Thursday, December 03, 2009

Top 30 Tracks of 2009

The fourth time compiling the best of list for YHNR was not easy. I have been neglecting this blog to make time for other commitments, nevertheless I am still keeping myself updated with the indie scene, and this blog will remain as it is as a place for me to channel out the music I love, albeit the updates will not be as regular as it used to be. To make it short, here are my top 30 tracks of year 2009. Let's cheer for another year of great music and another year running of this blog.

My Girls - Animal Collective
It would not be a complete 2009 list without Animal Collective in it. Being more accessible than the avant-garde materials the band has previously released, "My Girls" is compelling and catchy as hell, with its shimmering electronic synths, harmonies, handclaps, upbeat tribal drums and chants.
An odd but amazing combination of psychedelic rock and joyful summer pop. I will probably still hear "what the fuck is this" from my mates though.

Two Weeks - Grizzly Bear
Built on a stark piano clink, "Two Weeks" is a doo wop-inspired pop song of immense charm. Its glorious chamber pop is shown in Ed Droste's eerie vocal over the wobbly mellotron and Beach Boys-esque three-part harmonies. Amazing.

Lisztomania - Phoenix
The frantic two-note intro of "Lisztomania”, coupled with its hypnotic drum beat, Thomas Mars' smooth vocals and punchy electric guitars, grabbed me straight from first listen. It’s catchy, it’s dancey and it’s memorable. A well constructed and composed track, breaking out the flows, breakdowns and build-ups perfectly, which makes it the feel-good summer anthem.

Sometimes - Miami Horror
When it comes to the irresistible electro-fueled indie-pop, Australia has the game locked tight. "Sometimes" features a rich vocal and 80's synths touches, tightly coiled around a baseline that has more hooks than a fisherman's hat, bringing us to the world of youth, discovery and adventure, just like the lyrics and video have addressed.
Oh, and having seen this track played live twice, and probably few more times in the future really complement it.

Let's Go Surfing - The Drums
"Let’s Go Surfing" is a slice of retro heaven, paying tribute to the breezy American surf-pop. The rapid-fire guitar beat sounds like it's being played out of a vintage amps, coupled with the catchy chorus of "Oh mama I want to go surfing / Oh mama I don't care about nothing", it's as fun as a trip to the beach. And who can resist the most infectious whistling line since Young Folks?

Sweet Disposition - The Temper Trap
“Sweet Disposition” is a gorgeous, soaring arena anthem. Its plucky, echo-ey electric strat, has been done numerous times, but what sets it apart from all the other moody-sounding guitar tracks is the lead singer Dougy Mandagi’s charming, rich falsetto. Another great aussie product.

Cold Dust Girl - Hey Champ
An amazing mix of electro dancepop, Cold Dust Girl is a pretty genuine sounding, likable synth-filled track. It doesn't hit you over the head with first listen, but rather it envelops and grows on you with such its brilliant tune.

The Sea Is A Good Place To Think Of The Future - Los Campesinos
Who would have thought Los Campesino!, those energetic twee-poppers could churn out such a depressing, melodramatic track? This track is all about slow-build arrangement. It starts off with a spoken narrative of eating disorder, with slow strings dominating, and just as you’re about to make assumptions it goes into the an explosion of noise. The song keeps building and growing, creating a really powerful atmosphere. It should really create excitement for the band's upcoming album.

The Reeling - Passion Pit
“The Reeling” is already the overplayed anthem on dancefloors across the country. It kicks in with a joyously synth line, then enter into the layered, high-pitched melodies and ever catchy vocals. Michael Angelakos is even joined by a children's choir for the chorus to complete the sound. Awesome indeed.

Animal - Miike Snow
Featuring songwriting/production duo Bloodshy & Avant, Miike Snow self titled album is no doubt one of the great debuts of the year. Album opener "Animal" combines a subtle reggae beat and synth interludes, producing a infectious track full of sunshine. A slick slice of summer pop which got me hooked for a long time.

Ambling Alps - Yeasayer
‘Ambling Alp’, the first single off Yeasayer's upcoming second album, ‘Odd Blood’ is magnificent. It features heaps of electro pop flavors, applying keen pop sensibilities as well as a sense of experimentation, treating us to interesting sounds and textures imposed on effective melodies. Nothing short of a pop anthem. Awesome video too.

Daniel - Bat For Lashes
Probably the most immediate thing Natasha Khan has recorded, 'Daniel' is melodramatic art-rock and accesibly pop at the same time. Sounding like a heir to Kate Bush, Khan breathily sings over 80s ethereal synthesisers and booming steel drums, before the whole thing burst into a catchy dramatic chorus. We are made believe Khan's fantasy towards 'Daniel', and we love him and the song too.

Surprise Hotel - Fool's Gold
It is sung in Hebrew, and I absolutely don't understand a word, but this sun-streaked Afro-pop is perfect for a summer road trip. It is the afro-beat percussion and boundless rhythms, not the words, that really drive the track. 'Spinning around until you are dizzy' is a tag for this song on, and I certainly have no qualm about that.

Home - Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros
'Gospel harmonies meet wide-eyed psych folk wonder...on a multi-colored school bus' - with a description like this, how could one not like this song? It is simply filled with unabashed joy. Starting with some whistling to a thumping Johnny Cash-like beat, then it culminates to a eastern-rythmic chorus that calls for a sing-along. With the uplifting lyrics: 'Home, what we call home, home is whenever I'm with you', this song is definitely approved.

Stillness Is The Move - Dirty Projectors
That Mariah-esque vocals and African-guitar infused R&B, this is what pop should be. Everyone loses their shit over this song, but you got to believe the hype sometimes. Tap your foot uncontrollably? Checked. Attempt to hit those sky-high notes? Checked. Yes, you love this song, just admit it already.

Sheila - Atlas Sound
Typical Mr. Cox, a perfectly crafted song, light pop with experimental noises and sounds. Simple and beautiful. The combination of simple jangly acoustic guitar with Cox's swooning vocals is amazing. The best part? The chorus. It's a crystalline, soulful piece that you can't shake it off from your head, the lyrics 'no one wants to die alone' is definitely heartfelt.

11th Dimension - Julian Casablancas
This solo came as a surprise while we hardcore The Strokes were still waiting for the long-overdue new release, fingercrossed for next year, nevertheless we are certainly pleased like a hungry boy who gets dessert instead of maincourse. Those drum machine bang and Casiotone synths were something new from Mr. Casablancas, but there is a definite sense of familiarity with his tradmark vocals. We love it, it's one-fifth of The Strokes anyway.

Zero - Yeah Yeah Yeahs
The polished synth and the glossy vocals may not be the Yeah Yeah Yeahs we used to like, and it doesn't have a very strong guitar or percussion. But this is a step forward for the band producing a dance-floor anthem that sings directly to the listeners. 'Zero' is a perfect pop rock single that signalled the transformation of Yeah Yeah Yeahs. The 80s influence was apparent, but what isn't nowadays?

Quitters Raga - Gold Panda
Clocked under 2 minutes, the chopped up vocals, stretched sitar and guitars messed up my head. I am not sure what is this, dubstep/sychedelic or whatsoever they labelled, it is out of the world and makes me yearn for more, that's how beautifully strange the song is. Interestingly, this is a sample-based song but it is done so with warmth and melody. Gold Panda has already been listed on BBC Sound of 2010 longlist, I'd be quite sure we will be hearing more from him.

Deadbeat Summer - Neon Indian
This is so 80s. Like for real, like it's recorded out of record tapes. Other than the kitsch retro sound, this is insanely good with substance too. Fun and playful, the perfect blend of vocals, grinding guitar sounds, and catchy pop melodies, and reminiscent of the youth, this is like a combination between MGMT and M83, perfect soundtrack for those 20-something who miss those chilled-out lazy summer days.

Two - The Antlers
I have always been one of those who listen to the tunes rather than lyrics. But the lyrics of this song grips so much that it feels painful and difficult to listen to. It is beautifully haunting, delivered in shimmering false falsetto, yet tuneful and perfectly captured the theme of love and death stretched across the album 'Hospice'. This song speaks like a depressing story that everyone loves to hear.

Velvet - The Big Pink
The band was featured on most 2009 to-watch list and they have not dissapoint with their debut 'A Brief History Of Love'. 'Velvet' was the song that the London duo demonstrated they have got skills and style. It is a loud, catchy and sparse shoegazing epic. The drum beats at the beginning immediately draw the listeners in and envelope them in their massive sound.

Brother Sport - Animal Collective
Amazingly this is the first time a band has scored two tracks in the YHNR list. The pitch-shifting vocal synergy of 'Brother Sport' no doubt make up the greatness of the album. Listening to the track is just like riding through a journey of tones, emotions, and vocal depth, before dissolving into a racket of energy-charged "noises" and returning to an infectious three-part harmonies and that overblown explosion of big-beat rave. Epic indeed.

Tightrope - Yeasayer
Another band with a double score on the list. 'Tightrope' really flaunts Yeasayer’s pure ability to craft an enticing tune. Crafted with an rhythmic melody and simply stated, meaningful lyrics, it is a simple track, with much of the trademark electronic instruments being stripped off for a more folky sound. Nevertheless, it still characteristically maintains the unique gypsy-like psychedelic appeal of the band. Magnificent.

Norway - Beach House
The ticking drum machine, dreamy tunes, smoky vocals, just everything we expect from Beach House, no dramatic change in sound, nonetheless reminiscent of their old style. But that's how I like it, sometimes sticking to the old winning formula ain't too bad an idea, you either ace it (in this track) or fall with it.

Luna - Fanfarlo
Fanfarlo is certainly more than just another Arcade Fire. 'Luna' is the most uplifting song in the album 'Reservoir'. The synths, the percussive claps and the harmonica, accompanied by the Beirut-esque vocals, this song is one grand and sweeping orchestral pop that makes ones feel all warm and joyous.

Damaris - Patrick Wolf
The wild romanticism of the haunting ‘Damaris’ is truly amazing. While the track is instrumentally overpowering with strings, organ and marching drums, Wolf's beautiful vocals shouldn't be ignored, especially in the highly emotional chorus. Also, the backing vocals of "rise up" definitely enhances the haunting potential of the track, where you start to sing along and lose yourself in the story of Damaris and Lewis.

Sometime Life Isn't Easy - Mew
There is always a soft spot in me for Mew. The spacey, melodic sound is more epic and immediate this time in the album ' No More Stories'. The quivering falsetto, exploding guitars and dreamy synths, these core elements of the band are still present. 'Sometimes Life Isn't Easy' started off like an 80s pop, then it soared into a epic wild ballad with a harmonious chorus.

Islands - The xx
The intertwinement of the sleepy vocals of Romy Madley and Oliver Sim, talking to and about each other simultaneously, forms an excellent duet in 'Islands'. It’s a jazzy, soothing song, with clean crisp riffs and minimal percussion. It’s intimate and immediate, and sounds romantic in its on way.

Something Good Can Work - Two Door Cinema Club
This song just came along and hooked me real good at first listen, it has been on repeated loop since then. Just simple good ol' combination of airy guitar riffs, catchy beats and harmonious vocals, this is a already a win for the band tipped to watch on BBC Sound of 2010 longlist. We cannot wait to hear more from these young lads from Wales and Northern Ireland.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

nice list, font gets smaller towards the end on my firefox.

5:17 AM  
Blogger MrMozambique said...

My fonts do too, but I'm guessing it's intentional. Viva Yeasayer!

10:10 PM  
Blogger Daniel said...

nice to meet mew on the list.. but not the greatest song from "no more stories..."??

3:50 PM  

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