Monday, 21 December 2009

Best Tracks of 2009

I reckon that ‘mixtape lists’ are far more appropriate to the current social climate than album lists as it seems to me almost as if singles culture has returned to the dominance it had in the 60s and 70s, albeit with a twist. The twist is that people don’t necessarily listen to official singles, but in this age of instant communication with things like Twitter, RSS feeds and 24-hour news, no one has any patience anymore and so prefer to listen to individual tracks by an artist, isolated from the rest of the album/s they came from. This is a tragedy for art but a victory for diversity, and not one I’m sure I endorse.

Still, the way we listen to music is changing through the iPod shuffle function, browsing videos randomly on YouTube, or using Spotify playlists so accordingly I’m providing my top 45 tracks of the year: 45 tracks I heard and liked; no more, no less. There was no set number to reach, I simply listed what I liked and ended up with the odd number of 45.

Whilst also allowing me to avoid a lame ‘best albums’ list, compiling my favourite tracks of the year also allows me to include artists I don’t think much of but who have a few good songs (Animal Collective, The xx, Raekwon), songs from albums I was mostly disappointed with (Sonic Youth’s 'The Eternal', Grizzly Bear’s 'Veckatimest', Built To Spill’s 'There Is No Enemy') and finally, to include great songs which were released as one-off singles or E.Ps.

As I think all the songs here are awesome, they don’t need to be listed in order of awesomeness, so here are the results in alphabetical order, complete with short descriptions:

2562 – Dinosaur
Dancy and colourful minimal dubstep which retains a psychedelic edge.

Animal Collective – My Girls
This inexplicably grew on me but something about the bouncy beat and vocal harmonies is truly catchy and cool.

The Antlers – Kettering
Hushed folksy tones which break into a golden, anthemic climax.

Arbouretum – People Flock Not To The Good
Simple yet interesting and heartfelt pop.

Atlas Sound – Sheila
Like the best of Deerhunter, Bradford Cox has delivered more brilliantly upbeat indie framed by a hallucinogenic glow.

Bat For Lashes – Glass
Magnificent tribal beats over pummelling bass and Natasha Khan’s gorgeous melodies. What an awesome, emotive song.

Bon Iver – Beach Baby
From woods to beaches, Bon Iver remains the king of rootsy passion…and the falsetto.

British Sea Power – The South Sound
Epic weather-worn progression from silvery shafts of sunlight to a wave crashing storm.

Built To Spill – Aisle 13
Doug Martsch’s unique pop pulls no punches but also no surprises.

Burial & Four Tet - Moth
Two of the UK's absolute best electronic musicians team up for an awesome extended piece. This track is more dancey than the other song they released together, Wolf Cub, which is suffice to say also highly recommended.

The Cribs – We Were Aborted
Brilliant, ragged power pop with a great melody and a great riff. What more could you want?

Cymbals Eat Guitars - And The Hazy Sea
Quirky little indie number which has a cool ambience though wears a little thin after a while.

Dälek – Armed With Krylon
The punishing industrial soundscapes and searing lyrics of this make Dälek one of the most important hip-hop acts around now.

Deerhunter – Circulation
Driving, swooning indie-pop. I love Deerhunter.

Dinosaur Jr. – Plans
Full of powerful, creamy riffs and screeching solos, J. Mascis proves he isn’t just another generation x slacker with this song.

The Dodos – Small Deaths
With the same charm as their excellent album Visiter, this is the sweetly melodic intro to their new album Time To Die.

Flaming Lips – Convinced Of The Hex
Awesomely reminiscent of German legends Can, this is a disturbing, shambolic, yet brilliant song.

Girls - Laura
Arguably the most successful mix between the two competing themes of their album, indie and 60s pop.

Grizzly Bear – Two Weeks
Absolutely perfect pop; a real gem.

Grooms - Acid King of Hell (Guitar Feelings)
Apocalyptic New York indie with spidery, twanging guitars and an epic chorus explosion.

The Horrors – Mirror’s Image
Despite the fact that the singer is yet another person trying to sound like Ian Curtis, the killer bassline and gliding, dreamy guitars make this song very impressive in its own right.

Japandroids – I Quit Girls
Sometimes you hear a song once and are instantly stunned. This year, I Quit Girls was the only one to do that to me. Amazing.

Jim O’Rourke – The Visitor
This is the sole, half-hour long track from O’Rourke’s album ‘The Visitor’. However its cycle of genre defying guitars, synths and pianos affirms its experimental greatness.

Joy Orbison - Hyph Mngo
Offputtingly silly artist name and title of song aside, this is a seriously banging tune, to put it in the parlance of the club. I love the effectiveness of the minimalist vocal hook.

Kode9 - Black Sun
The master of the beat strikes again. Awesome.

Kryptic Minds - Something To Nothing
More of an ambient piece than the rest of the 'One Of Us' album, but stands out as a unique piece of urban loneliness in the spirit of Burial.

La Roux feat. Skream – In For The Kill
Banging in clubs around the country, this unexpected dubstep/drum ’n’ bass remix was a deserved hit and way better than the original song.

The Mars Volta – Since You’ve Been Wrong
The mad duo of Omar Rodriguez-Lopez and Cedric Bixler-Zavala mellow out on this and even get a little power ballad on yo’ asses. It’s surprisingly good though.

Monolake - Watching Clouds
Understated eerie atmosphere. The guttural gurglings and rain-on-tin rhythm make this minimal techno masterpiece an awesome introduction to an equally awesome album.

Mount Eerie - The Mouth Of Sky
An intense crash and surge of noise topped with hymnal vocals which add to the energy and solemnity of the rest of the record.

Mount Kimbie – Maybes
Awesome minimal techy dubstep. Saturated with late-night atmosphere and crackly glitches, this is probably the best dubstep release of the year.

Mt Eden – Sierra Leone
More obvious than what I usually like, this is still a great example of how dubstep can be epic and musical even when it’s going for the commercial jugular.

No Age – Aim At The Airport
An instrumental track which, as usual, is a perfect mix of bubbling ambience and swelling distortion.

Noah & The Whale – The First Days Of Spring
Poignant, moving and mature; this is a welcome departure from the twee pop of their previous efforts.

Oh No – Madness
Awesomely funky mash-up of old Ethiopian jazz.

Oneida – I Will Haunt You
Striking, motorik rocker with ghostly vocals and minimalist yet slashing guitars.

The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart – Everything With You
Perfectly crafted pop covered with a gauze of rich distortion. Excellent.

Raekwon – New Wu
Real rapping and real backing. One to stick up the arses of commercial whores like Nelly and 50 Cent.

Ryuichi Sakamoto – Nostalgia
Effortlessly mixing the gorgeous minimalism of Debussy with the icy soundscapes of more modern ambient artists, the legend that is Sakamoto has created an impressively contemporary piece with this.

Sonic Youth – Sacred Trickster
Weird sounding, chugging, punky guitars and Kim Gordan yelling; this is Sonic Youth by numbers, but that isn’t to say that this is bad. No, this is really good.

Spoon – Got Nuffin
Unique, unashamedly melodic pop set to a repetitive tom-tom stomp whets the appetite for the upcoming new Spoon album. It should be good!

Steel Panther - Community Property
The whole sound of this song is so accurately representative of the ostentatious 80s glam metal of Poison, Mötley Crüe or W.A.S.P that it would be easy to assume Steel Panther are another awful nostalgia act. On closer inspection though, their music and lyrics are sharply ironic, hilarious, and technically stunning, which sort of makes it ok to listen to them, I think.

The Twilight Sad – Reflection On The Television
Amazing mixture of stadium rock and unadulterated noise which just grows more and more intense throughout the song. This, coupled with the Scottish brogue vocalist James Graham sings in, makes Reflection On The Television one of my top played songs of the year.

worriedaboutsatan – Arrivals
Epic, slow-burning minimal techno, built up with ambient drones and a static, shimmering beat.

The xx – VCR
A cool little vibe line adds some colour and interest to the airy, minimal greyness of the music, as do the rich sounding vocals.

Yo La Tengo – Here To Fall
Sounds like an instant classic. The strings and spiralling, undulating Rhodes add to the general grandiosity and unoriginal yet brilliant descending motif.

2 comments:

misplacedswag 21 December 2009 at 14:15  

We have five artists in common between our Top Tracks lists, and two shared songs. The rest of your suggestions are substantially more well-thought out and obscure than mine, so I shall be sure to check them out - in particular, the Jim O'Rourke composition, which I've heard great things about.

Citizen Strife. 21 December 2009 at 17:42  

Even though Mount Eden might sound more commercial, he isn't even signed yet.

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