is that this song has near-addictive levels of replay value. Every time I open iTunes, I'm just drawn to it, and I can't explain it. Which is why I'm suspicious that it's really an incantation to ritualistic sacrifice. So it goes, I guess.

4) Phantom Planet - Do the Panic (Rolling Stone #71)

If The Strokes decided to spend the rest of their career trying to make a song exactly like "Shattered" by the Rolling Stones, but even more awesome, they would probably come up with this. How the guys who did the theme song for The OC came up with it first is anybody's guess.

5) Young Jeezy - My President (Rolling Stone #16)

a) If I were Barack Obama, I would listen to this song 20 times a day. It would be my ringtone, my alarm ... it would basically replace "Hail to the Cheif"
b) Had Obama lost, this song would be the equivalent to a "Patriots 19-0" shirt, which is to say that we probably would have had to send it to underprivileged third world kids. Though it's awesome to think about John McCain keeping it around just for spite, singing it to himself and chuckling ... "My President is black, my Lambo is blue"
c) Dear all rappers, If you're going to put out a horribly inconsistent album with at least 80% filler, please do not make your most awesome song the last one on the album. I'll never get to it, and I'll have to hear about it in Rolling Stone months later.

6) The Academy Is ... - About a Girl (Rolling Stone #39)

Pop punk! Remember pop punk? Catchy songs about high school drama sung by edgy-but-still-nonthreatening kids? It was fun and innocent, but then somehow it turned into a parade of hateful media whores like Fall Out Boy and Good Charlotte who wanted to sing about the dark side of fame and basically acted like celebrity was something thrust upon them. But this? This is wonderful. It reminds me of the times I would tell anyone who would listen that "I'd Do Anything" was the best pop song of the 21st century.

7) Kaiser Chiefs - Addicted to Drugs (Rolling Stone #35)

Oh those cheeky British lads. In the abstract, it's a nice idea, updating the chorus to Robert Palmer's "Addicted to Love." It took a deft songwriting hand to pull it off as more than a gimmick, though, and this is a humorous song that deserves to be taken seriously.

8) Max Tundra - Which Song (Pitchfork #65)

Because I know you were thinking, "What if Michael Jackson were a British guy obsessed with making super-complex beats on his laptop?" Well, here you go.

9) Wiley - Wearing My Rolex (Pitchfork #17)

British rap will always have a special place in my heart, and not just to spite Elliot Mann. It's just more fun for me. It's those accents. I just don't take anyone's gangsta-ness seriously, and that frees me from the liberal guilt of supporting a genre that's having an adverse effect on the crime rate. Also, all joking aside, this beat is one of the main reasons I'm in the market for some new, top of the line headphones.

10) Crystal Castles - Untrust Us (Pitchfork #32)

As a few of you know, I played bass guitar in a mediocre-but-well-intentioned rock band back in high school. As a result of this, I have a very basic understanding of how rock songs are put together: chord progressions, verse structure, and the like. And so, when it comes to straight ahead rock songs, I can see, somewhat, how they were assembled, and how much craftsmanship went into the final product, and I feel like I can appreciate them on that level.

Then there are songs like this one - more sound collages than actual songs. Was this hard to do? Is this the kind of thing you plan, or does it just happen? I think I like this song more because I know that I could never personally produce anything like it. I wouldn't even know where to begin.

11) The BPA - Toe Jam (Rolling Stone #14)

This is Fatboy Slim's new project, so you would expect it to be repetitive and annoying, but it features David Byrne and Dizzee Rascal, who are both geniuses, and somehow their talent won out.

12) The Enemy - You're Not Alone (Rolling Stone #99)

If you go by the advertising on the London Underground, the three biggest bands in the world are Razorlight, Glasvegas, and The Enemy. Having recently listened to all three, I'm a little underwhelmed. This song is probably the best of the bunch.

13) Justice - DVNO (Radio Edit) (Pitchfork #76)

A good song, and it might be higher if I wasn't still freaked out by the giant neon cross these guys light up onstage for pretty much their entire live show. That's just a little too close to the Christian music festivals of my misplaced musical youth. Ah, memories. You'll be happy to know I'm working through that.

14) Hot Chip - Ready for the Floor (Pitchfork #3)

Probably better than the Hot Chip song I chose. At least they were represented.

15) Solange - Sandcastle Disco (Pitchfork #82)

If you're compiling a list of things in music that I would consider worth checking out, "R&B album by Beyonce's little sister" might have actually been dead last. So, when this song turned out to be one of the best R&B songs I've heard ... ever ... I don't know what to say.

16) The Tough Alliance - Lucky (Pitchfork #62)

Sweden! The country that never stops giving.

17) Cut Copy - Hearts on Fire (Pitchfork #7)

I was just talking about how I don't listen to any Australian bands, and here they are ... an Australian band! How interesting! Right? ... right?

18) David Byrne and Brian Eno - Strange Overtones (Pitchfork #11)

19) High Places - From Stardust to Sentience (Pitchfork #57)

a) This song reminds me of "Both Hands" by Ani DiFranco. I doubt that's what the band was going for, but it works.
b) Anybody remember the MTV show "Music in High Places"? Basically, they would send some crappy band to the rain forest, or Tibet, or something, and they would play an unplugged set. Villagers would clap along and occasionally play native instruments. I don't know what the point was, but it was supposed to make everyone seem globally conscious or something. All I remember is Sugar Ray trying to make "Every Morning" sound like world music. It was the worst show ever. Anyway, that show is the reason I never listened to this band until now. Let that be a lesson to you if you're thinking about naming your band "Rock and Jock Bowling 2" or something like that.

20) Alphabeat - Fascination (Pitchfork #47)

21) Cut Copy - Out There on the Ice (Pitchfork #12)

These guys are playing the Fillmore in mid-March, and it's already sold out. Remember when I was talking about how Pitchfork's star-making power may be getting a little bit out of hand? This is a pretty good example of that. Obscure Australian band scores Pitchfork's #4 album of the year, sells out most prestigious venue in San Francisco three months before the show. And yes, I am a little bitter about not having tickets. These guys are good.

22) The Very Best - Kamphopo (Pitchfork #63)

In hindsight, the list could have used a third Very Best song. And this one has that sweet interpolation of Architecture in Helsinki's "Heart it Races."

23) Los Campesinos! - Sweet Dreams Sweet Cheeks (Pitchfork #86)

In hindsight, the list could have used a 47th Los Campesinos! song. You guys are sick of them by now, aren't you?

24) Women - Black Rice (Pitchfork #18)

"Women"? Your band name is "Women"? And you wonder why I never got around to listening to your stuff? Did you think about calling your band "Food"? Or "Carbon"? Also note: band not actually made up of women. "Carbon" would at least have been honest.

25) Janelle Monae - Many Moons (Rolling Stone #47)

Because sometimes you want to listen to both "Vogue" by Madonna and "Bombs Over Baghdad" by Outkast at the same time. I'm completely okay with marketing R&B divas as if they were alien robots. This is a trend I can get behind.

26) Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!! (Pitchfork #42)

While I was studying at Oxford, I took a "Philosophy of Religion" class with an Anglican minister who was, without a doubt, the smartest religious person I have ever met. He was also a huge Nick Cave fan, and once told me that he thought Cave's music came from "a very Christian place." I asked him how that could possibly be, given Cave's decades of heroin abuse and general debauchery. Professor Moore looked at me quizzically for a few seconds before saying that he wasn't sure why those things had to me mutually exclusive. He was much, much smarter than me.

27) Love is All - Wishing Well (Pitchfork #81)

Sweden! Again!

28) The Knux - Cappuccino (Rolling Stone #81)

So ... one of the rappers in this group is named Krispy Kreme. Let that sink in for a second. I don't really have anything to add here. Rolling Stone loves these guys, hip hop purists (at least the guys on the boards) hate them, I think this song may have some party value. How's that for a ringing endorsement?

29) Titus Andronicus - Upon Viewing Brueghel's "Landscape with the Fall of Icarus" (Pitchfork #83)

30) Vivian Girls - Where Do You Run To? (Pitchfork #19)

31) Jamey Johnson - High Cost of Living (Rolling Stone #38)

I know modern country music is just about bumper sticker slogans and gittin' 'r dun, but apparently it's also occasionally deep, nuanced storytelling about smoking weed in your pickup in the church parking lot. We need more songs like this, and fewer justifications for bombing the Middle East.

32) Little Joy - Brand New Start (Rolling Stone #96)

There has never been a more honestly named band than "Little Joy." They play this sparse, happy music, and I just feel better after listening to them. Little Joy.

33) M83 - Kim & Jessie (Rolling Stone #85, Pitchfork #5)

34) Jay Reatard - Always Wanting More (Pitchfork #49)

Do you think this guy's name is really pronounced "Retard"? Or is it some kind of labored "Re-A-Tard" type pronunciation?

35) TI - No Matter What (Rolling Stone #10, Pitchfork #27)

The one where TI calls out bloggers. Now that's gangsta!

36) MGMT - Time to Pretend (Rolling Stone #3, Pitchfork #30)

Probably could have used a third MGMT song on the list. "I'm feeling rough, I'm feeling raw / In the prime of my life" is one of the great album-opening lines of recent memory.

37) Those Dancing Days - Home Sweet Home (N/A)

So Ilana and I went to London for New Year's, and our good friends at US Air helpfully lost Ilana's bags for four days. As a result of this, I found myself standing around a Top Shop in Oxford while she tried on replacement clothes. In said store, they had a TV behind the checkout counter. And on that TV ... music videos! I thought MTV had killed them all, but apparently a few survived, and this song was one of them. Since they no longer exist in America, I had forgotten how a great music video can spur an already-good song to new heights of artistry. This video is just a blast of happiness. And the song is pretty good on its own.

38) Dizzee Rascal - Come Dance Wiv Me (N/A)

When I play this song on my iPhone, the full lyrics come up on the screen. Anybody else have MP3 files like this? Is this the new thing? The future is bright!

39) Conor Oberst - Moab (Rolling Stone #31)

This is 85% of a good song, till it inexplicably devolves into Tom Petty's "Yer So Bad" toward the end. I don't know what to tell you ... I just don't like Tom Petty.

40) Hercules and Love Affair - Blind (Pitchfork #1, Rolling Stone #77)

Pitchfork's song of the year, and it made Rolling Stone's list, too. But really, it sounds like a JV LCD Soundsystem. Which is okay, but ...


  1. I am just glad nothing coming from Kanye West was on your top 100. Apparently he caught an STD from T-Pain that makes your voice always sound synthesized. Until he goes to a doctor to get that fixed, no one should be subjected to listening to him.

  2. Agree with you on the MGMT suggestion. One of the best albums I've heard in a while and for sure the best album of new material I heard in 2008. I'm not really feeling the Kaiser Chiefs though. I thought their first album was great, the second one not so much. And then, when I was at the Banana Republic facotry store in Napa, I heard a female cover of "Oh My God". I felt old, turned off, cutting edge, ironic, and lonely all at the same time.