OK, so we’ve reviewed what I believe to be the standout albums from the year that was. The second part of my year-end review reviews some of the best songs of the year. You likely wouldn’t have heard any of these songs on radio (at least not terrestrial radio). In fact, I couldn’t pick out any of this year’s most popular radio songs if my life depended on it.
Note – I tried to find official videos for these songs, but in some cases I could only find live versions (some better than others).
The Best of the Best (Songs)
“Melody Day”, Caribou (Andorra) – This track opens the very excellent Andorra like a fresh breeze from the mid-’60s. I would swear this was produced by Phil Spector in his prime, what with its heavy use of reverb, jangly guitars, and a soaring chorus. Sure there’s nothing terribly original here, apart from introducing more modern electronic elements into the mix, but a good song is a good song.
“Mutiny, I Promise You”, The New Pornographers (Challengers) – The Pornographers’ latest album has been taking a beating from a lot of fans since it came out, but I can’t see how anyone who likes the group wouldn’t think this song is a winner. And for the record, I really enjoy Challengers.
“Sick, Sick, Sick”, Queens of the Stone Age (Era Vulgaris) – This one is actually nominated for a 2008 Grammy (Best Hard Rock Performance), and it would certainly be a deserving winner. Josh Homme reigns in his usual excesses on this one for a three-and-a-half minute blast of distorted, muscular aggression. Instantly memorable.
“March of the Camels”, White Rabbits (Fort Nightly) – This album has a number of catchy, well-crafted songs to choose from. “March of the Camels” fits that bill as well, but is a cut above the rest. It’s also pretty dark, which doesn’t hurt it in my book. (no video)
“Bees Bein’ Strugglin'”, The Octopus Project (Hello Avalanche) – This was the track that hooked me on this album, and in turn the band. Listen to it and try to keep your feet from tapping. Go ahead, I’ll wait right here. See what I mean? (no video)
“Knights”, Minus the Bear (Planet of Ice) -Holy crap, I could listen to this song all day. Smooth and complicated, just like me.
“Either Way”, Wilco (Sky Blue Sky) – I never really followed Wilco until recently, but anytime a band releases an album that pisses off a large part of its fanbase it’s at least worth a listen. This is a wonderful hybrid of Harvest-era Neil Young and Countdown to Ecstasy-era Steely Dan. It sucks you in with its apparent simplicity and reserve, and the topper is a nimble guitar solo by new guitarist Nels Cline. Beautiful.
“Give It, Lose It, Take It”, Field Music (Tones of Town) – As discussed in Part 1, this is from my favorite album of the year. It opens the album, and right away there is a pronounced edge that was missing from the first Field Music release. Brilliant! (no good videos found)
“Only Mama Knows”, Paul McCartney (Memory Almost Full) – Nothing cloying or sappy about this one – just Macca rocking out like he’s always been capable of.
“Not My Friend”, Norah Jones (Not Too Late) -A sparse and haunting song from one of the best voices today.
“Cake Parade”, Georgie James (Places) -A wonderful throwback to some of the lush, melodic sounds of yesteryear. Never mind that it’s an anti-war song, they could be singing about the Black Plague and I’d be snapping my fingers. (found some videos but none that do this justice)
“Armor and Sword”, Rush (Snakes & Arrows) – Time has been kind to this album in my view, as I’ve learned to appreciate it more and more over the months. This song is a wonderful marriage of Rush’s heavier and melodic sides. I love the recurring bass/drum part in the song’s first half, and how things kick into high gear at about the four-minute mark.
“Sister Rosetta Goes Before Us”, Robert Plant & Allison Krauss (Raising Sand) – On an album full of great duets, it is this Krauss-dominated number that is my favorite. It has a dirge-like quality, but avoids being dreary, and is a great showcase for her angelic voice. (the only video I found was of this song set to clips from Battlestar Galactica. Go figure.)
“Earth Intruders”, Björk (Volta) – While the Volta album was a letdown, this song is a winner. The dark, pulsating style of Homogenic returns temporarily, and it is glorious.