Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Top 10 Songs of 2008...

Ok, i've put this off long enough. We're now only 2 weeks away from 2009, and i might be one of last to get their lists up. And to be completely honest, my top 10 album list is not yet complete - well not the back half. But i have made final decisions on the Best Songs of the Year. But first....

What makes a song great?

That question has been tossed around since the first single was ever recorded, and if we (or anyone) knew the answer, there would be nothing left. The truth is, there is no answer. Music is subjective - some people simply listen, and if they like it, it's a good song. Some look for originality, some for familiarity. Many people want emotive lyrics. Many want to hear words they can relate to. Many people (who are no doubt Dylan fans) are looking for groundbreaking wordplay that will blow their minds.

Of course, certain instruments excite certain people. i, for example, love the plunk of a banjo in an otherwise non-bluegrass tune. Acoustic guitars picked with purpose will grab my attention far earlier than a hard-strummed electric. Lately hand claps and tambourines make me happy.

What about vocals? Let's be honest - the Folk/Americana/Alt-Country (what have you) world doesn't possess the greatest or most talented vocalists. Many lead voices are of the love it or hate it variety, and can immediately turn someone off from a song. If i can't listen to the lead vocals, the band is going to have a hard time getting on my good side. That said, there is no formula or standard that i judge by, and i have a fairly wide acceptance range. The most important thing a singer can possess is believability.

Growing up listening to mainstream country (and shifting between rap phases), i was under the impression the only song structure consisted of verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus. While that simple formula still works, an artist can expand or abbreviate to an indefinite degree as they see fit. Adding dynamic to a song with a tempo or key change can seem strange at first, but is one the most vital factors in keeping the listener engaged.

A particularly separating attribute for a list like this is enjoyability. This doesn't mean that the song has to have uplifting lyrics; it's often the opposite. The best judge for this element is how fun the song is to sing along to. The songs that i found myself belting out (severely off-key) in my car were the first to be added to the list.

So where does this leave me? Basically back where i started. There is no formula, no set of rules, and no boundary to great songs. That is what keeps music interesting, fresh, versatile, and what makes it an essential part of life. Taking these factors into consideration, here are my picks for the Top 10 Songs of 2008.


10. The Greatest Hustler of All ~ Old Crow Medicine Show

from Tennessee Pusher, written by Willie Watson/Ketch Secor



9. Who Am I To Say ~ Justin Townes Earle

from The Good Life, written by Justin Townes Earle



8. Skinny Love ~ Bon Iver

from For Emma, Forever Ago, written by Justin Vernon




7. Souled Out!!! ~ Conor Oberst

from Conor Oberst, written by Conor Oberst




6. Sideman Blues ~ The Dedringers

from Sweetheart of the Neighborhood, written by Jonny Burke



5. Murder In The City ~ The Avett Brothers

from The Second Gleam, written by Scott Avett




4. Traipsing Through the Aisles ~ Samantha Crain
from The Confiscation EP, written by Samantha Crain



3. White Winter Hymnal ~ Fleet Foxes

from Fleet Foxes, written by Robin Pecknold




2. Rattlin' Bones ~ Kasey Chamber & Shane Nicholson
from Rattlin' Bones, written by Chambers/Nicholson




1. Frankie's Gun! ~ The Felice Brothers

from The Felice Brothers, written by Ian Felice


"My car goes... Chicago.
Every weekend to pick up some cargo.
I think I know the bloody way by now, Frankie,
Turn the god damn radio down, thank you.
Pull over. Count the money.
But don't count the .30 in the glove box, buddy.

That's for to buy Lucille some clothes.

Bang Bang Bang went Frankie's gun!
He shot me down Lucille!
Bang Bang Bang Bang went Frankie's gun!
He shot me down Lucille! (He shot me down!)

Work zones, double fines.
Don't pass the double lines.
Trailer McDonald's, rest stop trailer double wide.
I saw a man hit my mom one time, really
I hurt him so damn bad I had to hide in Jersey.
Called my mama told her, 'In the dresser
There's ten or twenty dollars but there ain't no lesser.'
That's for to take my sister to the picture show.

Bang Bang Bang went Frankie's gun!
He shot me down Lucille!
Bang Bang Bang Bang went Frankie's gun!
He shot me down Lucille! (He shot me down!)

Sha nay na sha nay na na na na na...
Sha nay na Sha nay na...

Slip make a fender shine,
Frankie you're a friend of mine,
Got me off a bender after long-legged Brenda died.
I thought we might be on a roll this time, Frankie.
I could have swore the box said Hollywood blanks, but
You see my mama
Please tell her
I left a little rock in a box in the cellar.
That's for to wear till kingdom come.

Bang Bang Bang went Frankie's gun!
He shot me down Lucille!
Bang Bang Bang Bang went Frankie's gun!
He shot me down Lucille! (He shot me down!)

Sha nay na sha nay na na na na na...
Sha nay na Sha nay na...

Yodelea he hoo."

Click the album covers to purchase.

Check out last year's list (my 2nd post on This Mornin'...), and stay tuned for the definitive Top 10 Albums of 2008.

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