IT’S HERE! My top ten songs of the year and a wonderful chance for you all to tell me what I excluded. HA. Keep in mind, lists are never objective. They tend to very personal and eventually take on a life of their own. I’ve been sweating over these choices ever since June and now here they are:
Super Secret Surprise #11! Because it’s (quite literally) one louder.
Yes this is a Top Ten list but who can resist the urge to toss in a This is Spinal Tap joke when there is a chance? Not me! Sleigh Bells is my true surprise of the 2009 year. (And unfortunately the only artists on this list who I have yet to see live. Boo.) This unsigned duo have captured my heart in such a way that even I am at a loss to explain the love. In my opinion, music needs more front women like Alexis Krauss. Totally frickin’ bad ass. Therefore, “Infinity Guitars” is my sneak attack addition to this list.
MP3: Sleigh Bells – “Infinity Guitars”
10. Dirty Projectors featuring David Byrne – Knotty Pine
The best of the best off the fine compilation Dark Was the Night. Amber Coffman’s vocals soar in a way that might seem grating to some, but truly capture the spirit of the song. These lyrics are not meant to be smooth. They are about objects being rough and cobbled together. The edge of Coffman’s voice only adds to the visual that the song offers us. Then you have one of my own personal heroes Mr. Byrne in the mix, with his own personal stamp of approval, and it’s almost enough to forget what an insufferable hipster David Longstreth is on occasion.
MP3: Dirty Projectors ft. David Byrne – “Knotty Pine”
9. Cymbals Eat Guitars – And the Hazy Sea…
I think it’s a bit unusual to pick the opening track of an album as your favorite, but this was the moment where I fell in love with the power of Joe D’Agostino’s voice and the group as a whole for their sprawling sound that was often used to carry me out of my cubicle during the middle of the day. The fact that I can remember exactly where I was when I first listened (walking down Madison towards Whole Foods) is a testament to the effect this song had on me and around the 3:36 mark I am blown away every time.
MP3: Cymbals Eat Guitars – “And the Hazy Sea…”
8. Animal Collective – What Would I Want? Sky
AnCo released Fall Be Kind right in time to mess my list ALL UP. As much as I have sweated and slaved over understanding this group, they always seem to fall just short of becoming one of my favorites. My love of Panda Bear keeps them dangling on a finely tuned thread. Then they go and make their most listenable song ever with the first legally cleared Grateful Dead sample just to shove their musical talent in my face. Well done boys. Well done. My attention is now captured. I concede.
MP3: Animal Collective – “What Would I Want? Sky”
7. Fanfarlo – Harold T. Wilkins or How to Wait for a Very Long Time
I owe a debt of gratitude to IGIF for turning me onto Fanfarlo. In the midst of all the more experimental stuff I listen to, Fanfarlo is my foothold on good old fashion instrumentation and song-writing. They are proof that what was once a band is always a band; and that having faith in an ensemble and a beautifully crafted chorus will never steer you wrong.
MP3: Fanfarlo – “Harold T. Wilkins or How to Wait for a Very Long Time”
6. The Antlers – Two
While at times there might have been tracks on Hospice that received more of my attention, there is no denying that “Two” best captures the feel of this heart-breaking album. And the memory of watching the group perform this song while the audience shouted “your daddy was an asshole, yah he fucked you up” is pretty chilling. This is also the song that lends to my theory that Hospice is not necessarily just about watching someone die as much as the cancer of loneliness and unrest that can creep between two people. Therefore, it has to have the top spot.
MP3: The Antlers – “Two”
5. Grizzly Bear – While You Wait For Others
I could go on for ages about nearly any song off Veckatimest but this is the one that really grabs me and tugs on all my heartstrings. Perhaps because you can hear the anger coming through Droste’s voice during the verse, only to give way in the chorus to the sad contention that “we all fall through.” The whole package is so genuine in its bitterness and disappointment. While “Two Weeks” is beautiful without a doubt and I want to sing “Dory” to a lover, “While You Wait for Others” has a driving force I cannot ignore.
MP3: Grizzly Bear – “While You Wait For Others”
4. Phoenix – 1901
This one was a very tough call to make between the two singles. And the whole of Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix is such a brilliantly crafted pop masterpiece. I spent lengthy amounts of time drooling over “Rome” and “Armistice” as well. But if I am to be honest, “1901” was my go-to. Also memories of standing in the crowd wailing “falling, falling, falling, falling,” along with Thomas Mars are not likely to fade anytime soon.
MP3: Phoenix – “1901”
3. Atlas Sound featuring Panda Bear – Walkabout
Bradford Cox wrote this song to make people happy. And hot damn if he didn’t succeed beyond his wildest dreams. Two of my favorite artists and performers is about enough to make my head explode, but when it also concerns shedding the care and worry of others opinions?! YOU’RE BLOWING MY MIND BOYS. This is what I put on when I need desperately to cheer myself up. And it always works. It’s unfiltered fun and I love it and I want to listen to it everyday and you can’t stop me.
MP3: Atlas Sound ft. Noah Lennox – “Walkabout”
2. St. Vincent – Marrow
Heads-up there will be a future post following shortly about how much the work of Annie Clark means to me. So I’ll keep this short. She’s brilliant and beautiful, but most of all she is unafraid to bare her soul to you, whether you’ll like it or not. The courageous way she tackles music is a constant inspiration, especially in a male-dominated year. (Not to mention a male-dominated industry.) This song demonstrates that even when she is pleading, she is nothing but strong.
MP3: St. Vincent – “Marrow”
1. Bon Iver – Woods
Right. So. Perhaps people will take issue with “Woods” as my pick of the year. To those who do, SUCK IT. This is the track that personally meant the most to me throughout the whole of 2009 and it’s also the song that I listened to the most; occasionally on constant repeat over and over. With the personal story behind For Emma, Forever Ago, many started to question whether or not Justin Vernon was some type of one-hit wonder. Would he be able to move forward with his career? Would he be able to “re-create” this success? Then he released the Blood Bank EP. Keep in mind this was also around the time that there was major unrest occurring about the over-use of things such as Auto-Tune and Vocoder, (he chose the later) and myself in particular was so crazy sick of them I wanted to scream.
But what Bon Iver has done with this track is express the peace, the beauty, the chaos, the calamity, the frustration, and the heart-wrenching sadness of attempting to clear your mind and accept your fate. Beautifully layered over and over, his voice howls and cajoles itself to a quiet place. While a version of it was later recreated with Volcano Choir and packaged as “Still,” I much prefer the original.
Also, a fun bit of trivia for you Northern Exposure fans. In keeping with the namesake, (Bon Iver is a bastardized version of the french expression bon hiver, meaning good winter, which Vernon garnered from an episode of the show.) one of the best characters Holling Vincouer would go to his homemade still in the woods whenever he was troubled. As close contender “Blood Bank” is also based off another episode, I can’t help but think this is where the inspiration behind “Woods” was generated.
Whether that is the case or not, this is truly my favorite song of the year.
MP3: Bon Iver – “Woods”