I know every other blog and music magazine does this, so I thought I’d obligingly contribute my ‘best-tracks-of-2008’ list too. I know what you’re thinking – “but every track you post is blindingly brilliant Mike, how can you choose?!” – I know, I know, but I’ve spent the last month trapped in a tower in a Buddhist monastery in Tibet thinking this through, so I’m sticking with it and you best enjoy it!
Before you ask, it’s in no particular order. None of us would agree, it’s really pointless and it would take at least another 6 months in the monastery. Feel free to comment listing which numbers should go in which priority, or if you have any additions you’d like to add >>>
And lastly, please note that not all the tracks listed here were released in 2008 – some are likely to be released in 2009 – it’s just that they floated past The Recommender’s ears this year, as tunes do when you write a blog. At least it’s making 2009 also looking fooking ace!!!
1) THECOCKANDBULLKID – ON MY OWN
>> I’ve kept a keen eye on this young, new talent that’s emerged this year. She has that independent look and style all her own and her music is no different. Confident, yet beautifully sweet music, full of melody and tune. Her vocals lift the music off the page and are impossible not to love. Upbeat and catchy, her masterful ear for a good pop hook is right up there with the best of them. 2008 has seen a fantastic emergence of strong female solo-artists, including the likes of Little Boots, La Roux, Goldielocks, and Thecocknbullkid’s Anita Blay can definitely be firmly added to the list.
2) MGMT – KIDS (Soulwax Edit)
>> 2008 was a particularly good year for remixes, covers and mash ups, as the world’s bedroom-producers got very busy with their new technology. This original tune already blew me away, nestled in the middle of the MGMT album, Oracular Spectacular, and to be fair this Soulwax remix only tweaks it a touch, but it’s pushed up just enough to become a true club floor filler. Hear this in a club packed with Indie-loving teenagers and watch the place erupt.
3) ELBOW – ONE DAY LIKE THIS
>> 2008 saw this masterful band of truly exceptional musicians get their buttons in the form of the critically affirming Mercury Music Prize. True acclaim has never been so apt and I for one implore you all to grab a copy of their album, Seldom Seen Kid, as it has many peaks. This tune is a highlight for me and it replaced my previous ‘favourite track’ by them, ‘Forget Myself’. It has an advanced, superb production and boy what a sing-along climax! Never before has a band leapt into the stadium arena with such a triumphant stride. It’s all they deserve. And Guy Garvey is such a top, top fella to boot…
4) VAN SHE – CAT & THE EYE
> > A fresh effort from these Australian fellas from the monster label Modular Records. The Australian competition really stepped up a gear in 2008, with Midnight Juggernauts, The Bumblebeez and The Presets all shining strong with great releases of their own, but Van She definitely held their own. A sublime song, with it’s MGMT-style opening and it’s burst of fresh chords that break to the rumbling bass. A leaf taken from the band Sugar and an additional taste all of their own, it’s uplifting chorus leaves you feeling like the tune has existed forever. It’s great songwriting by a band well into their stride.
5) DANGER ft VYLE – 0h00
>> I am in love with the sound Danger produces in his tunes. It’s all cinematic, 80’s thriller film scores. They are a dark, scary back drop theme tune to any Carpenter movie, circa Halloween or Christine. A tidy Electro pounding pace with heavy synths, its like being hooked by the mouth into a nightclub. This tune follows the same theme, but adds a missing ingredient to previous tunes – namely vocals. Vyle’s lyrics make the tune lighter and infinitely more listenable. It therefore goes down as my favourite work by him to date. I look forward to a lot more from him in 2009.
6) LADYHAWKE – BACK OF THE VAN
>> 2008 was the year that Pip Brown finally splashed onto the scene in proper 80’s synth-pop lovliness. She’s been all over the blogosphere this year, but this New Zealand songstress eventually trapped me with this tune. Retro-pop that sounds comfortably familiar, yet bursts with freshness too. Her earlier effort, Paris Is burning, also ranked highly, but it was this tune that finally stole my heart. Her Chrissie Hynde-sounding vocals and an ear for a strum-tastic melody-making chord change meant for a full song with plenty to love.
7) BUSY P ft MURS – TO PROTECT AND ENTERTAIN (Crookers Remix)
>> What more do you require in a tune? It’s comes from the Ed Banger Records god that is Busy P and the lyrics are sweetly married by rapper Murs. It brilliantly details an LA scene that’s had my eyes and ears glued to it all year long. This particular version has had the magical Crookers remix dust sprinkled all over it, giving it the perfect pace, electro rough edges and bounce that really adds to it. There was a dozen or so remixes released of this tune, including ones by Mehdi, So Me and Mr.Oizo, but for me, this is the best.
8 ) TV ON THE RADIO – HALFWAY HOME
>> Although their left-field, alternative Indie so familiar in their previous albums was somehow smartened up on 2008’s album, Dear Science, the more polished finish that’s evident here actually turned them into a more listenable, less dark affair. I loved previous work by this New York 5-piece, but with this album the songs hit you instantly and with their talents that means they hit you real hard. The highlight for me was this opener, a sublime building track that reminds me of Bloc Party at their most peaceful, with the echoing lyrics and sweeping drums that crash as the guitars kick in. It’s one of the most beautiful openers to any album. The album maintains the fantastic setting throughout, so hunt it out and get swept up.
9) FOALS – CASIUS
> > Released in Spring 2008, a couple of weeks before their fantastic debut album, Antidotes, this tune provided the confirmation, after the massive hype throughout 2007, that this band were the real deal. Their ‘Math Rock’ or ‘Geek Rock’, as the blogs named it, was fresh, different and exciting to hear. With their distinctive guitaring, played high up the neck of the guitar, flicking out brilliant riffs that caught the eye live, as well as the ear. The band are very tight on stage, sharing a bond that causes a magical chemistry with the crowd. The high tempo of the song bounces along like a robotic butterfly, as it’s all over the place, however, its never lost. With it’s crashing breaks and fantastic chorus, that first splits off at 25 seconds in, it bursts into a fantastic sing along. A proper teenage Indie anthem.
10) THE WILD BEASTS – THE DEVILS CRAYON
>> “This truly is the devil’s answer…” – What more can I say!? Slotting neatly on the shelf alongside Yeasayer, this beautiful, wistful, swirl of a song is truly epic. It also has a fantastic video, found posted here on ‘How Good Is This 4’. A fantastic four-piece, with two very credible and differing singers (a unique rarity in itself!). Bursting out of Kendall in the North West in the summer of 2008, with their debut album, Limbo Panto, this band look to have a bright future indeed.
11) PRIMARY ONE – HOLD ME DOWN (The Shoes Remix)
>> I’ve lost at least a couple of nights sleep having this goddamn tune going round and round in my head as I hit the pillow. I warn you not to listen to it prior to sleep, as it’s literally impossible to remove it once it’s in there. I caught them live in the summer and they were satisfyingly ace. If you don’t yet know them it will only be a matter of time. I believe 2009 could well belong to these guys if things go as planned.
12) FLEET FOXES – WHITE WINTER HYMNAL
> > It’s frustrated the hell out me reading that many, many of the world’s largest music magazine’s voted Fleet Foxes self-titled album, released through the awesome American label Sub Pop, at the top of their ‘best albums of 2008’ lists! It’s good, but it’s not that good. It’s an album that looks backwards rather than forwards. It’s an accoustic mix of Beach Boys harmonies, were they fronted by Neil Young and backed by the band America. Not a lot that’s breaking moulds then, but it could be worse. After all, there’s still enough magic to warrant your attention. Sitting by a winter’s fireplace with the snow at your door this song feels so right. It’s beautiful, it’s cinematic and somehow it feels like it has always existed.
13) THE ROLLING STONES – YOU CAN’T ALWAYS GET WHAT YOU WANT (Soulwax Remix)
>> The second of the remixes by Soulwax on this list, as boy have they been working hard this year! Chopping other people’s tunes up is indeed what they do best. Keeping true to Mick Jagger’s words, (probably contractually, knowing The Stones’ tight ship), they added just enough frisson to build the pounding song up to a new level. The Electro and 60’s band’s sound shouldn’t go hand in hand, but with this work looking well polished it seems we are all going to have to re-raid our Beatles/Beach Boys/Bob Dylan/Byrds/Kinks, (- delete as appropriate), record collections for the next remixes.
14) MIDNIGHT JUGGERNAUTS – SHADOWS
>> Australia went cra-zeeeee this year with an explosion of cooler than cool new Indie-Electro bands. They just about all slot neatly into The Recommender’s intended record box. Modular Records is very much at the front of this Aussie push, signing up most of them. The MJ’s though are my favourites. Disco-infused prog-rock-influenced 80’s casio brilliance. The album drifted a little, but the highlights, of which Shadows is my favourite, keep it well above most other albums released in 2008. I managed to see them live in Brighton earlier in the year and had a chance to thank Vince (lead singer) personally which was the least I could do for such an awesome effort.
15) BLOC PARTY – THE PRAYER (La Modes Sunday School Mix)
>> Bloc Party get a lot of cover on the blog world. They have that magic ability to cross dance and indie music quite like nobody else can. We love them and their sublime back catalogue. It also makes them ripe for a good remix, so you will find there’s a million available out there. This one drifted past my inbox this year and I believe it to be one of the best I’ve ever heard, so it gets onto this list simply by standing tall amongst a crowd of others. La Mode have had a fantastic year as most of what they touch turns out to be really strong.
16) RADIOHEAD – NUDE
>> Although this is from the album In Rainbows, initially released in 2007 through the inspired choice of a ‘pay-what-you-want’ scheme, this single was actually released in March 2008. The second single to come from that album, it was originally penned more than 10 years previously. Thom Yorke is a master of the haunting, climactic vocals and never before has it shot straight through you quite like it does in this song. Delicate, simple and truly beautiful. It’s a modern masterpiece that no other band could quite achieve. I don’t know how they manage to create songs of such strength that yet seem so fragile.
17) FRIENDLY FIRES – WHITE DIAMONDS
>> This St.Albans 3-piece burst onto the scene with mucho NME back up and plenty of blog cover through 2007 and 2008. Like most other people, I first came across this band through their amazing tune ‘Paris’, which turned into a subsequent hit, but it was with the tune ‘White Diamonds’, found on the self-titled album released back in September, that I finally fell in love. It’s like a smarter, better dressed version of a tune The Killers would love to have created, had the Las Vegas band not lost it and focused more on their silly facial hair than their music. Its all whirling drum claps, with a funky riffing guitar, that pairs up with the excellent, stylish vocals from Ed McFarlane. Just as it’s verse builds and breaks into the chorus it provides a satisfying knock out blow that smacks you for a home run. A ‘killer track’ in the true sense I guess.
18) MIA – PAPER PLANES
>> This tune came out in February 2008. The third single from the critically acclaimed 2007 album, Kala, is the strongest in my opinion and proved to be the most commercially successful of any of MIA’s releases. Remixed by Diplo, Speak, Scottie B and Adrock amongst others, this tune is full of samples and sounds that hammer home it’s strong lyrical bite. An unlikely tuneful chorus that you could actually sing along to found me seeing a side to the inventive MIA that hadn’t reared it’s head before. It’s a totally stunning and original piece of work. More will be written about the wonderful MIA in an upcoming post I’m doing about the strong female solo artists, so find out more soon.
19) THE GOLDEN FILTER – SOLID GOLD
A strange selection this, but due it’s entry all the same. The band did the ‘Fake Blood’ thing and deliberately held back from letting anyone know their names, faces, or quite frankly anything about them. I think it’s becoming a more and more popular thing to do. Perhaps it’s tantalising to the adoring teenagers to have that air of mystery surrounding them. Perhaps it’s a kick back against the blog world’s ability to spread any new music they locate wafer thin, even before the band are signed up. Either way, it doesn’t deflect from the fact that the songs this group write are strong enough on their own. I had the chance to meet up with them recently and watch them play live in my local town a few weeks ago and even though the mystery regarding their names and faces has now been lifted for me the excitement remains, as they play out a fantastic live show. 2009 may well belong to them.
20) GRINNY GRANDAD – MONTY
>> This lot are brand spanking new and yet to release any album etc, but I was in contact with them earlier in the year and they very kindly sent me a selection of their finest songs. All are potential future singles and all were truly fantastic. It’s a sample heavy blend of smooth guitars and beautiful vocals from the talented Claire and Kimberley, backed up by a powerful, slow beat. It’s a dreamy concoction and will remind you of the best bits out of a Zero 7 or Morcheeba album. The melodies seem like they nestle in your ears perfectly, creating a tune that you will instantly love. Perfect for a summer’s day outdoors. Perhaps summer 2009?
OK, I’d better stop there. I’d love to have added The Hair, or La Roux, or Little Boots or, or, or, or….
I hope you agree that this is a list of truly great songs, from great artists, in a productively great year. For more details on them please search through The Recommender’s bountiful archives.
Leave your comments, because I know you will have your opinions on all this.
Be sure to return throughout 2009 to see some of the above artists really blossom. We’ll be right there when they do…