BEST SONGS OF 2009
Please note: MP3s are only kept online for a short time, and if this entry is from more than a couple of weeks ago, the music probably won't be available to download any more.
These are my 75 favourite songs of 2009: songs I love more than peaches & pears.
I follow one arbitrary rule: that no artist may be listed twice.
I made similar lists in 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008. Of course this year I did the daftest thing and expanded from fiftysomething to 75 best tunes. Guys, I had to.
The best way to browse this list is to click the little arrow beside each song and then to listen as you read. The things you like you can then download by right- or ctrl-clicking with your mouse.
You can also download a complete zip of the 75 songs here [315mb], via InfiniteMb.
Don't forget: Dan listed his favourite albums of the year here yesterday.
Please buy albums, singles and EPs by bands that you enjoy. Whenever possible, I've included links to make purchases. In some cases, Said the Gramophone will get a small commission. We've also set something up with the fine mail-order Insound: Add the coupon code STGsongsof09 to any order and receive 10% off (expires Jan 30). Hurray!
original painting by James McNeill Whistler (source)
- Sharon Van Etten - "Much More Than That" [buy]
In a year of so many songs, I don't know why it is that my favourite is a thing of voices and acoustic guitar, improperly recorded. And yet in certain ways, I do know: it is about words, tune, the way this melancholy yearns toward beauty. Sharon asks a question I ask myself every day. // I have wondered it often. Watching the wind push down a plastic chair. Standing and holding my grandfather's hand. Seeing a girl turn away. I have wondered this as I stared at a padlock; as I stared at a key; as I woke, at 6:45am, to the bleep of an alarm. There are no words, I thought at these moments; and always I ask if it is the words that are lacking or I who lacks them; and like Sharon Van Etten I wonder if I can improve, if I can become better, if one day I will have words for everything. If I will be able to say I love you in a way that speaks its every leap and ridge; if I will be able to say I'm sorry with words that do not tremble or glow; if I will have another word for darling, a better word, hidden and small, and dawning.
- El Perro Del Mar - "Change of Heart" [buy]
A glossed and despairing kind of Fleetwood Mac, I wrote. Earlier I tried (and failed) to tell this song as a story. The song doesn't need all that gabbing. It tells its own tale in drums and flicks of guitar, soft light, a gorgeous doom.
- Grizzly Bear - "Two Weeks" [buy]
It's like the label suits took Grizzly Bear aside, stubbed out their cigars, and said, "Give us a hit!" The band built this glad, voracious tune with swirling voices, cymbal smashes, struts of ringing piano. Yet there's also something creeping in the corners, green and malevolent, alive and deadly, as if the ivy is taking over the house.
- Dirty Projectors - "No Intention" [buy]
"No Intention" showcases the Dirty Projectors as summer pop band, as streamers in a park ... But as airy as it feels, (like Spoon on a beach, or the instrumental middle-eight of Vampire Weekend's "Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa",) "No Intention" is virtuosic, utterly intricate. The arrangement of voices, of fingers on guitar-strings, of rhythmic twitch and back-step ... snapping sunshine out of the sky.
- Drake ft. R. Kelly - "Best I Ever Had (Skeemix)" [unreleased - MySpace]
It's the same story: foul-mouthed & silly, AutoTuned & crass, and yet (or rather: and therefore) a chorus you want to sing to your darling, you desperately do; and if you don't have a darling, you wish you did, just for this.
- Clues - "Approach the Throne" [buy]
I tried writing about this song in April, talking about friends and rivals, crowns, a molotov cocktail thrown at a tree-house. Someone in the comments complained, You forgot to mention Fugazi. This album is among the very best of the year.
- Girls - "Hellhole Ratrace" [buy]
This is a better song than "Lust For Life" (the other highlight from Girls' hearty, lusty debut), but it's also more hidden. It smiles and keeps itself secret. Girls sing the song three times before you see what the song really is, there behind the wine-stained melody, the jingle-bells, that golden guitar. Then, at last, they lift up the sky and let the roaring starlight in. // I tried to write "Hellhole Ratrace" as a short story, here.
- Micachu & the Shapes - "Golden Phone" [buy]
With a ting, a stutter and three bongs, Micachu introduces herself; and then with oohs, organ, more bongs - she introduces herself again. And yet again, this time with handclaps, buzzes, balloon-squeak & guitar. What we learn: She's from London. She's a genius. And here's a daft and broken pop song, a violent collage, a phone left off the hook. One of the year's most thrilling new acts.
- Twin Sister - "I Want A House" [free EP]
The first half of this song is about how good it would be to move in with your lover. It's coo and thump, swing and lick; it's blue and rose. And then the second half of this song is about what it's like once you've moved in. It's a paradise in windchime and bassline, hair on pillow and ice in glass. I can't help but imagine Daft Punk passed out, unconscious; and in that The Diving Bell and the Butterfly reverie, laying in bed, the sun touches the drapes, touches the floor, leaves fingerprints on yr chest.
- Fever Ray - "If I Had A Heart" [buy]
Probably the best show I saw this year; and yet not because I learned something more about Karin Dreijer, one half of The Knife; no, I left knowing less. I went into a concert-hall and when I came out, these songs had lost their dressings of fact and bio. They reached me even more deeply, directly, like a lover glimpsed in a nightmare.
- Tune-Yards - "HATARI" [buy]
For us, this album came out last year - and "FIYA" was the fifth-best tune of the whole damn year. But 2009 was Merrill's - celebrated, touring, signed to 4AD and stunning everyone silly. So I can't let this go, can't ignore a friend. Here: "HATARI". A Montrealer who was neither born here nor dwells here, singing five different kinds of beautiful YES. Oui.
- The-Dream - "Rockin' That Shit" [buy]
Similar to Drake's "Best I Ever Had", "Rockin' That Shit" takes a relatively seedy lyric - in this case, "she rockin' that shit / like / oooh oooh" - and bathes it in beauty. Atlanta singer-producer The-Dream is 2009's virtuoso of synth, laying the same blurry, dawny, shimmery sounds across dozens of tracks. He's like a man with a briefcase full of sunsets. (Thanks, Tyler.)
- Bear In Heaven - "Lovesick Teenagers" [buy]
Beast Rest Forth Mouth is an album of bled bytes, vomitted pixels, tears of pure #@&;(*xE%. Synths stream like paint from a spraygun, stars from Zeus's cock, the mantra from a monk's mouth. Drums like immutable physical laws; the facts which dictate everything else. (See: Bear In Heaven's StG guest-post.)
- The xx- "Islands" [buy]
A song that proves the value of restraint - the things you can do with two voices, bass, guitar, the snap of drums. Matte, white-hot, neither too little nor too much.
- Major Lazer t. Vybz Kartel - "Pon de Floor" [buy]
For making us dance, it's a time-honoured formula: utter discipline joined with demented bounce. Rarely do we hear something so magnificent, so dumb, so precise.
- Here We Go Magic - "Fangela" [buy]
Luke Temple's work as Here We Go Magic recalls the Beta Band, Paul Simon and Panda Bear, but its strength isn't in its allusions: it's in its plain musicality. "Fangela" is synth shuffle, dusty voice, and a melody that's simply worth singing. (Previously.)
- Shakira - "She Wolf" [buy]
A killer track, with Shakira trying at least three different modes: (1) the song's happy principal flounce, Shakira a cyborg Dolores O'Riordan; (2) Shakira's occasional lycanthropy, transforming into a breathy sex animal (naturally, this is the principal interest of the song's video); (3) gentle, dewy Shakira - the one who quietly calls "awoo!" and skips along to "She Wolf"'s closing strings. And no complaints here.
- Shelby Sifers - "Are You Devo? (Spirituals sweet remix)" [buy charity single]
The Spirituals fill this beautiful song with bells, rings, swishes, claps, drums; they fill it with a lush pitterpat of glimmers, crashes, gleams. It's a remix that sounds like a kingdom falling down the stairs, a chandelier in the wind, a jazz combo at sea, a heart spun silver. It's the sound, I think, perhaps, of being in love.
- Andrew Cedermark - "Hard Livin" [buy]
The trouble with most of this lo-fi shitgaze stuff, the stuff of 2009 for many kids, the Wavveses and Dum Dum Girlses et al, et alas, is that the sound is only rad if the songs are radder. Double-up a tune if you're dressing it in a lace of distortion. Times New Viking's "Devo & Wine" did that in 2007, brilliantly, and Cedermark does too - but this is a dusty, rusty song, more Neil Young than punk-rock; and god bless him for the cymbal crashing coda, the thing that kicks this from nostalgia into downright masterpiece.
- Young Galaxy - "Destroyer" [buy]
My favourite track on Invisible Republic has continued to shift in the ice-flow, but we're talking about singles here, stand-alone songs to come blooming from gramophones, and for now "Destroyer" receives the prize. It's a thundering pop-song, arena-ready, craning and adamant. As Catherine and Steve sing that ringing chorus, the whole world seems to be collapsing. (No wait, not collapsing - lunging toward dust.)
- Burning Hearts - "I Lost My Colour Vision" [buy]
Leave it to the
Swedes Finns to take a girl-group shuffle and a basket of keyboards (plus a subtle nod to "Tainted Love") and create something absolutely, absolutely, absolutely, absolutely terrific. Perfect lyrics, a beguiling voice, one watercolour earworm hook.
- Emperor X - "A Violent Translation of the Concordia Headscarp" [free download ]
Emperor X is one of my favourite discoveries of all 2009. A lo-fi songwriter from Jacksonville, FL, he makes songs with collage, voice, mere fingers on strings. There are others who have experimented with similar sounds (The Microphones, Animal Collective, Francois Virot), but in the best instants of Blythe Archives II, Chad Matheny's whirling heart-on-sleeve may be even better. These songs are short, bleated, wilder than they can at first seem; ripple flags, power mills, rend umbrellas.
- Cryptacize - "The Cage" [buy]
Wrote Dan: I feel as if this song were left for me. Like Deerhoof (my roommate now?) was leaving the house, hair up in a huge beehive, dressed in venetian blinds and collectible quarters, headed out to a pre-choreographed dance party, well-rehearsed for weeks, and she thought, with one shoe on, eyes already on her coat, "Oh, Dan would like this."
- The National - "So Far Around the Bend" [buy]
The National's usual melancholy, but here they are hanging with some of their rarer friends - clarinetists, flautists, string players. This in itself doesn't matter, but the arrangement is gorgeou- wait, no, not "gorgeous", "gorgeous" is ho-hum duh weak standard middle-Sufjan shit, the compliment lobbed by every loser who's never listened to Shostakovich but who bought a Clogs album. No, "So Far Around The Bend" isn't gorgeous: it's clever, beautiful, precise as a knife-fight. It clocks in at just 3:43 and there's no waste. And the words? They're great, they're prescient, they're 2009: Praying for Pavement to get back together.
- Animal Collective - "My Girls" [buy]
Merriweather Post Pavilion's shiniest coin - the moment when Animal Collective's maniacal insistence & timbric persistence get anchored to a sparkling set of hooks. (Dan, previously.)
- Sister Suvi - "Deadwood" [buy]
I couldn't get enough of this band. Now, they have dissolved. And so I listen to songs like this, "The Lot", "Desolation", "Lightning Train" and "Golden". And I'm still hungry. We took our bikes to the quarry, threw on our walkmen, went down deep. In the gloom we listened to Billy Joel, Pavement, mined copper and zinc. We came out with our jean-jacket pockets full. We biked back to my place, stopping for dark beer and honeycomb toffee. We listened to the Velvet Underground's Loaded and smiled and laughed, window open, crows weaving in murders outside my open window, and with our metals spread flat before us we hammered, hammered, hammered our armour until it was brass.
- Kid Cudi ft. Lady Gaga, Kanye West, Common & A-trak - "Make Her Say" [buy]
I'm glad for the costumery (as pop-star uniform goes, it beats bellybutton rings), and I like some of the choruses, but I am still unsmitten with the whole cloth of Lady Gaga's songs. Kid Cudi has shrugged off such meditations, stolen a few of Gaga's best stutters, and tossed it into a marvelous, raunchy, rhyme-rich cut. So craftily put together, tight and slack at the same time.
- Flaming Lips - "Watching the Planets" [buy]
It's not that the Flaming Lips went back to their old sound - it's that they went back to their old habit of being astonishing. For Embryonic, they set aside the last decade's sour pop lullabies; instead they made something loose and cavernous, glimmering and secret. They rattled bones, chipped teeth, blew out the EQ. Here, with Karen O cooing down a wire, the Flaming Lips raze every dumb young idea to the ground.
- Rattail - "Green Go" [unreleased - website]
Tumbling drums, blurry guitar and a voice that slurs & slips from red- to amber- to green-lit. The muddy production evokes all the nausea of new love and deep crush, but beyond the nautical sway it's a song with jokes & pluck - look out for the "underwater part". (See also Dan's fiction about this song.)
- Dirty Projectors and David Byrne - "Knotty Pine" [buy]
Hear it as Dirty Pros without their deliberate esoterica, or as David Byrne with a brilliant new band; me I just hear that piano riff, like a sound out of MS Windows, my ramshackle heart going 'ping' as it reboots.
- Rihanna ft. The-Dream - "Hatin' on the Club" [unreleased - website]
When your boyfriend arrives, that asshole in sunglasses, you don't go with him. You don't go out. You fold your arms and mouth the words "No way." Instead, as he watches you through the patio doors, you drink. ... One by one you twist open the lids of the jars, your hold them up to him, and then with the sun nooning through to you you drink that sky up, drink it in front of him, in glinting gulps.
- Yeah Yeah Yeahs - "Hysteric" [buy]
Maybe I overdosed on this song as the months wore on, but it's the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' best since "Maps", something burnished and polished and burnished again.
- Julie Doiron - "When Brakes Get Wet" [buy]
Months ago, this song came out, and it's short and perfect, and Dan wrote to me and said "it's amazing" and I said yes it is; and I probably used all-caps; but we didn't post about it because Julie's label, Jagjaguwar, only lets you post certain "official release" mp3s, which is what most blogs do I guess; but we wanted to post about "When Brakes Get Wet", and they said no; and Jagjaguwar is a wonderful label so we didn't want to make them mad; even though they are so wrong about that mp3 thing; I mean did you read that the give-away mp3 is always, always albums' best-selling song?; but anyway, now they say we can post about "When Brakes Get Wet", and so here we are, and it's short and beautiful, barely slipping on the rainy street, starsoaked, gentle, plain, perfect.
- Matias Aguayo - "Rollerskate (radio edit)" [buy]
Cat made of grated ginger; chase her across town. Flit over fences, dive under gates, climb up ivy, slip into open windows. Steal silver necklaces, little diamonds, whole satchels full of catnip. We give lovers tiny kisses as they lay in their beds, breath rising &' falling, then me and my cat of grated ginger leap onto widowsill and out, skimming the clothesline, gleaming in the white sun.
- Wild Beasts - "All the King's Men" [buy]
They're in like a pack of rats, handsome and gray. They weave between the glitter-balls, stalk up and down the bar. They slip a gift into every girl's pocket; flower-petals, pills, heavy gold coins. They never whisper; they murmur just loud enough for the girls to lean in close. They have perfect teeth and eyes like little stones. Did you see that bloke? says Mary to Ella, tongue & teeth. He reminds me of stepping into a cold lake.
- Blackout Beach - "Cloud of Evil" [buy]
"Cloud of Evil" is from one of the year's very best (and quietest-kept) albums. Frog Eyes' Carey Mercer has made something out of myth, reverb, black pools, velvet, electric guitar and treasure. Drowning dreams.
- Iron & Wine - "The Trapeze Swinger" [buy]
I find it hard to write anything about "The Trapeze Singer" because Garrincha already wrote it better, en français, for la Blogotheque. I can write this: that I am no great fan of Iron & Wine, finding Sam Beam too often nice and too rarely scalding. I can write this: that this song would rank higher were it not for that damned wood-block. And I can write this: that some songs have the power to heal.
- Vic Chesnutt - "Flirted With You All My Life" [buy]
Together with Fugazi's Guy Picciotto and members of Silver Mt. Zion, Chesnutt writes a pretty, limber love-song to death. No, I am not ready, he sings, with the slightest note of apology. (Previously.)
- HIGHLIFE - "F KENYA RIP" [unreleased - MySpace]
These hot highlife riffs are not right for this mountainous, temperate zone; they are too summered, glittering and seashell. But I don't care, here in the Henriquez. ... Here in my craft I will open the windows and let the cool air in - let "F KENYA RIP" go dancing out to the crags and glacial lakes, to the perked ears of antlered beasts.
- Withered Hand - "Hard On" [buy]
"Hard On" is ultimately about erections, but mostly it's about the intersection between yearning and doing ... The chant keeps changing, with words like flashpaper. Listen to the way he sings man, good, could, knife, car, go, FM radio, guitars, Thin Lizzy, pen, John Updike, hard-on. Each one, carelessly cast, could start a housefire. Song originally written by Charles Latham.
- Yeasayer - "Tightrope" [buy]
The first time I heard this song was in Yeasayer's marvelous Take-Away Show (it's the second video). There, its strum and bottle-clink becomes a vessel for time-travel, for walking backward along footprints. This image has stayed with me: "Tightrope" is the sound for turning back the calendar-page, uncrossing those dates, going back to before you found out it could all still go wrong.
- Smith Westerns - "Tonight" [buy]
I imagine headlamped workers, in a potash mine or something, who suddenly hear music. It's below and ahead of them, on the other side of the rock. So they raise their pick-axes and pick-axe, chipping stone, hammering away, hefting electric drills and diamond-head bores. They delve deeper and deeper into the subterranean, chasing that cavernous sound, that deep well rhythm & blues, that lost hit. (Dan, previously.)
- Speech Debelle - "Spinnin'" [buy]
On tracks like this, Speech Debelle shows she has enough gleam to go around; she's gleaming so hard that her running shoes, her chewing gum, the creases between her knuckles gleam. Optimism that's a little banal, sure, but ratatat drumstick whoop, yes yes, just the thing for here.
- Mirah - "The River" [buy]
Slow and certain, this is the highlight of (A)Spera and proof of Mirah's renewal, the way she has grown new leaves & bark. "The River" starts soft, with a slow, grim flowering of woodwinds and feedback. It's a gentle thing, in shadow.
- Nurses - "Technicolor" [buy]
Squawky, folky and psychedelic, but Nurses' best trick is the way they recorded this tune. It's careful without being aniseptic, intimate without being claustrophobic, open without being echoey. It's the party with only six attendees that still, somehow, turns out great.
- Noah and the Whale - "Blue Skies" [buy]
Noah and the Whale's wonderful, broken-hearted new album has been criticised for its lyrics, rife with cliché. But these critics seem to be forgetting that break-ups are just cliché upon cliché - an argument by the window and then walking home in the rain. There's nothing false about tired truths; and it's their familiarity that makes them sting.
- Cuddle Magic - "Expectations" [unreleased - site]
This is a song by Cuddle Magic, dumb and handsome, clever and plain, beautiful as anything you decide you are yes going to treasure. Oh and it's a break-up song with whistling.
- The Daredevil Christopher Wright - "Clouds" [buy]
Daredevil Christopher Wright performed one of the best concerts I saw in 2009 - and certainly the most unexpectedly jaw-dropping one. A band of nobodies from Wisconsin, whipping us into thrills. A take on folk-rock that's muscular, playful, rich with cymbal, handclap and three-part harmony. (Previously.)
- Ah Holly Faml'y - "All Unfolding" [buy]
Something magic (and surprisingly robust) in the mix of Jeremy Faulkner's geriatric vocals and his backing ladies' sashay. All that baroque flutey stuff has almost got some swing. Hypnotic. (Thanks so much, Amy.)
- Rye Rye ft. MIA - "Bang" [buy]
It ain't MIA that makes this song worthwhile - no it's that crazed relentless drum-beat, Rye Rye's sloppy & glowering rap. You're dead.
- Woods - "The Dark" [buy]
On "The Dark", Woods strike the perfect balance between slack and frenzy, making a pop song that seems concentrated and lazy at the same time.
- Slaraffenland - "Away" [buy]
Like a roll of film running back and forth behind a projector's lens. Handclaps, clarinet, horns, drums, piano, noise.
- Devendra Banhart - "Baby" [buy]
When I listen to Devendra Banhart's "Baby", my mush falters, my defenses break down; I swoon. I love it and I can't help it. No, Devendra is not singing about lending people teeth. Yes, he is sometimes on TMZ, arm-in-arm with a starlet. Maybe, his last x releases have sucked. And this is his major-label debut! But yes, no, maybe, oh oh oh: this is as self-evident as a cute kitty-cat sneezing. This is a gentle little cooing :)
- Cain & Abels - "My Life Is Easy" [buy t-shirt]
A song that seems at first too diffuse, not-quite-there, until that moment in the second half when the clutter is just taken away (and slowly, slowly put back in). A filigree of electric guitar, drumroll after drumroll, the title called out before a fanfare of heartfelt rock'n'roll. (Thanks, Mark and Rochelle.)
- The Horrors - "Sea Within A Sea" [buy]
A two-part suite, the second more exciting than the first; the world telescopes out, "Baba O'Riley" keyboards under Faris Badwan's Joy Division groan; then the whole thing combusts, smouldering down to bare white ash.
- Kelis - "Acapella" [unreleased - website]
A strange song for Kelis, hardly R&B, much closer to Massive Attack's "Teardrop" than to "Milkshake". (But still, uh, happy.) The chorus is the highlight, in word and melody; but heck, the whole track''s great. And not acapella.
- Bill Callahan - "The Breeze/My Baby Cries" [buy]
Smog covers Kath Bloom, rendering the song in late-night slows. (Thanks for the reminder, D'Arcy.)
- Land of Talk - "Sixteen Asterisk" [buy]
Liz Powell furiously doesn't give a shit. (Previously.)
- Haunted House - "Sierra Trail" [buy]
And there were bass on bass and whale-shark on keys and the lead singer was 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. The band trundled over the same beautiful chords, part 80s chintz and part 00s noise, like an FM radio drowning in an aquarium, like Minneapolis getting eaten by a black hole, like all my longings getting tied to my old tape-decks.
- Swan Lake - "Paper Lace" [buy]
Highlight of the latest team-up by Destroyer's Dan Bejar, Blackout Beach's Carey Mercer and Wolf Parade's Spencer Krug; Bejar's pal "Jackie" shows up, but this track was written by Krug (and revisited on this year's Sunset Rubdown record). My favourite parts are the guitar solos, electric and acoustic, almost non-existent, like x-rays.
- Daniel Johnston - "Mind Movies" [buy]
I can't write about this better than Dan did, as he reflected on marshmallow islands.
- Bon Iver - "Blood Bank" [buy]
Justin Vernon sets aside cryptic metaphor and instead he tells a story. It's noisy, it's quiet, it's pretty; and as usual, I can't tell if it's happy or it's sad.
- Blame Ringo - "Garble Arch" [buy]
In a year where everyone pulled out their
old new Beatles albums, it makes me very happy to find three minutes of plain, kindly pop that's nearly as good as the stuff they used to make.
- Mount Eerie - "Ancient Questions" [buy]
Earlier this year, I wrote about a different song from Wind's Poem (an excellent album). The reason I didn't write about this song, which is better, is that it didn't sound better when I listened to it as an MP3. It was only later, hearing "Ancient Questions" on vinyl, that I discovered what I had missed. This MP3 can't express it - the electric guitar groove is too deep in the mix, the nothingness too high. So, uh, go buy the LP.
- Nneka - "Heartbeat" [buy]
A wonderful song, but Nneka also sings it wonderfully - makes the chorus's stumbling drums second to her own voice, makes her own verse second to that h-h-h-h-heartbeat.
- The Antlers - "Two" [buy]
A song not about death but about dying. Horrible, gorgeous, far too forceful to be miserable. (Previously.)
- Ola Podrida - "Donkey" [buy]
David Wingo strums and sings louder & louder, and yet it's not because of mere urgency, the wish to communicate that he cares. He has to yell because there is howling. He has to raise his voice over roars, whirlwinds, tides. This doom is murmured in creak & drone.
- Discovery - "It's Not My Fault (It's My Fault)" [buy]
Dancefloor-smooved, with kevlar snaps and testtube bells ... The song's wry, faux-frustration reminds me of a series of cold drinks on a hot terrasse, julep after julep, and every time my girlfriend brings me another I just spill it out on the sidewalk, watch the caterpillars crawl across the icecubes.
- Elfin Saddle - "The Bringer" [buy]
Ramshackle and kind, Elfin Saddle might be the eeriest band in Montreal. ... Hear it all in "The Bringer"'s grim, sorcerous crescendo: slow promises, Appalachian groans, memories of old, weird Japan. There's none of night's comfort, here. There's nowhere to hide. This is the fearsome creep of daylight.
- Patrick Watson - "Big Bird In A Small Cage" [buy]
Watson in a duet with Katie Moore (he hoped for Dolly Parton). It's lovely as a bowl of fruit.
- Bombadil - "Sad Birthday" [buy]
A happy song about a sad birthday - sunburst and lime-wedge, summer folk and afternoon pop. (Previously.)
- Casiotone for the Painfully Alone - "Natural Light" [buy]
In this song of just 2min24, Casiotone doesn't give us enough time to fall in love with the keyboard riff. Wait, wait, wait - yes he does. Yes, I'm already in love with it.
- Abe Vigoda - "Wild Heart" [buy]
Abe Vigoda cover Stevie Nicks' backstage version of "Wild Heart". It's unwise, it's doomed. As Dan wrote: I sold everything to get this many chips, sold my bike, my computer, even my winter boots. I take a free drink and head to the high-rollers' hallway, my pant cuffs wet with melting snow ... I introduce myself to everyone, which I shouldn't do, I shouldn't do that. ... It takes about ten minutes but I get all the chips on the table, and a crowd has gathered by this point. "He's awesome," I heard one lady say, which I try not to think about. I push my chips to the center of the table, somewhere among the numbers, and I suddenly wonder how long it would take to have a portrait of myself painted, how could I sit still for that long? The dealer waves his hand over the chips like he's casting some kind of spell, and with a wink, "no more bets."
- Emmy the Great - "MIA" [buy]
Don't listen to this song because the chorus talks about M.I.A. - listen to it for the weird little cuckoo pipes. I mean the "LOO-la, loo-LA" at the corners of the lines, notes whose instrument I can't trace, sounds that seem at first like sweet Hello!s, like signposts of twee, and then gradually change into something else. Because this gentle song is ultimately a song about things being wrong, wrong as in not-right, and the weird little cuckoo pipes are the only musical marker of this. They turn in place and become very mildly discordant, just one step off, and to me it's the perfect sound for nostalgia soured, & dreams' sudden sunset.
- Sleigh Bells - "Crown on the Ground" [unreleased - MySpace]
Sleigh Bells call this a demo, say they're going to re-record it. This better not mean they are gonna clean it up. Because right now the distortion crunches like solid demolition rainbow, the synths blast like Care Bear stare, the whole thing wallops like an unfiltered solar flare to the heart. Uh.. (Thanks, Neva.)
Finally - 75 is an arbitrary cut-off. 2009 had wagon-loads of great songs, heaps and stacks of them, by everyone from Andrew Bird to Jason Derulo. Said the Gramophone spent the year writing about them, and writing about older songs too, old secrets kept in boxes. If you're new to the site, please come again (or subscribe)! We update almost every weekday, penning tales about the songs we love. Thanks for reading, sorry for the rushed writing, sorry for any broken links, and happy, happy, happy holidaze.
Posted by Sean at December 2, 2009 10:08 AM
Wonderful list. I'm surprised how many of your picks from the artists matched my favorites from their albums this year, although of course there are more differences than similarities.
I'm so glad Ah Holly Faml'y struck you - it's an amazing song. After all of the music I've fallen for that I first heard on your blog, I'm glad I was able to return the favor. :)
Nice one, Sean. I'm always happy when a lot of the top ones are new to me, and then I get to listen to them for the first time all at once.
Take two, same script:
Am printing so I can read at leisure later (and then dig up the songs I don't know of course)! This is always one of the web/music year's highlights, Sean, so can't wait! At the same time makes me a little sad I don't have a music blog anymore...
yikes! the-dream DID write rockin' that shit, but did not produce it! if i recall correctly it's a los beat. great tune, though!
Wow. Stoked to see Sharon Van Etten @ No.1. 'Because I Was In Love' is definitely one of the most 'slept on' albums of 2009.
Emperor X is Chad Matheny, not Chris!
Thank you again for another list-worth-reading and the amazing songs, and for all you guys've written this year.
The-Dream wrote Rockin' That Shit; it was produced by his usual guy, Tricky. Together the two are responsible for much of the best music on pop radio, but "Rockin' That Shit" is amazing even by their standards.
Thanks for the corrections. (Especially the embarrassing ones.)
One of the best lists I've seen yet. It's always a pleasure to see a list with both Sharon Van Etten and The-Dream on it; those are two of the most overlooked albums of the year.
A gift Mr. Michaels, a true gift.
Blimey, 75 songs.And I downloaded the 60 odd I didn't have before the zip file option appeared, that's how interested I am in them. I've put them in a playlist and this may be the spur I need to replace my iPod, which I can no longer update. Thanks and have a good one, Sean.
Very cool list. A lot of new artists here for me to learn about.
Especially your #1 pick - Sharon Van Etten. I really loved that song, thanks for that!!
Can I just say how much I value your blog! Truly awesome. Much respect!
I just realised that I've been following this blog for over a year now. That's a whole lot of great songs and captivating tales accompanying them.
Thank you very much Said the Gramophone!
I always enjoy your yearly review. but what about sunset rubdown?
I'm guessing Sister Suvi's "Deadwood" was not an overt reference to the HBO series, although it makes me think of the scene where Al Swearengen gently reminds E.B. he could "cut your throat first, and then burn down the whole fucking camp." God I miss that show.
One of the best blog post of all blog posts every year. Sean does a phenomenal job picking out the highlights that he loved listening to all year long.
That being said, he did miss one: no love for The Rest's "Walk On Water?" It would fit hand-in-hand with everything else found on this incredible list.
Out of curiousity: does anyone out there have zip.files of year's 2005 and 2006? I'd be forever grateful.
Our blog gave Clues a perfect ten. It feels good that you guys are one of the few blogs that talks about that albums...it's a shame how it never found a larger audience.
Great list, also psyched to see Clues on there! I have the LP, unfortunately no stylus to play it with. Oh well. Also just got Elfin Saddle, they have the decency to include a CD.
For more Montreal weirdness, try Black Feelings.
Always some great finds from your list Sean. Good stuff.
I see Abe Vigoda Friday night. Ready to be shocked and amazed. Question: Why haven't I seen Fruit Bats on anybody's list?
Just made a playlist of these songs, it is the infinite awesome. Thank you!
isn't "the trapeze swinger" from 2004 or something?
however, great song. and great list.
i'm downloading the .zip and hope to enjoy it tomorrow! thanks
I'm so glad to see HIGHLIFE and Rattail on the list. Thank you for these intriguing, strange, and beautiful songs.
Looking forward to your next list!
This writing is absolutely awful.
Awesome! So many of my own personal favorites, and a big fat playlist of stuff to discover. Thanks, guys (for the 100th year in a row)!
Guy like me, a little older perhaps, a bit short of time, and living in Spain, needs a list like this to enjoy. Many thanks.
I'm pyched that you're psyched on Emperor X. Thanks for the list.
A year ago, I arrived at this site via the year end list you put up. It wasn't just the excellent selection, it was the write up that made each selection seem more worthy of my time. Your blog is the only music blog I link to on my site, even though I also follow MBV, the other site you can also be found on. Not stalking, I swear!
But I digress - I made the link to the site so I can periodically trespass to read up on some proper music appreciation.
Example: I just listened to Julie Doiron, "When Brakes Get Wet," for the first time, because your write up is breathless, literally, what's with the semi-colon being used FEARLESSLY. Should've added caps, for emphasis, like so.
I haven't listened to all the songs listed; it's a big list. I have heard many of these songs already though, and I'm glad to see them on the list. Islands, by the Xx, is a pleasant surprise. It's my favourite Xx, right up there with Infinity (it's my weakness for the resemblance to Chris Isaak's Wicked Game). I wish you would've picked Bluish instead of My girls. It is just as sweet, but with a prettier tune, and boasts a better opening line. Nice catch on Flaming Lips' Watching the planets, even though I prefer I can be a frog, an almost incomplete song that's just like someone's running thought about their sweetheart. Come back to Hysteric some other time, it is still the best song off YYYs' It's Blitz! Happy to see Patrick Watson getting some love. And "I live with you" is Grizzly Bear's best on Veckatimest. Screw the hit! Heh.
No Beyonce? Golden Filter? Raekwon? Pursuit of Happiness? Yelle's cover of Robyn's Who's that girl? etc.
That's all I got for now. Thanks for the list. :)
This is fantastic! Thank you for providing the full download too. I can feel my broken heart starting to heal... thanks.
Great to see Emperor X on this list! There's so much treasure in that catalog...
um, to correct a correction of a correction, "rockin that shit" was produced by los da mystro, the dream's other go-to co-producer after tricky stewart. dream writes all his songs, so he wrote this one too, yeah
just bought 'xx' by the xx.
concretely serious: thanks.
Some tasteful choices, and it's great to see recognition for Sharon van Etten. Disappointing though to see UK indie rock music being ignored : Florence and the Machine, Bat for Lashes, Kasabian, Arctic Monkeys, Twilight Sad, Franz Ferdinand, Manic Street Preachers, etc.
I'm having trouble downloading the zip file of all the songs. Help! What am I doing wrong?
I'm surprised that you left off Reverie Sound Revue's "You Don't Exist, If I Don't See You." Hmm.
I have never heard of any of these songs!! I obviously listen to crap music :)
Luv the list; familiar with all these tracks and embracing your choices-agreed somewhat with "Nick Wall December 6th"-there are some UK artists that would easily find a place here but having said that, supporting your homegrown is something I am a big campaigner for-(go you f%&+ing wonderful Aussie bands!!!) Peace to all for 2010 from Down Under ;)
I came to your site via beemp3 where i was trying to download some songs for the new year party.but i guess that was the best thing i did for i stumbled into your site and got introduced to some great music.thanks a ton.i wish you a very happy new year.
well done you - finally someone puts Noah and the Whale on an end of '09 list! loved that album.
Looks like InfiniteMb's site is down. Any chance you might consider posting the complete zip elsewhere? I'd love to give myself time to listen to all 75 songs!
i'd really love to do that, too. your side pretty much defines my taste.
While infiniteMB seems indeed to have passed away, these songs are ALL still online. You just have to download them individually. They should remain up for another couple weeks.
Hey .. loved t couple of songs i heard. Couldja upload t whole collection in MediaFire / some site!?
A really GREAT thanks for this amazing list and all the comments that go with it !
thanks Sean. Great songs.
the description, dan's description that is, for #42, Smith Western's song,of music coming from behind a rock brought vivid memories of this foreign film gem i watched, "the bothersome man." it's a german film and is so beautiful, so open to interpretation.
Oooh, InfiniteMB is down for good. Is there any chance that the zip file could be made available somewhere else? I lost my hard drive and my music along with it :(
Matias Aguayo will be playing at the SMS festival in Croatia this September! It's going to be great! Other acts include Nathan Fake, Carl Craig, Friendly Fires, Optimo, Theo Parrish and Girlcore. Check it out at http://sms-2010.com/
I'm surprised that you left off Reverie Sound Revue's "You Don't Exist, If I Don't See You." Hmm.
The links don't seem to by working any more... I can't even listen to the songs.
Great list. I think Sad Birthday should have been a bit higher, but none the less great list.
Great list. Links aren't working for me either.
Hi everyone - this list is from December 2009! As it says at the top of the page, mp3s don't stay online for every long. Check back at http://www.saidthegramophone.com for new writing and songs.
about said the gramophone
this is a daily sampler of really good songs
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said the gramophone
launched in march 2003, and added songs in november of that year. it was one of the world's very first mp3blogs.
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lives in Montreal. He is a writer, critic and author of the theremin novel Us Conductors
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