The Top 50 Songs of 2008

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The Top 50 Albums of 2008

TV on the Radio “Crying”

TV on the Radio marked their return from Cookie Mountain with a sharp, seething collection of their most politically and pop infused songs yet. This slinky jam was the best of the bunch on both counts. Kyp Malone anchors this tale of disillusionment in a world gone to Hell with his sweetest falsetto while the rest of the band funks it up with an befitting Prince’s Sign `O The Times. More songs like this over the last eight years would have made them a little more bearable. – Robert Huff


Q-Tip “Gettin’ Up”

This year has its “Eye Know,” and its name is “Gettin’ Up.” It’s got Q-Tip’s great lyrical flow, and it’s life affirming and heartfelt without being sentimental. There’s wooing and screwing without feeling cheap. And the lines about color are among the standouts (“Now look at our lives so colorful / A wonderful spectrum, not one-tone dull / Full of excitement and not one lull“). It’s got a warm, laid back groove throughout that slinks along so smooth and so effortlessly. It’s the kind of song that’d be great to wake up to in the morning. It’s like the sun on your face. A little coffee, a bagel and a lot of head nodding, because you’re getting up. Or it would be a great song to play in the golden hour, capping off a good day and starting a good night. It’s like the sun just right on someone’s face. A little dinner, a little dancing, a drink or two, because things are looking up. – Hubert Vigilla


Friendly Fires “Paris”

Friendly Fires’ debut showed a disregard for any delusions of artistic credibility, and got on with having some of the most blatantly catchy pop songs released this year. “Paris” is completely indicative of this. Where say, Hot Chip have a touch of (in itself top draw) experimentalism in their chartbusters, Friendly Fires go gloriously full-blown with the likes of Wham and Girls Aloud in their sights. There’s a fair amount of Duran Duran, a little Ibiza excess, and maybe even something of the City of God soundtrack’s other-worldly cool. It’s a straightforward homage to a city and things getting better, the stars and amassed lights greeting the recipient. When Friendly Fires promise they’re on it, the future seems like a widescreen opportunity. – Thomas Lee

MP3 – Aeroplane Remix

Vampire Weekend “Walcott”

Aside from offering up one of 2008’s hands-down best debuts, Vampire Weekend have turned heads with more than just raw talent. Carving a niche for themselves with their unique Afro-yuppie pop blend, the self-titled album delivers seamlessly retrofitted nerd rock with the pep of a Johannesburg street band, dipping as comfortably into xylophone splashes and a breezy pan flute as full-throated rock-outs. As it turns out, though, perhaps their best song, “Walcott,” tosses that schtick aside for a few minutes in favor of concert-hall string arrangements and airy piano arpeggios, tucked flawlessly inside straight-up pop rock. A perfect match for Vampire Weekend’s persona as Ivy League rebels, “Walcott” snarks at a posh summer get-away at Cape Cod much like the better-known “Oxford Comma” slights stuffy syntax and English dramas. Even so, Vampire Weekend never fall prey to the neg-head elitism that draws so many indie acts. More than anything, this is carefree, energetic, shamelessly sunny rock. – Dustin Allen


Gutter Twins “Idle Hands”

The Gutter Twins are, for all intents and purposes, a very “manly” band: Mark Lanegan’s gruff vocals, Greg Dulli’s shredding guitar and oft-present cigarette, the backing band’s hard knocks and stoic demeanor. If I were to pick one song that seems to truly represent the Gutter Twins, it would be “Idle Hands,” particularly in regards to those guitar riffs, which grind ferociously and then switch to a twisty upward spiral that shreds into more grunts and hard chops. Nothing about this song is gentle or subtle, emerging as one the most truly powerful songs to emerge in 2008. And powerful, when done right, is absolutely intoxicating. – Anna Gazdowicz


Wolf Parade “California Dreamer”/ “Kissing the Beehive”

It’s telling that Wolf Parade promised Sub Pop “no singles” on second album At Mount Zoomer, because most of them are either too long or too difficult for radio to digest anyway. But that doesn’t mean they’re not exquisite. Two in particular, “California Dreamer” and “Kissing the Beehive,” show that, single or no, the Canadian group is taking their songwriting to new and more ambitious peaks. “Kissing the Beehive,” the album’s 11-minute closer (and only song co-written by Dan Boeckner and Spencer Krug), maximizes the drama while progressing through different movements. It’s their own indie rock opera. Yet “California Dreamer” is where the album hits its most intense climax, building up from a sinister groove before Krug wails “I think I might have heard you on the radio/ but the radio waves are like snow.” There’s very little snow in California, Spencer, but keep on hallucinating if you’re going to keep writing songs this amazing. – Jeff Terich

Stream – California Dreamer
Stream – Kissing the Beehive

Portishead “We Carry On”

We all knew that Portishead could sound sensual, moody, ethereal, and spooky but who thought they could sound so menacing? “We Carry On” is a pulsing and nerve-wracking song, and I mean that in a good way. The marching drums and intense guitars are undercut by a wavering, high-pitched noise that is straight out of a Clinic song. Beth Gibbons sings haltingly but with eerie urgency: “the pace of time – I can’t survive/ It’s grinding down the view/ Breaking out – which way to choose?/ A choice I can’t renew.” “We Carry On” is a tension filled centerpiece and not like anything Portishead has done before. It made the 11-years of waiting worth it. – Jackie Im


Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds “Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!”

“Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!” is one of the coolest and most surreal singles released this year. In case you haven’t heard, Cave said of the inspiration for the song, “Ever since I can remember hearing the Lazarus story, when I was a kid, you know, back in church, I was disturbed and worried by it. Traumatized, actually. We are all, of course, in awe of the greatest of Christ’s miracles – raising a man from the dead – but I couldn’t help but wonder how Lazarus felt about it.” “Dig” is Nick Cave’s retelling in the myth of Lazarus set in modern day America. The way that Cave writes it, “Dig” sounds like a Charlie Kaufman-meets-Terry Gilliam scene come to life. Just imagine Lazarus as a cool-ass zombie walking around in the world around us, breaking hearts. But what gets me about the song is the lyric in the chorus, “I don’t know what it is, but there’s definitely something going on upstairs,” as if Cave is sympathizing about this poor soul being taken from the grave and put into this crazy, soulless techno/plastic surgery driven society.

Most of all, I dig this song because of the funky back beats with the heavy guitar riffs and choral backing vocals, along with Cave’s distinct, empathically freaked out vocal. Seeing Cave resurrect the legend of Lazarus with his Bad Seeds on stage at the Hollywood Bowl earlier this year is something I will never forget. They are the most dynamically and electric band that I have ever had the honor of seeing in concert. Hearing and seeing Cave will change your life. Just ask Lazarus. – Adrian Cepeda

Hot Chip “One Pure Thought”

At some early point Hot Chip allegedly decided to make their music more inane and “One Pure Thought” should be considered the burgeoning of that particular bridge to nowhere. Actually it’s written more like Isaac Brock adrift in the Overlook Hotel (“I won’t be on my way/ I won’t be on my way/ I’ll help you on your way“) What’s as irreducible as its sublime silliness is its utter pop fluency: the sharpness of its patterns, the clickclack of its little gears wonkily at work and Alexis Taylor’s fluttering falsetto lamenting the Macarena. Inanity, be on your way. – Anthony Strain


Atlas Sound “Recent Bedroom”

Bradford Cox lets the blind lead those can see but cannot feel with this haunting waltz from his solo debut. Alternately warm and icy, acid guitars wash over his reverb-drenched delivery of a single verse: ” I walked outside/ I couldn’t cry/ I don’t know why.” We don’t know either, Bradford. We’re just glad you did. – Robert Huff


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