2008 was a pretty outstanding year for music, filled with a lot of my old favorites and also debuts from musicians with which I fell in love. Get your singalong voice ready, for it is time to attend Rock ‘n Roll Church.
“Chasing Pavements” – Adele
Ah, even before “Rolling in the Deep,” Adele came out swinging with her fantastic debut, 19. I don’t own this album, but I always loved hearing this song when she’d pop up on SNL or with Craig Ferguson. I love the big ’60s strings mixed with the mid-aughts BRIT school sound.
The sidewalk choreography in this video strikes me as something one of the dancers on So You Think You Can Dance would come up with were they to shoot a music video.
“It’s My Own Cheating Heart That Makes Me Cry” – Glasvegas
The moment I read about Glasvegas in Q and MOJO magazines, I knew I would love them, despite having yet to hear a single note. When they appeared on Letterman, I took a turn from love to wishing they were available in intravenous form.
Their songs are big, beautiful and heart-wrenching, and further endeared by referencing my favorite band:
Training ground notches, perfectly executed notches and near misses
It’s all about going out and getting pissed with eagle eyes and sincerity bottom on my list
What’s the story morning glory?
I feel so low and worthless
Singer and songwriter James Allan crams a lot of content into their melodies, and with his thick Glaswegian accent, having the liner notes helps to absorb it all. But even before I knew more than a handful of lines, it took not even thirty seconds into the album for me to say, “I am so glad I bought this.” Listen to the ache in his voice and the radiating, soaring guitars, and you can’t help but feel good. When I am filled with memory, fragments of my own fiction and the urge to sit down and write more, I know the music is at work on such a greater level.
This is it, the end was always coming and now it’s here
So this is the grand finale
The crescendo of demise
This is the happy ending
Where the bad guy goes down and dies, this is the end
With me on my knees and wondering why?
I love it when music makes me want to be better at what I do.
“Why Do You Let Me Stay Here” – She & Him
Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward’s band She & Him engender the idea that we all can do quirky, fun side projects, and maybe, they can become semi-regular gigs. Yes, Ward was already a working musician, and Deschanel a working actress, but why should that keep them from scratching a different creative itch?
This video is the original and not the 500 Days of Summer version. I dig both, but I suppose since we’re in 2008 and the movie did not come out until later, I will follow my own self-imposed rules. This time. (Not counting all those other times I’ve broken my own rules…)
“Bowie” – Flight of the Conchords
Don’t throw things at me, Internet, but I’ve never actually watched Flight of the Conchords. I only know this song, “Bowie,” but oh, what a great song. It strikes me as the sort of funny-weird shit my friends and I might have come up with had we easy access to putting video on the internet.
I’m pretty far out, man.
“Guarantees” – Atmosphere
The name of this Atmosphere album is fantastic: When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold. Since the mister is the major Atmosphere fan in our house, I had him pick a song from the album. “Guarantees” is the one he often covers at open mic here, when his musician friend Joe Ryan is able to back him up on guitar. It’s a lovely, simple bit of indie hip-hop, and I dig it.
“White Winter Hymnal” – Fleet Foxes
It took me a little bit of time to properly enjoy Fleet Foxes, but I do like them, and I’m impressed by their multi-part harmonies. “White Winter Hymnal” manages to be both sad and uplifting, which seems apt for music I’ve heard referred to as “beard rock.” Beard Rock! Ha! To be fair, the men in this band do have some impressive beards, as does our claymation friend in the video. I’m not super-familiar with all their music yet, but I’d like to be.
“Evil is Alive and Well” – Jakob Dylan
Jakob, Son of Bob: Here he is with his first solo outing, after a handful of Wallflowers albums. I own it, and the whole thing is pretty good in sort of a Springsteen way. “Evil is Alive and Well” is the opening track, full of that raspy voice we know and love.
Also? Still a good looking dude.
“Papillon” – The Airborne Toxic Event
This band was all over the place with their song “Sometime Around Midnight,” but to be honest, that’s one of my least favorite songs on their album. It doesn’t exactly represent them, though I can see why it was considered so radio-friendly.
“Papillon” is great, especially for these lines:
I can’t stand the way you look at me in that dress
Oh, happy, I will be all right I guess
If I wasn’t such a mess
I love the guitar riff, the low vocals mixed with the punk-rock yell, all of it.
“Little Bit” – Lykke Li
Lykke Li is another musician that, from the first moment I heard her, I loved her. On Last Call with Carson Daly (which is a way better show now than people realize), she did an extended set with songs from this album, Youth Novels, and it was so good.
Come here, stay with me
Stroke me at the head
Cos I would give anything
to have you as my man
Little bit, little bit
Little bit in love with you…
“Love is Noise” – The Verve
The Verve reunited for one hot minute – aka 2008’s festival season – and released the album Forth. “Love is Noise” was the single, and it is all the big, heart-swelling sentiment from the band with which I’ve always been enamored.
Love is noise
Love is pain
Love is these blues
and I’m singing again
Yes, Richard Ashcroft, you sing it. Love is wonderful, hard, motivating, and devastating. All of it. And yet, to feel it is to be so very lucky, every time.
“Boots of Chinese Plastic” – Pretenders
Pretenders go rockabilly, complete with “Woah-oh“ in the chorus. There’s not much I have to say about this song except that every time I hear it, I can’t help but dance. Please, take a few minutes to do the same.
“Use Somebody” – Kings of Leon
Yes, after Kings of Leon turned up everywhere, it became sort of fashionable to hate on them, but I don’t care. I really liked this album, Only By The Night. “Use Somebody” is the sort of soaring rock tune that makes all the right parts of my brain light up, and this:
You know that I could use somebody
Someone like you
and all you know
and how you speak
That longing is at the heart of everything I write. 2008 was the year my novel really began to shape up to something close to its current form (Still editing it, thanks. Yeah, I know. I’ve taken awhile), and “Use Somebody” helped move some plot points along. For that, I thank Kings of Leon.
“The Shock of the Lightning” – Oasis
And speaking of the novel, Oasis are at the root of it. Though it is not a book about them, their music planted the little embryo of a story in my brain way, way, way back when, and mixed with the deep love I have for an important woman in my life, that story has become its own animal.
When the band released “The Shock of the Lightning” as the single, a few months before the release of Dig Out Your Soul, I was eyeball-deep in that writing process. The song is massive, loud, and bless Liam Gallagher because the man can bring it. The album helped me tremendously.
In August of that year, I saw Oasis play in Seattle on the very first date of their very last tour. When they played this song, I will admit I got a little verklempt. And I sang my bloody heart out.
“Fix It” – Ryan Adams and The Cardinals
And speaking of seeing Oasis play in Seattle, Ryan Adams and The Cardinals opened. They played a few songs off Cardinology, though it wasn’t yet released, and “Fix It” was among them. It was loud and lovely, instantly familiar, despite that moment being the first time I’d heard it. Something about his harmony during the chorus with guitarist Neal Casal stuck with me, and even when I hear the album recording, I can still feel the energy of that gig.
“That’s Not My Name” – The Ting Tings
Let us end this column with a good shout-along tune.
They call me Hell
They call me Stacy
They call me Her
They call me Jane
That’s not my name!
And that drum beat and the claps? Good lord, it’s great.
Now, peruse this roundup of 2008 in music, then tell me your favorites.