2008: Tiny Mix Tape 2008 Individual songs stuck on repeat

Put this mix tape on at your next party and watch the cuties congregate.



01. The Mae Shi - "Run to Your Grave" (Hlllyh)

If you thought The Thermals' 2006 album The Body, the Blood, the Machine was the last word on second-coming hysteria, I urge you to make the acquaintance of The Mae Shi's Hlllyh. What better way to celebrate the apocalypse than through the kind of spazzcore sing-along you never knew you'd been waiting your entire life to hear? "Run to Your Grave" represents the album at its melodic best, eschewing the band's eternal twitchiness for the dark religious imagery of a unison chorus chanting, "Scream, cry, pray, confess/ God will do the rest." Come for the bouncy, opening synths and thoroughly danceable backbeat, stay for zombie-cum-Jesus freak lyrics like, "Don't bury your body with your diamonds/ 'Cause you know they'll dig up your brain/ And don't hold on to your riches/ 'Cause when you die you're a slave" and "They're coming for your brain but/ They will leave with your head/ They've got money and science/ And they will leave you for dead." You certainly don't have to be a true believer to appreciate the song -- hey, it's 2008 and the American Empire is crumbling. Let's fuck around with the ashes! --Judy Berman

02. Excepter - "Kill People" (Debt Dept)

Not since Pere Ubu's "Life Stinks" has there been such a blunt statement of musical misanthropy. Featuring disco death-dub dance steps and a background chorus of knife-wielding maniacs and Manson family rejects, Excepter's "Kill People" came embedded amongst an assortment of other experimental amblings and more song-oriented material on their 2008 album, Dept Debt. Even though the icy, blood-curdling synth stabs of "Entrance" and the mouth-watering, booty-shakin' grooves of "Burgers" made for prime cuts of Angus, to me, "Kill People" was the best track of the year. Throughout 2008, the song proved valuable in quelling my murderous rage over and over again. Harboring a coded railing against the culture of death that's pervaded American life as of late, "Kill People" is an anthem in our era of all-against-all war. John Fell Ryan seemed once again a modern day Max Headroom, and his possessed "red-rum" chant of "guns and roses" at the end of the track was nothing if not presciently hilarious. Next up for Excepter? How about a passionate derision of Chinese democracy? --Mangoon

03. Harvey Milk - "Death Goes to the Winner" (Life...the Best Game in Town)

The only thing worse than ironic metal is “thinking man's metal,” a term Harvey Milk's label Hydra Head would proudly sport when tagging its wares. It's not that the sentiment is without merit; self-important rock critics and other uninformed crotch jockeys have long-regarded heavy metal as the domain of the brain-dead -- of course metal-heads felt compelled to state they weren't categorically morons. But for all the big brain signifiers -- complex time signatures, bajillion-note fret runs, head-scratching word puzzles -- metal is fundamentally about turning up the amps really, really loud and pounding on the drums really, really hard. Harvey Milk, like their namesake, understand the need for directness, offering this outer-realms Christmas hymn that rips off phrases from two of the “smartest” bands of all time (The Velvets and The Beatles) and manages to coax profundity from a righteously boneheaded title lyric. That the whole jam, from its faux classical intro and gale force sludge-fest, to its appropriation of the “A Day in the Life” majestic final chord, rocks so bloody hard is a testament to the genre's resilience. “Thinking man's metal,” sure, but mostly just really awesome metal. --Jason P. Woodbury

04. Christina Carter - "Capable of Murder" (Original Darkness)

When wondering exactly what was so fascinating about this song, it suddenly came to me -- its no less than the very drone folk inversion of "November Rain." Like Axl's epic ballad, "Capable of Murder" has the ability to either annoy or make you moist around the eyes with its maudlin sweep. The melody is similar, and the woman who "speaks in whispers of his love" is likely talking about a guy like Axl, who can only face up to this love through reckless catharsis and is more terrified of returning that love than he is of doing something destructive and perhaps murderous. They're both cloying tunes that're nonetheless effective, but Carter's -- with her trademark stillness -- actually succeeds in being more haunting in the end. Perhaps it's the lack of a vainglorious video. But if this song were to have a video, it should be Axl seated facing the camera, tough as nails initially, then gradually giving more and more to tears as the camera slowly pulls away. --Willcoma

05. Hatchback - "White Diamond" (Colors of the Sun)

I had been bedridden at my family's beach house with a terrible viral infection in the waning weeks of summer, shuffling songs on the back porch when I came upon "White Diamond." Colors of the Sun had been sitting on my hard drive, completely untouched and unfamiliar, when the song began to play out of nowhere. Sounding like Lindstrøm covering Autobahn, the warm synths began to simmer and expand, the electric piano played that undeniable melody spiraling up and down, signaling an impossibly expansive nine-minute journey of dripping, heavenly kraut, wisely taking nods from the current resurgence of Balearic. To this day, the scene is ingrained in my mind -- watching cars ride down the main road over buoyant, guiding beats, snapshot glimpses of five o'clock sunlight drenched with dub, sea grass billowing as wind blew sand into my eyes. No matter where I've gone and what I've seen, even in the throngs of a deep winter, the song plays and I am transported to that same sitting position, viewing the world from a sunny retreat. I hope it lasts forever. --Brendan Phillips

06. Crookers - "Lollypop" (Mad Kidz EP)

Italy has a soft spot for filthy, rotten electro house. The Bloody Beetroots and Crookers are among a legion of bedroom producers tearing up dancefloors worldwide. Their style incorporates distorted bass lines that pitch-bend up and down scales instead of just skipping semi-tones. It's part glitch, part house, part electro, and part '80s hip-hop. Many producers have been making a name for themselves with high-profile remixes, which Crookers did this year with Chromeo's "Fancy Footwork." Lollypop is an original track that takes about a minute and a half to peak, but the build is an all-time classic. Cheesy synth stabs, the "woo" and "yeah" from It Takes Two, an insistent 4/4 beat, and an orgasmic, sawtooth, wavering bass line that you can feel in your spine. When the bottom drops at 1:14, the pair appropriate the best part of "Yeah (crass version)" by LCD Soundsystem and crank it up to 11 over a beat that can barely contain it. The whole affair is slightly absurd, but this new style is the best thing to happen to house since Daft Punk. --munroe

07. Richard Swift - "JLH" (Onasis I & II)

Richard Swift, a poster boy for breezy, '70s AM pop, completely switched gears for Onasis I & II, and nothing signified the switch quite like "JLH." The track is primordial and dark, highlighted by Swift's growls and ominous vocal echoes. While Onasis focuses on garage rock's humble beginnings, "JLH" takes the genre's signature '60s sound and tortures it with heavy distortion. It's a concert in a bog -- listening to music as your ears fill with tar. Just you and Swift battling over the last few puffs of oxygen before your date with the bottom of the swamp. --Jspicer

08. Animal Collective - "Water Curses" (Water Curses EP)

The opening windup of “Water Curses” sees an anxious group of swimmers gathered at the edge of an undisturbed lagoon, about to jump into the welcoming blue. Their bodies crash through the glassy surface, and their playful thrashing roils the water into choppy, frothing waves. Or maybe those few seconds see the nervous prey getting a head start in a chase through the rainforest, as if “The Most Dangerous Game” were enjoyable for both parties. Ridiculous metaphorical situations aside, “Water Curses” is one of the most ebullient songs of the year. Animal Collective has never sounded so carefree and breezy, but, as usual, the joyful music belies an unsettling murk beneath it. The unrelenting drums indeed call to mind a chase; a warped mariachi band shows up at some point, and Avey Tare's unsettling, obscure lyrics -- sung in his naïve falsetto -- further contribute to the polarized-yet-cohesive, unforgettable feel of “Water Curses.” Though this EP didn't sate my hunger for the band's next album, it did provide a concise example of a quintessential Animal Collective song. --Lukas Suveg

09. Lee Miles- "Peasant Blues" (Heathen Blux)

No matter how obscured the themes are in Miles' latest set of songs, Heathen Blux has an unavoidable political backbone that can't be ignored -- thankfully one that never defaults to the simplistic “go team, revolt!” methodology. Miles sings these fight songs with vocals so detailed, strong, and (purposefully) broken that you're forced to perk up after hearing him drop punchline-worthy observations about a dumbed-down society, where clever politicians run wild in a system made more convoluted each hour. Every day citizens know very little about what really goes on, a fact Miles' writing reminds us of -- usually through a storyteller approach -- without coming off as anything other than a sturdy, studied voice for, as they say, “what should be and rarely is.” Most important, considering this typically ill-informed subject matter, is the clergyman at the center of it all; Miles never once takes a break to indulge in his own character on "Peasant Blues" or any of the album's other tracks, opting instead to tell his vague stories, landing his points in never-sensational terms. Lines such as “You'll spill my blood before you take my home” are about as obvious as they get here, making for a song -- nay, album -- worth studying, living with and, no kidding, believing in. --G. William Locke

10. Eric Chenaux - "Love Don't Change" (Sloppy Ground)

From the opening harmonica wheeze, through its shambling body, to the short-stop end fizzle, “Love Don't Change” is hardly a marvel of modern musical invention. With vocals that nearly fall off the bone and a staggered beat that sounds like it could only be duplicated by an autistic drunkard, the song seems, at first, to be little more than a shell of dirty glass. However, under this seemingly skimpy patina of laissez faire charm, "Love Don't Change" oozes feeling out of every note and beat played (or not played), with an undeniably powerful groove at its core. Everything on the track is played just right; Chenaux's voice is riddled with emotion; the sloppy guitars limp along with a dog-eared refusal to give in and will linger in your memory for ages; and the drumming is an absolutely perfect mess. It has all of this plus a three-and-a-half-minute guitar solo that reminds me of both Neil Young and Prince. “Love Don't Change” has put me in a trance all year. --David Nadelle




01. DJ Scotch Egg - "Drumized" (Drumized)

The chiptune mayhem of DJ Scotch Egg, born Shigeru Ishihara, reflects a schizophrenic musical sensibility -- a mind trying to process a media-saturated hyper-reality through exaggeration and dislocation, where perception becomes fluid and abnormality a given. Yet, for all the spasms present on Drumized, Egg's gabba-esque title track manages to focus its explosive energy into three minutes of sonic bliss that could have been our generation's rallying cry if it weren't so preoccupied with cacophony. This is the sound of the Jolly Green Giant hallucinating on rainbow-colored candy and throwing meatpies at passersbys; Colonel Sanders blasting into outerspace, nanolooping into the fourth dimension with a squirtgun in hand; a boogy circus clown beatboxing to a broken metronome and circuit-bending into your groin. This music is heavy. Its trajectory, however, is going anywhere but down. In fact, before you know it, you're being scooped into the endless expanses of the unknown. The ascendence might be unexpected, but you can't argue with the spiritual after-effects. --Mr P

02. Gang Gang Dance - "House Jam" (Saint Dymphna)

I've been a Gang Gang Dance fan for some time now, and although I should have seen it coming, I never expected their music to become as accessible as “House Jam.” Even Eric, my friend who thinks their name sounds too much like Gang Bang Dance, is now a fan! The track reeks "single," and that's not the kind of smell my nostrils were expecting. It occasionally feel like a throwback to '80s pop, but not in a contrived sense. The arrangement and vocals of Liz Bougatsos are Madonna-esque (in a good way), and the samples of “oohs” and “ahhs” support a near-perfect rhythm. The layers eventually become the driving force of the track and, towards the middle and end, lovely guitar solos add to the jubilant atmosphere. The bottom line: “House Jam” is too damn catchy. --Emceegreg

03. Vampire Weekend - "Oxford Comma" (Vampire Weekend)

How many people this year have listened to me rant at length about my disgust with Vampire Weekend and the mania they've inspired, only to catch me humming along to "Oxford Comma" or sneaking the track onto a party mix? Listen, I know it's nonsense: lying about "how much coal you have," displaying your artwork at the United Nations, some completely unrelated bullshit about Li'l Jon, of all people. (Does he really always tell the truth?) And those other songs that people raved about? "A-Punk"? More like "A-Puke" (also acceptable: "A-Stunk"). "Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa"? I'd suggest renaming it "Cape Cod Pass the Quaaludes." But goddamn "Oxford Comma," with its boppy, pseudo-African melody and insistent drumming, its high-pitched vocal harmonies, and its unusual interest in obscure grammar controversies. It's time to come clean: Who gives a fuck about an Oxford comma? Me, that's who. --Judy Berman

04. The Walkmen - "In the New Year" (You & Me)

January, on the coldest night of the year, I saw the Walkmen. It was a stop-gap tour for the band, a chance to prime the gears for a long distant You & Me, but on this night they played a set heavy on new tracks, which we were hearing for the first time. They were captivating in a way that songs you've never heard before rarely are. Closer review proved that the album was just as good as that one night indicated it would be. The Walkmen have aged gracefully, and in an album so subtle, nuanced, and dutifully paced, there was bound to be at least one anthem (after all, this band once composed "The Rat"). "In the New Year" is it, with that stuttering organ line directing traffic through a chorus that achieves clarity through its chaos. But it's the opening that seals it, with Hamilton Leithauser sounding not bitter nor overly optimistic, but simply: "It's gonna be a good year." --Todd Olmstead

2008 saw the burgeoning world of lo-fi, experimental pop brought out of the frying pan and into the fryer. The year yielded a veritable Nuggets compilation of freewheeling party-scorchers from the likes of Eat Skull, Times New Viking, Psychedelic Horseshit, Tyvek, Little Claw, Blank Dogs etc, etc., and WAVVES' eponymous track was a late-year addition to the growing hit parade. Their debut tape on Woodsist dropped jaws nationwide when it hit, and "WAVVES," besides being one of the most anarchically joyous ditties of the year, reminded us that not nearly enough songs share the name of the band playing them anymore. In these times of economic apocalypse, it must be daunting for record execs to see pop music this good, produced this cheaply, with little-to-no care for fidelity, well-tuned instruments, or droves of PR scum. It's my guess that if musicians keep to their 4-tracks, their bedrooms, and homemade tape labels, and keep putting out pop syrup this sweet, then the blinding gloss and over-produced, auto-pitched schlock of the commercial music industry is doomed. --Mangoon

06. The Drones - "The Minotaur" (Havilah)

There's no doubt that, in some sectors, 2008 will go down as a year whose best music was quiet, contemplative, and made by guys sitting in chairs with acoustic instruments. "The Minotaur" punches such sectors squarely and with no lack of frustration in each of their eye sockets on a daily basis. The Drones base their best songs on the age-old idea of theme and variation -- ferociously pounding out one riff on guitar and vocals, embellishing it with carefully placed mistakes induced by flights of ecstasy and rage until you can't tell the riff from your blood. The riff in "The Minotaur" is caged primordial fire, and Gareth Liddiard bends its notes like he's channeling an angry Jerry Lee Lewis. We're talking fear-of-God type shit. It doesn't matter if the song's about a divorce, a dream, or imperialism: when Liddiard spits out, "He spends all day looking at porn/ Or playing fucking Halo 2" its enough to make you to put down your Xbox controller, get out of your chair, walk to your computer, and cancel your smut subscriptions. --Doug Schrashun

07. Cocoa Tea - "Barack Obama"

Imagine for a moment a packed stadium, peppered with Americans from all corners of this great nation, waving banners and signs and chanting "O-BA-MA! O-BA-MA!" as they wait for the man of the hour to take center stage. At the far end of the arena, several giant-sized screens go blue, fading into phrases such as "Change!" and "I'm asking you to believe!" The crowd erupts with adulation. Soon, though, they recede into anxious silence as the lights dim. Faintly, a sound is heard from an unknown, seemingly distant place across the horizon. Oh yeah, the sun is setting, too, painting the sky a brilliant purple and orange. The crowd's ears perk up as the sound grows stronger, more resilient: a beat. A beat of reggae origin. Then a vocal refrain rings clearly throughout the stadium, catching many off guard. It is clear, it is black: "WHY WHY WHY WHY WHY WOOOYYY WHY WHYYYYYY not!" A pause. Then, again: "BU BUNGI YUNGI LUNGU YUNGU DANGU DANGU DANG... dang-a-lang-a-lang-a-lang-lang-aaa!" Thus begins Cocoa Tea's rallying cry, "Barack Obama."

"Barack Obama, Barack Obama, Barack Obama... Ooyy... a-Woyyy!

African american rise/ and keep your eyes on the prize (Obama!)/ cause none of-a them-a realize/ the black man is in their eyes! (Obama!)/ Well it's no joke it's a fact/ We're gonna paint the white house black (Obama!)/ and I can't believe aaa-chu/ black gon' be runnin' red white and blue/ Dem a shout out...

Barack Obama, Barack Obama, Barack Obama... Ooyy... a-Woyyy!" --Keith Kawaii

08. Tim Fite - "Big Mistake" (Fair Ain't Fair)

“Big Mistake” is an anthem to those who feel they need to prove something to others. Tim Fite is nothing without his twisted sense of humor, and he states that he is that type of person, slowly revealing how he's saving his flaws for one big mistake. I've always felt such a song could have been featured in a burlesque or vaudeville show in a different era. You find yourself almost walking in it, soft acoustic guitar guiding you through the workings of one person's soul. It flows from one personality trait to another, becoming jagged one moment and swelling with a choir at another. It's dark, but set to very cheerful chords that won't let you forget: there is always a side to people that most don't want to admit they have. A lie don't mean nothin' if nobody knows when you're lyin'. In the end, Fite doesn't reveal if he will ever admit to making a mistake, but time doesn't matter if it's only a matter of time, right? --Alaska Nick

09. The Ruby Suns - "This Adventure Tour" (Sea Lion)

A rush and a push and New Zealand is ours: Ryan McPhun's kaleidoscopic second effort under the beatific guise of The Ruby Suns contained thrushes of untamed beauty, but "This Adventure Tour" was Sea Lion's most heavenly pop hit. Deliriously strummed acoustic guitars, tumbling drums, and that meditative, descriptive voice: "The rain was eventually coming." Then, without warning, the song crashes on the biggest wave before hitting the beach again -- after all, who wants their sunshine rained on? --LarryFitzmaurice

10. Pontiak - "Shell Skull" (Sun on Sun)

One of my lasting memories from 2008 was a trip down to Warrenton, Virginia to see Pontiak (along with acts like Arbouretum and Wye Oak) play a 4th of July "Friendstival" at their family farm. The excitement began early in the afternoon -- rumor had it that someone who worked at a recently-closed bar was bringing several mostly-full kegs. It turned out to be true, and we all chugged Dogfish Head while getting drenched by sporadic cloudbursts. The music was moved into a small cabin, which made everything twice as loud. By the time Pontiak's trio of brothers Carney took the stage, it was well after midnight. They were shirtless, covered in green warpaint, and everyone was drunk, wet, and revved up to hear cuts from their Thrill Jockey debut, Sun on Sun. I can't remember much of what was played, but it surely included the record's highlight, a menacing stoner-rock headbobber called "Shell Skull." Then we ate some mushrooms, chased some horses around, and played with a laser pointer. --Tamec


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