Top 50 Singles of 2008 (50-11)

by MV

So, in a way, this is why I’ve been bothering listening to lots of singles this year. Has it been worth it? I’m not sure. I don’t think the list produced is dramatically different to what it would have been had I not been blogging all year. Still, I’ve discovered some good things and I’m happy with every one of the tracks in my 50, instead of filling the bottom half with nonsense.

Obviously this is a personal list. I mean, obviously! Nobody voted for anything. Except me. That also means the order is, to an extent, arbitrary. Is this banging electro stomper “better” than this delicate acoustic number? Who knows. All I know is that I like lists.

My usual rules apply. Being thus: one single per (lead) artist. They can show up again if they’re collaborating. Hence someone appearing three times. There are other artists that would probably have appeared three or four times, but that would’ve been boring for me. Ho hum.

Anyway, I decided against splitting out each ten, as it’s already January. So here’s the ‘Bottom 40’ of the 50, if you will. That’s 50-11. Behind the click below… be warned for there are lots of embedded videos. Could take a bit of loading. But worth it, oh yes.

50. Shout Out Louds – Tonight I Have To Leave It
So we kick off with a bit of joyful Cure-y Scandinavian indie jangle. A band that were fun to begin with, perhaps pushed the dramatics a bit far this time around, but nailed it on this lead single, which also inexplicably reminded me of the theme to Queer as Folk.

49. Sia – The Girl You Lost to Cocaine
The one (well, the other one) where the ex Zero 7 warbler lightened up a bit. Sadly the album’s not nearly as much fun, but you can’t have it all.

48. Miracle Fortress – Maybe Lately
A simple, pretty little Beach Boys-indebted song. Not pop in the modern sense, I suppose, but glorious nontheless. Full of wonder and wide-eyed love.

47. She & Him – Why Do You Let Me Stay Here?
More enchanting/cutesy nonsense, courtesy of a livelier than usual M Ward and the lovely Zooey Deschanel. The ‘ah-ha’ at 1:29 swung its place in the top 50.

46. Kings Have Long Arms ft. Candie Payne – Big Umbrella
The Rightful Duffy gets a surprisingly poppy treatment from the northern electro Kings. One of my first singles of the year back in… January (silly release date). Since faded a little in my affections, but still great.

45. The Long Blondes – Century
It all looked so promising on paper… The Long Blondes go disco with Erol Alkan at the helm. What could possibly stop them taking their rightful place in Sheffield’s glorious pop history books? Well, duff songs, mostly. Except this one, in which for a brief moment it seemed like it was all going to plan…

44. Alphabeat – Fascination
A burst of weird (I won’t mention the other W word) pop that, again, had me expecting greater things to come. Another case of the year ending pretty badly for a band that had looked pretty promising, but this Prefab Sprout/Deacon Blue recalling splash gave the summer an extra sense of glee.

43. Neon Neon – I Lust U
Gruff Rhys’ collaboration with Boom Bip was, for me, the best thing the Super Furries man has done since the 90s. None of the singles quite reflected the brilliance of the Delorean-themed concept album as a whole, but this one was a neat enough starting point.

42. Slow Club – Let’s Fall Back in Love EP
Quirky, cutesy, lovely Sheffield duo who were my darlings of the year. They haven’t hit pop greatness just yet, but their first EP contained a bunch of near-perfect tunes. The video above is for ‘Come on Youth’, not the lead track as suggested by the title. Sure is pretty though.

41. The Shortwave Set – No Social
A (no more than) solid second album from this lot, but one heralded by this excellent punchy little single which (am I repeating myself?) had me wanting more. The only track on the album that really demonstrated the pop influence of Danger Mouse, whose production elsewhere was shiny but anonymous.

40. The Duke Spirit – The Step & The Walk
Haunting, spooky Blondie-goes-goth stuff from a fairly standard guitar band on form in 2008 (rare).

39. Pink – So What
Tune-wise, one of the pop greats of the year. Why isn’t it higher? Because Pink still makes me inexplicably annoyed. There’s a weird ‘I’m being angsty but with a sly wink but that doesn’t mean much because deep down I am actually really angsty in a very irritating teenage way’ sort of thing going on. I hate to moan though because those synths stabs as the chorus lifts really are majestic. Just, ugh…

38. The Wave Pictures – I Love You Like a Madman
I love pop music, but by that I mean I love spine-tingling tunes. This lot’s idiosyncratic stumbling indie, accompanied by a frankly off-putting nasal whine, is hardly going to trouble the charts any time soon. Yet it still ticks all the boxes for me. Much like the dear departed Hefner, they create joyful, Dexys-indebted (check those horns) old-school pop, but I guess it might not work for some. Their loss.

37. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Dig Lazarus Dig!!!!
On the other hand, this is non-pop in a sense, but why the hell is that? Why isn’t this sort of thing striding its way across the top of the charts? Cave stops being a moody melodramatic genius for five minutes and becomes a slightly manic glam rock genius instead. Marvellous.

36. Los Campesinos! – Death To Los Campesinos!
I don’t quite know why this lot aren’t one of my favourite bands. Perhaps when I was 15 they would have been. In fact, almost certainly. I’m too cynical these days. This is three minutes of fizzy, fuzzy, indie-pop glory, though.

35. Les Savy Fav – Patty Lee
It’s just that guitar shimmy thing that does it for me here. I still haven’t followed through on my intention to investigate this band properly, but this is a cracker.

34. Late of the Pier – The Bears are Coming
There are clearly more ideas in these guys’ heads than can be effectively captured on record. Nevertheless, they make very strange pop singles that sort of struggle along within their slightly muddily-produced confines and then burst out with an awesome chorus which can overcoe any production flaws. This could just as easily have been Heartbeat or Bathroom Gurgle. Many good songs, yes.

33. Tegan & Sara – The Con (beware fan-made “video” above)
While nothing they’ve done lives up to last year’s Back In Your Head, this one has it’s own OTT-melodramatic genius. It’s great, but in a way that I really can’t account for. I guess we all like a bit of drama in our music now and again.

32. MGMT – Kids
So ‘Time To Pretend’ was in my list last year, and I had to put this one in instead. Overplayed ludicrous nonsense, of course, but great with it.

31. Girls Aloud – The Promise
OK, it’s a shame that a band that used to give us genius like ‘The Show’ and ‘Biology’ or brilliant nonsense like ‘Something Kinda Ooh’ are now resorting to jumping on the retro-pop bandwagon. But hey, they do it pretty well. Unexceptional, but damn catchy.

30. Usher ft. Young Jeezy – Love In This Club
This one hit me at a time of year when I was despairing of slushy R’n’B with weedy, whiny, pathetic vocals all over the place. This is still the usual sexist nonsense, and the whining isn’t entirely eliminated, but it packs a powerful synth riff and, you’d hope, an awareness of its own (brilliant) preposterousness.

29. Hercules and Love Affair – Blind
The definition of a ‘Critics’ Choice’ record. But it’s funky, (kind of) fun, and my mum liked it. Um. It’s also the first time I’ve been able to listen to an Antony record without feeling a bit queasy in a very long time. He has one of those voices that makes me feel slightly weird inside. Hmm.

28. The Saturdays – If This Is Love
Definitely not a Critics’ record. Seemingly not even a pop fans’ record either. Anyway, I preferred it to ‘Up’, and it’s got a nice sample and a big chorus and a bit of a fun factor that’s lacking from a lot of modern pop.

27. Justice – DVNO
Too 2007 to make it any higher. Still excellent though, and a highlight of the debut. It rocks. In a dance sort of way. Ooh.

26. Rihanna – Don’t Stop The Music
Probably the most consistent source of actual decent chart-bothering pop over the last year or so. This is no ‘Umbrella’, but it’s still pretty much the definition of great chart pop in 2008.

25. Martina Topley-Bird – Carnies
A beautiful, sparkly yet spooky return from Tricky’s former accomplice. This is stunning stuff, and deserved more attention.

24. Christian Falk ft. Robyn – Dream On
Not a new song, but a old track with added bleepy goodness. Slightly dubious vid, and not Robyn’s best, but it’s undeniably powerful, if not even approaching the genius of With Every Heartbeat.

23. Malcolm Middleton – Blue Plastic Bags
Back to the question of what constitutes a pop record? Nah, can’t be bothered this time. This is one of the loveliest things I’ve heard in a long time. Malc is a god of sorts, and this is his latest masterpiece. Downbeat indie limited 7 inch or not. Sing along with the sad song indeed. Go on!

22. Hot Chip – Ready For The Floor
“Potential Single of the Year contender”, I suggested, back in January. Well, not quite. But still a bit good, no?

21. Ladytron – Ghosts
No-one does brutal and icy, reserved and sexy in the same way as Ladytron. They’ve pulled this trick before, but never sounded so quietly majestic.

20. Kid Sister ft. Kanye West – Pro Nails
Just in case this list seemed to be getting a bit serious, here’s a song about painting nails. A subject dear to my own heart… or something. Anyway, I have no idea why I like this. But I like Kid Sister’s (Princess Superstar-esque) style and Kanye does a good turn and it’s a lot of fun. Its release was delayed so many times I’m not sure if it actually got a proper release. Shame if not.

19. Rubies – I Feel Electric
My research was clearly at its finest when I declared that this song sounded a bit like “Feist crossed with” someone or other. Plainly, one of the vocalists on this track is of course Leslie Feist. Yes, well done me. Anyway, it’s Feist at her best, adding her trademark langorous glamour to an already promising trio. Another one where the album didn’t match the single’s promise, but only because the single is so damn perfect.

18. Sebastien Tellier – Divine
Already high on my list for the year before its bizarre yet wonderful appearance at Eurovision, this is bonkers yet beautiful. Like more pop should be.

17. Frankmusik – In Step
While 3 Little Words gave me a few days of utter joy, and led to a rather over-enthusiastic review a few weeks back, I reckon this earlier single has endured better. One that definitely needs another release in the new year, as it’s fab. Nice hula-hooping in pants video too. Fun fun.

16. Tilly & The Wall – Beat Control
It’s one of my favourite lovely little bands going all pop. OK, if you define your pop quite rigidly, it might be a bit too cringey for your liking. But in a way, that’s its charm. It’s getting it slightly wrong, but in a way that’s ultimately very right. And it makes you want to grin and bounce.

15. Friendly Fires – Paris
One of several songs cropping up in the higher reaches that is technically a 2007 track. But yah boo to that, it’s awesome. Especially the chorus. For some reason, all the video versions strip out Au Revoir Simone’s excellent turn in the chorus. So to compensate, here’s a greatly improved remix with ALL of the vocals by the lovely Au Revoir Simone: CLICKY.

14. Mystery Jets – Young Love
It is indeed a mystery (ho ho ho) why this band didn’t do better on the strength of this single and the almost equally great Two Doors Down. Possibly because they’re still a bit cack live, I dunno. But anyway, they made two of the year’s finest pop songs. Laura Marling steals the show a bit here. Excellent all round though.

13. David Holmes – I Heard Wonders
The tinny YouTube video really doesn’t do this justice. It should be played loud. It’s like Kevin Shields producing Pulp, or something. It’s bloody good. It has crescendos and stuff.

12. Kanye West ft. Dwele – Flashing Lights
Is this the best pop song of the year? No. Is it the twelfth? Probably not. Does it contain the best NOISES of the year? YES! Actually, it’s just all round awesome. Easily the best of “this sort of thing” (what am I even talking about?) this year. And SO SO much better than that latest autotune riddled nonsense he’s peddling. Sigh.

11. Keane – Spiralling
It’s just really quite good, alright? :P

And on that note, SUSPENSE.

The final ten at some point… this week? Maybe.