Web Toolbar by Wibiya Bears and Bullets: 2008-12-21

Friday, December 26, 2008

Bears and Bullets 25 Best Songs of 2008 (#10-#1)

Today, we'll continue the top 25 countdown with songs #10 through #1, including a free mixtape at the end of the post.

#10: No Sex for Ben - The Rapture
This has to be one of the year's most underrated tracks, partly the fault of being on the soundtrack for Grand Theft Auto IV. Yet, as it is, "No Sex for Ben" rivals even the best of The Rapture's (official website) previous efforts, including "House of Jealous Lovers" off of their 2003 album Echoes. It's a fuzzy interlude of beat boxing, timed buzz-bass lines, and guitars that make "No Sex for Ben" the best dance-rock track of 2008.

#9: Love Dog - TV on The Radio
My personal favorite track off of TV on The Radio's (official website) 2008 album Dear Science is most assuredly "Love Dog." There was something quite different from Dear Science and their 2006 album Return to Cookie Mountain (lets just say it was the funk), but to me "Love Dog" bridges that gap, returning Tunde Adebimpe's grasping heroic vocals with the minimalistic background, until the fade of an orchestra beams out the song's final glory. It may not be the consensus favorite off Dear Science for most people, but for me TV on The Radio couldn't get any better.

#8: Gobbledigook - Sigur Ros
Everyones favorite (or should be) non-English speaking artist, Sigur Ros (official website), stepped towards another dimension with "Gobbledigook" - they stayed on Earth. The song did not stray into the atmospheric realm that Sigur Ros learned to use so well, but rather changed the heart of the sound to a point where it almost sounds primitive (in a good way). For the first time, Sigur Ros sound almost furious in their efforts to paint the image they're trying to make, slamming the percussion and guitars until "Gobbledigook" (video here) runs out of breath - also making it one of the shortest songs Sigur Ros ever made.

#7: Eraser - No Age
No Age's (Myspace) "Eraser" fuses the efforts of what the band spent most of its years working towards - an endearingly gleeful noise that only fuels No Age's style. "Eraser" is a loose, simple song, that strives quickly towards a fuzz-box goal of expansiveness. The sheer sound executed here is full of hooks and quirks, but still leaves Dean Spunt's voice as permanent as it should be. Their album Nouns is full of the same feelings you get here.

#6: L.E.S. Artistes - Santogold
Santogold (official website) truly emerged this year, even with the inaccurate M.I.A. comparisons (Hell, they're both good). "L.E.S. Artistes" should have demolished those comparisons, coming together with a sound M.I.A. hasn't challenged yet - singing. Santogold's voice endears a feeling of personal empathy, extracting "hope" and "all the things that I believe." It's here that she shows a level of unscripted individuality, moving beyond the sound's profoundness. She provides it all herself.

#5: Sleepyhead - Passion Pit
There's no easy way of saying I love the crap out of this song, so I won't. Passion Pit's (official website) "Sleepyhead" is a sparklingly uplifting track that moves through a carousel of falsetto swings, causing an uproarious emotion - a timely counter of sexy and fun (by all counts, the best combination).

#4: Machine Gun - Portishead
Among the catalog of made up lists I've created through this top 25 list, Portishead (official website) would be sitting on top of "come-back" of the year for their album Third. And no track more empazises that title than "Machine Gun." The first reaction one gets from the beginning apocalyptic beat is just "wow." Add the unbelievable sound Portishead inhibits with the acute vocals of Beth Gibbons. But that sound, that incredible sound, is what will make "Machine Gun" echo on for years.

#3: While You Wait for The Others - Grizzly Bear
"While You Wait for The Others" may mark one of the only instances where a foremost live recording cracks any year end best of lists. Daniel Rossen's second appearance on this list ("No One Does it Like You" at #15) concludes Grizzly Bear's (official website) undeniable impact on music for the past two years with this performance. It's a quiet suspect of perfectionism, brilliantly moving through the vocal ranges of Grizzly Bear while still keeping the romanticism of their sound rushing through the listener's ears. What was done in "While You Wait for the Others" that so breathes gracious nature, is the band's ability to manipulate their strengths so well - until the point where modern Beach Boys comparisons seem almost like an afterthought.

#2: Dinosaur on the Ark - The Very Best
The Very Best's [Myspace (Esau Mwamwaya & Radioclit)] self-titled album could not have come without any better ammunition. "Dinosaur on the Ark" is a song that seemed impossible not to fall in love with. The inclusion of mixed-language vocals cannot help but uplift the listener beyond the notions of "World War I and World War II" to the confessions of a love that goes beyond the realm that music can. It's beautiful in so many words, and so many worlds, that one language alone cannot tell it.

#1: In The New Year - The Walkmen
Four years after The Walkmen's (official website) breakout single "The Rat" emerged, the group returned to their peak with "In The New Year." Hamilton Leithauser's voice reaches a peak that could have put any other singer on this list to shame, and rightfully so goes the #1 slot. The song sounds so good that listening to it every new year should become ritual, but the notion goes beyond that. The guitar and piano shriek brilliantly towards a climactic close that, one would have to guess, left Hamilton, and the rest of us, out of breath.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Bears and Bullets 25 Best Songs of 2008 (#20-#16)

Today, we'll continue the top 25 countdown with songs #20 through #16, including a free mixtape at the end of the post.

#20: Blind - Hercules and Love Affair
We'll start day two with another song that found its way as a free download on Itunes. Although I may not completely agree with Pitchfork's impossible praise for the single (anything with Antony makes them cheer), I can understand what people may love about this song so much. Keeping the with theme of this list's many dance and electronic and/or disco tracks, "Blind" keeps it's #20 slot because of the cross-breading of infectious dance beats and a minimal aspect of rhythm horns along with the awe-incredible voice of the fore-mentioned Antony Hegarty. With or without the hype, Hercules and Love Affair (official website) made 2008 their biggest year yet.

#19: Ready for the Floor - Hot Chip
Hot Chip's (official website) biggest hit, "Ready for the Floor," off their album Made in the Dark was arguably one of the best of their career. The song is an acute collection of what makes the band so remarkable - nailed hooks and quirks, heart-warming vocals, and an overall selling of replay, replay, replay. It's a single that stands as youthful and enormous, avoiding any careful miss-steps to demean its value.

#18: Graveyard Girl - M83
"Graveyard Girl" is the first single on this list that's somewhat hard to dance to, even though the possibility of doing so still exists. M83 (official website) has a knack for hitting teenage feelings where they hurt so good, with singles like "Graveyard Girl" and "Kim & Jessie" off of their Saturdays = Youth album. Yet, "Graveyard Girl" encompasses that which makes being a teenager so memorable - the unnerving legitimacy of unreal emotions to tell the story of an almost ordinary misfit. It's those unbearable feelings that let "Graveyard Girl" have an impact on the listener.

#17: Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!! - Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
There's a value in anything that Nick Cave (official website) touches that goes beyond the reasonable everyday artist. He's a Bowie, an Iggy Pop, and a Tom Waits, punching through his career anyway he sees fitting and always on top of his game. Back with his band mates The Bad Seeds after his Grinderman side project, Cave released Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!, free-falling back into the messy blues and grind-rock tales of imagery and city-life. The title track off Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!! proved to be Caves calling back to his story-telling roots. The tale of "Poor Larry" has a resurrected corpse walking among the living-dead (ha) into a world he wished he never he came back to. Cave's off-casual vocal telling alongside the brilliant mess that the Bad Seeds created alongside him once again made the +50 singer-songwriter ever so important in 2008.

#16: Palmitos Park - El Guincho
El Guincho's (Myspace) album Alegranza would have made my list of favorite non-English acts of the year if I had made one (I'm not sure if that's flattering by any means, but I meant well). The track highlight, "Palmitos Park," swerves through a mix of Spanish flourishes, and a delightful hint of light percussion caroused behind the on-cue cheering replays. I personally thank Chris at Gorilla vs. Bear for leading me to El Guincho and handing out the track and highly suggest you take a listen too.

Check Back Tomorrow for Tracks #15-#11

Monday, December 22, 2008

Bears and Bullets 25 Best Songs of 2008

It's that time of year where music columns like Pitchfork and Rollingstone issue out their annual year end lists of their favorite singles of the year, coupled with surprises, disappointments, and angry sentiments.

2008, the first year of Bears and Bullets, was marred with hype from high rising acts, excellent summer of music festivals, and some accidental celebrity interactions. But this list (MP3's included) highlight what I feel are the best songs of the entire year.

So, let's start fighting.

#25: Black and Gold - Sam Sparro
This was one the rare singles that seemed to have come out of no where. I picked up on it when it was, ironically, a free single from Itunes. The rising base-line of the beginning encapsulates a maladroit beat, moving the brooding sentiments of Sparro (official website) alongside with the cleverly atmospheric aura the song creates. By the end, Sparro moves the chorus themed "Black and Gold" into a repetitious heart beat of exhaustion, even as the sounds of dance fade out. The song provided to be one of the glorious surprises that laced many of best of lists we've seen.

#24: Vanished - Crystal Castles
"Vanished" starts moving with a chromatic bass-line to fill in the duel vocal ranges of Ethan Kath and Alice Glass (Myspace). It's the climaxing of sounds and rhythm that gave this song an edge over the few that didn't make this list. Yes, the subjectivity may be a bit ordinary, but the cascading of vocals, coupled with the other-worldly inclusion of keyboards make this song so memorable. Something to note with the songs in this list - a lot of eating references. Odd

#23: One Pure Thought - Hot Chip
2008 was truly a year where dance and electonica reigned supreme, and Hot Chip (official website) proved to be one of the artists that has the most ability to motivate that. "One Pure Thought," however, differentiated itself from ordinary Hot Chip in that it was one of the few songs they've created that really capitalized on the guitar. The intro riff (God I hate talking about guitars for too long) instantly pulls the listener in, surrounding the song with a clear dynamic that was different from the other tracks off their album Made in the Dark, making it one of year's more addictive singles.

#22: Black Mags - The Cool Kids
The Cool Kids (official website) are easily my favorite new hip-hop act of the year, far and away. Their name has been rising higher and higher, and deservedly so. Their debut, The Bake Sale, was one of the year's most complete albums with singles like "88" and "Bassment Party," but what sold it for me was "Black Mags." The single grasps the incredible minimal effects that rap songs usually rarely flourish with, surmising with echo beats and an indelible bass. I'll hold on to my bets that 2009 will be another year that the Cool Kids really make their mark.

#21: No Romantics - Lovvers
Here's another single that came out of no where that I instantly fell in love with. This English post-punk group (Myspace) created an epitome of fun noise and chaos with their short, smile inducing single "No Romantics." Throughout the song's barely audible 1:38, the solemness of collapsing cymbals and super-sped guitar chorus create an almost unreal sense of urgency to listen again and again. It's teeth-grinding joy in its most simple form.

Check Back Tomorrow For Song's #20-#16