It's December, which on this blog means one thing: end-of-year lists! There will be lists for every variety of media in the weeks to come, culminating on December 29 and 31 with my top ten albums and movies, respectively. I'm kicking it off today with my pick for the 20 best songs of 2008. This list is not a collection of obvious singles or hits, but simply the best individual songs (in my opinion) that have come out in 2008. They include flashy pop dance songs, eccentric indie rock, and at least two songs from Kanye West. They were the most-played songs on my iPod in 2008, and they are all available to buy ala carte on iTunes (well worth the 99 cents). This is the ultimate 08 playlist!
20) T.I. "Whatever You Like" – It's on some radio station somewhere at every second of the day. But aside from that, it's an awesome song.
19) Welcome Wagon, "Sold! To the Nice Rich Man" – It sounds like Sufjan Stevens, which is b/c it's produced by him. A lovely song from a promising new band from Asthmatic Kitty.
18) The Walkmen, "In the New Year" – I will be playing this song on repeat on January 1st. The explosion of hopeful emotion at the 0:40 mark is truly a highlight of the year in music.
17) The National, "You've Done it Again, Virginia" – A wonderfully slothful, "Sufjan piano" dirge from The National's 2008 release, The Virginia EP.
16) Antony & the Johnsons, “Another World” – One of the most delicate, truly tragic ballads of the year. Antony expresses a universal sentiment here that resonates deeply.
15) Vampire Weekend, "The Kids Don't Stand a Chance" – The closing song on Vampire Weekend's stellar debut, this song features a mesmerizing coda of beautifully orchestrated, "fading out slowly" instrumentation.
14) Kanye West, "Paranoid" – This song is immaculately produced and one of the few fun, 80s dancefloor tracks on Kanye's 808s and Heatbreak.
13) Rihanna, "Disturbia" – Just when you thought Rihanna couldn't top the catchiness of "Umbrella," she came out with this song, a truly bizarre pop anthem.
12) Weezer, "Greatest Man That Ever Lived" – This is an epic rock opera song of Queen-sized proportions.
11) Quiet Village, "Victoria's Secret" – This largely instrumental track has a wonderfully schmaltzy 80s nighttime soap quality to it.
10) Britney Spears, "Mannequin"– Her new album is literally full of pop gems, but this song stands out for the sheer audacity of its out-in-space bizarro soundscapes.
9) TV On The Radio, "Family Tree" – This standout track on the formidable new TV On The Radio album (Dear Science) is subdued, charming, and memorable.
8) M83, "Skin of the Night"– There are a lot of songs from the new M83 album that could have made this list, but this one is my favorite. The production is pristine, complicated, airy and thoroughly modern.
7) Fleet Foxes, "Ragged Wood" – A wonderful song to get up to in the morning, waking to the woodsy world of rivers and valleys and Appalachian springs.
6) Cut Copy, "Hearts on Fire" – These Aussies know how to party, and this crazy high-energy dance track is the best of their 2008 release, In Ghost Colours.
5) Madonna and Justin Timberlake, "4 Minutes" – Though Madonna is the third most important person in this song (behind Timbaland and JT), her ostentatious presence is felt, to great effect. This song has an insane beat and an appropriately bizarre message ("We only got 4 minutes to save the world?").
4) Mates of State, "Help Help" – The new Mates of State album was one of my favorites this year, and this song got the most play in my car. A great, bass-driven beat carries a super-cool, addictive chorus by this husband-wife electro-pop duo.
3) The Killers, "Human" – I first saw this song when they performed it on SNL, and it had me at hello. The synths, the melody, the postmodern-gibberish chorus ("Are we human? Or are we dancer?")... it all adds up to one of the best songs of the year.
2) Coldplay, "Strawberry Swing" – If you haven't heard this song, download it now! It's so out-of-nowhere creative from a band like Coldplay, and sounds like nothing else in the musical spectrum right now. Plus, it just makes me feel happy. I find myself listening to it over and over when I want to feel better about life.
1) Kanye West, "Street Lights" – This is such a rich, textured, meaningful song, simple and yet vast. When Kanye sings, "I know my destination but I'm just not there," to a throbbing, haunting beat, we can all relate.