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.
This ha been really fun. I hope you’ve enjoyed it as much as I have. Stay tuned for my favorite albums list. So here it is, the FINAL installment of My Favorite 50 Songs of 2009.
10) “Snookered” – Dan Deacon Bromst was so much better than I expected it to be. The album was a huge leap forward for Deacon. He moved away from dancy, albeit awesome, electronic creations, and transformed them into something a little more serious, a little more sinister. This song is the centerpiece of that excellent album. Starting with just a few chimes, adding garbled chanting voices, and layering synth upon synth, this song is the perfect exercise in build. But it’s not just a simple treatment of how to create tension with electronic music. This song oozes soul, and honesty. “I’ve been wrong so many times before/But never quite like this/Heard all/In the rain/But the rain all turned to piss.” That’s exactly what life feels like sometimes, and Deacon gives us all a hope with the wonderful climax of the song, right before the break down with the voices. I’m really usually not one for button-pushing, but a mature Deacon reminds me how very human, complex, and downright good it can be.
9) “The Ancient Commonsense Of Things” – Bishop Allen I reviewed Grrr… on the blog earlier this year, and I didn’t give it a very good review. But this is an album, particularly this song, that I’ve continued to listen to over the months. Part of that has to do with how good Bishop Allen is live, particularly this song (I saw them for the first time at Northside in June). I suppose “The Ancient Commonsense of Things” really wouldn’t be included on a “Best” list, but it does what music ought to do. It makes life feel a little brighter. There are two concrete reasons, both lyrical, why I like this song so much. First, I do think that there is an “ancient commonsense of things,” and I’m glad this song points it out. Also, “There are those/Who know to look/Through all the crannies and the nooks/And when I found you did/What it meant to me.” This is the problem with doing a Favorites list instead of a Best Of. I really, really love that line, and I can’t really explain why.
8 ) “Sunlight” – Harlem Shakes This is the best pop song I’ve heard all year. Honestly, I don’t know why it isn’t played on Top 40 radio all the time. Maybe Lexy’s voice? I don’t know, but “Sunlight” is pure ear candy. It makes me want to dance. It makes me want to drive fast in my car. It makes me want to listen to it again and again and again.
7) “When They Fight, They Fight” – Generationals From the outset of this song, you know it’s going to be special. It starts with a 70s sort of piano/cowbell part, giving “When They Fight” an insistent energy right away. Then suddenly, you’re right in the middle of a late 50s, Beatlesesque, vaguely doo-wop melody. “When they fight, they fight/And when they come home at night they say/I love you baby.” The horns, the choppy vocals, and the “oooohs” are all irresistible. I can never get enough of this song. I do think it lacks a strong bridge, but the ideas and general feel of this song are great, and I’m surprised this band didn’t get more attention this year.
6) “Tomorrow Sorrow” – Blake Miller When I posted this song awhile back, it was the single most popular MP3 ever on this blog, by far. There’s something incredibly relatable in Blake Miller’s quiet freak folk. Not only is “Tomorrow Sorrow” musically interesting and remarkably mature for someone so young, but I think it has that little bit of teenage angst that everyone can relate to. He’s right. Tomorrow will inevitably bring bad things, along with the good, and the idea of “If I could figure out/A way to trick the sun/Into keeping me warm,” is so comforting in its simple beauty. A remarkable song.
5) “Shine On” – Air Waves Nicole Schneit’s songwriting is so simple, so straightforward. “I lost someone this year/You gained a start.” “Shine On” feels true. That’s what I like about it. She’s really telling the truth. I don’t know how else to explain it.
4) “When I’m With You” – Best Coast This song has been on a ton of Best Of lists, and the reason is, without a doubt, because no one likes sleeping alone. Best Coast pinpointed one of the most private but universal feelings and put it to music. That takes talent. “When I’m With You” is also just really well-written. The slow, lazy start, the sped-up verse, and the completely different, driving end. The song unfolds so well on itself. Plus, the production quality is just right. Best Coast deserves every bit of buzz she gets, and I love this song.
3) “White As Diamonds” – Alela Diane Writers use the words “achingly beautiful” far too often. But that’s exactly what “White As Diamonds” is. I believe that Alela Diane will be remembered as one of the most unique singers of this time, or at least she ought to be. The timbre of her voice is absolutely incredible, and this song stays with you long after you hear it. Diane paints such a unique aural landscape, creating something entirely new out of strong folk traditions. Plus, her father is in her band, which is about the coolest thing ever. A true talent, and a truly classic song.
2) “No Hope Kids” – Wavves I get shit for this all the time, but I love Wavves. I’m completely and totally fascinated by him. But I’ll save that for my Favorite Albums list (there, I just gave one away). Instead, let’s focus on this song. “No Hope Kids” is a great song. There’s a lot of reasons I listen to music, but the number one reason is probably as an outlet for my teenage angst. Isn’t that, after all, when most of us really started to listen to music to begin with? When we were sullen fourteen year olds and no one else could understand? It’s a musical habit now. “Got no car/Got no money/I got nothing nothing nothing not at all/Got no God/Got no girlfriend.” “Got no friends/Got no family/Just a bunch of people put around me.” Wow, way to pinpoint the post-modern condition of suburban teens. His petulant, stuck-up attitude only makes it better. The energy of this song is unparalleled in all the other lo-fi, schmo-fi bands that came out this year. “Yeah I know, I know, I know, I know, I know.”
1) “Young Hearts Spark Fire” – Japandroids There was not a single time this year when I was in a moving vehicle and did not listen to this song. If Wavves is about teenage angst, then Japandroids is about twenty-something angst. “Oh, we used to dream/Now we just worry about dying/I don’t wanna worry about dying/I just wanna worry about sunshine girls.” Hold onto your youth while you can. I can think of no better soundtrack to do that to. I suppose this song isn’t all that interesting. It’s fairly derivative and doesn’t bring much new to the table in the way a Merriweather Post Pavilion track does. But this song is even better than all of those to me because it shows that rock and roll is still worthwhile. Despite its two-man simplicity, its typical drums and guitar, “Young Hearts Spark Fire” is so good. The rock and roll I grew up on is alive and well and possible, and Japandroids proved that to me in 2009. This is my absolute favorite song of the year. It understands something about me, and for that, it gets my number one spot. “Young/Hearts/Spark/Fire.”