tremble clef

Monday, December 29, 2008

2008: Actually a rather good year.

Here are sixty-something songs I enjoyed this year. Note to self: in the next three months, update this post with actual comments about some of these songs. (Perhaps.) Then, on or around March 23, post a new entry.

Updated Jan 26: Blurbs for #37 and #24.

60. An Honorary Slot Commemorating My Slowness on the Uptake

We'll save #60 for three songs that were released in 2007, but which I only heard this year.

Etienne Daho, "L'Invitation"

Koop, "Strange Love"

Hear it at Myspace

PNAU featuring Ladyhawke, "Embrace"

59. Jamie Lidell, "Green Light"

58. Martina Topley-Bird, "Poison"

Hear it at

57. Emiliana Torrini, "Birds"

56. I Am Kloot, "Ferris Wheels"

55. Delays, "No Contest"

54. Sharleen Spiteri, "Don't Keep Me Waiting"

53. Mareva Galanter featuring Rufus Wainwright, "Serge Et Jane"

Discover Mareva Galanter!

52. ABC, "Way Back When"

51. Whitest Boy Alive, "Golden Cage (Fred Falke Remix)"

50. Grovesnor, "Drive Your Car"

49. Maximilian Hecker, "Misery"

48. Pop Levi, "Love You Straight"

Discover Pop Levi!

47. Sam Taylor Wood, "I'm In Love With A German Film Star"

46. Will Young, "Let It Go"

45. Hercules & Love Affair featuring Antony, "Blind"

44. The Weepies, "How You Survived The War"

43. Kate Ryan, "L.I.L.Y."

42. The Black Kids, "I'm Making Eyes At You"

41. The Postmarks, "One Note Samba"

Hear it at

40. Feist, "I Feel It All (Escort Remix)"

Discover Feist!

39. Pet Shop Boys, "Transfer"

38. Little Jackie, "The World Should Revolve Around Me"


37. Jill Barber, "One More Time"

Hear it at

If it seemed like 2008 was the year when every female singer -- Duffy, Sharleen Spiteri, Imani Coppola (via Little Jackie), Veronica Maggio -- felt compelled, in the wake of Winehouse, to go back to the 60s, Jill Barber stayed a step ahead by taking an additional step back. On her fourth album, the Canadian singer modified her usual country-folk sound to more explicitly bring out the 50s big band, jazzy, smokey bar aura that had arguably always lurked in her compositions. The resulting album Chances wasn't uniformly great, but it closes with one hell of a song. The fact that we can probably construct, in our heads, the entire story just from knowing the title -- yes, in it Jill implores her lover to hold her, kiss her, thrill her one more time; presumably, we should also hear the underlying strains of Jill asking us to play the song just once more, the better to fend off the end of the affair -- does not detract from the lush swoonsomeness of the track. Though the strings obviously play a big part, "One More Time" is ultimately a duet between Jill's voice and the trumpet; while she refuses to run any of her words together ("Because. You. Are. Mine..."), the trumpet, as is its wont since at least "The Look of Love," makes it sound like one smooth, seamless glide through three-and-a-half minutes. It hardly matters which of them you give in to.

36. Ne-Yo, "Closer"

35. Ashlee Simpson, "Boys"

34. The Saturdays, "Chasing Lights"

33. Gabriella Cilmi, "Safer"

32. Sugababes, "Nothing's As Good As You"

31. Jay-Jay Johanson, "Liar"

30. Aeroplane featuring Kathy Diamond, "Whispers"

29. Hot Chip, "Ready For The Floor"

28. The Unbending Trees featuring Tracey Thorn, "Overture"

27. Morten Harket, "With You With Me"

26. Morgan Page featuring Tyler James, "Call My Name"

25. Friendly Fires featuring Au Revoir Simone, "Paris (Aeroplane Remix)"

24. Sally Shapiro, "Time To Let Go (CFCF Remix)"

Listen to it here

The best Madonna record of 2008, it has become needless to say, was not made by Madonna herself. (Although I was quite partial, for a couple of weeks in the summer at least, to "Beat Goes On." Because I am powerless in the face of a Donna Summerish "beep beep," especially if you make the red-blooded het male rapper do that part. In falsetto.) That honor instead goes to the CFCF remix of Sally Shapiro's "Time To Let Go." First appearing on a 12" release of "He Keeps Me Alive" -- on the side of the record that is appropriately titled "Longing" -- and then on the digital release of Remix Romance Volume 2, the track sees Canadian producer CFCF essentially grafting the rubbery bassline of "Borderline" onto Sally Shapiro's track. (Indeed, the original and the remix are exactly the same length.)

The transformation brought about by this simple move is...well, let's draw from the cliché well: the remix "allows the song to breathe." Whereas the original feels dank and claustrophobic -- its pounding Italo backing will always have a job soundtracking a "driving through the night, it's so exciting" scene -- the remix is full of wistful pauses, the better to give Sally time to, well, let go. Listen, for example, to the couplet: "You are so fine/And I'm thinking about you all the time." Because the beat doesn't vary or let up on the original, it sounds like we skip from the end of one line to the next, never really stopping to catch our collective breath. On the remix, the music emphasizes the three, four seconds between the lines; the word "fine" somehow lingers and reverberates, and yet seems more fragile as a result. In that melancholic gap, you can hear, if you listen hard enough, the story of the whole relationship.

23. Sneaky Sound System, "Kansas City"

22. Anna Ternheim, "What Have I Done"

21. Annie, "Bad Times"

20. Tahiti 80, "Come Around"

Discover Tahiti 80!

19. Blondfire, "Oxygen"

Hear it at

18. Veronica Maggio, "Måndagsbarn"

17. Tony Christie, "Only Ones Who Know"

16. Alesha Dixon, "I Don't Wanna Mess Around"

15. MGMT, "Kids"

14. Blank and Jones featuring Bernard Sumner, "Miracle Cure"

13. Junior Boys, "No Kinda Man"

12. Ladyhawke, "My Delirium"

11. Juvelen, "Summer-Spring"

Hear it at

10. Solange, "Sandcastle Disco"

9. Sonny J, "Cabaret Short Circuit"

8. Benjamin Diamond, "1000 Lives"

Hear it at Myspace

7. Estelle featuring Kanye West, "American Boy"

6. Ane Brun, "The Treehouse Song"

5. The Rosebuds, "In The Backyard"

4. Duffy, "Warwick Avenue"

Discover Duffy!

3. The Ting Tings, "That's Not My Name (Album Version)"

2. Marit Larsen, "If A Song Could Get Me You"

1. Girls Aloud, "The Loving Kind (Album Version)"


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