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Top 100 Songs of 2008: #s 50-46


Moment @ 3:11

If there were quiet life-changing moments only held together by safety pins and fuzzy recollections of sunburn and chasing girls, they would all be soundtracked by this song. I was just talking to someone last night about how my favorite aspect of instrumental music is that while a story may indeed be put into a wordless song by the musician, the mood that is elicited through the song's melody, instrumentation, etc. is what builds the interpretive story in the listener's mind, regardless of author intention. It was pointed out that this happens too with lyric-based songs, especially those of an abstract nature, but I would argue that the pureness and psychological freedom of instrumental music is catapulted much higher, thus allowing for moments of innocence, grief, contentment, and terror, all to be combined into one seven-minute guitar + organ + computer noises mixture. I get flashes of my first flirtations with the opposite sex, crying in my room as a grown man, and feeling absolute nothingness wash over me and allow me to start my day over again. I don't know the fullness of any of these, I only know the never filmed versions of their existence, accompanied by the most beautiful music on earth.

49 "I Wanna Be A Style Crusader (DatA Remix)"
Big Face
Kitsune Maison Compilation 5

"Would you like to see me treat you with style?"

Last year's list featured exactly two remixes and now we're down to one in 2008 (not counting mash-ups). I've always honestly been a little afraid of remixes; I don't know quite why. Especially compilations full of remixes. I mean, when they're good, they're an immense pleasure to listen to, but to absorb so much that the remixed version of a song becomes a favorite instead of the original? This makes me feel uncomfortable. Even if I haven't ever heard the original version, like this song. In fact, I am almost scared stiff thinking about seeking out the song's first rendition, imagining a painful future of disappointment, second-guessing, and regret. It's as if this reconstructed dance-heavy song with incredibly stupid but undeniably sexy guitar soloing is its own living breathing cyborg of a once-human-made track. Fortunately, that's also what makes it thrilling to listen to - fragmented yet still powerful, repetitive yet I believe it's quite possible to get sick of the song's main stalkerish meets seductive hook. It's a song with a deaf and dumb heart made perfect by its recreation into a sci-fi amalgamation of threat-making, booty-shaking, and smarmy singalong madness.

48 "Real Estate"
Cadence Weapon
Afterparty Babies

"Remember that the chorus is a fast food jingle / that gets you in spots where the hearts start to mingle."

A beat can make or break a hip hop song - no grand realization, I know, but I don't think I fully understood this until I listened to this song. The lyrics are clever, yes, and his delivery is deliciously wry, but with a more traditional bassy underbelly, Rollie Pemberton's irreverence might be lost on us all. His voice fills out the song's low end without sounding like a bellowing monster (more like a playful hiphopopotamus), leaving the instrumentation to act out its flurry of old school turntabling, inverted trance beats, and yelping horns and 50s girl group ululations. It doesn't care that it sounds like an ADD burst of shrapnel sounds because it fits the song so perfectly while simultaneously drowning out any other competing sound or lyric. And when Rollie takes a break from bringing down the house with ridiculously complex analogies between today's mortgage crisis and the rap industry game, the song almost falls apart in its Avalanches-esque breakdown, bustling through your skull with crashing samples, all linked together effortlessly by the song's driving and immensely satisfying beat.

47 "The Gift Of Song In The Lion's Den"
The Lord Dog Bird
The Lord Dog Bird

"The gift of song comes bringing us all peace."

How do two guitars that sound like they've been recorded in 1920, a tambourine and snare that sound like a trashcan being banged, and a voice that's buried underneath it all make a grown man tear up? (Notice that 'songs that make me cry' is a prominent theme as we head into the top 50 on this list.) It's one of the art-rock guys from Wilderness, a band who made it near the top of my 2006 list for their brilliant track "End of Freedom", and his take on the singer-songwriter genre (for lack of a better word) is, dare I say, revolutionary. It's basically just the sound of a rock band thrown down into a canyon, forced to rebuild their strength through song, their beaten down and battered bodies slowly regaining hope as each member ties together a single riff into a rope of rescue, never leaving the canyon, but at the end getting heard by everyone at the top of the plateau looking over. But you can tell that it's not a group of musicians - it's just one guy. Everything's looped together, smushed on top of the other so that it feels like a singular victory from a singular mind, reminding everyone of the power of music (without being corny at all, amazingly).

46 "Paint A Face"
Neil Halstead
Oh! Mighty Engine

"I don't want to be the one that you don't recognize."

Okay, so Mr. Halstead has certainly not reinvented the singer-songwriter genre. We know this for a fact because, a) a whispery voice and an acoustic guitar are this track's foundation, and b) this record was released on Jack Johnson's label. So there's nothing challenging, unique, or really even interesting going on here. But so is the burden of writing a perfect pop song: you unequivocally cannot do anything remotely surprising, unless you are picked over with a fine tooth comb. And when you do that with this simple song about being afraid of getting ignored by those you once loved, the rewards become perpetual and eternal. It starts with, like so many songs on this list, a guitar lick. Those two notes alternate throughout the song, bouncing softly in the ears, making it the perfect song to dance to with your special someone. Especially when it's 10:30 on a weeknight, you've both been working all night to prepare for the next strenuous day of tedium, and all you want to do is two-step with hands clasped and eyes interlocked. That way you'll know, as the precious piano saunters in and Neil's chorus winds through the walls like an axiom that's existed since the beginning of time, it's impossible to forget her face.

P.S. You may throw up now. It's allowed.

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