mxdwn Top 50 Songs 2008

December 21st, 2008
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mxdwn Top 50 Songs 200850. All My Pretty Ones – Do or Don’t
From Tone Poems
The opening cut from their 2008 release Tone Poems showcases the San Francisco quintet’s creativity, as vocal harmonies, winding oboe, whistling solos, and sandpaper block percussion are woven together perfectly to compliment vocalist Derek Schmidt’s confident, calm styling. The end result is a compelling, ochestral-feeling arrangement that stands out for its sincerity as much as its uniqueness.

- Ryan Lewis

49. Raphael Saadiq f.Joss Stone – Just One Kiss
From The Way I See It
It’s easy to feel good listening to the upbeat “Just One Kiss,” Raphael Saadiq’s duet featuring Joss Stone. Influenced heavily by the Motown sound of the 1950’s and 1960’s, Saadiq sounds like a modern day Smokey Robinson with the coolness and style of Marvin Gaye thrown in for good measure. Stone holds her own with impressive, soulful vocals. She’s never sounded better.

- Jacquie Frisco

48. Secret Chiefs 3 – Asron
From Xaphan: Book of Angels Vol. 9
Improving John Zorn’s template of freaked-out improv, Trey spurance guides a group of 10 through a manic, brilliant epic, soaring through plucked guitars, other-worldly violins and surf-y keyboards.

- Raymond Flotat

47. Phantom Planet – Do the Panic
From Raise the Dead
Phantom Planet released one of their best albums and then promptly went on “hiatus.” Thankfully they delivered this upbeat, ironic gem about dancing your way through apocalypse before they bailed.

- Kelsey Adelson

46. Asobi Seksu – Me and Mary
The first single from this brooklyn shoegazing outfits forthcoming third album brims with the sonic beauty of My Bloody Valentine and the sweet lyrics of a Phil Spector girl group single.

- Matthew Kiel

45. Mogwai – The Sun Smells Too Loud
From The Hawk Is Howling
With the elaborate, high brow praise that post-rock often receives, Scottish band Mogwai have not forgotten the sublime simplicity of a beautiful guitar riff over a lush, droning organ and a sauntering drum beat in this 6 minutes of euphoria.

- Matthew Kiel

44. Deerhunter – Nothing Ever Happened
From Microcastle/Weird Era Cont.
With as much energy as styles it incorportates, the apex of Bradford Cox and co.’s masterpiece, Microcastle/Weird Era Cont. brings a toe-tapping mix of krautrock, noise pop and neo-psychedelic beauty together and even has room for a guitar solo.

- Matthew Kiel

43. Christina Aguilera – Keeps Gettin’ Better
From Keeps Gettiin’ Better: A Decade of Hits
There is no doubt that Christina Aguilera has one of the widest ranges in the pop scene and this song proves just that. Although this track is featured on a greatest hits album, the track itself can not be found on any previous albums. The catchy beat and lyrics are attention grabbing and cautioning: “Sometimes I’m a super bitch / Up to my old tricks but it won’t last forever.”

- Libby Parent

42. MGMT – Weekend Wars
From Oracular Spectacular
MGMT is one of this year’s stand out artists among mainstream and indie listeners alike. “Weekend Wars” mixes sweet, eclectic beats with funky almost spoken-word style lyrics, leaving listeners with a sense that they’ve heard something new, and awesome!

- Kelsey Adelson

41. Katy Perry – I Kissed a Girl
From One of the Boys
Sure it’s not especially original or inventive, but “I Kissed a Girl” was a defining song of 2008. You couldn’t help hearing this song, getting it stuck in your head, and humming it later.

- Kelsey Adelson

40. The Dodos – Undeclared
From Visiter
Perhaps the sweetest song on our modest list, clocking in at under two minutes is The Dodos’ “Undeclared” from their critically acclaimed album, Visiter. A short and unguarded ditty, the acoustic song can’t help but warm your heart evoking what it’s like to be vulnerable and in love.

- Ben De Leon

39. Santogold – Shove It
From Santogold
With an assist from fellow part-time Philadelphians Spank Rock, the once and future Santi White returns to the roots of her roots—the reggae origins that helped inform her first group Stiffed—and delivers a cool snarl that’s in direct, welcome contrast to the rest of the good-time vibes on her world-beating solo effort.

- Adam Blyweiss

38. The Weepies – Hideaway
From Hideaway
A great band that’s finally starting to get some praise, this song is quintessential Weepies: sweet, soft, and intelligent.

- Kelsey Adelson

37. Nas – Black President
From Untitled
Nas welcomes the new president with nothing but support. The mixtape includes an excerpt from a speech made by Obama in Minnesota in June of 2008 and a sample from Tupac Shakur’s “Changes.” Nas uses masterful lyrics and strong opinions to create an inspirational record; he holds nothing back.

- Libby Parent

36. TV on the Radio – Love Dog
From Dear Science
Within a record of individual masterpieces, “Love Dog” stands out for its ability to capture the sorrowful optimism and rollercoaster highs and lows of a pining heart. From “shameless” and “sparking” to leaving “the bones showing through,” love is celebrated for both its infinite emotional ceiling and its cold, lonely floor.

- Ryan Lewis

35. Portishead – The Rip
From Third
On “The Rip” Portishead layers and mutates instrumentation in a way no other group could, taking a plucked arpeggio and a electronic drum hit and evolve it until it becomes a bounding, lush masterpiece.

- Raymond Flotat

34. The Hold Steady – Sequestered in Memphis
From Stay Positive
Craig Finn and company at their best, “Sequestered in Memphis” opens with a “wall of sound”-caliber blast of guitar, piano and drums. Finn’s gravely wail belting out lyrics recalling a drunken hook-up seals the deal that this excellent single is one of the year’s best.

- Timothy Kelly

33. M83 – We Own the Sky
From Saturdays = Youth
Standing out as the layered, shoegazing centerpiece of his Saturdays = Youth, M83 blends lush soundscapes with an emotional crossroads set of lyrics in”We Own the Sky” that is just as melancholy as it is uplifting.

- Matthew Kiel

32. Weezer – Heart Songs
From Weezer
Leave it to River Cuomo to provide a list of influences in the catchiest, sweetest song possible. If this song doesn’t make you feel something, it’s possible you don’t actually have a heart.

- Kelsey Adelson

31. Ghostland Observatory – Dancing on My Grave
From Robotique Majestique
Bombastically the duo of Ghostland Observatory declare “And you / just keep on dancing / you’re dancing on my grave” over minimalist synth and bass flourishes. Smartly, the group makes a clever metaphor of the old aphorism, keeping all of it’s meaning but turning the energy into cathartic exuberance.

- Raymond Flotat

30. John Legend – Green Light
From Evolver
When the R&B lothario tells us to “shake just a little bit faster,” the listener knows this isn’t the typical John Legend track, evidenced by the electric Andre 3000 cameo and the ’60s rhythm bounce that has the singer playfully squealing for the go ahead for some late night action, wishing that this light never turned red.

- Brad Ludwick

29. Nine Inch Nails – Lights in the Sky
From The Slip
In what would could be described as the quietest song Trent Reznor has composed since The Downward Spiral’s “Hurt,” “Lights in the Sky” finds the one-man band here playing only piano and singing “Watching you drown / I’ll follow you down / and I am here right beside you” in a hushed whisper.

- Raymond Flotat

28. Hank III – 3 Shades of Black
From Damn Right, Rebel Proud
This is perhaps the strongest song Hank III has composed to date. Simultaneously combining a country ballad that would make his namesake proud with punk rock screams and female backing vocals, “3 Shades of Black” single-handedly pushes country one step closer to a new definition.

- Raymond Flotat

27. Hercules & Love Affair – Blind
From Hercules & Love Affair
Like LCD Soundsystem’s instant classic “All My Friends” just one year ago, Hercules & Love Affair’s inaugural single tells a tale of realization, but while the former was about the comfort and wisdom that comes with age, the latter details the fear and uncertainty of entering adulthood, yearning to reignite the extinguished stars of our youth. Antony Hegarty and Andy Butler would no doubt love to trade places with James Murphy if this song is any indication.

- Rob Huff

26. Does It Offend You, Yeah? – Dawn of the Dead
From You Have No Idea What You’re Getting Yourself Into
Does It Offend You, Yeah?, the British band with a rather interesting name, figured out how to appeal to a broader audience with “Dawn of the Dead,” a soft, new-wave-inspired single amidst a sea of loud, frenetic dance rock.

- Ben De Leon

25. Cut Copy – Out There on the Ice
From In Ghost Colours
Cut Copy know better than anyone that out there on the ice, you could fall at any time. What matters is that someone is there to catch you, hopefully. The first of many climaxes on the trio’s immaculate sophomore album, this euphoric eulogy to love learned and lost on the dance floor will have you sweating tears of joy.

- Rob Huff

24. Crystal Castles – Crimewave
From Crystal Castles
Alice Glass’ chopped vocals (about “nice breasts”?) are as dazzling as they are dizzying; same goes for Ethan Kath’s looping synths. The duo’s crowd-moving anthem aims for dance floor domination sans the neo-disco glitz.

- John Tron

23. Portishead – Magic Doors
From Third
The lyrics to Third’s penultimate track almost read an exorcism of Portishead’s former musical selves. Though not as showy as singles “Machine Gun” and “The Rip,” this highlight is arguably the most representative of an album made not because they could, but rather because they had to. Never content to rest on their laurels, this siren song completes the trio’s passage through the magic doors into uncharted musical territory. And I can’t wait to follow.

- Rob Huff

22. The Raconteurs – Salute Your Solution
From Consolers of the Lonely
Cementing The Raconteurs edging towards a more refined 70’s rock sound, Jack White and Brendan Benson trade verses against a simple, anthemic power chord progression. The two singers defiantly state, “And I got what I got all despite you” before bringing the track to a raucous conclusion.

- Raymond Flotat

21. Fleet Foxes – He Doesn’t Know Why
From Fleet Foxes
This soaring sing-along is equal parts Brian Wilson and The Zombies, equal parts campfire jam-session. With natural harmonies and hammering pianos to support, Robin Pecknold’s lyrics are from the heart while his voice is from the belly, providing the listener a perfect blend of passion and beauty.

- Ryan Lewis

20. TV on the Radio – DLZ
From Dear Science
Easily one of the most subtle and artfully angry protest songs ever written, frontman Tunde Adebimpe camouflages pure disgust within imagery of salivating dogs and smoking locomotives. It’d be near impossible to find a more fitting soundtrack for the final days of the Bush administration than this lashing.

- Ryan Lewis

19. Santogold – L.E.S. Artistes
From Santogold
The entrancing guitar riffs hook listeners in the track’s opening eight seconds, short enough to create fans instantly long before even hearing a note from Santogold. “L.E.S. Artistes” screams New York cool, placing Santogold high above the indie throne.

- John Tron

18. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – Dig! Lazarus, Dig!
From Dig! Lazarus, Dig!
Long familiar with tales of failed redemption, here the proto-Gothic Aussies revive the Bible’s second-favorite zombie in New York City. It’s a chugging character study, Lazarus recast as a frantic, Howard Hughes-like weirdo obsessed with women and weapons.

- Adam Blyweiss

17. The Black Kids – I’m Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How To Dance With You
From Partie Traumatic
Black Kids won’t have to teach your boyfriends any moves after this song. It doesn’t teach dance so much as evoke it with its playfully propulsive rhythm and Reggie Youngblood’s spirited pep rally vocals.

- Rob Huff

16. Sigur Ros – Gobbledligook
From Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust
After spending a decade cultivating a fictional, “Hopelandish” language, Sigur Ros’ first full embrace of their native tongue plays like a cheeky dismissal of that period of their career. In addition to marking a shift towards decipherability, this single thaws the band’s epic sonic tundra, letting playful pop breezes grace the hillsides for the first time. Their soundscapes have always been worth visiting. Now they’re just more welcoming.

- Rob Huff

15. The Ting Tings – That’s Not My Name
From We Started Nothing
Lead Ting Katie White best channels Blondie and Garbage on this high point of debut We Started Nothing. It’s an anthemic, remix-ready girl-power chant steeped in reluctance and disdain: if you can’t even get her name right, you have no right to try to hit her up on the dance floor. Shut up and let her go, indeed.

- Adam Blyweiss

14. Kings of Leon – Sex on Fire
From Only By the Night
Kings of Leon and lead singer Caleb Followill manage to capture the excitement, emotionality and irrationality of sex and obsession quite nicely with the spirited “Sex On Fire.”

- Jacquie Frisco

13. She & Him – Why Do You Let Me Stay Here?
From Volume One
Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward released their first record together in 2008. Volume One scored a few winners, but “Why Do You Let Me Stay Here” is the undeniable winner of the bunch. A hooky piano, chugga-chugging guitars and Deschanel’s rah-rah vocal elevates this number to among the year’s best.

- Timothy Kelly

12. Adele – Right as Rain
From 19
Young Adele got it right with “Right As Rain.” Fun and cool, in that retro, hip kind of way, sounding like it could’ve been recorded in the 1960’s. She sounds a lot like Duffy, with the presence and spirit of Amy Winehouse sans the darkness.

- Jacquie Frisco

11. Kanye West – Love Lockdown
From 808’s and Heartbreak
With the death of his mother and break-up of his engagement, this has been quite a depressing year for the Louis Vuitton don, who dissed his designer duds to ruminate on heartbreak with his latest album, previewed by this haunting single that has him singing (!) in auto-tune over a sparse production that sounds like a heartbeat and effectively culminates into a tribal chorus of Japanese taiko drums.

- Brad Ludwick

10. My Morning Jacket – I’m Amazed
From Evil Urges
“I’m Amazed” exposes the many talents of MMJ with a riveting display of unique instrumental combinations and soothing lyric delivery. The song introduces the listener to various types of amazement in the construction of lyrics, but the song itself proves to be even more remarkable.

- Libby Parent

9. Gnarls Barkley – Run (I’m a Natural Disaster)
From The Odd Couple
Gnarls Barkley’s “Run” is an exhilarating romp, led by Cee-Lo’s fierce vocals and an exuberant orchestration. Nevermind that it’s a cautionary tale of inner demons and addiction with screams of “Run Children!” Scary and alluring it’s fittingly odd from this “odd couple.”

- Jacquie Frisco

8. MGMT – Kids
From Oracular Spectacular
MGMT’s imbuing of psychedelic rock with synth-driven electronic created some of this year’s best new music. Heady songs with a futuristic feel and the spirit out of the 60s made Oracular Spectacular a truly aural trip. But in the midst of such grand compositions was “Kids” providing a caffeinated shot of dance rock that had hipsters everywhere dancing epileptically and singing out, “Control yourself, take only what you need from it / a family of trees wanted / to be haunted!”

- Ben De Leon

7. Hot Chip – Ready For the Floor
From Made in the Dark
As processed and artificial as it sounds on the surface, with its looped and chopped vocals, “Ready for the Floor” is organic: “I’m hoping with chance, you might take this dance.” As its title suggests, the track is ready-made for the dance floor at the local hipster dive. With all its layered synths, it’s surprising the track makes any sense at all, but singers Alexis Taylor and Joe Goddard underline the much-needed human aspect.

- John Tron

6. Vampire Weekend – Mansard Roof
From Vampire Weekend
The three beat intro is unmistakable. The time signatures are playful. The diction is uniquely Vampire Weekend and Ezra Koenig’s idiosyncratic voice is pitch perfect. Throw in a string section, unfettered cymbals, and an extra helping of hipster panache and you’ve easily got the number six song of the year.

- Ben De Leon

5. MGMT – Electric Feel
From Oracular Spectacular
Not quite a dance song per se—though it became a prime source for electro remixes galore—”Electric Feel” packs a wallop strong enough to knock any DJ off his Serato socks. A thumping bass, which seems like it was purposely made for that predictable Justice remix, paired with a contemporary Bee Gees rendition, pixie dust-sprinkled flutes, and a tub full of acid tabs create enough sexy vibes to keep R. Kelly locked away for life.

- John Tron

4. Estelle feat. Kanye West – American Boy
From Shine
This U.K. songbird’s vibrant Grammy-nominated second single detailing her whirlwind travels from New York to Cali with her U.S. boytoy displayed intercontinental humor (”I don’t like those baggy jeans, but I’ma like what’s underneath them”) and universal playfulness over will.i.am’s funky production of mixed keys, drums and bass.

- Brad Ludwick

3. MGMT – Time to Pretend
From Oracular Spectacular
Having recently revisited MGMT’s “Time to Pretend” I was reminded why this song rocked the socks off of fans everywhere. The creepy 10 second swamp-sounding warm-up, the seven note, synthesized intro, and the blaring instrumentation over “I’m feeling rough, I’m feeling raw, I’m in the prime of my life,” sent a surge of energy throughout my body and had me singing along unapologetically. It’s a shame that once the song gained some attention, “Time to Pretend” was everywhere from Gossip Girl to 90210, to gracing the soundtracks of major motion pictures. Yes, “Time to Pretend” may have been played-out by the wagon-jumping mainstream media, but even now, when I hear the song’s first few seconds, I can’t help but smile gleefully ready to sing.

- Ben De Leon

2. Death Cab for Cutie – I Will Possess Your Heart
From Narrow Stairs
After nearly five minutes of percussion, guitar, and bass, Death Cab for Cutie delves into a pledge for love. Soft instrumentation accompanies the lyrics for the remaining three and a half minutes of the song, but the plea remains fierce as Gibbard begs for possession of a heart.

- Libby Parent

1. Vampire Weekend – A-Punk
From Vampire Weekend
Vampire Weekend’s “A-Punk” resurrected the long gone freshness of The Strokes’ Is This It and delivers what Black Kids’ “I’m Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How To Dance With You” couldn’t: pitch-perfect pop unafraid to break away from the engulfing “indie-dance” prototype. Ska-tastic riffs, Afro-pop harmonies, and Ezra Koenig’s fist-pumping “Ay, Ay, Ay, Ay!” chorus pounce so unexpectedly that the track’s just-over-two-minutes life ends as fast as listeners realize they’ve jumped out their seats.

- John Tron

By Raymond Flotat Posted in Features


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