(click the song to listen to or download the mp3)
28. Fuck Buttons – Surf Solar
The first Health song that you can really dance and (almost) sing along to, “Die Slow” hits hard and has a simple but solid drum beat keeping the pace. An experimental noise band, Health use electronic arrangements to give the song substance and it all breaks down at the 2:13 mark, with a delicious twenty second freak-out that I dare you not to freak out along to.
“Flashmob” is a dizzying dance track meant to have the bass cranked to floor-thumping levels. Tension builds, as electronics and pounding beats spiral deliriously, though never out of control.
“I Live With You” feels immediately epic as a host of strings lead into haunting, spoken lyrics. The tame opening quickly turns sinister as the music shifts from creepily subdued to acutely alive. The climax of this song is one of the highlights of the year.
Tiny, ringing bells flow perfectly from “Snookered” into “Of The Mountains” as tribal chants of “ooooo hey-hey-hey ya hey-hey-hey ya hey-hey-hey ya hey-hey-hey……hey hey oooo” steadily increase in intensity until at two minutes forty five seconds the song takes off, and the tribe really starts to go nuts. That may seem ridiculous, but it sounds unreal.
Destroyer, aka Dan Bejar, has an indelible vibe all his own, and on his most forward thinking and experimental song to date, that vibe is ever apparent. While almost every Bejar song is a treat, this thirteen minute thirty-nine second gem is his crown jewel. Four and a half minutes go by and it feels like less than half that time with the way Bejar can sit the listener down and make him or her lean back and simply bask in music. Atypical for a Destroyer song, processed beats and synthesizers enter the mix. The introduction of electronics is casual at first, however, before you realize it, Bejar is playing his own brand of disco-folk. Approaching the halfway mark of the song, signature Bejar strums of guitar begin to coalesce with the electronics and a new Destroyer is born.
On their second full-length, FB pared their sometimes grating sound into a more danceable and welcoming form. “The Lisbon Maru” combines the good from the first album and lays it down on the blueprint of Tarot Sport to spine-tingling effects. As with the rest of the songs on the album, “The Lisbon Maru” evolves throughout its 9 minutes 19 seconds, ultimately releasing into a shower of knob-twisting glory.
19. Girls - Laura
“Laura” seems effortless in its construction, however, so catchy at the same time that one may think there must be more to this perfectly produced pop song. This seeming simplicity is merely a testament to Girls’ craftsmanship as songwriters.
18. Bibio - Fire Ant
Arguably the most unique song on one of the most unique albums of the year, “Fire Ant” opens with candid and oddly sampled children’s voices leading into a slow, R&B-style groove. Vocals are cut and pasted over a tastily appealing beat, leaving you with an impossible-to-ignore impulse to dance.
Big, angry, mean guitars rule the day on “Velvet.” At times during the song, the guitar feels so vigorous it’s as if they have a dozen all playing at once. It’s that punch of the guitar reverberating in your chest that really makes this song stand out, but it’s the raw emotion seeping out of lead singer Robbie Furze that makes those guitars work so well.
“Brothersport” takes the bass that’s been droning along during the course of Merriweather Post Pavilion and uses it as a dance mechanism. The electronics the band has thrived on during live performances also finally shows up on record, as “Brothersport” blitzes on by in a joyous conclusion to arguably the year’s best album.
“Two Weeks” sounds like both the future of pop music, as well as a throwback to music of the past. Immediately catchy, though simple in construction, this song shows off the unique harmonies of Grizzly Bear and their keen knowledge of how to affect the listener, seemingly effortlessly.
14. Phoenix – 1901
Cadillac is close to ruining this song, but it just may be that “1901” is incorruptible. I could have this in my head all day long for a week and love it every time. This is Phoenix at their finest, an undeniable track.
Gloriously chill, “Feel It All Around” instantly calms the nerves and relaxes one’s entire body into a state of submission. Sampled drums are sparse but essential, checking in throughout the song, while Ernest Greene’s reserved and reassuring voice shines through the haze. Though the song is an extended sample of Gary Low’s “I Want You”, one could not ask for more from a borrowed riff.
By the time the first ten seconds of this song are over, you can immediately recognize “Terminally Chill” as a sure-fire winner. Alan Palomo makes strikingly stoning electronic pop music and “Terminally Chill” is the best example of his ability to relax and stimulate the listener simultaneously.
In a way similar to “1901,” “Golden Phone” is an undeniable track. Just take one listen to this song. Go ahead, download it.
“No Reasons” was my summer song. This track was essential to each and every day. I would play this on the way to work, on my lunch break, on the way home from work, and then probably at least two more times throughout the night. While simple and repetitious, Alan Palomo (Neon Indian) has produced a hook that buries its barbs beneath the skin and refuses to let go.
Hair rises on my back just thinking about “Feather.” Dreamy synthesizers and a thick, sticky bass line open the first minute. A keyboard then joins the fray as the bass shifts into one of the catchiest grooves 2009 had to offer. Yukimi Nagano’s vocal performance is the story here, though, and this gorgeous track just itches to be replayed.
If you want to just have fun and sing along to a great Phoenix song, “Long Distance Call,” “Consolation Prizes” or “Sometimes in the Fall” cannot be beat. If in the dancing mood, “1901” is your song. However if someone wants to hear the immense talent of Phoenix on display, “Love Like a Sunset” is where it’s at. This is an arresting song and even more impressive given that this is not the pool of music Phoenix usually dips into.Entirely instrumental and electronic, this piece of krautrock steadily builds tension eventually imploding into a plume of scratchy, electronicly manipulated woodwinds that give way to a two-minute gallop of drums and effects to close out what could be Phoenix’s best song.
Japandroids are not complicated. Just two dudes, rocking out as hard as they possibly can. The opening riff sounds like it was something that came off of your cassette-playing walkman in the early 90’s. While it’s a familiar sound, Japandroids pull it off nicely.Guitars ring and tumble out of your speakers as the drums are stuck in a vicious cycle of crash and tumble. “I don’t want to worry about dying, I just want to worry about those sunshine girls,” they cry out with such conviction, playing the song with so much intensity, that you can’t help but cry out the lyrics along with them.
Cut from the post below, "Summertime Clothes" is a joyous and surprisingly radio-ready jubilance of life. A recurring theme on Merriweather Post Pavilion and a large part of the band's progression is the deep, consistent bass that anchors this song. Grungy guitars give way to synths that bounce from ear to ear like Pong on crack as Avey Tare sings of sneaking out in the middle of the night with his lover, "when the sun goes down we'll go out again!"
“While You Wait For The Others” is a well oiled machine, all of the parts of Grizzly Bear coming together, confidently and purposefully, everything in its right place. Guitars ring out, seesawing back and forth, as drums and vocal harmonies rise and fall precisely in sync.
Under cover of sparkling keyboards, chunky bass mixes with Noah Lennox’s contagious chorus during “My Girls” in a way that is irrefutably pleasing to the ears and dance-happy feet alike. The listener is compelled to sing along to what I believe should be the most universally enjoyed song of the year (if, somehow, everyone could hear it).
This song is amazing. If you’re interested in this band listen to “Olympians,” you will listen to the rest of the songs immediately. If you’re on the fence, listen to this song. The drum pace that holds “Olympians” together is flawlessly put together, driving the song and pounding home its breathless pace. Surrounding that unrelenting drum line is an array of effects that patiently, perfectly build the song towards an inexhaustible climax. Emotion pours out of “Olympians,” and it is nearly impossible not to get caught up in it.
Deeply rooted bass combines with a sharp, echoing keyboard effect that together carry a pointed sense of dread throughout the song. Ernest Greene’s distant delivery burns alongside the throbbing bass line and produces an arrangement that I was addicted to all year long.
A psychedelic two-minute opening of cascading vocals feels oddly right at home as the introduction to this uncharacteristically warm and uplifting offering from Animal Collective’s Fall Be Kind EP. Though the lyrics hint towards confusion, pure optimism seems to subliminally seethe through the song’s pores. One spin begs for an immediate follow up listen.