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Top Songs of 2008: #s 30-26

30 "Cassius"
[Sub Pop]

"What you've got has always gone away."

Finally a band that can satisfy both guitar geeks and dance-punk enthusiasts. Playing as if chords and notes below the twelfth fret don't exist and the lowest BPM in existence is 148, Foals are probably the most intricate guitar band out there that also cares about getting people to pump their fists in the air. The horn section doesn't hurt in appealing to the ska and afrobeat kids out there either. It's one giant whirlwind of maniacal energy and electrical shocks to the pelvic region, all with a fire-spitting intensity unfound in today's landscape of rock songs with a dance beat. It's not friendly, but it certainly could congregate a group of thrashing bodies before the first chorus is over to writhe and spring through the air in unity and anger. All over some guy named Cassius that no one knows but wish they could so they could give them the verbal beatdown that the singer's so vehemently espousing.

29 "Something Special"
The Tough Alliance
A New Chance

"You're worth something real."

I remember reading about this band before downloading this track very early in 2008, hearing they were like a dancehall Belle & Sebastian. Then I pressed play and slowly the ominous foreign language decree pulsed into a chugging 80s sequencer and Billy Joel-esque piano progression. I was frightened at what I had gotten myself into. Then the voice squeaked in and it all came together into a congealed mess of adorable and anthemic. While it had the cuteness of B&S, there was nothing sleepy about this song, and still isn't. Yes, it was one of the first of 2008 to make it on this list, but it's one of my most listened to songs of the year that made it on this list - showing the staying power that this very strange but very amiable tune has had over the course of the past 365+ days. Maybe it's the simplicity of its message or the downright bizarreness of its beat or the strained softness of TTA's voice; whatever it is, it's something that has stuck with me and sounds like something that one would get sick of real quick, but my enamorment has only strengthened with every play. It is definitely something special.

28 "Travel Kid"

Moment @ 0:34

Here's a different brand of should-be-obnoxiousness. One man. An arsenal of 8-bit synthesizers. Nothing else. It's just asking for a redundancy label. And even though I can inexplicably listen to this whole album on repeat at least three times before it starts grating on me, I am here for this song in particular. And sometimes (okay, always) when an album is all one instrument in different octaves and waveforms, it's difficult to hone in one track in particular. But for whatever reason, this song and its sweeping melodies leapt out into my earholes during my first listen and haven't swimmed back out into the ether yet. Maybe it's the title, that suggests a constant movement for someone looking for destination to not be a kid anymore, or maybe it's the run I went on in the bright sunlight along the train tracks when this song kept me moving. There's no knowing, there's only instinct. And for an instrumental song that sounds both cheesy and vastly epic, maybe it's better that mysteries like these stay mysteries, so as to never decide on being serious or letting things ride.

27 "Uss Wuss"
The Chap
Mega Breakfast
[Ghostly International]

"Nineteen years / dog without a bone."

Give me two overlapping choral melodies with a heavy dollop of sadness and I'm set. I don't know if I've talked about this yet this countdown (I definitely have at some point in the past), but it always fascinates me when a song is able to tell a complete story, or at least able to cultivate a complete yarn in the listener's mind with only a few lyrics. There is a total of four lines in this song, and each pair shares the same beginning, and yet I get this clear picture of an aging band on the road, lost on the highway, never knowing when they'll get what they've been looking for. And while The Chap has only been around for seven years, they haven't broken out at all, despite consistent critical acclaim from the few press outlets that take the time to write about them. And in this day and age of the quick rush of indie fame and then fizzling out, seven years surely must feel like nineteen. Usually I hear bands talking about the perils of fame and it annoys the hell out of me, but there's something to be said for the artists with dayjobs that have kept at it simply because they love it, and wishing they just got something -- anything -- in return. That I can sympathize with. The overlapping vocals just make it all that more resonant.

26 "U.R.A. Fever"
The Kills
Midnight Boom

Bold"We ain't born typical."

Before this song, there were two sound effects I unequivocally banned from my stereo: alarm clocks and telephones. Why would you want to hear the sound that steals your slumber from you? And while I can't get behind a lot of things about cell phones, the "vibrate" function is probably in my top five inventions of the past 25 years. But producer Danger Mouse managed to not only make the telephone sound not annoying in song form, but turn it into a melody that's snarly, seductive, and just plain badass. The vocal trade-off of the duo Jamie and Alison deserves all the same adjectives, and when the buzzsaw guitar tears into the chorus and the handclaps are off just a fraction of a beat when the axe falls out, it creates this transcendent dichotomy of carefree and intimidating that sinks in deep and stays there like a virus. It's a wake-up call that's neither grating nor gimmicky because of the power of the songwriting and acuteness of the delivery. Alarm clocks, though, still terrible.

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