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Top 100 Songs of 2008: #s 10-6

10 "Nowheres Nigh"
Parts & Labor

"We won't rely on what's conveniently supplied."

I didn't hear this song until December of 2008 and yet after just a couple listens, I knew it was going to be high on my list. I've wanted to love this band for so long and they finally gave me reason to. They had all the elements: striving vocals, buoyant yet messy instrumentation, and and an overall sense of "I've effed up so many times and yet here I am, back on my feet again." I don't really know how that was communicated to me only through sounds without even reading their lyrics, but it was, and so it forever shall be. And this feeling is conveyed with all dials turned to 11 on this track, which glides along with a simple four-note hook until the chorus unpeels a vivid world of oily gears and lost dreams and doesn't let you escape it until the anticlimactic minor chord is awkwardly strummed (but completely understandly so) in its final ten seconds. The keyboards sound like a cyborg going haywire from falling in love, the reverb on the baritone yelping reveals a strength behind introspective fragility, and the lyrics, while I can only discern some of them, sound both cryptically apocalyptic an undeniably determined. And sometimes, that's as close as we can get to hope.

09 "Hearts On Fire"
Cut Copy
In Ghost Colours

"A moment that is frozen as we hang in time."

It wasn't the only top-notch album of the year, but it was the only one where I had an immensely difficult time choosing which song I wanted to pick to put in the countdown. "So Haunted", "Lights And Music", or "Far Away" could have easily found their way here if I didn't go by the one-track-per-artist rule, but ultimately, I'm glad I chose this one. I already associate the entire album with my trip to Chicago this August (hey I'm in Chicago right now! what a city!) to play and record some songs with two my best buds, Wipert and P. Arty, in which we drove aimlessly between trips to the deathly hot practice space and blasted this album (along with another we shall not mention here) with nary a care in the world. As I enter this world of adulthood more and more with each passing year, these moments of complete and utter disregard for responsibility and maturity become fewer and fewer. These two gents are so brilliant at making these moments come back in full force when I see them, and to have something so blissfully pure and candy-riffic pulsing as the soundtrack to my trip was just serendipity at its finest. So why this track and not another? A moment of the same importance and magnitude was experienced with this song in particular at a friend's wedding, in which P. Arty led a heart-rescuscitation dance that just completely blew my mind (and everyone else's, f'sha). And that's exactly what this song and these guys do for me: bring me back to life.

08 "Fordlandia"
Johann Johannsson

Moment @ 8:05

Longest song on the countdown in the Top 10? Yup. And it's instrumental? Yessir. And wayyyy emotional? You betcha. I'm predictable, I know. Well that's what happens when no film soundtrack/score jumps out and grabs me during the year. This is the closest I got, and truthfully, I'm fine with that. One of the Oscar-eligible (not nominated, though it should have been) animated shorts used his music beautifully, but that's as close as anyone's gotten to being smart and hiring this guy to score their movie. If any American filmmaker wises up anytime soon, I guarantee he'll be nominated. While playing it on nowlikephotographs when it came out, an intern asked, "is this the Jurassic Park theme?" I'm also fine with this joke, because that's how powerful this song is. Do you remember when they saw the dinosaurs for the first time? Didn't your 10-year-old heart fly through your veins into your skul and combust with visual, aural, and transcendent pleasure? The grown-up subtle orchestral swell, the electronics that wriggle with caution instead of abandon, the somberly drooping piano - these are just the reflective versions of the combustive emotions felt and dispelled in the two aforementioned tracks. There's an innocence, a remembrance of youth here too. It's just expanded and left unedited to fill the void and leave room for thought too. And it might make us weep, but at least it shows that memory keeps us from ever truly being robbed of our past.

07 "See/Saw"
Jay Reatard
Matador Singles '08

"She creeps me out / she crept me in again."

Straightforward, unadulterated anger is never best. It also doesn't encompass our generation. Reatard may want to totally disassociate himself from the trendy "Itness" of today's hipster culture, but he also completely embodies it with a reckless fortitude that's both admirable and convoluted, just like the epoch itself. The chugging acoustic guitar both battles and cooperates with the scuzzy electric murk that marches beside it, which is the perfect instrumental counterpart to the tone at hand that mixes a fierce upset with a playful and self-aware hypocrisy. And just like we today often can't tell the difference between our sarcasm and our sincerity, our dreams and our realities, our abilities and our weaknesses, Reatard never knows what he wants and all he can do is flail around with a voice full of both paranoia and spitfire eff-all. This is a dilemma that defines us. The postmodern existential confusers would react (and I sometimes place myself in this category, which only further exemplifies and complicates our collecive identity) by saying our only common trait is that we refuse to have any common traits. Well, even if that's true, buddy, we can agree our nihilism has caught up with our ambition, causing us all to flair about in mediocrity and join together in a similar spirit, whether we like it or not. This song evokes a pleasure in the unattainable happiness we all reach for and simultaneously think we can achieve and realize we never can. At least we can flail while we're failing.

06 "Hip-Hop Saved My Life"
Lupe Fiasco feat. Nikki Jean
The Cool

"Write to make it right."

The highest a hip hop song has ever landed on the countdown. I've said it previous years, but it bears repeating: every year, I fall for the genre just a little bit more. I love how it feels so natural, digging deeper and deeper bit by bit with just a little less skepticism with each and every song I listen to. It's happened in a way that has helped me find the kind of hip hop I like, songs that still makes sense in the context of the other songs I love - it's not like I'm just forcing myself to become a more eclectic music lover. It really feels like these tracks belong in my collection and when I listen to them on repeat, I'm not forcing myself. Sorry for breaking this down so much, but this kind of epiphany is exciting, especially when a song like this represents the pinnacle of it all. Yes, it's mainstream (I didn't expect it either, what with my snobbishness and all, or rather as of late, inability to love pop radio music with a deep and embedded ferocity like I do more often with indie music), but every aspect of this masterful example of the genre is what I selfishly wish I could find more often as I take in more and more rhymes and beats in 2009. The story told by our narrator is dramatic, comedic, and layered, which is the ultimate selling point. There's not a lot of strong story songs out there, mostly because musicians are musicians first and not storytellers for a reason, which makes this incredibly satisfying. But add a delicious piano lick, understated click loop, and a chorus that proves everything's okay as long as music is around, and I no longer have to ever explain why I love music. All I'll ever have to do is press play on this song.

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  1. Blogger Wipert | 12:22 PM |  

    Why no tracks off of Rilo Kiley's Under the Blacklight?

  2. Blogger P. Arty | 12:35 PM |  

    Hahaha! The sauna and that wedding were both great times. Also driving around downtown Chicago by testing Chris' patience will also have a warm spot in my nostalgia book.

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