Monday, January 4, 2010

Best of 2009


Bat For Lashes - "Daniel"
Is this song about The Karate Kid? If so, Natasha Khan shows true genius in writing such a lush love letter to Ralph Macchio's (in)famous alter ego. I agree with the "futuristic Stevie Nicks" consensus when describing her sound, due to a certain... mystical quality that few artists possess.

Camera Obscura - "French Navy"
With a voice dipped in honey, Tracyanne Campbell weaves a charming girl-meets-boy scenario and somehow manages to not sound corny when singing "Oh, the thing that you do, you make me go, 'oooooh.'" I can't decide if I like the live version better, where the strings are replaced with trumpet.

Charlotte Hatherley - "White"
Starts off mid-tempo, Charlotte Hatherley singing hazily, even lazily... then turns into a disco rave when the chorus hits. Love the drum fills. And while the album as a whole is inconsistent, it never fails to be interesting.

God Help The Girl - "God Help The Girl"
OK, so this is extremely twee but also extremely appealing. I especially enjoy when Catherine Ireton speeds up mid-sentence: "The dawn will touch me in a way a boycouldnevertouchtheirpromisenevermeantsomuchtome!"

Julian Casablancas - "Glass"
A beginning sprinkled with short chirps of arbitrary whistling belies its true nature - an epic ballad sent from outer space. I love that Casablancas pushes this song into cinematic territory. In instrumental form, the sounds - laser beam fire, bits from the Buckaroo Banzai end credits - are beyond gorgeous and I can't help but think his vocals do more harm than good. But then he'll hit the high notes of "You won't have any trouble now," plus the "ooooohooohoooooohoh" that closes the song and I chastise myself for ever questioning the man.

Metric - "Collect Call"
Beautiful, elegant, hypnotic... perfect for when you're slowly riding out the downside of a high. I picture Emily Haines leaning her head on someone's shoulders, arms looped around his neck and dancing with her feet on his, "wishing you could keep me closer, I'm a lazy dancer, when you move, I move with you." Also a rare projection of emotional vulnerability in Metric's mainly socio-political oeuvre.

Metric - "Stadium Love"
Those first arena-sized drums signal an instant adrenaline rush. Shouting "oooeeeoooeeeooo!" back at Emily Haines along with a few hundred people was one of the highlights of my concert-going life. This song is a total blast. Fact is, many more tracks off Fantasies belong on this list: "Satellite Mind," "Blindness," "Gimme Sympathy," "Help I'm Alive," "Waves"...

The Postmarks - "My Lucky Charm"
It saddens me that this song only shows it's full potential on record, as the echo verse is omitted in the live version, thereby leaving an unexpected emptiness. But it does feature perhaps the best "awww"-inducing lyric of the year: "Ever since the first day you arrived, I've been set on autopilot smile." A bouncy, unabashedly joyful treat.

Viva Voce - "Red Letter Day"
Spurred along with some twangy, country-western guitar, Anita and Craig Robinson make perfect harmony grooving on an outstanding bass melody. Cowpoke-ingly atmospheric, I listen with eyes closed and envision a Texas sunset.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs - "Hysteric"
A subtle Karen O is a fine Karen O, despite what the title suggests. "Faces" also rules.

Lucky Soul - "Whoa Billy!"
Mos Def - "Priority"
Pearl Jam - "The Fixer"
Pete Yorn & Scarlett Johansson - Break Up
Phoenix - "1901"


1 Animal Collective - "Summertime Clothes"
Nothing special about how it starts out as you hear Avery's tick-tock vocals but once Panda Bear jumps in, the song really takes off after that. It's like "Ring Around the Rosie" but for grown-ups.

2 Animal Collective - "My Girls"
Unwordly blips and bleeps provide a stark contrast to Avery and Panda's call-and-response vocals. My only ticky-tack knock is the drum verse at 2:30, which doesn't seem to fit compared to the rest of the song. Check out its 2 decent videos.

3 Kid Cudi (featuring MGMT and Ratatat) - "Pursuit of Happiness"
Part Mase, Part Fabolous except he can sing. Song runs a little long but I enjoy his "don't worry, everything going to be alright" vibe.

4 Matt & Kim - "Lessons Learned"
Quite possibly their most 'mature' song. I dig Kim's background vocals and here Matt's synths really add to the build-up near the end. Gives us a sense of hope at the end. Entertaining video.

5 Phoenix - "1901"
Over-played maybe. I don't think I've appreciated anyone's drumming since Matt Tong of Bloc Party (and check out this drumming rendition). Like "Lessons Learned" gives us little bursts of hope. That being said, this song sometimes feel it has potential to be so much more. Certainly it gives this trailer an extra added punch.

6 Thao Nguyen with The Get Down Stay Down - "When We Swam"
I like the laid-back, jingle-jangle feel of the song. It's like the "Hokey Pokey" but for grown-ups.

7 Clare Bowditch and The Feeding Set - "The Thing About Grief"
Her effortless vocals borders being nonchalant. But her indifferent tone works well within the context of the song.

8 Yeah Yeah Yeahs - "Little Shadow (acoustic version)"
The airy, string arrangements gets the nod over the album version.

9 Cold Cave - Life Magazine
Propelling beats, crescendo/decrescendo synths and echoing vocals makes for a distinct sound and kick-butt tune - what's not to like?

10 Julian Casablancas - Glass
Sounds like something Vangelis produced in Blade Runner. Take out the vocals and the instrumental would stand on its own; if not even stronger (similar to Stroke's bandmate, Albert Hammond Jr.'s "In Transit"). Check out Phrazes for the Young preview.

Fanfarlo - Comets
Matisyahu - One Day
Keri Hilson - Knock You Down
Kelly Clarkson - My Life Would Suck Without You

Animal Collective - "My Girls" (HATCHMATIK Disco remix)
Grizzly Bear - "Two Weeks" (Fred Falke remix)
Kid Cudi (featuring Kanye West and Common) - "Make Her Say" (Sammy Bananas remix)
DJ STV SLV - "Good Ol' Fashion Nightmare" (Matt & Kim vs Beastie Boys)