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Best Songs of 2008

This was a crazy and very tough year. When I first sat down to do this list, I thought I wouldn’t have as much to say as I did in 2007. But, as it turns out,  there was some good music in 2008 after all!

What’s Going On?: My favorite trend, by far, was the continued return to straight-up, old-school soul and R&B. Raphael Saadiq’s The Way I See It may have been derivative, but it complemented Obama’s Motown campaign soundtrack and subsequent win like no other album this year. There are lots of imitators out there: I’m not an Amy Winehouse fan (she’s too cartoonish), but give me Adele’s “Chasing Pavements,” and I’ll listen to it a thousand times. I also really dug Ne-Yo’s Year of the Gentleman, and Robin Thicke’s “Magic,” which cops Curtis Mayfield in the smoothest way. I loved John Legend’s Andre 3000 Green Light remix. Janelle Monae is great, but I can’t wait to see what she does next. And not related, but oh so good was Spearhead’s smart, funky All Rebel Rockers.

Britpop’s back: Although Oasis’s album was a bore and Travis pretended to be a rock band, the Verve’s Forth had some of Richard Ashcroft’s best material to date. James’s Hey Ma was a pleasant revamp, too, and Damon Albarn’s Monkey Journey to the West project proved to be a welcome distraction from the glut of Olympics coverage. Paul Weller’s 22 Dreams went virtually unnoticed in the US, yet it’s one of his strongest classic-rock-meets-roller-disco concoctions ever. I wore out Keane’s crazy 80s Perfect Symmetry the week it came out; The Kooks’ Konk was panned, but had some choice rave-ups I won’t soon forget.

Hot and Cold: I was indifferent about Coldplay’s Viva La Vida all summer, now I really love parts of it. I worshipped Jakob Dylan’s Rick Rubin-produced Seeing Things last spring but now get sleepy when I hear it. Aimee Mann’s Smilers deserved my great review in Newsweek, but I rarely play it anymore.

Indie fatigue: If I had to sit through one more show by a pseudo-intellectual band of bearded boys who hadn’t bathed in a week, I thought I would puke, so I rebelled against a bunch of “cool” music this year, opting instead to find undiscovered treasures on MySpace (Molly Bancroft’s Love Thieves) or local acts such as Judi Chicago. That said, I couldn’t filter out obviously great records from Cold War Kids, TV on the Radio, the Walkmen, and Okkervil River.

No one believes it: Truly one of the best — if not the very best — album of 2008 was John Mellencamp’s Life Death Love and Freedom. Go ahead and laugh, but this T-Bone Burnett-produced gem is heartbreakingly good.

Unreleased: My two absolute favorite songs haven’t even been released yet (Colin Devlin’s “Refuge” and I Blame Coco’s “Silencio”), so look for those to top my list in 2009.

OK, so let’s get to it:

My Ten Favorite Songs of 2008:

Chasing Pavements by Adele

Love That Girl by Raphael Saadiq

All I Needed by Love Thieves (Molly Bancroft and Adrianne Gonzales)

Lovers in Japan/Reign of Love by Coldplay

Green Light by John Legend

Longest Days by John Mellencamp

A Ride Back Home by John Mellencamp

To Be Happy Now by Copeland

Better Than This by Keane

Magic by Robin Thicke

The COOLEST Songs of 2008:

After Hours by We Are Scientists

Transliterator by DeVotchka

In the New Year by the Walkmen

Fools by the Dodos

Lost Coastlines by Okkervil River

People C’mon by the Delta Spirit

Kenya Dig It by Ruby Suns

I’ve Seen Enough by Cold War Kids

English House by Fleet Foxes

Top Five FUN Songs of 2008

You’ll Find a Way by Santogold

That’s What You Get by Paramore

Solo Impala by the Fashion

Kim & Jessie by M83

5 Years Time by Noah and The Whale

Best moody and/or chill and/or groovy songs of 2008:

Set Me Free by The Heavy

The Contender by Menehan Street Band

Something to Behold by the Foreign Exchange

Many Moons by Janelle Monae

Nobody by Ne-Yo

Best Remake:

Love is a Stranger by Martha Wainwright

Best Top-40 ish Hit Single:

Pocketful of Sunshine by Natasha Bedingfield

The Ten BEST Songs from Britain:

Appalachian Spring by the Verve

My Mistakes Were Made for You by the Last Shadow Puppets

Mercy by Duffy

Perfect Symmetry by Keane

Burberry Blue Eyes by Razorlight

Empty Ring by Paul Weller

Down to the Market by the Kooks

One Day Like This by Elbow

The Five BEST Songs released in 2008 that could have sucked but turned out to be really good:

Will It Grow by Jakob Dylan

Jena by John Mellencamp

You Didn’t Have to by the Pretenders

Great Day by Lindsey Buckingham

Seven of Sundays by Curt Smith (former Tears for Fears)

Best Song That Just Wouldn’t Die:

Who Knew? by Pink (from 2006)

Best Comeback Song:

Freeway by Aimee Mann

Honorable Mention/ Best of the Rest:

Don’t Let It Get You by Inara George

It’s a Lot by the 88

Lover’s Day by TV on the Radio

Baby I’m Just a Fool by Spiritualized

Soundsystem by Spearhead

My President by Young Jeezy

Thoughts & Prayers by Ron Sexsmith

Little Bird by the Weepies

Love is Noise by The Verve

The Things I Do by Teddy Thompson

I Don’t Want to Grow Up by Scarlett Johansson

I Still Care for You by Ray LaMontagne

Inside a Boy by My Brightest Diamond

Tomorrow by Ladytron


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