Monday, December 31, 2007

Song(s) of the Year

Our local NPR affiliate did a bunch of those end-of-the-year shows. You know the way these work - pick the story of the year! Sum up your year in thirty seconds! Write a haiku! Write a limerick!

And then there was this - pick your song of the year.

And that idea worked for me. What was the one song that will always scream 2007 when I hear it? It's not quite the same question as best song of the year, which makes it more interesting.

So, what the hell. Songs of the year, in no particular order:

Britney Spears - "Gimme More."
Possibly the worst song of the year, from its terrible intro ("It's Britney, bitch!") to its lame-ass club retread beat to the faux-edgy lyrics to the entire artifice of the song. The video, if anything, makes it worse. But I will always remember Mrs. Spears' trials and travails when I hear this song, which hopefully, will be never again in my lifetime. (I can't link to the VMA performance, but you can find it if you know how to look. It just hurts even to think about it.)

Radiohead - "Down is the New Up." This isn't on the CD that I downloaded for $7.38 from Radiohead's website, but is on the second CD of material that is supposed to be released early next year. Here's a nice acoustic version with just Thom Yorke, and here's a great live version. No, I haven't heard the studio version, but I can't wait. (I'm weirdly amused by the idea of a song that hasn't officially been released making the SOTY chart.)

Radiohead may not have changed or destroyed the music industry this year, but they sure put a shock to the system. The album needed to be good to live up to all the hype and speculation, and it is.

Björk - Declare Independence. I loved "Earth Intruders," particularly the live version from SNL. But this song is the one that will stay with me- a kick-ass, glitchy, screechy anthem to be played at max volume. (This live version from Jools Holland's show will appeal to the people who already love the song. If you don't get it, you really won't get it after watching this. It's also worth watching to see the ReacTable in action.)

Arcade Fire - "Windowsill." The audio equivalent of "I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore." Sums up perfectly the frustration and outrage that so many of us are feeling, four years into this useless and endless war, nearing the end of the Bush administration's reign. The Arcade Fire is one of the greatest bands working today. (A stirring live version here.) Also check out "Intervention" if you like this one.

Wilco - "On and On and On." I love the new album, Sky Blue Sky (I swear that I like the album regardless of its title). This song is deceptively simple and inexplicably comforting to me. A great song from a great album. (Live performance here.) "Impossible Germany" is another new song that slays me, but this is the one I want to learn to play on guitar.

But what's the one song that will always bring me back to this moment, this moment in time, this moment in music? That's an easy pick.

Battles - "Atlas."

I remember walking to work the first time I heard this song. I remember the giddiness in Bob Boilen's voice as he introduced the song, and then those insane munchkinland vocals kicked in, and I was hooked. This is the weirdest and most effective and most memorable song I heard this year, and I never get tired of hearing it. (In case you missed it, here's the mindbending video. From Warp Records, natch.)

Battles is not a rock band. They're not jazz, not hard rock, not "alternative," not anything I've ever heard before. I've got them categorized on my iPod along with Sonny Sharrock and Pharoah Sanders and the Bad Plus. They're beyond categories. They fracture boundaries and almost challenge the definition of music itself, which seems like as good of an anthem as 2007 is going to get.

Happy New Year, everyone. May you get an abundance of the things you want and only a fraction of what you deserve.

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