I know what you’re saying: You’re saying it’s only November and there might be some even more awesome tunes that are still to come in 2009. Maybe, but I prefer to think the way our Prime Minister thinks – if anything better than what’s on this list were going to be released in 2009, it would have already been released by now.
Songs in quotes. Albums in italics. Sarcasm in ALL CAPS.
10. “Home” – Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros Now here’s a song that reminds us of Johnny and June, which reminds us of Joaquin and Reese, which reminds us of that Dewey Cox movie that wasn’t exactly great but wasn’t near as terrible as some folks made it out to be. I’m cut in half pretty good, Dewey. Good times. Anyhoo, this tune is catchy as hell and you just have to hand it to anyone who writes a love song that includes the line “you were bleeding all over the place.” Also, excellent whistling. Ranks right up there with the quality of the handclapping in “Fangela” by Here We Go Magic. All bands should use hand-claps and whistles. Don’t even try to tell me that’s not true.
9. “Got Some” – Pearl Jam Just a really good, straight-ahead rock song by a band that for many years appeared to have forgotten how to write them. Recording this must have been a weird feeling for the members of Pearl Jam. Surely their instincts must have been urging them to slow things down and noodle aimlessly on their instruments for about six or seven minutes – you know, just to kill the song’s momentum and make everyone lose interest in them. But somehow they resisted. There is a word for people like this. That word is heroes.
8. Monoliths & Dimensions – Sunn O))) I had never even heard of Sunn O))) until I read about them in The New Yorker. Then I downloaded this album and it melted my face off with the same efficiency as the Ark of the Covenant, but with even more realistic special effects in that my face is not made of gelatin and plaster… so far as I know. (I failed science.) Point is, my face was never anything special to begin with, so no big loss, right? But if you’re all pretty and/or dimply then consider yourself warned. Plus the band looks like this:
You don’t get bonus points on Top 10 lists for looking like this – but if there were bonus points, looking like this is how you’d get them. Important note: YOUR GRANDMOTHER WOULD LIKE THIS ALBUM FOR CHRISTMAS.
7. Around the Well – Iron & Wine How can an album of B-sides, rarities and home recordings be one of the best records of the year? Don’t ask me how the economy works.
6. “Single Ladies” – Pomplamoose This song (via YouTube) is great fun – especially when she skips over the bridge because the lyrics are terrible – and somehow even more entertaining than Beyonce’s original, which was (let’s be honest) pretty damn entertaining. (Pomplamoose’s just-released version of “Beat It” is less successful, but they deserve kudos for playing the iconic guitar riff with… a xylophone?)
5. “So Far Around the Bend” – The National This band could take the Beach Boys’ sunny repertoire and release it as Music to Kill Yourself By. By virtue of vocalist Matt Berninger’s baritone alone, pretty much every song begins at melancholy and quickly spirals into wrist-slashing despair. But this one manages to cling by its fingernails to forlorn, and the result is pure awesomeness. You want me to show my work? Fine. (Cool song + Pavement reference = pure awesomeness. It’s like I’m Good Will Hunting, but with musical equations.) “So Far Around the Bend” is from the terrific Dark Was the Night compilation, which also features the must-have Train Song by Ben Gibbard and Feist and the must-wonder-why cover of Nick Drake’s Cello Song by The Books. It sounds pretty much the same as the original so why even bother, The Books? Why??
4. xx – The xx If I could make one small suggestion to the members of The xx: Maybe you could write a few more songs about sex? It’s just a thought. I mean, currently only 100% of your songs appear to be about sex. Why not 110%? It’s a question worth asking yourselves sometime when you’re not having sex.
3. Bitte Orca – Dirty Projectors So predictable, right? Dirty Freaking Projectors. Everyone is going to have Bitte Orca on his or her Top 10 list, so I was totally going to leave it off but then I went and listened to “Stillness is the Move” and… damn. You win this round, honesty.
2. “My Girls” – Animal Collective Legions of hipsters wet themselves at the release of Merriweather Post Pavilion, what with Pitchfork rating it a 9.6 and your annoying friend who wears skinny jeans rating it a Here, Listen to This – No, Really Listen, Man. Personally, I found it a little hard to take at full dosage. It was like sitting down with some Philip Glass and then after about an hour you’re like, “Okay, so you enjoy repetition and patterns. Good to know. Now can I please punch you in the face 28 consecutive times in the exact same way?” But this song is the band at its best: it’s like Brian Wilson crossed with Passion Pit and four tabs of acid.
1. Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix – Phoenix The year’s most inescapable and effervescent indie/alternative album is also its best. If I hadn’t put the whole record on the list, I would have had to include at least its first three songs because, believe me, they are all kinds of wicked. Not just some kinds of wicked. All kinds of wicked. You heard me: All one million kinds of wicked. Plus, the album sparked a tsunami of remixes and covers, the best of which is The Soft Pack’s version of “Fences.” Go get it already.