Best songs of 2008
As I sit here, in an empty house on a humid New Year’s eve eve eve, eating leftover ham like I have every day for the past week, it seems this is the only way I could possibly round out this year in a fulfilling way. All these songs are different; all of them carry different moods and memories, and they’ve all made my year. 10.

Snob Scrilla – Chasing Ghosts While I do enjoy some rap/hip hop, I can’t stand most of it. I don’t get the big deal about Lil Wayne. Whatever You Like was enjoyable enough, but I’m not inspired by T.I’s other efforts.

Snob Scrilla, though, has me paying attention. Which is made even stranger by the fact that they’re an Australian outfit, and we’ve been guilty of producing so much crap in the genre over the past few years. But Chasing Ghosts is different.

The lyrics aren’t dumbed down for a wider audience, nor are they written by illiterate school dropouts. I doubt that the majority of those who listen to Australian rap know what the lines “Where cash rules, forgo benevolence/These days it’s all about them dead presidents” actually mean. Snob Scrilla is like a breath of fresh air in a plateau of mud that we just keep getting stuck in.

Hopefully, they’re paving the way for a new generation of astute rappers. 9. Department Of Eagles - No One Does It Like You There are a few people in music who can’t seem to put a foot wrong when it comes to side projects.

Dan Rossen is the king of them. Maybe shared king, with Spencer Krug. But he’s come back with a punch, with D of E’s latest offering, In Ear Park.

No One Does It Like You has that immediate encompassing introduction, rolling along with apparent ease and the guiding hand of a seasoned music man who can construct a complex, layered song and still make it easy to listen to. You’ll have listen to the whole song and when you realise it’s over, you’ll think it’s only been going for about 30 seconds, but you’re still completely satisfied – it just draws you in, and you have no concept of how long you’ve been listening for. There are just so many elements to this song that it’s too hard to focus just on one, because they all come together in something so well-balanced it has to be a work of Rossen.

No one does it like you, indeed. I’m pretty sure it was picked up for an ad in Aus, but I can’t for the life of me remember which one it is. 8.

Ra Ra Riot – Dying Is Fine I really hated this song when I first heard it. e.e. cummings is my favourite poet of all time, and for anyone to maul his work into song form is pure blasphemy.

That is, until I actually gave it a chance. Now, I’m thinking that cummings himself would approve this as an appropriate musical form of his poetry . The thing is, though, that the chorus is by far the most appealing part of this song.

And it’s that part which is taken from the poetry. The rest of it, I’m not really that amazed, or particularly inspired. I’m taking comfort in the fact that this is only a starting point for Ra Ra Riot, and they’re probably going to find their way out of this boring verse-killer chorus slump to fashion something that hits hard, all the time.

7. Fleet Foxes – White Winter Hymnal The first line of this song may have just been a forewarning of the upcoming excitement surrounding these Seattle natives. When 99% of blogs have the S/T album in their top 5 and even the most musically clueless are following the pack, it’s a phenomenon in the making, and the hype still hasn’t slowed down.

It’s the unfathomably pretty songs like this that would entice even the most masculine of listeners, and the fact that we’ve seen hints of this type of music in the past few years, but nobody has taken it to the level that Fleet Foxes have. Layers of intricate beats and melodies, strong repetition and whimsical vocals mould it into a song that you just can’t tear yourself away from. They’ve fashioned a whole new style that’s unmistakably theirs, and sets the benchmark for folk for a long time yet.

6. MGMT – Kids There’s something about Kids that is incredibly haunting and attention grabbing at the same time. It’s the slightly hollow, repetitive and immediately identifiable beat that first pulls you in, and you remain transfixed by the vocals that are almost not completely there.

And, if this song is truly about the environment as many (including myself) do believe, then it’s fairly important subject matter turned out in a clearly thoughtful and remarkable way. Though there’s been so much hype from both the indie and mainstream media about MGMT, the fact is that they’re stayers. The electric undercurrent that many predicted would be tiresome by the end of the year has remained etched in our minds as classic MGMT.

For a band to have a classic sound after one album is a little far fetched, but it seems as though it’s going to be the sound du rigueur of these kids for a while yet. 5. TV On The Radio – Dancing Choose There’s no doubt that Golden Age is amazing, TV On The Radio’s finest effort yet.

While Mountain & Desperate Youth may have you at times sleepily drifting in and out, Golden Age is all killer, all punch, all the time, even in its quiet moments. Which is certainly what Dancing Choose is not. It’s a raucous ride through an empty-headed society, a fast rat race with a tiny moment of peace (breeding butterflies, perhaps) in the middle of a sea of frenzy.

Dancing Choose is a little like a supercharged We Didn’t Start The Fire, a comment on times present and some past that has you panting as you try and keep up. The benefits of this agitated style are that a) you can dance to it, and b) every time you listen, something different comes up. So it’s like a never-ending dig for gold.

Every time you find something new, you know it’s quality. 4. Mates of State – Help Help Unfortunately, there were quite a few mediocre reviews surrounding Mates of State’s newest effort, Re-Arrange Us.

I think many were expecting the romping & rolling style of their previous records. But life changes people, and changes in lifestyle have surely influenced Re-Arrange Us. It’s a little more controlled, but a little more relaxed as well.

Mates are no longer a twosome, they now have a little one that they have to think of as well, and it’s apparent in their music. But, I don’t think that it makes Re-Arrange Us as mediocre as people say. It’s filled out a little more with more instrumentation, but there’s songs that are definite throwbacks to All Day or Bring It Back.

And I think Help Help is one of them. A controlled verse, sure, but it’s still worth listening to. The chorus is just classic Mates.

It’s not as slow as Get Better, and not as racy as The Re-Arranger (which was another contender for this list), but it finds a happy medium, and is continually on my playlists. 3. Matt & Kim – Daylight It’s impossible to stress how much this song has infected my life, and listening habits, the past few months.

If I walk down the street with my iPod and Daylight comes on, everything changes. Suddenly everything is sunnier. There’s nothing wrong with the world.

It’s not just during the song, it lasts long after that. It’s some sort of combination of Matt’s super keen and energetic lyrics and singing style, as well as the jumpy beat and anthem-like chorus. Daylight heralded the arrival of summer for me, the colours got a little brighter and everything seems friendlier.

It brings a certain carefree feeling (I have five clocks in my life/and only one has the time right/I’ll just unplug it for two days), and you can’t help but envision Matt singing it with a massive smile on his face. 2. Bon Iver – Flume For Emma, Forever Ago has this absolutely undeniable way of pulling you in.

It’s astounding how something so minimal can be so attention grabbing, like some sort of new musical superpower that Justin Vernon has harnessed. The silent weight of the music completely fills your head and demands that you listen to every single understated note. Like many, my favourite song on For Emma was originally Skinny Love.

But a further exploration finds that I am so, so much more infatuated with Flume. The technique of layering his voice comes out so much better in this song, and it makes me want to stop anything I’m doing whilst listening, lest I disrupt the perfect balance of the music. The power, melancholy and memories that are held in Vernon’s voice during Flume are unparalleled in anything I’ve heard before.

You have to listen a little harder, turn it up a little louder, because unless you’re completely surrounded by this song you’re not really listening to it at all. 1. Vampire Weekend – Walcott It’s probably the wild, unharnessed keyboard opener that first drags you into this song.

I know it’s what got me in. Something that you can jump around a little to, and nobody will care, because they’re all doing it too. It’s infectious.

But what’s so remarkable about this song, apart from this repeated contagious frenzy, is how well Vampire Weekend have reeled this little bit of agitation in to assemble low-key verses where the lyrics are standouts. It’s something that takes other bands years to perfect. The line “the Holy Roman Empire roots for you” and the simple little melody after it are the parts I always look out for, before it breaks back into the whirl.

Fun fact : “This song is the first one by VW. The name Vampire Weekend comes from a movie that the singer, Ezra, was a part of. The plot was about a boy named Walcott who had to get out of Cape Cod to warn the mayor about a vampire attack before the whole town was taken over.

The movie was called Vampire Weekend.” I don’t know how true it is, but it’s interesting nonetheless. Worthy mentions: Lykke Li – Little Bit Born Ruffians – Wedding Rings and Midnight Strollers Antony & The Johnsons – Shake That Devil The Seabellies – Heart Heart Heart Out Black Kids – Hurricane Jane.
- 4:13 p.m. Monday 29th December 2008 EST
Reel Around The Fountain 38 posts in collection
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