Monday, 5 January 2009

The Twenty-Five Tracks Of Two Thousand and Eight

I stole this idea from another blog. That's right. It's not my idea. Just to clarify; Making a list of favourite songs is NOT EVEN REMOTELY case you thought otherwise.

But i'm going to do it anyway, partly because i like music, and partly because i feel like it's my responsibility as a member of society. Besides, most culture in 'the noughties' is nothing more than glorified playlisting.

The sole criteria for the tracks is that they were released (in one fashion or another) within the confines of 2008. Links will be included as often as i can be bothered.

25. The Black Keys - Strange Times

A band that i haven't listened to a whole lot, but i have an incomprehensible affection for, and feel like i should champion.

As the ancestral genre that spawned a little thing that i like to call pop music, the blues should be treasured and furthered at every oppurtunity. The Black Keys accomplish what Jack White has been trying to for years and manage to modernise the blues whilst creating something truly of its time.

Youtube link.

24. R.E.M. - Supernatural Superserious

The album wasn't a return to form for R.E.M., no siree, this song was though. It has everything; The (brilliantly) cliched lyrics, the killer guitar riff and above all, Michael Stype's inimitable voice. Could've been on Automatic For The People.

Youtube link.

23. The Futureheads - Radio Heart

Barry Hyde introduced this as "...a song about a girl who has a radio instead of a heart.", and who am i to disagree? I don't so much like this for the music, but because of what it stands for: The Futureheads recovering from being dropped by a major label and managing to self release a not-half-bad third album. Even so, it's pretty darn catchy.

Ready, steady, put on your best Geordie accent...go!

A girl with a radio heaaaart....

Youtube link.

22. Beck - Gamma Ray

I was so pleased that Beck released a decent new album last year that i would've included this above much better tracks, and maybe i did. I've always liked Beck, even during his rough patches (see Guero) and now that he's cool again i get to rub this in everbody's collective face. The partnership with Ceel-Lo is a match made in heaven. Gamma Ray, with its repetitive, slightly off-kilter melody and bizarre lyric (With the transistor sound/And my Chevrolet terraplane/Going round, round, round) is just the right length at 2:57. A weirdly sinister nugget of pop.

Myspace link.

21. Luke Temple - More Than Muscle

Luke Temple is an artist who i'm probably not quite cool enough to like. Certainly, everything i've heard about him exudes hipster chic. A painter from Brooklyn, he allegedly earned a living by painting murals on the walls of wealthy Brooklynite's flats. His quite startlingly feminine falsetto is a bit of an aquired taste.

Myspace link.

20. Sigur Ros - Gobbledigook

Sigur Ros, in a move that must have shocked many of their loyal followers, myself included, release something completely different. It's rollicking, folky and best of all it's fun. Nothing like the Sigur Ros you know and love from panoramic BBC 2 adverts, and, some might say, myself included, a massive improvement.

Myspace link.

19. Future Of The Left - The Hope That House Built

I'm afraid i don't have much to say about this song, i just desperately wanted to include something by Future Of The Left and this happened to be the only new thing they released last year. Future Of The Left are one of the bands that appeal to my primordial, masculine instinct to just rock the fuck out.

Myspace link.

18. Extra Life - The Refrain

Pretty much one of the most bizarre pop songs i've heard all year. The vocals are supposedly inspired by Gregorian chanting. It all sounds strangely flat and abrasive, which adds to its strange charm, i think.

Myspace link.

17. Of Montreal - Wicked Wisdom

"I'm a mother fuckin' headliner bitch you don't even know it..."

Of Montreal
continue to tickle me with their sheer audacity. A great, tongue-in-cheek opening makes way for what seem like hundreds of shifts in style and in rhythm. The Queen-esque chorus is a particular highlight. link.

16. Vampire Weekend - Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa

I'm a little embarrassed to have VW appearing on this list, but i'd be lying to myself if i didn't say that Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa was one of my tracks of the year. It's a wonderfully nostalgic, upbeat little musical reminiscence, and anything that name-checks Peter Gabriel is alright in my book.

Youtube link.

15. The Week That Was - Scratch The Surface

Forever a Field Music fanboy, i was always going to like Peter Brewis' next project, no matter how it sounded. I've had the privelege of being present at this band's debut and many of its concurrent gigs and they are absolutely blistering live. The machine-like rhythm of this song works in tandem with Peter's angry, sometimes taunting vocal to create a beautifully unsettling soundscape. Clearly inspired by Peter Gabriel.

Youtube link.

14. Deerhunter - Never Stops

Deerhunter do majestic things with four notes, and this song is a prime example. It makes me want to go out into the world and really do things; It's wonderfully uplifting. I love the contrast of the lubricious vocal over the percussive, abrasive instrumental.

Myspace Link.

13. Deerhoof - The Tears And Music Of Love

Brilliant name for a song. I'd stick this in here on the strength of that alone (my standards are obviously pretty low). It does help that the cock-rock, pelvic thrust of the guitar riff provides a glorious contrast to Satomi Matsuzaki's fragile vocal. If you know Deerhoof, you probably know what this is going to sound like without me having to tell you; This is no bad thing. Expect to flit between hyper-condensed chaos and minimal beauty.

Youtube link (live)

12. Portishead - The Rip

Not a happy song by any stretch of the imagination; It's a good one to curl up to on a cold day, for lack of another person. Half-way through, and the delicate guitar picking melds seamlessly into oscillating synths. I didn't even notice the first time round, the song held me in a dream-like state, enraptured. Beth Gibbon's voice never fails to astound me, and is more touching, elegant and human here than ever.

Youtube link.

11. Cryptacize - No Coins

Oho, cue a sly little reference to the Ongoing economic crisis! Oho! Sadly, the song isn't even remotely political; It was recorded and released before 'credit crunch' was ever even coined. Oh my god, i can't stop the puns!

What No Coins is however, is an elegant pairing of a delicate female vocal and sparse, jangly electric guitar. The arrangement is as near perfect as it's possible to get. The melodies are sparkling and effortless. I don't know what this song is really about, and i don't really care; This is what pop music should sound like.

Wow, I didn't even know that Cryptacize had an album out until i compiled this list. Time to BUY.

Myspace link.

10. Yohoghani - Time Passes By

Ok, so i'm quite plainly flouting my own criteria now. Yohoghani's eponymous album was definitely released in 2007. Charmingly, i was emailed it in zip. format by the singer. I would be exaggerating if i said that this band were overlooked critical darlings...They were my critical darling, but shockingly, they've managed to be overlooked by pretty much everyone. I've listened to this a lot this year, and i love to champion an Underdog, so i'm going to include it all the same. And bully to you for not knowing who Yohoghani are.

Myspace link.

09. Grizzly Bear - Two Weeks

Ever since Yellow House i've been waiting with baited breath for Grizzly Bear's next studio album. In fact, much of 2008 was characterised by sitting at a desk, waiting, baiting my breath. This appeared on Youtube way back in July, and even though i hate listening to music on Youtube, I listen to this at least once every few days. The crooning vocal, the euphoric chorus, the sweeping really floated my boat. And continues to do so.

Youtube link.

08. Of Montreal - An Eluardian Instance

Of Montreal may very well be the band of 2008 for me. There's no doubt that i'm late to the Of Montreal Party, but i'm a lot earlier than most in this uniquely reserved part of the world. If The Scissor Sisters, Patrick Wolf and the ghost of Freddy Mercury all had a massive orgy in a palace made out of fabulous, and this was all somehow chanelled into a record, it would sound like this.

Live on Letterman

07. The Raconteurs - Consolers Of The Lonely

The album is mediocre and a little self-indulgent, but i never seem to tire of the exhilirating title track. The guitar riff is extremely simple and works stupidly well, the vocals are just about angsty enough without being overbearing. By accident or intention The Raconteurs have managed to craft one of the best rock songs of 2008.

Youtube link (live).

08. Fleet Foxes - He Doesn't Know Why

Fleet Foxes are about as Dad-ish as Dad-rock gets. Reminiscent of such Dad-radio staples as America and The Beach Boys, Fleet Foxes are bearded, melodious, harmonious, bearded...did i already say that one? As it happens, i bought my Dad the album for Christmas and he fucking loved it.

I say all this partly in jest, as i genuinely love this band. I saw them at the Shepherd Bush Empire 'bout a month back and they managed to reduce an otherwise rowdy crowd of thousands to reverant silence. Seeing them live is a spiritual experience - The harmonies that just sound plain nice on the record sound magical and brutal in a live setting; they genuinely gave me the shivers. Fittingly, i have no idea why He Doesn't Know Why happens to be my favourite track from the album; i like to think that it typifies the soaring, spine-tingling nature of the live experience.

Youtube link

07. Bon Iver - Flume

No doubt you all love Bon Iver now, you band wagon hoppers, you scene surfers...I'll forgive you just this once though, although i was digging this long before it hit the mainstream, i'm proud to say. Bon Iver's ballad-spinnery deserves all the mainstream appeal and plaudits that come to it. Something really special.

Youtube Link.

06. Deerhunter - Microcastle

One part Doo-wop, one part Bends era Radiohead and 3 parts awesome. "So that's five parts altogether then" you think, "Why five parts?". Five people in the band, like duuuh.

Youtube link. (ignore the video, if possible).

05. Spoon - Don't You Evah

It's a cover, but it's so ridiculously good that you won't care. Technically, this is a thoroughly 2007 song, but seeing as it was re-released as part of the eponymous EP i feel justified in including it (that, and it's ridiculously good). The bass-line is just delicious; I want to eat it. The arrangement is gloriously minimal. This song is supremely danceable.

Myspace link.

04. Yeasayer - 2080

Nobody even remotely self-concious could write a song as openly ridiculous and fantastic as 2080.

Myspace link.

03. Radiohead - Nude

With Nude Radiohead finally achieve something that they've been attempting since the Kid A era: They totally transcend pop music. Please excuse the hyperbole - I'm likely to spout it whenever Radiohead come up, but Nude is genuinely a thing of beauty and unlike other pop songs. Everybody should hear this at least once.

Youtube link.

02. School Of Language - Dissapointment '99

Three words: Ooh Ooh Ooooh...You gotta listen to the song to understand, man.

You know it's good when three, instantly-recognisable notes blossom into an elaborate in-joke between friends.

Myspace link

01. Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds - Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!

Nick Cave is my hero. There, i said it. I want to grow a big, handlebar moustache in tribute to him.

That took a while.

I've got a few descriptions to polish off, but i really should go to the library now. I've decided to post what i've got so far for you eager beavers, but i'll finish off this mother of a post this evening.

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