Nick Annan pits indie's elite against the dance world...

Ask any musician how they would categorise their sound and they'll fall back on the old “it's all just music”, or “there are only two types of music: good and bad”.


Us journalists types love to categorise, we can't help it. Who do you think comes up with all those ridiculous sub-sub-genres?

While 2008 has been a great year for cross pollination and inter-genre inbreeding, we can't help but wind up our two favourites, those old rivals 'Indie' and 'Dance', and gather a crowd shouting “fight, fight, fight”.

So, here we stand behind the bike sheds ready to hold the jackets of 2008's best tunes as we goaded them into a face-mashing frenzy.

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The Draw

We've randomly selected 16 songs from our Top 40 tracks of 2008, squashed them into pigeonholes and are now poised by the ClashMusic tombola ready to draw combatants.

First up, in the 'Indie' corner, our rather weedy looking gladiators are:

'Bruises', Chairlift

'Grounds For Divorce', Elbow

'Highly Suspicious', My Morning Jacket

'The Wolves', Bon Iver

'Shock of the Lightning', Oasis

'Paris', Friendly Fires

'A-Punk', Vampire Weekend

'Pink Sabbath', Dananananaykroyd

And, glaring ominously at the indie kids from beneath their hoodies, the 'Dance' contenders:

'Poison Dart', The Bug

'L.E.S. Artistes', Santogold

'Courtship Dating', Crystal Castles

'Ready for the Floor', Hot Chip

'Paper Planes', M.I.A.

'Dance Wiv Me', Dizzee Rascal & Calvin Harris

'Machine Gun', Portishead

'Night', Benga & Coki

Getting things rolling, we draw titles from the tombola and have at it…

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Round 1

'Bruises' Vs 'Ready For The Floor'

Up first, as heard on the iPod Nano ad, 'Bruises' by Brooklyn newcomers Chairlift versus Clash cover stars Hot Chip with 'Ready For The Floor'. While we hailed Chairlift as one of 2008's newcomers, Hot Chip are victorious with a modern classic. Winner = 'Ready For The Floor'

'Highly Suspicious' Vs 'Paper Planes'

Tennessee's hair-bear bunch, My Morning Jacket, pitch in the mutant funk of 'Highly Suspicious' against M.I.A.'s stateside-slaying 'Paper Planes' with Jim Jones' falsetto taking it after much tussling. Winner = 'Highly Suspicious'

'Grounds For Divorce' Vs 'Courtship Dating'

A quick one this as 2008 was easily Elbow's year. Taken from their Mercury winning album ‘The Seldom Seen Kid’, 'Grounds For Divorce' easily kicks Crystal Castles’ plagiarising asses. Winner = 'Grounds For Divorce'

'Poison Dart' Vs 'Shock Of The Lightning'

Oasis returned in fine style this year with the rush of 'Shock of the Lightning' and its attendant album, but it was but a variation of all that's gone before; 'Poison Dart' meanwhile was just of the rocket from Saturn. Winner = 'Poison Dart'

'The Wolves' Vs 'L.E.S. Artistes'

Bon Iver created some really beautiful music as 'The Wolves' aptly demonstrates but, as the end of the year approaches, we're in party mood and 'L.E.S. Artistes' is better to dance to. Winner = 'L.E.S. Artistes'

'Paris' Vs 'Dance Wiv Me'

The inclusion of a certain Calvin Harris negates our usual admiration for Dizzee and makes Friendly Fires' 'Paris' the clear, and deserved, victor (the cowbell helped too). Not to mention Harris' horribly awkward dancing when they performed this acoustically on the Glastonbury coverage. Winner = 'Paris'

'A-Punk' Vs 'Night'

Four Ivy League grad students versus the sound of the London streets: it's like a modern take on the Sharks and the Jets. While Benga & Coki go for the gut, Vampire Weekend's 'Upper West Side Soweto' academic approach wins out for us. Winner = 'A-Punk'

'Pink Sabbath' Vs 'Machine Gun'

The war of the bloody minded. Despite persevering with a ludicrously awkward name, Dananananaykroyd and their 'Pink Sabbath' lose out to the legendary Portishead on account of their first single in ten years being so ridiculously difficult. Winner = 'Machine Gun'

Vampire Weekend – ‘A-Punk’

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Round 2

No ridiculous X Factor style pauses from me, it's straight on with Round 2.

Left representing Indie we have:

'Grounds For Divorce', Elbow

'Highly Suspicious', My Morning Jacket

'Paris', Friendly Fires

'A-Punk', Vampire Weekend

While the Dance fraternity offers:

'Poison Dart', The Bug

'L.E.S. Artistes', Santogold

'Ready for the Floor', Hot Chip

'Machine Gun', Portishead

So, firing up the tombola once more…

'Ready For The Floor' Vs 'Paris'

One of the great new acts that made themselves heard in 2008, Friendly Fires unfortunately can't overpower Hot Chip who really hit their stride this year with their 'Made in the Dark' album. Give the losers a couple of albums and we’ll have a rematch. Winner = 'Ready For The Floor'

'Highly Suspicious' Vs 'L.E.S. Artistes'

While I have nothing but admiration of My Morning Jacket and their ever-expanding sonic palette, 'Highly Suspicious' isn't quite a career highlight for them. Its weirdness is its primary appeal. 'L.E.S. Artistes', on the other hand, stands as perhaps the highlight of the ‘Santogold’ album. Winner = 'L.E.S. Artistes'

'Poison Dart' Vs 'Grounds For Divorce'

Whereas 'Poison Dart' previously secured passage based on its ridiculously up-to-date sounds, here its anonymous nature wilts under the sheer goodwill and charisma of Elbow's Guy Garvey. Winner = 'Grounds For Divorce'

'Machine Gun' Vs ' A-Punk'

While we applauded Portishead's singular choice of comeback single, we perhaps don't want to hear it that often. So, unfortunately, Portishead fall foul of the festive spirit as you can't really bop around to their staccato assault. Winner = 'A-Punk'

Hot Chip – ‘Ready For The Floor’

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Round 3 – Semi-Final

Down to the Semi-Final with four of the year's strongest tracks keeping pace. We still can't call it between 'Indie' and 'Dance' – either could win out, so let's plough on.

Holding up their end, the best and newest of Indie:

'Grounds For Divorce', Elbow

'A-Punk', Vampire Weekend

Equally, Dance offers up an established act and a new face:

'L.E.S. Artistes', Santogold

'Ready for the Floor', Hot Chip

'A-Punk' Vs 'Ready For The Floor'

We love Hot Chip. Hell, we put them on the cover in January, but we also delight in new music and Vampire Weekend are one of 2008's most exciting bands. Both geek-tastic, the bands would probably get on great were they not locked in our gladiatorial battle to the death. Winner = 'A-Punk'

'L.E.S. Artistes' Vs 'Grounds For Divorce'

One sassy female versus five Mr Potato Heads – just as well we ain't shallow enough to base our choice on looks. Still, the slinky ‘n’ sleek 'L.E.S. Artistes' easily outruns the plodding, mournful 'Grounds For Divorce'. Winner = 'L.E.S. Artistes'

Elbow – ‘Grounds For Divorce’

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Round 4 - The Grand Final

The moment has arrived, tuxedos have been donned and the shining lights of their respective genres stand ready to put forth their cases. Vampire Weekend and Santogold are both favourites round these parts, which makes for an especially bitter face-off…

'A-Punk' Vs 'L.E.S. Artistes'

So, the final takes place on the mean streets of NYC between the Philadelphia-born and raised Santogold and the Columbia University-educated Vampire Weekend boys (pictured, top), both commendably reflecting the city's eclectic, vibrant culture from their encampments at either end of the musical spectrum. Differences aside, both acts arrived fully formed in 2008 with a clear manifesto and accompanying image, both media savvy, educated acts with clear intentions as to what their work meant. While Vampire Weekend have progressed as expected with a bit of touring, Santogold has planted the seeds for what will undoubtedly make the future hers for the taking. With collaborations lined up with artists including The Beastie Boys, David Byrne, Jay Z, Kanye West, and having just completed a Coldplay support slot, she is clearly making friends in high places. For all the buzz surrounding both acts this year, Vampire Weekend may go onto be a really good band while, in Santogold, we might just have an artist to replace the increasingly redundant Madonna.


Santogold – ‘L.E.S. Artistes’

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Check out our ranked Top 40 tracks of 2008, when they’re not going head to head (!), by clicking HERE.


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