Best Songs of 2009

Here are my favourite 40 songs of 2009. Much of it is (gasp) NOT MISERABLE. Please do not be alarmed, I am simply human and as such cannot exist in a state of perpetual gloom all the time.

This year I have even put the songs into a stack-prioritised backlog, or ‘ordered list’ (sorry, Product Management joke).

This is a collection of my personal favourites rather than an official Grumpy Man DJs collection. While you are reading, why not  listen to all the tracks here, free.

1. Mew – Introducing Palace Players from No more stories Are told today I’m sorry They washed away No more stories The world is grey I’m tired Let’s wash away
If Einstein had been chained to an electric guitar and locked into a recording studio with nothing but a bowl of disco biscuits and a Donna Summer record he would have made this. Be warned: the first 30 seconds makes you feel like your brain has been penetrated by a clockwork wasp. Listen loud.
2. Japandroids – Young Hearts Spark Fire from Post-Nothing
Vancouver’s Japandroids not only have the silliest band name on the planet, they are exactly the sort of band every geeky twenty-something indie-kid wishes they could be in. Loud, messy and uncomplicated, and possibly the best song ever about growing up sung by two guys shouting over epic chainsaw riffage.
3. Atlas Sound – Walkabout (w/Noah Lennox) from Logos
“What did you want to be when you grow up?” sings Deerhunter’s stick-thin indie-ubergeek Bradford Cox and Animal Collective’s Noah Lennox on this nostalgia-fuelled psychedelic jangle-stomp. More accessible than Animal Collective, more fun than Deerhunter. I’ll have a large cup of WIN please.
4. Elvis Perkins – Shampoo From Elvis Perkins in Dearland
Ignore the ‘new Dylan’ tags and the tragic personal back-story (His father was actor Anthony Perkins who died of AIDs, and his mother died on the first plane to hit the Twin Towers on 9/11). This is a grand, funereal and rootsy romp that may or may not be about the 70’s film starring Warren Beatty.
5. Phoenix – 1901 from Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
Demented Talking Heads inspired Gallic indie-pop. Somehow mixes Afro-beat guitar licks with rave-lite synth fills without sounding contrived or complicated. Easily the best ‘summer’ record of 2009.
6. Antony & The Johnsons – Her Eyes Are Underneath The Ground From The Crying Light
“Her eyes are underneath the ground”. Hope she remembered to take her contact lenses out. Sparse, melodic, haunting. It’s perfect. The best song from what was the first great record of 2009.
7. AA Bondy – A Slow Parade from When The Devil’s Loose
Driving alt-country goodness. Finds the perfect balance between melancholy and bitterness. Hey Ryan Adams, remember when you used to write songs as good as this?
8. Grizzly Bear – Two Weeks from Veckatimest
I don’t quite understand how anyone can make music that sounds like it comes simultaneously from 100 years in the past and 100 years in the future. Grizzly Bear pull it off whilst at the same time being melodic and accessible. Awesome.
9. Fever Ray – When I Grow Up from Fever Ray
Bleak but beautiful minimalist electronica with icy female Scandinavian vocals. Makes you want to wear black and sport impenetrable sunglasses whilst indoors, which is of course a good thing.
10. Dinosaur Jr – Over It from Farm
Right back to their very best. Simples.
11. Fuck Buttons – Surf Solar from Tarot Sport
Bristol’s Fuck Buttons actually have more in common with the heavier elements of the Krautrock cannon than with UK forebears like The Chemical Brothers with whom they are compared. Surf Solar sounds like a Nazi Parrott-robot attacking a confused Wizard.
12. Califone – Funeral Singers from All My Friends Are Funeral Singers
Are we sure Curt Cobain is dead? Really? Because this is exactly the kind of brilliant stripped-down melancholic doom-folk-americana Cobain would be making if he was still with us. And this guy really sounds like him too. Hmm
13. The Horrors – Scarlet Fields from Primary Colours
Unsettling Geoff Barrow-produced synth-driven dream-goth from the group many had all written off as being just big-haired Bauhuas impersonators. Shoves a funnel into Editors bum-hole and pours in twenty gallons of ‘fuck you’.
14. Animal Collective – What Would I Want? Sky from Fall Be Kind (EP)
Mashing up noises with demented glee, these are art-school Beach Boys for the new millennium. The Fall Be Kind EP continues the move towards a more accessible sound started earlier in the year with Merriweather Post Pavilion.
15. Dangermouse and Sparklehorse – Revenge (featuring The Flaming Lips) from Dark Night of the Soul
The ubiquitous Brian Burton does it again, this time aided by Sparklehorse. A melancholic classic about love, hate and karma.
16. Girls – Lust for Life from Album
One of the rare occasional when the indie-hipster hype was well founded. Brilliant lo-fi songs, and a dude’s actual angry schlong used a mike in the ‘slightly’ NSFW video.
17. Kings of Convenience – 24-25 from Declaration of Dependence
If this three minutes and thirty eight seconds of pure joy doesn’t bring some quantum of relief to the barren void that is your sad and broken life just put your head in a bag of quick-drying cement and throw yourself in the canal. The ultimate hangover cure.
18. Wild Beasts – This Is Our Lot from Two Dancers
Choice cut from possibly the best British album of the year. If Anthony fired The Johnsons and hired Radiohead it might sound something like this.
19. Julian Casablancas – 11th Dimension from Phrazes for the Young
Proving he has the knack for zeitgeist-grabbing poppy romps even when not being that bloke from The Strokes. All over the place, in a good way.
20. Cass McCombs – The Executioner’s Song from Catacombs
The phrase ‘stripped-down’ doesn’t do justice to the restraint shown by McCombs on his latest very beautiful, very brave album. Music so fragile it wouldn’t survive radio airplay.
21. PJ Harvey & John Parish – Black Hearted Love from A Woman A Man Walked By
Lovely grungy slice of gothic west-country gloom-rock.
22. Gomez – Win Park Slope from A New Tide
The best Gomez song in a decade.
23. Dan Auerbach – Heartbroken, In Disrepair from Keep It Hid
The Smith’s How Soon Is Now drowned in a Louisiana swamp.
24. Monsters of Folk – Temazcal from Monsters of Folk
Supergroup featuring Conor Oberst and Mike Mogis of Bright Eyes, My Morning Jacket’s Jim James and M Ward. More ‘Country Pop’ than Folk, and as good as the sum of its considerable parts.
25. Volcano Choir – Island, IS from Unmap
Bon Iver and friends push the boundaries but retain the charm of Justin Vernon’s solo work.
26. Alela Diane – White as Diamonds from To Be Still
The only proper ‘folk’ record on this list. Traditional American music’s most promising set of tonsils in many years.
27. The Decemberists – Sleepless from Dark Was the Night
Argh! Accordion-flinging indie-pirates from across the seas! Avast ye colonial scum! Feel the wrath of our gently melancholic epic folk-rock!
28. The XX– Heart Skipped a Beat from xx
It’s hard to pick a single track from this astonishing debut record. This band is so young they were still wiping the afterbirth from their creases between takes while recording this. Best new British band of 2009 by a mile.
29. Bat For Lashes – Daniel from Two Suns
Many expected Ms Khan’s sophomore effort to be an extension of her slightly hippy-drippy debut. Instead we got a bass heavy, dark and slighthly pervy freakathon. Result!
30. St. Vincent – Actor Out Of Work from Actor
Bah. Nobody has the right to be this good looking AND talented. Beware – this indie-pop earworm burrows deep.
31. The National – So Far Around The Bend from Dark Was the Night
Another great track from the standout left-field pop compilation of the  year (sorry ‘New Moon’ soundtrack). Eerily prescient lyrics, too: “You’ve been humming in a daze forever, Praying for Pavement to get back together”.
32. Bowerbirds – Northern Lights from Upper Air
Nu-folk triumph.
33. Beck – Volcano from streams
Beck has been streaming an acoustic version of last years ‘Modern Guilt’ from his website. It’s much better than the original, and this is the best moment.
34. Andrew Bird – Souverian from Noble Beast
Big in the States, somehow invisible over this side of the pond. Tasteful, flowing and huge in scale, this is the BIGGEST track of the year.
35. Graham Coxon – In The Morning from The Spinning Top
That Blur reunion sadly overshadowed Coxon’s best solo record to date. This Jansch-inspired pastoral whimsy suits you, sir.
36. Super Furry Animals – The Very Best Of Neil Diamond from Dark Days/Light Years
Welsh psych-pop pioneers salute 70s music icon while partying in a Bedouin tent. No, me nether.
37. The Antlers – Bear from Hospice
Not really fair picking one track from what  is a proper story-telling FULL album. However, like you, thanks to ‘modern life’  I now have the attention span of a hobbled knat.
38. Bear in Heaven – You Do You from Beast Rest Forth Mouth
Dark trippy alt-rock reminiscent of Flaming Lips.
39. Neko Case – People Got A Lotta Nerve From Middle Cyclone
Middle Cyclone doesn’t quite scale the heights of 2006’s amazing Fox Confessor Brings the Flood (even if it does have the best album cover of the year) but this standout tracks ranks with the best songs she has written. 
40. Kasabian – Fire from West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum
Infinite monkeys plus typewriters and infinite time equals Shakespeare. This must be the musical equivalent. Hatefully, mind-wipingly catchy. MAKE IT STOPPP!!!

You can listen to all these tracks in my ‘best of 2009’ playlist on 8-Tracks.


8 Responses to “Best Songs of 2009”

  1. I respect any list with “Young Hearts Spark Fire” at number one

  2. John Campion Says:

    Love that Mew track! Will listen to the lot if its as good as that. Have to ask one question though – where are the Arctic Monkeys?

  3. I really enjoyed your list – lots of stuff I’ve heard and have loved (The XX and Animal Collective, for example), plus quite a few bands/artists I’ll now be checking out. Cheers.

  4. you missed The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, Camera Obscura. Preety good shot tho. Apart from the end where you blow it…Kasabian? eek!

  5. @sterge why the Kasabian hate? Actually it’s OK – I know why…they are not exactly the most likable band (although the drummer is apparently a really nice bloke!). You can’t argue with the viral nature of the hook in that song. This years ‘Sex on Fire’?

    @jeffreygeoffrey – apologies I changed the order of the first two tracks after you posted! The exact order is a bit arbirary to be honest, I might change it again tomorrow 😉

  6. Lots of slightly ‘happy music’ here – you must be losing your touch! Give us your top MISERABLE tunes.

  7. @kessi you are right I suppose. Maybe I should do a ‘top ten miserable music moment of the decade?’ Hmm…

  8. I’m enjoying this playlist immensely. I’ve not had a good music year for various reasons*, and I’m enjoying being be brought up to speed while I sit in the cold, tapping on my laptop, plotting world domination*.

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