Most people send Christmas cards (or Moses cards, I guess?). Then again, most people don't do many of the things that I think are generally hilarious - so instead of a silly photo and a list of all the ridiculous stuff I did this year, once again, everyone gets a mixtape. This is actually way better - this has much more to do with how my year went, anyway, and will be around long after memory has faded into Bolivian like Mike Tyson.
I had an incredible year - I mean that in the colloquial sense of "awesome or good or great or fun or cool" but also in the sense of "I'm actually incredulous that some of this actually happened." That's usually a good thing, but the roller-coaster nature of one of the weirdest years in American history is certainly reflected in the tape, just like everything else.
This is the year that rock made a comeback . . . kind of. I feel like the tape is more rock-oriented than years past, although obviously it's nerdy ass indie rock (you don't need me to make a tape of Beyonce tracks, even though "All The Single Ladies" is pretty fucking bomb) - don't read too much into the individual song choices, mostly out of convenience for me rather than any real inability to make a read. Just saying.
The rules are simple: I made it fit onto one standard-length (80 minute) CD, I picked the songs I liked most from this year, one per artist, and I didn't put them in any particular order (save the first track) other than some semblance of genre cohesion.
Download RC's 2008 Mixtape Here
-Okkervil River, "Lost Coastlines"
We'll start with the best song I heard all year - somehow, it manages to sound both sparse and lush, with perfect pacing. When the "La-la" chorus hits, it forms a perfect crescendo - unreal.
-Frightened Rabbit, "The Twist"
The best Scottish song about fucking since . . . ever? Anyone who has ever been to a bar or had so much as a single drop of alcohol can relate - and the music frames it perfectly, creating an additional sexual metaphor out of the arrangement, complete with pulsating piano line, drums as heartbeat, and orgasmic climax. The chorus - "So twist and whisper the wrong name/ I don't care, nor do my ears/ Twist yourself around me/ I need company, I need human heat/ I need human heat" - leads directly into a sort of mid-song denouement that sort of makes me poop myself. Amazing - I think I actually lived this song in the last year, which is both amazing and frightening. I'm mostly kidding by the way - feel free to laugh at that.
-The Gaslight Anthem, "Great Expectations"
The proliferation of "emo" as a genre has opened the door to a new emphasis on mainstream music with emotional ties . . . and these Jersey greasers manage to fuse Springsteen to the northeast punk/rockabilly tradition in the process. Who would have thought we'd be better off because of emo?
-And the Moneynotes, "My Kid Smokin'"
I have no idea what to do with these guys as a group, but this song is balls - featuring by far the best chorus of the year. Try not to sing along . . . especially when we all understand that "bros before hoes" (or the female equivalent) often isn't just a cliche - it's an admonition that perhaps mistakes were made.
-King Khan & the Shrines, "Welfare Bread"
So I put the two bands that sound fresh out of the Big Lebowski together, but in reality, they couldn't sound any different - this one is a massive Indian dude pretending to be Jerry Lee Lewis, kind of. Hilariously, I wrote up an entire note about the track "Torture" off the same album . . . not important. Seriously, this song makes me feel like The Dude, to the point where I'm ready to have a White Russian even though it's not even 11am yet.
-Four Year Strong, "Catastrophe"
Yeah . . . this track is pretty much what you'd expect from a guy that owns every single Less Than Jake record (me). How many people in your life would be best described as "Such a catastrophe"? I'm guessing more than you'd care to admit. College rock: not just for people in college?
-Of Montreal, "Id Engager"
There's always that point after a breakup, especially on the 'dumped' end, where you walk outside and the sun shines in just the right way, and you start to feel confident again, like you're a predator and every girl at the bar is made of slow, drunk meat. That's this song - arrogance and confidence and opportunity are the currency we're dealing in. Also it's the only track off Skeletal Lamping that doesn't include overt references to black crossdressers, so there's that too.
-The Black Ghosts, "I Want Nothing"
Yeah, I have a little bit of a problem: electronic music. I try to hide it, but it slips through - it's painful and nerdy, but I have a little Eurotrash in me. However, not only is this a great song, it's the opposite of 'club-ready' - rock without guitars. Another song about being a cold-blooded killer, with the backbone to back it up. In fact, this is what the Killers always thought they would be, post-Mr. Brightside.
-Atmosphere, "Shoulda Know"
It's almost obligatory at this point. Sometimes you follow a band so religiously you start to feel like you "know" them - I forget that the Slug I hear is really a cardboard cutout, an image. Still, I feel like an old friend, so I do what I do to all my old friends: listen, then ignore his advice. Standard. Doesn't change the fact that I should have known better - nor the fact that I really don't care, even in retrospect.
-Deerhunter, "Never Stops"
The sound of floating through something you're not sure you really want to do - whether I'm at my desk or in an airport or riding in a shitty cab to an annoying hotel, this track is it. "Haunts my days" indeed - I have a tendency to pretend I'm facing life head-on because I do things like 'listen to this song in the airport' while I neglect festering real-world core-group issues . . . in a weird way, Bradford Cox taught me how to stop pretending (sort of) and learn how to pretend better (kind of). That has value.
-The Electric Dream Machine, "Dayman"
Literally the greatest thing that has ever existed ever, no hyperbole.
-Bon Iver, "Skinny Love"
The sound of an outpouring - the song is a straight blood-letting, the best track off the saddest, most pained album of the year. I won't even pretend - I went through an awkward breakup early in the year, and this album was a total beating, seemingly made of jagged, sharp ice and insecurity . . . however, it's one of those brilliant pieces of art where I feel like I learned something even as I wanted to die. The "m-my-my, m-my-my-MY-my" chorus makes you shake your head in the same knowing fashion as it was intended, then the hammer drops: "Told my love to wreck it all/ Cut out all the ropes and let me fall . . . "
-Someone Still Loves You, Boris Yeltsin, "Some Constellation"
My all-time favorite song is probably the version of "The Orchids" done by Califone. This song almost gets there, but with a sunny disposition (and a shockingly depressing subject). Oh yeah - and the worst band name in history too . . . holy shit guys, who thought this was a good idea? Good weed in Portland, apparently.
-Let's Wrestle, "I Won't Lie To You"
Sparse, rough, fun British rock - straightforward and smart. Party on, sad guy - Everyone can relate to something like "I won't lie to you/ I can't see that things are getting any better." I'm getting a stern look from a few of my friends right now, I can feel it - hey, I'm working on it, OK? Holy balls. You guys are dicks.
-Titus Andronicus, "Titus Andronicus"
Jersey kids who sing like Bright Eyes playing literate, scuzzy rock? Obviously, sign me up - the combination works more that well enough to overcome my annoyance at a song with the same title as the band. Imagine if, like, ABBA or Bon Jovi did this? Actually, I think the Village People did . . . then they got AIDS. Maybe I shouldn't have included this track.
-Lykke Li, "I'm Good, I'm Gone."
So yeah, she jacked "Working in a Coal Mine" - she's Swedish, it's allowed. While this seems like a weird transition from the previous track, it actually makes quite a bit of sense when you listen to the lyrics to each - although I'd much rather have sex with the latter (um, the latter performer, not the lyrics - hi English degree!). She's already an indie-geek sex symbol . . . given the raves about her live performance, a mainstream break seems likely in her future. You heard it here like 10,305th.
-Cut Copy, "Hearts on Fire"
The cheesy "Night at the Roxbury" vibe perfectly frames the song, a backdrop that gives it much more meaning than a track built from its parts would normally carry. The cheesy saxophone in the last third just blows it up when the bass drops back in . . . I secretly want to be Rod Stewart, and this song makes me shake my ass like I'm rich enough to not have to worry about looking like an aging douche.
-Dizzee Rascal, "Dance Wiv Me"
The most charismatic man in hip-hop (he can't really be considered 'Grime' anymore) breaks style to give us the closest thing to a club banger he's ever had - but it's much better suited for the car, or changing up your DJ sets while drunk, because singing is tech. An earworm of catastrophic proportions.
-TV on the Radio, "Golden Age"
The best single from the best album of the year (OMG foreshadowing!) - and a little treat for anyone who actually listens to the CD to the end, since the end puts the toe-tap upbeat shit all together. Total scam, I know.
-Santogold, "L.E.S. Artistes"
A completely un-ironic dressing-down of the Lower East Side crowd that, somewhat ironically, probably helped break her album. Douche bags are douche bags, no matter what.
-The Cool Kids, "88"
As the best things to happen to rap since Clipse got introduced to blow, the Cool Kids tear shit up while bragging about middle-class life, complete with two-door Grand Prixs and a little bit of gold and pager. Two smartasses save an entire genre of music, one jacked beat at a time.
-Lil Wayne, "Dr. Carter"
Whatever. Maybe this should be "Lollipop" - OK, it should probably be "A Milli" (I mean, seriously . . . "They on some f----t bullshit/ Call'em Dennis Rodman" for real?). But there's something about this track off Tha Carter III that hits me a little harder - just listen to Weezy's semi-feigned sigh at the beginning - "Ugh, another one . . ugh!" Perfection, from the best blogger alive.
-Wiley, "Wearing My Rolex"
This ALWAYS happens to me. Totally.