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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Noah and the Whale | Union Pool | 9.16.2008

Notw_UP "We're breaking our own rules tonight," admitted Noah and the Whale singer Charlie Fink. "Normally, there are no electric guitars or crash cymbals but as we're in America we thought we'd rock out a little." Of course, "rock out" is a relative term with a band like Noah and the Whale who spend most of their time on the twee side of a genre (folk pop) that's already pretty gentle, what with the harmonium and violin.

This was Noah and the Whale's first NYC show, the same date as the Stateside release of their debut album, and you could tell by the smiles on their faces that they were psyched to be playing here. The feeling was mutual as the Londoners charmed the pants off the crowd who seemed to me more genuine fans than cross-armed industry types. Great show.

Augmented with a horn section, they gave us pretty much the entirety of their debut, Peaceful, the World Lays Me Down, plus two new songs, one of which ("If We Sold a Million") was from a second album the band recorded in three days, that Fink described as their "punk album" but, again, that's only relative to the band. Many, including me, thought we might get an appearance by Laura Marling, who played the night before at Bowery Ballroom. She sings on their UK hit "Five Years Time" and Fink produced her debut album. But no luck, instead opener Lindi Ortega came out to sing backup.

I was curious to see how "Five Years Time" would go over. One of the catchiest songs of the year, it's so hooky and sunny and whistle-filled that the burnout factor is high, especially when it's also in a Saturn comercial that seems to air constantly. Yet when the opening ukelele hit, everyone perked up and it was definitely one of highlights of the show. Never count out a perfect pop song.

MP3: Noah and the Whale – Give a Little Love (buy it)

The show ended with a cover of "Girlfriend in a Coma," one of the better Smiths covers I've heard. I shot video:

New York has three more chances to see Noah and the Whale. They also play anti-folk homebass Sidewalk Cafe on Thursday, and then at Virgin Megastore on Saturday afternoon and Mercury Lounge on Saturday night (sold out). And then more U.S. dates:

Sep 18 Sidewalk Cafe (FREE SHOW)     New York, NY
Sep 19 Virgin Megastore (12:30pm)
Sep 19 Mercury Lounge     New York, NY
Sep 20 Newbury Comics     Boston/Norwood, Massachusetts
Sep 20 Toad (FREE SHOW)     Boston, MA
Sep 22 The Saint (FREE SHOW)     Montreal, Que
Sep 23 Horseshoe Tavern (FREE SHOW)     Toronto, ONT
Sep 25 Av-Aerie (ALL AGES)     Chicago, IL
Sep 26 Reckless Records (Instore)     Chicago, Illinois
Sep 26 Empty Bottle     Chicago, IL
Sep 29 Chop Suey (FREE SHOW)     Seattle, WA
Sep 30 Doug Fir (FREE SHOW)     Portland, OR
Oct 2 Amoeba Music (Instore)     San Francisco, California
Oct 2 Pop Scene at 330 Ritch     San Francisco, CA
Oct 4 Detour Festival     Los Angeles, CA
Oct 6 Spaceland (FREE SHOW)     Los Angeles, CA

Thar They Blow: Noah and the Whale Hit America Next Month

Warning: they really do dress like that all the time.
After canceling their Stateside visit that was planned around Lollapalooza, UK blue-loving neo-folkies Noah and the Whale have finally figured out their first U.S. tour with ten dates in the usual places, including three NYC dates. One of those is at, believe it or not, the Sidewalk Cafe — birthplace of the '90s antifolk scene that gave us Jeffrey Lewis, Cindy Lee Berryhill and Beck. It's a tiny venue for a band with a current UK Top Ten Hit, the lovely "5 Years Time" which is actually playing in a Saturn car commercial as I type this. (True!) They are admitted Jeffrey Lewis fans so I wonder if they didn't ask to play there specifically the way some singers used to want to play The Bitter End or the Bottom Line because Dylan did.

The band's very good debut album, Peaceful the World Lays Me Down, was supposed to come out over here at the end of last month but is now scheduled for September 16, the day before their first U.S. show at Union Pool which will be a lovely place to see them. Hopefully they will sell advance tickets to that one.

MP3: Noah and the Whale – Shape Of My Heart

Those tour dates:
9/17 Union Pool, Brooklyn
9/18 Sidewalk Cafe, NYC
9/19 Mercury Lounge, NYC
9/20 TOAD, Boston MA
9/26 Empty Bottle, Chicago, IL
9/29 The Sunset, Seattle, WA
9/30 Doug Fir Lounge, Portland, OR
10/02 Pop Scene, San Francisco, CA
10/04 Detour Festival, Los Angeles
10/06 Spaceland, Los Angeles

Noah and the Whale shows Canceled

Well this is a bummer. London’s blue-clad folkies, Noah and the Whale, were supposed to be playing some NYC shows (Mercury Lounge, Union Hall) while they were coming over for Lollapalooza but have now canceled them, though they are still currently on the bill for the big fest in Chicago.

Too bad, because they were good when I saw them at SXSW, despite being prepared to dislike them, and their singles leading up to their upcoming debut album, Peaceful the World Lays Me Down, which is due out July 29 in the U.S. (Two weeks ahead of its UK bow, strangely enough.) The new single “5 Years Time” is kind of irresistible and has already been used in a UK car commercial. I can tell you right now that it will be the lead track on the next Summer Fridays mix. But here it is now too:

MP3: Noah and the Whale – 5 Years Time

And here’s the cute video that is obviously Wes Anderson influenced but not to the point of shamelessness. (Unlike,say, Vampire Weekend.):