2008: Top 50

1. Santogold – L.E.S. Artistes
The sell*: It’s a song to some extent made by its (brilliant) video. It sounds fantastic though. Santi has plenty of great moments this year, but it’s this one that hit the spot. The chorus is spectacular, somehow managing to sound blustery and over the top while maintaining a little touch of the delicate and the understated. It sums up a lot of what was great about music in 2008.

Best bit: 0:42, obviously. The chorus kicks in. It’s always more powerful in your mind than in reality. That’s an achievement, though, I reckon…
Also check out: Lights Out; Creator; Starstruck (Diplo Remix)

*But… The apology: at the same time it reminds me that there hasn’t really been one standout for me this year. It’s number one for a reason, because it sounds massive etc etc, but I love all of my top 5 almost equally. Perhaps that’s a good thing?

2. Estelle ft. Kanye West – American Boy
Well, nobody will be surprised that this is there or thereabouts. There wasn’t really a better chorus in 2008, and it was a fantastic comeback from an artist who deserved more success first time around. Also marks the third and final entry for Kanye on this list. Good stuff.

Best bit: 0:25, Estelle’s vocals come in for the first time.
Also check out: No Substitute Love; Kanye’s awesome Flashing Lights.

3. Lykke Li – Little Bit
As it was her astonishingly good live performances that made her my favourite new artist of 2008, I’m not too annoyed that the offical video seems to have disappeared from Youtube. Subsequent singles may have been more fun, but none grabbed the attention quite as immediately as this weird, slightly creepy little ditty.

Best moment: “Best” is questionable, but the slightly disturbing lyrics from 1:30 made this more than a twee curiosity
Also check out…
Until We Bleed, with Kleerup; Breaking It Up; and of course Gifted, with fellow stars of 2008 Kanye West and Santogold. More on this track to follow I reckon…

4. M.I.A. – Paper Planes
As much as La Roux is a 2009 song, this is a 2007 song. Its position suffers a little as a result of overfamiliarity. It’s still incredibly powerful though, and sounded fantastic in the all too brief summer of 2008. Anything that improves on one of the Clash’s best songs has my vote.

Best moment: 2:38, the cheery bit about murder!

5. La Roux – Quicksand
Buzz, buzz, buzz, but oh my god this is brilliant. This is, in many ways, a 2009 song, but thankfully it came out in December so I get to include it here. The quality comes as much, if not more, from the fact that there’s a proper, quality dance producer on board as from Elly’s vocals. My most looked forward to Thing in 2009 is hearing more from this fantastic duo.

Best moment: 1:52… gotta love those dropouts
Also check out:Fascination (despite slightly incongrous Monkey Dust based fanvid); Chateau Marmot Quicksand remix.

6. Goldfrapp – A&E
While everyone else was falling over themselves to reproduce Goldfrapp’s 2003 electro-pop sound, again, Alison&co sensibly went somewhere else entirely. Producing a consistent stream of brilliant singles in 2008, it was this slice of pristine, crystal-clear beauty that stood out a mile. Utterly flawless, utterly beautiful, and utterly unlike anything else that charted this year.

Best moment: it’s all perfect, but the Kate Bush wail at 2:44 probably edges it.
Also check out: Gui Boratto’s awesome, euphoric A&E remix; Caravan Girl; Happiness.

7. Little Boots – Stuck on Repeat
Formerly of pretty average synth-rockers Dead Disco, Victoria Hesketh came good in 2008 and is likely to be all over the place in 2009. It was the frantic Meddle that first caught my attention, but this stately, disco-indebted white label from earlier in the year really showed her class. Produced by Joe from Hot Chip (and it shows) it’s a slow build, 6-minute dancefloor classic. She also created a whole new Youtube niche, featuring bedroom performances in pyjamas on a tenorion. Pretty much genius. (Apologies for the live vid above – we’ll await a proper one for the inevitable 2009 reissue…)

Best moment: 3:33, when that chorus kicks in…
Also check out: Covering Hot Chip’s “Ready For The Floor” on the tenorion; Meddle; “Time To Pretend” gets the tenorion treatment.

8. Ladyhawke – Back of the Van
The fabulous New Zealander Pip Brown made my favourite album of 2008 with her self-titled debut. This is the track that kicked it all off for me. OK, she’s at her 80s Stevie Nicks worshipping peak here, but I still can’t do anything but love this track. The album could have had 10 singles taken from it, as far as I’m concerned. Credit also due to Modular Records – along with Moshi Moshi, one of the labels that rarely puts out anything I dislike.

Best bit: The breakdown at 2:18. Mmm, dropout.
Also check out: My Delirium; Magic; Paris is Burning (in french).

9. The Killers – Human
The more preposterous the Killers get, the more I warm to them. They piss people off. That’s a good thing. I like it. I like the fact that the silly lyrics make everyone flap around and starting steaming at the ears. I like the fact that they’re not indie enough for indie people. I like some of their songs too; this is one of them.

Best moment: 1:12; pause, hit button marked ‘MORE ludicrous stadium synth noise!’, off we go…

10. Those Dancing Days – Hitten
Old heads on frighteningly young shoulders. It seems unfair to make the (2008 favourite) criticism that the album underdelivered. The fact that they’ve crafted a retro-pop classic in Hitten (Swedish for “The Hit”) should be enough. While they’re young enough to make you feel completely past it at 25, the fact that they’re in thrall to the best motown rather than the latest fad is cause for celebration at least.

Best moment: 0:17, when the keyboards you go wonky and you realise there’s a whole lot more going on here than your standard indie-pop strum.
Also check out: Those Dancing Days; Home Sweet Home.

And the rest…
(reviews in detail HERE.)

11. Keane – Spiralling
12. Kanye West ft. Dwele – Flashing Lights
13. David Holmes – I Heard Wonders
14. Mystery Jets – Young Love
15. Friendly Fires – Paris
16. Tilly & The Wall – Beat Control
17. Frankmusik – 3 Little Words
18. Sebastien Tellier – Divine
19. Rubies – I Feel Electric
20. Kid Sister ft. Kanye West – Pro Nails

21. Ladytron – Ghosts
22. Hot Chip – Ready For The Floor
23. Malcolm Middleton – Blue Plastic Bags
24. Christian Falk ft.Robyn – Dream On
25. Martina Topley-Bird – Carnies
26. Rihanna – Don’t Stop The Music
27. Justice – DVNO
28. The Saturdays – If This Is Love
29. Hercules and Love Affair – Blind
30. Usher ft. Young Jeezy – Love In This Club

31. Girls Aloud – The Promise
32. MGMT – Kids
33. Tegan & Sara – The Con
34. Late of the Pier – The Bears are Coming
35. Les Savy Fav – Patty Lee
36. Los Campesinos! – Death To Los Campesinos!
37. Nick Cave – Dig Lazarus Dig
38. The Wave Pictures – I Love You Like a Madman
39. Pink – So What
40. The Duke Spirit – The Step & The Walk

41. The Shortwave Set – No Social
42. Slow Club – Let’s Fall Back In Love
43. Neon Neon – I Lust U
44. Alphabeat – Fascination
45. The Long Blondes – Century
46. Kings Have Long Arms ft. Candie Payne – Big Umbrella
47. She & Him – Why Do You Let Me Stay Here?
48. Miracle Fortress – Maybe Lately
49. Sia – The Girl You Lost to Cocaine
50. Shout Out Louds – Tonight I Have To Leave It