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Top 100 Songs of 2008: #s 75-71

High Places
03/07-09/07
[Thrill Jockey]

"We would like to know just exactly where we came from / and exactly where we'll go."

Sounding both ancient and futuristic, the laconic "beats" (if you can even call them that) provided by Rob Barber and the sedated pixie vocals of Mary Pearson feel like they could be inspired by a dreamworld or some kind of autistic prescience. It sneaks up creepily, yet with an austerely warm hug of weirdness, and loosens the muscles both behind the ear and throughout the body. Especially as the track ever so slightly transitions from its mostly a cappella "Banana Slugs" intro into the more substantive "Cosmonaut," it's almost as if galaxies of wormholes and mystery are swirling meekly through the speakers into the ether, providing an aurally foggy atmosphere of creaking percussion and almost randomly ebbing noise-making. It provides as much confusion as it does relaxation, making the nervous/calming feeling that the music instills in the listener feel both foreign and domestic - the all-encompassing bubble of the unknown and the familiar that is a lifetime, otherwise known as that which we all have in common.

74 "In This City"
Iglu & Hartly
& Then Boom
[Mercury]

"I won't disappear / in this city."

Full disclosure: this is a terrible song. Nasally histrionic vocals and an obnoxiously protruding disco beat for the chorus and rap-rocking over hair metal-esque synths during the verses? If I had read that before I listened to this song, I would have never pressed play. Luckily I didn't though, because then I would have never fallen in love with this absolute dreck. Sometimes a single melody trumps all instrumentation, regardless of pomposity/idiocy, and the moronically named Iglu & Hartly managed to stumble across possibly the most infectious melody of 2008. And it's not just a melody that gets stuck in your head - Top 40 radio does that year-round (and while I have also grown to love that bastion of pop culture over the past year or so, the songs never stick with me on a gut LOVE-SIZE level). It's that the melody cloys its way through your nether-regions, fiddles around with your throat and chest, then finally unhinges your jaw and forces you to clench the steering wheel and belt out in that terrible octave, hoping with all might that your city pushes you to its foreground as much as that melody had pushed itself to the forefront of your body in singalong soundwave form. I felt violated the first time it happened to me so be warned: this song is bag full of garbage lined with U4EA.

73 "Lovesick"
Friendly Fires
Friendly Fires
[Beggars Banquet]

"Best to walk away / before your love runs out."

And just like a melody can wriggle its way into your skull, so can a guitar riff. Especially when it's left to bounce like a neon ball through a desolate plane of a low-level dance beat and multi-tracked vocals that drift and strike high above the party of sound going on below. And especially when it's not even introduced into the song until a full minute of the song has been left to build suspense until the pelvis-thrusting release of fret-climbing ecstacy. The musical Jiffy Pop crackles and kerplunks in the first verse, carefully touching the handle with a muted guitar, then a ripsnorting tear through the packaging occurs and all three planes of sound coalesce into one, only to drip away into nauseous hesitance before the whole thing can happen all over again. This is part of pop perfection that usually makes my stomach turn, because usually it's as if they couldn't figure out a smooth transition, so they just mellow and flex until three minutes are up, but the burning pain actually feels real here, and also coincidentally appropriate for the dance-rock genre, as it gets both angry and groovy throughout. But ultimately, the song's success still boils down to that guitar riff, swaggering like it's got a pulse every time the love feels intoxicating, before the inevitable hangover.

72 "Departing Gate"
Near The Parenthesis
L'eixample
[N5MD]

Moment @ 2:07

I'm usually against album closers with song titles that imply (or directly state, which is even more annoying) that the artist is saying "goodbye" to the listener. It always feels hackneyed and like they're trying to hard to leave on pleasant terms. Bastards can't buy my love with trite courtesy. So how is it that I'm able to forgive this sin for the minimalist piano + electronics composer Near The Parenthesis? Other than the fact that the song is the most stately and nuanced synthesis of classical and computer music I've heard since...forever? Well, since my family moved to North Carolina, I've realized that I've always seen the departing gate at an airport more like a beginning than an ending. Actually I didn't come to that realization until I thought about my family while listening to this song at the same time and having a simultaneous internal monologue bemoaning the "farewell" album closer concept. Then the somber piano chords struck, gently lilting a high note when the soft electronic siren underneath floated by, and I began weeping. Yep, folks, here's our first "cryer" of 2008 on the list. Get used to it; I was on the metaphorical rag a lot this year. Since I've got a good chunk of text and I don't want to start bauling, I will stop now and let you (just like a good instrumental song) fill in the blanks yourself.

71 "Tonight In Bilbao"
Sun Kil Moon
April
[Caldo Verde]

"Gave for the memory of a friend / not for me and not for them."

Speaking of bauling, if you never saw Mark Kozelak in person and only listened to his music, you might think this guy's perpetually on the verge of busting up in eye dribbles. But if you have seen him live, you would know that he actually tends to project that sadness into assholeishness and tends to make fun of people in the crowd, as if they hadn't payed fifteen bucks just to see him play a guitar and mumble about train rides. He's lucky that his stoic crooning and hypnotic plucking patterns is eternally listenable. Basically any track he writes could go on for hours and no one would complain because it's just too pretty. Well he finally ran with that notion and made a nine-and-a-half minute epic travelogue ode to never knowing one's place, trying to recapture moments from the past that can't be relived, but can get close when contemplating hard enough. And yet, it also goes nowhere as the strings quietly swell behind the repetitive loop of stillness, like a wheel going round and round inches off the ground. When it all finally changes with less than two minutes left in the song, the epilogue feels diminished and hopeless, but luckily just as beautiful - escape can be gratifying, but even when a nine-minute song is over, it's no different than if you had listened to one that lasted three minutes. It's all just time passing you by.

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  1. Blogger P. Arty | 8:33 PM |  

    Best set of 5 yet! Except that Iglu song. Really, Polley?

  2. Blogger chris | 9:50 AM |  

    Haha I know, isn't it dreadful?

  3. Blogger qualler | 8:23 AM |  

    I kinda love the Iglu song!

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