It's always a better year for songs than albums, and here's my list of Favorite Songs of 2009. I've stopped using the word "best" as that implies some sort of higher standard. People can argue that "Lisztomania" is not the best single of 2009, but they have no grounds to say it's not my favorite. Anyway. Most of these were actual singles, and the rest could've been and when making this list I kept that in mind. Singles are ephemeral; it's ok if you don't end up listening to them a year from now. But I think a lot of this will hold up long beyond then. (OK, maybe not "Bonkers.") Next year I'm gonna keep the list smaller, but that's what I always say. It grows! Without further ado:
1. Phoenix – "Lisztomania" (MP3, video)
Phoenix are probably Band of 2009. When all is said and blogged, they'll have ended up pretty high on all my lists this year (single, album, live show) and this is the jewel in their crown — that works great in remixed form too (see the awesome Classixx Version). A perfect pop song, and they've got more where this came from. French bastards.
2. Crystal Stilts – "Love is a Wave" (MP3, video)
This is the only recorded document from the Frankie-era line-up of Crystal Stilts, as 2008's Alight of Night was recorded before she joined the band and they had yet to set newer songs (like "Sycamore Seeds") to wax before she left the group and went solo. But what a document. Propulsive, jangly and catchy as hell — "Love is a Wave" has survived nearly a year of play with no signs of wear (to my ears at least).
3. The Sound of Arrows – "M.A.G.I.C." (MP3, video)
Controversial pick, this, as it's almost cloyingly positive like a '60s Disney movie starring Haley Mills… complete with "a world of endless possibilities" and children singing backup on the chorus. Let me tell you, children singing is usually a dealbreaker for me, but yet somehow it all works for one of the more infectious singles of the year.
4. Wild Beasts – "All the King's Men" (MP3, video)
Nice, friendly entry point into Wild Beasts' brilliant second album, Two Dancers, keeping Hayden Thorpe's unhinged falsetto somewhat at bay, giving other singer Tom Flemming the vocal spotlight. Really though it shows off the symbiosis that makes this band so good: the vocal and guitar interplay, and the subtle amazingness of the rhythm section. All in a super-catchy tune.
5. Your Twenties – "Billionaires" (MP3, video)
Gabriel Stebbing was a touring member of Metronomy who quit this year (boo!) but it's okay (yay!) as the split has led to him working on Your Twenties full time — definitely a good thing given the awesomeness of "Billionaires," one of the catchiest singles of the year, with an "ooh ooh ohh" hook that will stick with you for weeks. Now, Y20s, go make that album.
6. BOAT – "The Name Tossers" (MP3)
Not actually a single from BOAT's great new album, Setting the Paces, but to my ears it's the "hit" amongst an album of many, many would-be singles. And it doesn't even have a proper chorus, but it's jam-packed with catchy little moments, as well as a tremolo guitar that gives it a Built to Spill vibe.
7. France Has the Bomb – "Invisible Angle" (MP3)
That thick bassline really drives this dancey, shouty, punky little number from Minneapolis' France Has the Bomb. Got nothing else to say about it other than I love this one, and envision girls go-go dancing to it
8. Pete & the Pirates – "Jennifer/Blood Gets Thin" (MP3, video)
Following hot on the heels of their ace debut album, this double A-side is another winner from what was probably my favorite live band of 2009. "Jennifer" in particular shows off what P&P do best, which I call "complicated jangle." It's not complicated to like, though.
9. Casiokids – "Fot I Hose/Verdens Stortseland" (MP3/MP3, video)
Another double A-side, this time from Norway's Casiokids and, honestly, it's pretty much the only thing you need to own from them at this point. "Fot I Hose" has the big fat synthbass hook; the flip more of a Hot Chip style pop song. Both are great.
10. My Teenage Stride "Creep Academy" (MP3, video)
Perhaps taking a cue from the Wedding Present's 1992 single-a-month project, Brooklyn's My Teenage Stride set out to release a single a month in 2009 exclusively through online service Emusic. They didn't quite make it, but their February single, "Creep Academy," might just be the best song they ever released. Effervescent, but the chorus of "too old to die young" shows it to be bittersweet.
12. Miike Snow – "Animal" (MP3, video)
There is a clinical perfection to these Swedes' tracks, but yet you can still feel the human pulse — or is that just the synth stabs of a vaguely reggae beat — on "Animal."
13. French Horn Rebellion – "Up All Night" (MP3, video)
They make look like hipster dufuses, and it reeks of kind of '80s nostalgia that only people too young to have lived through it can have, but there's no denying the pop smarts (and hooks) all over this song. Ridiculously catchy.
14. The Juan Maclean – "One Day" (MP3, video)
This song is all build and almost no release — we don't get the disco hi hat until the song is nearly over. Sometimes waiting is worth it. Like the whole of the The Future Will Come album, it's very Human League, but there's certainly nothing wrong with that.
15. The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart – "Young Adult Friction" (MP3, video)
From an album that was basically all singles, here's one of the actual 45s. Kip Berman knows his way around a hook almost as well as the Dewey Decimal System. Yes, I know they don't use that anymore. The lyrics are pretty dirty too, in a nerdy double entendre kind of way.
17. Sleigh Bells – "Ring Ring" (MP3, video)
While I do not understand people falling all over themselves to praise the shrill "Crown on the Ground," you can hear Sleigh Bells appeal all over "Ring Ring." Sexy and sounding like it's coming from someone's boomin' system that's seen better days (and all the better for it).
18. The Raveonettes – "Breaking Into Cars" (MP3, video)
Not an official single from The Raveonettes' great new album, In and Out of Control but I think it should be as it's easily the most immediate song on it. Maybe "Last Dance" is more immediate, actually, but this one's the better song. Love the production on this one.
20. Free Energy – "Free Energy" (MP3, video)
This song is unabashedly nostalgic — not just musically but lyrically as well with its wistful, "make the most of the summer" vibe. But it's also a cowbell-driven fist-pumper. Whoa-oh!
21. Veronica Falls – "Found Love In A Graveyard" (MP3)
Not officially released anywhere, just sort of out there on the internet, but they've got records coming out on Slumberland and Captured tracks and totally fit in with those labels' vibe. A little bit of Pastels, a little bit early Cure. Flower dresses, it's raining, and that's ok.
22. Two Door Cinema Club – "Something Good Can Work" (MP3, video)
You'd be forgiven if the first time you heard this (maybe right now?) if you asked "Is this Phoenix?" Nope, this is Ireland's Two Door Cinema Club. It really only sounds like them a little bit, and really it's a compliment anyway.
23. The Horrors – "Scarlet Fields" (MP3)
In the most surprising move of the year, The Horrors prove to everyone they're no joke and this track typifies what they did so brilliantly on Primary Colours. It's still totally goth, yet transcends the genre.
24. Blank Dogs – "Setting Fire to Your House" (MP3, video)
More gothy fun, I swear I don't group this stuff together. Blank Dogs released so much stuff this year, it was hard to keep up but I think this was maybe the best single song from all of them. Sorta reminds me of Wall of Voodoo. Be sure to check the cool video.
25. Frankie Rose – "Thee Only One/Hollow Life" (MP3 / MP3)
After being drummer in Vivian Girls and Crystal Stilts, Frankie Rose leaves the nest to start her own band, The Outs, and releases her debut single (with help from a few of the Crystal Stilts). The A-side is pretty much what you'd expect Frankie to sound like (awesome), where the b-side (blissed-out space psychedelia) is definitely something we haven't heard before. More please!
The rest of my list is after the jump…
26. Animal Collective – "My Girls" (video)
I'm not going gaga for Merriweather Post Pavillion the way every publication besides me is on their Best of 2009 lists, but you gotta give it up for "My Gurls."
27. The Magic Kids – "Hey Boy" (MP3, video)
Nashville's version of Up With People give us an earnest, reverential absolutely lovely Beach Boys tribute so well done it's hard to resist, even after seeing them live and realizing it may all be a big joke.
28. Dizzee Rascal – "Bonkers" (video)
I never gave a shit about grime, and only really started to like Dizzee since he started hanging out with Calvin Harris (or in this case Armand Van Helden) and aiming his tracks straight at the dancefloor. I know I won't be listening to this in six months
29. Bat For Lashes – "Daniel" (video)
Who'dve thought a song about the Karate Kid that sounds like a cross between Stevie Nicks and Kate Bush would be so good? Natasha Khan, for one.
30. The Drums – "I Felt Stupid" (MP3, video)
Speaking of The Karate Kid, Drums' singer looks a lot like the sweep-the-leg Johnny kid, no? (Check out the video.) Continuing with the '80s theme, the Drums write songs that sound like they were made for "grand romantic gesture" scenes in John Hughes movies. The chorus of this song is just massive.
31. Woods – "To Clean" (MP3, video)
There's still a little too much self-indulgent guitar noodling for my taste with Woods' albums but when they keep it under three minutes, like here, they're a pretty great pop band.
32. Camera Obscura – "French Navy" (MP3, video)
"You make me go 'ooh' with the thing that you do," and they don't mean that dirty. I don't think, at least. Another stunner single from the most boring live band in Scotland.
33. Golden Silvers – "True Romance (True No. 9 Blues)" (MP3, video)
There are two sides to Golden Silvers: the one that wants to be Joe Jackson (aka boring side); and the side that loves ABC and The Style Council. This is the latter.
34. Fergus & Geronimo – "Harder Than It's Ever Been" (MP3)
Lo fi soul from Denton, TX. No irony, and they can really play. All their singles so far are good but this is my favorite.
35. The Legends – "Always the Same" (MP3, video)
Sunny pop drenched in feedback as only the Swedes can do. The Legends reinvent themselves again, even though this had already been invented. Just don't tell them.
36. La Roux – "Bulletproof" (video)
The rest of La Roux's album I can take or leave but "Bulletproof" is a stick-in-your-head slice of Vince Clarke style electro. She kind of looks like Tilda Swinton as Max Headroom, don't you think?
37. Hospitality – "Betty Wang" (MP3)
Misheard Lyric Case File 246: I thought the lyric, for whatever reason, was "Sous chef! Sous Chef! Sous Chef!" but was informed by Hospitality singer Amber Papini that she's actually singing "Su Chia," which is Betty's Chinese name. I love Amber's voice, and her songs fit it so perfectly with it. I am smitten. Hospitality's been on a break, hopefully they'll be back soon!
38. Delphic – "This Momentary" (MP3, video)
If you wished all Friendly Fires songs were like "Paris" maybe it's time to check out Delphic,who are doing a great job with their brand of epic dance rock. "Doubt" is good too.
39. Au Revoir Simone – "Another Likely Story" (MP3, video)
Dreamy, minimal synthpop from David Lynch's favorite band and some of the genuinely nice girls you're ever going to meet. This is my favorite song off Still Light, Still Night. There's some great remixes of this one floating around out there — like this Neon Indian remix.
41. Zoos of Berlin – "Electrical Way" (MP3)
This song is so weird and amazing, like some sort of baroque disco version of Steely Dan. I dance to this one a lot in my kitchen. Clavinet gets me every time.
43. Acrylics – "Molly's Vertigo" (MP3)
Dusty, West Coast sounding pop-rock in an '80s Fleetwood Mac kind of way from some Wesleyan grads who now reside in Williamsburg. As you do. Acrylics are great songwriters, though, and you kinda can't not be impressed. Can't wait to hear their full-length.
44. Best Coast – "Sun Was High (So Was I)" (MP3)
Romantic lo fi magic hour stoner sounds. Your next all-girl band crush.
45. Basement Jaxx – "My Turn (feat. Lightspeed Champion)" (video)
Makers of dance music don't seem to stay relevant very long these days, so Basement Jaxx decade-long career is pretty impressive, even if they aren't as relevant as they used to be. They still have a great ear for collaborators and can knock it out of the park — as on this one featuring talent Dev Hines. Sounds more like a Lightspeed song than a Basement Jaxx song if you ask me. Maybe that's why it's so good.
46. Florence and the Machine – "You Got the Love" (xx remix) (MP3)
Sometimes the remix trumps the original. Which is the case here with the XX's take on Florence & the Machine's take on Candy Stanton's song. Really it's more like a cover than a remix, as they add their own vocals, leaving only the harp (and some wailing) behind. XXcelent.
47. Real Estate – "Beach Comber" (MP3, video)
If there was a musical trend in 2009 it was indie rock beach music, a hazy-gazey dreamy sound nothing like Jan & Dean. Real Estate was the flagship for this, though weirdly their 7"s didn't contain anything near as catchy as this lead track from their Woodsist full-length debut.
48. Jack Peñate – "Every Glance" (MP3)
Not an actual single from Mr. Peñate's underrated second album, Everything is New, but it's the best song on it. A real slow-burner, sexy stuff. "Medusa! Medusa!"
49. The Cribs – "We Share The Sames Skies" (video)
I was worried Johnny Marr joining the Cribs would mess up their filial bond, but Ignore the Ignorant is another great Cribs album. This is my favorite song off it, an actual single, and definitely Marr's Smithiest guitar playing since his time in The The.
50. Sic Alps – "L. Mansion" (MP3)
The only Sic Alps single of 2009, their first for Slumberland — home of Matt Hartman's old band Henry's Dress. It's also the first recording to feature recently-aquired drummer Ty Segall who is awesome in his own right. Between the two, you'd think there'd be a thick layer of sludge to be smeared all over this single, but it's easily the cleanest thing Sic Alps have ever done and, dare I say it, is a little Spoon-esque. But no less good for it. Fuzz lovers don't fear: recent live reports say they're keeping the sonics good and dirty.
51. The Depreciation Guild – "Dream About Me" (MP3, video)
Serious, old-school shoegaze given an 8-bit update, though really putting old drum machines on it just makes it sound more like Cocteau Twins. And that's fine, it's done with love and sounds fantastic.
53. Junior Boys – "Parallel Lines" (MP3)
With the whole glo-fi thing taking over 2009, I think a lot of really good electronic/dance music got overlooked or at least forgotten about. Junior Boys' Begone Dull Care is their best yet. I don't know if you can dance to "Parallel Lines" but it's pretty damn groovy.
54. Surfer Blood – "Swim (To Reach the End)" (MP3)
Bearing no relation, musically, to aforementioned "beach scene," Florida's Surfer Blood wow with good old fashioned pop hooks of the enormous variety. Their debut album is full of them, and this is one.
55. Micachu & The Shapes – "Golden Phone" (MP3, video)
Perhaps the year's most striking debut, Micachu's music defies easy pigeonholing. It's kind of folky, kind of noisy, kind of danceable, kind of bizzare, totally awesome. You could double-dutch to this.
56. Wave Machines – "Keep The Lights On" (MP3)
I'm a sucker for anything that's reminiscent of "Miss You" era stones (see also MGMT's "Electric Feel" and Spoon's "I Turn My Camera On") and Wave Machines' "Keep the Lights On" definitely has that. Great single from an underrated album.
58. Washed Out – "New Theory" (MP3)
I tend to enjoy the 2009 glo-fi thing in single servings, and this track from Florida's Washed Out is one to my liking, probably because it sounds a lot like The Radio Dept.
59. The Mary Onettes - "Dare" (MP3)
Seems like everybody loves the '80s now but Swedish band were doing it when it wasn't cool and will probably still be doing it when it isn't cool again. The Mary Onettes excel at sounding like 1985 British alt-rock (Cure, Bunnymen) and just wait till the strings come in. Swoon.
60. Grizzly Bear – "Two Weeks" (video)
Like with Animal Collective, I didn't go gaga for Veckatimist but a great single is a great single. And it's got a totally (if quietly) disturbing video.
61. Grass Widow – "To Where" (MP3)
Shambolic, C-86 type stuff is always welcome in these parts and few are doing it better than San Francisco's Grass Widow. This is from the first of two 12" releases this year.
62. The Mayfair Set – "Desert Fun" (MP3, video)
Mike Sniper of Blank Dogs + Dee Dee of Dum Dum Girls = The Mayfair Set. It's pretty much a mix of their two styles, too — part early-'80s gothy post punk and '60s girl group. It shouldn't work, but it does.
63. CFCF – "Big Love" (MP3, video)
A balaeric disco take on Fleetwood Mac done by a Canadian? Yes, please.
64. Beach Fossils – "Vacation" (MP3)
Beach Fossils have yet to officially release anything — their debut LP is due out on Woodsist/Captured Tracks in March — but they're definitely one of the bands I'm most excited about for 2010. Jangly in an early REM kind of way, with a New Zealand thing going on. And they're great live. Are you listening yet?