If choosing your favorite albums from the year just ended is difficult, imagine choosing your favorite songs. Figure ten songs a disc, multiply that by two or three dozen and kaboom! You’ve several hundred songs to somehow pare down.
On the other hand, what else am I going to do? Go to work?
1. Yeah Yeah Yeahs—Zero Nothing like a dance floor thumper, is there? “Zero” features a beat so large and a strutting synth line so insistent even the most-inhibited wallflower can’t help but be drawn to the dance floor. Karen O’s idiosyncratic vocals are just a bonus. I didn’t dance nearly enough in 2009, yet I shared the planet with this. Go figure.
2. Now—Song This propulsive epic gets The Hepadaboo off to a flying start. It’s the sound of Kraftwerk hitting the dance floor. Robo-vocals ride a metronomic beat as synth lines weave in and out, driving “Song” to its satisfying—if somewhat subdued—climax. You’ll want to revel in this Teutonic-inspired tuneage in the hushed confines of a Mercedes doing one-fifty on an empty Interstate.
3. Girls—Summertime The thing about rock music is that it’s the great leveler. It doesn’t matter if you’re some adenoidal dude with really thick glasses who’s allergic to sunlight and who makes twenty-something actresses look muscular. If you can come up with the kind of licks Christopher Owens did for “Summertime”, you’re John Holmes in everything but name.
4. The Avett Brothers—I and Love and You Poignant lyrics are best-served by a poignant melody, and the Avett Brothers succeed on both counts here. The song rises and falls like the protagonist’s confidence, underscored by some truly nifty organ playing. I’d wager many of you reading this would put it at number one. It’s that good.
5. The Veils—Sit Down By the Fire When I heard this in a Big Lots or the supermarket (I don’t remember which), I wondered if the world could actually be cool-enough to serenade me with the Veils while I shopped for kitty litter. Then a cashier got on the PA and asked for a price check.
6. Camera Obscura—Honey In the Sun This bittersweet album-closer pretty much sums up all that is good about Camera Obscura and My Maudlin Career. Sunny musically with partly-cloudy lyrics expected to pass by mid-song. This is Duffy after she’s been ‘round the block a time or two.
7. Crocodiles—I Wanna Kill Remember the Knickerbockers’ mid-sixties Beatles cop “Lies”? How it was so good it was almost better than the real thing? Same thing here, only the names have changed to Crocodiles and the Jesus & Mary Chain. Pretty damn cool—in an inspired copycat kinda way.
8. The Noisettes—24 Hours Ignore the misleading band name and concentrate on Shingai Shoniwa’s voice, and its peculiar resemblance to Billie Holiday’s. She puts it to good use in this story of a hook-up with separation issues. After hearing this, I dare suggest you’ll have separation issues, too.
9. Built to Spill—Good Ol’ Boredom Sometimes? I just want to rock. And that means guitar-driven songs. Built to Spill’s Brett Nelson is nothing if not indie rock’s leading guitar-epic architect. His riff-driven yet stately fretboard excursions are the stuff of dreams for guys too young to remember Neil Young and Crazy Horse. And even for some that do.
10. Camera Obscura—French Navy This is a percolating and buoyant ode to here today, gone tomorrow lovers. At the risk of being redundant and obnoxious, I once again pay homage to Ms. Tracyanne Campbell and quote her forthwith: “You make me go woo with the thing that you do.” Indeed.