Monday, December 29, 2008

The Year That Was, Part Deux

What makes a song great? Is it the lyrics? The arrangement? I find that songs that create moments all have an undefinable quality about them; they have it. There's just something extra that takes a good song, and makes it great. Some songs are good, and have a spectacular moment that pushed them into greatness territory. Others are just incredibly solid, with no specific moment to pinpoint as the reason for greatness. Whatever the reason, here are the songs that defined my 2008 (along with some random videos):

10.Bon Iver-Lump Sum
A relatively fast paced song (at least by Bon Iver's standards), this song is driving, almost rocking. The bass drum that propels it throughout the duration almost sounds electronic. And, oddly enough, it doesn't sound sunny at in the least. But in a good way.

9.AA Bondy-American Hearts
A simple, acoustic strummer with vocals and the occasional harmonica, it's a Dylanesque song that seems to be anti-war at some points. AA Bondy is a master at taking something simple and making it sound amazing.

8.Coldplay-Reign Of Love
I'm not quite sure why Coldplay decided to make this a split track with Lovers In Japan holding up the first half (essentially, they're two songs that were, for whatever reason, put on the same track, with a pause of a few seconds in between the two). An echoey, piano based ballad, this song has front man Chris Martin doing what he does best.

7.Conor Oberst-Lenders In The Temple
Nothing but an acoustic guitar, subtle organ, and Conor's wonderfully wobbly voice. Oh, and the lyrics are spectacular too. But what else would you expect from this guy?

6.Fleet Foxes-Tiger Mountain Peasant Song
A simple, acoustic based ballad, this song makes me feel like I'm walking through an English forest with a troubadour walking beside me, strumming his guitar and singing. The ending, when the song fades into oblivion, is quite haunting.

5.Okkervil River-Starry Stairs
Will Sheff is possibly my favorite lyricist out there right now. His words tell stories and weave together in amazingly creative ways. What makes this song great, though, is the sparkling guitars and unexpected, but right at home, horn section (although they're absent in this video, it's still awesome).

4.Bon Iver-Skinny Love
This was really the first song that made me realize that with Bon Iver, we had something a little different on our hands. A bitter breakup song worthy of John Lennon's best work, this song is a biting response to the injustices of the world, as Justin Vernon sees it.

3.Ryan Adams And The Cardinals-Evergreen
A lazy, laid back folk song that proves that I'm a sucker for brushed drums and acoustic based songs. This song doesn't provide anything out of the ordinary, but maintains such a relaxed vibe that you can't help but slip into the feeling.

2.Fleet Foxes-Ragged Wood
An upbeat, finger-picked guitar and a steady drum shuffle drive this song. Fleet Foxes' signature three way harmonies are at full force here.

1.Ryan Adams And The Cardinals-Stop
Ryan Adams has written plenty of piano ballads over the years, and some of them are pretty good. He's never reached this level though. He takes a cliched subject (getting through rehab) and makes it sound fresh and original. Also, this song has a moment; at exactly the 4 minute, 15 second mark the strings that kicked in shortly before play a specific note, and for whatever reason, the sound makes me want to laugh, scream, and cry, all at the same time. I assume that's a good thing.

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