This is toughest list to make every year. It is a lot easier for an artist to craft a break through song than a full concise album. I don’t have an army of writers like Pitchfork to create a thorough detail of 100 songs, so here are my 10 favorites of 2008.
10. Mike Moran Music – The Difference
This cut from Mike Moran’s newly named project, Mike Moran Music, was my favorite off the solid effort, Spaces. Moran’s rich, throaty approach is complimented by his knack for solid song-writing. “The Difference” descriptively speaks to difficult decision making that can change your life profoundly.
9. The Hold Steady – One For The Cutters
The more I hear from Craig Finn and co., the more I believe the “best bar band in America” hype. Featuring an entrancing harpsichord, this track gives an account of a girl who get mixed up with the wrong crowd. Finn’s unique voice is the perfect narrator in this murderous story that could happen in any Little Town, USA.
8. Hercules and Love Affair – Blind
It might be the fact that my parents played Miami Sound Machine constantly when I was younger, but horns and steel drums mixed with electronic effects has always won me over. That might be why Hercules and Love Affair’s dance ready record made such an impression on me. Lead singer Antony Hegarty’s distinct vocals flow freely over the breezy house inspired beat with cryptic lyrics about changing views throughout life.
7. Lightspeed Champion – Tell Me What Its Worth
With a bouncy organ and string backing, you might take Lightspeed Champion’s song as a light indie pop song. A deeper dive reveals “Tell Me What Its Worth” as a defense against harsh racial stereotypes. Not only is it a educating, subtle protest, it also features the ear-pleasing backing vocals of Emmy the Great.
6. Lykke Li – I’m Good I’m Gone
Sweden’s top import in 2008, Lykke Li, caught my ear on a number of hits, but mostly on the piano-laced “I’m Good, I’m Gone”. Lykke Li coos her way through hand claps, while subtly informing others she’ll eventually be a star (“If you say i aim too high from down below/Well, say it now ’cause when i’m gone/You’ll be callin’ but i won’t be at the phone”). The inspired remix by the Black Kids is great as well.
5. MGMT – Electric Feel
This single is finally getting some due spins on radio and rappers are starting the remix parade, good thing I didn’t get sick of it all year. On the funkiest cut from Oracular Spectacular, MGMT made a ’70’s style love jam that even kids in skinny jeans could dance to. The throwback sound of psychedelic synthesizers, distorted vocals and hallucinatory lyrics manage to make being stung by an electric eel sound like a good thing.
4. Passion Pit – Sleepyhead
I don’t usually find songs with head-nodding bass in the indie music genre, but “Sleepyhead” filled the void. Lead singer/creator Michael Angelakos’ intoxicatingly off key voice weaves cryptic lyrics about persuading a girl back to bed meld perfectly amid psychedelic chipmunk samples and a hypnotic beat. “Sleepyhead” could also qualify as one of the best music videos of the year in nearly the same spell-binding fashion.
3. KiD CuDi – Day ‘n Nite
If his success in ’08 is any indication, 2009 will be a huge year for KiD CuDi. “Day ‘n Nite” introduced this Cleveland MC to the underground and eventually got him signed to Mr. West’s G.O.O.D. Music. CuDi’s sing/rap flow isn’t unique, but this track does something most rappers are afraid to do, show vulnerability. Themes of insomnia, heartbreak and drug-based hallucinations, over a bass filled stimulating beat create a new anthem for creative Hip-Hop.
2. Fleet Foxes – White Winter Hymnal
Who knew mountain men choirs would be so cool in 2008? In what has to be the most basic song of the year, the bearded fellows of Fleet Foxes created one of the best. Based off simple harmonies and minimal lo-fi instrumentation, “White Winter Hymnal” sounds as cheery as the change from winter to spring.
1. Jessica Lea Mayfield – Kiss Me Again
At first I was entranced by Dan Auerbach‘s (of the Black Keys) reverberating guitar work, but the real star of the song is Jessica Lea Mayfield. Mayfield’s chilling voice shines through in the same chanteuse style of Neko Case and Loretta Lynn. This sorrowful track about an indecisive love affair with fluctuating come-ons showcases Jessica Lea Mafyield’s ability to tempt listeners with style and storytelling.
Honorable Mention: Lil’ Wayne “A Millie”, Sam Sparro “Black & Gold”, Matt & Kim “Daylight”, Blitzen Trapper “Gold For Bread”, Vampire Weekend “The Kids Don’t Stand A Chance”, Of Montreal “Gallery Piece”, Jamie Lidell “Another Day”, The Black Keys “Psychotic Girl”, Walter Meego “Forever”, An Horse “Postcards”, Death Cab for Cutie “Cath..”, Janelle Monae “Many Moons”, Human Highway “The Sound”