Being the nonconformist that I am, I reject the false choice of either listing my favorite music of the past year in December or not at all. I, therefore, have chosen this late date (well into February) to give you my list of 2008’s best music. Further eschewing convention, I will not limit, I will not restrict, I will not curtail my selections to only music that was released in 2008 either. Rather, I will choose my favorite music of the year based on music that was new to me in the year–regardless of when it was actually released.
1. Vampire Weekend
This enigmatically named group (is the weekend sucking us dry, or is a “Vampire Weekend” a weekend in which you drink a lot of blood?) topped many indie “Album of the year” lists. Not the least pretentious of which was NPR’s Listeners’ Picks (they got beat out of the #1 spot by Fleet Foxes–a band that is not yet significant enough for me to pay attention to). Vampire Weekend’s blend of African rhythms, intelligent lyrics, and 80’s sub-culture sensibilities should appeal to anyone who shares my exact tastes… others may enjoy them as well.
2. Cold Play: Viva la Vida
Yes, yes, Cold Play is now giving Vanilla Ice and Mili Vanili company in the “I Ripped Off This Song and Pretended IT Was My Own” hall of shame. But if you’ve listened to the Satriani song, which I have, you realized that even if Cold Play DID rip it off, they made it much, much better. And since music exists for my enjoyment alone, intellectual property rights be damned. Seriously though, I’m looking forward to the joint press conference between Cold Play and Satriani when he announces that he’s dropping the law suit and has been brought on as the opening act for Cold Play, Cold Play admits no wrong doing, many checks exchange hands behind closed doors, and Satriani is issued one of those snazzy “Sgt. Pepper” outfits the boys from [wherever the hell Martin and Co. are from] are wearing these days.
Okay, were to the entry where I bend time and space to fit my personal concept of musical continuity. Stars has been around for some time now, and they DID release an album in 2007, In Our Bedroom After the War. The video below was what first hooked me on their music. With its thinly veiled Smiths/Morrisesy influence, it should be little wonder that “Take Me To the Riot” appeals to my 80s alt sensitivities. I was surprised to find, however, that Stars are not a one-trick pony. Their music covers a spectrum of sounds–yes, still clearly in the indie rock vein–which keeps their music consistently interesting. The title track to In Our Bedroom After the War is particularly enjoyable.
4. Flight of the Concords
Just when you thought New Zealand couldn’t contribute anything more to pop culture (I’m talking, of course, about the film The Piano), out come these two lovable mop heads and their quirky humor. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and then you’ll link the Youtube video to twenty unsuspecting friends who will watch it in their work cubicles, laugh out loud, stifle furthering laughter, fail to stifle, get hauled into the bosses office where he demands to know exactly what is so funny so they show him and he starts laughing which causes him to email the link to the CEO who, now infected, orders the DVD collection of the HBO series based on Flight of the Concords’ music and calls a mandatory town-hall meeting to show them to the entire company. Productivity plummets. Jobs are lost. You’ve now directly contributed to the recession. Thanks a lot… jerk.
5. The National
Ok, I only really like “Fake Empire.” It’s the song you can plug in and listen to over and over again as you pretend you’re an angst ridden teenager. Well, you would be able to if your own (nearly) teens weren’t beating on your door asking why they can’t use the computer once in a while and when you’re gonna go get a real job so they can have a Wii like Billy.