Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Best of '08 - Singles Edition (Pt. 2)

Kicking off the second half of the list, we have:

American Boy by Estelle ft. Kanye West (from Shine)

This song should have been a lot bigger than it was. It made it to just #9 on the U.S. singles chart, despite kicking all kinds of ass. Example: the beat is AMAZING. I love the way it builds during the verses before the full-on whoomp-whoomp-whoomp action in the chorus. Estelle's delivery is light, fun, and sexy, and Kanye delivers what may be his last great pre-Autotune verse. Instant classic.

Hearts on Fire by Cut Copy (from In Ghost Colours)

Cut Copy are my Band of the Year. I always say that if New Order stayed good instead of making crappy songs with members of the Scissor Sisters, they would sound like Cut Copy. I had a hard time choosing between Lights and Music and this song for the list, but I chose Hearts on Fire for a few minor reasons. First of all, the verses feel more urgent, and the lead-up to the chorus with the "Woo!" and "Oh-oh-oh!" is fantastic. Also, saxophone in a dance song? Awesome. Also, while "With heart on fire, I reach out to you tonight" should sound really lame, it somehow comes off entirely sincere.

Where Do You Run To by Vivian Girls (from Vivian Girls)

I have a hard time explaining why I like Vivian Girls so much. "See, you can't really understand the vocals that well, and the whole thing sounds kind of muddy, and they harmonize and it sounds nice." In a more slickly produced form, this song could have appeared on Liz Phair's Exile on Guyville. (And that's totally a compliment.) I think the main appeal for me is that it feels so classic - get in, ask where your love went to, get out in 3 minutes or so.

The Rip by Portishead (from Third)

Although most of the year-end lists are opting for Machine Gun, I found The Rip to be a much greater song. We start with just the vulnerability of Beth Gibbons' beautiful, dramatic vocals before the electronics wash over the song, taking it to a new level. And where Machine Gun was alienating and startling, The Rip is almost comforting and hopeful, with the refrain of "White horses/they will take me away." I love the harsher Portishead stuff, but I appreciate the occasional glimpse into their more emotional side, which is why this song made the list. (Note: Sadly, The Rip is not available on Imeem, so I've substituted We Carry On, my favorite non-single from Third.)

Blind by Hercules & Love Affair (from Hercules & Love Affair)

I never quite hopped aboard the Hercules & Love Affair train - Antony has never really done it for me (Yes, he sounds like Nina Simone - I'll still take Nina Simone), and I found some of the album quite boring. But Blind is anything but boring with its insistent disco beat and introspective vocals from Antony, who totally sells the song. In fact, it succeeds for the same reason that Nina Simone remixes so often do. The voice is so unexpected for the style of music that it ends up adding another layer to the song; you can dance your ass off, but you'll enjoy it just as much on headphones. I can only hope that if Hercules & Love Affair make another album, it sounds more like this and less like some of the mid-tempo clunkers from their full-length.

And there you have it! My Top Ten of 2008. You can stream them on the player below, which will also become my new In Heavy Rotation sidebar. Enjoy!

1 comment:

Matthew said...

I must commend you on your taste. By which I mean, I must commend you for occasionally having the same taste that I do. For me, "The Rip" is the best track on P3, hands-down, and "Strange Overtones" is certainly the track I play most often from Everything That Happens... Both are so beautiful and so incredibly engaging.

As far as Hercules goes, I would have a hard time picking between "Blind" and "Raise Me Up." But I am a huge Antony fan, so I think most of what he does is golden. On that note, if you haven't seen the video for his latest single, "Another World," I encourage you to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K-qThnGw_64. It probably won't make a fan out of you if you're not there already, but to my mind, it's incredibly moving and really worth seeing.

I'm afraid we're going to have disagree about "American Boy," though. I really loved it the first time I heard it, and then the second time, I thought it was plodding, uninspired, and annoying. But I'm snobby, I think.

Thus concludes my scattered opining. Oh! Did you get a chance to listen to the new Grace Jones? If so, did you like it?