Monday, December 15, 2008

The 20 Best Songs of 2008

It's that time of year when bloggers force their musical opinions on everyone, and I'm no different. Well, unless you consider the fact that my opinions are actually better than all those other ones. Then I suppose I'm very different. And very awesome.

But enough about me. Behold, the best tunes of 2008!

(Click any link to go to the download page. Music files will be available for a limited time.)

20. "You Don't Understand Me," The Raconteurs from
Consolers of the Lonely
I'm not a huge fan of The Raconteurs (or White Stripes, for that matter) but they always manage to grab me with something. With their first album, it was the funky blues-rock track, "Level," and with the new record, it's this softer, piano-heavy, melancholy tune. I don't know if would necessarily console any lonely souls. Just based on this track alone, I would've called the album Commiseration With the Lonely.

19. "Rebel In You," Supergrass from
Diamond Hoo Ha
One of my favorite Brit bands came back this year with an album that was a bit of a disappointment. I just wasn't feeling most of it, but I do love this Bowiesque song, even if the chorus is not as interesting as the rest of it.

18. "If I Were A Boy," Beyoncé from
I Am...Sasha Fierce
I hate to give Beyoncé even more attention, but I have to give her props here. This song is a little melodramatic, but coming from someone who loves Jim Steinman's music, that's a compliment.

17. "Being Here," The Stills from Oceans Will Rise
The Stills are one of those bands who always put out at least one song per album that I really love, so then I look further into their catalog only to realize that I don't care about them that much. It's not that they're not a good band; they're just kind of non-descript. They float around in musical average-land where it's easy to get lost without some kind of flash or gimmick, neither of which they have. But, hey, they do have one of the best songs of 2008.

16. "Shake It," Metro Station from Metro Station
Although Metro Station's debut album was released in September 2007, this single didn't chart until early 2008. It quickly became one of the most infectious, and possibly overplayed, hits of the summer. I will make no apologies for loving this song. Of course, I caught about a minute of the video and I immediately wanted to punch all of these guys, especially the singer. It came as no surprise when I discovered that he's actually Miley Cyrus' half-brother. But, whatever. As long as I never have to lay eyes on these dorks again, I will happily be-bop around to this song.

15. "Never Miss A Beat," Kaiser Chiefs from Off With Their Heads
Yay, more Brit pop! There's quite a bit of it on this year's list. I think this song, with it's slacker message of "It's cool to know nothin'" would be quite popular with Beavis and Butthead. My favorite line is not slacker-related, but, "What do you want for tea?/I want crisps." I guess because "crisps" just sound so much more refined and less fattening than our American potato chips.

14. "Mr. Richards," R.E.M. from Accelerate
I haven't really been impressed with R.E.M. since Automatic for the People (aside from the 2005 single, "Leaving New York"), and I wasn't all that impressed with what I heard from Accelerate. However, this track is like a dose of the good old Document-era R.E.M. that I loved.

13. "Back Of The Van," Ladyhawke
from Ladyhawke
I posted this song a few months back in a post that Blogger must have eaten, because it just mysteriously up and disappeared one day. Ladyhawke is actually Pip Brown, a one-woman Kiwi band who, judging by her stage name and synth-heavy music, is a lover of all things '80s. A lot of the good songs on the record sound much like this one - some sort of variation of "Jump" with vocal stylings somewhere in between Cyndi Lauper and Chrissie Hynde. I'm sure that sounds awful to some people (mullet heads), but Ladyhawke is really a lot of fun.

12. "Barking At The Moon," Jenny Lewis from Bolt Official Soundtrack
Jenny's solo album, Acid Tongue, got quite a bit of critical attention this year (good and bad), so you may wonder why I went off the board and picked her song from an animated movie for my list. Well...because I like it. Duh! The only songs I really dug from her album were "Godspeed" and "Carpetbaggers," and I didn't like either of them as much as this cute little country-ish tune. And no, it has nothing to do with John Travolta voicing the dog in the movie. You don't see me picking his duet with Miley Cyrus as one of the best songs of the year, do you? (But I will say that it, surprisingly, wasn't bad and that HE was the best part of it. And yes, I forced my niece to sit in the theater all the way until the end of the credits so I could hear him sing.)

11. "Electric Feel," MGMT from Oracular Spectacular
I've always had a weird thing for men singing falsetto. Overall, I'm not a huge MGMT fan, but this is a really catchy track with a Bee Gees vibe. And kudos to any song that rhymes electric eel with electric feel. I mean, really, how many options are there?

10. "No Sunlight," Death Cab For Cutie from Narrow Stairs
You might think this would be another somber, shadowy song like "I Will Follow You Into the Dark," but it's actually super-peppy and cute. It's like the Red Bull chaser to the former song's whiskey-and-Nyquil cocktail.

9. "Forever," Chris Brown from Exclusive - The Forever Edition
Okay, so I know I should probably hate this song on principle considering that Wrigley's paid Brown to write it as a jingle for Doublemint gum. But I can't hate it. It's too good. If Dody Goodman were still with us, God rest her soul, she would probably say, "When I hear 'Forever' I just can't make my feet behave!"

8. "Sirensong," The Cure from 4:13 Dream
Oh, in a world full of emo poseurs, isn't it nice to have The Cure back? This is a wonderful (if not a little too short) song that rivals the beauty of "Just Like Heaven."

7. "Chick Lit," We Are Scientists from
Brain Thrust Mastery
First of all, I have to say that this is probably my favorite album title of the year. (Diamond Hoo Ha is a close runner-up.) I don't know what "brain thrust mastery" means, but it's awfully fun to say. And that it sounds slightly dirty doesn't hurt. We Are Scientists really surprised me this time around, as they don't really sound like the same band from 2006's With Love and Squalor. I don't know about everyone else, but my opinion is, that's a good thing. They used to sound like every other indie post-punk/power pop band on the block, but now they're taking on a more retro sound and making some slick, stylish, new wave-influenced pop. I had a hard time choosing my favorite from the record. My close second choice was "Lethal Enforcer," which is equal parts The Fixx, Thompson Twins, and Psychedelic Furs, but "Chick Lit" won out in the end, mostly due to the "wailing siren" guitar line and the feeling that this could very well be a lost Duran Duran song.

6. "Fix It," Ryan Adams & The Cardinals from Cardinology
Unlike Aerosmith, Ryan Adams' music didn't get worse with sobriety. He may not have gotten better either, but he's at least become consistent. This is my favorite track from the new album, which is essentially a sad song about lost love, but the line, "I'd fix it if I could/And I'd always win/I'd always win, and you would always lose," shows the kind of quiet bitterness to which we can all raise a tear-stained beer glass.

5. "Appalachian Springs," The Verve from Forth
After 11 years, The Verve finally got over themselves (maybe) and got back together to record a new album that picked up right where Urban Hymns left off. That may make it sound like this record is a bit dated, and maybe it is, but I don't think that this kind of sweeping, anthemic music ever goes out of style.

4. "Let's Dance To Joy Division," The Wombats from A Guide To Love, Loss & Desperation
This album was released in November 2007, but didn't chart until 2008. Although most of The Wombats' success came in the UK, there was no way I was leaving this song off my list. I discovered it in January during a random e-stroll through the Hype Machine, and it became an instant favorite. This is Brit dance-pop at its best.

3. "Evil Urges," My Morning Jacket from Evil Urges
This whole record is fabulous, but the title track is my favorite, due mostly to Jim James' falsetto. The song is like some crazy marriage of Prince and Lynryd Skynryd and it just WORKS.

2. "Manhattan," Kings of Leon from Only By The Night
1. "Use Somebody," Kings of Leon from Only By The Night
I broke my rule from last year of only allowing one song per artist on the list. I had to. Kings of Leon just musically kicked everyone else's asses this year. Let the hipster whiners say that these guys are sell-outs. These days, that's just code for anyone who is lucky enough to be accepted by the mainstream audience.

I also give a shout-out to The Bogmen, one of my favorite bands who finally released a new song this year. I didn't put them on the list because not many of you have ever heard of them, and they're also friends of mine, so I didn't want to seem like I was playing favorites! (You can see an earlier video from the band and read my story of Bog love here.)

Enjoy this video for "Oceans Apart," filmed by the wonderful Chris Cassidy. (Keep your eye on Brendan, the keyboardist, who looks like he's about to piss his pants laughing throughout this whole thing.)


red said...

The only song I've heard is "If I Were a Boy." (Which is totally awesome.)

Thanks for the new jams.

The Imaginary Reviewer said...

Nice to see some of the 'Grass in there. Great band.


Bubs said...

I'm so out of it. I only knew 9 of those bands/artists.

McGone said...

The Raconteurs put out a fine album this time around. Glad to see it on this list.

"Shake It" however, makes me want to go on a spree of the violent variety.

Dale said...

Some great picks Beckeye, the gift of music is always a fine one! Thanks.

pistols at dawn said...

This post made me realize that I purchased absolutely no albums at all this year. Well done, me - you're officially an old man.

cube said...

I must look these up because I haven't heard of a single one. Yes, I'm totally out of the new music scene...

words words words said...

Glad to see a Raconteurs mention!

Also, I have actually heard of The Bogmen! But not for anything really notable. Back in 1996(?) when Kiss did their big reunion makeup tour, STP canceled as their opener and were replaced by The Bogmen. I fear for what may have happened to them.

Tootsie said...

I am totally amazed that I love Oceans Apart. Billy is his hot self and I think he and Chris went to the same dance school.

Gifted Typist said...

I really like the Kaiser Chiefs

Bond said...


This ain't no list

Where is "I Kissed A Girl"?????

Sean Wraight said...

Excellent picks Beckeye! Nice to see R.E.M. getting a little love. I've been surprised by their relative absence from so many lists this year too. The song you have chosen (Mr. Richard) has always been bit perplexing to me... Are they talking about "Keef" or Michael (Kramer) in this song?

Great job. Your rationale for each was very informative.


Slave to the dogs said...

For someone who blogs about pop culture you sure don't listen to much pop music.....

Hipsters can kiss my ass. I just got turned on to Kings of Leon and I like 'em.

Johnny Yen said...

I love Jenny Lewis. I almost checked that album out at my library today.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

My god those Bogmen can dance! And I love LOVE how they are including the audience in their 30 second video thing. There's something really endearing about a band that makes the musical experience so inclusive.

And thanks for all the music yo.

Candy's daily Dandy said...

I love this list! Thanks Beckeye! I am musically challenged and now I have a point of reference when asked about the most popular songs of 2008, and I won't sound like a complete fool!


Les Becker said...

Hey, *I* force my musical opinions on the Internet at Large with every post! Granted, I don't post like I once did, either.

What happens to "old" bloggers...?

How could you NOT be a huge fan of the White Stripes?! Aack!

I can't decide if I like "If I Were a Boy" or not. It kinda creeps me out.

Gwen said...

I'm not surprised to find we have similar taste in music. I've starred this post to go back later and check out the ones I haven't heard.

I;m so glad to see that I'm not the only who's been infected with the "Shake It" earwig - utter shite but so catchy!

dguzman said...

What I don't get about #9 "Forever" is why, if this guy is going for only one night with this chick, he's bragging that they'll spend it on the dancefloor. WTF? Are they 13? Is this referencing the old Luke and Laura "Rise" sex/dance? Call me a slut, but I would expect a little more than just dancing.

bloody awful poetry said...

Teh music, it is gooooood. And yes, your opinions are better than other peeps'.And you are awesome.And I will love you forever for the shout-out to The Stills. FOR. EVER.

dmarks said...

Ladyhawke? Do they have anything to do with the movie or soundtrack?

LoraLoo said...

I happen to love your taste in music, and there's a few here I've never heard, so I'll be checking them out more.

Metro Stations debut CD as a whole is pretty good, but Shake it is what got me to listen more.

We are Scientists, I kind of found by accident... Chick Lit is awesome!

Johnny Gruber said...

I am digging the LadyHawke album. "Paris Is Burning" sung in French, is excellent. Its the second coming of Bananarama. Great choice, on "Back To The Van," Beck. Its sounds like Stevie Nicks.


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