2008 has seen a slew of releases, most of which have completely passed me by. Here are the songs that have managed to stick with me throughout the year. We’ll count backwards from 50 over the next few weeks until we reach my favourite song of 2008. Enjoy.
20. Starry Stairs – Okkervil River Regular readers won’t be surprised at the appearance of Okkervil River in this countdown. Will Sheff continues to flaunt his unadulterated songwriting skills in yet another lost soul lament. The imagery is flawless (I slithered up each rose corridor) as always, and I also love the half-laughs that appear in a couple of spots.
19. Harlem – Motel Motel One of the few bands to emerge from the depths of my inbox to stumble out into the dazzling light of the blog. Most of the gear I get sent doesn’t grab me, but these guys did from the get go. This particular track has stayed with me – it’s the drumroll at the beginning, it’s the distinctive vocals, it’s the upswelling strings, it’s the tinkling keys, it’s the lyrical storytelling, it’s everything and it’s wonderful.
18. Spaceships – Patchwork This has got to be one of the most soothing tracks I’ve come across this year. I don’t mean that it’s boring or wishy-washy though, just that it inspires a great calm. The highlight for me, in addition to the fantastic vocals and beautiful instrumentation, is the last couple of minutes when the vocals cease and the track is allowed to meander to a close. It also reminds me a bit of Crowded House in that it has an organic looseness that I never tire of.
17. Willow Tree – Chad Vangaalen I don’t think anyone will dispute the inclusion of this track. Although some may argue that it belongs higher on the list. I would tend to agree in theory, but I haven’t felt the compulsion to listen to it as often as I have the higher tracks. It is a wonderful song though, with deceptively simple twanging banjo that provides the backbone to a gradually building track that is uplifting despite its somewhat fatalistic lyrics.
16. Gobbledigook – Sigur Ros I loathed this when I first heard it. Where were the achingly beautiful harmonies? Where were the building layers of strings? It took me many listens to let go of all my notions of what Sigur Ros should be and embrace this new direction. I love it now for its energy and that infectious beat and when I saw them live this was one of the many, many highlights with the crowd on its feet and clapping along like madmen.
15. Bye Bye Bye – Plants and Animals These Canadian indie rockers are on my extensive ‘more research needed’ list. I absolutely adore the piano and the epic buildups that pepper the track throughout, as well as the echoing backup vocals.
14. Blessing In Disguise – DeVotchKa Oh my lordy, what a gorgeous track this is. As soon as I heard that waltz intro I was hooked. I’ve said this before but whenever I hear a DeVotchKa track all I can think of is those mad passionate vocals. Lush and romantic and just all round loveliness.
13. Buttons – The Weeks This extremely young indie rock outfit have a mature sound that belies their tender years. Lead vocalist Cyle Barnes has all kinds of attitude going on and he has a way of drawing out certain syllables that lends a playful twang to his deep voice. He takes it up a notch later as the music swells and punches and he passionately declares I shake I shake I could never see/how good young love could really be/I know I know it’s not that bad/take a look at what we had. I defy you not to embrace this track.
12. Vio Spilum Endalaust – Sigur Ros I know, I know, more Sigur Ros. I’d honestly like to include more, but I guess that would be a bit boring. Don’t let that distract you from the absolute gorgeousness of this track though. Retaining the upbeat feel of ‘Gobbledigook’, driving piano and soaring horns create a song that never fails to raise my spirits.
11. Sometime Around Midnight – The Airborne Toxic Event Oh, those strings. This track is a perfect description of that sucker punch to the gut that you feel when you see an ex for the first time since you’ve broken up. And that second punch you cop when you discover that they’re not alone. Oh, the agony.
Check out the rest of the countdown…