Thursday, January 1, 2009


Happy New Year to everyone who visits my blog. I thank you for checking it out and spreading the word. This year will see me using the blog even more to update my reviews and thoughts so please continue to read and feel free to comment.

It's taken me a while to post this second part of my list but I felt it important to do so. Though my top 10 has already been published in Bookends, this space allows me more words to express why I chose these tracks. Here goes:

Top 10 songs of 2008

1. 'Wait for the Summer' (Yeasayer):

I have put a youtube link up for this song already but if anyone who is familiar with the track will know of its majestic build-up only to be blown away by the Americana vocals that critics seem to think only Fleet Foxes used last year. The range of emotions covered by Yeasayer on the track are stunning; a clever, honest delving into a human mind, jealously guarding its love and self-conflict. But there is also obsession bordering on creepy here too, as manifested in lines like, 'it's an accidental fall/ and they won't suspect a thing at all'. Towards its end, the inevitable occurs: a lyrical murder beautifully smothered with lovely repetition.

2. 'Twinkle' (Erykah Badu):

How any serious critic could compile a top songs list last year without a Badu track is beyond me but it shows how little R&B is still thought of. Nonetheless, Badu's masterful assessment of the African-American experience shows how issues trancend generations. Writen before Obama would become the first non-white President, the track outlines how different ages view each other. When she croons, 'they say their grandfathers and grandmothers/ work hard for nothing/ and we still in this ghetto', it illustrates the economic hunger causing strain within the projects. The beauty of 'Twinkle' though is that Badu leaves it without judgment, just clear explanations on both sides. You listen to it though and the honesty of the music leaves you with only certain dread that things will never change.

3. Buriedfed (Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson):

If there was a better song of '08 that summed up those depressing days when you question existence, your friends and your sanity, then it slipped me big time. 'Buriedfed' is pessimistic, awaiting and choosing death instead of stubbornly clinging on. Robinson frames this desperation in couplets of different stories but no persona frightens more than when he shouts out, 'fuck you/ I just wanted to die'. Even up to its end, the conflicts are no less fraught with danger.

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4. 'Money Note' (Camille):

Rotating endlessly over non sequitors about Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey and Dolly Parton,'Money Note'is literally just that; an examination of divadom and its exclusiveness. Of course being French allows Camille to delve into the totally American concept without seeming dishonest but the smartness of the track is accompanied with her stylistic tricks that prove far more accomplished than the aformentioned superstars.

5. 'The Leash' (Xiu Xiu):

The male-to-female sexual transgression in popular music has no greater lyricist than Jamie Stewart and 'The Leash' is a brilliant stab at the resentment festered on both sides of this obsession. It is unreservedly queer--not in the way that Antony Hegary is--but Stewart can frame tunes that both sexes can recognize their foibles in. History is replete with men rejecting fellow men as lovers, denying that part of themselves that readily is seen as weakness. Stewart frames 'The Leash' from the view of the forlorn lover who is at one hurt yet understanding. 'God had made your sweetheart wrong/ born to suffer/born only to die', he croons in one couplet. Yet there is urgency to resolve too; the track ends with, 'but you cannot deny me as a woman/ oh ensign/ I was your woman'. Disturbing yet morbidly fascinating.

6. 'Alla This' (Ani DiFranco):

A vicious yet sweet anti-war, anti-branding, anti-sexist track that restores the feminine mystique only DiFranco seems to hold up, years after being out in the fields. It figures such a complex artist would not be able to do a ballad decked out with only personal views on, say, such pastoral things like the changing of the season. Not Ani, not ever. Here she swipes organized religion, George W Bush and just men on a whole. Whew!

7. 'Sincerely, Jane' (Janelle Monae):

A big part of why my trend of '08 was 'return to art' is this magnificent track by Monae, a visionary who makes the R&B flock like Ciara, Beyonce, et al look as if they really are not even trying. Whereas those musicians are still fumbling to focus on anything other than themselves, Monae's concern is the projects and spiritual upliftment. 'The way we live/ the way we die/ what a tragedy/ I'm so terrified', she laments on the chorus as the Cindy Mayweather persona who is the chronicler of the experience.

8. 'The Healer' (Erykah Badu):

I'm still grappling with the fact that cokemachineglow actually had Badu atop their year-end album list. It's unheard of that a R&B record would beat the likes of TV on the Radio and Fleet Foxes on a publication that is skewered towards rock music but that is the cool thing about Badu; her music transcends genres. That's why she can take apart hip/hop the way she does on 'The Healer' and proclaim it, ironically, its own worst enemy. History notes always that the oppressed turn around and become oppressors. This haunting middle finger is thrown yet not even she can deny that the bent other four fingers on the hand will rise up one day to claim their fame too.

9. 'DVNO' (Justice):

Following up in some huge footsteps, 'DVNO' achieves its aim easily. Justice are a tricky proposition yet juxtaposing beats and repetition is easy enough but you need real genius to get these booty-shaking results.

10. The Only Bones that Show' (Baby Dee):

Dee rasps along, guttural yet determined as is if pouring out this track is the inly thing left to do in this uncaring world.