The Best 50 Songs of 2009

Whew, this is the last list I’ll be making for a good long while, I promise! Still, I can’t resist posting my fifty favorite songs of the year, especially since good music is meant to be shared. You can play/download each song individually if you take a liking to it, or find the link at the bottom of the post to download all 50 at once.

Happy listening!

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!


The Intruder

A month ago, a friend of mine called me shortly after midnight. She was concerned because, although she believed she would be home alone that night, she heard a voice coming from downstairs. She peeked down the stairs and found a window open that was previously closed and could now hear the voice counting, so she quickly ran back to her room and locked herself in, afraid an intruder was about to kill her.

Obviously, I was alarmed when she called and explained her situation, so I asked her what she wanted me to do. She had no course of action, but just wanted to tell someone what was happening so that I could hear her die and be able to tell other people. As odd as that request was, it made sense.

Anyway, a couple of friends I was hanging out with and I agreed to drive to her house to check out what was going on and pick her up to spend the night in a safer house. When we arrived, I was intimidated to step in and face danger, but as it turned out, the coast was clear. Any intruder that might have been in the house was no longer there, but my friend still opted to come home with us for peace of mind.

In order to ease the nerves and kill the frantic mood, we made light of the situation. If she wanted to hang out with us, she could have just asked. No need to concoct some elaborate scary story to get us to socialize with you.

We were kidding, obviously, but I find this scenario hysterical enough to be tempted to pull it in real life. "I'm in mortal danger, please rush to help me!... Oops, never mind, no big deal. Well, since you're here, we should probably hang out."

The only thing that could top that hilarity was Stacy's subsequent suggestion. Call someone you "admire," tell them that a stranger is about to murder you, and have them come to your rescue. Once they safely get you out of the house and you've spent a little bit of time together, stop and ask, "Wait, this is a date, right?"

Look, I'm not going to tell you to how court someone, but I think we might have stumbled upon a surefire way to score!!!


The 30 Best Films of the Decade

I’m not exactly a movie buff, so I’d hardly consider my list of films from the 00s complete or remotely impartial. As you can see, I’m a fan of quirky, I’m a fan of unique, and I’m a fan of films that transcend genres. Get your Netflix queue fired up, and let’s begin:

30. Finding Neverland (2004)

This film about the man who created the iconic character Peter Pan unexpectedly charmed me. It’s cute and emotional at all the right moments. I mean, it’s still not as amazing as Hook, but they can’t all be cheesy 90s movies.

29. Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind (2004)

This clever film serves as a parable of sorts. Though many wish they could erase painful memories, would it be worth doing so at the cost of all of the positive memories? Love hurts, but this film reminds us that there is also beauty in the pain.

28. Poseidon (2006)

I love natural disaster films, so I’m willing to overlook the bad acting, dialogue, and Fergie. A large ship sinks and, enjoyably, mass death ensues. Think Titanic, but without the pretension and hour and a half of pointless character development. Let’s get straight to the body count!

27. The Corporation (2003)

There’s no point in pretending this anything but a three-hour, no-frills documentary on the role of contemporary corporations in our lives. What it lacks in visual stimulation, however, it makes up for with intellectual stimulation. The Corporation is a primer for everybody who wants to know why big businesses are so powerful.

26. Donnie Darko (2001)

Funny, yet utterly dark, it’s a film that I wanted to discuss with people immediately after I watched it. We struggle to understand the mysteries of Donnie’s world, just as he does. It’s complex, but in a highly consumable fashion.

25. Lars and the Real Girl (2007)

Going into this film, I figured it would be more pornographic than uplifting. For better or worse, and I’d argue for better, this film about a man’s relationship with a sex doll is void of sex. Instead, we have a touching portrayal of people struggling with interpersonal dynamics.

24. Orphan (2009)

What can I say that I haven’t already said about this film? Orphan is easily the best bad film of the decade.

23. Revolutionary Road (2008)

Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet prove that they can act even better without a sinking ship. This period piece perfectly depicts the ennui of suburbia in this tragic trail. You’ll relate even though you wish you couldn’t.

22. Amelie (2001)

Bjork-like in behavior, the interminably cute Amelie regularly lets her imagination run wild and invites us to witness her journeys and exploration for love. Copycats that came out in subsequent years never matched the genuine adorableness that Amelie captures.

21. The Dark Knight (2008)

Generally, I ignore blockbuster adventure/superhero films because they suck. I’ve always wondered why if the studios are spending so much money on the visuals and special effects, why they can’t put some effort into a good script as well? The Dark Knight is the first film of its kind that I’ve seen that actually combines a phenomenal script with a sea of special effects. I cared about the story! Encore!

20. Burn after Reading (2008)

This might not be the best reviewed film in the Coen brothers’ repertoire, but this black comedy is my favorite. Admittedly, I was pretty drunk when I first saw the film, but it might be the hardest I’ve ever laughed in a theater. Moreover, this film actually made me admire Brad Pitt. Black comedies (by which I do not mean Tyler Perry) should all be this good.

19. Thumbsucker (2005)

It’s hard not to connect with our teenaged protagonist, Justin. Life is hard to cope with, and he struggles to find his true identity while dealing with vices: thumb-sucking, girls, and marijuana. He discovers that his habits are no more debilitating than the one adults impose on him: Ritalin. If you’ve ever wondered if Keanu Reeves’s awkward approach to acting makes sense for a part, he actually fits perfectly here as the Justin’s orthodontist.

18. Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (2006)

I doubt any real critics would count this film amongst the decade’s best, but I find Borat to be rip-roarious, and I say that as someone who wasn’t previously an Ali G fan. By putting non-actors, and some real actors too if Pamela Anderson counts, into Candid Camera like situations, Borat captures the authentic spirit of America: stupid and racist. Consider it a documentary on inhalants. Not!

17. Kill Bill Vol. 1 (2003)

I don’t like blood and violence; Kill Bill is nothing but… and yet – fantastic. Quentin Tarantino is at his finest as he turns something I’d normally consider unwatchable into beautiful art. The entire viewing, I couldn’t decide whether to cover my eyes or keep watching the masterful choreography unfold. Maybe there’s just something hot about women-on-women violence.

16. Wonderboys (2000)

Admittedly, I’m probably inordinately obsessed with this film since it’s all about the art of writing, but there’s enough sharp characters and witty dialogue here to hold anyone’s attention.

15. Thank You for Smoking (2006)

Aaron Eckhart plays a lobbyist who protects corporate interests through charm, trickery, and doublespeak. In a way, he is everything I despise, and yet it’s hard not to find him – disgustingly – likeable. I almost took up smoking! If you’re a fan of rhetoric and argument and like viewing issues from the other side, this is a fun flick.

14. Jesus Camp (2006)

I didn’t need a documentary to tell me that Evangelical summer camps are scary and manipulative, but being able to see the goings-on and confirm my suspicions is helpful, if not comforting. Lord, help these children.

13. Me and You and Everyone We Know (2005)

Generally, a lack of a plot can be a major issue with a film, but the vignettes of quirky, interconnected characters plays out in the most enjoyable fashion. For me, the standout character is Robby, as played by Brandon Ratcliff. With little effort, he is easily the cutest child star of the decade.

12. Frost/Nixon (2008)

It’s a piece of political and media history I was not too familiar with, but an entertaining, educational journey nonetheless. Frost, a flippant British TV personality, pays for the rights to the interview of the century with Nixon. The tension between the two title characters is palpable and riveting.

11. I Heart Huckabees (2004)

Can you tackle something as nebulous as existentialism in a film? I think I Heart Huckabees proves that you can’t, and delights in intentionally proving it. This movie is playtime for intellectuals who like thinking for thinking’s sake, even if there are no answers.

10. Talk To Her (2002)

From the beautifully bizarre mind of Pedro Almodavor comes a film in which people fall in love with comatose strangers. That may sound like a strange concept, but it’s great – unnerving, but great.

9. The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)

Wes Anderson is the king of quirky, emotional comedies, and The Royal Tenenbaums is the best piece on his resume. Following a family who we’d never want to be related to but can’t help but feel fascinated by, Tenenbaums is a film that holds its entertainment value with each rewatch.

8. Chicago (2002)
On the whole, I’m not too into musicals, but Chicago is the decade’s notable exception – and I’m including the overrated Mulin Rouge. In addition to being visually stunning and having some sultry performances, Chicago actually addresses musicals’ plaguing problem: characters randomly breaking out into song and dance. By pairing the musical numbers with the characters’ delusions of fame, the songs are not only fun but believable.

7. The Squid and the Whale (2005)

I like a gentle drama sprinkled with laughs and angst. Watching this broken family wade in its own dysfunction stops short of being heart breaking, but never fails to be entertaining. There’s poignancy, here, and it’s not contrived.

6. Memento (2000)

Though amnesia is a common convenient plot devise, Memento adds a wholly captivating, twist by showing the plot out of sequence. Then, it was up to the audience to put their own memories to the test and follow the action. This is definitely one of the most original screenplays of the decade.

5. Doubt (2008)

Before seeing Doubt, I had my doubts. Another priest molestation story? Well, even if Doubt didn’t do it first, it certainly did it best. Standout emotional performances from Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Viola Davis make this a film that will leave you slack-jawed.

4. In the Bedroom (2001)

I’ve found that the less you know about this film before seeing it, the more of an impact it has, so I’m going to avoid giving any real plot details, other than to say it is unforgettable. In the Bedroom features some of the best, nuanced acting I’ve ever seen. I find the dialogue especially amazing, particularly because this screenplay really demonstrates that what is not being said is often even more important than what is being said.

3. Gosford Park (2001)

I’m not always a fan of Robert Altman’s work, but when he tackled one of my favorite genres, the murder mystery, I was swept in by the British who-dunnit. Witty and intriguing, the ensemble cast of characters elevates the film to a whole new level.

2. Hotel Rwanda (2004)

You don’t have to be a fan of genocide to like this movie – but it helps. No, actually, this movie treats the subject matter with all of the sensitivity that I never could, and does so while maintaining integrity, story, entertainment, and education. Without being preachy, Hotel Rwanda inspires audiences to actually standup against injustices.

1. Adaptation (2002)

For many, this film is far too meta to be enjoyable, but I happen to love that Adaptation has so many layers it really requires a second viewing. When screenwriter Andy Kaufman couldn’t figure out how to successfully adapt The Orchid Thief into a movie, he wrote himself and his writer’s block into the story. As fun of a writing exercise as this must have been for Kaufman, it is equally as entertaining to see the creative process unfold on the screen.

Let me know if you agree/disagree/or have some recommendations that I might have missed out on.


Recipies: Hansel and Gretel Edition

I came across this cookbook my class made at school. I found the title alarming.

The Third Grade Is Delicious? It sounds like we're eating the students. The book is bound in a semi-professional manner, which means teachers had the chance to intervene, but chose not to remove the cannibal allusion.

I found the "recipie" which I was said to have contributed, an apple cranberry bread. I have neither baked or eaten this bread ever, so I'm pretty sure this was really a "Mom, do my homework!" kind of assignment.

Not that I let that stop me from creating a grandiose "About the Author" page on the back cover. I don't remember fancying myself a writer even at that age, but clearly I did. I mean, I had a cookbook published, for crying out loud!

"Finaly his teacher had her class make a cookbook." Yeah, I'm sure everyone was waiting for that to finaly happen. What I'm concerned about, however, is the last line. "Now you can find out how tasty third grade is." Was I in on the plot to cook and eat children, my peers no less? Perhaps I was emulating Jonathan Swift before I was even familiar with him.


The Kids' Table

No matter how old I get, I remain a kid. Specifically, I am referring to my permanent seat at the kids’ table for holiday meals. For my entire life, I’ve been relegated to the card table in the adjacent room, safely out of sight from the “real” adults. At this point, the “kids’ table” is a bit of a misnomer, as all of us of that generation are now in our twenties. By virtue of being the oldest, I have the most seniority at the kids’ table, and am therefore next in line to advance. Unfortunately, the only way I’ll get a promotion is in the case of a death or divorce.

This year, the kid’s table decided to revolt. I mean, what’s so special about the grown-up table anyway? I briefly contemplated starting a food fight with our rival dining room, but that would hardly demonstrate a level of maturity that, in this battle, we are contending to have. Instead, for once, we had a good time at the kids’ table, treating our exile like a treat rather than a punishment.

First, we decided to bolster our numbers. Pulling up some extra chairs, I sat a couple of teddy bears next to us and we began to share our good time with our new guests. Still, something was missing – the rest of the family. We couldn’t get them to share a table with us, but we could come close. I took a nearly thirty-year-old framed photograph (sure that sounds old, but it would still qualify to sit at the kids’ table) that features all of our auntcles (that’s aunts and uncles – would anyone be opposed to adopting this gender neutral word?) and plopped it on the table with us. From there, we were able to have conversations with our missing family members, asking them to pass the potatoes, share anecdotes, etc.

On multiple occasions, people from the next room called out to inquire what was so funny. Finally, they got up and actually came into our room to see what all the fuss was about, and found our setup very amusing. They interrupted their own dinner to take pictures and catch up with what we were doing. Mission accomplished!

We’ve made enough of a fuss that I suspect we might all be invited to join the normal table at the next holiday dinner. That said, I’m not sure I even want to merge tables at this point. Clearly, we were having more fun in our table of seclusion. Besides, at the main table, everyone is 50+. Maybe that table is the Senior Table and our table is the normal one. Good luck trying to incorporate us in next year. The Kids’ Table for life!


Merry Christmas

As far as I know, they don't even show Claymation Christmas anymore, but I think it's the only Christmas special that matters:

Forget Jesus. Self-mutilating bells are the reason for the season.


Christ the Savior is Dead

My sibling Alison on hearing that the Pope is rescheduling midnight mass for 10 p.m.:

"Who cares? It's not like we know if Jesus died exactly at midnight anyways."

And later, a while after being corrected:

"Did you know Jesus didn't die on Christmas?"

Look, I don't care if you're not religious - that's not the part that bothers me. It's a little bizarre that Alison has gone to church on Christmas Eve every year - many of those years attending two different services back-to-back - and never picked up on what event what was being commemorated, but whatever. As a pop culture reference, however, it is practically unforgivable. Think about all of the songs and references that are literally everywhere this time of year.

Rest in Peace, Jesus.



The 200 Best Songs of the Decade: 50-1

We’re finally here! The best (and by which I pretty much mean “my favorite”) songs of the decade. The 00s were full of music, and these are the fifty tunes worth remembering. Click on the music files to sample and/or download them. A link to download all 200 songs in one large file is at the end of the post.

And now THE TOP FIFTY SONGS of the decade:

50. These Words – Natasha Bedingfield (2004)

This is the second time on this chart in which Bedingfield has written a song about writing. Don’t mess with a good thing, and Bedingfield definitely has a good thing going.

49. Paparazzi – Lady Gaga (2009)

Technically, “Paparazzi” is probably the strangest of Gaga’s songs, which is really saying something. I feel like there are subliminal messages hidden in this song the way I become transfixed as she juggles the title’s word with her mouth. Oh, Gaga.

48. Butterfly Nets – Bishop Allen (2006)

“Butterfly Nets” is best described as a contemporary lullaby. Though it is not like any other Bishop Allen song in tone or voice, it is my favorite, which is not to say I don’t like the rest of their music, as I love it. But the band certainly diverged from the beaten path to create something enchanting here.

47. Amsterdam – Peter Bjorn and John (2006)

This song is full of cool. It’s edgy, but subdued, sort of like the Gorillaz on Ambien. I can listen to this song all day.

46. Fidelity – Regina Spektor (2006)

The adorableness of Spektor peaks here with this cute, well-composed love song. When she starts in with her vocal aerobics during the chorus, it’s hard not to join in.

45. Empire State of Mind – Jay-Z & Alicia Keys (2009)

New York has a new anthem, but you don’t have to have any affinity for the locale to love the song. Jay-Z gives a solid, clever rap performance, which Keys enchances with what is easily one of the best choruses of the decade.

44. Ignition (remix) – R. Kelly (2003)

This song works on two levels. First, it’s incredibly comical – the lyrics are absurd and it’s probably best not to have your first hit after facing statutory rape charges be all about having sex. Second, it’s addictive musically. I’m still not entirely sure whether I love to love or love to hate this song, but either way I keep coming back for more.

43. Young Pilgrims – The Shins (2003)

As best as I can tell, “Young Pilgrims” is a song about optimism for pessimists. (Note to self: Write book called Optimism for Pessimists.) Regardless of its complex lyrical content, the musical content is breezy and compelling, the best of the Shins’s work.

42. Hold Me Now – The Polyphonic Spree (2004)

“Hold Me Now,” a song literally about comforting someone, is legitimately a comforting tune. With a chorus of voices and dozens of instruments, it’s like one big musical hug. Everything is all right when you listen to this one.

41. Izzo – Jay-Z (2001)

From the middle of his career, “Izzo” still stands out as the best of Jay-Z’s solo efforts. The man has a way with words, and he pieces them together in an extraordinary fashion on this track.

40. Gimme Sympathy – Metric (2009)

Metric knows how to work a beat. The lyrics to “Gimme Sympathy” reference the musical legends The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, and with solid songs like this one, Metric is laying the groundwork to join those greats.

39. I Believe in a Thing Called Love – The Darkness (2003)

Packed with absurdity and falsetto, nothing else from the decade even compares to “I Believe in a Thing Called Love.” The intense electric guitars help elevate the screeching to something of a phenomenon.

38. A Thousand Miles – Vanessa Carlton (2002)

By the end of 2002, this song had been so overplayed that you just wished it’d go away. But there was a reason it was everywhere – it’s good! Carlton tickles the ivories and your eardrums with this ballad with a slight edge.

37. Digital Love – Daft Punk (2001)

This electronica romance is all sorts of win. I fist-pump with joy when it gets to the harsh interlude midway through the song and again at the staccato notes a minute later.

36. Song Across the Sea – Casper and the Cookies (2008)

This little-known song won’t quit. Creepy yet captivating, I’m drawn in by the palpable sadness of this song.

35. Islands – the xx (2009)

It’s hard to pick a favorite track off of this band’s great album when all of the songs are so good, but if pressed, I choose “Islands.” The interplay between the male and female vocals sends shivers down my spine.

34. This Love – Maroon 5

Though most of Maroon 5’s music conforms to typical pop-rock standards, “This Love” is unique. When I first heard this song, I didn’t think it could be from this decade. It seemed more like some held over 70s or 80s cheese. As evidenced by how highly I’ve ranked the song, I mean that in the best possible way.

33. It’s So Bright – Coyote Grace (2006)

I’ve seen this amazing folk-rock duo in concert more than almost any other musical artist. I’m always impressed by their song-writing skills and commitment to the music. This tune, with the pair of voices matched by an equally dynamic pair of strings, is my favorite.

32. I’m a Cuckoo – Belle and Sebastian (2004)

Like with many Belle and Sebastian songs, it’s hard to stay seated while “I’m a Cuckoo” plays. Even if I’m not dancing, I’m at least skipping.

31. No One – Alicia Keys (2007)

Keys lacks a diva attitude, but she’s sure got a diva voice. This song is epic and wrought with emotion in the best possible way.

30. Babylon – David Gray (2000)

David Gray has disappeared for the better part of this decade, though research tells me he’s still making music. “Babylon” is Gray’s definitive tune – undoubtedly because it’s awesome.

29. On the Way Down – Ryan Cabrera (2004)

A dorky #1 pop hit, “On the Way Down” holds a special spot in my heart. Cabrera’s quality voice and strong song writing ability make this a fun, easily-accessible hit.

28. Sold! To the Nice Rich Man – The Welcome Wagon (2008)

If I were a music mogul, I would commission pieces with dozens of voices, just as many instruments, and a whole lot of pep like this one. It’s sort of like modern opera, and half as tragic as the old variety.

27. Everything You Want – Vertical Horizon (2000)

Going back and listening to so many high-quality, respectable pop-rock songs from early in the decade for this retrospective leads me to wonder where all of the genre’s comparable talent hides today. The emotion of “Everything You Want” kicks in to high gear when the narrative tense switches from third to first person.

26. Breathe Me – Sia (2004)

Sia is toying not only with the music here, but the listeners’ emotions, too. “Breathe Me” is so overwhelmingly moving, that it’s actually reduced me to tears.

25. Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots – The Flaming Lips (2003)

As frivolous as the song may appear, each time I listen I become generally enthralled in the narrative. I stand behind Yoshimi and her plight to defeat the evil-natured robots. There’s a little Yoshimi inside of all of us.

24. Pursuit of Happiness – Kid Cudi & MGMT & Ratatat (2009)

Despite writing a lot of songs about getting stoned, Kid Cudi is a musical genius. He’s routinely defying hip-hop conventions and creating songs that are impossible to forget – that’s a good thing considering all of the weed he’s been smoking.

23. Float On – Modest Mouse (2004)

There’s no denying the chorus on this song. You start by singing along, then devolve into just shouting along, either way, as the lyrics assure us repeatedly, we’re going to be “OK.”

22. Challengers – The New Pornographers (2007)

Though the New Pornographers have a variety of sounds, they generally lean more toward up-tempo, amusing music. In “Challengers,” the band strips down to a harmony-driven song about a love that cannot happen.

21. Never Forget You – The Noisettes (2009)

The Noisettes not only know how to groove, but how to pass that groove along to their audience. It’s difficult to ignore the singer’s powerful voice with some strong musical backing.

20. Everywhere – Michelle Branch (2001)

Branch first found success with this intense pop track with a rocking melody. The only thing that translates better than her anger is her talent.

19. Concerning the UFO Sighting Near Highland, Illinois – Sufjan Stevens (2005)

The opening track from Stevens’s best CD, “Concerning the UFO” is a beautifully basic piano-focused song that I wish could always lull me to sleep.

18. Southside – Moby & Gwen Stefani (2000)

The best car song of the decade! Just put this in as you go for a drive, and you’re guaranteed to smile/sing-along. You can tell both mega-artists are having a good time as they record this track – it’s contagious.

17. Parentheses – The Blow (2006)

The Blow appeases my grammar-loving heart with a song relating punctuation to affection. (“When you’re holding me, we make a pair of parentheses.”) It’s clear The Blow is having fun with the lyrics (“If something in the deli aisle makes you cry…”) and I can’t but help to have fun back with the song.

16. Ms. Jackson – Outkast (2001)

I’m pretty sure that Outkast couldn’t stop being cool if they tried. This song demonstrated how hip-hop can dabble in mainstream while maintaining its core essence.

15. Huddle Formation – The Go! Team (2004)

The lyrics are so fast and muddled that I can’t quite understand what they’re singing – not that it stops me from trying to sing along. The Go! Team take on the role of pop-punk cheerleaders; whatever they’re cheering for, I’m chanting along with them.

14. I’ll Be Glad – Bonnie “Prince” Billy (2008)

This gentle, uplifting track culminates in one of the best moments of harmonies in music I’ve ever heard. “I’ll Be Glad” proves that folk rock can be way hipper than it’s given credit for.

13. Call It off – Tegan & Sara (2007)

Speaking of harmonies, it takes sisters to make a whole song of harmonies this good. Tegan & Sara have penned a song that is heartbreakingly beautiful. I dare not even try to sing along to this one, since I couldn’t come close to what they’ve perfected.

12. By Your Side – Sade (2000)

There is nothing sexier musically than Sade. When she dropped this song in 2000, I couldn’t get enough of it and frankly still can’t. Hot! Though she’s vanished for the remainder of the decade, I am pleased to report that she has a new album (which will be all sorts of sultry, I imagine) coming out a couple of months into the new decade.

11. Oxford Comma – Vampire Weekend (2008)

Again, a band is appealing to the grammar-lover in me. Oxford comma reference aside, the rest of the lyrics are intensely creative and witty, making me wish that all artists would write so strongly that I’d actually print out and dissect the lyrics for every layer of meaning.

10. Bulletproof – La Roux (2009)

A pure dance hit with an inescapable chorus, “Bulletproof” is a smash. Look for this song to top my year-end songs countdown in the next couple of weeks.

9. The Magic Position – Patrick Wolf (2007)

I’m willing to clap for the entire duration of this song, that’s how merry it makes me. Again, Wolf puts such theatrics in his remarkable voice that I feel like I’m experiencing a visual component even though it’s just audio.

8. Since U Been Gone – Kelly Clarkson (2005)

This song was unavoidable throughout 2005, so it’s a good thing it was a smash worth listening to. Former American Idol winner Clarkson is at her best here in this anthem about moving on.

7. Hanging by a Moment – Lifehouse (2001)

Another monster hit, “Hanging by a Moment” found audiences in multiple musical formats and remains a sentimental favorite of mine.

6. Umbrella – Rihanna & Jay-Z (2007)

Combining glumeness, simplicity, and catchiness, “Umbrella” is a full-on sensation. I dare you to resist chanting “ella ella ella ey ey ey” along at the chorus.

5. I’m Like a Bird – Nelly Furtado (2001)

With her debut single, Furtado made her presence known. From the moment the song first began, I knew her rich voice had staying power. “I’m Like a Bird” is the kind of song that feels good with every listen, and with no signs of stopping.

4. The Bleeding Heart Show – The New Pornographers (2005)

“The Bleeding Heart Show” is a masterpiece that goes through several stages. The progression is deliberate and it makes for one exciting ride. By the conclusion, which features chanting and an overridingly beautiful vocal line by Neko Case, I’m exhausted – in the best possible way.

3. Maps – The Yeah Yeah Yeahs (2003)

Though Karen O.’s vocals are to die for here, they’re fairly sparse. The words take a backseat to the overwhelming instrumentals including an unmistakable drum beat to kick off “Maps.”

2. Kids – MGMT (2008)

It’s been two years since it’s release, and I still haven’t tired of “Kids” even a little bit. Original and whimsical, “Kids” pulls me in with every repetition of the chorus.

1. Hey Ya – Outkast (2003)

There can be only one choice for the top song of the decade, and that is Outkast. “Hey Ya” is universally loved and it’s easy to hear why. The song spans genres and became an instant classic. Though I won’t live to see it, I can preemptively guarantee that “Hey Ya” will be found on many Top Songs of the Century list 90 years from now.

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