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2008's best overlooked songs

Hold on, they were just here a minute ago ...


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The traditional record industry may (or may not) be collapsing, but critical consensus will never die. Just look at a few "Best of 2008" lists and you begin to wonder if all critics spent the past year listening to the same 50 albums.

Which is why we're opting for the year's best overlooked songs, a list that should, by its very nature, fall outside the parameters of traditional pack journalism.

Of course, your mileage may vary when it comes to defining "best," or, for that matter, "overlooked." And yes, this list may include a relatively well-known track or two that we couldn't bring ourselves to leave out, as well as a couple 2007 releases that didn't become widely available until this year.

Still, the following litany of personal faves should be sufficiently esoteric to provide you with alternatives to the usual suspects and, just maybe, a few new favorites of your own. (And hey, don't forget to send us your own lists!)

"Soldier," Erykah Badu Erykah Badu - New Amerykah, Pt. 1 (4th World War) - Soldier
Amy Winehouse, Adele and plenty of other R&B-loving limeys have climbed onto the retro-soul bandwagon, but Badu (pictured above) got there first. And, as this intense and addictive track suggests, she's still doing it best.

"Halfway Home," TV on the Radio TV On the Radio - Dear Science (Bonus Track Version) - Halfway Home
From its mutant Beach Boys opening to its melodically unpredictable chorus, Dear Science's strangely unforgettable opener may be TVOTR's catchiest song ever.

"Rockferry," Duffy Duffy - Rockferry - Rockferry
Forget "Mercy" this is the only Duffy song that matters. Producer Bernard Butler gives the Welsh singer-songwriter the feel of vintage Lee Hazelwood without sacrificing an ounce of vitality.

"Time," the Rumble Strips The Rumble Strips - Girls and Weather - Time
Any group that can get you to sing along with a verse like, "Good evening, Mister Reaper / What's that you say? / All my hopes and dreams are dead? / That I should go back to my bed," obviously deserves your attention. Big hooks, big horns, big heart.

"The Likes of Us," Argy Bargy Argy Bargy - The Likes of Us - The Likes of Us
If the Clash were street thugs and were still making records, they might well be doing something like this. But they're not. Fortunately, Argy Bargy are.

"Princes," Gang Gang Dance featuring Tinchy Stryder Gang Gang Dance - Saint Dymphna - Princes (feat. Tinchy Stryder)
New York avant-rockers hook up with UK grime emcee. Is it any wonder you haven't heard anything like it?

"I Don't Always Know What You're Saying," Ladyhawk Ladyhawk - Shots - I Don't Always Know What You're Saying
If you remember groups like Pearl Jam and the Call, or just wish they'd written better songs, this undeservedly obscure Canadian group may well be your next big thing.

"All Y'all," Gringo Star Gringo Star - All Yall - All Yall
Southern power-popsters channel the Kinks and Big Star, and come up with a hit. Except, you know, for the hit part.

"Jimmy," Moriarty Moriarty - Gee Whiz But This Is a Lonesome Town - Jimmy
Weirdest lyric of the year, but also one of its most oddly compelling songs, from a French-American group nobody's heard of. Yet.

"I Woke Up Today," Port O'Brien Port O'Brien - All We Could Do Was Sing - I Woke Up Today
When people started comparing my dog's howling to "Intervention," I realized Arcade Fire comparisons no longer amount to much. This alt-sing-along, with its big wordless chorus, gets that kind of thing all the time. Which is weird, because it's at least a thousand times more fun.

"Standing in the Rain," Al Green Al Green - Lay It Down - Standing In the Rain
Most of the soul man's new Roots-produced album suffers in the songwriting department, but this one's a latter-day classic.

"Heart Attack," Low vs Diamond Low vs Diamond - Low vs Diamond - Heart Attack
Colorado-turned-California band does its best impersonation of post-Eno Roxy Music and, unlike just about everybody else, actually pulls it off.

"Lady Day (Live)," Lou Reed Lou Reed - Rock 'n Roll Animal - Lady Day
Uncle Lou revisits Berlin. So intense that it's scary.

"Viva la Resistance," Hypernova Wizzy Noise - Hypernova
Quite possibly the catchiest song by an '80s-influenced underground Iranian rock band you've ever heard.

"This is Your Last Chance to be Famous My Love," the Mint Chicks The Mint Chicks - Crazy? Yes! Dumb? No! - This Is Your Last Chance to Be Famous My Love
Former New Zealanders deliver an energetic send-up of the Buzzcocks and Devo. Unfortunately, this was their last chance to be famous.

"Handlebars," Flobots Flobots - Fight With Tools - Handlebars
OK, not so much overlooked, but clearly the century's most chilling anthem. Besides which, they're from Colorado.

"The Company I Can Get," the New Year The New Year - The New Year - The Company I Can Get
Alumni from Bedhead the band that gave us slowcore and beardcore finally get happy. Well, sort of.

"White Lies," My Dear Disco My Dear Disco - Dancethink LP - White Lies
How can you miss disco if it won't go away? And are you sure you want to?

"The Evangelist," Whitman Whitman - Torch Songs - The Evangelist
Irresistible track from an Austin band whose idea of rock defies the trends and reaps the rewards.

"Ready for the Floor," Little Boots (Unreleased find it at

Yikes, I just found out that Little Boots is the English translation of Caligula. Happily, the British singer (real name: Victoria Hesketh) prefers covering Hot Chip songs to raping and pillaging. This version, with just her singing backed by a handheld Tenori-on sequencer, quietly surpasses the original. Kind of like Tori Amos covering Nirvana. Except, you know, good.


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