music

TOP 11 SONGS OF 2008

This was a hard list for me to make. I don’t think the songs are quite as good as the ones on last year’s list, and maybe since i didn’t have 10 “totally amazing” songs it was hard to pick which “really, really cool” songs would fill in the bottom spots… so I bloated it to 11.

If any of them sound like something you might like too, just click the links…

11.”Little Ghost In Your Room”
Ghost of the Forest

I’m pretty sure I got this album at a CD release party in the last week of 2007, which means it practically wasn’t eligible for last year’s list and practically is for this one’s. The band called it quits this year, but I still like occasionally spinning their cheerful, homemade, indie-ish tunes. Their highlight for me is “Little Ghost In Your Room,” a cheery song with handclaps and background “ohs” as Robby reminds us (in amusing rhyme) to not be afraid of little ghosts. The rousing “ohs” of the chorus make the song even better, but the ending’s piano frills, classic Collin synth, and random handclaps make it pure awesome.

10.”Closer”
Jars of Clay

Jars of Clay has been around for awhile, but they keep changing their sound and doing it well enough to keep me interested. Many thought their 2006 album was their best yet, or as good as their classic first, and this year they released an EP just in time for me starting to go on an indie kick.

It starts with an oddly charming synth and later includes bells and horns, all behind simple lyrics such as: You’re the L and the V, I’m the O and the E-eeh-eeh-eeh… If you want my love, well you’ve got to get close to me.

9.”Why So Serious?”
Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard

The background to the opening scene of The Dark Knight, this track begins with eerie, slowly rising sirens abruptly giving way to a rapid, tense rhythm of pulsing strings. A low tone ominously crawls underneath, and suddenly the rhythm is mimicked by percussion and distorted guitar which just as suddenly cuts out. An anxious clacking replaces the strings. Without warning, the full blast of the main theme assaults with its 1-2 punch, followed by another ominous climb of clacking, distortion, vibrating, wailing…. Abrupt silence. Again, a slow buildup teasing us into another assault of full orchestration and guitar distortion.

And that’s just the first half. This nine minutes of genius makes a monotonous activity like walking to class the most epic and intense thing you’ve ever done.

8.”Viva La Vida”
Coldplay

When I first head this I thought it had the most amazing pop strings since “Eleanor Rigby.” I’ve since decided that it’s not quite that clever (the main hook is, after all, a single progression I can imitate on my keyboard), but it’s still a pretty epic track with the orchestral timpani hits and the “cavalry choir” and that classic Coldplay catchiness. And while it’s not as beautiful as “Fix You,” it’s also not a standard depressing tune, either – making some thoughtful (almost Solomonic) commentary about the natural fall of worldly grandeur.

7.”Come All You Weary”
Thrice

My favorite track from Thrice’s varied four-piece Alchemy Index, this mostly stripped-down song throws in an organ on the chorus as Dustin Kensure pleads with us to find rest with the words of Jesus. While it’s a little too raw and earnest to be labeled a “rock ballad,” this makes a nice breather if you’re someone who ever gets weary or stressed out.

6.”In the Valley of the Dying Sun”
House of Heroes

House of Heroes was always just another Tooth & Nail band until I was introduced to this creative song that led me to one of my favorite albums of 2008. These boys are determined to avoid the formulaic with this song’s multiple divisions and parts and tempo changes and harmonies and synths and… woodblock? OK, by the third chorus or coda or something they’re almost trying too hard to bring variety. But it works in this catchy song that covers the effects of war with Biblical metaphors and thought-provoking phrases. And the music video’s kind of interesting, too.

5.”Mock the Music”
Children 18:3

This tight punk trio with its infectious brother-sister vocal tag-team was hands-down my favorite surprise of the year. This dance-worthy tune is my favorite, although there’s enough energy throughout the whole album to argue for several others.

They’re talking about the girls and boys
making too much noise
And the problems to solve them
but it doesn’t involve them
I thought about this too much
and it’s clear that it’s unclear
Unless you believe them, believe them and
I won’t do it
I won’t do it
I won’t do it
NO!

Get to know these guys and you won’t be disappointed. (Warning: The link above is horrible quality and this song is not on their myspace, which has four other really great songs.)

4.”Message From Your Heart”
Kina Grannis

If your memory extends all the way to February of this year, you may remember that Doritos had a SuperBowl contest that involved voting for music acts, with the winner to be featured in a SuperBowl commercial. Like many others, Kina Grannis had developed a YouTube following by posting recordings of her songs with a webcam and a guitar. Unlike many others, she actually has talent, and she ended up winning the contest and getting the commercial.

I checked out the full song and discovered that its “message” was a twist I found rather unique and charming. The song is sung from the perspective of your literal heart, asking you to treat it carefully:

Don’t break me, I bruise easily
The source of both your love and misery
I am steady, beating endlessly
While you are dozing, dreaming pretty things
Lovely things
I don’t work for free
Please take care of me

This is a message from your heart
Your most devoted body part
Taking blood and making art
This is a message from your heart…

You can almost hear her smiling as she sings (how many artists these days display such innocent joy?), and if it doesn’t make you smile, then her bouncy “bum bum bums” at the end probably won’t either. But I’m not ashamed to admit that I think it’s a cute little song.

3. “Your Love Is Strong”
Jon Foreman

Borrowing from the Lord’s Prayer and other words of Jesus and declaring the simple truths about God’s love…

Heavenly Father
You always amaze me
Let your kingdom come
In my world and in my life…

Why do I worry?
Why do I freak out?
God knows what I need
You know what I need…

Your love is
Your love is
Your love is strong!

…Invade my heart
Invade this broken town…

Your love is
Your love is
Your love is strong!

Simply beautiful.

2. “Too Bright to See, Too Loud to Hear”
Underoath

Underoath’s new album didn’t disappoint. This earnest pleading for God to rescue us from our brokenness and “get us home” features an epic intense build-up complete with claps, tom fills, and… Spencer singing?

Good God, if your song leaves our lips
If your work leaves our hands
Then we will be wanderers and vagabonds
They will stare and say how empty we are
How the freedom we had turned us up as dead men…

Good God, can you still get us home?

…HOW CAN WE STILL GET HOME?
HOW CAN WE STILL GET HOME?

We’re forgetting our forgiveness!
WE’RE FORGETTING OUR FORGIVENESS!

1. “The Beginning”
Showbread (featuring Reese Roper)

The closing track to an epic album-length story about brokenness and redemption. Reese Roper guest sings the opening verses. After this buildup, Josh Dies softly begins singing “The Wondrous Cross.” Roper finishes declaring his brokenness; then Josh tells the end of the story:

‘I have been with you all along, you have not noticed me.’
Nervosa now felt more ashamed than ever before.
‘Why would you still care enough to save me
even after seeing the horrible things I have done?
Why do you remain here even now?’ She asked, sobbing.
Because, here is where you are,’ the Lamb said softly,
‘And I long to be with you.”

We return to “The Wondrous Cross” and sing,

See from His head, His hands, His feet
Sorrow and love flow mingled down
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

The emotion is carried through an instrumental buildup that finishes with a rousing original verse:

To Christ, who won for sinners’ grace
By bitter grief and anguish sore
Be praise from all the ransomed race
Forever and forevermore!

I still get chills every time I hear it. Oh what love! Oh what grace! Oh what redemption and joy!

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