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Top 100 Songs of 2008: #s 70-66

Born Ruffians
Red, Yellow And Blue
[Warp]

"Sing it with me / it goes like this / we're not gonna die like this!"

Rougher around the edges and thus less grating after several listens than their preppier counterparts Vampire Weekend - the signature garage-y slacker pop sound that these guys create could easily be the new wave of overhyped blog music, but they're just too busy having fun to let their songs get caught up in hoopla. It pulses with major key head-bobbing and perfectly balanced handclaps that alternate with the click-clicking of drumsticks, causing nothing but carefree bliss and a flopping bass line that defines the anyone-could-do-thisness of their laidback aesthetic. All this and still every riff and yelp into the microphone is so refreshing that it could be on repeat for hours and none would be the wiser. Playing and singing like they really don't think they'll ever die, so just relax and get down already, this is the sound of a youthful generation that's not gonna age anytime soon.

69 "When Baby Mamas Collide"
The Hood Internet
The Hood Internet Vs. Chicago
[Self-Released]

"Late night, DVDs, and vodka / nine months later / go see a doctor."

Mashup #1 of three on the countdown. Last year saw the first inclusion of the subgenre that places an instrumental track alongside an unsuspecting vocal track for the utmost pop pleasure, often proving that genres that seem to have little in common are actually only a splice away from each other (such as pop rock and hip hop). Here we get the Chicago duo of laptop artists focusing on musicians from their hometown, including the sparkling guitars of Chin Up Chin Up and the amusing nerdcore stylings of Qualo. The result is amazingly conducive and addictive: both the lyrics and the instrumentation comes off as sunny, clever, and genuine. From beginning to end, it feels like an ode to the confusion and life-affirming feelings that come with a case of "uh-oh-preggers" and the riffs and consistent beat from CUCU only add to the effect. It's endearing and emotive without sounding saccharine, which is pop rock's too often crime - thanks Qualo for lightening the mood, even though your topic surely has its fair share of shades of grey.
68 "Sunrise Catalonia (7.14am)"
Engine7
Me, But Perfect
[Herb]

Moment @ 1:42

Opening tracks fascinate me, so to overgeneralize if I may, they either ease the listener into a collection of songs or blast right into a sound for a jarring and jumpstarting effect. Rarely do they do both, but when they do, they're unforgettable. Such is the case here, with an instrumental that uses wordless vocals so flawlessly that it's hard to still consider it to be without lyrics, even though it is. So much pain and/or euphoria gets expressed via the ghostly coos that dive through each other effortlessly, all on top of an equally moving electronic bed (which sounds like the equivalent of a rainy day with the sun still shining bright white through the drops). It takes so long for it to slowly blend into an actual driving melody that when the flourishes begin to dissipate to indicate closure, it almost feels like a cheat because what you just experienced for the past three or so minutes was so gorgeous that it shouldn't have been cut off. But isn't that the exact kind of feeling we all experience waking up to an intense sunrise? Beauty can only last so long until it's gone in the blink of an eye.

67 "Dying Is Fine"
Ra Ra Riot
The Rhumb Line
[Barsuk]

"I wouldn't like death if death were good / not even if death were good."

To say that e.e. cummings is a god of language feels like a remarkable understatement. To say that it feels okay that a band of Syracuse-based indie rock prodigies under 21 lifts lines from one of the man's most famous poems sounds like it should be a lie. But it's not. The infamous phrase even gets its (properly punctuated and capitalized) inclusion in the title and chorus of the song, with some personal embellishment here and there, all of which do not sound like heresy, but rather sound like something the man might even approve of. If he was a fan of heavily orchestrated puberty pop anyway. Here's another entry (it's been a while, oddly enough) in this years Love, Death, and Memory theme and even though these youngsters aren't even out of college, their delivery of their simultaneous acceptance and refusal of death's coming is so calmly powerful that it resonates with me no differently than if an old man on his death bed sat there pontificating about the great beyond. Funny how age doesn't matter in the face of the reaper.

66 "A Tell-Tale Penis"
Joan Of Arc
Boo Human
[Polyvinyl]

"It's my reflection in my death / it's the alarm clock riding the horizon."

Speaking of gods amongst men, Tim Kinsella's beloved yet eternally scrutinized and prolific outfit is usually way higher on the list than this (hint: another band of his hit higher, so more Kinsella worship to come, fret not). Even though it's not toward the single digits, this song definitely deserves its place in the canon of JOA classics, if only because its tempered understatement of sexuality, guilt, and the intersection of the two is the most accessible the man and his crew of softly experimental weirdos have ever been. The piano sprinkle makes the song even downright pretty, especially when multiple tones of electric and acoustic guitars are piled on top of each other and only one minor note or two are plucked. Yes, Tim sounds even more morosely unsure of himself in his lyrical delivery here than he has in years, but it's so sadly simple and honest that it can't help but add to the beauty, in a quaintly odd kind of way. This is a song that doesn't want to be recognized as great; it wants to be personal and intimate, and it succeeds, though its symphony of sounds makes it stand out as a sober somber reflection of the self, which is something that's not often done with such a cavalcade of guitars.

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  1. Anonymous .molly. | 9:39 PM |  

    The photo attached to #66 makes me all sorts of uncomfortable...

  2. Blogger chris | 9:58 PM |  

    Haha especially in conjunction with the title of the song? I can see that. Kinsella has some funny thoughts rolling around in that head of his.

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