The Only Top Ten Post I'll Do This Year... / by LD


...Because the rest of my lists will be top one hundreds!

Laurel's Top One Hundred Lean Cuisines She Ate For Dinner in 2009

Laurel's Top One Hundred Complaints About This Season's Project Runway

The Top One Hundred Things Laurel Likes About Andrew Bird (2009 Edition)

Laurel's Top One Hundred Adjectives To Use Frivolously And Without Restraint

The Top One Hundred Times Laurel Was Utterly Bamboozled By Season 5 of Lost

So get ready, is all I'm saying, because we are in for quite a December, folks.

Of course I'm joking, but it's only to butter you up for what's to come next. At the risk of inviting inordinate amounts of H8 in the commentz section (and no, that wasn't actually a prop 8 reference; the texting parlance simply seemed apropos), the latter half of Neko Case's stellar Middle Cyclone features 20-or-so minutes of crickets chirping. The track, titled simply "Marais la nuit" seems like a fitting soundtrack for the year 2009 in music.

Let the fireballs fly.

But first, hear me out (that means you, Tyler Kemp).

(And also Brett McCracken. You'll see my list and raise me at least two snide comments, I'm sure.)

Perhaps my unease lies in the fact that, looking back, 2009 has been a year in music completely unlike 2008. Maybe the diametric opposition between the Fleet Foxes juggernaut and the chillwave-meets-noize explosion of 2009 was too great a chasm for me to leap across.

It's a losers game at this point, because how can I even begin to criticize a year that gave us this before the dust of 2008 even had time to shake off? I've ruminated and agonized (not really) for weeks about why I'm so ambivalent toward 2009's musical offerings, but no clear answer has revealed itself. Perhaps my hopes were too high for favored bands (Andrew Bird, Wilco), or perhaps the micro-trends in music this year simply didn't find footing with me (Neon Indian, Bibio, Japandroids) or maybe there were quite a few good albums that won't reach their full impact until months or even years later (just a guess, but Dirty Projectors and Grizzly Bear come to mind). Whatever the case, I find myself at the end of a year I was most certainly dreading for a variety of reasons and have now realized that the only thing subpar about it was the music. (Tyler, I threw that last dagger in there just for you. Hugs and kizzes, friend.)

I kid. Sort of. But without further ado or explanation, here are my top ten albums and top ten songs of 2009, for your enjoyment or admonishment. All's I can say is: I'm really, really, really looking forward to 2010.

Top Ten Songs of 2009

10. Kiss With A Fist - Florence And The Machine
A raucous, rambunctious love song in the loosest sense. It's an gleefully irreverent take on the volatile Sid and Nancy types of this world.

9. Lisztomania - Phoenix
As ubiquitous as it was catchy in 2009, Phoenix has finally solidified their status as Dance Band of The Year (titular members include, most prominently, LCD Soundsystem in 2007, and Girl Talk [non-band status notwithstanding] in 2008.) Forget the fact that no one seems to know what Thomas Mars is saying, we'll gladly sing along.

8. Bicycle - Memory Tapes
A song that changes shape more than once, no more brilliantly than at minute 3: "3:23 is where it all opens up, a buoyant, exultant lift straight into the stratosphere of "Oooah"s and a New Ordered guitar riff that would find its eventual counterpart in the thumping disco-infused bassline." [from this post]

7. Free the City - Surf City
In a city where surf rock was supposedly born, I'd be hard-pressed to find a surfer inhabiting the Southern California coastal region who could tear themselves away from Jack Johnson long enough to convince me that the world needed another album about chasing waves. Luckily, New Zealand's Surf City aren't from Huntington Beach, and their Surf City EP might be all the convincing I need. Rollicking and nostalgic without being another cloying Beach Boys rip-off, "Free The City" embodies all that is good about sun, sand, and surf.

6. Two Weeks - Grizzly Bear
Soaring harmonies, a chorus lifted straight out of the "Kids Will Just LOVE This" Hit Book, GB's signature meandering musicality woven throughout; it would be hard to argue that "Two Weeks" isn't a pitch-perfect pop song for disenfranchised Recession-era cynics like me. It's full of wistful longing yet still manages to be sonically hopeful. But then again, when those staccato chords start dancing around Ed Droste's doleful vocals, who would want to argue about anything at all?

5. Quiet Dog - Mos Def
I can't even write about this track with the knowledge that you, reader, might not be simultaneously listening to it while reading this entry. What's wrong with you? I know that might seem aggressive, but c'mon - get yourself over to iTunes or Hypem or wherever you procure your em-pee-threes and find this song, already. I'm a sucker for a handclaps, a good beat can undo me in 2 minutes flat, and there's no denying that I have a soft spot in my heart for catchy lyrics. And "Quiet Dog," my friends, absolutely kills me.

4. River - Akron/Family
The second track on Akron/Family's Set 'Em Wild, Set 'Em Free, "River" manages to mimic its titular subject matter rather faithfully: strong currents of guitar, a pulsing beat, serene vocals. Each on their own might compose an average folksy song about nature, but then again, Akron/Family isn't your average folksy band. There is something so beguiling about this song that even months after its release, I still haven't put it into words.

3. Nightingale / December Song - Sunset Rubdown
Well, it wouldn't be a Sunset Rubdown song if there wasn't talk of sacrificial virgins, but then again, no one ever accused Spencer Krug of playing against type, either. Baroque and far less lyrically cryptic than some of his other musical offerings, "Nightingale / December Song" gallops toward its conclusion with fervor, determination, and conviction. It's a lushly orchestrated, stunningly executed proclamation of scorned love.

2. This Tornado Loves You - Neko Case
The lyrical imagery coupled with Case's rafter-rattling vocals make this one of the best songs of 2009 (a close, CLOSE second to my number one), and one of the best unconventional love songs EVER. In it Case imagines herself as a literal force of nature tearing a path of destruction across the Midwest. "But it's never enough / I want you," She sings, mustering all the mysterious provocations of a woman in love. What's most impressive isn't the idea of cyclonic love, but of the aching vulnerability Case manages to evince in the midst of her climactic and powerful wail: "What will make you believe me?" It's what makes this song not only work but leave an imprint of emotional resonance long after it ends.

1. My Girls - Animal Collective
Sometimes a song can't be described or dissected or diluted into a couple of glib bon mots because to do so would completely negate the emotional pull that the music possesses. Such is the case with "My Girls," likely to be nearly everyone's favorite song of 2009 - and not only because it's been our constant companion since January. Loyalty doesn't always equal excellence, unless of course it happens to be in the form of this song. It might be personal and entirely subjective, but that's exactly why "My Girls" is my number one: My best memories of the last year of the decade were formed with this song as a soundtrack. So when I look back on the past twelve months and think about dancing in a mash of euphoric hipsters at the Fonda or walking down the aisle as the Maid of Honor in my best friend's wedding, or swimming and drinking a Newcastle at the Fourth of July, "My Girls" was swirling amongst those moments as the aural backbone of the year 2009.

Honorable Mention: Dan Deacon "Snookered," Real Estate "Beach Comber," Foreign Born "Blood Oranges," The xx "Crystalised," and The Antlers "Kettering."



Top Ten Albums Which Lack Explanation, But Are Linked To Their Pitchfork Review Because, Yeah, I'm Just That Ornery:

10. Memory Tapes - Seek Magic [link]

9. Various Artists - Dark Was The Night [link]

8. Dan Deacon - Bromst [link]

7. YACHT - See Mystery Lights [link]

6. The Very Best - Warm Heart of Africa [link]

5. Girls - Album [link]

4. Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion [link]

3. Sunset Rubdown - Dragonslayer [link]

2. Surf City - Surf City EP [link]

1. Neko Case - Middle Cyclone [link]

Honorable Mention: JJ - JJ no.2, Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, The Intelligence - Fake Surfers, and Akron/Family - Set 'Em Wild, Set 'Em Free.