Kevin’s Fifty Favorite Songs of 2009
50. Summertime Clothes – Animal Collective
With this song, one of the tracks on one of the most revered albums of the year, Animal Collective puts the “play” in playing music. The lyrics may say “I want to walk around with you,” but you’ll find it difficult not to at least put a skip in your step with this dance beat.
49. Water and a Flame – Daniel Merriweather & Adele
If you don’t mind lighter music, with some skilled powerful vocals, this duet is an impressive one to lend an ear to. These two have some major chops!
48. Hell – Tegan & Sara
While it may sound angry, this song is anything but hell. Eternity might not sound so bad if this were part of its soundtrack.
47. Stillness Is the Move – The Dirty Projectors
This critical darling is one that grew on me. Though it’s pretty simple stylistically, I’ve come to appreciate its subtleties and cheeky vocals. There’s definite potential to get stuck in your head.
46. The Fixer – Pearl Jam
With apologies to Pearl Jam, I’m surprised as anyone to see them still making good music. In many ways, this is a basic rock song, but it’s of good quality and extremely catchy, making it a memorable song of 2009.
45. True or False – Bishop Allen
Bishop Allen couldn’t be un-adorable if they tried. They’ve written some of my favorite songs over the past years, and though they rarely employ female vocals to take the lead, it always seems to work out well, with this song as a main example.
44. Ambling Alp – Yeasayer
This indie rock band is carving out a unique sound with this song, a bouncy ditty that you’re sure to bop your head to. The introduction of falsetto toward the end is humorous, but still corresponds with the spirit of the song. Enjoyable!
43. My Life Would Suck Without You – Kelly Clarkson
Returning to her “Since U Been Gone” formula: sassy, powerful, and poppy, Clarkson has another hit on her hand. As long as she’s performing songs this well-crafted, she will hold her reign as the Princess of Pop.
42. Hannah – Freelance Whales
I’m not too sure how to classify this song… slightly dorky, perhaps? I like it, though, and bonus points for having a title with a palindrome.
41. Don’t Upset the Rhythm – Noisettes
Noisettes are an awesome British band with a lot of spunk. This was the first single off their latest album and is as appropriate as any song to introduce people to their style and pizzazz.
40. People Got a Lotta Nerve – Neko Case
It takes a lot of courage to use the word “man-eater” in your chorus after Hall and Oates, but Case demonstrates that her songwriting abilities top the misguided duo. I dare you not to sing along with the chorus – Cases’s that is.
39. Basic Space – The xx
My favorite album of the year comes from the xx, as they’ve got chill mood music down to a science. The pair of gentle voices is simultaneously serene and sexy.
38. Panic Switch – Silversun Pickups
I love the lead singer’s androgynous voice: its mysterious quality is unrivaled in music today. Though, for whatever reasons, the song stops short of being great, there is a lot to like here.
37. Sentimental Tune – Tegan & Sara
This song is standard Tegan & Sara fare, which is a great thing. No one does repetitive sisterly harmonies better than this duo, so I’m pleased to have new music from them.
36. Gold Guns Girls – Metric
With an amazing dance beat, Metric allegorically hashes out humans’ insatiable desires. If destruction is indeed eminent, I’ll be happy listening to this song in the meantime.
35. Use Somebody – Kings of Leon
Kings of Leon gets a lot of shit, and I’m not going to claim to be their biggest fan either. Just like with the previous single, “Sex on Fire,” “Use Somebody” was a slow grower for me. I probably heard it a dozen times with apathy before finally hearing the song’s merits. Now – I can’t stop listening.
34. The Sea Is a Good Place to Think of the Future – Los Campesinsos!
Most of the Los Campesinos music that I’ve fallen for in past years is loud, upbeat twee-punk, but this song is a remarkably restrained departure for the band. I’m enjoying the newfound maturity and poignancy.
33. Little Lion Man – Mumford and Sons
The band’s debut single has found some international success. Give it a listen, and after hearing how catchy and pleasant it is, you’ll see why.
32. I Don’t Know – Lisa Hannigan
Every year, I like to pick up at least one new sweet-voiced female solo artist for my music collection, and this year, Hannigan is my choice. A frequent former collaborator with Damien Rice, this Irish talent has a distinctively pretty voice.
31. Day ‘N’ Nite – Kid Cudi
Kid Cudi is going against the grain with his hip hop music, and it’s paying off well; I love his artistry. The beat on this song is not only impressive, but distinct.
30. Blue Lips – Regina Spektor
Though the first single from Spektor’s new album “Laughing With” amounted to a joke, most of the other songs are thoroughly enjoyable, including her follow-up song “Blue Lips” in which she gets up-close-and-personal with all things blue.
29. Silvia – Miike Snow
For as woeful and long as this song is, it never gets boring. Snow keeps things interesting throughout the six and a half minutes by periodically adding funny computerized noises – and it actually works!
28. Heads Will Roll – The Yeah Yeah Yeahs
If someone were to want to take a class on mixing fury and movement, Karen O. should be the teacher. “Heads Will Roll” has vitriol, but also enough of a dance beat to fully release the rage.
27. The Sun Ain’t Shining No More – The Asteroids Galaxy Tour
The vocals are reminiscent of Duffy, but match the funky future-esque sound of the music here. A quality single all-around.
26. The Wanting Comes in Waves/Repaid – The Decemberists
The Decemberists interplay two dramatic tunes in a grandiose fashion with fascinating results. The inclusion of the female vocalist is a welcome addition and contributes to the song’s epic feel.
25. Sometimes – Noisettes
Though Noisettes are best known for their loud, danceable pop hits, “Sometimes” is a lovely scaled-back ballad. The scarce, tinny instrumentals compliment the lead singer’s vocals with amazing results.
24. Lisztomania – Phoenix
Though the band has had great success with the single “1901,” “Lisztomania” is the superior song. These guys are bouncy, poppy fun, and hold some universal appeal.
23. At Least I’m Not As Sad As I Used to Be – fun.
The band might understate its name, fun., but it pretty accurately describes its music. “At Least” is not a song for everyone, since it’s deconstructed to a bunch of cute voices more than a consistent song, but who can’t relate to the cautious optimism?
22. Poker Face – Lady Gaga
This song is a smash. Lady Gaga is a master of pop, and as bizarre sounding as this song is at points, “Poker Face” is a smart blend of existing conventions of mainstream music. Everybody dance now!
21. You’ve Got the Love – The xx
In England, Florence and the Machine made this song popular, but the xx covered it and made it even better. (Don’t feel bad – Florence’s take was a cover version too, so…) Creative and catchy, this song is proof that dance tracks can still thrive while being subdued.
20. When You Walk in the Room – Fyfe Dangerfield
The passion of the singer is palpable. Don’t mistake “passion” for whiny and longing, however; “When You Walk” is actually a catchy, wholly listenable song.
19. Dimmer – Bishop Allen
Catchier than HIV, “Dimmer” is reminiscent of youthful playing. I’m not sure it’s possible to be in a bad mood after listening to this song – unless, maybe, you actually did just catch HIV.
18. The Girl and the Robot – Royksopp & Robyn
90s star Robyn is still making enjoyable music all these years later. For this track, she lends vocals to a techno song about a girl falling in love with a robot. In the future, this will be a common wedding song.
17. R U Professional – The Mae Shi
When an audio file of Christian Bale’s reprehensible rant was leaked to the internet, it seemed ripe for the skewering. The Mae Shi took some clips and paired it with an amazing dance track. The fact that I’ve listened to this song dozens of times after appreciating the gimmick after the first listen is a testament to the music’s own merit.
16. This Tornado Loves You – Neko Case
I’ve long been a fan of the effortless beauty of Case’s voice. Her latest album is full of creative songs like this one.
15. Sunlight – Harlem Shakes
“Sunlight” is if Clap Your Hands Say Yeahs sang with extra pep. I can’t help but smile when hearing this folksy song, particularly the commanding chorus.
14. The Rake’s Song – The Decemberists
Most songs’ lyrics vaguely reference feelings, while the Decemberists use their lyrics to craft elaborate stories. The narrative here is amusingly awful, and it makes me feel a little guilty so giddily echoing the chorus’ “all right, all right, all right.
13. Horchata – Vampire Weekend
I’m a big Vampire Weekend fan and look forward to their upcoming album. I’ll confess, I was a little disappointed when I heard the title of their first leaked single, “Horchata.” It seemed like more of the same intellectual-elitist-appropriating-from-other-cultures that I’ve heard from them before. I’ve gotten over it though, because I love the song. They can be smart smart-asses all they want.
12. Paparazzi – Lady Gaga
I didn’t get this song at first. The slow stuttering in the chorus seems ridiculous, but I’ve been rhythmically hypnotized by this same chorus and now recognize it for what it is: genius.
11. Hard Times – Patrick Wolf
Wolf is all theatrics, Sir Gaga if you will. I listed his older hit “The Magic Position” as one of my ten favorite songs of the decade. While “Hard Times” doesn’t quite capture the former song’s undeniable magic, it is a powerful hit in its own right.
10. Audience of One – Cold War Kids
The simple piano line makes this song a hit. Cold War Kids have been trucking for several years now, but this single is the first standout that I cannot get enough of.
9. Zero – The Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Karen O. and crew are back in a big way with what is easily their best single since “Maps.” “Zero” is a powerful rock song that will stand the test of time.
8. My Girls – Animal Collective
Escalating from simple to pure ecstasy, “My Girls” is happiness per-song-ified. (I made that word up.) Animal Collective hits you with a lot musically here, but it never gets sloppy. If there are any imperfections, I’m too busy dancing to notice.
7. Empire State of Mind – Jay-Z & Alicia Keys
Jay-Z is undoubtedly a hit-maker, but this ode to New York City is readily a career highlight. Collaborating with the very talented Keys is what sets this song over the top – she contributes one of the best choruses of recent times.
6. Gimme Sympathy – Metric
The slow build of the instruments until it reaches its full dance and percussion is even more of a delightful tease once you’ve discovered the song’s charms. The song references the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, which is only appropriate considering that “Gimme Sympathy” is a hit of their caliber.
5. Islands – The xx
I’m a sucker for the interplay between male and female vocals, and I love how simple they keep their music. “Islands” is warm and intimate, the best on an album full of phenomenal tracks.
4. Bad Romance – Lady Gaga
Honestly, I didn’t want to be a Lady Gaga fan, but this song clinched it. After seeing this beautifully absurd (a phrase which could describe Lady Gaga on the whole) music video, I was mesmerized. Dramatic and vocally top notch, this song proves Gaga to be a performer in every sense of the word.
3. Pursuit of Happiness – Kid Cudi & MGMT & Ratatat
Easily the most unique track of the year. I actually got excited as I listened to it the first time, since I had never heard anything like it before – a true blend of musical styles. Heck, the contributing artists are a hodge-podge in itself. It may sound downtrodden, but that doesn’t make it any less appealing.
2. Never Forget You – Noisettes
With each subsequent single, Noisettes kept getting better. “Never Forget You” might as well be the sentiment for this song, given how infectious it is. It’s so pleasurable, that the singer’s little laugh midway sounds natural and appropriate rather than a gimmick.
1. Bulletproof – La Roux
It’s not just a song, it’s an anthem. This tune is electro-pop as it should be: 100% fun. No matter how many times I hear it, I can’t help but sing along to the chorus. Don’t resist!
Download all 50 songs in one fell swoop.
I’ll see you next year!