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Thursday, January 7, 2010

LHNA's Best of 2009 Pt. 2 (50-1)


50. The Dutchess and the Duke - Hands
49. Camera Obscura - French Navy

Best song on the new album? But of course.

48. Ramona Falls - I Say Fever
[E:] That video. Those drunken piano notes. That Poeesque sense of atmosphere. Jesus.

47. Cymbals Eat Guitars - Wind Phoenix
[E:] Electric guitars are not out. Proof.
Also. Don't dare take the lovely ohoohoh at 1:48 for granted, for it's only offered once during the whole song.
[S] If you are a cymbal, we definitely do not recommend eating guitars. Should you ingest even a small piece of a guitar (or even a pick for that matter), please induce vomiting and seek medical advice immediately.

46. Devendra Banhart - Angelika

  [S] If you Google Angelika, the first batch of hits are for a girl called Angelika, who just happens to  be naked and posing in a rather suggestible manner throughout - usually around a swimming pool. Actually there appear to be several Angelikas. I don't think Devendra Banhart had any of these in mind when writing this, but I can't be sure. In fact, the song above may well be about the same girl.

45. Julie Doiron - Consolation Prize

[E:] Harshly realistic after-the-breakup lyrics sung by a sugary-voiced girl who manages to sound heartbroken and amused at the same time. Like she sees the humour in the situation as well. "People insisted on telling you what a great couple you had been". A song about survival with a folky-pop vocals feel, yet with Ramones-like power chords and drumbeats. The sound of glass breaking and Julie screaming "Look out! LOOK OUT!". I'm in love.

44. Dawes - When My Time Comes
"I thought that one quick moment that was noble or brave
Would be worth the most of my life

So I pointed my fingers, and shouted a few quotes I knew
As if something that's written should be taken as true

[E:] This song makes me feel better about failing, about stumbling about, about getting lost, about screwing up, about not knowing what the fuck I'm doing.

43. Los Campesinos - The Sea Is a Good Place to Think of the Future

"It affords me a curious pleasure to stand upon this bridge and watch the violent forces which the churning waves, advancing or retreating, generate within the confined space of the rocky hole."
The Sea, The Sea (Iris Murdoch)
42. Modest Mouse - The Whale Song

41. Cursive - From the Hips
[E:] 2009. The year Cursive release "Mama, I'm Swollen". Practically every critic, reviewer or blogger on the planet says it's either bad or not-that-great. Take your pick. I'll go with not-that-great. I won't say bad because there are two or three songs like this one on it. It sounds like typical Cursive and it reads like fin-de-siècle literature. Tim Kasher going on about how he hates the Enlightenment and how people are better off as animals. They're certainly not the first band to sing about this but somehow it sounds different -edgier, more dangerous - when Cursive do it. If there's one thing this song does it's this: it leaves me hopeful that one day I'll sing along to "Oh, Cursive is so cool!" again without wondering if I still mean it.

40. Animal Collective - Bluish


[S] From the album the blogosphere collectively fell in love with, listened to on repeat and used up last year's supply of superlatives on. My Girls was great, but for me, this was the real standout track.
39. Jay-Z ft Alicia Keys - Empire State of Mind

In New York,
I'm from where dreams are made of,
There's nothing you can't do,
Now you're in New York,
these streets will make you feel brand new,
the lights will inspire you,
lets here it for New York, New York, New York

[S] Don’t know about you, but every time I hear Empire State Of Mind, I have to fight the urge to surf to Skyscanner.com to check upcoming prices to NYC.

38. The Wailing Wall - Sister, I
[E:] How refreshing that the sweetest love song of the year should be addressed to a sister, not a lover. That piano has one superpower: it can crawl right into your bones and numb you.

37. Fever Ray - When I Grow Up

Fantastic imagery:
"When I grow up I want to be a forester
Run through the moss on high heels
That's what I'll do
Throwing out boomerang, waiting for it to come back to me.
When I grow up I want to live near the sea
Crab claws and bottles of rum
That's what I'll have
Staring at the seashell, waiting for it to embrace me.

36. Slow Club - Our Most Brilliant Friends

[E:] Slow Club finally released their first album. In a way I envied people who hadn't heard of them before this album because they got to experience the glee of stumbling upon such irresistible, teasing songs like Me and You and Because We're Dead, or bittersweet, hopeful ones like When You Go or Apples and Pairs. Slow Club didn't ignore their fans though and rewarded them for their patience with great new material the likes of It Doesn't Have to Be Beautiful (in the vein of their catchiest songs), I Was Unconscious It Was a Dream (continuing the tradition of their quirky ballads) and this, Our Most Brilliant Friends which is effectively a combination of their two types of songs and probably my favourite of their new ones. Part 1 of the song would make you believe this is really just a tune about dancing; but when a song so catchy and melodically unpredictable manages to pack lines like "All our most brilliant friends are doubting themselves" , you know you've got something great there. Part 2 of the song  - several seconds of silence after the end of part 1, as is customary with last tracks - is here to calm you down after all that dancing. Lyrically though, the quirkiness continues: "I just wanted to see that new Tim Burton movie/ or hang around with Laura, Jane, and Suzie /And I definitely want to be a rapper/ but I'm just a northern girl from where nothing really happens/ And the bones inside my shins are crumbling/It's from all the crunking I've been doing"

35. Future of the Left - The Hope that House Built
[E:] This is 2009's "American Jesus". Too big a compliment? Don't think so.

34. Lil'Wayne - A Milli (DJDT Remix)

[S] Motherfucker, I'm ILL, not sick.

33. Nurses - Caterpillar Playground
[E:] I want to paint all my dreams over with this song. Mash them all together until they're one big gooey mess of whistles, rainforests and polka-dotted galoshes stomping around. 2,3,4. 1,2,3,4.

32. Dead Man's Bones - Young & Tragic
[E:] DMB's debut album is one of those records you can play without the necessity for song-skipping ever arising. So I listened to it lots this year. I listened to it at home, I listened to it on buses, I wrote about it on this blog, I posted lyrics from it as Facebook status updates. My Body's a Zombie for You was the first song from the album I fell in love with, Pa Pa Power is the catchiest one, Flowers Grow Out of my Grave probably the most unconventional. But for some reason it's Young & Tragic that struck a chord with me the most. Possibly because it sounds like it could belong on Nosotrash's "Popemas" (anyone who knows the album will understand what I mean), possibly because it sounds like a Japanese proverb put into song, or maybe because it doesn't even feel like a song at all but a magical incantation or prayer reiterated by a chorus of dreamy children. Possibly because it makes me nostalgic. Possibly because these two lines might be the most beautiful ones I've heard all year: "I wish that we were magic, so we wouldn't be so young and tragic"

31. Their Hearts Were Full of Spring - A Question of Trust
Without a doubt, their best song to date.

30. The Juan MacLean - One Day
[E:] Seeing the title on its own would suggest a song full of clichés about world peace and saving the environment and all that. One day ...*wistful sigh* there will be no possessions. And no religion, too! But then you realize it's actually a song full of clichés about an unfulfilling relationship! ("You've denied me, baby, the satisfaction of your love so I've been walking home alone because you left me out in the cold.") Of course by that point you're bouncing up and down faster than a yo-yo, so you don't really care that much what the song is about. You just wish all electro was this catchy.

29. Passion Pit - Eyes As Candles

It never gets boring.

28. Philip Seymour Hoffman - Roads and Paper Routes
[E:] The Books have been successfully proving to everyone, for a while now, that not only musical sounds, but also random snippets of conversation, interviews, scientific babble, laughter or crying or coughing, or any other sound generated in the human larynx can be used to improve a song. Philip Seymour Hoffman, with this song, consolidate that theory beyond any doubt.
27. The National - So Far Around the Bend

 You've been humming and I think it's forever
Praying for pavement to get back together
Nobody knows where you are living
Nobody knows where you are

You're so far around the bend


[S] Perhaps it was the cumulative force of thousands of hipsters worldwide singing along to this line that did it, perhaps it was just the promise of a mountain of cash - whatever the reason, fuck it, it's happening. Just another reason to love The National.

26. The Music Tapes - For the Planet Pluto
[E:]Holy interplanetary yard stick, Batman! Who needs clever lyrics and storylines when strange spaceship sounds and a simple enumeration of planets can sound so damn cool? They should introduce this song in kindergarten. "The easy way to learn the planets of the Solar System." Now, come on children, let me hear you sing: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn and Uranus and Neptune and Pluto...and Pluto!!! (And hey - if these guys say Pluto is a planet, then it's a friggin' planet again, ain't it?)

25. Royksopp ft Robyn - The Girl and the Robot


24. The Paper Chase - What Should We Do With Your Body? (The Lightning)
[E:] This is creepy and  seductive and morbid and addictive at the same time. And of course by saying that I'm completely missing the point the band is trying to make, which I'm sure is something huge and important about the fate of humanity and religion and war and all sorts of grand things like that. But I'm not gonna talk about the lyrics this time. I'll just say that this is a beautiful song. Of course it's very possible that the main reason I'm saying that is the part from 3:58 onwards. It's a possibility.

23. School of Seven Bells - Iamundernodisguise
(in an interview with LHNA earlier this year:)
LHNA: What are the advantages of being a band? And what’s not so great about it?
School of Seven Bells: "Putting everything you have into what you love. Putting everything you have into what you love."
Can you tell?

22. La Roux - Quicksand

[E:] Some might say the singer's voice gets annoying after a while. Some might say it's not exactly "sophisticated". Some might use the words "trendy" or "commercial". Some might say it's nothing new. I say: it sure gets your body moving though, doesn't it?

21. Karen O and the Kids - Rumpus
[E:] I know now what this song is all about.
It's about moments.
Moments like these:
0:24 seconds into the song - "LET THE WILD RUMPUS START!" (aka "this is what childhood tastes like")
0:28 - the most exhilarating transition in a song this year. Max's roar ends. Screams of "Go! Go! Go" in the background. The gleeful, inebriating piano. The drumbeat pulsing with a sense of wonder and adventure. I feel I'm six again. I feel HAPPY. Not just happy - but genuinely, thrillingly delighted and HAPPY in capital letters.
1:40 - Ahahahhhah ahaaahahh aaaahhh aaaaaaahh aaaah

20. Matt & Kim - Daylight

[E:] I dare you not to move, bounce, clap, sway, waggle, rock or shake any body parts during this one.

19. Kings of Convenience - Boat Behind

[S:] 2009 surely saw few images as joy-inducing as the two Kings of Convenience driving their car through the countryside singing ‘so we meet again, after several years’.
And about time, methinks!

18. Cats On Fire - Horoscope
[E:] Points for the Morrissey-esque vocals. Bonus points for lyrics such as these:
"You say you don't belong here because someone once said you look like a star
Another drunk man saw a chance."
And extra funpoints for the lovely and incredibly catchy guitar riff that sounds like a bouzouki. Trrum trrumtrum truumtrumtrum trumtrum trumtrumtrum trum.

 [S:] Letters have no Arms strongly discourages you actually setting fire to your c... oh, you get it

17. Mew - Silas the Magic Car

[E:] Daydreamers of the world unite. Time for some serious woolgathering.

16. Atlas Sound - Walkabout (ft. Noah Lennox)

15. Regina Spektor - Hero
[E:] No one can say I didn't try to get into Regina Spektor's new album this year. I failed abysmally. Maybe I'm weird in that I notice and care a lot about the lyrics in a song but I just couldn't get over the absurdity, idiocy or plain awfulness of some of the ones on this album. "No one laughs at God in a hospital/ No one laughs at God in a war /No one's laughing at God when they're starving or freezing or so very poor"? Seriously? If she was kidding it might be funny but the scary thing is she's actually serious. Wait it goes on. "No one laughs at God when the doctor calls after some routine tests/ No one's laughing at God when it's gotten real late and their kid's not back from that party yet"? I'm sorry but NO. Let's try another track. "It's like forgetting the words to your favorite song /You can't believe it, you were always singing along /It was so easy and the words so sweet /You can't remember; you try to feel the beat"? I'm 101% certain that if I payed a five-year-old to write  poetry he would come up with better rhymes than so sweet/the beat. Thankfully on "Hero" Regina has kept it simple, and it seems simplicity and repetition work for her in this case. The hero of the story doesn't need to be saved. No one's got it all. It's alright. It's alright. Simple but powerful sentences. The song was also an excellent choice for the soundtrack of 500 Days of Summer and played during what is arguably one of the film's most poignant and wonderful scenes (poignant and wonderful partly because of this song). I could have done without the bit about TVs trying to rape us (wtf?!) but okay, "no one's got it all", right?

14. Au Revoir Simone - Take Me As I Am

[E:] Au Revoir Simone's 2009 release, "Still Night, Still Light" was so good I didn't listen to anything else for the whole first week after it came out. It was so good it proved impossible to pick one representative song from it - as they are all great - and we ended up picking one at random. It was so good that David Lynch hastened to proclaim himself a fan of the band: "Their music really makes me dream. It opens up a world that wasn’t opened up before.” I'm glad he did because the album probably reached a wider audience than it would have without his blessing. And it deserves a wider audience, damn it.

13. The Pains of Being Pure At Heart - Young Adult Friction
[E:]  Geeky teenage romance in a library. With an unhappy ending. And a song full of library / sex puns: "you put your back to the spines", "don't check me out". Get it? Oh, you clever New Yorkers. I'm so glad you're making music.

12. Yacht - Psychic City (Voodoo City)


11. The Antlers - Wake
[E:] The Antlers had plenty of good songs on their debut album. Songs people raved about. Songs posted and re-posted. Most of them in a way easier to like than this one. Most of them that require less patience. Wake, at 8 minutes and 44 seconds, is a track you must invest in. With a build-up that lasts pretty much until 2 minutes before the end and the only semblance of a chorus kicking in (actually more like tiptoeing in) at around the same time, this is obviously not a song that offers instant gratification. But it is on this, the last song of the album before their Epilogue, where the Antlers reach a greatness they merely promised with the previous tracks. Everything about it is understated, subtle. Missing instruments replaced by a subdued background hum. Explanations offered only through gentle suggesting metaphors. " When your helicopter came and tried to lift me out, I put its rope around my neck. " A grimace of pain rather than an agonizing scream. An understanding nod that's more moving than the strongest hug could ever be. And that's because you feel they're actually sincere - it actually means something: "Some patients can't be saved, but that burden's not on you. Don't ever let anyone tell you you deserve that. Don't ever let anyone tell you you deserve that."

10. Ghost Mall - Johnny Appleseed
[E:] We said: "Their songs feel rusty but comfortable, kind - like a friend's handshake and the promise to see you later; to get you through the day. "Let's save the world. Let's save the world. That's why we do this. " As if they're constantly trying to jolt you, make you move, wake up, do something. And if extending a sweaty helping hand is what it takes for you to start living, they'll offer it to you. They'll do that. They'll mutter words of encouragement: 'Listen, we can do this together. But you need to be a part of it, too. That's the point we're trying to make here!' " But nothing we said can possibly put into words what is surely the best intro to a song we've heard all year. Possibly the best intro to a song ever since 'You! Me! Dancing!':
" It will be at a party or at some sort of reunion or a funeral... I won't recognize you right away but I'll make sure we talk. You'll paw at the ground with your patent leather shoes, eyes staring straight at the floor if we talk about you - but that little flicker in your face when we mention those historic 792 days, 11 hours, 18 minutes and 47 seconds will let me know that you know that I know that you know *emphatic pause*  
you fucked up."
*enter guitar*

9. Jeffrey Lewis - Bugs & Flowers

[E:] Oh how I love Jeffrey Lewis this year. I didn't use to. In my head for a long time he was always in the same vague indie folkish dudes I kind of like but will not put on any favourite lists any time soon. You know. Andrew Bird. M Ward. Iron & Wine. Whatever. Until I saw him live. That's when I realized that this is not a guy that grew up on indie pop or folk and then decided he wanted to sound like that so he joined a band. Nope. This is a guy that grew up on a diet of punk and rock-n'roll but was talented enough to put his own soul into them and brave enough to write clever lyrics for them and not care whether someone would notice or give a damn. We have here not the geeky guy in school (the geek look is cool now anyway)- but the nerdy one:  the one that was drawing comics and making music in the hope that he would be a little cooler. And of course, the irony of it is that now he is cool for a lot of people exactly because he's uncool. Anti-folk, or whatever they call it these days, is a scene and people love you more the weirder you are. But you know what? It doesn't matter. You can call him anti-folk or folk-punk or indie-rock or indiepopppofolkiehiphotwee or whatever you want. As long as you listen to his music. Which is fan-fuckin'-tastic.

8. The Drums - Don't Be a Jerk Johnny
"You used to be so pretty but now you're just tragic
Believe in something! You're full of horseshit.

[E:] The ultimate after-breakup revenge song? A casual lovers' fight in an endlessly repeated series of casual lovers' fights? One of those couples that get off on being mean to each other? Are the lyrics meant to be bitter or angry or funny? And why is it that I feel a deep sense of satisfaction and smugness every time I sing them?
 [S:] In an alternate universe, this could be a sequel to Jonathan Richman's I'm Straight, which concerns a boy by the name of Hippie Johnny (he's always stoned, he's never straight).

7. Grizzly Bear - While You Wait for the Others


[E:] Best song from the new album, hands down. And with an album as unanimously praised as this one, that really is saying something.

6. Metric - Blindness


Find us a trap door, find us a plane
Tell the survivors help is on the way
I was a blindfold, never complained
All the survivors singing in the rain
I was the one with the world at my feet
Got us a battle, leave it up to me

What it is and where it stops nobody knows
You gave me a life I never chose
I wanna leave but the world won't let me go

[S:] This was the year Lost went all crrrazzee. Time travel! Death! Love! Madness! More time travel! This was also the year Metric blew our minds with their album Fantasies. Just when did Metric become THIS GOOD??!! I couldn’t help but think of the former while listening to Blindness by the latter.

5. Emmy the Great - City Song / MIA
[E:] Both of these songs were really on my Best of 2007 list, when they were just demos. But Emmy's debut album was only released this year so I suppose they count. as 2009 releases. What I love most about her songs is probably the same thing that makes me love the Magnetic Fields: the combination of incredibly beautiful, sugary-sweet instruments and mellifluous voices on the one hand and the sad, tragicomic, downright depressing, or even gory lyrics on the other. That's why these are songs that take you by surprise. When you hear the soft chords and the barely heard mutter-sung words at the beginning of MIA ("The day that we took out a car in the rain...") you expect this to be a typical I-love-you or a why-did-you-break-up-with-me? song. You certainly don't expect her to say, two lines later: "I still remember holding my hand against your face just before it was sprayed across the radio!". "Fingers and voices and teeth". Eww. Did she just say that? And the truly Great thing about Emmy the Great is she tackles this sort of topics - loss and death and abortion and betrayal - without ever over-dramatizing. Her tone in City Song while singing "they pulled a human from my waist/ it had your mouth, it had your face/ I would have kept it if I'd stayed" is matter-of-fact, not whiny. The universe reacts to the death of her loved one in MIA with indifference rather than sympathy. "The scenery moves - well why would it stop just 'cause suddenly there's one where there used to be two?" Her own reaction to a best friend's betrayal in My Party Is Better Than Yours is this: "Tomorrow I will buy a new friend at the New Friend Shop because my friend you are not and I hate you". And just when you're ready to go with this tone and you think she won't surprise you, the song continues with "...as much as I miss you." Surprise!

4. Lady Gaga - Poker Face

[S:] Lady Gaga. Pop mutant. Sex freak. Hermaphrodite starlet. 2009 in a nutshell.

3. The Thermals - Now We Can See
[E:] Hypothetical but entirely plausible scenario:  Thirty-eight-year old male, medium height, balding slightly, impeccable music taste, let's call him Bill. A banal and ugly name but what can you do, most people have those. Bill here goes to the doctor to some test results. It could be serious. He's not too worried, though. Doctor's secretary has made the mistake of leaving the radio on in the waiting room. Bill's turn is up, he steps into the doctor's office and closes the door behind him. This, unfortunately for Bill who has to hear some bad news twice,  does not block out the music coming in from the waiting room. Bill is humming in his head ohehohehohoh ohehohehohoh while the doctor greets him with a quick sitdownmrReese and a worried look on his face. (ohehohehohoh). "I'm afraid I have some bad news for you." (We were born on an island, we grew out of the sand) "It's worse than we thought." "Oh really?", says Bill but in his head it's all ohehoh-s and drum beats. "You have 3, maybe 4 months." "A-ha. Sure." Bill is now humming loudly. OH-WAY-OH-A-WHOA. "Mister Reese did you hear what I just said? You may-" "Sure, yeah. Whatever you say." OUR ENEMIES LAY DEAD ON THE GROUND AND STILL WE KICK, HEY. "Mister Reese! I understand you are in a state of shock but -" YEAH, NOW WE WE CAN SEEEEEEEEEE. End song. "I'm sorry did you say something, doctor?" [ All this nonsense to say that if we had a prize for "Most Addictive and Hummable Song of the Year" this one would win it.]

2. Fanfarlo - Finish Line

[E:] It's true, it hasn't been a great year for indie pop. What with the ultra-commercial  freaky pop sensation that was Lady Gaga, catchy alternative anthems (see: Now We Can See, Walkabout, Lisztomania, Lust for Life, Sleepyhead), dozens of folk/freak-folk/anti-folk acts (Devendra, Noah and the Whale, Cass McCombs, Elvis Perkins, Dave Rawlings Machine, Daniel Johnston, Taken By Trees etc etc etc) and electronic music being all the rage these days (please stop sending us remixes.) there was admittedly not much room left on people's iPods for indie pop. Music trends come and go, people's tastes change and it seems that they are simply moving in a different direction nowadays. Electro, experimental, synthpop, psychedelic. Animal Collective and the XX. Good ol' indie pop isn't cool any more. Now it has to be electropop, or folk-pop or synthpop. Maybe it's the fact that artists are aware of this fact or maybe they're just getting lazy but many records released in the genre this year - records I had been impatiently waiting for - were huge disappointments for me. New albums from bands like Bowerbirds, Modest Mouse, Noah and the Whale, or Tegan and Sara could not reach the standard set by their previous efforts, unlike the vast majority of the Earth's population, I was not impressed with Yeah Yeah Yeah's latest album, I regret to say that for me Florence and the Machine is the definition of mediocrity, Idlewild's 2009 release Post Electric Blues was... okay, Morrissey released yet another album that won't make a difference, and last, but certainly not least, The Decemberists broke my heart by releasing their first album to date that did not live up to my expectations. All this indie pop-rock starvation could have pushed this dedicated blogger,music-lover and incorrigible nostalgic into serious depression had it not been for the miracle that was Fanfarlo's "Reservoir". Comets, The Walls Are Coming Down, Drowning Men, Finish Line - song after fallinloveable song, each more wonderful than the other. Let's forget that this is a best songs top. Go get the whole album.

1. Phoenix - Lisztomania

[S:] du-de du-de du-de du-de du-de du-de du-de du-de din din din din din din din der der was the sound of pure unadulterated GLEE being injected into the hearts of anyone who was lucky enough to have this song in their lives this year. Phoenix were always brilliant, but this took them to new levels of greatness. What's it all about? Who knows!

Not easily offended
Know how to let it go
From a mess to the masses!

 And yes, that brings us to the end of another year. The end of 2009 and the end of the decade people don't seem to know what to name. I don't know about you, but I find comfort in the fact that every year we think, shit, it's never going to be as good a year as this, and then sure enough, another year comes to an end, and we think the same thing all over again.
A big thanks to you all for following us. We really do love you for it.
Bring on 2010!

-- Sorry, we had to remove the songs for legal reasons! --


Liz said...

This is a fantastic list, guys!! Bravo. So many favorites sandwiched with so many songs I've never heard of. You just made me very busy this evening.

Neil said...

Thanks for the list.

I disagree with you about Regina Spektor's "Laughing With" though. She does go on to say, "But God can be funny..."

She's not being judgemental, or chastising you for laughing at God, she's just describing one of the many facets of human nature, and perhaps suggesting that this duality - the way that we might joke about God at a dinner party, but be quite serious when it comes to our own mortality, or the time your kid is late back from a party actually brings us closer to God - hence, that we're not laughing at him, we're laughing with him.

Anyways, I like it. Also, I'm not sure whether it matters, but I don't believe in God.

I absolutely agree with you about Jeff Lewis though.

temiflo said...

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ps: if you love hip hop, then i love you. ('n I luv lil wayne on "I Made It")




girlsidgogayfor said...

lololol @ the passion pit comment. i don't know wtf he's saying half the time but i gotta sing along