Monday, December 31, 2007

The 20 Best Songs of 2007

Well, I know I made you all wait long enough, but it's finally time for my list of this year's best songs! As much fun as I had ridiculing Britney's latest "record," praising the good stuff is really where it's at. And there was a lot of the good stuff this year to choose from, so it was a bit hard to narrow all of it down to such a small list. But, I've never been one to back away from a musical challenge! So, without further ado, I give you my Top 20 from this year.

(Click any link to download the song. Mp3s are available for a limited time, so get 'em while they're hot!)

20. "White Dove," John Vanderslice (from Emerald City) - The first time I heard this song was in CP's car, after a mini-blogger summit with Deadspot. I didn't really enjoy the whole CD, but this song really grabbed me, so I went home and promptly downloaded it. I've heard that it's about everything from child abuse to post-9/11 trauma. I haven't really been able to figure out a lot of the lyrics but it doesn't matter because the song rocks, whatever it's about.

19. "Stay," Sugarland (from Enjoy the Ride) - I can hear all the groans out there now. Eeeewwww, country! Whatever. I had to have at least one country song on my list or it wouldn't be fair. It was between this and Dierks Bentley's "Long Trip Alone," and while Dierks appeals to the red-blooded American woman in me, this Sugarland song appeals to my weakness for schmaltzy, Lifetime movie-worthy lyrics. Jennifer Nettles's voice often gets on my nerves, but she keeps the twang to a bearable minimum as she delivers this other-woman sob story.

18. "The Con," Tegan and Sara (from The Con) - The first time I heard this song I thought, "Boy, this reminds me of that song about walking with a ghost, except that it's actually good." Then when I checked to see who sang "Walking With a Ghost," I found it was none other than Tegan and Sara. Hey, you learn something new every day.

17. "Starving Pretty," Maria McKee (from Late December) - My girl Maria brought it this year with Late December, a collection of great, soulful songs that showcase her powerful voice. I almost chose "A Good Heart," a McKee song that was previously covered by Fergal Sharkey in cheesy synth-pop fashion. Even though I was so happy to hear that song the way it was meant to be sung, I just kept coming back to this one as the standout track from the album. It's like slightly melancholy carnival music, if there is such a thing.

16. "No One," Alicia Keys (from As I Am) - Here's a song that's been remixed to death since it came out, and I can't figure out why. The original version is just perfect as it is. Who doesn't love those woah-oh-oh-oh-oh's?

15. "Jacket," David Vandervelde (from The Moonstation House Band) - I first heard this at my old job over the summer. This guy who sat next to me was kind of the office DJ and he was always spinning something new on his iPod. This caught my attention because I thought it was Supergrass at first. If Vandervelde isn't a Supergrass fan, I would be extremely surprised. He had another good song from this record called "Nothin No'," but I wasn't impressed by much else.

14. "Love Today," Mika (from Life in Cartoon Motion) - Probably best known as the Verizon RAZR song. This song is so over-the-top, I can't help but love it. I also have a weird thing for guys who can sing falsetto. Love that high-pitched wailing.

13. "NY Nights," Jesse Malin (from Glitter in the Gutter) - I'm not a huge Jesse Malin fan because he kind of sounds like he's singing with a clothespin over his nose and a mouthful of food. Still, I don't know how anyone could not love this song. It conjures up images of walking along the boardwalk on Coney Island...about 50 years ago. Not that I was there, but you know what I mean. The song has a really sweet, old-fashioned feel to it.

12. "Ruby," Kaiser Chiefs (from Yours Truly, Angry Mob) - A nice little Brit-pop gem that didn't get much love this year. What a shame. Warning: if you don't get sucked in by that opening guitar riff and the da da da's, you might hate music.

11. "The Valley," Duran Duran (from Red Carpet Massacre) - It shouldn't surprise anyone to find the Double D on this die-hard Durannie's list. Their new record was produced by Justin Timberlake and Timbaland, which worried me at first, but it seems to be a pretty good marriage. I got the CD for Christmas, but I'd heard most of the songs before then. This one is my favorite so far, because it seems to be the least Timberlake-influenced and the most old-school Duran.

10. "The Underdog," Spoon (from Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga) - Hand clap alert! I think Stereogum said this song has the best hand claps that are impossible to clap along with. That's pretty accurate. But hand claps at any speed make any song better. Music snobs get angry when I use the word "pop," mostly because they're idiots, but I consider Spoon a pop band. Sure, they rock, but they know how to make their songs catchy and accessible. I'm trying really hard not to use that music journalist cliché, "pop sensibilities."

9. "Guaranteed," Eddie Vedder (from the Into the Wild soundtrack) - Like Duran Duran, it should surprise no one that Eddie made it to my list. The whole soundtrack is really fantastic, and if I were the type of idiot person who liked to go on week-long hikes and climb mountains, this would be great accompaniment. Luckily, the songs are also a great accompaniment to walking down the street, riding the subway, or just lying in bed. "Guaranteed," the closing track, wraps up the record nicely with a gorgeous, acoustic tale of a man seeking to find his place in the world.

8. "Keep the Car Running," Arcade Fire (from Neon Bible) - My favorite song from Arcade Fire's sophomore record. They are one of the most original bands that I've heard in quite a while. I've been dying to see them live, especially after seeing them on SNL. If they bring even half the energy in person that they brought across through my TV screen, that would be one fantastic show.

7. "Umbrella," Rihanna featuring Jay-Z (from Good Girl Gone Bad) - This is just such a great pop song. I don't know what genius cabal of evil hit-writers came up with this, but they finally did a good thing. Also, I have to say that this song has been remixed to hell, just like the Alicia Keys tune. I don't know what the fascination with remixes is, but nine times out of ten, "remixing" really means "screwing up a good thing." Like that Chris Brown remix where he starts rapping about Cinderella or Snow White or whatever? Pure crap. I'd like to hit him with my umbrella. Eh eh eh.

6. "1234," Feist (from The Reminder) - Obviously, this became a huge hit after being featured in the latest iPod commercial, but I loved this before all the hype, yo. I swear, somehow, that makes me cool. I can't avoid a big ol' cliché here...this is the "feel-good" song of the year!

5. "Silent House," Crowded House (from Time on Earth) - This was co-written with the Dixie Chicks. The first time I heard it, I was driving home for a visit and started to tear up. It has a beautiful melody, but the lyrics are so sad. I can't quite figure out if it's about a family member (obviously a mother or grandmother) who has recently died or if it's about Alzheimer's...or a combination of both. Whatever it's about, it's a tear-jerker.

4. "Two," Ryan Adams (from Easy Tiger) - I almost put Ryan's "Halloweenhead" on the list instead, because it might be my favorite song from this record, but his vocals here are some of his best. A beautifully bittersweet song.

3. "Girls in Their Summer Clothes," Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band (from Magic) - I got all choked up the first time I heard this song too, but not for the same reasons as with the Crowded House tune. It's actually almost embarrassing to admit why. The only way I can describe it is to say that it made me feel like I went back in time to when Bruce first started recording music, maybe hanging out on the boardwalk in Asbury Park, and it seemed like it captured some perfect musical moment in time. I probably sound like a total dork, but whatever. This is a pretty perfect song.

2. "Breakin' Up," Rilo Kiley (from Under the Blacklight) - Not only is this one of the best songs of 2007, but it is one of the best pop songs I've heard in years. And it throws a bit of funk in for good measure. It's also that rare break-up song that makes you feel great. Ooh! It feels good to be free!

1. "I'll Stick Around," Arckid - Unfortunately, this band (featuring members of Spacehog) hasn't released an album yet, so I can't give you the mp3. But if the Rilo Kiley song is one of the best pop songs I've heard in years, this one is the best one I've heard in even longer, I suppose. Since I have no song, I'll refer you back to this video post.

Well, there you have top songs of 2007. I will give one lucky person on my blogroll that chance to win a CD of these songs with a little trivia contest. The first person to correctly guess the answer to this question gets the tunes!

Q: The first concert I ever attended was in 1982. What artist did I see?

And since I don't have the Arckid song, I'll add one to make the CD track listing an even 20. I'll throw in another song that I had to download after hearing it 5,000 times on an Old Navy commercial: "The Way I Am," Ingrid Michaelson (from Girls and Boys).


Anonymous said...

Excellent list Beckeye! Thanks :-)

chelene said...

So I guess I should go buy that Duran Duran album before I get kicked out of the fan club...

Happy New Year!

Barbara (aka Layla) said...

I knew you would have some sort of good list up! I am thrilled to see one of my favorites of the year there too (I don't have to tell you which one!)

Happy New Year, Becky, hope your have a great 2008!

chez béziat said...

My first concert was Toto (I think 1981).

Was that your first concert, too?

Happy New Year to ya!

Dale said...

The Rilo Kiley tune is pretty damned happy and I like about 1/2 that album and have thrown the rest away. Nice list and I'll have to give a listen to some of it shortly.

No guess on who you saw in '81. Wait, were Duran Duran together then? Van Halen? I dunno.

Lee Ann said...

Great recap!
HAPPY NEW YEAR! Have a wonderful 2008!
Lee Ann

mellowlee said...

Thanks for the mp3/list Beckeye :O)
Happy New Year!!!!

Malcolm said...

Nice recap. My favorite two songs on the new Duran Duran CD are probably the ones that most have the Timbaland-Timberlake influence, "Skin Divers" and "Nite Runner".

I'll guess and say that your first concert was Air Supply.

Bubs said...

Happy New Year Beckeye!

Thanks for keeping me up to date on all the latest in reality TV--hey, I just realized, aren't we just a couple weeks away from the new American Idol? Yeah...

And cool list--I'm especially glad to see Maria McKee on there. She (Lone Justice) used to be one of MizBubs' favorites, and we'd totally lost track of her. I think I'll go pick that up as a surprise for my better half.

LoraLoo said...

There's a lot here I've not heard (or don't know that I've heard), so I'll be checking these out.

Happy New Year!

X. Dell said...

Since I like all the unhip music, I won't say what I liked best in 2007.

Doc said...

This is an excellent reminder of how grossly out of touch I am. Thanks for helping me keep up with the cool kids.


Barbara Bruederlin said...

I'm not a huge Feist fan, but damn that song is catchy!

BeckEye said...

Bluez - You're welcome!

Chelene - Oh, absolutely. Happy Duran Year!

Layla - Hmm...could it be....Bruuuuuce??

Chéz Bez - Sorry, I can't "meet you all the way" on that one. Whatever that means, anyway. Never saw Toto. HNY to you too!

Dale - Never saw VH, and though I've seen the double D, they weren't my first. You suck. (Sorry, I'm still mad at you for making sarcastic remarks about John Travolta's performance in "Hairspray.")

LeeAnn - Thanks! And HNY to you as well.

Mellowlee - You're welcome. Let me know how you're digging the tunes.

Malcolm - I do like "Nite Runner," but I'm not a huge fan of "Skin Divers." And thanks for bringing up a sore subject. I've NEVER had the pleasure of seeing Air Supply.

Bubs - It will be a happier new year once Lord Cowell makes his first appearance on my TV screen. It would NEVER happen, but Maria McKee would make a hilarious judge on AI. She seemed to have a very dry sense of humor when I saw her this summer in concert.

Loraloo - HNY! Let me know what you think.

X.Dell - I'm quite sure some of my choices would be considered "unhip" by plenty of hipster doofuses.

Doc - You're welcome. But your undying love of beer will always endear you to the cool kids.

Barbara - That's ALL you have to say?? Oh, you're mad that there's no Radiohead on this list, aren't you?

Scott said...

Thanks for posting that Springsteen song, I've been waiting to hear it.

And while it's a good song, it sounds exactly like an Arcade Fire song. Why does he need to emulate bands 30 years younger than him?

The Randomness said...

Great list B! Thank you for the MP3s. I am just looking forward to the AI commentary. Hopefully this year the whole thing will not be a joke (again). Best wishes for 08

pistols at dawn said...

Wow. Umbrella? I'm disappointed. But I guess we all fall for something.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Oh Beckeye, that's not really all I have to say, but I was illing at the time of commenting, and that was all I could get out.

But this a fine list, and don't worry about the lack of Radiohead-lovin, as you know there is always more than enough of that for everybody at my place.

M@ said...

Do you have any workout recommendations?

Artful Dodger said...

Yay!! Free swag!! Thanks for the tunes. Hope you had a great New Year. ^_^

BeckEye said...

Scott - Well, first off, you're welcome.


I'm not sure if you're being serious with that Arcade Fire comparison, but if you had said that 2 days earlier you could've made #1 on my list of 20 Craziest Things I've Heard All Year!

"Girls" is SUCH a Bruce song. If it can be compared to any other band, it would have to be someone like The Ronettes, because it has such a nostalgic feel to it. (And Bruce is a big Phil Spector fan.) He wouldn't try to emulate a band 30 years younger than him. He doesn't have to. Maybe they're trying to emulate him?? Win Butler does have a bit of The Boss in his vocal style after all, with that pained, halting delivery of his.

Yes, the song (and whole album) is beautifully produced and perfect for the iPod generation. But why shouldn't it be? Just because Bruce is from the classic rock era doesn't mean that his music should sound dated. Actually, the beautiful thing about him is that even his "classic rock" is timeless.

I'm not sure why you would make that comparison, but I'm really curious. Is it the organ? (Or Mellotron...whatever they're using there.) The string arrangment? Arcade Fire certainly isn't the first to go for that kind of lush sound. Take a listen to Born to Run. There are strings, organs, and horns (oh my) all over the place. I know I said that Arcade Fire is one of the most original bands I've heard in a while, but after chewing on your comment I almost feel like taking it back! Maybe they're just the first band in a while that's been smart enough to do what Bruce did with the E Street Band by forming a rock orchestra.

BeckEye said...

The Randomness - You're welcome. But come on, AI is better when it's a bit of a joke. :)

Pistols - I know. You would run willingly into Steve Perry's open arms.

Barbara - Yes. Most of the Radiohead songs I own (other than all of "The Bends") I think I swiped from you!

M@ - Prince is great for workouts. Specifically his song "Push" from Diamonds and Pearls. Then throw on a whole bunch of LCD Soundsystem and Daft Punk or something. And don't forget your "Umbrella."

Dodger - You are most welcome. HNY to you too!

Writeprocrastinator said...

Um, no "Pretender?"

Barbara said...

Hi Beck,

I read the exchange between you and Scott here regarding "Girls". Hmmm, I wonder if Scott intended that remark as a bit of sarcasm since, like you said, if ANY comparison can be made its Arcade emulating Bruce.

But in case he wasn't joking - your answer kicked ass and my response is, "yeah what Becky said!"

rahm said...

interesting list, but I haven't heard some of them, I like Arcade Fire songs, in fact, my favourite song of the year is "No Cars Go",

I also have a finetune player, yours is very good.



Beth said...

Brilliant list, Aural Doppelganger. Some comments:

I believe CP is on Vanderslice's payroll. He's been hyping the brilliant boy to me, too.

I once went to a Robyn Hitchcock concert with Sugarland's Kristen Bush. Does that make me cool?

I am so with you on your Ryan Adams commentary ... your Bruce write-up ... well, hell, just about every track on here. I can't diss you for any of these song.

You're cool.

Evil Evil Genius said...

No Tay Zonday? Am I the only one who appreciates the depths of his artistry?

mellowlee said...

Beck - I put some of them on my cellphone to listen too, but not all would fit (I need to get them onto my iPod, but too lazy I guess haha) The Con and 1,2,3,4 where already my favs, but now I really love that (The Way I Am) Goregous song! thanks again!!

Scott said...

Sorry for the delayed response; generally, being told that my opinion is the craziest thing someone has ever heard doesn’t make me eager to engage in dialogue.

Having just heard the CD version of the song, I back off my opinion slightly; the mp3 really made the vocals sound stranger than they are. I thought he was going for some odd, distorted-vocal sound that was totally different from anything I’d ever heard from him.

My initial thought is still accurate - the song feels a bit like The National’s “Fake Empire” with the guitars and instrumentation of Arcade Fire’s “Intervention” tossed in. That doesn’t mean he purposely set out to emulate them, but given the interview he and Win did together in Spin, where Bruce specifically mentioned that he admired Arcade Fire's style and stage presence, it is likely they influenced him in some way - if only by making him realize, Hey, I used to sound like that… maybe I should revisit that earlier style of mine. If you’ve read the interview and seen how he was gushing over them, you can’t discount that possibility.

I wouldn’t disagree with anything you said in the last two paragraphs.

BeckEye said...

Scott - Ah, you see...I was going to put a little smiley face dude after the "crazy" comment to drive home the point that it was some good-natured ribbing, but after leaving the note over on your blog about how sarcasm doesn't always translate online, I thought you might get it. Sorry if I offended. Music talk brings out the beast in me. (And I'm typing this all with a grin.)

Anyway, I haven't read that interview, though I would really be interested in checking it out now. I tend to stay away from mags like Spin and, especially, Rolling Stone for a multitude of reasons, but sometimes I miss good stuff like that.

Still, I can't help but think that it's kind of backwards to compare a legend like Springsteen to a hot, new thing like Arcade Fire. It always seems like it should be the other way around. I'm not saying that old dogs can't learn a few new tricks, but generally since they are the ones who influenced the new dogs in the first place, those tricks have been done before. For instance, maybe Bruce admires Win's style because he sees a bit of himself in him? With that in mind, I do see your point about Win possibly reminding Bruce about the way he sounded in the earlier days.

However, as someone who's seen Bruce live about 4 times, the first time in '84 or '85 and the last time just a few years ago, I can say that he hasn't lost ANY of his spunk and fire. He is always a magnificent stage presence and the E Street Band is as tight as ever. So, I don't think he's forgotten his early days. Recording is a different thing, but anyone who's been recording albums as long as Bruce has is going to pick up some new things here and there due to the changing technology.

Scott said...

You're right... which is why that interview stood out to me. It sounded as if the old dog was saying that he was learning tricks from the new dog. Which really struck me as odd!

(Then again, it could've been Bruce simply being polite.)

X. Dell said...

I didn't particularly like the production of "No one," even though I liked the song, and Alicia Keys. I can imagine why a lot of people felt like remixing it.

I'm envisioning you as Casey Kasem in a future life. Do you do dedications?


Who Does This Broad Think She Is?

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I am a winsome muse who was sent to Earth to inspire an artist to turn a vacant building into the world's coolest disco roller rink. We fell in love along the way, and I foolishly gave up my immortality. When the disco craze ended and all the roller rinks were shut down, that lazy bum wouldn't get a job. We broke up and I was stuck on Earth with nothing to do and no one to inspire. So, now I write a blog.

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