Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Top 20 Moments in Music of 2009

20. Animal Collective - Brother Sport
"open up your - open up your - open your…"

"No More Runnin" almost feels like the way Merriweather Post Pavilion is supposed to end. It certainly has the space to unwind after the energetic "Lion in a Coma". Then with a "ooh!" Brother Sport takes off - the hypnotic beginning driving itself into the listener's head upon first listen, and only getting more infectious thereafter.

19. Lady Gaga - Bad Romance
"Ra ra ah-ah-ah"

I tried to hate this song. I still kind of do, actually. What's undeniable, however (other than the song's bonkers music video) is the song's chanted opening. It's ominous, exciting, and danceable (you know, if I were a dancing man, that is), all at the same time. I suppose the song's kind of growing on me - this part doesn't have to.

18. Dinosaur Jr. - Pieces
"The opening riff"

Not much to say except that from the first time I heard the opening riff to "Pieces" I knew I was going to love the CD it came from. A great start to one of the best songs (and albums) of the year.

17. The Lonely Island - I'm On a Boat
"T-Pain gets it on... with a mermaid"

You've heard this. You know the T-Pain verse is awesome (Poseidon, look at me? Tell me that's not awesome). The way that all these borderline ridiculous things are delivered makes it seem just as relevant as anything that anyone else might say. And now, T-Pain is saying that he had sex with a mermaid - seems plausible to me.

16. Dan Deacon - Build Voice
"The voice soars - then everything come apart at the seams"

I'll be discussing this song further tomorrow, suffice to say that the best part of the song is right after his voice reaches its peak. Every part of the song that's been building the entire song hits critical mass and breaks free. I might like Mr. Deacon's music most of the time, but during this song, he brings it.

15. The Handsome Furs - I'm Confused

"I'm Confused" starts with a low hum, which gives way to a groovy drum beat. Suddenly with a shout, the guitar blares in. It's the exact opposite of subtle; it blares out and grabs attention. It's bizarrely fun for a song that seems to dwell on confusion. The listener doesn't care about any of that, though, it's all about that guitar. It's the type of guitar sound you want to start a band for, just so you could possibly replicate it - the type of sound you would pay to see the band live for, even if they sucked (which they don't) just so you could soak it in. If that sounds like hyperbole, it's worth noting that so other song made me smile as much this year as this one.

14. Wavves - Cool Jumper

After each refrain of "Cool Jumper", there's a blast of melodic noise that demands to be heard as loud as the stereo will allow. I'm listening to the song as I type this little blurb. It's late, and Linds is in bed, so I have to keep the volume relatively low. Every time that blast comes dribbling out of the speakers (when it should be waking the neighbors and causing domestic disputes) two things happen... I start inexplicably air-guitaring, and I fight the reflex to turn the volume dial all the way to the right. If you ever hear me whining about getting fined for noise violations, just know - this song won... it was probably inevitable.

13. Black Joe Lewis - Get Yo Shit
"Naw, you dumbass, it's Roxanne"

There's no reason for this to be on this list, except I literally laughed aloud the first time I heard it....and then again the second time I heard it. I mean, come on, the second time I heard Tenacious D I merely smirked at most of the stuff on it. When the narrator of the song forgets his woman's name only to be reminded "Naw, you dumbass... it's Roxanne... spell it", that's gold.

12. Future of the Left - Arming Eritrea
"The main riff hits"

Each verse, when singer Andy Falkous is done berating 'Rick' for his many crimes, the band launches with gusto into a most glorious riff. Listening to it, I can only describe the feeling as almost a floating feeling - an undeniably angry, enraged levitating feeling. This one's another that deserves to be blasted on as loud a stereo as can be found (it also makes for great driving music - road ragers need not apply, though... seriously, you people are crazy enough the way it is, no need to fuel any fires).

11. Florence & the Machine - Drumming Song
"Sweeter than heaven / Hotter than hell"

Florence Welch has a commanding voice. Team that with an heavy, insistent drum beat and you've got a recipe for a knockout song. Taking about the electric feeling of being near someone you care deeply about, she sings "Louder than sirens, Louder than bells / Sweeter than heaven, Hotter than hell." Who doesn't know what that feeling is all about? It's got great delivery, great force, and is completely relatable.

10. Phoenix - Love Like a Sunset, Part I
"Muted guitar kicks in"

In direct contrast to the super sugary pop that fills the rest of Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix stands the first section of Love Like a Sunset. The fact that it's an instrumental might have something to do with that, but whereas the rest of the album is bright, this song has a dark (but not threatening) undercurrent to it. It's the type of music that would be perfect for walking around under a starry sky. Once the muted guitars kick in a little over two minutes in, everything is made perfect. I love muted guitars in these types of instrumentals, and this is definitely one of the better uses of them that I've heard (though Phoenix is generally quite good about adding in a dash of muted guitars - just another reason they're so good).

9. Ramona Falls - I Say Fever
"The piano at the end of each chorus"

It's tough to pick a distinct part of this song that's the best. On any given day, it could be the crunchy guitars that follow the hook, it could be bridge (I love Brent Knopf's voice during the bridge), or it could simply be the main hook - an ascending attack that practically demands to be shouted along with. In the end though, it comes back to the piano - specifically the little jangle at the end of each hook.

Also, 'I Say Fever' is on the short list with 'Strawberry Swing' by Coldplay for music video of the year, and the way the piano player jams out in the beginning is pretty fantastic.

8. The Gregory Brothers - Autotune the News #2
"Very thin ice"

It's my opinion that number five is better and a stronger song overall, but the segment where Katie Couric "sings" about humanity being on "very thin ice" will forever be the defining moment of the entire Autotune the News series. They've called back to it a couple times (most notably with T-Pain), but the original is obviously the best.

7. Memory Tapes - Bicycle

Bicycle itself is pleasant enough. It slips around smoothly as the singer discusses riding home with a light rain coming down, wishing for some manner of escape. The closing sort of comes in out of nowhere, but it almost feels like a different song, with a light vocal chant in the foreground, and some beautiful guitar that feels simultaneously laid back and urgent. It doesn't feel like it goes on nearly long enough. While it is going, though, it's one of the more enjoyable listening experiences of the year.

6. Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Heads Will Roll
"Looking glass"

Heads Will Roll is already a big sounding song, but when it reaches the end of the 2nd chorus, it launches into a full blown power dance song. Karen O sings with a softness that she hasn't fully used since 'Maps', without losing any of the intensity. This part made keep pressing 'repeat' for 10 months - I haven't come close to getting sick of it yet.

5. Animal Collective - My Girls

Just the little shout at the end of each hook in 'My Girls'. You've probably heard the song. If you don't know what I'm talking about, you need to listen again.

4. The Hold Steady - Atlantic City
"Everything dies"

They don't quite use the subtlety that Bruce did in the original version, but the part where Craig Finn sings with no accompaniment "Everything dies, that's a fact / Maybe everything that dies someday comes back". Induces shivers all the same.

3. Dinosaur Jr. - I Don't Wanna Go There
"The old guys rock the fuck out"

There's a short guitar solo around two minutes in to I Don't Wanna Go There. That one's pretty good, but it's not the one I'm talking about. Around four and a half minutes in, the real solo comes tearing in. What I missed the first couple of times is just how pummeling the drums are. They provide the perfect foundation one of the most enjoyable to listen to guitar solos I've heard in a long time. The entire band rocks out in such a way that the almost four minute long jam session goes by in a flash.

2. …And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead - Isis Unveiled
"We'll pardon all of them"

I could easily have placed "Unveiled"s opening guitar riff, which is a great hearkening back to Trail of Dead's more passionate, raw punk influence, but this is the true centerpiece of the song. A few minutes in, the song suddenly and massively shifts gears. Suddenly, what had been a straight forward rock song switches up to a deliberate, rhythmic manifesto.

"And if they taste the blood we'll let them drink
And if they taste the flesh we'll let them eat
And if one has to be forgiven then we'll pardon all of them
And if they raze our walls we'll let them in
And if they raise their swords we'll let them hit
And if one has to be forgiven then we'll pardon all of them"

Sure, it probably goes on a little long, but it still pretty much defines 'epic' as it rolls on. Besides, the way it blasts back into the main riff is about as close to classic Trail of Dead as it gets.

1. Metric - Gimme Sympathy
"Come on baby play me somethin' like here comes the sun"

The hook itself is amazing (it might be my favorite of the year), but when the synths start chirping at the end of each chorus, with Emily Haines begging the listener "c'mon baby play me somethin' like here comes the sun..." words can't describe how great it sounds. It has to be heard.

Narrowly missing the countdown:

Danny Gokey's "Scream On" performance on American Idol
How on earth could he have possibly not seen this coming? There's just no way you rehearse that song and think "yeah, that sounds about right. Thankfully, he decided it was good the way it was. So much more comedic that way.

Das Racist - Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell
To be specific, I'm talking about the moment where you realize that they're not actually going to say much of anything other than "I'm at the pizza hut, I'm at the taco bell, I'm at the combination pizza hut and taco bell". Also, as a close runner-up, the moment down in the Twin Cities where we actually passed the combination pizza hut and taco bell, we laughed about that for the rest of the day.

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