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Saturday, December 20, 2008

LHNA's Almost 60 best songs of 2008

1. Hannah & Sam - Who's Bitten You or Trouble on an Iceberg

[E] Last year we didn’t have a blog, but I made a Best Songs of 2007 list anyway, that I shared with a couple of friends on my then still existent MySpace page. The list, containing one hundred songs, was organized alphabetically. However, in my mind, I had no doubt about what my absolute favorite was and, had I made the effort to rank the songs according to preference, Of Montreal’s “The Past Is a Grotesque Animal” would have inevitably gotten the top spot. This year there was no clear number one. Any song from our top five, perhaps even from our top ten, could have easily been our favorite of 2008. We fell for the harmonies on White Winter Hymnal and sung along to Fleet Foxes ad nauseam, we loved Kevin Barnes’ lyrics on Gallery Piece, especially when they so unnervingly approached schizophrenia with a smile, we danced like maniacs to the infectious melodies of Johnny Foreigner, and we were touched by Drew Danburry, who put the most perfect I Love You into a few handclaps. So why did Who’s Bitten You get the crown? Well, simply because Hannah & Sam is the most underrated band of 2008. Plenty of you loved the Of Montreal or Sigur Rós albums, many of you voted White Winter Hymnal as song of the year on Pitchfork, and probably all of you have at some point found yourselves bellowing “so live your life ooo ooo ooo”. But almost none of you, damn it, have ever been swept away by the blend of innocence and otherworldliness that 17-year-olds Hannah and Sam have put into their songs. H&S only have 44 listeners according to Last.fm, and that pisses us off. So we’ve made it our mission to let you, dear readers, know what you’re missing. To quote S. when he first wrote about them: “Their music sounds like tin cans, jelly donuts, sprinklers, bottle caps and sunny Saturday mornings. Picture The Moldy Peaches without the mold and The Lucksmiths with a bit more luck[...]I arrived home late last night, drunk on the stars, and fell in love with them immediately. And in the morning, I loved them even more.” That was 4 months ago, and we love them more than ever.

2. Of Montreal – Gallery Piece

[E] “I want to slap your face/I want to paint your nails. I want to make you scream/I want to braid your hair. I want to tell you lies/ I want to write you books. I want to scratch your cheeks/I want to be your only friend” Now this fictional character that’s thinking all this...I’m still not sure whether he has a serious split-personalities problem or whether he’s just a typical (jealous) man in love. I’m still not sure whether I’d want to stay as far away from him as possible, or jump into his arms and tell him I’ll love him forever. I’m not sure if he’s supposed to be the villain or the hero of the story. I’m not sure of anything really apart from the fact that I’m totally fascinated by this character and that I’m completely in love with this song.

3. Johnny Foreigner - Salt, Peppa And Spinderella

[S] Johnny makes some incredible music, seemingly inspired by the fact that, as a foreigner (I’m not sure where he’s from), he feels like an outsider. His lyrics appear to express the feeling that others don’t understand him and he in turn finds it hard to relate to others. In my opinion, his apparent affection for 90s R&B mega act Salt n’ Peppa might also well be to blame. Whichever it is, … -

Oh, hang on… I just Googled ‘Johnny Foreigner’ and it would appear I was mistaken. Johnny Foreigner is the name of the band! Well, just download this song immediately anyway.

4. Fleet Foxes – White Winter Hymnal

"I was following the pack all swallowed in their coats with scarves of red tied ’round their throats

to keep their little heads from fallin’ in the snow and I turned ’round and there you go

And, Michael, you would fall and turn the white snow red as strawberries in the summertime..."

5. Cassettes Won't Listen - Freeze and Explode

Wish we all could.

6. Culture Reject - Inside the Cinema

"I wanna get home, I wanna get stoned."

7. T.I. - Live Your Life ft Rihanna

[S] Full disclosure compels me to admit: Letters have no Arms is a total sucker for super produced über dancepop R&B. Justin and Nelly Furtado have already been played to death at LHNA headquarters, as has this sparkling, yodelling, vocodering, all-conquering, track. Just livin my life (ay), my life (oh), my life (ay), my life (oh)!

8. A Silver mt. Zion – blindlindblind

[E] I don't like long songs. Animal Collective might sound great at times but every time the track exceeds 5 minutes in length I can't help but think "Guys! Surely you could've done without that third instrumental part! And that's the 9th time you played that riff!". And though, like every blogger on the planet, I enjoyed Panda Bear's "Bros" , I thought it could have done with some editing. In fact, extra length annoys me even more when I really like the song. It's like a book that you love but feel that those extra 200 pages added nothing to it, and in fact partly ruined it for you. At 13 minutes and 17 seconds, blindblindblind never seems to get too long. That endless rendition of "Some hearts are true!" at the end is pure bliss to my ears and could go on for ever as far as I'm concerned.

9. Drew Danburry - Lynette I Love You

"When I was three you came to me; you had a popsicle with two sticks so we could split right in the middle"

Good start for a love story huh?

10. Sigur Ros – Gobbledigook

[S] Sigur Ros live in a gingerbread castle built at the very top of Iceland. It’s surrounded by a cotton candy moat and guarded by a troupe of dancing bears. There’s a clock far up on the highest tower, which sheds a single sweet tear each and every day at the strike of 12.]

11. Magnetic Fields - Please Stop Dancing

[S] Stephin, Stephin, Stephin, how I wish I could take away your pain! Make you happy! Put a smile on that pretty face of yours! But wait! Surely if you were contented, happy even, you’d cease making these sorrowful, yet wonderful pieces of sheer beauty!? ‘Please keep dancing in my head…’? Sorry, Stephin…

12. Why? – The Hollows

"This goes out to all my under brewed double duped two times true fools

(stuck faking a phone call or texting for company)"

13. Lil Wayne – Shoot Me Down

[S] Lil Wayne brought out the metaphor this year. ‘Best new hip hop act’ was tossed around here and there. Nonsense of course, but he sure as hell put a few huge smiles on my face this year. Just try the falsetto part on this song. Really, go ahead! See?

14. Pete & the Pirates - Mr. Understanding

[E] If you knew me you’d maybe know the story of my catching Emmy the Great, Slow Club, Eugene McGuiness and Pete & the Pirates live at The Social last year, two days before Christmas.The story is long, and it involves, amongst other things, attempting and failing to steal one of their Santa hats, and then being offered one anyway after exasperating circling of the stage during their rendition of Silent Night. “What do you want it for anyway?” asked the baffled guitarist. “As a memento”, I said – a dead giveaway, if he hadn’t already noticed, that I’m not a Londoner, and thus still impressed enough after listening to Pete & the Pirates play to want to keep their Santa hats. You might rightly think that I’m too impressionable in the first place. Well, yeah maybe but... [guy next to me after frantically scribbling into a notebook throughout the whole duration of the set]: “They’re fuckin’ brilliant aren’t they? I spend all my time going to gigs when I’m not working. This is the 100th one for this year – a Christmas present to myself. And I write about the bands as I watch them, see?. Haven’t heard such catchy songs in a while - did you see the crowd?!” He looked like he wouldn’t have minded a Santa hat himself.

15. Los Campesinos! - Knee Deep at ATP

[E] "It's not what you like, it's what you're like as a person", Los Campesinos! bellow, quoting from High Fidelity, and you’re sitting there flabbergasted. What?? Since when did listening to cool bands stop making you cool? Apparently, the story goes like this: Gareth Campesinos meets girl at festival. Boy and girl spend the day talking about cool indie bands and doing things that cool indie people do (which basically means talking about even more obscure bands). Only afterwards... “I found out she had a boyfriend, and hadn't mentioned it. Which made me feel awful, and got me thinking that so long as I value people according to what bands they like I am making myself expendable. Because there will always be somebody who likes the same bands as me, but is vastly more attractive or can drive or is a less fussy eater.” Now wait just a minute here. Knee Deep at ATP might be selling itself as a hymn against indie snobbery, but let’s face it: there’s no band that perpetuates said snobbery more than LC. Gareth’s lyrics are a lot like Lemony Snicket’s writing: postmodern, self-conscious, and full of cultural references. Here’s a band that advised us not to read Jane Eyre, that is “trying to find the perfect match between pretentious and pop”, and that predicted that “the international tweexcore underground will save us all”. A band that sings about C90 cassettes, K Records, mix tapes, Tony Cascarino, Breakfast Club characters, and Venus de Milo. In writing Knee Deep at ATP Gareth wrote a song in which he essentially mocks himself: he mocks himself for judging people according to how well they master the English grammar, he mocks himself for being impressed by people’s record collections and musical knowledge, he mocks himself for being so immersed into the whole music culture that he can’t resist naming the mocking-song itself after another cool indie song. And if you thought “Shit! I’m like that. Is he saying I’m just pretentious, vain, and shallow?” worry not. There’s still a little wink hidden in all that mockery; a wick that says: I know it’s wrong, but I’ll still like you more if you listen to Camera Obscura.

16. Lykke Li - Dance Dance Dance

[S] Lykke is clearly the product of a European English education. Why, you ask? Her pronunciation of dance made several hundred years of Americanisation of English all the more glaring. Hell, she even got Bon Iver to sing it her way! ‘Dance Dance Dance!’

17. Slow Club - Slow Club Summer Shakedown

"I'm looking for a pair of binoculars so I don't have to get so close, because that's when the most casualties


18. The Sound of Arrows - Winding Roads

"You deserve a prize, don't you know it?"

19. The Deer Tracks - Slow Collision

[E] I said: “We're getting tons of songs and band recommendations e-mailed to us so we try our best to listen to them all. It's not that often that we find something as good as this, though. Beautiful.” At the time I’d only heard two or three of their songs; now, after having heard the whole album I’m surer than ever than everyone should listen to this. Buy it for your friends, or family. Buy it for yourselves. Give it away as a Christmas present. Really, there’s no way you can’t go wrong with this, especially in wintertime. Some albums sound like summer, some others - like this one, were surely meant to be heard when the snow is falling.

20. Sister Suvi - The Lot

[E] This song is perfectly haunting. That’s all I’ll say.

21. Wildbirds & Peacedrums - The Battle in Water

"Maybe baby I will end you now because you're near..."

22. The Ting Tings - Be the One

[S] Ting Tings. Yep, you know, that girl with the funny cute teeth and the anonymous leather clad dude in the back. Toured the whole of Europe, playing at venues much better than their (one) album warranted. Went number 1 in the UK? Yep, them. They probably won’t be here next year, but I’m glad they were this year, even if just for this song.

23.Dan Le Sac vs Scroobius Pip – Thou Shalt Always Kill

[S] The question of which one’s Dan, and which one Scroobius is made irrelevant by lyrics like these:

‘No matter how great they are, or were, the Beatles were just a band.
Led Zeppelin , just a band.
The Beach Boys , just a band..
The Sex Pistols , just a band.
The Clash , just a band.
Crass , just a band.
Minor Threat , just a band.
The Cure , just a band.
The Smiths , just a band.
Nirvana , just a band.
The Pixies, just a band.
Oasis , just a band.
Radiohead , just a band.
Bloc Party , just a band.
The Arctic Monkeys, just a band.
"The next big thing", just a band.’

No wonder these guys aren’t popular in Europe…

24. Cloud Cult – Everybody Here is a Cloud

"Everybody here is a cloud and everybody here will evaporate

You came up off the ground from a million little pieces

Have you found where your place is?"

25. Margot & The Nuclear So & So's - Mariel's Brazen Overture/ There's Talk of Mine Shafts

[E] In fact these are two songs. I put them together because one is a sequel to the other, and thus to listen to only one is to know but half the story. We had presented them thus: “...two beautiful songs that are not to be found on the properly released Not Animal. Both are duets and they tell the story of one Mariel and one Martin: their relationship, their conflicts, and their imperfect life together.” In the meanwhile we got a very helpful comment from a reader which informed us that Mariel and Martin are in fact mice, and character in a series of books called Redwall. Now listen to the songs with this in mind and tell me can a pair of songs get more adorable?

26. Kanye West – Anyway (ft Kid Cudi)

27. Au Revoir Simone - Sad Song (Pacific Remix)

Rare occasion where remix is even better than original.

28. The Rural Alberta Advantage - The Ballad of the RAA


29. Fuck Buttons – Sweet Love for Planet Earth

30. Chairlift – Bruises

I tried to do handstands for you...

Some of the major-label stuff we didn't add mp3s because we don't want our post disappearing again. Songs that we knew last year don't count, which explains the absence of, for instance, Daddy's Gone, Kids, Run to Your Grave, Homecoming, 5 years Time, or Skinny Love. Thanks for reading, and leave a comment if you liked it, we appreciate it.


Steven B. said...

Zip file (sorry, we missed 2 songs)


Alex said...

You guys delivered the goods:D

Jon Wolf said...

Great list, thank you!

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