Tuesday, 1 December 2009

My 50 Favourite Songs of 2009

How do you ‘consume’ music, when a) music isn’t a thing, and b) it’s still there after you’ve used it - or you think you’ve used it. Just because the industry markets it as a commodity doesn’t mean we have to accept their terms of reference. It’s time people stopped talking about ‘consuming’ art and culture and so on and started thinking of art as an activity, something you do.’
- Robert Walser, Running With The Devil

For all the endless assaults on authenticity, heartfelt songwriting and grassroots talent represented by X Factor and the like, this was in fact the year of Spotify and unprecedented access to music for free. There’s no greater pleasure for a spod like myself than to leaf through Uncut or click through Pitchfork, read an interesting review and listen to an album right then and there without leaving my chair. The worry of course is that bands are never going to make enough of a living this way to give their recording career any kind of longevity and so the temptation to act like a mannequin, sing bad cover versions and get on the telly grows ever stronger. You can always sell your music to McDonald’s, Nike or Victoria’s Secret. Why not? Kim Gordon’s Gap campaign long since killed the notion of ‘selling out’ anyway, and let’s not mention that upsetting Iggy Pop insurance debacle …

What a year for music though, there is/was just too much to choose from, the backlog of unheard material could probably double this modest list of fifty favourites. I’ve quite surprised myself with what tickled the old cochlea this year, from the gutsy buzz/drone of Envy’s grime to the irrepressibly smiley Das Pop to the drowned ambient goth of the Fever Ray album to the mighty Yeah Yeah Yeah’s getting pipped to the post at the last minute for my favourite song and album of the year, it’s all here. And before you say it, I know I've turned into a complete pop-kid, live with it. (Disclaimer, I haven't thoroughly checked if any of these were late 2008, forgive me for rogue entries, I think we're okay though).

So, we may well be fiddling while Rome burns, but what the hell, it gives a lovely light …

Vivian Girls

Das Pop – Underground
Kid Cudi – Day 'N' Nite (Crookers Remix)

Vivian Girls – Moped Girls

Cheryl Cole – Fight For This Love

Focus Group – Very Truly Yours


Choir Of Young Believers – Action/Reaction

Micachu – Turn Me Well

The Amazing – Dragon

God Help The Girl – Come Monday Night

Crystal Stilts – Love Is A Wave

Andrew Bird

Metric – Sick Muse
Dananananaykroyd – Black Wax

Tinchy Stryder and Amelle – Never Leave You

Andrew Bird – Oh No

Envy – Set Yourself on Fire

Pet Shop Boys

Pet Shop Boys – Love etc.

Simian Mobile Disco – Audacity Of Huge

Florence + The Machine – Cosmic Love

MIike Snow – Animal (Fake Blood Remix)

The Hidden Cameras

Grizzly Bear – Two Weeks
The Hidden Cameras – Underage

Fuck Buttons – Surf Solar

Little Boots – New In Town

The cocknbullkid – I'm Not Sorry

Fever Ray

Eminem, Dr Dre, 50 Cent – Crack A Bottle
Fever Ray – Concrete Walls

Camera Obscura – French Navy

M. Ward – Hold Time

Animal Collective – My Girls

The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart

The View – 5 Rebbeccas
Golden Silvers – Arrows Of Eros

Passion Pit – The Reeling (Calvin Harris Remix)

The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart – Come Saturday

Dirty Projectors

Sunset Rubdown – Silver Moons

Brakes – Oh! Forever

Antony & The Johnsons – Epilepsy Is Dancing

Dirty Projectors – Stillness Is The Move

The Antlers – Two

… and the Top 12 (because 10 wasn’t quite enough) …

12. Jay-Z feat. Alicia Keys - Empire State Of Mind

Sweetly plinky-plonky and epic-sounding at once, lyrically Jay-Z managed to be his usual me-me-me self but strangely sentimental and touching with it: ‘Labor Day Parade, rest in peace Bob Marley, Statue of Liberty, long live the World Trade, long live the King, I'm from the Empire State …’. Genuinely touching vocal from Alicia Keys lifts the whole thing from start to finish.

11. Morrissey - I’m Throwing My Arms Around Paris

2009 was the year of cancelled dates, health scares, turning fifty and hurled bottles. Years of Refusal split the critics but this slow-burner turned live favourite was the stand-out single. He stumbles into 2010 without a record contract, continuing his against-the-odds career as ageing mayor of Indieland. You’ll miss him when he’s gone, as I’m sure he’s pointed out. He will always, always be King to me.

10. Madonna feat. Lil Wayne - Revolver

I was in a happy place when I first heard this. I’m still there and I’m bringing Madge with me. Flyer for the Best Of or Greatest Hits or whatever it was meant to be (get the DVD, forget the CD) this Britney-a-like track got under my skin thanks in part to the characteristically laconic ramblings of Lil Wayne. Crookers rmx any time now please …

9. Bat For Lashes - Daniel

The very best bits of the blissful, sexy, sad Two Suns entwined in one song. This is what Florence + The Machine will sound like in 2010 probably. Gorgeous.

8. Everything Everything - My Keys, Your Boyfriend

Or ‘MYKZURBF’ for the impatient thumb generation. Least immediate and ultimately finest single so far, the band are this close to surpassing all of their initial point-of-reference peers in a flurry of keyboards and better-than-the-last live appearances. Album of the year 2010? I’d part with money over it.

7. La Roux - In For The Kill

You know you’re getting on a bit when popstars are not only too young to remember the eighties but too young to remember the last eighties revival. Hence La Roux seeming out of time in more ways than one, but if being relentlessly po-faced and oblivious permits you to make pop music as crisply finessed as this, it’s worth it.

6. Julian Casablancas - 11th Dimension

All over the place, and better for it, of course it’s hard not to think of The Strokes while listening to his voice but the New Order guitar-play and disco-synths pull this yummy little melody into new infectious territory.

5. Dizzee Rascal - Bonkers

Okay so he’s not the bad boy he once was but would we really have bought the same act six years on? Doubt it. It’s no small thanks to Dizzee that three-minute electronic farts and rattling trashcans can not only chart but can fill dancefloors while sounding cutting-edge and stoopid all at the same time.

4. Lady Gaga - Paparazzi

I have been bemused and unmoved by LG since Day One, the disco stick stuff didn’t touch the sides for me but for some reason this has been living all over me ever since it was released. There’s something a little bit touching about it all, in a mental way (‘I’ll follow you until you love me’), the melody has a nod to Berlin’s ‘Take My Breath Away’, plus the line about ‘eyeliner and cigarettes’ gets me every time. Check out this amazing piano version, sounds like Abba:

3. V V Brown - Shark In The Water

Love at first hearing for me. I imagine the studio exchange went something like this: ‘I’ve written this song yeah and basically it’s a cross between ‘Put Your Records On’ by Corinne Bailey Rae and ‘Hey Mona’ by Craig McLachlan. Sounds good yeah?’ Ermm … Yeah actually it sounds amazing. The girl done good, tripping over mixed metaphors and vast fringes in three euphoric minutes.

V V Brown - Shark In The Water

VV Brown | MySpace Music Videos

2. Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Zero

It took just a couple of months for
Zero’ to establish itself as forever-staple of the indie club dancefloor and this could've gone either way with Heads Will Roll of course. Toss a coin. Suitably flawless and breathlessly exhilarating ambassador for what history will come to regard as the finest album to date from the YYYs.

1. Girls - Lust For Life

Back in March I didn’t think I would hear a better or more important song all year than ‘Zero’. Then came Girls. Christopher Owens really is a shockingly good songwriter and personal investments (read the lyrics) made this my favourite cut from the brilliant, brilliant album Album. As simple as songs come, when the bass and drums make their arrival fifty seconds in I suddenly feel wide awake and oh so happy to be here. Faith in music intact into 2010.

***Rude version of the video here***

Here is the Spotify playlist to go with the top 50 (minus Fuck Buttons, Grizzly Bear and Everything Everything, all on youtube)

More end-of-year gubbins …

Albums of the year

5. Morrissey – Years Of Refusal
4. V V Brown – Travelling Like The Light
3. Antony & The Johnsons – The Crying Light
2. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – It’s Blitz!
1. Girls – Album


Blog of the year

Consistently fun, funny and insightful archaeological dig into music old and new. Brought me the wonderful ‘Wonderful Life’ by Hurts, who only live in my own bloody city don’t they?

Remix of the year

Special made-up category so I can shoehorn one more song into my faves list. Believe it or not, Arthur Baker’s rework of ‘Wonderful Life’ by Hurts, it’s better than the original, how dare he.

Gig of the year

Bon Iver at the ATP Festival, Minehead Butlins. Time stands still as the bearded beauty closes his eyes under blue light and pulls ‘Lump Sum’ down from God himself. Tear shed.

Bon Iver


Helen of... said...

I am going to make as few plans as possible so I can enjoy the playlist in its entirety. Super pleased thecocknbullkid made it on :)

Gregling said...

Aww, hope you enjoy it, cocknbullkid (which is really hard to type btw) probs wouldn't even BE there if not for you. I've been dragged over the coals already for Moz, Gaga, choosing the wrong YYYs track... But hell, you can please all of the ... no wait, you can please some of the ... you know what I'm saying. xx