Dec 27, 2008

Best Songs of 2008 (Part 3)

After a Christmas break, I'm back to continue counting down my 10 favorite songs of 2008. Here's four through two.

4. "White Winter Hymnal" by Fleet Foxes from Fleet Foxes

Other than the torrent of vocal harmonies, there's almost no song here. Two or three guitar parts and one drum complete the melody. But that's enough. The two-and-half-minute playtime complements the theory at work here. Fleet Foxes remind us, conversely to most Brian Wilson disciples, that less is more.

3. "Get Better" by Mates of State from Re-arrange Us

"Get Better" is the anthem of 2008, a year when the elections, an economic entanglement, and political scandals trumped all other stories. The married duo's most ambitious song ever proclaims, "Everything's gonna get lighter, even if it never gets better," which is precisely what's happened in the last couple months. Post-election, our problems haven't really improved, but that buzz word "hope" has made out future prospects build like a cathartic drumbeat.

2. "Kim & Jessie" by M83 from Saturday = Youth

Just when it seemed like that whole 80s revival was on it's down curve, Anthony Gonzalez digs up his roots on his 2008 effort. Stephanie Meyer references aside, "Kim & Jessie" is a firmly contemporary track in spite of its retroness. There's a dark optimism here, a reminder of the bliss of teenagedom tinted with the e[c]lect[r]ic struggles of a post-911 world. It's the pop song by J.G. Ballard.

Be sure to comment on your favorite tracks of 2008. Later this week, I'll post #1, as well as the rest of my song and album lists.

Dec 18, 2008

Best Songs of 2008 (Part 2)

Today, we're continuing on Stoplight Sleep's countdown of the best song of 2008. Here's 7 through 5.

7. Single Frame  "Cold Mining" from S F E P

Coming in under 10 minutes, Single Frame's S F E P from January of this year could almost qualify as a song itself. The release is a power punch of post-punk energy for those still interested in that whole dance revival thing. "Cold Mining," riddled with Joy Division, barely sneaks ahead as the stand-out track. The hangover anthem poses the Myspace-survey worthy refrain of the year: "If you don't dream, does that mean / that you have not got one? / Or if you don't dream, does that mean / that you are living it?"

6. Frightened Rabbit  "Fast Blood" from The Midnight Organ Fight

On the surface, "Fast Blood" is standard post-millennial mope rock in the vein of Interpol, The Twilight Sad, and Arcade Fire. It could also be a pedestrian retelling of one sexual encounter. However, Scott Hutchinson's emotional conviction and extended metaphors about hurricanes and resurrection make the track the rock equivalent of impressionist poetry.

5. Crystal Castles  "Vanished" from Crystal Castles

I have a soft spot in my heart for the soundtracks of the Nintendo games of my youth. I've enjoyed covers of NES themes from The Advantage, Minibosses, and Motherbrain!, but those acts could only dictate the actual experience. On their debut album, Crystal Castles capture my remembered impression of playing games like Metroid and Astanyx  by combining an 8-bit aesthetic with a 21st-century worldview. "Vanished" is the moodiest song of the album.

Dec 16, 2008

Best Songs of 2008 (Part 1)

This week, Stoplight Sleep brings you my humble picks for this years best songs. First, we'll look at my top 10, followed by the 50 best list. So here we go . . .

10. The Dodos  "God" from Visiter

"God" is one of the few tracks where Meric Long's machine-gun precussion and Logan Kroeber's acoustic sprints ease up on The Dodo's Visiter. The duo's music theory seem deceptively simple: a reflection of the melody (and vise-versa). The jingling in the background and the steady downbeat lull you into thinking this one will be easy to digest. Then a simple euphamism ("Oh, god.") turns into a last-ditch plee for order in the universe. "Are you there, listener? It's me, the perfect album closer."

9. Los Campesinos!  "My Year In Lists" from Hold On Now, Youngster

Aside from the obvious relevance to your faithful author's current task, "My Year in Lists" is a perfect example of the energy and density packed in the best Los Campesinos! tracks.  As fun as the twee-pop music is, I can't resist lyrics in which the first verse is an extended metaphor about sex and letter-writting (a la PJ Harvey) followed by a meta-poetic comment on those lines.

8. The Kills  "U.R.A. Fever"  from Midnight Boom

In the last few years, M.C.s have commanded us to do some of the most vexatious acts ever put to music. Thankfully, The Kills, who traded in the garage sound of their last two albums for splashes of raw studio flare, have way cooler intenions for their audience. "Go down to the Rio"? "Go ahead and have her. / Go ahead and leave her"? Finally, a song about something I want to do.

Dec 14, 2008

Top 10 Albums of 2008 (Version 1.0)

This list may be a bit premature, but I always find albums in the following year that would have made my year-end lists. Most recently I've found albums from 2007 (Electrelane's No Shouts, No Calls), 2005 (The Meligrove Band's Planets Conspire), and 2001 (Mirah's Advisory Committee) that probably would have made at least my top 25 list. Sometimes it takes awhile for me to give an album the chance it deserves. I've only this week listened to all of Lightspeed Champion's Falling off the Lavender Bridge, possibly because I saw it as too gimmacky following my summer 2006 affair with Test Icicles.

I've poured over this list and I don't think it's going to change anytime soon. Unlike last year, there's a definite divide between the top ten and the rest of my list (which I'll post later). These ten albums really stood out in my 2008 as musical achievements. 
Like 2007, you'll find a good mix of veteran acts (M83, The Kills), sophomores (Hot Chip, The Dodos), and rookies (Lost Campesinos!, MGMT). However, Ra Ra Riot are the only act completely off my radar before 2008.  Crystal Castles, Adele, and the other first timers all had some kind of release (either an EP or import) that I was at least aware of before this year.

Following another interesting trend, all of these albums, with the exception of Ra Ra Riot's The Rhumb Line appeared on my mid-2008 list, although some have received a better evaluation with time. 

So what do you think? Post your lists. Do you violently disagree with any of my picks?

Dec 13, 2008

Musical Comedy and Musical Lists

Things have been good for musical comedy lately, mostly thanks to Flight of the Conchords, but some of the best recent efforts have come from the Lonely Island crew/SNL Digital Shorts with their improved production values, especially on their latest effort, "Jizz in My Pants."

I also recommend "Space Olympics" for fans of Casshern or VNV Nation.

ou can also check out the results of the Pitchfork Reader's Poll and their Best of 2008 Guest List, featuring picks from some today's best artists. Reoccuring themes include Beach House, Deerhunter, and--my personal pick--Why?.

Dec 4, 2008

Artist of the Year: Amanda Palmer

May 20, 2008: Dresden Dolls release No, Virginia, the sequel to last year's splendid Yes, Virginia. Basically a collection of tracks rescued from the Yes, Virginia's cutting-room floor, No, Virgina is worthy of some consideration. (A Radiohead's Amnesiac to Kid A analogy my be helpful.) Tracks like "Dear Jenny," and "Night Reconnaissance," and the duo's cover of "Pretty in Pink" highlight the album.

September 16, 2008: Dresden Dolls's lead singer and pianist releases her first solo album, Who Killed Amanda Palmer? Any doubters of this Ben Folds-produced album were proven wrong by the variety of genres, emotions, and references packed into 12 tracks.

Amanda also produced a video for almost every track, most of which follow a cohesive narrative structure. The cabaret-inspired video for "Leeds United" (see below) has sparked quite the story.

November 22, 2008: Dresden Dolls fanboard The Shadowbox comes alive with indignation towards boy-club, butt-rock-and-metal label Road Runner's feedback about the "Leeds United" video. Amanda says they wanted to edited out her "belly." Her fans reacted by stuffing the net with belly shots. (No, not that kind.)

Palmer has given the label an ultimatum, wishing to be released from her (and I suppose Dresden Doll's) contract. This comes even after the label tried to spin the bad press.

Internet memes aside, 2008 amounts to a great year for Amanda Palmer, who unanimously wins Stoplight Sleep's Artist of the Year award. Congrats! Now don't fill up on cake at the party, you'll never get a new records deal, Ms. Palmer.

I went to football-gang brawl and a post-modern cabaret video broke out!