Soundbites Best of 2008 | Singles, Tracks + EPs


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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Swervedriver + Dirty on Purpose | Bowery Ballroom | 6.11.2008

.Swerved_bowery There were not a lot of girls at Bowery Ballroom last night. It shouldn't have been that surprising to me. Swervedriver have always been a Dudes Band. But I hadn't been to such a dude-heavy show in a long time. And, as you often get with shows by veteran band, you could tell a lot of the dudes hadn't been to a show in a long time. I texted my friend Don before they started: "There are like 10 girls here. Five are bartenders, the rest are here against their will." I was excited to see Swervedriver's first NYC show in ten years, but all this, um, dudeness was freaking me out. A bit. At one point I thought it might be funny to take pictures of all the women at the show and ask them what they got out of the deal for agreeing to come to the show. Might be funny for the blog, right? The ladies perspective.

But then Swervedriver came out and just killed it. Like the last ten years never happened. Jaw-droppingly, why-aren't-you-still-a-band-and-making-records good. And maybe it's just the decade that's passed, but they almost seemed better than I remembered. Swervedriver's sound hasn't dated I don't think — it's the sound of vapor trails off hot desert pavement, or after-burners on a spaceship. On songs like the slow-burn "Duress" it felt like gravity lost its grip on us just a little bit. The band was clearly into it as much as the crowd. Adam Franklin is a cool dude, looking more like Geoffrey Wright having long-since shaved off his signature dreads, and didn't say more than ten word to the crowd the whole show but he had a smile on his face every time he did. Dudes win.

MP3: Swervedriver- Duress 

Swervedriver play tonight at Music Hall of Williamsburg. It's sold out but if it's anything like last night's show, there will likely be people selling tickets outside. And probably a few available at the door. If you were on the fence about seeing them, I can say without hesitation… go.

Dop_bowery Dirty on Purpose were about as close to perfect an opening band as you could find. There's definitely a throughline from Swervedriver to DoP's effect-laden sound, especially in guitarist George Wilson's whammy-bar, guitar-manhandling style — which was in full effect on the set-closing instrumental "Monument." No matter how similar their styles were, a few impatient types in the crowd couldn't help themselves and shouted 'SWERVEDRIVER!" throughout the set, to which guitarist Joe Jurewicz responded. "Swervedriver are on next. Maybe you want to wait to wait downstairs in the bar till they're on."

Double Bill of the Week

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention this Friday’s show at Mercury Lounge featuring two of New York’s best "dream pop" bands (trying to avoid the S-word). Headliners Dirty on Purpose haven’t played, aprart from opening for Band of Horses on Valentine’s Day, for five months or so, though they’ve been plenty busy. January saw the release of their great Like Bees EP while also releasing a free, digital-only EP,Dead Volcanoes, through, albiet in drips and drabs. The latter has been interesting to hear as it really finds the band stretching out and trying new things. I’m told that the final song they’ve yet to post is unlike anything they’ve ever done before (and George takes the rare lead vocals). Meanwhile, of the three that are currently available, I really like "The Thing About Getaways" and "Hard to Tell You" which sounds a bit like Luna covering "Crimson and Clover." (Nice spot, Sung Bin.) Friday is also bassist DJ Boudreau’s birthday, so be sure to buy him a shot… after the show, please.

Mahogany, meanwhile, have been laying low since releasing the masterful Connectivity! in 2006. I don’t think they’ve played a show since last summer. Their Myspace hasn’t really been updated since then either, so who knows what they have in store for us. Maybe some more of Connectivity!, as most of the shows I saw them play for that album were only about five songs deep. But they made up for it with the two-drummer, multiple guitarists and keyboardists and vocalists attack. And "Supervitesse" has yet to get old for me.

This is kind the 2008 equivalent of Ride and the Pale Saints touring together (which they did way back a licensed driver ago). It’s just one show, but still a perfect match. Tickets are $10 and will probably sell out before Friday I’d imagine.

In other Dirty on Purpose news, "Audience in the Room" from Like Bees can currently be heard in a Virgin Mobile commercial. (And I still think their cover of "Send Me an Angel" would be perfect for Gossip Girl.) Meanwhile, drummer Doug Marvin (who sings lead on "Getaways") has a solo project, Purse Snatchers, with some help from his wife Annie who plays in Au Revoir Simone when she’s not judging potential New York Noise VJs. The Purse Snatchers album, To Feet of Snow, is full of the pretty melodies and gentle singing athat Marvin brings to the songs he pens for Dirty on Purpose. There’s just more of them. And one of them is available on

MP3: Dirty on Purpose – Audience in the Room
(from Like Bees)

MP3: Mahogany – Springtime, Save Our Country
(from Connectivity!)

Dirty on Purpose | Music Hall of Williamsburg | 9.28.2007

Dop_mhow01Any post I write about Dirty on Purpose is going to be a little biased as they are friends of mine. But I would be a fan even if that wasn’t the case I would like them — their melodic, shoegazer pop hits all my buttons — and I genuinely think they just keep getting better.

Friday was the last night of their tour with Fujiya & Miyagi and their first time playing at Music Hall of Williamsburg. This was easily the best sounding gig of theirs I’d ever attended. MHoW’s sound system is state-of-the-art, and Dirty on Purpose sounded epic. Arena even. Guitars roared and chimed. Yet everything was crystal clear, the bass and drums, everything where it should be… maybe the vocals were a little low but that always seems to be a problem with them. DoP are a band of quiet singers.

Despite being openers it was clear there were plenty of people there to see them — it was a hometown audience and all. A set full of crowd pleasers — "No Radio," "Marfa Lights," "Car No-Driver" — plus a new one (the tremolo-heavy "Audience") from their upcoming Like Bees EP, another new one that I don’t think they’ve recorded yet, and their cover of Real Life’s synth-pop hit "Send Me an Angel" which they’ve been doing for about a year.

The latter I’m sure started as a joke but over the last six months or some has really come into its own and is now genuinely awesome, with George Wilson’s guitars going into freakout overdrive. It’s still dancey, a little gothy, but with that MBV treatment to it. It would sound brilliant on Gossip Girl in one of the show’s many over-the-top party scenes… someone get Alex Patsavas a copy of the EP now.

MP3: Dirty on Purpose – Send Me an Angel

Fujiya & Miyagi | Music Hall of Wiliamsburg | 9.28.2007

Fm01This was my third time seeing Fujiya & Miyagi this year and they were good as always, had most of the crowd dancing throughout their set — still no easy task at a rock club.

The set felt almost exactly the same as F&M’s seaport gig earlier this summer, kicking off with "Ankle Injuries" and hitting some of their more Krautrock-y material before getting to the funky stuff — "Transparent Things," "Colorbone" and "Uh."

I would’ve liked to have heard a new song, but I didn’t really mind as I really enjoy watching guitarist David Best and bassist Matt Hainsby play their instruments. Hainsby is so good at laying it down, his playing is impossibly groovy. He knows his funk. And Best has a distinctive style, very minimal, somewhere between Prince and Andy Gill, where every note counts. Now if they’d just get a drummer… which I’m told they’re in the process of doing so and will debut as a four-piece next year. New album or no, that would alone warrant seeing them again.

Buy Fujiya & Miyagi’s Transparent Things