This was a tougher year than usual to get every song I considered “best of” material onto one CD, so there’s some great stuff missing. The 21 tracks that ended up on the CD are the ones that first came to mind and, frankly, fit size-wise. And yes, I know PJ Harvey put out an album this year. As much as it agonizes me to not love something PJ has touched, I cannot make myself even like the album she and John Parish released in 2009. I tried hard, I swear.
2009 was the year that indie label 4AD and I fell in love all over again. The Big Pink, Tune-Yards, The National, Atlas Sound, St. Vincent, Camera Obscura, Sarena Maneesh – and that’s not even the full roster. I’m going to throw School of Seven Bells in with them just because they are clearly heavily influenced by the Cocteau Twins. I haven’t listened to so much 4AD since 1990.
I caught some fantastic live shows in 2009. Highlights were The Pixies and Of Montreal. The Of Montreal show was like having a collective fever dream with 1,000+ other people. I’m so glad I had friends with me to validate that it all actually happened.
The Best of 2009
Metric “Satellite Mind” Fantasies I was seriously tempted to list about half the tracks on this album as Best of. I love “Satellite Mind” a micro-fraction more than the others, so it made it here, to the top spot. My album of the year, and song of the year.
Neko Case “Magpie in the Morning” Middle Cyclone This song is just gorgeous, and really showcases The Voice. Solid album. I’d been a fan of The New Pornographers for years and didn’t realize until 2009 that that was her.
Bat for Lashes “Sleep Alone” Two Suns Sultry Natasha Khan fronts this London band. I love this album from start to finish. If you like this song you’ll more than likely love the whole album. There were many strong female-fronted bands this year – I was in heaven. Florence and the Machine, Ida Maria, Marie Siouxx and St. Vincent are all so very very good.
Presets “Yippiyo-ay” Apocalypso The album has three exceptionally good tracks, and this is my favorite of the three. The pinnacle of electro-pop dance-y fun.
School of Seven Bells “Half Asleep” Alpinisms Twin sister lead vocalists and the diaphanous layering of sound give this band a real Cocteau Twins feel, so it’s no stretch for me to adore this song. I admit I haven’t heard the whole album, but I’ve heard enough of it to know I’d love it. I had tickets to see them live (with The xx opening) then got laid out by a bad cold and didn’t go. This makes me sad.
Phoenix “1901” Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix You might recognize this song from the Cadillac TV spot. Don’t let the fact of its commercial appeal detract from what a great song this is. Top album, too.
Miike Snow “Animal” Miike Snow Stockholm-based electro-pop band, with a nice little experimental vibe to it. I use “experimental” here loosely. I heard true experimental music recently and after about 5 minutes of finding it interesting, my brain begged me to get away from it by any means necessary. The police officers summoned to the scene were sympathetic.
Passion Pit “Little Secrets” Manners Manners is basically 2008’s Chunk of Change EP all grown up, and includes “Sleepyhead,” one of the best songs EVER. I didn’t include “Sleepyhead” in this year’s list since technically it is last year’s song. Completely unlike me to be this rule-abiding, so I guess by following the rules I’m breaking them. How punk of me.
Atlas Sound “Walkabout (with Noah Lennox)” Logos 4AD band with the lead of Animal Collective (Panda Bear) as guest vox. Great song. Great album. Animal Collective released what is being touted as the quintessential album of 2009 by many, Merriweather Post Pavilion. It didn’t resonate with me as such, but I’ll give the album lots of stars for its uniqueness. The Atlas Sound album is much more my speed.
Black Moth Super Rainbow “Born On A Day The Sun Didn’t Rise” Eating Us Like AIR, but from Pittsburgh. Ambient, cool, trippy – everything that’s good about mellow electro.
The xx “Islands” xx Barely out of high school, this south London quartet are creating music that’s mature beyond their years in terms of skill, style and just overall lyrical life experience. I love this album. It’s referred to as The make-out album of 2009 (and not just by me).
N.A.S.A. “Gifted” The Spirit of Apollo N.A.S.A. (for North America South America) put out my second favorite album of 2009 – these two DJs/producers got an incredible A-list of indie hip-hop and rock performers to play with them, and the entire album is exceptional.
Tune-Yards “Sunlight” Bird-Brains This is the song that reawakened my 4AD obsession. LOVE this song. The album is good, but this song is the clear stand-out. Love love love it.
Kid Cudi “Pursuit of Happiness” Man On The Moon: The End Of Day Brooklyn-based performer best known for the Crookers remix of “Day ‘n’ Nite.” This is another exceptionally good album by a talented hip-hop artist.
St. Vincent “Laughing With a Mouth of Blood” Actor Another 4AD band. St. Vincent is the stage name of Annie Clark, an accomplished composer and singer. She gets the award for Best Song Title. Great album, super-talented performer.
Anti-Pop Consortium “Volcano” Fluorescent Black More Brooklyn hip-hop. I actually like the Four Tet remix of this song better than the original, but it was a full minute longer and put me over the size limit for the CD. This is a Great Album. And check out the Four Tet version if you can find it.
Micachu “Golden Phone” Jewellery A product of Mica Levi, who I believe invents her own instruments. This song sounds like it was created in a rainbow-hued lab by cartoon forest animals wearing top hats and ascots, smoking Smart Car-sized splifs.
Swimming in Speakers “In Knowing” Swimming in Speakers I adore this song. It is so catchy. The reason I adore it has nothing to do with that, though. I was playing this song in my car one afternoon and I glanced behind me at my daughter. She was doing the robot to it, and it was hilarious – and a really good robot to boot.
Woods “Rain On” Songs of Shame One of the many at-some-point-Brooklyn-based bands on the playlist, this one an incarnation of Meneguar. Not usually a big fan of alt-folk, but this hits the spot I didn’t know I needed hit.
The National “So Far Around The Bend” Dark Was The Night The National didn’t release an album in 2009. This is a gorgeous song from the Dark Was the Night CD from the concert I still can’t believe I didn’t even know about until it was over. Incredible line-up and CD.
One eskimO “Givin Up” One eskimO Band out of east London fronted by the very cute Kristian Leontiou, with a sound that blends soulful electro-pop and ambient. This is such a great song. I couldn’t find the Don Diablo remix of this song which I prefer to this one, but the original is fabulous as well.
That wraps it up. A few “almost made its:” The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, UUVVWWZ, Yacht, The Rest, The Antlers, Grizzly Bear, Telekinesis, The Big Pink and The People Under the Stairs.
I’ll send a copy of my Best of 2009 CD to the first five of you that ask nice.