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BEN & JIM: Favorite Songs of 2008

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Welcome back to the round table (although there’s only two of us, so the table doesn’t necessarily need to be round) discussion of power-pop-occasionally-Warp-Tour-attending, Ben and indie-minded-see-you at-SXSW-in-March-music-enthusiast, Jim.

Today, Ben and Jim discuss their favorite songs of 2008:

Ben’s Top-10 Mix
1. Underoath, “Too Bright To See, Too Loud To Hear”
2. Lydia, “Hospital”
3. Deas Vail, “White Lights”
4. The Matches, “Point Me Toward the Morning”
5. The Hush Sound, “Honey”
6. Valencia, “Holiday”
7. Straylight Run, “Wait and Watch”
8. PlayRadioPlay!, “Lococommotion”
9. Automatic Loveletter, “The Answer”
10. People in Cars, “Clutch”

Jim’s Top-10 Mix
1. Weezer, “The Greatest Man That Ever Lived”
2. Vampire Weekend, “A-Punk”
3. Sons & Daughters, “Gilt Complex”
4. Santogold, “Creator”
5. What Made Milwaukee Famous, “Sultan”
6. The Raconteurs, “Consolers of the Lonely”
7. Hot Chip, “Shake a Fist”
8. MGMT, “Time To Pretend”
9. ISHC, “Seatbelt”
10. Dizzee Rascal, “Sirens”

Jim: Unbeknownst to everyone, we sent each other mixes of our 10 favorite songs of the year (so far). Not surprisingly, there wasn’t any overlap.

First, Let’s talk about our favorites. My favorite song of your batch was “Honey” from The Hush Sound. It’s got a little Fiona Apple/Regina Spektor flavor to it, and for my tastes, it’s right down my alley. The Valencia song was good, I’m a sucker for sing-a-longs. The track sounds like it could be an Angels and Airwaves song–Tom Delonge might even be a little jealous.

I also enjoyed Lydia’s “Hospital,” just for the fact that it wasn’t as predictable as many emo-minded bands can be. Instead of the song exploding, the mood was chill throughout. There was also a nice soulfulness in the singer’s voice.

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Ben: “Honey” is The Hush Sound at their best. Not only is Greta Salpeter beautiful, her voice is amazing. “Holiday” by Valencia is just a flat out great pop-punk song. It’s the kind of song that every pop-punk songwriter wishes they had written. I had a hard time picking which Lydia song I wanted to include on my mix because all 11 tracks on their last album, Illuminate, are amazing. Vocalist Leighton Antelman has a very soothing voice that fits perfectly with the music Lydia makes.

(above: Both Ben and Jim agree on the goodness of The Hush Sound.)

This is totally unrelated to the music, but I winced every time I saw the band name Automatic LoveLetter, was that wrong of me?

Of course not. It is a very corny name that isn’t exactly designed to attract male listeners. Nonetheless, Juliet Simms is an amazing vocalist.

I didn’t necessarily hate any songs on your mix, and I understand the more I listen to each song, the more I’ll get it, but I wasn’t feeling The Matches, “Point Me Toward The Morning.” It’s not that I despised the song, it’s just that I’ve heard a gazillion songs like it. I’m also tired of the that recording technique that takes a snippet of the vocal track and makes it sounds like a walkie-talkie. The formula of the song is also very predictable: verse–drum-fill–chorus–breakdown–drop-out–build-up–chorus. Not to pat myself on the back, but I successfully predicted every part of the song while listening to it for the first time. People In Cars’, “Clutch,” was a also a song I didn’t care for much. The guitar parts were very interesting, but then I think they overused them. The vocals are also a dime a dozen.

I agree with you about that recording technique. I think it can sound fine when used effectively, but most of the time it is not. I do not believe it takes anything away from “Point Me Toward the Morning” though. The Matches are a very quirky pop-punk/alternative rock band, and that song is probably the most formulaic and catchiest on their last album. “Clutch” probably isn’t a song I would include if we sent each other our mixes about a month later. I agree with you about Etay Pisano’s voice. He is not a very great singer, but I love the emotion he sings with.

Besides The Hush Sound being my favorite, here are a couple moments I liked on your mix. I’ve always thought Straylight Run was interesting. Their songs always seem to draw me in for one reason or another. PlayRadioPlay! remind me of the Postal Service. I wanted their song, “Loco Commotion” to go more places, but all in all, I dig like their sound. I’m also aware that you can’t judge a band by just one of their songs. What were you feeling off of my mix?

How can someone say that they honestly dislike “The Greatest Man That Ever Lived” by Weezer? Sometimes bands release album samplers that have like 15-second clips of all the songs on the album. That song is just like that, except they actually created an incredibly ambitious track by pretty much playing a complete different song every 30 seconds.

I can not possibly dislike International Superheroes of Hardcore’s “Seat Belt”. Who doesn’t like it when an incredibly influential pop-punk band (New Found Glory) decides to write a hardcore parody album under different personas just for shits and giggles? Besides, what is more hardcore then wearing your seat belt?

I think “Sultan” by What Made Milwaukee Famous and “Gilt Complex” by Sons & Daughters are both decent songs, but not songs that would make me want to check out the bands. “Gilt Complex” is a nice little pop-rock song and I enjoy the singer’s voice. I like “Sultan” but I don’t think it has much lasting value. Also, that synth solo really reminds me of pirates.

Pirates? Maybe they can contribute a song to the next Pirates of the Caribbean movie? I’m sure they’d enjoy the royalty checks. Fair enough.

What bands on my mix could you see yourself getting into?

I could definitely see myself getting into Vampire Weekend and The Raconteurs. I have now heard two songs by the Raconteurs and I have enjoyed them both. I also really like how they recorded their album in secret, and announced it was coming out a week before the release date. I have heard great things about Vampire Weekend and I like “A-Punk”.

Any lowlights for you?

dizzee sad.jpg

Dizzee Rascal’s “Sirens” is probably my least favorite song on the mix. It doesn’t help that I only listen to about 10 rap songs a year, but this song just gets on my nerves. His voice annoys me and that background noise that sounds like a car screeching is very irritating (I don’t think this song could be any less catchy).

(right: Dizzee Rascal’s feelings are hurt after he found out that Ben doesn’t like his voice.)

MGMT’s “Time to Pretend” and Hot Chip’s “Shake a Fist” are both very–meh. I don’t dislike them, but I don’t like them. I think I would like “Time To Pretend” more if there wasn’t so much annoying background noise. For some reason, MGMT’s singer reminds me of the singer from the Silversun Pickups. “Shake a Fist” is an interesting song. It’s entertaining, especially the breakdown around the 2-minute mark, but it is not a song I would ever find myself listening to.

Unless of course it’s on a mix I send you. I hear ya about Dizzee Rascal’s voice. It’s sort of an acquired taste. Alright, last question, cause I know you have some schoolwork to do, but if you had to remake your mix, what songs what you consider adding?

I would consider adding “The Resistense” by Anberlin, “Miss California” by Jack’s Mannequin, “Life is Looking Up” by Forgive Durden, “Decode” by Paramore, and “Backseat Bingo” by Fire in the Hole.

Mine’s pretty much the same, although Coldplay’s “Lost?” has been rising, falling, and occasionally appearing in my Top-10. The Morning Bender’s “Waiting For A War” will also probably make my list by year’s end.

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