Yeah, it's a little late, but I figure everyone gets burnt out on year-end lists at the actual end of the year. So here's one given a little breathing room, twelve songs that I enjoyed immensely during 2009 and would like you to enjoy too. Click on the links to download.
12. Bonnie "Prince" Billy - Beware Your Only Friend
The opening track to Will Oldham's 428th studio album starts like this: "I want to be your only friend." Then a chorus of backing vocalists chime in with, "Is that scary?" Hilarious.
11. Lawrence Arabia - Apple Pie Bed
Hearing this song played live at Camp A Low Hum 2008 was a blessing and a curse. It's a great song, of course, but the damn catchiness of the chorus created an itch that wasn't scratched properly until the album came out about a year later. I was pretty itchy by that point, so man it was good hear those apple pie harmonies again at will.
10. Yo La Tengo - Periodically Double Or Triple
Yo La Tengo paint a picture of the world's most neurotic guy while sounding like the groovy house band of an amazing warehouse-style club in the sixties. It's all so effortless. How do they do it?
9. Dinosaur jr - Over It
When Dinosaur jr's original line-up got back together in 2005 nobody expected them to instantly pick up where they left off and start producing entire albums worth of totally awesome, totally rocking stuff as good as or better than anything they'd done before. The Dinosaur formula is all there, and it's great: wildly crunchy guitar, tight-as-anything rhythm section, J Mascis' slacker yowl, and a blazing guitar solo tossed off like J plays five of them each day before breakfast.
8. Girls - Lust For Life
This was a staple of 2009 best-ofs everywhere, and deservedly so. It's just an amazing feel-good jam, all hand claps, la la la backing vocals, sloppy guitar jangle and lyrics yearning for all the best summers of your life all at once.
7. Raekwon feat. Inspectah Deck, GZA, Ghostface Killah & Method Man - House Of Flying Daggers
Kung Fu voiceovers: check.
Extremely sparse, repetitive hook: check.
Multiple references to firearms and drugs: check.
Five MCs absolutely killing it on the mic: check.
Must be another Wu-Tang classic then.
6. Bill Callahan - Eid Ma Clack Shaw
Bill Callahan sings of dreaming the perfect song, waking up and writing it down in a daze, and then in the morning trying to decipher his scrawls. Then he sings what he wrote; a verse of utter nonsense, but delivered with a dry conviction that suggests that all the answers might actually be hidden in there somewhere.
5. Woods - The Dark
Woods put out a pretty good album called Songs of Shame last year, but this song was released as a single only, and I actually like it better than any song on the album (although a couple come close). This is just a really nifty pop song, with that odd Neil Young-on-helium voice and some really nice, clean guitar lines, and then it's over in two minutes, leaving you wanting more.
4. Sunset Rubdown - Idiot Heart
Twitchy twin guitars build up slowly, teasingly, to a full-speed-ahead chorus that's so awesome they don't even bother to do it again. Then there are Television-like dual guitar riffs and the bits about letting "the Icarus in your blood drown". And man, I just love some well placed backing vocals. Plus the album that this song comes from is called Dragonslayer, which is rad.
3. Haunted House - Seirra Trail
The fantastic writers at Said The Gramophone described this song as being sung by "some kind of crayfish, wild-eyed and furious, raging at us through a seaweedy warble, speaking English backwards in a way that trawled our hearts". Now I can't listen to it without picturing the lobster equivalent of Mark E. Smith ranting over those big, glorious power chords, repeated into infinity.
2. St Vincent - The Strangers
At the beginning of the year, for about four months, every single sentence I spoke was punctuated by Annie Clark singing "paint the black hole blacker, paint the black hole blacker".
1. Dirty Projectors and David Byrne - Knotty Pine
The Dirty Projectors' album, Bitte Orca, was really great, but in a completely different way to this song. The album is a warped, intellectual take on modern RnB, while Knotty Pine is simply the world's greatest, catchiest two-minute pop song. I like the former, but this concise slice of pop perfection just floors me. The interlocking voices, the twangy guitar, the playing-skeleton-bones-like-a-xylophone piano. Dear David Byrne, please recruit the Dirty Projectors as your new backing band and record an album. Your fan, Gareth.