December 8, 2008

Clicky Clicky's Top Songs Of 2008

Clicky Clicky's Top Songs Of 2008
We humbly submit our list of 10 favorite tracks of the year. The typical caveats apply, mainly that an individual band could only chart once, no matter how awesome it may be. Meaning, for example, that despite three Johnny Foreigner songs being among our 10 most-listened-to tracks of 2008, only one is able to make the cut below. Of course, the tracks in question had to be released this year. And there's really not much else to it. We think these songs are the bee's knees, and we look forward to hearing much more from the bands who recorded them in the future. Our list of top albums of the year largely echoes this list of songs, but there are some notable differences, so be certain check in next Monday to read that one. Thanks for the rock.
1. Johnny Foreigner -- "Absolute Balance" -- Waited Up Til It Was Light
Stream it at Last.FM right here.

Bifurcated from the demo "Balance Comma Girl," expanded, stuffed with skyrocketing dynamics and draped with vapor trails of guitar feedback and delay, "Absolute Balance" puts the final (well, almost) exclamation point on Johnny Foreigner's stunning debut Waited Up 'Til It Was Light. The tail end reintroduces a familiar canned beat (it also drives the single "Salt, Peppa and Spinderella") and makes a miraculous ascent into a crescendo in which fronter Alexei Berrow unhinges his soul and lets fly a spine-tingling, entirely inscrutable 20-second rant. Watch the band perform "Absolute Balance" at the tail end of "Yr All Just Jealous Of My Von Dutch Hat" from T In The Park this past July right here at the YouTubes. The band will begin recording its second full length later this month, and intends to tour North America in 2009. We reviewed Waited Up Til It Was Light here in June.

2. A Weather -- "Shirley Road Shirley" -- Cove
Download "Shirley Road Shirley"
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The most intimate record of the year was released by the somewhat shadowy -- or at least reserved, perhaps press-shy -- group A Weather out of Portland, who somehow took the narcotic and stoney vibe of slowcore and imbued it with hopeful romance and mystery. Spurred by careful, boxy (and apparently no-footed) drumming and spare guitar, "Shirley Road Shirley" soars into its almost-chorus, the questionable vow "I won't try anything, I swear you won't even know I'm there." We reviewed A Weather's Cove right here in February. Thanks to the band for the permission to post this track.

3. Los Campesinos! -- "Death To Los Campesinos!" -- Hold On Now, Youngster...
Stream it at Last.FM right here.

Pepped up and ragged, shouted and layered, the lead track from the Cardiff, Wales septet's first release of 2008 is rife with sly lyrics and enthusiasm to spare. We actually think this song's mix flattens the dynamics a little too much, perhaps in order to make all the instruments audible. The following track, "Broken Heartbeats Sound Like Breakbeats," is much more explosive -- although it hurts our head to figure out why. But it is the dueling vocals and gang cheers that make "Death To Los Campesinos!" the gang's best track of the year. The fact that its video features a homicidal unicorn is just so much delicious icing on the technicolor cake.

4. The Notwist -- "Gloomy Planets" -- The Devil, You + Me
Watch the amazing video with Andromeda Express Orchestra at YouTube right here.

Fuzzier vocals and acoustic guitar would seem to herald a new, ever more reserved direction for the laconic German quartet The Notwist, best known for its 2002 electropop milestone Neon Golden. But halfway through "Gloomy Planets," as the song scales its sole chorus, looping tones overtake the mix, overlay the piano and guitars and build a crescendo that waxes on for almost two full, thrilling minutes. And suddenly, it is like the band's recent history has caught up with it. The Notwist's Oct. show at Boston's Roxy nightclub was among our favorites of the year. Hopefully it will not be another six years before The Notwist releases a new record.

5. Frightened Rabbit -- "Floating In The Forth" -- The Midnight Organ Fight
Stream it at Last.FM right here.

We had already considered Frightened Rabbit's Scott Hutchison a master of crafting the devastating lyric prior to the release of The Midnight Organ Fight, but when we reached the tail-end of the record and heard this track buzz up into its bottomlessly sorrowful first line our estimation was affirmed all over again. "So you just stepped out of the front of my house and I'll never see you again." A lot of bloggers have expended a lot of keystrokes talking about the emotional rawness of Frightened Rabbit's overdriven folk-rock, but this track is the only one for us that is almost unlistenable. While The Midnight Organ Fight's relatively glossy production is somewhat at odds with Frightened Rabbit's music -- particularly its high-octane live sets -- every song on the set is dynamite. "Floating In The Forth," with its lush sonic palette, harmonies and dreadful sense of finality, was the biggest surprise of the collection. The band returns to Boston's Great Scott next month. We reviewed The Midnight Organ Fight here in March.

6. The Raveonettes -- "Dead Sound" -- Lust, Lust, Lust
Stream it at Last.FM right here.

A wonderfully realized track that amalgamates spectral (and obviously Spector-al) harmonies, simple urgent programmed rhythm tracks, aggressive white-out guitar fuzz and reverby leads into an aural candy treat.

7. Destroyer -- "Foam Hands" -- Trouble In Dreams
Download "Foam Hands"
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When you stop to think about it, the chorus to this track is ridiculous. But elsewhere band leader Dan Bejar's relatively simple yet typically impressionist lyrics are as evocative as ever. Mr. Bejar's singing is perhaps the most singular of this decade, as it is as convincing when coyly elongating and wearily over-enunciating syllables as it is when the narrator turns against his narrative, and occasionally the listener. Miraculously, "Foam Hands" does a whole lot with fairly little, including boring itself hopelessly deep into your brain, all the while providing Bejar ample opportunity to bend expectations just slightly into a gothic tale of estrangement.

8. The War On Drugs -- "Show Me The Coast" -- Wagonwheel Blues
This track isn't available to hear on the Internet for free.
Stream a short sample at EMusic here.

Ten minutes of kaleidoscopic, blissful drone could have easily felt like five minutes too many, but something about the arpeggiated swells and Petty-esque declamations spiraling out over an F# seemingly into forever is entrancing. It also inspires the cartoonish feeling that somehow, somewhere this song is always being performed, like the black-and-white footage of an oncoming steam train hidden behind the door in a Bugs Bunny short. The War On Drugs were the best of the many great things that broke out of Philadelphia this year.

9. The Hold Steady -- "Constructive Summer" -- Stay Positive
Stream it at Last.FM right here.

The most rocking track from the Brooklyn quintet's 2008 release, which was the only CD we kept in the car in late July. Big guitars. Harmonics. So much possibility. Nothing can go wrong. We have to believe that the lyric concerning water towers references the same found in the alternate versions of The Replacements' "Can't Hardly Wait" packaged with the reissues of Tim and Pleased To Meet Me this year.

10. The Swimmers -- "Pocket Full Of Gold" -- Fighting Trees
Download "Pocket Full Of Gold"
Recorded live at Chicago's Hideout, March 22, 2008
[right click and save as]

While "Heaven" continues to be the "hit" of the long-awaited debut from this Philadelphia act, at least in terms of the attention bestowed by the Internets (the band recently released this video for the track, as well), "Pocket Full Of Gold" is the most irresistable of the ten tunes on the band's Fighting Trees. Tweedy-esque vocal, the track would have been a good fit on the first Wilco record, before the Chicago act entered its baroque period. We reviewed Fighting Trees here in March.

1 comment:

Jeff said...

That War on Drugs album is underrated. Good stuff.