Soundbites Best of 2008 | Singles, Tracks + EPs

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So here's my list of best singles, album tracks, and EPs from 2008. Unlike my Best Albums List, songs that were from a 2007 album but were released as singles in 2008 are eligible. But single reissues are not. (Which is why "Time to Pretend," Friendly Fires and Pacific are absent from my list.) With the concept of the "album" diminishing in this world of digital downloads, singles are becoming more important. I'm not calling the death knell for the Album, but if groups whose music leans toward the poppy and immediate side of things wanted to just release singles or EPs every couple months instead of a full-length, I'd be okay with it. As I've said before singles are ephemeral in nature, and though I've hit my yearly limit on a few of the songs on this list, there was certainly a period of time in 2008 where all 50 of these were stuck on repeat.

1. Mystery Jets feat. Laura Marling – Young Love (MP3) (Video)
The most inventive, deceptively simple (but actually kind of crazy complex; listen to all the little flourishes), repeatedly-rewarding pop song of the year. Great video too.

2. Metronomy – Heartbreaker (MP3) (Video)
Fantastic bassline + creaky doors + whistling = my second favorite song of the year.

3. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – Everything With You (MP3) (Video)
A great big hug wrapped in a fuzzy indie pop sweater.    

4. Violens – Violent Sensation Descends (MP3
Loud Quiet Loud as has never quite been done like this before. I can't wait for their full-length.

5. Dizzee Rascal w/ Calvin Harris – Dance Wiv Me (MP3) (Video)
I've never been much of a Dizzee fan, but add Calvin's '80s-style production and you've got a dancefloor killer.

6. Sam Sparro – Black and Gold (Video)
The rest of this album does nothing for me but "Black and Gold"'s glammy throb is irresistible.

7. TV on the Radio – Golden Age (Video)
2008 was the year of Change and TVotR made the perfect soundtrack. This is the sound of hope with a good beat.

8. Sexy Kids – Sisters Are Forever (MP3)
Just try not to bounce 'round the room while listening to this slice of Scottish pop perfection a la Altered Images.

9. Esser – Headlock (MP3) (Video)
Effervescent single, ridiculously catchy, like superballs set free inside a perpetual motion machine… yet loaded with downer lyrics like "I've got a problem, it's called living." Perfect.

10. Summer Cats – Lonely Planet (MP3) (Video)

Like the Rosebuds backed by Stereolab, Australia's Summer Cats put a sunny coat of paint on the krauty VU groove. 

11. Metronomy – A Thing for Me (MP3) (Video)
I could put almost all of Metronomy's Nights Out on this list, but restrained myself at two. Be sure to check out the video to this one.

12. David Byrne & Brian Eno – Strange Overtones (MP3
Too bad the rest of the Byrne/Eno album didn't deliver on the promise of this great single.

13. Sky Larkin – Fossil, I (Video)
Old school indie rock done with vim and vigor by this Leeds, UK trio. Vim and vigor? Really. Just listen to the song. It rocks. 

14. Lykke Li – Little Bit (Video)
Lykke Li's coquettish delivery slightly disguises just how hot this is.

15. Ida Maria – Queen of the World (MP3) (Video)
One of the most joyous songs ever about being smashed on whiskey.

16. MGMT – Kids (Video)
Hate their fashion, hate their friends, hate their rich hippie-ness, but MGMT have some great songs. The hooks are undeniable!

17. Girls – Lust for Life / Morning Light (MP3) (MP3) (Video)
There are too many "Girl" groups right now, but I've got room for San Francisco's shoegaze folk rock wunderkinds. Especially on this double A-side.

18. Animal Collective – Water Curses EP (MP3) (Video)
Animal Collective have finally started to get poppy enough for me to genuine like them. Bring on Merriweather Post Pavillion!

19. Late of the Pier – Heartbeat (MP3) (Video)
One of the many "this shouldn't work" songs on LotP's great debut Fantasy Black Channel. Yet it does, brilliantly.

20. Vivian Girls – Tell the World (MP3) (Video)
Every time these girls open their mouths to the press, it's a disaster, but give 'em instruments and hard
to hold it against them. So many things in that sentence could be construed the wrong way.

21. Casiokids – Grønt Lys I Alle Ledd / Togens Hule (MP3) (Video)
You don't need to speak Norwegian to dig this double A-side. I imagine it would help, though. But not that much.

22. The Last Shadow Puppets – Standing Next to Me (MP3) (Video)
Alex Turner and Miles Kane seem a little young to already be going through their Jacques Brel/Scott Walker period, but that's also probably why it's as good as it is.

23. The Wild Beasts – The Devil's Crayon (MP3) (Video)
Not since the days of the Associates and the Triffids has pop attempted to be so grandiose… and successful at it. I must say I can't really stomach the resto of them album, but but "The Devil's Crayon" is a bullseye.

24. Adele – Cold Shoulder (Video)
I'll take Adele over Duffy any day… "Cold Shoulder" perfectly-produced soulful pop. Ronson-produced, natch.

25. Amazing Baby – Infinite Fucking Cross EP (download EP) (Video + Video)
Hated by Brooklynvegan commenters, loved by me. Harder, more-rocking Roxy Music? About as close to a good description as you can get with there pigeonhole-adverse Williamsburg residents.

26 – 50 after the jump…

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Calvin Harris | Bowery Ballroom | 4.28.2008

Calvin_bowery_spookyghostI really try not to be some sort of elitist, but the my elitism kicks in and I get annoyed. The crowd for Calvin Harris at Bowery was overrun with creased-brim ballcap bros and girls who looked like Heidi Montag? Had I somehow accidentally ended up at a Webster Hall club night? The opening DJ, Burns, made it seem like it, playing a predictable set that included "DVNO," "The Music Sounds Better With You," "Robot Rock," and Mylo’s "Drop the Pressure." What fresh hell was this?

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised Calvin Harris is popular beyond higher-than-thou types like myself. His songs are big, obvious dance tracks, made for maximum enjoyment and butt-shaking. Why would I be the only one to like it? Still, the bankers-n-babes crowd was annoying. But it all pretty much went away when Calvin took the stage. He’s a 6′ 5" party machine with a tight band and everyone pretty much ate it up. (I think last year’s show at Mercury Lounge was better, though. Again, the elitism.) There was a little too much crowd-pumping for my taste ("Come on New York!"), especially when it seemed people were pretty pumped as it was.

Save for four songs we got all of I Created Disco plus two new songs that seem like Calvin’s work with Kylie and Roisin Murphy has rubbed off on him. "Back Door" and "Jerusalem" were full-on Eurodisco, complete with sweeping strings and Haddaway-style piano and if the crowd’s reaction to them was any indication, just might kill off the jock-jam loving portion of his American fanbase. Bring it on.

Setlist: Conjoined Skin | Certified | Disco Heat | This Is The Industry | 80s | Merrymaking at My Place | Neon Rocks | Back Door | Jerusalem | Colours | Vegas. I
Created Disco | The Girls

MP3: Calvin Harris – Disco Heat
(buy I Created Disco)

Also in attendance: The Music Slut, Punk Photo, and Disconap.

I wasn’t really close enough to get good pictures, but I do like the one I took found above. Calvin’s all a blur but right in the middle of it is a clear-ish shot that looks like he’s staring straight at the camera. Spooky.

Calvin Harris | Mercury Lounge | 9.12.2007

CalvinmercuryCalvin Harris is as charismatic as he is tall. At 6’5", that’s a fair amount of charm. This was Calvin’s U.S. debut, his album I Created Disco hit our stores the day before — though it was obvious nearly everyone at the Mercury Lounge was well-versed with the songs and ready to dance. He didn’t disappoint the crowd.

And for someone of his height, he isn’t gangly in the least, rocking overtop of his keyboard, and bouncing around the stage, fully in control of his limbs. Obviously, he’s got control of his music. This was one of the most fun shows I’ve been to in a long time. I wasn’t the only one. The only quibble was he could’ve played maybe a bit longer, but the eight-song set hit all the album’s highlights. I stood on the stage left couch and watched at least the first two-third of the room bounce the entire time.

On that note, I’m actually kind of sick of hearing Brits (or Scots) say, "I hear NYC audiences never dance. They just stand there cross-armed." That may have been five years ago, when only journalists or serious Anglophiles knew about US debuts of UK acts, but in this Internet era, shows are filled with real fans. Calvin said he was shocked by the audience’s excitement, but I knew it would be good. And every time I thought, "OK, that’s the song everyone’s going to go bonkers for," they got more psyched for the next one. Setlist was, though not in this order; "Merry Making at My Place," "Colours," "Neon Rocks," "This is the Industry," "Acceptable in the ’80s," "The Girls," "Disco Heat" and "Vegas."

MP3: Calvin Harris – Vegas

A few more photos on Flickr. Loads of blogs were there, as you’d expect, including Music Snobbery, Disco Nap, The Music Slut, TheMusic.fm, My Headphones Y’all, Ugly Floral Blouse, Music for Robots (who DJ’d) and I’m sure more. I also shot some video, just little tidbits this time which I compiled together — "Acceptable in the ’80s," "This is the Industry," and "Vegas":

   

One final addendum. As grabbed a bite at Katz’s before the show, and on my way out I saw Calvin and a friend staring at the menu with bewilderment. I had to do my part as a good New Yorker and said, "get the pastrami sandwich." He and his friend were leaning toward a hot dog, but I said if you’re in Katz’s for the first time there’s only one thing to order. Later, as he walked past me toward the stage, he stopped and said it was an "ace choice"… or something. Calvin Harris — fueled by Katz’s.
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Calvin Harris Makes Merry at Mercury Lounge Sept. 12

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There are a lot of potential nominees for Party Record of the Year (LCD Soundsystem, Simian Mobile Disco, Justice, New Young Pony Club) but Calvin HarrisI Created Disco is certainly up there. Brash, funny, and funky (and ultimately disposable), it’s about as good a going out album are you’re likely to be listening to right now. All the more impressive when you learn it was made in Harris’ spare time on an old Amiga computer. (So the legend goes, at least.)

It sounds it too, minimal with rarely more than a beat, a bassline and the 23-year-old’s voice. And maybe a little synthesizer. The sound owes a whole lot to the year of his birth — from the single "Acceptable in the ’80s," to the Visage-cribbing "Colours," to his, at times, uncanny vocal resemblance to Phil Oakey. Released earlier this summer in the UK, I Created Disco gets its stateside debut September 4. A week later, Calvin makes his way here for his first US shows, including a stop at Mercury Lounge on September 12. Tickets are on sale now. He also plays The Echo in Los Angeles on the 14th. I kinda wish the NYC show was happening at Studio B, which seems more appropriate, but what are you gonna do.

Here’s the new UK single, "Merry Making at My Place," the second-best track ever to feature the repeated phrase "My house, my house."

MP3: Calvin Harris – Merry Making at My Place
(pre-order I Created Disco)

And the video: