Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Will's Favorite Songs of 2008
(The Top Ten)

When I am making my Top Ten Albums list, I have two criteria - how much I liked listening to the album and how much I think the album changed the way I listen to music. When I am making my Top Ten Songs list, there is just one factor - whether I wanted to listen to the song over-and-over again. These ten songs fit the bill...

10. "Rat is Dead (Rage)," CSS

In music, there is a longstanding tradition of men singing songs about killing their wives. When it comes to women killing their husbands, or friends killing their friend's abusive husband, the songs are not quite as plentiful. Thankfully, CSS update "Goodbye Earl" a bit with the unbelievably catchy, "Rat is Dead (Rage)." Best of all, the song is guilt free - "I know, I know, he will never hurt you again."

9. "The Age of the Understatement," The Last Shadow Puppets

Choosing just one track from the Last Shadow Puppets' spectacular debut was a difficult task. Still, this title track embodies the groups sound rather well - a mix of Burt Bacharach arrangements and Shirley Bassey-Bond theme bombast. Singers Alex Turner (Arctic Monkeys) and Miles Kane (The Rascals) hail from the thriving British rock scene, but here they showcase a different side, and the results are splendid.

8. "Each to Each," The Gutter Twins

When Greg Dulli and Mark Lanegan get together - and call themselves the Gutter Twins - you can expect some dark songs, wallowing in their own pain. But, while we may have associations with the two, their voices lend themselves well to virtually any sound. With its electronic drum beats and looped guitar, "Each to Each" recalls Dulli's first Twilight Singers album and Lanegan's work with SoulSavers. Unlike most of their 90s counterparts, Dulli and Lanegan continue to evolve, while still making great music.

7. "Electric Feel," MGMT

"Electric Feel" is instantly likable - from the moment the flute kicks in, to the stunning chorus, to when it fades out all too soon. This is what the Scissor Sisters should have sounded like. MGMT are updating that Elton John-meets-disco sound, and doing so in a wink-wink tongue-in-cheek fashion, but also delivering a great pop song. Play this one on repeat but do yourself a favor and skip the Katy Perry version.

6. "Lollipop," Lil Wayne

For the first single from what would be his career-defining album, the self-proclaimed "best rapper alive" opted for a track where he wasn't rapping. "Lollipop" showcases not Wayne's rhyme skill, but instead his warbly vocals. Somehow, it works, as "Lollipop" is simply an unpretentious, unabashed, unapologetic sex jam. Wayne croons, "that pussy in my mouth had me lost for words," managing to create a sex jam that does not sound sexist. He recycles a lot of silly sugary sex metaphors, all of which make "Lollipop" simply a very honest song.

5. "Two Ways Out," Darker My Love

I was struck right away by "Two Ways Out" and its mix of Byrd-like harmonies, with a more atmospheric, shoegaze sound. Listening to the lyrics, it gave me wise advice about what to do when you're lost - "If something looks familiar, looks familiar, then something is wrong." Seriously - have you ever walked in a circle, like that Winnie the Pooh where they get lost and keep walking past the same tree. Maybe this song is about relationships, though.

4. "Campus," Vampire Weekend

"Campus" embodies everything I like about Vampire Weekend - the collegiate nature of their sound, and the annoying effortlessness with which they pull it off. "Campus" is short but epic with a great chorus ("How am I supposed to pretend/ I never want to see you again") and a great closing ("In the afternoon/ you're out on the stone and grass / and I'm sleeping on the balcony/ after class"). It is a great reconciliation between heartache and Ivy League elitism.

3. "Welcome to Heartbreak," Kanye West

We've heard ruminations on the price of fame before, and frankly, they become tiresome. But we know Mr. West's pain is real, after what he has been through in the past year. Setting the tone for his dark opus on "Welcome to Heartbreak," West looks at the situation with a sense of sadness mediated by his desensitized position as a celebrity. The song is both heartbreaking and funny ("My friend showed me pictures of his kids/ and all I could show him was pictures of my cribs") but that's the only way Mr. West knows to be.

2. "California Dreamer," Wolf Parade

There were few finer musical moments this year than hearing Spencer Krug cry out, "And I think I might've heard you on the radio/ but the radio waves were like snow." It is hard for that sense of longing not to send a chill down anyone's spine. Still, if I could only choose one Wolf Parade song for this list, it would be hard to imagine it coming from the mouth of Krug. I like Krug's unique voice, do not get me wrong, but it lacks the sheer comfort of his counterpart Dan Boeckner. Krug managed to outdo his bandmate here, crafting a catchy song that maintains his angsty voice. Krug has the unique ability to draw vocal qualities from his closest collaborators - Boeckner, Frog Eyes and Destroyer - and he's never shown so bright as he does here.

1. "Sex on Fire," Kings of Leon

If you didn't gather it from my description of Lil Wayne's "Lollipop," I guess I have a soft spot for unapologetic sex jams. "Sex on Fire" finds Kings of Leon looking beyond the apathy of indie rock and instead drawing influence from those rockers of time's past who didn't stop believing and wanted you to show them what love was. There is no greater moment than on this unashamed power single, which cries out, "this sex is on fire," with a furious growl and not a hint of pretension.


Barbara Bruederlin said...

Tis an interesting list.

I was a little ambivalent to the Gutter Twins until I saw them perform this spring, and they sort of blew me away.

Allison said...

Well, I must say I am a bit surprised by your number one choice, but great list overall.

California Dreamer is such a great song, it gets me everytime and I've been listening to a lot of MGMT recently, and and upbeat.