Top Ten Songs Of 2008

ilikethismusic.jpgI’ve said it before: music discovery is a young man’s game.

Try as I may, I can’t keep up with what’s new. Even with my day job. It all sounds like a rehash of The Strokes to me.

I spend all my time listening to This American Life, Fresh Air, and On The Media anyway.

And so, Dear Reader, I offer this modest but well-considered list.

These Top Ten Songs of 2008 include two tunes from old standbys (REM and Counting Crows), two cliches (Death Cab For Cutie and The Hold Steady), two friends’ songs, and two of my own.

Oh well. Sue me.

10) “This Is The New Year” – Ian Axel: A late entry, Mr. Axel’s song rounded out an excellent “A Holiday Benefit, Vol. II.” Uptempo but melancholy, driving but reflective, sad but happy, it’s an awesome song. And even better live. Key lyric? “Embrace the past and you can live for now.” Amen.

9) “Stay Positive” – The Hold Steady: This baby’s no “Stuck Between Stations,” and this is no “Boys And Girls In America.” Still, props for a solid, fist-pumping, early-summer sing-a-long.

8) “Grapevine Fires” – Death Cab For Cutie: For the drum beat alone.

7) “Feel Like Home” – The Nadas: I fell for this song last year, but I’m going to give the guys credit here in 2008; “The Ghost Inside These Halls” was released in March.

6) “Freeway” – Aimee Mann: Ask the women outside my office what twelve words I sang over and over and over and over this year and they’ll likely say, “You got a lot of money, but you can’t afford the freeway.” No idea what Miss Mann means. Don’t really care.

5) “Hanging Tree” – Counting Crows: Even with a themed, double-album, these guys let me down. But the single worked for running, and somehow synched up with how the year felt. “This dizzy life of mine keeps hanging me up all the time,” indeed.

4) “Viva La Vida” – Coldplay: A guilt pleasure downloaded while working in Los Angeles. How can one not want to run faster, soar higher, and live larger with a propulsive synth beat like this one?

3) “Man-Sized Wreath” – REM: Were it not for voting for myself, this would be my song of the year. I once ran ten miles listening to this song on repeat.

2) “Giving Up The Ghost” – Benjamin Wagner: I know. I’m a douche for voting for myself. And you’re sick of hearing about this song. I can appreciate that. But if 2008 had a theme song — singer/songwriter becomes media executive, bachelor becomes husband — this is it. Sounds happy. Is happy. But not without mourning what’s lost. Great solo too. (Thanks Chris!)

1) “Killing The Blues” – Benjamin Wagner (Featuring Jamie Leonhart): I should probably award the title to Robert Plant and Allison Krauss; I listened to their version of this John Prine classic ad infinitum this year. But every step of Jamie and my “The Invention Of Everything Else” version was inspired: from my discovery in 1993 to its rediscovery this year to recording it with the band, tracking it with Mrs. Leonhart, and then performing it with her live. Absolutely magical. Best of all? We caught it on tape. Bonus!

No Lil Wayne. No Vampire Weekend. No Fleet Foxes. Just me, and some old friends. I defy ’09 to top that.

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