Now That's What I Call Music! 2008 will undoubtedly do a great job encapsulating this year in pop, and thus sucking. Instead, plug into this list from the tenderly ferocious SF folk/rock duo Two Gallants, giving you this year's faves, and a few timeless gems: Meadowlarks by Fleet Foxes: This Seattle five-piece credits their parents for turning them on to the inspiring sounds of Hank Williams and Bob Dylan. No word on who got them into fauna and alliteration
The Ballad of You Know Who by Richard Swift: Mr. Swift opens up this lumbering number with "I said to Mary, I hope you die", a harsh sentiment that's only slightly sweetened by an onset of regret and violins. Colleen by Joanna Newsom: This banjo-fueled, fantastical ditty tells the story of a girl who "must have once been a thief or whore" before getting thrown overboard and cleansed by the ocean, learning "prayers of chastity" from her rescuers, experiencing doubts about her cleansing, complaining about "laws that govern property", and...well, it's a great song
I Don't Feel at Home in this World Anymore by Two Gospel Keys: An antiquated and upbeat jaunt of "country gospel", IDFAHITWA's the work of two elderly church-going ladies who wanted nothing more than to be included on an internet playlist. Ponytail by Panda Bear: This Beach Boy-ish tune celebrates the "glowing and growing" of the singer's soul, which clearly hasn't grown enough to leave behind that Gary Cherone hairstyle.
Ram On by Paul McCartney: Inspired by Paul's post-Beatles wanderings 'round NYC with a ukulele, "Ram On" features late wife Linda on backup vocals, making you guiltily yearn for "more ukulele"
Fare Thee Well, Miss Carousel by Townes Van Zandt: This hard-living, currently dead Texan abandoned his oil-rich family to write wrenching country folk songs covered by everyone from Willie to Norah Jones. "Fare Thee Well" profiles a rapid succession of fellow down-and-outers, oddly not including Norah Jones.
You Can Never Hold Back Spring by Tom Waits: In this plodding, trumpet-laden number, Waits muses on the hope Spring can bring to the darkest of winters. Tom Waits singing about hope? That's adorable.
Las Cruces Jail by Two Gallants: Your curators whistle and shriek the unrepentant last thoughts of a murderer on death row, i.e., "Now That's What I Call Capital Punishment!".