The Top 50 Songs of 2008

The Top 50 Albums of 2008

Cut Copy “Lights & Music”

Cut Copy is a hand-clapped, sweat-dripping divination, a prophetic glimpse into the future of electropop. “Lights And Music” glares a dazzling array of swirling syths and Dan Whitford’s sanguine, dance-centric invitations. Along with The Presets, Cut Copy has surely won the argument declaring Australia as the new hub of guilt-free booty shaking. Bouncy as it is beguilingly good, “Lights And Music” subverts New Orders’ insistent guitars, shackles an undeniable rhythm to laser synths, and suspends diaphanous looped croons above floored high-hat snicks. And that’s all before the first chorus. Cut Copy spares no flourish, no matter how decadent, or as is usually the case, essential. Keyboards gleam electric, guitars knead interweaving pathways for lilting “ooohs.” Don’t be surprised when you find yourself getting lost in heady hedonism; merely proceed dancing accordingly. – Mars Simpson

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Vivian Girls “Where Do You Run To?”

Most of Vivian Girls’ self-titled debut slams full speed into a wall of glorious fuzz. Locomotive drums and clangorous guitars threaten to overshadow three part harmonies throughout. Smack in the middle of all that rough, “Where Do You Run To” is a diamond of uncommon splendor. The girls—Cassie Ramone, Kickball Katy and Ali Koehler—channel ’60s girl groups, grind that influence through a reverb gauntlet and still manage to come away sounding innovative. The guitars wind-up slow, its chords descending deftly into the heart of a jilted lovers’ familiar refuge. Tambourine tucks between the girls’ honey-sweet harmonizing even while driving the simple snare snaps. A riff that surfaces midway through stitches a frantic line over all the jaded/jagged angst, an apt warning against boys careless with the love of girls who rock as hard as this. – Mars Simpson

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No Age “Teen Creeps”

Those No Age guys are pretty deft at making chaos feel comforting and noisy and intelligible and desirable. There is something delightfully amateurish about “Teen Creeps,” youthful and blithely pissed-off, and then it all gets stangled up in the warm pulsing waves of ambient sound at the end. As I am an aging individual, I have begun to grow wearier of teen creeps myself…actually, I’m not even sure if this song is about being a teen and the specific creeps that you get as a teen, or about the type of teen creeps that travel and packs and beat the piss out of strangers for a laugh. I think it could go either way, really, but at the moment I’d prefer it be the latter…and then all that anxiety just skids off into a starry-eyed reverie—teen dreams—that strange and wondrous anticipation of you-know-not-what…but it’s going to be ecstatic when you get there, man. – Tyler Parks

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Hercules and Love Affair “Hercules’ Theme”

For those who thought disco long dead and buried, they obviously didn’t witness the stake piercing the heart of it first hand. Hercules & the Love Affair’s debut album is a gem, to be sure, with guest Antony Hegarty providing some classy crooning and vocal depth, but it is “Hercules’ Theme” that sends the entire disc swaying and pointing in an all white suit back to the late ’70s. Horn and string sections over groovelicious basslines discofy this song the nth degree and Fifth Dimension. If any song could take the place of the Commodores’ “Machine Gun” in the incredible dance sequence scene of Boogie Nights, it has to be “Hercules’ Theme.” – Terrance Terich

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Gang Gang Dance “House Jam”

Sometimes a song’s title can tell you everything about it, without really saying much about it at all. Gang Gang Dance’s “House Jam” isn’t even really house music, but it certainly is the jam. With big, dance floor synthesizers, post-punk guitars, ethereal effects and vocalist Lizzi Bougatsos’ transformation to mischievous pixie into Kate Bush-like diva, “House Jam” is a mesmerizing, swirling miasma of decadent sound. Just a few years ago, it would have been impossible to see an anthem of this magnitude coming from Brooklyn’s experimental freak-pop troupe, but in their own forward-looking, convention-dodging way, Gang Gang created one of the year’s most perfect songs—sexy, danceable and so gorgeous it could make you cry in mid-gyration. – Jeff Terich

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Department of Eagles “No One Does It Like You”

For the few who were exposed to Department of Eagles’ first LP Whitey on the Moon UK LP in 2005, a first listen to their long-coming follow-up In Ear Park might lead you to suspect an altogether different band. Composed of college mates Fred Nicolaus and Daniel Rossen, the latter of which would pair up with post-folk savants Grizzly Bear, Department of Eagles have developed into a duo nearly on par with their Brooklyn counterparts. In Ear Park‘s obvious standout, “No One Does It Like You,” fuses all their orchestral inclinations, electronic quirks and atmospheric density into a stomping blend of psychedelic pop and symphonic grandeur. A track years in the making – scraped gradually from the duo’s bedroom demos and even finding its way into Yellow House sessions before being shelved – “No One Does It Like You” was well worth the wait. The Department of Eagles may have a sketchy future ahead of them, but the strength of this song alone is enough to make any band. – Dustin Allen

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Hot Chip “Ready For the Floor”

“Ready for the Floor” was the lead single off Hot Chip’s Made in the Dark, and offers the same infectious sound and subtle humor that has become the band’s trademark. The exercise in repetition, “Do it, do it, do it, do it, do it, do it, do it now/ Say it, say it, say it, say it, say it, say it, say it now,” is as much an instrument as the bubbling keyboards that backdrop the song. There is a mesmerizing quality that takes you away from the fact that the song is, after all, about someone’s “number one guy.” Oh, and Alexis’ casual use of a cool accent is solid gold. – Tyler Weir

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Okkervil River “Lost Coastlines”

This song pretty much ruined The Stand Ins for me. I really couldn’t tell you if this is because I think the rest of the album is good or not, because every time I try and listen, I end up playing “Lost Coastlines” on repeat. It’s only the second song on the album, so as you’d guess, that poses a problem. The song is a perfect representation as to what Okkervil River have to offer in their consistently stellar efforts – delicate yet forceful song structure, dramatic vocals, big orchestral hooks and tumbling, poetic lyrics. It begs to played live, to invite people on stage for a giant sing-a-long, for wild abandon and uninhibited action. Will Sheff and Jonathan Meiburg (now focusing primarily on Shearwater) trade off in this tune, creating a flawlessly collective feel, warm and comforting and inspiring. – Anna Gazdowicz

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Beach House “Gila”

Listening to Beach House is an incredibly intimate experience. Their music is best experienced among sparse company, late in the evening, beneath the starlight or perhaps the candlelight that Victoria Legrand carries in the video for “Gila.” But Alex Scally’s surf-inspired riffs on the group’s glorious single could even be the appropriate soundtrack for huddling under a blanket next to a dark and nearly freezing coastline. The song, just like all of Beach House’s tunes, is composed of stark elements—organ, drum machine, guitar and voice—yet the sheer emotion and soul in Legrand’s vocals and Scally’s guitar broadcast volumes greater than what their arrangement contains. As Tyler Parks described in his review of Devotion, Legrand “constantly expresses things beyond what she makes overt,” and in “Gila” that’s as true, if not more than it is anywhere else. Every note and every single breath is sustained until you can feel it deep within your soul. – Jeff Terich

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Cut Copy “Out There On the Ice”

If you want the 2008 dancefloor defined, ask an Australian. To the Presets it’s a prison of sorts (see “People, My”). To Midnight Juggernauts it’s rehab (LOLWUT; see “Recovery, Road To”). Cut Copy, meanwhile, know it’s a frozen pond through which your skinny ass can fall at any time (but if you do “there’s a guy you know/who’ll be there for you.“) Ah yes, the wingman, praised by the effete lads of Cut Copy! What’s that? That’s a girl he’s talking to? Whoa. Anyway, “Out There On The Ice” will do if you’re damned and if you’re not, boy/girl, dancer/human. And the synths are great. Now be careful out there. – Anthony Strain

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