Year End Music Countdowns #8: 2009

The 25 Best songs of 2009

25. Tell Me it’s Not Over– Starsailor feat. Brandon Flowers
24. Noro– Brand New
23. Undisclosed Desires– Muse
22. Dominos– The Big Pink
21. Sweet#hart– Closure in Moscow
20. Sort Of– Silversun Pickups
19. Hysteric– Yeah Yeah Yeahs
18. Things Fall Apart– Built to Spill
17. Someone Who Cares– Three Days Grace
16. No Sound but the Wind– Editors
15. Tricks– Mew
14. Summertime Clothes– Animal Collective
13. The Room– The Twilight Sad
12. Here’s Looking at you, Kid– The Gaslight Anthem
11. Daniel– Bat for Lashes

10. Beautiful Thieves- AFI

For years AFI changed their sound, going from hardcore punk to emo to dabbling in electronic music, but it’s on this album that they’ve found a sound perfectly suited for them: glam rock. Not surprising since a staple in their live set has been David Bowie’s “Ziggy Stardust”, and it’s Bowie’s influence that drives this song. It’s a massive arena rocker with a triumphant chorus and I wouldn’t be surprised if it were to be the second single from the record.

9. Melody Ave.- The Panic Division

I’ve been listening to these guys for years now; there’s always been something strangely addictive and welcoming in their super-earnest take on the eighties. However their sonic textures were never enough for me, as they lacked a song with a big hook—therefore never making it to any of my previous charts. This year they stepped up with an EP that had those hooks, this song having the most obvious one.

8. Hotblack- Oceanship

Sometimes, the key to sounding different from everything else is trying something simple. This isn’t anything but a piano based pop song, but it immediately caught my ear because of that. These two (in the band) aren’t trying to re-invent or revolutionize anything. They’ve just offered up a nice, bleak ballad about a girl making poor decisions.

7. Hearing Damage- Thom Yorke

In the same year that Radiohead released the most boring, self-indulgent song of theirs to date, their lead singer decided he liked the Twilight movies enough to donate this song to the soundtrack of the New Moon film. It was all for the best though, as this is a great tune. Granted, the last two minutes of it are keyboard noodling, but the haunting first half is more than enough to make up for it.

6. Born and Raised- Alexisonfire

Alexisonfire have become…slightly predictable. For the moment, that’s totally acceptable. They are one of the very few alternative rock acts left today that can be counted on to deliver hit after hit. This sort of mainstream reliability makes them endearing; it’s nice when music brings lots of fans together. So the longer they stick around, the bigger the fanbase, the more communal spirit is spread. Uh…right, the song. It’s nice! George Pettit no longer screams (he’s into yelling now), but the energy is still fairly high and everyone else in the band is still at the top of their game.

5. Growing Old is Getting Old- Silversun Pickups

The best song from the album Swoon ends up being the counterpart to the best song from the album Carnavas, which was of course, “Rusted Wheel”. Both are moody and atmospheric, with the newer track speeding up the tempo and getting a little rougher/louder in the second half than its predecessor did.

4. Sharp Knife- Third Eye Blind

If you were to tell me last year that 3EB would deliver one of the best alt. rock anthems of the year, I would not believe you. I wouldn’t expect them, over ten years later, to deliver anything of interest to me. But they did! It’s a well structured song with some nice rhythm changes in the chorus, and generally just catchy.

3. Let Down- Dead By Sunrise

Was it worth waiting 4 years for the studio version of this song? Yes, and no. The live performance was a little less beefed up, and the acoustics suited the melody better. Thankfully though, the guitars aren’t amped up to full Linkin Park mode, sounding more 90’s than anything Bennington’s been previously attached to. I will be very surprised if this doesn’t become an alternative standard in 2010, because it’s well written and would fit right at home between other rock hits, even with the occasionally indulgent vocal harmonies.

2. Beach- Mew

As the name of the song implies, it’s most definitely a summer jam. Virtually everything about it encapsulates the feeling of summertime: it’s bright, jangly, carefree, wistful, fun, and feel-good. There are some odd phrasing/word choices, (the band is Danish), and the lyrics come off cryptic at times. But it’s the sunny melody that counts here. It’s a shame that at the time of writing this review it’s just the beginning of winter, because listening to it now doesn’t really do it justice. It might conjure up images of good times, but it’s best experienced during said good times. So, wait another six months before taking my word.

And the BEST SONG of 2009 is…..

1. E.S.T.- White Lies

If there was ever a song that catered to every single musical penchant of mine, it’s this one. Now, obviously, opinions are subjective. But this song is just SO perfect in every way, to me at least. Checklist, please:

– Everything drowning in reverb? Check
– Fuzzy bass? Check
– Cold, sterile atmosphere? Check
– Menacing backing synths? Check
– Catchy keyboard hook? Check
– Big, explosive part later in the song? Check
– Superserious Melodrama? Check

White Lies did what I thought was impossible—they out-Edited the band Editors (who failed to impress me, or anyone for that matter, with their 2009 release. They did have an alright song on the New Moon soundtrack though.)

Editors used to be the pre-eminent Joy Division clone of the new millennium, but White Lies eclipsed them in every way, creating massive orchestral arrangements and more developed melodies. And for that I give them the top spot of 2009 (and also a VERY high spot on my top 51 of the 2000s).
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The 10 WORST Songs of 2009

As a whole, the year was pretty bad for mainstream music, but the alternative scene had some stinkers as well. And of course let’s not forget the indie crowd! This list features entries from all over the music spectrum. Apologies to anyone who may be offended by my choices. Remember, just opinion! (But come on, really?)

10. Make Believe- Thornley

– Like a disappointed parent, I feel more sad than anything else. Big Wreck had two great albums, and Thornley’s debut was fairly decent as well. The long-delayed sophomore effort, though, was nothing but predictable, Nickelback-like post grunge. This first and only single was just a sample of the lighter-waving anthems present on the disc.

9. Kristy, Are You Doing OK? – The Offspring

– While the album was released last year, the single didn’t surface until 2009. It shouldn’t have surfaced at all, I would have preferred if it was left in the bottom of the ocean’s chasms where it belongs. If there’s one thing that you never, ever want to hear, it’s the Offspring doing an acoustic ballad. Dexter Holland’s voice is great for punk! But it becomes an awful yowl when you take away the energy of the band, and you’re left with something that sounds like a parody of a soft-rock song rather than a song itself.

8. Can’t Stop Partying- Weezer feat. Lil’ Wayne

– It’s not even the change of style that bugs me. Nor is it the complete disregard for listeners’ ears. It’s the fact that the band itself doesn’t sound comfortable with the song. The chorus is completely lifeless. From now on when you hear this song I want you to imagine teenagers with their heads drooping to the side shuffling like half-hearted zombies.

7. Crash into Me- Stevie Nicks

– The first of two cover songs on this countdown, this interpretation comes from Nicks, who shouldn’t even be singing this song because it DOESN’T MAKE SENSE. I’ve never been a huge fan of this song because of the manner in which the lyrics are “sung”, but it just gets a hundred times worse in this version.

6. Scream- Chris Cornell

– It’s been said by everyone already, but I’ll say it again: WHAT HAPPENED, CHRIS CORNELL! Temple of the Dog, Soundgarden, Audioslave, this?? Even the first two solo albums were alright. This Timbaland helmed entry, however, is the most misguided choice in musical direction I’ve ever heard. It’s not even the style that bothers me, it’s the fact that there is not one genuine moment on this album. The song in question here, “Scream”, is basically a rewrite of OneRepublic’s “Apologize”, except missing one vital thing—a melody.

5. I Love College- Asher Roth

– Hey did you hear about the turd that fell from Eminem’s butt and started rapping? Wait no hold on…is this a joke? Please tell me this is an ironic joke? No, it’s not a joke. This is not some clever, witty Lonely Island skit called “Douchebag Anthem” that pokes fun at college life. This is an obnoxious slacker with a drawling, nasal, monotone voice acting as if his word is gospel. This is the sound of the trumpet (actually a pylon stolen in a drunken haze) of the fifth horseman of the apocalypse (the one with six-hundred and sixty-six popped collars).

4. Just Breathe- Pearl Jam

– I can’t even believe that the band could get this bad. I literally cringe during the verses due to Vedder’s strained voice and the repetitive melody, and the instruments do nothing to help. There’s some sort of pastoral flute, as well as some twee acoustic guitar picking, and a chorus that nearly veers into a Christmas song soundalike before turning into a third-grade Coldplay knockoff. The whole thing has me picturing Vedder sitting on a grassy knoll with children, chickens, lambs, and daisies around him. I put “Life Wasted” on one of my Worst lists once, but even that seemed like classic PJ compared to this tripe.

3. Arma-whatever-geddon- Marilyn Manson

– Skeletal, washed-up, laughably cheesy clown. I’m not gonna write more because that’s giving him more attention than he deserves.

2. Borderline- Flaming Lips with Stardeath and White Dwarfs

– The second cover song on the list…and even worse than the first. Taking her plastic pop and turning it into an indulgent psychedelic jam is a crime worthy of eternal damnation.

And the WORST SONG of 2009 is….

1. I Gotta Feeling – Black Eyed Peas

– There’s a complete sort of vacuous nature to everything this band does. They have absolutely nothing on their mind other than making money, and what better way to do that than to exploit the emptiest characteristics of today’s youth. They are literally capitalizing on Facebook status updates. Literally. They went to a board meeting, sat down, and said “In the summer of 2009, what are teens going to say before heading off to a party? Hmmm…ok, how about ‘ I gotta feelinnnnn dat tonitesss gonnaa b a goodd niteee!”

This song actually merits two paragraphs, that’s how bad it is! Not only is it morally bankrupt, but it’s musically plastic as well. Cheap keyboard sounds, idiotic vocal hiccups (sounds like will.i.am is choking), and a general waste of recording resources. In conclusion, the worst thing ever of 2009. The E.N.D.