It’s been said — and I’m assuming the source is fairly reliable — that our sense of smell is the most proficient of all our senses in triggering memories.  And while I’ll admit the smell of coconut escorts me back to the years between 1974 and 1980 when surfboard wax was as important to me as girls or to a certain ex-girlfriend’s skin, songs are able to locate me in a particular moment where the details — the quality of light, the temperature, my emotions — are uncannily specific.

Like many of you who love music, a soundtrack accompanies my life and I can map it out with memories that are inextricably intertwined with songs. I can remember as a kid sitting in my room with my three sisters and our crappy record player singing The Beatles’ “When I Saw Her Standing There” at the top of our lungs in preparation for a lip-synced performance for my parents, or listening to “Pulling Muscles from a Shell” by Squeeze at the age of 15 while sitting in my buddy Kurt’s station wagon after one of our countless surf sessions and not wanting to get out until the song was over, or singing Macy Gray’s “I Try” with a girlfriend before she was to head back to her home in Argentina, and countless others before, in between and since. And while they’re not grand or well documented moments like a marriage or the birth of a child, every time I hear the song that’s associated with them they come flooding back with such specificity, weight and color it’s almost dizzying.

Choosing my favorite songs of 2008 wasn’t that difficult.  Narrowing them down to just 50, well, that’s another story entirely, especially when I got closer to the bottom of the list.  Unlike a great album which is like a journey and dependent on the interplay between the songs, a song — for me at least — is more like an instantaneous happening that can succeed independently of what happens before or after it.  Even more importantly, perhaps, is that it never takes more than one listen to get it — I either connect with a song or I don’t… it’s that simple.

Some of these songs are from brilliant albums, while others simply shine brightly on their own.  Some might’ve been released as singles, some not.  In the end what makes a great song or a song that connects with you is difficult to say.  Is it the melody, the lyrics or the rhythm… perhaps a combination of two or all three of these things?   Certainly, what speaks to many of us, probably won’t speak to all of us and that’s a beautiful thing.  As I’ve said, my musical tastes are very eclectic and different things speak to me for different reasons — sometimes it’s hip-hop, sometimes it’s pop and sometimes it’s a supercharged rock song.  And while I can’t say which of these songs will hold the most nostalgic resonance with me in the long run, rest assured in 2008 they tickled my pickle.

The top 50 songs of 2008

1. “Gorgeous Behavior” by Marching Band from the album Spark Large
2.  “Blindsided” by Bon Iver from the album For Emma, Forever Ago
3.  “Backwards Walk” by Frightened Rabbit from the album The Midnight Organ
4.  “Halfway Home” by TV On The Radio from the album Dear Science
5.  “Charity Case” by Gnarls Barkley from the album The Odd Couple
6.  “Work It Out” by Jurassic 5 from the album Feedback
7.  “ManWomanBoogie” by Q-Tip from the album The Renaissance
8.  “Bruce Wayne Campbell Interviewed On The Roof Of The Chelsea” by Okkervil River from the album The Stand Ins
9.  “Do What You Do” by Noah and the Whale from the album Peaceful, The World Lays Me Down
10.  “Numerology” by Eef Barzelay from the album Lose Big
11.  “The Story I Heard” by Blind Pilot from the album 3 Rounds and a Sound
12.  “Transliterator” by DeVotchKa from the album A Mad And Faithful Telling
13.  “Many Things” by Seun Kuti & Fela’s Egypt 80 from the album Seun Kuti & Fela’s Egypt 80
14.  “Gobbledigook” by Sigur Rós from the album Með Suð Í Eyrum Við Spilum Endalaust
15.  “Lights & Music” by Cut Copy from the album In Ghost Colours
16.  “Raise Me Up” by Hercules And Love Affair from the album Hercules And Love Affair
17.  “Kids” by MGMT from the album Oracular Spectacular
18.  “Kim & Jessie” by M83 from the album Saturdays = Youth
19.  “Strange Overtones” by David Byrne and Brian Eno from the album Everything That Happens Will Happen Today
20.  “Kalise” by El Guincho from the album Alegranza
21.  “Criminal” by The Roots from the album Rising Down
22.  “The Shaded Forests” by Deastro from the album Keeper’s
23.  “Self Portrait With “Electric Brain”” by Stereolab from the album Chemical Chords
24.  “One (Blake’s Got A New Face)” by Vampire Weekend from the album Vampire Weekend
25.  “rr vs. d” by Au from the album Verbs
26.  “One Day Like This” by Elbow from the album The Seldom Seen Kid
27.  “Keep On Rolling” by Quiet Village from the album  Silent Movie
28.  “Tonight In Bilbao” by Sun Kil Moon from the album April
29.  “Lying In The Sun” by Koushik from the album Out My Window
30.  “¿Quién? (Suite)” by Juana Molina from the album Un Dia
31.  “Houston” by R.E.M. from the album Accelerate
32.  “Lost To The Lonesome” by Pela from the album Anytown Graffiti
33.  “Heretic Pride” by The Mountain Goats from the album    Heretic Pride
34.  “The ’59 Sound” by The Gaslight Anthem from the album The ’59 Sound
35.  “Nowheres Nigh” by Parts & Labor from the album Receivers
36.  “You! Me! Dancing!” by Los Campesinos! from the album Hold On Now, Youngster
37.  “Beat (Health, Life and Fire)” by Thao from the album We Brave Bee Stings and All
38.  “Walking” by the dodos from the album Visiter
39.  “No One Does It Like You” by Department Of Eagles from the album In Ear Park
40.  “Nothing Ever Happened” by Deerhunter from the album Microcastle
41.  “Blue Ridge Mountains” by Fleet Foxes from the album Fleet Foxes
42.  “Cape Canaveral” by Conor Oberst from the album Conor Oberst
43.  “Murder in the City” by The Avett Brothers from the album The Second Gleam
44.  “Shed Your Love” by The Helio Sequence from the album Keep Your Eyes Ahead
45.  “Tiger Phone Card” by Dengue Fever from the album Venus on Earth
46.  “Your New Twin Sized Bed” by Death Cab For Cutie from the album Narrow Stairs
47.  “Are You Lightning?” by Nada Surf from the album Lucky
48.  “Da Da Da Ich Lieb Dich Nicht Du Liebst Mich Nicht” by Senor Coconut from the album Around The World
49.  “Emerald” by Lusine from the EP Emerald EP
50.  “Lovers In Japan (Osaka Sun Mix)” by Coldplay from the EP Prospekt’s March EP


2 comments on “top 50 songs of 2008

  • Well, that’s what made the year so great… a lot of the best music was from debut records. I highly recommend checking them out. You won’t be disappointed.

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