2008: The Top 15 Songs Of The Year

26 Dec

Thanks for the Target gift card, Mom!  Our new shower curtain is teh awesum!

Thanks for the Target gift card, Mom! Our new shower curtain is teh awesum!

15.  “Shake It”  Metro Station

The only reason – the *only* reason this song is so far down on the list – is this: it’s the first song I’ve ever heard when I’ve actually thought to myself  “Oh my God, I am too old to like this song.”   There is no conceivable way for me to enjoy this tune without seeming like a skeevy perv with a Peter Pan complex, as it is sung by pretty teenaged boys and it is unequivocably about trying to get laid, in an adorable manner.  Plus, it’s obviously a rip-off.  It’s electro-indie like the hip kids are listening to, but the band met on the set of a Disney channel show, and NONE OF THEM WERE EVEN ALIVE IN THE 80s.  It is therefore completely stupid and unhip and I should probably stuff my ears with cotton and complain about these damn kids these days with their Pac Man video games, and even THAT line, the “Pac Man video games” line, is an outdated reference because it comes from a movie that was released 10 years ago this March, and the point is, I am old.  I am very very old.  And this song makes me feel really old.

So: shame on you, Metro Station, for making me feel old with your song.  Your catchy, hooky, awesome, infectious, song that I obviously hate so very much.

Yes, all right, we get it - you taught the tree to play "Jump" by Van Halen.  We get it.  That's enough now.

Yes, all right, we get it - you taught the tree to play "Jump" by Van Halen. We get it. That's enough now.

14. “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” – Vampire Weekend

Vampire Weekend might be this year’s Dave Matthews.  By which I mean: they run the risk of being that band/artist who’s really, really talented, but you can’t like them because, dude, every vanilla John and Jane you meet listens to them, like, all the time while they’re drinking Bud Light and being boring.  Am I an elitist?  You betcha.

Having said that, they managed to record a perfect summer road trip album that made us want to drive around with the windows down, despite gas being like $4.50/gallon.  The whole album’s great, but I’m going with this tune because Bay State represent.


Drew Carey's skinny brother was the honored guest at this year's Karaoke Kickoff.

13.  “Shame of the Otaku” – MC Frontalot
I’m so glad we live in a world where such things as Nerdcore are possible.  Nerdy white kids rapping about nerdy white things, with as much snap and flow as those “gangsta” fellows.   MC Frontalot came to my attention a couple years back with his tune “It Is Pitch Dark”, a hip-hop ode to – I xyzzy you not – Infocom’s text adventures.  The video even features a cameo appearence from Steve Meretsky, the man who brought us Planetfall and Zork.    Now, Fronty’s rappin’ about his lonely, geeky childhood, and how he wants to get the ladies in his room to make ’em watch Evil Dead 2, with a chorus that sounds for all the world like the theme from some Anime movie.  Perfect.

The vending machine's their bassist.  He likes to keep it... coooool.

The vending machine's their bassist. He likes to keep it... coooool.

12. “Dream Cars” – Neon Neon

Neon Neon is a collaboration between the guy from Super Furry Animals and hip-hop producer Boom Bip, if you can imagine.  The album Stainless Steel is a concept album/pop opera about – I’m not making this up – John Delorean.  You know, the time travelling car guy.  Yes, him.  “Dream Cars” sounds like ’60s soul mixed with ’00s electro, and therefore sounds perfectly mid-80s.   I’m so addicted to this song right now, I want to snort it.

No. I give up. There are no unflattering pictures of Beyonce. Anywhere.

No. I give up. There are no unflattering pictures of Beyonce. Anywhere.

11. “If I Were A Boy” – Beyonce

Beyonce (or Sasha Fierce, as she’s sort of calling herself these days) always suprises me, because I’m not a huge fan of modern day R&B, and yet…. she just rules.  I caught her on SNL the other night singing this song, and was blown away.  It’s a pretty standard, classic pop song motif – playing with traditionally masculine imagery in an attempt to inspire empathy in her male lover – but Beyonce, who can be equal parts strong and vulnerable, really sells it.

Sri Lanka's biggest contribution to the world since tea.

M.I.A.: Sri Lanka's biggest contribution to the world since tea.

10. “Paper Planes” – M.I.A.

M.I.A.’s particular god-given talent is that her twangy-tangy voice *is* the hook.  She could rap “In Flanders’ Fields” and I’d wanna boogie.  Here, she has the added bonus of rapping over a sample from a Clash song and, apparently, the sound effects department from an Edward G. Robinson film.  She got more records than the KGB.

He who smelt it, dealt it, guys. (lol farts)

Starring Mario, Russell T. Davies, and some other guys as well.

9.  “One For The Cutters” – The Hold Steady

Stay Positive is a pretty great record, much like, well, everything The Hold Steady’s ever done.  The chorus – “when there weren’t any parties, sometimes she’d party with townies” tells you almost everything you need to know about the story they’re telling us here, except that, yep, it ain’t gonna end well, and it involves a water tower, and a college girl, and blood on his jacket.  You get snippets of the story as the song goes on, and it unfolds into a good ol’ American murder/accident waltz ballad.  God, these guys are good.


The Kings of Leon blame you for this lousy weather we've been having.

8.  “Sex on Fire”/“Use Somebody” – Kings of Leon

Imagine hearing a clearer recording of Led Zeppelin for the very first time.  That’s what Kings of Leon’s like.  Apparently, the band almost didn’t include “Sex on Fire” on their album – they thought it was dumb.  And it is, but it’s also kind of glorious.  “Use Somebody” is just an awesome lighters-in-the-air tune.  Kings of Leon, who released (imho) the most consistent album of the year (Only By The Light), somehow manage to make classic rock sound fresh and exciting.

I love language lab, you guys!  Est-ce qu'elles cahier?  Oui, c'est ma cahier!  Merci!

I love language lab, you guys! Est-ce qu'elles cahier? Oui, c'est ma cahier! Merci!

7.  “I’m Not Going To Teach Your Boyfriend How To Dance With You” – Black Kids

Reading that song title and that band name, you’ve probably come to three conclusions: one, the band has black kids in it.  Two, the song is, ironically, quite dancable.  Three, it’s about how white people think all black people can dance.  You’re right about the first two, but the song’s actually about a teenaged lesbian who’s in love with her best friend and therefore is reluctant to do anything about the titular boyfriend’s inability to score with the protagonist’s intended.   It’s very sweet and kind of melancholy.

Note to self: I wonder how many more hits this entry’s going to get, just because it features the words “teenaged lesbian.”   I’d say I’m attracting a whole new audience to the blog, but Chris Clark already reads it I’M JUST JOSHIN’ YA, CHRIS!  Love ya baby!

Jules gingerly attempts to remove the multi-colored pasta from Katie's shoulder.

Jules gingerly attempts to remove the multi-colored pasta from Katie's shoulder.

6. “Shut Up And Let Me Go” – The Ting-Tings

Every year, even 2008, needs a big dumb hipster dance anthem.  The Ting-Tings sound, to me, like The Waitresses probably sound like to people who actually enjoy The Waitresses.   It’s probably the second best indie breakup tune of the year.

The Ting-Tings are fun.  I sort of wish I’d caught them at a loft party or something, during the brief three-month period when I was hip enough to be invited to loft parties.


Kate Nash says you can stand under her brolly..olly-olly-eh-eh-eh.

5.  “Foundations” – Kate Nash
Of course I love Kate Nash – she recorded her debut album in her bedroom, she has a cute London accent, she writes sassy, snarky, confessional songs, and she’s adorable.  “Foundations”, in short, is what my “band” The Pluto Tapes would be writing if I was British, female, and not unforgivably lazy.

Oh, looks like someone got an iMac for Christmas...

Oh, looks like someone got an iMac for Christmas...

4. “Sometime Around Midnight” – The Airbourne Toxic Event

Pitchfork famously panned this album, saying it was calculated and unoriginal and stale and all sorts of things that make no sense.  Personally, I think the reviewer on Pitchfork is just mad that a band fronted by a former music reviewer… who actually got off his ass and made music, mind you….  is doing so well.  Sour f***ing grapes, if you ask me.  “Sometime Around Midnight” jumped out at me the first time I heard it and demanded I love it – it builds and builds to a sonic and emotional crescendo as the band spins a melancholy melody and tale of running into an old girlfriend at a bar.   As the Pitchfork reviewer said, sarcastically, “we’ve all been there, maaaan.”  Yes, asshole, we have.  Leave the damn house sometime.

Don't laugh.  MGMT has much, much bigger balls than you.

Don't laugh. MGMT has much, much bigger balls than you.

3.  “Time to Pretend” – MGMT

See, everyone else has this on their Top 20 lists, right?  Except, it actually came out last year, on the Kids EP (I had “Kids” by MGMT as, like, the 11th best song last year or something.)    So I was reluctant to put it here… except that… well, look.  Every year has a “riff” by which it can be identified.  1991 is “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”  1995 is “Connection” by Elastica.  1976 is “Anarchy in the UK”, and 2004 is probably “Yeah!” by Usher.   The “riff” for 2008 was obviously the hook for “Time To Pretend”, MGMT’s endearingly nerdy take on how awesome it’s going to be once we’re all rock stars.  Me, I give them credit for writing solid songs within a retro-electro-glam format, and for their spectacular headbands.

You must first answer the Riddle of the Sphinx.  Only then may ye pass.

You must first answer the Riddle of the Sphinx. Only then may ye pass.

2. “Guitar Hero” – Amanda Palmer

It’s about video games.  Except, it’s about the Virginia Tech massacre.  Except it’s really about how the army’s using video games to desensitize soldiers for combat.  Except it’s really about how the army’s sending non-violent games like Guitar Hero to the troops to keep them busy.  Except it’s really about the plastic guitar as a false phallus symbol, and about how, if you can synthesize combat, and you can synthesize music, what else can be synthesized?  Except it’s really about the growing disconnect between people, and between experience and reality.  Except it’s really about how that disconnect dehumanizes us and our fellow man and makes inhumanity a lot easier.
Also, East Bay Ray from the Dead Kennedys plays on it, which kicks ass.

Amanda Palmer (and Ben Folds, who produced it) released the best album of the year.  She’s one of the best songwriters alive today.  She manages to cram more layers into a four-minute song than just about anybody, and “Guitar Hero” leaves the listener with a sense of urgency and dread and “holy f**k”itude that’s like… well, remember the first time you heard “Jeremy” by Pearl Jam?  Not the 9,000,000th time, but the very first?  More specifically, remember when you saw that video?  Remember that sense of “what… the… hell just happened?”  That’s what it’s like.  2008 was the comedown after eight years of what the hell just happened.

flobots1. “Handlebars” – Flobots

You feel the exact same way after listening to “Handlebars” by Flobots.  Where “Guitar Hero” is a full on assault from start to finish, however, “Handlebars”  starts out all sweet and innocent.

The protagonist is a little kid, and he’s bragging, and he can do all this neat stuff.   He can ride his bike with no handlebars, he and his friend made a comic book, he can teach you how to scratch a record, he can take apart the remote control, and he can almost put it back together.  Almost.  That’s your first clue.

He can do anything that he wants, cuz look, he’s proud to be an American, and he can keep rhythm with no metronome.  These rappers, always bragging about something or other.   Now, though, he’s bragging about making new anti-biotics and designing engines and waterproof computers.  That’s strange, but what’s most important is, more than anything else… he sees the strings that control the system.  He can control his environment.  He can, as I believe someone once said, create his own reality.

Now he’s saying can split the atom of a molecule.  Oh dear.  This isn’t ending well.

His reach is global.  His power is pure.  Oh my God, he has the power of life and death over every single man, woman and child on the planet Earth.  He can heal everyone, or let them die.

He can make anyone go to prison, just because he don’t like ’em.

If you don’t get it, you’re really not paying attention.  “Handlebars” is about us.  The litle kid, riding his bike with no handlebars, is America.  We’re the land of opportunity.  We’re the most powerful nation the world has ever known.  But, as the great American mythologist Stan Lee once wrote, with great power comes great responsibility.   We’ve developed great technologies and we’ve pursued freedom and we’re the greatest country on Earth.  But we can still do a lot of damage if we’re not careful, and we have.  We can take apart the Iraqi government, and we can almost put it back together.

By taking the vast subject of American foreign policy and reducing it, without schmaltz or sentiment, to a hyperactive kid on a bike saying “Look, Ma, no hands!”, Flobots has written a classic song.  When people look back at 2008, they might remember songs like “Time To Pretend” or “You Can Have Whatever You Like” or, God help us, “I Kissed A Girl.  However, the song that summed up what it felt like to wake up the long drunken night of the past decade, and look around and realize, finally, what it all meant – that’s “Handlebars” – the best song of the year, and maybe the song of the decade.


Posted by on December 26, 2008 in boston rock city, music, nostalgia, youtube


10 responses to “2008: The Top 15 Songs Of The Year

  1. Jen

    December 27, 2008 at 11:01 am

    I love your lists so much–both for the songs I know and love, and for those I need to know and love. And Vampire Weekend reminded me that I wanted to send you a link to Hot Chip and Peter Gabriel covering “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa.”

  2. Bill D.

    January 1, 2009 at 2:12 pm

    Does Beyonce really expect us all to call her Sasha Fierce now? Because honestly, no.

  3. ecc1977

    January 2, 2009 at 12:35 pm

    Thanks, as always, for these lists. I’m using this one to pick out songs to buy in my annual Post-Christmas iTunes binge. So much good stuff I haven’t heard. I’m so out of it…

  4. Steph

    March 22, 2009 at 6:48 pm

    i love u metro staion xxxxxxxxooooooooooxxxxxxxxxxx

  5. Kitty

    March 23, 2009 at 10:51 am

    Holy cow! I didn’t think I was the only person with a thing for this particular musical flavour, but the google brought me here by happy accident!

    I too feel formerly spry joints stiffen as I “Shake it” to the car radio, and I’m still short of my third decade. Kings of Leon rock in the way that my parents can recognize it as music when they are trapped in my car. ATE is not only awesome because of their lit-shout-out-name, but that song is a car crash, heartbreaking but so hypnotic you can’t look away.

    Only omissions I can add – Eric Hutchinson’s ‘Rock and Roll’ and O.A.R’s “Shattered”. Feel free to hate on me for those.

    • alyssa

      July 30, 2009 at 12:16 pm

      hey remeber me?

  6. Anja

    June 5, 2009 at 9:20 am

    i think the true reason why you don´t like metro station is this one: you ARE too old
    greetings from germany

    • EMOkid

      September 23, 2009 at 2:44 pm

      Yea, i totaly agree wit u. Metro station is awsum no matter wut sum peeps say!!

  7. i love hazza

    July 21, 2009 at 2:46 pm

    trace is hot
    mason is hot
    drummer is hot
    but what the fuck is that thing playing the keyboard

  8. alyssa

    July 30, 2009 at 12:12 pm

    hey so wats up. hey have u heard the song i like your hair?


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