The best music of 2008.

If iTunes can have celebrity playlists, and Stephen King can provide a head-scratcher of a top ten list, then I can tell you which songs I feel were the best of this year.

To hear the songs named, simply go to the music player in the right-hand column, where they are listed in order. (To scroll beyond the first eight songs, click the forward button in the player's toolbar) Discover awesome music today!

1. "Closer" Kings of Leon. This is the best song I've heard in years. I like atmospheric music that reeks of shadows and deep colors and a certain agelessness. So while not everyone may enjoy this song - too dark, too spooky, too whatever - I am gonna love it for a long, long time. (from the album Only By the Night)

2. "Neptune City" Nicole Atkins. While technically her album came out in 2007, I discovered it in February and bought it on faith that my friend Mark knows his music. Surreal sixties pop with flashes of beautiful color mixed with the oceanic hues of the titular planet, "Neptune City" is just one awe-inspiring musical moment after the other. It is the most gorgeous, other-worldly green for me. Yes. Synesthesia. Anywho, I should clarify that Neptune City is her Jersey hometown, and also, that this is one of the best albums ever. (from the album Neptune City)

3. "Light On" David Cook. There are Idol contestants I've been more rabid about. But David is a rocker I can get behind, and his album is extremely solid. This is his debut single and it's really catchy and earnest and should be number one but the machine, man, the machine holds us down... (from the album David Cook)

4. "The Girl You Lost to Cocaine" Sia. I think her album was the first I purchased this year, and it has yet to disappoint. I like this song because it's peppy and orange and doesn't back down from the title. And...there's just this 'something' about Sia's music that is instantly identifiable as hers. Something quirky, something a bit off, kind of like the woman herself. (from the album Some People Have Real Problems)

5. "Last Day of Magic" The Kills. I have the iTunes Free Digital Download of the Week to thank for discovering this group. Just a guy, a girl, and their underground garage rock. One reviewer described their sound as being piped through a dirty gym sock. Don't let that scare you off, though; there is some serious musicianship and musical knowledge underlying these edgy, gritty, cantankerous songs. 'LDM' is just one of many gems. (from the album Midnight Boom)

6. "Rockferry" Duffy. Initially her voice irked me, but when put to use on a song as soulful as this one, I can hang. I don't know what's in Britain's water lately, but they're gaining the edge on what used to be an American institution. (Uh, that would be soul music) (from the album Rockferry)

7. "A Falling Through" Ray LaMontagne. I've already sung his praises in this blog. This song is slow, dreamy, sad, unapologetically wistful. The chorus is so beautifully simple: "Why? Why did you go away from me?" (from the album Gossip in the Grain)

8. "See My Side" Jordin Sparks. I'm cheating again. Her album came out last year. But it's another great album from an Idol winner, and this song, whether or not laypeople and suits alike know it, is a grand achievement. Robotically minimalistic and quite melodic at the same time, it's the best song a lot of so-called 'superstars' in Jordin's genre never got to sing. (from the album Jordin Sparks)

9. "Going On" Gnarls Barkley. A go-go dance of a song with an intriguingly creepy atmosphere. It's been nominated for a Grammy. I know good music, people!! (from the album The Odd Couple)

10. "Hometown Glory" Adele. Another British soul singer. She's getting pretty popular and that's awesome. If you catch her performing live or on talk shows, I know you'll be impressed. Recently she performed on Leno and it was just her and a guitar. The voice, top notch. And she's plus-sized. We need more like her, desperately. (from the album 19)

11. "Limbo No More" Alanis Morissette. Alanis and I have been through some stuff. That's all I can write without getting choked up. I typically like her out-and-out rockers more, but this is one of the very few 'slow' songs of hers that is just beautiful. And it's life-affirming, too. (from the album Flavors of Entanglement)

12. "Elephants" Rachael Yamagata. Love. Predatory instinct. Together at last. While I don't know too much about this singer yet, this song is quiet and honest and lovely. And what a nice change to hear such an alto. (from the album Elephants...Teeth Sinking Into Heart)

Well, I have to stop somewhere, huh. I hope I've introduced you to a least a couple of new songs you can enjoy. Nothing too annoyingly mainstream, nothing too ridiculously elitist. Just the way it oughtta be.

Happy New Year, all.


Klaatu barada nicto.

Saw The Day the Earth Stood Still last night.

How to keep this post relatively short...hmm.

In both the original and the remake, the little boy's father has died in the war. He and Klaatu visit the grave at Arlington.

In the remake, the boy (played by Will Smith's son, Jaden) is lamenting how his father left him.

Klaatu replies (and I paraphrase), "You know, nothing ever really dies. The universe wastes nothing. Things are merely transformed."

Earlier in the movie, Professor Barnhardt (played by John Cleese) is reasoning with Klaatu about the impending end of the world, saying how many civilizations have come to a major crisis, and many have been destroyed. But sometimes, in the nearness of destruction, we as humans realize how much we are capable of, and we change accordingly, we evolve. Instead of diverting what can be the 'end of the world,' it is possible to allow such circumstances to create something worth more than what came before.

A few weeks ago I posted a single thought, ganked shamelessly from someone's e-mail signature: "Just when the caterpillar thought its life was over, it turned into a butterfly."

Normally I find e-mail signatures cheeky and pendantic...but this one has always stayed with me. Imagine knowing - without a doubt, you're sure - that you are going to die. Everything is coming to ruins. Light is being snuffed out. Time is about to stop. Death is here.

And then...you transform, into something more beautiful and free than you ever knew existed.

For these reasons, I found The Day the Earth Stood Still more than worth my time.