Well, there's certainly one thing you can say about the summer of 2008 when it came to music: It was certainly NOT the summer of 2007. As I compiled my summer playlist throughout the last few months, I found myself by and large rediscovering old songs rather than discovering new ones. There was no "Two Times Blue" that completely dominated my listening. However, not every summer can be that way, and on the whole, it was still rather fun. Anyway, here's my Top 80 Minutes of the summer of 2008. As usual, no particular order.
1) Thea Gilmore / Juliet (Keep That In Mind)
Heidi actually introduced me to Thea Gilmore, who was introduced to her by Neil Gaiman (actually Neil Gaiman's blog, although I'm sure she would love to talk Thea Gilmore with Neil Gaiman!) I heard this song for the first time on our way to see the Dolly Parton concert in early May. Upon hearing it for the first time, I exclaimed "It sounds a lot like the Indigo Girls!" To which she replied, "Yeah, but with a British accent." I love the acoustic guitar in this song, especially around the chorus. Anna also belts it out in the car which is beyond cute, but I'm biased.
2) Donna Summer / Stamp Your Feet
As far as new songs go, this song probably came the closest to being this summer's "Two Times Blue." It is probably the strongest track off of Donna Summer's album Crayons. The fact that she resisted the temptation to go all adult contemporary or, worse yet, interpret the great American Songbook was impressive. That Crayons was a stomping dance record was just icing on the cake! I wonder if this song got much play at gay pride events around the country this summer - I wouldn't know about Des Moines Pride as it's not until October! (postponed from June due to massive flooding)
3) Casey Stratton / You Wanted Out
Perfectly encapsulating everything that I love about Casey's music (the driving piano, a minor key, dramatic but not melodramatic lyrics), this is the best song off of Orbit, hands down. I am a much bigger fan of Orbit than I am The Crossing, mostly because with Orbit, I feel like Casey is branching out a bit. He is staying true to his core sound, but also incorporating new bits in as well. In my version of the world, Casey would be recording a lot more uptempo songs in the vein of "You Wanted Out" but who the hell am I to tell him what to record? He has to follow his own muse.
4) Erasure / Yahoo!
Last year's retro Erasure addition to this list was "Freedom." This year, it was "Yahoo!" from The Innocents. In my mind, they have always been more of a singles band than an albums band, but The Innocents is a near perfect album from Erasure. There is nary a bad moment on the whole record. "Yahoo!" is like any good pop song, crawling into your head an holding on for dear life. It is vaguely contemporary Christian if you can believe it ("I'll pray to the Lord on high to rescue me.") but since they are Erasure, I highly doubt that was the intention.
5) Cyndi Lauper / Into The Nightlife
Who knew that it would be Cyndi Lauper that would ultimately produce the most worthy follow-up to Confessions on a Dance Floor? Much like Jason Hare pointed out in a recent Wings for Wheels podcast, I kind of appreciate Cyndi (specifically latter-day Cyndi) more than I honestly like it, but this album is a big exception. In the original version of this list, both "Into The Nightlife" and "Same Ol' Story" (and its liberal use of the f-bomb) were here, but ultimately the disco goodness of "Into The Nightlife" eclipsed "Same Ol' Story." The verses are still clunky, but you cannot beat that chorus. All spun up, indeed.
6) The Ting Tings / Shut Up And Let Me Go
I don't know, I kind of feel bad liking this song. Listening to it makes me feel like I've just gone to a strip club and want to burn my clothing afterward. It always seems like a good idea at the beginning and then by the end, you're really wishing you hadn't. But then you just go back for more. Because of this, it's on the summer list.
7) Madonna/ Give It 2 Me (Paul Oakenfeld Edit)
I have still not warmed much to Hard Candy (although the tour is likely to change some of that), but I still like "Give It 2 Me" quite a bit. I especially like this remix edit of the song which takes away all the R&B aspirations that the song had and makes it the dance song it should have been. It also removes the rather awkward "get stupid" interlude that tries to pass itself off as a bridge. I have managed to avoid knowing exactly what version of "Give It 2 Me" is performed on the tour, but I'm hoping it's this one.
8) October Project / Bury My Lovely
If I had to go out on a limb, this song is probably my song of the summer. The fact that it was released 14 years ago is not pertinent to the discussion. It is THAT good. Thanks to XO (who sent me "Bury My Lovely" one day this summer) I have purchased the entirety of October Project's back catalog, which is a grand total of 23 songs. The October Project album from which this song is taken has catapulted its way up my list of "desert island" albums. I know that October Project has reformed with a new lead singer but let me tell you how no one touches Mary Fahl's bigger than life vocals. I was talking to a friend about it the other day, and when he heard "Bury My Lovely" he commented on how there is a vaguely Cher-ish quality to her voice. I can see that. Simply put, a fantastic song.
9) Coldplay / Viva La Vida
I have never liked Coldplay much, but this song is a huge exception. It is epic in its arrangement and really didn't sound like anything else on the radio this summer (not that I listened to the radio much.) I really need to pick up the rest of the album sometime and try the rest out.
10) Sam Sparro / Clingwrap
There's a lot to like about Sam Sparro who I really think channels early Prince on a lot of his songs. "Clingwrap" is one of many standout songs on his debut record. What I like about "Clingwrap" is how lyrically complicated it really is. "You must have thought I was a snack/Because you're sticking to me like clingwrap" is a great hook. I also like this line:
See i got enough friends that could fill a truck up
Now give me some room and just back the f**k up
Like when you're washing you're clothes at the laundermatic
And you pull them out the dryer and they stick like static
That's what you do
It's a stalker song!
While the lyrics do not always stand out for me in songs, the ones on Sam Sparro's record really do.
11) Mariah Carey / I'll Be Lovin' U Long Time
Shut up you haters! I like this song! It's the first Mariah Carey song that I have liked in probably close to a decade (I did have a soft spot of those Glitter songs.) The thing I dislike about Mariah is when she does all those vocal acrobatics just for the sake of doing them, but this song if thankfully free of such histrionics. There is also no rapper on the track. It's probably the most purely pop song I have heard her do in quite a while which is a great relief. And then there was the good laugh my blogger buddies and I had over the title which is quite politically insensitive, so I won't repeat it here.
12) Dolly Parton / 9 to 5 (Love To Infinity Radio Mix)
I absolutely adore it when old songs get the remix treatment. Although the results are frequently mixed, it's still fun to see new life breathed into moldy-oldies. "9 to 5" has had DJ remixes in the past which really don't do all that much but extend the song (and at just over 2 minutes, it needs some extension!) Love To Infinity took the song and completely reinvented it, but still allowed it to be recognizable as the classic Dolly song that it is. What I particularly like is that it uses the original vocal, rather than a rerecorded Dolly vocal (as Stevie Nicks did with the "Dreams" remix.) It lends just a little more authenticity to the mix. Now if we can just get one for "Potential New Boyfriend" I will promise to shut up about that!
13) Jay Brannan / Can't Have It All
Out singer/songwriter Jay Brannan is semi-well known for his turn in Shortbus and his YouTube videos. Exactly how he appeared on my radar I can't quite recall, but I'm pretty sure it was this song that did it. I listened to it and the "fuck this! this can't be my life" lyric really hit home and I went over to emusic and picked up the rest of the album. For me, this is one of those great songs that reflects the aging process, when you realize in your life that you have to make choices between things and experiences, etc. For those that think "gay" music is nothing but thumping disco beats and incidental lyrics, this album might change your mind.
14) Heart / Alone (v1r00z Remix)
Much like Eric Prydz's "Call On Me" from a couple summers back, this is not as much a remix of Heart's 80s power ballad as it is cleverly used samples of the song thrown into a thumping beat. I would have liked a bit more of the vocals used, but I suppose songs like this are not about the vocals. The only thing missing is the poppers, but I fear they were all consumed during the production of this remix. But don't take my word for it - I'm 99.9999% sure it is a bootleg and therefore unofficial, so here it is. (download)
15) Stevie Nicks / Crash Into Me (Live)
Stevie did the PBS Soundstage thing this summer and while I didn't see it (stupid "check your local listings") I did watch a few performances on YouTube. Because Stevie is such a prolific songwriter, she really doesn't need to do covers, but it's always a treat when she does (Bob Dylan's "Just Like A Woman" notwithstanding.) Her take on Dave Matthews' "Crash Into Me" is beautiful and just makes me wish she'd get her butt back in the studio and record a new solo record (a prospect increasingly unlikely considering the planned Fleetwood Mac album and tour slated for next year.)
16) Rick Springfield / What's Victoria's Secret?
This is a song title that, if I were a songwriter, I would pay cold hard cash to have come up with first. I blogged this song previously, and I'm surprised how much staying power it has had for me. It seriously had the potential to be one of those songs that I downloaded and listened to 10 times in the first 2 days and then never listened to again. But its perfect marriage of retro and current has made it a favorite on my iPod. I am tempted to pick up the rest of the album, but I just don't know how much Rick Springfield I really need in my life. That having been said, this is a great pop song and if this were 1985, it would be a number one hit. Alas, it is 2008 so it barely made a dent (if that) in the charts.
17) Alanis Morissette / Not As We
During the summer, there were three different songs from Alanis' Flavors of Entanglement on this list. The first one to make the list was "Giggling Again For No Reason." But I found myself skipping it on the playlist every time I came to it -- a certain sign it needed to be jettisoned. Then it was "Straitjacket" but ultimately, the song really started annoying the crap out of me. So finally, I settled on "Not As We." It is a slow burn but the part in the chorus where she sings "I'm faking it / Till I'm pseudo making it" gets me every time. All in all, that album was a great return to form for Alanis. IMHO, it's her best since Jagged Little Pill and in the top 10 albums of the year.
18) Keane / Spiraling
I have not really been a fan of Keane's. I was underwhelmed by their debut album that everyone spoke so highly of (although on relisten now, I am liking it more than I did.) The only song of theirs that I really liked was "Leaving So Soon" and that was mostly because of the dramatic "A slap in the face for you now!" plus it's a kiss off song so I'm contractually obligated to like it. So it was with a certain amount of trepidation that I awaited their new song that was briefly available for free on their web site. I knew that my other blogging buddies would probably like it, so the peer pressure was intense. I'm pleased to report that not only do I love the song, I am also eagerly awaiting the release of the full album. I can see this song lingering into the fall as well.
19) Alphabeat - Boyfriend (Pete Hammond 7" Mix)
This is a VERY late entry into the summer playlist, but it is a most worthy one. I have D'Luv to thank for this one. There is not much to say about this but it feels like it is 1988 all over again when you listen to this song! But D'Luv had a much better post about this song than I could ever compose, so go read his. A very pleasant way to finish off the summer and head into autumn, which I am greatly looking forward to.