Top 50 of 2008 :: 40-31 [Words don't seem to stick in my mind]

40) Ellie Goulding - "Wish I Stayed"

This girl is one part Bjork, one part Imogen Heap, and three parts addictive. Ellie Goulding, who is about as new as new can be, could make herself a Lykke Li piece of the pie in 2009. But for 2008, we'll consider her late acoustic/electro hybrid as our 40th best song of the year. High praise? Let this tune spin around your brain for the next four-minutes and three seconds. Get back to me.

39) Action Painters - "SuperMarket"

Action Painters are a band with whom I should have a better relationship. I like their music a lot but I grossly mismanaged an interview that I did with them for The Deli Magazine and now they must think I'm the least credible pseudo-journalist in New York City. Well. This isn't an apology. "SuperMarket" could be even higher than this but I was terrified about my own desire to make it up to them. This is an attempt at objectivity. And this song is objectively the bounciest (not a technical term) song of the year. It's like rubber and springs melted down into a snyth-rock masterwork. So blast off.

38) Grand Archives - "Torn Blue Foam Couch"

This is the second Sub Pop band on the Top 50 list and it'll be the last (sorry Fleet Foxes, call me when you're not the country-fried version of The Shins). It's worth noting that Grand Archives might not sound as forward-thinking or progressive as the rest of the indie-rock community aspires to be; in fact, they sound like they've been hiding out in some really warm corner of 1975. Everything is breezy and fun except for one thing: this band's main focus in this song is the word "terrified." Yeah. Terror. But once the band starts to wash over you at the 1.30 mark, everything will focus into clarity. Sure, it's polished but it's a little scary how good that AM-radio sound can be. Couch surfing in the Pacific Northwest never sounded so good.

37) Bikini - "I Remember Being Young"

Perhaps it's because everyone I know is tipping closer and closer to 30 years old (not to freak people out, but, really), I'm more and more prone to reflection on my relatively confusing and delinquent youth. (File that under: issues, on-going). Bikini, a Montreal band who allegedly were at McGill with Tokyo Police Club and Wolf Parade, seems to wax the same level of nostalgia. Except for them it's not about what they somehow managed to survive their youth - it's about how pleasantly naive they were. And from a sonic perspective, it's just electro-pop. It's fresh and unrepentant because, deep down, it doesn't need to be.

36) School of Seven Bells - Chain (click through for download)

The second that I heard this tune I thought of The Knife and the dark, dark electro-pop that yielded "Heartbeats" and a million teenage girls (and boys) thinking that it was the best song of 2006. Well, School of Seven Bells might not be The Knife but they might be better. Their record is dark, dark, dark and completely listenable. Former guitarist from The Secret Machines, Ben Curtis, lends his talents to album and you can agree he made the right choice. Sometimes you have to move away when you're sharing different heartbeats.

35) Noah and the Whale - "5 Years Time"

I've had a complicated relationship with this song and this band this year. That's a lot for them to handle, considering we don't know each other at all. Facts being facts, "5 Years Time" is a great little piece of indie-pop. I've gone from loving it to hating it to not being sure why I was hating it to being damn sure why I was hating it, and eventually coming back to realize the intrinsic value here. Is it a little too sunshine and rainbows? Yes. Definitely. But there's room for that too. Even if it's so sweet it sticks to your mouth like a hot piece of candy.

34) Last Shadow Puppets - "My Mistakes Were Made For You"

Sometimes re-invention works and sometimes it doesn't. If you had told me last year that the lead-singer from Arctic Monkeys was recording a record of sexy, 1960s orchestral-pop, I would have called you a liar. More than that, I would have found the whole thing gimmicky. I mean, what are the odds that the teenage Franz Ferdinand would want to go and earnestly record something that sounds like a James Bond theme song? And what are the odds that I meant the preceding sentence as an interrogative compliment? Well, in order, low and high. A complicated, unexpected song from a simple but unexpected vocalist. It's evolution at number 34.

33) Neon Neon - "I Told Her On Alderaan"

The confusing part about 2008 was just how many quality synth songs were available for consumption. Neon Neon was one of the more upfront bands, calling their album Stainless Style, and possessing a name that bleeds 1984 and the most glowing form of modern technology. But there was something uplifting about "I Told Her On Alderaan." There was something that went deeper than the obvious Human League, Erasure, When In Rome comparisons. It was catchy as shit. It was elevating. It was a synth-pop slam and most people didn't get to hear it. Which makes it more in need of your ears than Erasure and their chains of love.

32) Sebastian Grainger - "Love Can Be So Mean"

Grainger had a weird 2008. He released an EP and then had a shotgun wedding of an LP right on the heels of the first release. It meant that at one point this fall, Saddle Creek was promoting his American Names EP with it's solid single of the same name and "Love Can Be So Mean." People just aren't that smart. Tell them what to sing and they'll sing it. But, lord god, don't give them a choice. "Love Can Be So Mean" was the song to pick and it has the highest BPMs of anything on this list. It's a fast-lane piece of dance-rock from the former drummer of Death From Above 1979.

31) Kaiser Chiefs - "Never Miss A Beat"

An enduring, and potentially disturbing, truth about The Kaiser Chiefs is their ability to turn out great singles and terrible albums. "I Predict A Riot" was a great tune back in 2004 but the record (except for "Oh My God" which made this list that year) wasn't very good. The same went for "Ruby" in 2006. Great song. Bad album. Well, it's 2008 and the Chiefs are back with another great single and another terrible album. "Never Miss A Beat" might be the best song they've ever released and it finds a nexus between chant along vocals and a propulsive melody that doesn't consume itself too quickly. Lyrically, it's both critical and complimentary of the kids who run the hype show. Yeah, it's "cool to know nothing" but the fact is, in order to look that stupid, you have to be brilliant. And the kids on the street, they never miss a beat.

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