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Top 100 Songs of 2008: #s 40-36

Beyond That, If Your Soul Agrees With Your Five Senses, Everything Turns Into The Greatest Music

Moment @ 3:39

New Year's Eve. Alone in a radio station studio. Feeling the end coming. Pressing play on a random track from a new album from a longtime reliable Japanese band. Turning the volume up. Way up. Dimming the lights. Sitting. Closing my eyes. Dispelling that nebulous concept 'the end' from my body through the music that flooded my ears. Letting myself breathe. Opening my eyes. Queuing up the next track. Fast-forward one hour. Playing the entire album in my car on the way to a New Year's Eve Party. Alone in a stick-shift pickup truck. Getting lost. This song comes on. Turning the volume up. Way up. Clenching the steering wheel. Stopping at the side of the road somewhere in godforsaken St. Paul. Closing my eyes. Dispelling that nebulous concept 'lost' from my body through the music that flooded my ears. Letting myself breath. Slowly. Opening my eyes. Slowly. Driving until I see a familiar landmark. Arriving at the party, turning off the stereo, and letting myself be found at a new beginning: 2009.

39 "Another Runaway"

"It's too late to call back yesterday."

We are children of the 80s, but I often don't feel enough like it. I hear this song and I wish I was a teenager going to see The Breakfast Club opening weekend or catching a live Tears For Fears back in their heyday. But alas, they're still working on time travel, so I'll have to settle for imagining myself in my own version of Donnie Darko while listening to Ladyhawke. This track in particular has a plastic majesty to it unlike any other retro-pop outfits, but without the grandeur that catapults acts like (spoiler alert!) Cut Copy and M83 way to the top of my list. But that just gives this tune more unique credibility unto itself. It feels less personal and less weighty than those other two, which gives it its own charm - like a ditty was made solely for getting under the skin in a completely superficial kind of way. It's more like a historical artifact rather than an attempt at recontextualizing the past into a modern landscape. It's brisk, swift, and when that "uh uh oh (handclap)" zips through the air and into your heart, it's clear that living in the past won't recreate anything, but it will certainly create a special kind of inward escape from the dreadfulness that is today.

38 "It's Okay"
Land Of Talk
Some Are Lakes
[Saddle Creek]

"I'll never tell you, but you're my little scar."

Two things make this song: the tempo and the car metaphor. Okay, everything about this song makes it, from Elizabeth Powell's slight but monumental voice to the slinking guitar riff somberly battling with the hide-and-seek keyboard, but really when I felt the pace of this song and heard the refrain about what it would like to die and become a car (what kind of lyricist comes up with that? the best kind, that's who), I almost felt like I could die at that moment and be totally okay with it. Because, you know, it's okay. Also, the fade-in. I mentioned the importance of this kind of intro when talking about these guys' friends and tourmates Broken Social Scene for that Brendan Canning song earlier on the countdown, and LOT also nail it with equal amounts of precision and messiness at this song's kick start. Okay, so back to the auto analogy. Imagine it: your soul gently lifts from your aching torso (hypothetically of course) and creeps through a wall where machines are buzzing and saws are whirring, and suddenly you're trapped inside these walls of metal. At first it's frightening and painful, but soon someone warms you up with their body (remember having one of those?) and you're on your way, drifting through the night stealthily, lighting up the roads. Having somewhere to go. Always. WHAT A METAPHOR.

37 "Gentleman Farmer"
Central Chambers
[Signature Sounds]

"I don't have to show you anything."

If any song is the musical equivalent of snow on a dead tree branch, it's this one. And that's not a bad thing. It feels frozen, but is remarkably beautiful in its stillness. It's a relatively simple image to conjure up, but layered with the complexity that nature always assuredly brings. At its core is a splintered tan color, which manifests itself in the song as the constant guitar chug, at times obvious but mostly wriggling in the background trying to stay held together by the other layers. On top is a skin of bark and dirt, which are represented by the chirping piano and erratic drumming, falling in and out of the main melody whenever they please. Sometimes making the gorgeous snow (or in this case, the depth of vocals) a little dirty, but always a necessary middle between that which will bloom again and that which will melt. The pure and raw vocals swoop and meld into each other with such forlorn misery that they all feel alone, together, on that tree branch. Like layers of ice, snow, and watery droplets on a bending bough, how these harmonies stay afloat and mashed together while still uniquely separate is mind-expanding. It's also a great way to get sad to a song while driving on the back roads looking at all the snow-covered trees.

36 "What Would Hope Be Without Disappointment"
Epilogue In Waves

Moment @ 2:28

We begin with an instrumental that had a story and we end with one here, the last post for the second part of the Top 100 Songs of 2008. It was a Saturday afternoon. I found myself alone with nothing to do somehow. I had a Rolling Stone I hadn't read yet and some new instrumental music to wade through for the radio show. I opened up to an interview with David Letterman (a man who has, to my surprise and delight, become a nightly staple in my household). He talked of his recent surgeries and of his son. He had no interest in having children until he started having health problems. When he had his huge quadruple-or-whatever-bypass surgery, his son was three. He spoke of how scared he was he'd never see his son again. I thought of my father, who failed to make it out of treatments for pancreatic-liver cancer when I was three. I put the magazine down, heard a gorgeously hopeful but dour melody emanating from my laptop, and took a deep breath. A tear fell. I looked at the screen, read the title of the wordless song and started bawling like a rain factory. To this day, I can't think of that afternoon without my hands shaking, as they are as I type this. Sorry for bumming y'allz out, but if you haven't already realized from reading this countdown, I can't write without the heart on ye olde sleeve.

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