Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Best of 2008: Songs (Part 1)

Those of you already in possession of the much-coveted TiOM year-in-review CD will have anticipated this post, and it will prove as anticlimactic as snow in winter. But we soldier on.

Every one of the previously-posted album picks is represented by a song here, as are a few strong-but-not-top-25-strong albums. When it comes to the improvised stuff, the songs chosen, while all very good examples of the artists’ work, are often concessions to the length of a CD-R rather than the track I enjoyed most.

In order of appearance on the CD (that is, the order dictated by flow, and not a hierarchical ranking):

Love is All, “New Beginnings” (from A Hundred Things Keep Me Up at Night)

I’m a sucker for anything this spastic and unhinged. The addition of saxophone seals it. Big inning, indeed.

Vampire Weekend, “Oxford Comma” (from Vampire Weekend)

The Oxford Comma, also known as the Serial Comma, provides the basis for one of the catchier songs on VW’s debut.

Ra Ra Riot, “Ghost Under Rocks” (from The Rhumb Line)

If I’d put together a top 26, Ra Ra Riot’s The Rhumb Line would’ve squeaked onto the list. A buoyant and catchy collection by a band prominently featuring cello and violin, Rhumb has worked its way into increased rotation at TiOM HQ in recent weeks after laying neglected for a couple of months. Danceable and only slightly twee, RRR crib from the right set of notes, namely New Order, Kate Bush and the Flying Nun roster.

The Whigs, “Hot Bed” (from Mission Control)

Was the Whigs’ Mission Control as front-to-back strong as the rest of the albums on my list? No, no it was not. Do I love “Hot Bed” because it shows the band at their Replacements-aping best? Yes, yes I do.

The Night Marchers, “Closed for Inventory” (from See You in Magic)

Keep doing how you do, John Reis.

The Hold Steady, “Constructive Summer” (from Stay Positive)

God bless Craig Finn for his ability to toss off a line like, “Me and my friends are like double whiskey-coke, no ice.” When Stay Positive began this strong, it was clear Boys and Girls in America was no fluke.

Titus Andronicus, “No Future, Part II – The Days After No Future” (from The Airing of Grievances)

Absolutely perfect for late night air drumming while sitting before your PC and assembling a list of your favourite songs of the past year.

The Dodos, “Red and Purple” (from Visiter)

Visiter [sic] in a nutshell: clangy, tuneful, good.

Plants and Animals, “Bye, Bye, Bye” (from Parc Avenue)

By roughly the three-quarter point of Parc Avenue, I found myself overcome by the scent of patchouli, but “Bye, Bye, Bye” is grandiose and bombastic enough to disarm my defenses.

The Gaslight Anthem, “Miles Davis and the Cool” (from The ’59 Sound)

Mid-tempo longing and regret from Jersey Boss-worshippers.

The Baseball Project, “Past Time” (from Volume 1: Frozen Ropes and Dying Quails)

“Past Time” contains all of the Baseball Project’s DNA, acting as something of a sampler plate of the tracks that will follow. Half the fun of the album, and this song in particular, is sussing out how many of the names and stories you’re familiar with already, and how many you’ll have to look up at baseball-reference.com.

Bon Iver, “Skinny Love” (from For Emma, Forever Ago)

Hands down the best use of a warbly, multi-tracked falsetto in 2008.

Frightened Rabbit, The Twist (from The Midnight Organ Fight)

Perfectly evokes to the sense of unease and tension in the moment described, until it builds toward something approaching confidence and the narrator declares, damn it, I want you to want me.

The Constantines, “Million Star Hotel” (from Kensington Heights)

One of the highlights of Kensington Heights, about equal with “Trans Canada,” I’d say, but the space and tension of “MSH” was better suited to my purposes.

Wolf Parade, California Dreamer (from At Mount Zoomer)

I think we can all agree that indie and prog now share a bed, and sometimes it’s an uncomfortable arrangement, but often, as when Wolf Parade drop in that bubbly electric piano, it delivers pure pleasure.

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