Thursday, January 22, 2009

My Top Songs of 2008 (30 to 21)

30. Of Montreal – “Id Engager” (Video)
If you’ve never heard of Of Montreal but their screeching vocals and Ziggy Stardust-esque sexuality sound familiar, perhaps you’ve hummed along to an Outback Steakhouse commercial. I really enjoyed their 2007 album Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer (thanks for introducing me, Mr. Park) and what could make a road trip more enjoyable than attempting Kevin Barnes’ ever-escalating ladder of high notes?

Get past the song’s intro (which I’m sure my father and other squares would call “pure noise”), and you’re sure to enjoy this skittering, hyper-melodic track. Then again, just when you settle in and start tapping your toes to the groove, the track crashes and disintegrates. In the words of Karl Pilkington, “It’s… er… just a bit of weird art.”

29. The Virgins – “Rich Girls” (Video)
I first heard “Rich Girls” a couple years ago. Released on a five-song EP in 2007, I couldn’t get enough of the funky baseline, Studio 54/disco feel and falsetto vocals. So why is it included on the list? Because in 2008, a re-vamped version of the track was included on their full-length, self-titled album. It’s different … and I don’t think for the better. It’s slower and choppier.

Listen yourself: (2007 version / 2008 version). Thoughts?

28. Kanye West – “Love Lockdown” (Live)
As I previously mentioned, Kanye West cannot sing. Even with a digitally-enhanced voice, he can’t carry the tune. Nonetheless, “Love Lockdown” is made by thundering, relentless tribal drums.

It’s definitely one of West’s darkest singles (“I ain’t loving you / The way I wanted to”). It slowly builds to a fever pitch but in the end I am left wanting more.

27. The Submarines – “You, Me, & The Bourgeoisie” (Video)
“Here I am with all the pleasures of the first world …
Clothes we buy it's sweatshop labor
Drugs from corporate enablers
We're not living the Good life
Unless we're fighting the Good fight
You and Me just trying to get it right”

If you’re going to lead an assault on the Western world’s commercialization why would you choose to deliver your message to the masses by way of an iPod commercial? The answer is beyond me. The point gets lost and it becomes little more than a gratuitously enjoyable indie pop hit.

26. The Killers – “A Dustland Fairytale" (Listen)
I feel like, so far, “A Dustland Fairytale” has been largely overlooked but I dig it. I love the chorus and the way the song progresses from a somber keyboard to a boisterous orchestral finale. I think it would be the perfect choice to cap a live set… followed up by “All These Things That I’ve Done.”

“Saw Cinderella in a party dress
But she was looking for a nightgown
I saw the devil wrapping up his hands
He’s getting ready for the showdown
I saw the minute that I turned away
I got my money on a pawn tonight”

25. T.I. – “Whatever You Like” (Video)
“Whatever You Like” is a prototype, radio-friendly party anthem. T.I. (who has had his share of legal troubles) is full of gangsta bravado. I enjoy rollin’ in my 2000 Hyundai Accent, windows down, top button of my work shirt undone, tie loosened, while bobbing my head to the electronic beat. The Northbridge, MA locals all think I’m straight out of the hood.

24. Guns N’ Roses – “Better” (Listen)
Finally. I first heard the leaked version of “Better” (and the rest of the much anticipated Chinese Democracy) at least two years ago. And while upon comparison it doesn’t seem like two years worth of improvements were made, it’s my favorite track on the album.

Opening with a siren-like guitar riff and Axel doing both falsetto (“No one ever told me when/I was alone/They just thought I’d know better”) and hip-hop cadence, “Better” blows up into a vintage GNR orgy of power chords and (Slash-less) guitar solos. How long will we have to wait for a follow up?

23. Bob Dylan – “Someday Baby” (Listen)
Featured on Bob Dylan’s most recent edition of his Bootleg Series (Volume 8), “Someday Baby” is a new take on my favorite track from Modern Times. Decidedly less bluesy, this alternate version still racked up nearly 20 plays on my iTunes library since it’s release in October.

While I still prefer the Modern Times take, I love Dylan’s vocals on the Tell Tale Signs album. There’s a strong undercurrent of hope that I think gets lost underneath the boogie woogie vibe on the original.

22. Vampire Weekend – “A-Punk” (Video)
If this were an award show, The Schaible for Best New Artist would go to these New York City indie rockers. From its opening rift to the final “eh eh eh,” “A-Punk” is both joyful and triumphant. It’s an immediate, hook-filled pleasure and only a shade over two minutes to boot. Vampire Weekend is too consistently likable to drop into obscurity. I expect more good things.

21. Fleet Foxes – “White Winter Hymnal” (Video)
They are only one week removed from their great performance on SNL. This Seattle-based quintent thrills on the pastoral “White Winter Hymnal” using evocative harmonies, wordless vocals and lyrics are littered with imagery. The video is epic and its meaning is frustratingly elusive.

Complete lyrics (short and sweet):
“I was following the pack
all swallowed in their coats
with scarves of red tied ’round their throats
to keep their little heads
from fallin’ in the snow
And I turned ’round and there you go
And, Michael, you would fall
and turn the white snow red as strawberries
in the summertime.”

2 comments:

  1. Pfftt... YOU overlooked Dustland Fairytale until I told you how awesome it was!

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  2. thanks for the shout. i miss the days of sharing music with you. how's your flash-drive tossing arm of yours?

    glad to read that your accent is still running. my rene russo was recovered and returned to me after a bit of work. she's here, but the experience has changed her, man.

    regarding the virgins and "rich girls," i completely agree. i caught their performance on conan a few months back and was really disappointed with their retooling.

    and the fleet foxes song is obviously about a nomadic band of raging snowmen.

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