Yet again, you can click on the last phrase of each comment to see a stream of each track. The video is embedded for the Top 3. Let’s see where it ends…
10. “Guilty Cocker Spaniels” by Modest Mouse
It is an absolute shame that little attention was paid to Modest Mouse this year. No One’s First and You’re Next was a fantastic EP, offering more great music in its few tracks than most bands have in a full-length album. “Guilty Cocker Spaniels” is a highlight on this album, built on classically-jangling guitars and Isaac Brock’s clever lyrics. It’s a bit lighter than some of their other fare, but the song has a great construction, offering no real structure, yet never straying too far into uncharted waters. What really wins me over is the lightly plucked intro and outro; it’s lovely and innocent – a great foil to the titular dogs.
9. “Mind Eraser No Chaser” by Them Crooked Vultures
The supergroup of Dave Grohl, Josh Homme, and John Paul Jones sounded very exciting from the start. I would argue that even if this was the only result from their meeting, the whole thing was a complete success. Hard rock has been missing the thunder provided by Grohl’s drums and the thump brought forth by Jones’ bass. Interestingly, it’s Homme (the least legendary member) that pulls the whole thing together. His great guitar and singing presence really elevate this tale to a fantastic new high. Listen in and let your mind be done anew by this instant classic.
8. “Cannibal Resource” by Dirty Projectors
“Stillness is the Move” may have a better sense of R&B, but Bitte Orca is at its peak where it begins. This song ultimately summarizes what makes the rest of this Dirty Projectors album so great. The structure is fairly random, bouncing back and forth between a semi-call-and-response verse, a cooing comment on the “arbitrary life”, and an attacking guitar structure. What really pushes this song ahead is the previously mentioned guitar. From the startup, through the midsection, right until the end, the song stands out thanks to great singing and sight guitar. Hear it and break into this album the right way.
7. “Zero” by Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Breaking away from the garage rock of Fever to Tell, suddenly the Yeah Yeah Yeahs act as a brilliant electronic glam rock unit. Here, Karen O takes a full leap into a super-diva. Her voice is still explosive, but now it’s wide-ranging stunning with the new musical backdrop. “Zero” is interesting in lyrical content, not just vocal delivery. The song is directed at the loser (the zero of the title), a sort of realist’s view and inspirational all the same. They offer that you “No one’s gonna ask you [your name]” and you “better find out where they want you to go.” It’s mildly humbling, but really pushes you to reach the top.
6. “Daylight” by Matt & Kim
Yes yes, this song has been everywhere. But honestly, it’s really worth all the attention. The piano basis is so simple yet utterly brilliant, offering a rhythmic and melodic template for the entire song. Of course, this would mean nothing without that fantastic swagger that seems to carry through the song. It is fun and high quality. A great example of where popularity is deserved.
5. “My Girls” by Animal Collective
Pitchfork has made this the year of Animal Collective, and that sort of labeling is pretty well wrong. Yes, Merriweather Post Pavilion is a good album, but it is nowhere near the top of the decade. It’s overdone, too big, and generally quite boring. The main exceptions to this are “Brother Sport” and “My Girls.” However, it is “My Girls” that is clearly the top Collective song and one of the best of the year. Sincere and heartfelt, this song explodes with stunning creativity. The premise alone would probably make this song worth mention; it’s a reflection on the need for family and only the basic essentials necessary to carry out such a life. This song’s power only increases in the context of the dead singer’s father. MPP may not be worth $20, but this song is golden.
4. “1901” by Phoenix
Back in June, I may have commented something about Phoenix existing as an unknown band, guessing that Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix would never sell much. Whoops. Turns out that Phoenix has gone crazy this year, finding themselves on the Billboard album charts for months, playing on SNL and being prominently featured in car ads. “1901” is one of two super-songs on the album, reaching past the regular excellence seen in the rest of the album. Electronics blend brilliantly with the guitar and drums. Of course, “1901” would be nothing without the great personality from the band. Oh, to be French and brilliant musically. So much more than just a commercial jingle.
3. “King Rat” by Modest Mouse
Guess what: Modest Mouse is still amazing. This song features the insane brilliance of Isaac Brock, his psychotic lyrical delivery, bombastic guitars, and some powerful horns. This song is the crown jewel in the fantastic No One’s First EP, offering a song that is miles better than anything off We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank. It’s stunning, especially when accompanied with the crazy video directed by the late Heath Ledger. Certainly one of the best songs of the year.
2. “Lisztomania” by Phoenix
So Phoenix unleashed a pretty great album with Wolfgang Amadeus. The top highlights are the stunning one-two punch that start the album in “Lisztomania” and “1901.” I personally find “Lisztomanina” to be the superior tune, with the catchier lyrics and the brighter music. Of course, I don’t think you can go wrong with either tune – they’re superb pop with a touch of electronica to keep things interesting.
1. “While You Wait for the Others” by Grizzly Bear
“Two Weeks” is wonderful, but “While You Wait for the Others” really takes the top prize this year. Ever since its debut on Conan, this song has been a beautifully haunting reminder of how great Grizzly Bear might become. The development of this song and eventual outcome on Veckatimest is spectacular. The atmosphere is powerful and evocative, bringing forth real emotional responses. Those voices, that guitar… it’s musical brilliance, with just enough muscle to keep it around your brain for months. This song clearly eclipses all others for the year, constantly echoing in my head. This is one to remember.
Last year, the top song was a catchy pop piece, now my cell phone ringtone in “A-Punk.” This year, we find nearly the inverse. Instead of bright, happy pop, there’s a moody, introspective baroque-pop song. Does that lessen either? Not really, but it provides an interesting point of comparison and a great way to realize how amazing and broad popular music has become.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this look at the best songs from this year. Come around tomorrow night to find out what I view as the best albums of 2009. It should be fun!