10. The Hush Sound: Medicine Man
Chicago-based catchy indie pop band the Hush Sound have come a long way: Greta Salpeter's soulful and polished voice soars, and Bob Morris's guitar explodes at just the right moments. But really it's the drums that make this track so head-boppingly good, a tempo worthy of the Black Keys or the White Stripes in their best moments (no cracks about Meg White, please).
9. The Republic Tigers: Buildings and Mountains
Somewhat melancholy, somewhat sweet, this title track from the Republic Tigers's debut album glides along effortlessly. It didn't get much radio play, but is slowly becoming more well-known via iTunes, and for good reason. Its sweetly sad lyrics and acoustic twang make it perfect for a solitary drive, or whenever a mellowing-out is in order.
8. Portishead: Machine Gun
Trip-hop is back! Yes, even after the '90s. Darker and somewhat more sinister, Machine Gun is what happens when discotheque music becomes a poetry of its own. Overwhelmingly powerful, especially combined with the passionate sincerity of Beth Gibbons's soprano (the youtube video does not do it justice). Download Portishead's "Third"! Now!
7. Sigur Ros: Gobbledigook
Icelandic post-rock gets playful! And nude. This title track from Sigur Ros's latest album sounds like Animal Collective running through a fjord of sheer sincerity. Simply adorable, simply... simple, and in the best way possible. And yes, there are naked people in the video, just deal.
6. Fleet Foxes: Your Protector
Fleet Foxes are arguably the best new band to come into the scene of 2008. This song in particular is a chilling and expressive anthem of love, depression, and devotion. It isn't one of the title tracks, but it's perfectly magical, and my personal favorite. Imagine running through the northwesterly woods, a copy of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet in the palm of your hand. "As you lay to die beside me, baby, on the morning that you came..."
5. Weezer: Pork & Beans
What Best of '08 list can be complete without this veritable radio phenomenon? However mediocre the Red Album was, Pork & Beans is Weezer at their most genuine and most hilarious, even after Rivers Cuomo's bizarre and unprecidented turn towards acetic buddhism. But hey, anyone with a youtube video that ingenious is OK by me. They even have Charlie the Unicorn in there! And the dude from Shoes. Of course.
4. Vampire Weekend: Mansard Roof
Freshly graduated Ivy Leaguers with post-colonialist tendencies play guitars and keyboards! Mansard Roof, the title track of their self-titled debut album, is a delicious nugget of Cape Cod preppiness and nerdy sincerity, marked by hints of Congolese pop music. Disclaimer: can only be appreciated by slightly indie college kids who like to bask in sunshine and discuss literary theory. 99% of their hardcore fan base are probably or have once been ivy league hipsters.
3. Death Cab for Cutie: I Will Posess Your Heart
This over 8-minute long anthem was shortened quite a bit for radio play, but is still fantastic. Death Cab have become much more developed and are thus (hopefully) never lumped into the same category as Fall Out Boy anymore (anyone who believes otherwise shall soon be pummelled into submission). Even Spin Magazine named Narrow Stairs as one of the best albums of the year. At first listen the intro is a bit overwhelming, but the almost painfully slow build-up only enhances the sweet and obsessive quality of the lyrics.
2. MIA: Paper Planes
A political manifesto sung by a daughter of a Sri Lankan revolutionary leader, hidden in the context of what is undoubtedly the best dance/hip hop song of the year? Count me in! Sampling the Clash's "Straight to Hell," politico MIA has created the anthem of every club and dorm party for the next 10 years. Caution: song may elicit bizarre reactions like finger gun pointing and ka-ching noises. Consider yourself warned.
1. MGMT: Kids
Ah, MGMT, lovechild of hipster apathy and electronic goodness. It is absolutely impossible to resist "Kids," one of the biggest college radio hits of 2008. Ambiguous and bizarre lyrics, but one damn good beat. "Kids" is one enormous bubble of happiness, and it only gets better with each succeeding listen. Hands in the air, kids! This is one amazing track. Beware, may induce awkward dancing and/or head-pobbing in subway stations: play on iPod with caution.