Top 50 of 2008 :: 10-6 [Today I stood and walked away]

10) Hercules and Love Affair - "Blind"

It was a confusing year for music and Hercules and Love Affair made it a confusing year for sexuality. Even though "Blind" officially has Antony and the Johnsons' frontman on recorded vocals, in concert they've featured an unnamed, yet extremely attractive transexual. Which led roughly to the following exchange between me and a close friend:

Me: So ... she's a dude, right?
Tom: Yeah, but she's still hot, right?
Me: Oh, absolutely.
Tom: Ok, good.

Where does that leave us? Confused. Lost. Alone? Never. We had the dance-floor burner of the year to dance to.

Blind (Album Version) - Hercules And Love Affair

9) Does It Offend You, Yeah? - "Dawn of the Dead"

Maybe not the best of the "bands who have full English sentences as names" but certainly in the discussion, Does It Offend You, Yeah? still had one of the best singles of the year. In ways it was misleading, sounding little like the rest of the songs on their electro-clash debut, aptly named You Have No Idea What You're Getting Yourself Into. But that didn't change what "Dawn of the Dead" was: a Simple Minds sound-alike with warm Cure-synths and a xylophone-infused chorus that was just sing-songy enough to be cute and bombastic enough to stick in your head for 36-straight hours. The lyrics were as contradictory as their album title: "Today I stood and walked away/I'm never coming back this way/I've got my things, I'm here to stay." It wasn't rocket science. More like a dirty secret, whispered to a friend on the same major label: "shhhh ... this song is better than that 'not gonna boyfriend dance with whatever' tune." Don't tell anyone. Sony Would Hate If You Found Out. Which, come to think of it, makes a killer band name.

8) Tokyo Police Club - "Tessellate"

Fair being fair and spades being spades: this was probably an emo song off an emo album. And it wasn't for the worst. "Tessellate" was a great leap forward for a band that had previously mastered just 2-minute twitch-outs to perfection. It was a fully functional song with a dominant guitar-riff and hand-claps that were as contagious as they were necessary. But ultimately, it was the lyrics that would stick in our heads. "Dire times call for dire faces." The lyrical couplets were simple but they held power. "We showed them what the backs of our hands were for/the divide is clear/in the coming year/the rich will take the poor." It wasn't specifically about switching to Saddlecreek and getting a nearly blank-check record. It wasn't about ending up on MTV and Desperate Housewives (yeah, true story). It was about self-actualizing; and that was something this band did better than most in 2008. We're holding out for posterity and self-defense...

7) Matt and Kim - "Daylight" (click through for download)

Indie rock has always courted other styles, owing mostly to the fact that "indie rock" isn't really a style in and of itself. Songs get filed under "indie rock" and then another sub-category: glam, indie-pop, synth-rock, freak folk, etc. It gets confusing. Well, 19-seconds into Matt and Kim's face-melting "Daylight" you can start using hip-hop as the newest "indie rock" sub-heading. The song has an almost-driven-to-insanity piano loop and then, bam, seemingly out of nowhere comes a go-go hip-hop beat with what sounds like all manner of other synthesized instruments (horns, strings) thrown in the mix. By the end you're nodding your head and singing along. This is not usually in the "indie rock" playbook of acceptable behavior. Nodding? Singing? Ugh, gross. Maybe it was the courting of hip-hop style that made this so fascinating but I think it was something else: It was the most fun anyone had making or listening to music all year.

6) Coldplay - "Viva La Vida"

Ok, raise your hand if your irritated that Coldplay is this high on a year-end list? I'm going to stop you right there. We need big bands whether we admit it or not. And after X and Y, that legacy seemed questionable. We were waiting for their take-over to become something even more comprehensive. If "Clocks" was good, well, then what was the ceiling? How awesome could their next big single be? And out of nowhere came "Viva La Vida." Initially, it seemed that "Violet Hill" would be the lead single off Viva La Vida and then like the churning, orchestral pop sucker-punch that it was, "Viva La Vida"- the song, dropped into your lap like a ton of bricks. It was epic. It was risky. It was transformative. And forget the iPod commercial and the rumors (from two bands now) that "Viva La Vida" lifted its chorus from someone else. No moment defined what it was to write an epic, arena pop song like Coldplay's crushing performance on MTV's Movie Awards back in June. Halfway through, Martin looks at the crowd and says, "Everybody ok?" Then he smiles the biggest, dumbest smile of the year. Confetti is stuck to his face. It's entirely absurd and the song is exploding around him. It was the great reveal. The band was back with a cry out to pop music heaven. Everybody ok? Hands down? Good.

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