BEST SONGS OF 2009: 10-1

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!

5 comments on “BEST SONGS OF 2009: 10-1

  1. anonymous says:

    Good list, but some songs that I think need to be on here are:
    Too Fake by Hockey
    Help, I’m Alive by Metric
    Airstream Driver by Gomez
    Oscar Wilde by Company of Thieves
    and while you may say something about it being annoying or overplayed, Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked is a great song, and the listeners of my local alt radio station that plays almost all of the bands you mention here chose it as the #1 song of the year

    …and I can’t believe you left out anything from Weezer’s amazing new album! As I read on another blog, the dog is a metaphor, meaning the entire album is dog shit.

    • Matt says:

      I will have to take a listen to all of these songs. Also, being that I don’t listen to much radio anymore, I haven’t heard “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked.” I’ll see what comes of that…

      Oh, and I just can’t deal with talking about Weezer anymore. I loved their first two albums and even Maladroit… but sweet God, their last three records are total crap. I’m not sure which is the worst: “Beverly Hills” makes me want to die, “The Greatest Man that Ever Lived” is just a train-wreck, and “Can’t Stop Partying” is maybe the worst song ever.

      At the very least, that theory on the dog on the cover is brilliant. Now we can be happy that we can laugh at them?


  2. Damn, that sound’s so easy if you think about it.

  3. Joop says:

    My top ten of best songs of 2009 is:

    1. Corde oblique / Venti di sale (Winds of salt)
    2. Mahsa Vahdat + Sam McClain / Imprints
    3. Muse / Uprising
    4. Sevda / Ele deme
    5. The Prodigy / Invaders must die (+ remix) / Thunder
    6. Beata Palya / Hold
    7. Oreka tx / Lauhazka
    8. Wukimon / Holy
    9. Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu / Wiyathul
    10. Clark / Growls garden

  4. […] Do It” isn’t a pure pop piece like 2008’s “A-Punk”, it’s not baroque pop like 2009’s “While You Wait for the Others” and doesn’t have the tone of the decade-best “All My Friends,” but it stands tall with these […]

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