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Top 100 Songs of 2008: #s 15-11

15 "I Told Her On Alderaan"
Neon Neon
Stainless Style

"She had a face from an animation / before a cinema screen projection."

Gruff Rhys first grabbed my ears my freshman year of college, when his other band Super Furry Animals made their one and only masterpiece, Rings Around The World. I swear everything else that band has created since then has been heartbreakingly mediocre. Not dissimilarly, Boom Bip is an electronic artist who I’ve always been fond of, but could never truly embrace due to his extreme chilliness, and have been waiting for him to make a change for me to fall for. So of course now that the two have gotten together, it’s gangbusters as eff. Back is the joyous geek pop that SFA used to do and the coldness is traded in for a sleek steely aesthetic thanks to their mutual love of the 80s. There’s absolutely nothing substantive going on here, but the pop perfection more than makes up for it, with careening swirly synths and bit-lip muted guitars. What seals the deal though is the overlapping final chorus, which is so explosive that it feels like it could indeed lift off a spaceship to a distant Jedi planet that only exists as a fantasy on the silver screen.

14 "Homecoming"
The Teenagers
Reality Check

"It was perfect, a dream come true / just like a song by Blink 182."

Probably the song I’ve been listening to longest on the countdown, it first surfaced on an MP3 blog I randomly came across in the middle of 2007. So naturally, when I came to the end of that year and started compiling my list, I placed this ridiculous song near the top (the “why” is coming soon, I promise). But then it turned out it had absolutely no release in 2007 and was teasing around the interweb until this Parisian outfit finally put out their full-length debut in 2008, almost a full twelve months later. Hopefully it’s telling that I’ve sat on this one for so long and it’s still so high in the Top 100. What’s probably confusing, though, is its complete lack of intelligence and how it remains so respected in my eyes. Yes, it’s just some goofs using a completely mind-melting backwards guitar effect and making fun of two vacuous teenagers who have a transatlantic fling and sing offensively about it to get across the misogyny and naivety in underage romances (arguably to the point of becoming misogynist and naïve itself). But honestly, the delivery makes it all work. It’s hilarious, tells a great story about dual perspectives, and has an amazing start-stop moment before the second verse that makes my heart skip a beat.

13 "Untrust Us"
Crystal Castles
Crystal Castles
[Last Gang]

"La cocaina no es buena para su salud."

No, I didn’t know Alice Glass was saying anything in this song either until I looked it up. One of the greatest jokes my good friend Pat has played on me recently was when he told me this track was available to download for Rock Band 2. I took the bait, exclaiming, “really?!” He replied completely taken aback, “are you kidding?! How the hell would that work?!” It wouldn’t. That’s how. All hype debate aside, Crystal Castles (if only this song) completely revolutionized the playing field for artists looking to combine the friendly aspects of modern electronic pop music with the completely messed up avant-garde motifs and flourishes that influenced weirdos to start sequencing blips and bleeps in the first place. And talk about perfect and unconventional use of the vocoder/Autotune! It puts Lil Wayne to shame. Alice crunches it, sings in Spanish, buries it, loops it, and brings it one octave down for the second half of the verse, amongst other things. It’s beautiful, strange, and completely addictive. And while the duo have been smacked with the revolution of the 8-bit sound, it really is only one aspect of their oeuvre, and they are one of the few to use it in a way that really transcends that which influences it, creating a sound that is undeniably Crystal Castles and no one else.

12 "What Up Man"
The Cool Kids
The Bake Sale
[Chocolate Industries]

"The chicken I was eatin' with the mashed potatoes need a little bit of gold / Oops wrong song lyric, meant a little bit of pepper."

Honestly, I don’t think I’ve listened to a hip hop album this much since Totally Krossed Out, which is appropriate since this Chicago duo pay lyrical homage to the backwards-dressers on this track. And boy do they warm it up. Not only are they able to make a head-grooving beat with, as self-confessed in the song itself, just his mouth and a bell (admittedly this gimmick is what reeled in my interest in the first place), but they warm it up in a way that has been largely dismissed by hip hoppers in recent years – comedy. And it makes sense – laughs don’t usually hold water in a musical genre that sprung out of social injustice. And especially for someone such as myself, who thrives on emotional catharsis in music, I wonder how this song became so near and dear to me. When it comes down to it, these guys are masters of language. Something I learned with movies this year is that comedies can be just as important as the most heart-wringing drama, and the same goes for music. The tropes these guys break down, the self-aware swoops through linguistic hoops about eating, sleeping, fishing, and temperature are so astounding that I can’t help but listen over and over again and just smirk every time. And really, this is all I want from music – something that intrigues me over and over again; whether it’s deep or surface level totally doesn’t matter.

11 "Soul On Fire"
Songs In A & E
[Fontana Int'l]

"Freedom is just another word / when you've no one left to hurt."

And now I welcome us back to the world of the serious. It’s almost cartoonish how much of a 180 I’m making here, I realize, but I find it almost refreshing how different ends of the spectrum can both affect me enough to become my favorite songs of the year (and when we’re getting this high on the countdown, we’re talking all-time status here too, mind you). J. Spaceman (NOT pronounced “Spuh-chem-in”) may have a silly name, but during the production of this album (and I assume this song in particular), he spent much of his time recovering from a serious case of pneumonia in the emergency room in the UK (which is why the pun of the album’s title translates better there, where it’s called “the A&E”). He claims he caught glimpses of death several times during his multiple visits and I don’t think it’s coincidental that his music has become vastly more raw and poignant because of it. There’s also the overly obvious drug metaphor at work here, but o he’s making a connection between the two, which is both frightening (for obvious reasons) and uplifting, because in both instances he’s ultimately choosing life over death (or near-death). It’s melodramatic in execution, too, to be sure, but I also can’t help but see it sung with a smile on the face, which makes me just that much more closer to crying every time I listen and belt along with it.

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  1. Blogger Sean | 6:45 PM |  

    hey chris, what's the link for the top 100 mp3 compilation?

  2. Blogger chris | 6:51 PM |  

    Oh Sean and Internet friends, I don't encourage illegal file sharing.

    (Quietly through teeth) I do have an email address you know.

  3. Blogger Sean | 6:54 PM |  

    i was just asking for them to back up the albums i already own on vinyl.

  4. Blogger P. Arty | 12:50 PM |  

    Sorry for goofing on you! I would die if they had CC on RB.

    What an amazing song. Too bad their live show is a seizure-inducing car wreck!

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