Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Best Songs of 2008

So, this year was chalk full of pretty amazing songs, and most of the best ones are on albums that managed to make the good ole' Top 25, so when I started this list I tried to pick songs that were not only pretty sweet jams, but also weren't to be found on an album that I included on my top 25. Until I realized that was just a stupid way to go about making a list, so I opened the field and realized that the songs I had picked initially were actually my favorite jams of the year. So, here they are:

5. "Devil Rides" by Mogwai & Roky Erickson off of the Batcat EP

Mogwai tossed out this EP a few weeks before their full-length, The Hawk Is Howling, dropped. The EP is worth picking up just so you can look down and see that a band actually called one of their songs, "Stupid Prick Gets Chased by the Police and Loses His Shit Girlfriend." But it's REALLY worth picking up for the pairing of Scotish post-rockers and one of the most insanely badass (you could take that as literally as you want, Roky Erickson battled legit insanity for a while) American singers EVER. Musically, the song recalls Mogwai's earlier work, especially their work on Come On Die Young. It's Erickson that really makes this song truly memorable, though. His haunting tenor vocals go beautifully with Mogwai's lonely and delicate guitar arrangements. And when he sings lyrics like, "The devil rides right next to me/My broken thoughts, my last relief," it seems a hundred times more earnest than any other song that's been written this year.

04. "Time to Pretend" by MGMT off the album Oracular Spectacular

When I first heard MGMT's debut album, Oracular Spectacular, I thought I fell in love with it. Actually, I fell in love with this song. I have some conflicted views on the album that will be discussed in a later post, but for now, let me just say that this song is a pretty boss fucking jam. First of all, it's stupidly catchy. No song has a right being as catchy as, "Time to Pretend." And yet, this song exists. In all of its catchy glory. Also, there is something vaguely inspiring about the life plans laid out by the dynamic NESCAC duo. They may be sarcastic, but its tough to not hear, "Love must be forgotten/Life can always start up anew" and not be at least a little bit inspired at the idea of shaking off the past and looking at life fresh again. This song is a genuine youth anthem. And a pretty good one, too.

Time To Pretend - MGMT

3. "No Sex for Ben" by the Rapture off the GTA IV OST

I'm a huge fan of The Rapture. They produce the only music that I can/am willing to dance to. So, I've got a soft spot in my heart for them, and this year saw....The Rapture release a mixtape that was just, "eh." And they contributed this gem to the GTA:IV soundtrack. Apparently this song was pretty legit in clubs around the country. But I would never know that because I live in Vermont. Clubs? Not so much. It's always tough to pinpoint what it is about a song by The Rapture that I love so much. Is it Matt Sefer's ingratiatingly monotonal yelp? Is it Luke Jenner's vaguely metal guitar lines? Is it Gabe Andruzzi's dirty as fuck synth part? Or is it the cowbell? The truth is that, like all songs, it's the combination that makes the song the incredible jam that it is. In a year with only a modicum of ass-shaking tunes, this one is head of the class.

No Sex for Ben - The Rapture

2. "Your English Is Good" by Tokyo Police Club off the album Elephant Shell

I'm cheating a little by putting this song on this list, because Tokyo Police Club have been playing this song live since late 2006, and released the song as a single around the same time. So, it's by no means a new song, but I dig it, new or otherwise. I have no idea what the song is about. The lyrics flat out don't make sense, but it really doesn't matter because yelling, "Give us your vote if you know what's good for you," along with Dave Monks, and then jumping wildly when the song kicks in, is what this listening experience is all about. In a list of pretty peppy songs, this is the peppiest.

Your English Is Good - Tokyo Police Club

1. "Don't Stop Believin'" by Marnie Stern available on her MySpace page

I don't know if it is because I've spent a pretty solid four years hearing the song every weekend, but I fucking hate Journey's version of "Don't Stop Believin'." I hate it. That piano part that everyone recognizes? Fuck that. Steve Perry? Fuck Steve Perry. And those lyrics. Don't stop believing in what, Steve Perry? You lazy ass. I don't remember how I first heard of Marnie Stern this year, or why I navigated over to her Myspace page, but when I got there and I heard this song playing I knew that I needed to have it. Once I got my mitts on an mp3 copy of the song I proceeded to listen to it for almost a week straight. It feels like a copout calling a cover the best song of the year, but Stern manages to accomplish an impressive feat: she takes one of the most recognizable rock songs ever recorded and makes it her own. The whirling guitars in the beginning, the simple chords over the verses, the driving floor tom/snare combo, and her simple, yet enchanting vocals, all add up to a cover that has performed the miraculous. It restored my love for a song I had given up on as hopelessly melodramatic and impossibly histrionic. I still hate Journey, though.

Dont Stop Believin (Journey cover) - Marnie Stern

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