Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Top 30 Tracks of 2009

Last year I did top 30 tracks but I feel that I have not listened to as much music in 2009 as I did in 2008. Anyway, here are 25 great tracks from the year 2009 and a short description of each. Enjoy!

30. Matt Berry - "Take My Hand" - Funny that a song from one of Britain's finest comedic minds would land on a best tracks of 2009 list, but Matt Berry with his unique voice and knack for writing would be massive hits in another decade still succeeded with his record Witchazel. "Take My Hand" is a dreamy ode to 60's San Francisco pop that is undeniably catchy and melodically soothing.

29. Air - "You Can Tell It To Everybody" - Air's Love 2 may not have been the most memorable album of the year, but it is chock full of excellent tracks, especailly this one. Starting off like a fairy fountain in a Zelda game and slowly woozing in and out with loads of other sounds organic and synthetic, it's a perfect track for spacing out.

28. Fever Ray - "If I Had A Heart" - The Knife's Karin Dreijer Andersson produced a solo record that is brooding and sonically different then most anything else I've heard this year. The first single "If I Had A Heart" is indescribable but it's power is something all together intense and riveting over it's long, droning sound scape.

27. Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings - "Take Me With U" - Covers are rarely good enough to include on a list of favorite songs of the year, but when Spin Magazine gave a free Purple Rain tribute album out this year, I was delightuflly surprised with some of the tracks, mainly Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings 60's funk groove version of Prince's "Take Me With U." James Brown would be proud with just how groovy this track is. Loads of horns and enough soul care of Jones' fantastic voice. No MP3 here, but definitely look into it.

26. Julian Casablancas - "11th Dimension" - Julian Casablancas' first solo effort is a doozy of a record. The second half ventures into some uncharted territory and some riskier sounds, but what shines are the pop elements of the first half of the short record. "11th Dimension" is an anthem for 2009 with it's pepped up hooks and synth riffs. It's a dance track and a strange, introspective look into the singer's darker side. Catchy and comedic at times, it's a wonderful track.

25. Animal Collective - "Bluish" - Animal Collective at first was a strange release for the year to me. Loads of hype and when I listened to it at first, it caught me off gaurd. It wasn't until I got to "Bluish" that the album solidified for me. It's easily the most straightforward song with the most crossover appeal. A cute infatuation song that has plenty of catchy sounds and the same effervescent throb that the rest of the album has, just in a better hook. A beautiful track and one that I will associate with a time and place more so than any other.

24. The Flaming Lips - "See The Leaves" - Another difficult album from this year, The Flaming Lips Embryonic is a tough sell outside of the album experience. It is Floydian in that way as listening to single tracks is sometimes difficult. However, much like Pink Floyd, "See The Leaves" is a dynamic and acidic mantra of a track. Existential lyrics, throbbing and ear shattering rhythm sections make way for a organ infused outro that belongs on A Saucerful of Secrets. It's a trip and a half but one of the best take away tracks from the record.

23. Monsters of Folk - "Dear God (Sincerely M.O.F.)" - Furthest from folk, "Dear God" is a well produced bedtime prayer and a brilliant album opener from the self titled super group record. Each singer takes a turn at existential questions to God while harps and arrpegioed guitars swirl around a sampled beat. It's beautiful and one of the best crafted tracks of the year.

22. Nick Cave & Warren Ellis - "The Road" - From the titular film adaptation of the amazing novel, Cave & Ellis hit another soundtrack homerun with their score for The Road. Filled with beautifully stirring strings helmed by Ellis' beautiful violin work as well as a repeating and woeful piano line, "The Road" is a sitrring musical image as poetic as the verse the film is based on.

21. Antony & The Johnsons - "One Dove" - Antony Hagerty has a voice that is operatic and melancholy. On "One Dave", we get easily one of the best songs about longing and hoping, filled with beautiful imagery and some of the best piano work Antony has brought to his recordings.

20. The Raveonettes - "Gone Forever" - The Raveonettes have a knack for the sounds of the 50's via the sounds of the 80's. In what could easily have been a Ronnettes track by way of Jesus and Mary Chain, "Gone Forever" is a break-up song, even if sometimes a break-up is a hard decision. The guitars rock with less distortion then last years Lust Lust Lust but this record is more about the interplay between Sharin Foo and Sune Rose Wagner.

19. Dinosaur Jr. - "Pieces" - Although Farm lacked the long playability that Beyond had, Dinosaur Jr. still had an incredible year and an album chock full of classic riffs and intense rocking. Album opener "Pieces" reminds me of the little brother of the epic "Pick Me Up." J Mascis still croons through a veil of unease and his guitar work is backed up with a phenomenal rhythm section.

18. Phoenix - "Lisztomania" - Phoenix's most dancey number from the excellent Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, "Lisztomania" is a fantastic pop record and one that will stick with you. The precision of the music makes the line between guitar and synthesizer very thin. Try to not bob your head, tap your feet or get up on your desk and kick off all the papers onto the ground when this track comes on.

17. Islands - "On Foreigner" - Islands have been a delightful band taking a page out of their former groups page and creating three different but solid pop albums in the latter half of the Aughts. From Vapours, "On Foreigner" is a dreamy track filled with swirling synthesizers, I fell in love with the track driving through a snow storm. It added a sense of wonderment to the environment around me and is a great soundtrack for any relaxation.

16. Grizzly Bear (feat. Michael McDonald) - While You Wait For the Others - Funny that I should include this version as opposed to the album cut, but what Michael McDonald brings to Grizzly Bear's art pop makes it all the more wonderful. A year of Yacht Rocking led to many more people discovering that when Michael McDonald doesn't butcher Motown favorites, he actually can do some great work. The song is a delightful chamber pop ballad with loads of crooning care of the smoothest Doobie.

15. M. Ward - Epistemology - M. Ward has been one of my favorite songwriters this past year. After getting down with She & Him and Monsters of Folk, I decided to check his solo stuff and his album Hold Time is chock full of great tracks. "Epistemology" hits home on many levels, lyrically and musically it's next to perfect and hits every dynamic I love in an introspective singer/songwriter track. Catchy and with loads of heart, it's a song that I will hold near and dear to my heart.

14. Mastodon - "Divinations" - Mastodon created something special with Crack the Skye. A bridge between their thrash metal and psych prog and a topic so convoluted that it works that a magic metal record came to fruition. It also has one of the fastest, most bad ass tracks in the bands catalog in "Divinations." With a surf guitar breakdown and loads of thrashing and heavy hooks that sink in deep, it's the kind of metal song that needs to be a huge hit.

13. Wilco - "Bull Black Nova" - Wilco (The Album) was nothing short of disappointing overall, but my word if there weren't a few moments. Wilco's own "Riders On the Storm" of sorts, "Bull Black Nova" is an acid washed static track about a serial killer and his titular car. It's a road song filled with loads of dread, which came as a dark surprise on the otherwise fairly bright and cheery record. It's this dark, droning stomp that stood out best among the other tracks.

12. Animal Collective - "My Girls" - It's hard to pinpoint exactly what kind of song "My Girls" actually is. It starts off as a arrpegied synth wave of otherworldly sounds, then adds harmonized vocals then kicks into a full on tribal dance sound. It's one of the most unique and dynamic songs I've ever heard and is definitely Animal Collective doing the best of their art pop. It's breathtaking.

11. Them Crooked Vultures - "No One Loves Me & Neither Do I" - Cryptic teasers and Google Earth shots were all we knew of Them Crooked Vultures just a few months ago, but now that their rollicking debut is out, it's no denying that a musical giant was created. On the albums opener, we get a bluesy first half that is shortly followed by a heavy and pummeling rock riff in it's second half. John Paul Jones and Dave Grohl churn out the sexy rhythm section while Josh Homme croons the lyrics and shreds the guitar. It's a perfect driving song.

10. Graham Coxon - "Tripping Over" - Graham Coxon's The Spinning Top may have some uneven moments, but in it's final third, it's heartbreakingly beautiful. With help from the track "Tripping Over", we get an elegiac track about the end of things. Filled with fluttering guitars and melancholy lyrics, it's one of the most beautiful tracks you'll hear from 2009.

9. Dirty Projectors - "Stillness is the Move" - Avante garde music is sometimes a bit to swallow, but Dirty Projectors track "Stillness is the Move" is noting short of one of the most infectious songs I've heard. The vocals are simmering with beauty and the intensely driving guitars that help the backbone of this song creates a lush pop track that is all at once engaging and difficult yet extremely catchy and relatable.

8. Pink Mountaintops - "Vampire" - There were a lot of excellent tunes on Pink Mountaintops Outside Love, but none so great as the love song "Vampire." Although I am no Twilight fan, this song would work perfectly for that romantic, vampire love. It's an psych pop sing-a-long filled with lyrics of longing and of acceptance. When the vocal chorus comes in at the end, my heart strings melt.

7. Phoenix - "Love Like a Sunset (Part 1 & 2)" - If Phoenix's album is chock full of catchy, radio ready hits, then why is the best song a two part trip into a strangely different sound then what the rest of the record offers? It's in "Love Like a Sunset" that we get the albums most intense musical diversion. Part 1 is a trippy, electro ballad that turns into the lush and shorter part 2 filled with tasty acoustic guitars and the lyrical end. It may be cheating having both parts together, but one without the other even if they are seperate tracks is not recommended.

6. Monsters of Folk - "Whole Lotta Losin'" - A groovy ode to the likes of Roy Orbison or Jerry Lee Lewis, the best Monsters of Folk track is a piano boogie that was made with "The Twist" in mind. Whether M. Ward took full credit for this track or he just excels over the other three members of the group is all speculation on my part, but M. Ward's soothing vocals takes full credit for the hook here. It's one of the danceist tracks of the year and takes all it's credit from the golden age of rock n roll.

5. Antony & The Johnsons - "The Crying Light" - Antony Hagerty crafted one of the best albums this year and the titular track is easily the most beautiful. It has some of the most romantically poetic lyrics he's written and has the slow build into a beautiful ending that takes the album to it's pinnacle in heartbreak.

4. Yo La Tengo - "Here to Fall" - Yo La Tengo excelled on Popular Songs whenever the topic was love. The love songs here are all gorgeous and in this one, even the dark times seem lovely. Sometimes things go wrong, but accepting the good with the bad is what a true relationship takes and "Here To Fall" is about being that crutch. It's a beautiful track and one of the most unique Yo La Tengo songs.

3. Julian Casablancas - "Left & Right in the Dark" - Julian Casablancas gets really introspective on Phrazes For the Young which is surprising as he was once a famous boozehound. His boozey voice still prevails on "Left & Right in the Dark" but it's the lyrical content and the catchiness of the hook that really sells it.

2. Franz Ferdinand - "Ulysses" - Surprisingly getting a #2 spot, Franz Ferdinand may have had a so-so record, but "Ulysses" is one of their finest songs, almost as good as "Do You Want To" and "Take Me Out." Something about Franz Ferdinand and their way to write a great single. A song about an overnight bender with plenty of sexy vocals care of Alex Kapranos and a guitar riff that savagely cuts into you, it's a track about partying for the sake of partying. It also has my favorite video of the year with it's Mean Streets vibe.

1. Mastodon - "The Last Baron" - A 13-minute prog epic isn't always likely to win the top spot, but 13 minutes seems too short for "The Last Baron." The finale of Crack the Skye is constantly changing and shifting track that goes through movements so fast it's hard to keep up. It's the perfect ending to one of the craziest concept albums ever. It has so many riffs it's hard to keep track of. That's whats good about it. Even at a long 13 minutes, you can't stop going back to it and picking apart all the layers. It's turly a masterpiece.

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