Monday, December 22, 2008

ChrisMix 08

Below are my 22 favorite new songs of 2008. Why 22? It’s lucky. And it’s how many happen to fit on a CD. Plus my annual Christmas song, and a bonus track. And some hidden PC content. The first track is the Christmas track, the last the bonus track, and we countdown from #22 to #1 in between.

1. The Christians and the Pagans - Dar Williams.
I didn’t discover this song this year, but I found my own copy of it. I’d heard it years ago on the radio (WBER in Rochester, my favorite radio station) and decided to track it down. I called up the radio station and asked them, “Hey, what’s that lesbian Christmas song you played 8 years ago?” I would’ve been truly impressed if the DJ on hand could have told me, but they couldn’t. But they did email me their catalogue of Christmas music. Once I saw Dar’s name, I knew I had my song.

2. Standing in the Way of the Connection - A plus D
My favorite mashup of the year. Take my favorite song intro from 1994 (really one of my favorite song intros ever) and a quality number from 2006 and you’ve got a great combo. This song has made it into most of the mixes I’ve made for my daily life this year.

3. Right as Rain – Adele
I’ve got to be honest, Adele wasn’t going to make my top 22 until I realized how American my list was. After last year’s staggering British presence, I felt it unbalanced to wipe them off the list completely. Plus, I really like this song. Maybe all these British soul chanteuses are starting to sound alike, but they’re still catchy.

4. Ten Things - Paul Baribeau
I went to a number of local shows this year, and only one of the artists is available on iTunes. Probably not the best reason for him to make it on to the list, but I do really like this song. I’m not really into Lo-Fi (though my number one song is from a famous Lo-Fi artist) but I think the live sound of this track really enhances it. He was a lot of fun to see, even if we were in a gross basement. Maybe because we were in a gross basement.

5. Fruit Machine - Ting Tings
I really like the Ting Tings, but I can see where others won’t. They’re not musical masterminds, they’re not particularly good singers, and I think the beat might even be a little too funky for dancing. But I know what I like when I hear it. Check out Great DJ and Shut Up and Let Me Go to see if you agree.

6. A Drop Filled With Memories - Hirasawa Susumu
I decided only to let one instrumental number into my top 22. Sorry Ratatat. Instrumental numbers are hard to pull off. You don’t want them too simple or they’re not interesting. You don’t want them too complex or it just becomes noise. This is just right. I’ve used this song and the rest of the Paprika soundtrack as relaxation music all year. Go see Paprika, anime won’t kill you.

7. California Girls - The Magnetic Fields
Those Beach Boys weren’t right about much. Kokomo? Not an island. And California Girls? Most of them suck. If you’re a California girl, prove me wrong. The Magnetic Fields and I agree on the subject. And they’ve got some awesome distortion to back up our view.

8. Black Hole - She & Him
If I were a celebrity, I’d totally form a rock band. And my own clothing line, brand of soda (which would probably taste just like Dr. Pepper, because how could I improve it?) and tons of other stuff. Not to make extra money, but because I’d be famous and would get to produce whatever entertained me at the time. Zooey Deschanel didn’t go for the rock band, but instead for an alt folk one. And I applaud her. When everyone else is going to the 80s for retro, she goes for the 50s and 60s. Kudos for doing whatever you feel like, and having it work out.

9. Windows - N.E.R.D.
According to a source that I don’t particularly trust, the Neptunes worked on 43% of the songs played on US radio in 2003, which sounds ridiculously high. That’s like saying they worked on every song featuring a guitar. In any case, they decide to call themselves N.E.R.D. some of the time, and produce some pretty slick beats. This one is great, as is My Drive Thru.

10. The Immediacy of Now - Paul Fidalgo and the Conflict of Interest
I love me a vocal distorter. So true story: I have no idea how I found this song. I know I bought it through iTunes, but can’t for the life of me remember how I came across the artist in the first place. Evidently Paul has some kind of subliminal advertising in my textbooks.

11. Any Other World – Mika
So I probably shouldn’t have included this song on the list. It’s great and all, but half the point of the list is helping people find obscure artists they wouldn’t normally come across, and everyone knows that Grace Kelly song. Plus I had downloaded the album a year or two ago, and just never got around to listening to it, so it’s not new either. But it turns out the whole album is great. So skip Grace Kelly (or listen to it, if you somehow missed it) and that grating Lollipop song, and enjoy the rest of a great album.

12. Step by Step - Jesse Winchester
I played this for a friend and she said it was country. It’s definitely not country. I wouldn’t have a country song on this list. It’s bluesy folk indie rock. Ok, I don’t know what it is, but it’s not country.

13. I'm a Lady – Santogold
Misheard lyrics: “And I like sometimes to whip it out, so everyone can see I’m a lady.” Incorrect, but funny lyrics for someone else to write a song around. Santogold is a little bit of a cheat since she appeared on a track on last year’s ChrisMix, as a guest vocalist for Mark Ronson. Very tricky Santogold; way to work the system so you get to be on my yearly mix twice.

14. Acknowledge Me - Elias and the Wizzkids
We’re now in the top 10 songs of the year! Exciting, I know. I had a hard time picking this one, since I like most every song on this album. So if you’re last minute Christmas shopping, get someone this album. It’s a good one.

15. The Baltic Sea - The Social Services
As a Dane, I’m always on the lookout for songs criticizing Sweden and Norway. It’s your fault that people spell my name wrong you stupid Swedes. Surprisingly, these songs are fairly difficult to come across. So when I found this one, I knew it would be in my top ten. Plus they sing about Ikea and wind power and all kinds of topics that are underrepresented in the music industry.

16. The Old Prince Lives at Home – Shad
As a doctor, I’m always on the lookout for songs criticizing dentists. Surprisingly these songs are fairly difficult to come across. This song is good, until you reach two minutes in, when it becomes awesome. Holla.

17. Visit From The Dead Dog - Ed Harcourt
This may very well be my album of the year. Every track is very distinct, and very great. If being very great is possible. It’s also the first artist I learned about through a commercial. Advertising does work once in a great while.

18. Bad Things - Jace Everett
I’m in denial. There’s a country song on this list. How could such a thing happen? I could claim that it’s bluegrass, but the sad truth is that it’s country. It’s the theme song of True Blood and it got intractably stuck in my head. Screw you HBO for making me do this.

19. Hedonistic Me - Born Ruffians
This is another album I had a hard time picking apart. This song may have won out simply because it had a sweet name. If you’ve actually been listening to these songs as you read the list you’ll probably notice that it’s been a pretty indie year. There’s been some rock, hip-hop and (blag) country thrown in, but indie has definitely made its presence known.

20. Bohemian Like You - The Dandy Warhols
I almost gave this spot to another Dandy Warhol’s track, We Used to Be Friends. But I thought it fairly ridiculous to have 3 tv theme songs on the list. True Blood uses Jace, Skins uses The Gossip (a song used in the mashup from track 2) and Veronica Mars uses the Dandy Warhols. But this song is equally excellent, and not a theme song.

21. No Sex For Ben - The Rapture
Instead of taking this song from a tv show, I took it from a video game. I don’t actually have the time or money to play Grand Theft Auto, but it does have a pretty good soundtrack. Although I try to avoid overtly sexual songs from this yearly mix, I felt ok about this one. Sure they say SEX about 800 times, but each time they’re saying NO SEX. It’s really about abstinence.

22. The World Should Revolve Around Me - Little Jackie
I’m not going to lie, this song is better with swearing. But for you I got the edited version. It takes away some of the sassiness. I’ve got talent and I’ve got wits just doesn’t have the sociological contrast or alliteration of the original lyric. Oh well. This album is great, though Imani doesn’t really show her range from song to song. If you want to hear some crazy stuff, get her Black and White Album. Much crazier, but this Little Jackie album is better despite its homogeneity.

23. Love Love Love - The Mountain Goats
This is it, the top song of the year. Most people’s response is: really? Really. After listening to Heretic Pride (which is not the album this song is from, but his most recent album and is amazing) I got pretty hooked. People in-the-know have been listening to the Goats since the early 90s. They tend to be artsy, elitist folk, with vinyl collections. I’ve actually never met one, but that’s what I’d assume. Anyway, the Goats have been doing Lo-fi stuff up until recently, and honestly, Lo-fi often drives me crazy. But in any case I’ve been listening to a lot of their more produced albums, and enjoying them greatly. And I’m sure each and every one of those artsy elitist folk would give you a different Mountain Goats song as their personal favorite (they’re very prolific, I already have 390 of their songs.) This is mine.

24. I’m Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How To Dance with You -Kate Nash
This is a secret track because it’s not eligible for this year’s mix. Sorry Kate, you can’t get back on the ChrisMix unless you change your name. I like The Black Kids version, but I like this one much better. I’m not really sure why the Black Kids, the lead singer of which appears to be a Native American male, sing about being a little girl, but it makes more sense when Kate sings it. And it sounds better. And she should email me if she reads my blog.

That’s it for this year. If you’re getting your ChrisMix through iTunes, you can go here:

ChrisMix 08

You don’t get the nifty CD case I designed, but you do have the option of downloading 3 additional songs to round out the top 25 tracks of the year:
23. The Re-Arranger – Mates of State
24. Cheap and Cheerful - The Kills
25. Esmerelda – Speech

Have a Merry ChrisMix.


ESO said...

I am surprised that the Dandy Warhols and Magnetic Fields are new to you, but I haven't heard of anyone else on your list. Maybe I have heard some of it on WBER--just have to wait and see if they sound familiar.

I am curious--how many more years do you think you will be able to make a Chris Mix under current rules. I think I would be hard pressed to choose 20 songs I loved from brand new bands every year.

mallory said...

I can't wait to hear Chris Mix 08. I tried to go to the link, but it didn't work!! Well, it was just taking too long for me for some reason. Thank you for letting us into your world of music.

Paul Fidalgo said...

Hey this is Paul of the aforementioned Paul Fidalgo and the Conflict of Interest. Just saying thanks for digging my song, and if your readers want to check out more music, it can be had for pennies at

Thanks again!