Top 10 songs of 2004-2008

18Nov09

When we graduated from college in 2008, my friend Cory wrote a series of lists of events from our college years for the Whitworth Forum. He wanted to do a list of the top 10 songs, but thought someone more into the scene should do it. Enter yours truly. What follows is unchanged from when I originally wrote it in late April 2008.

When Cory asked me to write this column a few months back, I couldn’t believe it. My reaction was something to the effect of, “Are you kidding me? I don’t think anyone can actually do that list justice.” Yet here we are, three weeks from the end of the school year, and I’m giving you the Top Ten Songs of 2004-2008.

First of all, this list is useless if you can’t listen for yourself. For your convenience, I’ve posted a link to a YouTube video of each song as it is on the album. Some of them are official music videos, while others are just set up by fans so that people can hear the song for free. I also have to give you a caveat – I realize this list is every bit as subjective as my Top Ten Albums lists are at the end of each year. These are songs that I love desperately, but I realize that not everyone will enjoy them as much as I do. If you disagree with me, that’s great! Post your suggestions in the comments. I will admit right up front that there are a couple of genres that I have missed. Specifically, I can’t stand country music and I don’t think there were very many great rap songs in the past four years. Again, if you think one of them deserves to be on this list, write it in the comments. Prove me wrong.

One final note before we dive in – It’s an absurd idea to try and narrow your iTunes library down to the ten best songs of any era, especially a full four-year span. It is absolutely insane. But I have to recommend it – read this column, agree or disagree with me, and then go make your own list. I’d love to see it, and hopefully we can all discover some great new music together.

Anyway! On to the list!

10.) The Decemberists – Sons & Daughters (unfortunately, I could only find a live version. It still gives a pretty good impression)
The closer to The Decemberists’ 2006 album “The Crane Wife” is the opener to my list. It really is the perfect closer; from its mandolin-led ensemble of acoustic instruments to the way it builds and its final, hopeful refrain: “Here all the bombs fade away.”

9.) The National – Start a War (I have to apologize for showing you scenes from The Notebook; it was the only way I could get the studio version)
This song rumbles like an earthquake, and lead singer Matt Berninger’s voice and melancholy lyrics are at the epicenter. The quiet intensity of this song makes the speaker’s broken relationship all the more poignant, and the progression makes his admission even more heartbreaking: “You were always weird, but I never had to hold you by the edges like I do now.”

8.) The Rocket Summer – So Much Love
I will always remember where I was when I heard this song for the first time. I was driving back from Best Buy after picking up The Rocket Summer’s third full-length album, 2007’s “Do You Feel.” I had anxiously unwrapped the album in the parking lot and flipped it on. “Do You Feel” opens up with some immediate rocking, and I knew after one track that this disc would be Bryce Avery’s finest hour. He didn’t disappoint. The next track, “So Much Love,” is everything you could ask for in a fun summer song – a sweet horn solo, a gigantic piano lick, and some inspirational, simple, and somehow profound sing-along lyrics. Above all, though, it’s just a blast. You can imagine Avery jumping around the studio, yelling at the top of his lungs: “You look like the songs that I heard my whole life coming true!”

7.) The Killers – When You Were Young
When I first heard this song, my first thought was, “Yeah, this is pretty good. But it doesn’t sound like The Killers.” I was right about one part. The Killers listened to a lot of Bruce Springsteen before recording 2006’s “Sam’s Town,” and The Boss’ influence shines through (especially in lead singer Brandon Flowers’ performance). What I was wrong about, however, was how much this song would grow on me as I kept listening to it. This would have been hands down the best straightforward rock and roll song of this period, if not for the song coming in at number five.

6.) Gwen Stefani (feat. Akon) – The Sweet Escape

Every couple of years, there is a new undeniably catchy pop song that captures the ears and hearts of America’s music critics. Not just pop music consumers either; these songs are loved by snobbish elitists and 13-year-old girls alike. There were a few great ones to choose from in this time period (including Justin Timberlake’s “SexyBack” and Kelly Clarkson’s “Since U Been Gone”), but “The Sweet Escape” was the finest. Akon is pretty dispensable on this one, but Gwen Stefani proved that she was more than just B-A-N-A-N-A-S.

(#5-1 after the jump)

5.) Foo Fighters – Best of You
Foo Fighters have been at it since 1995. In their tenth anniversary year, they released an album called “In Your Honor.” More than any other song on this list, I have to implore you to watch the video. It perfectly sums up the themes that must have been running through Dave Grohl’s head while writing this song – joy and angst, agony and ecstacy, passion and pain, despair and hope. This song expresses more raw emotion than most of today’s rockers would dare to write about, and it does the job in four minutes and sixteen seconds.

4.) Sufjan Stevens – Chicago
This seems about right for the best song on the best album to be released during my college career. “Chicago” charmed indie rock fanatics and soundtrack composers alike (see “Little Miss Sunshine”), and it made a genuine low-level celebrity out of Sufjan. There are so many highlights on his 2005 album, “Come On, Feel The Illinoise,” that it was difficult to choose one. But with the xylophone intro, soaring strings section, and Sufjan’s softly warbling voice directing it all, “Chicago” was the biggest and best of them all. It seems to be the least likely line for an anthem, but there it is: “I’ve made a lot of mistakes.”

3.) Band of Horses – The Funeral
When Band of Horses first recorded this song, singer/guitarist/songwriter Ben Bridwell didn’t even want to put it on their debut album, 2006’s “Everything All The Time.” Bridwell thought “The First Song” or “The Great Salt Lake” would be the radio hit. But it was this one which, like “Sons & Daughters,” is remarkable for its simplicity. “Every occasion, I’ll be ready for the funeral,” Bridwell chirps over crunching guitars and crashing cymbals. If only every song about loss could be this reverent while simultaneously expressing so much anguish.

2.) Arcade Fire – Rebellion (Lies)
Arcade Fire are an enigma, and they like it that way. This song is partially about hiding “underneath the covers,” but also about exposing the mythology of parents’ rhetoric. The themes that seem melodramatic on much of their 2004 album “Funeral” actually work to great effect here. The thumping heartbeat of the song, coupled with ornate instrumentation and the growing urgency in Win Butler’s voice make this song one to remember – and, perhaps as important, one to play really, really loud.

1.) The Format – If Work Permits
Nate Ruess has just about the most distinctive voice in indie rock, and he makes use of it at all volumes here. Starting out with the sound of crickets and a finger-picked acoustic melody, Ruess unfolds two stories: one about an abused friend who becomes scared of love, and one about the speaker’s roller coaster relationship. As the song builds and unfolds, so do the stories. The moral? Any kind of love means making yourself vulnerable, but that doesn’t mean you have to be afraid.

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3 Responses to “Top 10 songs of 2004-2008”

  1. you could just listen to the beat of those high bass from Rap songs, i just like rap songs ~–

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