Top 50 Songs of 2008 :: 20-11 [And everything's going to the beat]

20) Frightened Rabbit - "Modern Leper"

Frightened Rabbit is band that has been around for awhile and nonetheless hit me like a ton of bricks in February. I was sitting at my roommate's computer reading, of all things, Pitchforkmedia (still a tastemaker, hate it or love it). "Modern Leper" was advertised in a song write-up as crushingly sad and willfully pain-inducing. I right-clicked. Save as. iTunes open. And three-minutes and 49-seconds later, I was destroyed and built again in the same breath; leveled like an outdated sports arena and constructed like a brand new one. You could say they sound like Snow Patrol - but with true emotional problems. You could say the Scottish have a knack for catharsis. You could say a lot of things. The only one that will stick is: "Well I am ill but I'm not dead/And I don't know which of those I'd prefer/Because that limb which I had lost/It was the only thing holding me up." Scream it. Holding me up.

19) Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin - "Think I Wanna Die"

On paper it seems a little absurd to have "Think I Wanna Die" slotted ahead of "Modern Leper." Well, consider the confusion associated with your average Major League Baseball MVP-race. In the unlikely event that two worthy candidates are from the same team, they do what is called "splitting votes." Writers from their home city/region/fan base can't decide who to vote for, so they divide their votes between the two, unintentionally hurting the chances of both players. This usually opens the window for a dark horse; an unexpected third-party, valid in his own right but probably not better than either of the two split-voters. So, "Modern Leper" split votes with two or three other songs of its own record. Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin only offered one truly great song off their album. No vote splitting. "Think I Wanna Die" gets the nod on my immediate reaction at the time. It's a complicated process. Just blame Pete Gammons.

18) Passion Pit - "Sleepyhead"

I'll cop to not getting "Sleepyhead" the first three times I heard it. Coming on great authority as "the newest of the new shit," I wanted to like it. I even made a few comparisons to other bands. "Hey, like Ratatat with more focus and lyrics." Then I disagreed with myself. "Really, I was thinking Tigercity trying to make a hip-hop single in a synthesizer factory?" The debate raged but my excitement-level didn't. Then I caught the middle night of their Piano's residency. It's not like it was an "ah-ha" moment. It didn't become suddenly clear that this was THE band. But "Sleepyhead" made a lot more sense at ear-splitting volume in a packed room with kids just waiting for the first synth breakdown at 1.21. The place absolutely erupted. I was moved. All the way to 18. Oh, and the video might make you car-sick. Everything going to the beat can be a dizzying experience.

17) The Official Secrets Act - So Tomorrow

The band that meant the most to me in late 2006 and into the summer of 2007 was Winter Kids. It absolutely killed me that more people didn't end up liking them. So how much of my current level of excitement about The Official Secrets Act is motivated by how much they sound like Winter Kids? Hard to say. But the facts are these: 1) They sound exactly like Winter Kids. Wait. Let's start again: 1) "So Tomorrow" was one of the most widely downloaded song from the blog all year. 2) "So Tomorrow" elicited somewhere between four and seven emails about what a good song it was and how thankful people were that I had posted it. 3) You could argue, "who cares what the readers think?" and I would tell you to shut it. 4) This is one of the three most propulsive songs of the year (secret's still out on the other two) and when they get to the bridge and discuss all the things that people spend their lives waiting for, they finally resolve, "all this waiting just might kill me." Cue an incredibly emotive 11-seconds of music before the last chorus. Cue me feeling connected to this song in ways I can't and won't explain here or maybe ever.

16) Vampire Weekend - "A-Punk"

Ok. Just say it. Whatever you think about this band: just say it. Right now. Give yourself one paragraph. Once you've aired your feelings, now hear this: it doesn't matter what you think. It doesn't matter when you got into them or if you like them or if you hate them. Or if you think wearing boat shoes to the Bowery Ballroom is dangerous/badass/not cool. The record was good. The production was an improvement. Did they get too famous? Sure. Did they deserve it? Who knows. Was this band far more relevant/likeable in early 2007? Yes. "A-Punk" isn't new but that doesn't mean it's bad. And anyone who can get away with what sounds distinctly the Pan Flute setting on a Yamaha keyboard deck is alright with me. Hipster hypemachine: Live with your Frankenstein's monster. Just hope they don't kill your wife like in the book you didn't read in British Literature.

15) Lykke Li - "I'm Good. I'm Gone" (Chuck Brody Remix)

This song grabs you by the throat in the most subtle way possible; not unlike an extremely destructive relationship. Without realizing how addicted to this song I was, I listened to it innocently for a few weeks before it invaded every possible corner of my life. She was in my car. My iPod. My apartment. In my conversations. I would listen to it on the way to things. It made everything just. a little. better. I realized, too late it's worth noting, that I was in love with it. But "I'm Good. I'm Gone," as the title would indicate, didn't return the favor. I poured my heart out to her and she smiled at me. I broke myself for her and she pushed my pieces around her plate like a disinterested, if extremely picky, eater. I didn't stop. I kept calling and calling. She just wasn't at the phone.

14) Empire of the Sun - "Walking On A Dream"

Is Empire of the Sun secretly Phoenix writing the soundtrack for a mummy movie? With a band name that sounds like it should come after a colon and right before "Starring Brendan Frazier and Jet Li," Empire of the Sun was a tough sell. The cover art looked absurd. The measureables pointed to this being a terrible album. "Walking On A Dream" spoke for itself. It sounded like the slick, metallic Euro-pop that, left unchecked, leads to things like The Pet Shop Boys. This wasn't that. It was the song that could stop people in their tracks. It was the song that could make the kids who like Katy Perry say, "hey, what is that song you're playing?" It was everything to everyone. It didn't ask for much of your brain power and delivered consistent satisfaction. Not unlike a major Hollywood action movie.

13) TV On The Radio - "Dancing Choose"

Now, I'm no mad man. But that's insanity.

Dancing Choose - TV On The Radio

12) MGMT - "Kids"

I don't love doing this. The record was good but not great. Columbia Records stuffed them so far down everyone's throats that it seemed like they were the biggest band in the world. All of this made me angry. All this being said, "Kids" is still a slam. It has been almost a year since the record came out and more than a year since a VP at Virgin/Capitol slid the LP into my hands and said, "I know you don't want to like it. Give the album a try." I cracked pretty quickly. The 10-note synth riff the song opens with is one of the most memorable, if not one of the best, moments in music this year. On some level, this song speaks to everyone. I can hate it/them all I want. It doesn't change the facts. Turn it up in Williamsburg. The kids are alright.

Kids - MGMT

11) Fujiya and Miyagi - "Knickerbocker"

The bass-line for "Knickerbocker" thumps with such urgency that you could be led hypnotically, not unlike a cult follower, into perfect alignment with your leader. Your steps match their beat. You turn it up. You realize the lyrics might be nonsense. You walk faster. You turn it up. You know nothing is going to match how deep you got into LCD Soundsystem in 2007 (to present) but this is close. You feel like everything is happening at once. You feel like you could walk out of your life and into a music video. You are having the coolest four-minutes of your day. Drink the kool-aid, kid. Everybody is riding the spaceship into the sun.

Knickerbocker - Fujiya & Miyagi

1 comment:

BradIsMyHomeboy said...

"Modern Leper" was advertised in a song write-up as crushingly sad and willfully pain-inducing. I right-clicked. Save as. iTunes open. And three-minutes and 49-seconds later, I was destroyed and built again in the same breath; leveled like an outdated sports arena and constructed like a brand new one."

You are ridiculous. Outrageously hilarious shit. Love it.