To recap: As for My Favorite 50 Songs of 2009, I made a few rules for myself. First, a band can only appear once. Also, this is purely about singles I enjoy. For instance, I would never put Harlem Shakes’ Technicolor Health on my favorite albums list, but “Sunlight” made it pretty high on this list because it’s a great pop song. I like a lot of Grooms’ songs and think they’re probably better than many of these, for instance, but none of them made it onto this list because they work much better as a group of experimental songs on an album. This gave me a chance to give recognition to many bands from this year I would otherwise have left out. And, for the record, I think this list of songs is less important but more fun than my forthcoming list of best albums of 2009. You can download all of the songs by clicking on the words in bold.
So here it is, the second installment of My Favorite 50 Songs of 2009.
40) “Island, IS” – Volcano Choir What would a year-end list be this side of the decade without including Justin Vernon? Though there was not nearly as much fervor over this album as last year’s For Emma, Forever Ago, this track from Bon Iver’s other project retains the same quiet beauty that marks Vernon as a great songwriter. The repeating, melodic way the song begins is the perfect underbelly for Vernon’s yearning voice.
39) “23 19” – pow wow! “I was only joking/when I said I loved you.” Ouch! What a great opening line. This ramshackle little song reminds me a lot of Belle & Sebastian’s “The Blues Are Still Blue.” The upbeat melody, the slight alteration of lyrics between choruses. It all adds up into an excellently slouchy rock and roll song about lurve.
38) “You Look Good” – Golden Isles It’s been a few months since I’ve heard this song, and I still know next to nothing about this Canadian band. This song still stands up, though. “Going out over the weekend/Calling up your girl just to see what’s good,” is a solid opening line sung in a 70s-esque hang-dog voice. This is the perfect song to throw on when you’re getting ready for a night out.
37) “Nadine” – Fool’s Gold I would like to declare Fool’s Gold the least irritating Afropop band of the year. To quote Pitchfork, “They don’t play American music with an Afropop influence. Rather, it’s Afropop with a slight American influence.” This statement is fraught with various sociological, racial, and academic issues, but the bottom line is, Fool’s Gold just sounds good. “Nadine” is pleasant, through and through, and sounds much fresher to my ears than the likes of, say, a certain Vampire band I love to hate.
36) “Vacationing People” – Foreign Born It’s no coincidence that Fool’s Gold and Foreign Born are next to each other in this list. They share members, but are completely different projects. I hear the same rolling pace in the beginning of both these songs. Both come from a particular songwriter’s voice that I was so pleased to discover this year, and can’t wait to hear more from in the future. This song is my favorite off the album.
35) “Daily Vacation” – Ducktails When I first heard Ducktails in the first months of this year, I’d never heard anything quite like it before. Matt Mondanile (also of Real Estate) has such a unique sensibility that everything he makes has this wonderful antique, filmy quality to it (and somehow escapes the weird 80s workout quality that I find in so many of his peers’ efforts). Of all of the weird chill-core or whatever it is we’re calling it (Neon Indian, Washed Out) that came out this year, Ducktails is by far the best. For such a young writer, he has an incredibly individual perspective, which is perfectly reflected in this song.
34) “The Whole Damn Thing” – Those Darlins Bad-ass Southern chicks unapologetically singing about getting drunk and eating an entire chicken? Do I need to write anything else? One of my absolute favorite acts of the year.
33) “Into The Shadows Of My Embrace” – WHY? This song, much like all of WHY?’s Eskimo Snow, is a little goofy. But somehow, by the end of the song, it turns into poignancy. I like “Into The Shadows Of My Embrace,” in particular because of how brutally honest it is. That’s really the most you can ask of a song. It’s apparently about someone who’s obsessed with sex, and the tension breaks in the middle of the song when he cries, “And I know saying all this in public should make me feel funny/ But you gotta yell something out you’ll never tell nobody.” Up to that point, the song makes you feel uncomfortable, but it ends with a wonderfully musical release, xylophone and all. All good songs should put you just a little out of your comfort zone.
32) “Summertime Clothes” – Animal Collective Despite my reluctance to include AnCo towards the top of my list, there’s no denying MPP is a great album. This is my favorite song off of that album. Why? Because if someone was making me a mix tape, I’d want them to include this song. “And I want to walk around with you/Just you, just you.” That’s so nice! Maybe that’s a silly reason, but that’s why I like this song so much.
31) “And the Hazy Sea” – Cymbals Eat Guitars This song is GRAND. It starts off huge: “Woah, woah, woah, woah, woah, woah, woah, woah.” There are multiple piano interludes. There are moments of silence. And then the song comes sweeping back in with a heart-wrenching chorus after four minutes of noodling around, with two more excellent moments of jamming out. If my theory that all anyone is really searching for in life is new iterations of Pavement is true, then this band comes close to topping that list for 2009. This song is enormous in scope, and Cymbals Eat Guitars pulls it off effortlessly.