This Is It…

by Ami Heller

The top 10 songs of 2009.

Or at least the ones that shaped my year musically.

There were way more than ten, but (god knows how) I managed to narrow them down to the best of the best.

These are songs that appeared on albums released this year only. There are no multiple songs from the same artist.

Just missed the list: Neko Case, DM Stith, Timber TimbreGreat Lake Swimmers and Tune-Yards. Check them out anyway.

So…

10. J.Tillman – Marked in the Valley

2008 was the year of the foxes. Fleet Foxes. 2009 belongs to their drummer, J. Tillman. A stunning solo album that is earnest and straightforward. With warm vocals, guitars and strings. A recipe for success in my eyes. This song and the one posted earlier this year, throw me to an imaginary, remote place in the country. Nature. A cabin during winter. A bonfire. Something of that sort.

9. St. Vincent – Actor Out Of Work

Because of the title. Self explanatory. Always loved Annie Clark a.k.a St. Vincent. Always will. From her debut album to the sophomore Actor, which I played incessantly earlier this year. This song has the best music video. Crying on demand… yikes! Acting is like, hard. Saw her live at the Horseshoe Tavern in August, but alas, I was heavily intoxicated on one too many greyhounds. Couldn’t enjoy the concert as much as I wanted to.  Shame.

8. Soulsavers – Pharaoh’s Chariot

I love the collaboration between Mark Lanegan and Soulsavers. With a voice that can sing the phone book and make it sound like a masterpiece, this year, yet again, Mr. Lanegan is the lead vocalist on Broken, which is one of the best albums of 2009. You Will Miss Me When I Burn might be an easier listen and equally fantastic, but this song is haunting and eerie and slow and it makes me want to listen to it over and over and over again. And the strings from 2:43 and on must be what heaven sounds like.

7. La Roux – Colourless Colour

Synthetic pop at its best. But after listening some more, you realize it isn’t synthetic at all. Homage to 80s pop? I don’t know. It’s a style that’s uniquely unique. One of two British fiery redheads on this list. She sings her heart out and at the same time makes us dance until we drop. Posted a different song here. Saw her live in October. She lost her voice half way through the show. She cut the concert short. We still had a blast.

6. Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros – Home

An anthem. Of positivity. Hope. Love. And good times. Corny? Maybe. But after seeing the free-spirited pseudo-hippies live, I can’t deny the effect they have on me. Or on any crowd. It’s irresistible. Most of the songs off their debut album Up From Below are perfect remedies for a distraught soul. For any soul. For the love of music. For the love of life. Get carried away in the joy of Alex, Jade and the gang, i.e. Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. Posted this song before.

5. Dirty Projectors – Stillness Is The Move

Reluctant. Reluctant. Reluctant. I was reluctant to fall in love with Dirty Projectors. While everyone else around me was caught in a daze.  But then I found myself downloading a song off their album Bitte Orca. And then another. And then another. And months after the rest of the world was talking about this song, I finally listened to it. I mean really listened to it. So it took a while, but now I’m hooked. And for the last couple of weeks, it’s been playing in repeat. The music video for it is a sight for sore eyes too.

4. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Hysteric

A road trip to Montreal.  A vacation full of discoveries. A city that envelopes me, as if I was meant to live there all my life. Great food. Sangria. More food. And more sangria. And music! Driving east after losing my digital camera on a random pavement (long story…), yet again I’m the last to discover a group that everyone had already been familiar with. Rebecca inserts It’s Blitz into the CD player. Karen O starts singing. The rest is history. The acoustic version on the deluxe edition is an added bonus. A much appreciated gift.

3. Florence + the Machine – Cosmic Love

Another highlight from the drive to Montreal. For a while, I thought this would be The One. Number one that is. The fiery redhead smashed it this year with a debut album that cemented her as the next best thing in pop. Angry, heartfelt, emotional and mesmerizing. The drum beats, the harp, the drama and the voice. Oh the voice. It’s epic.

2. Noah and the Whale – The First Days of Spring

My best friend went through a brutal break-up. Brutal. She bought this album by mistake.  Without knowing it was the best break-up album ever to be written. She didn’t realize what she got herself into. And me.  From start to finish, this stunning album was the soundtrack to her life for months. Willingly, I joined the ride and made it mine too. This song builds and builds and builds. Until it shatters and explodes at 5:56. Feel the music. And the music is what you feel. We saw them live at the Horseshoe Tavern on Halloween night. It was one of the highlights of my year. Blue Skies is the second best song on the album, and since we missed it (as per usual, we arrived late), all that was left was to watch it here.

1. Grizzly Bear – While You Wait for the Others

So, this might seem completely unoriginal. A cliché. But for me it was a no-brainer and the obvious choice for best song of the year. From the early recording on KCRW Radio, to the album version and then the Michael McDonald take (which is incredible, by the way), this song tops them all. And my play count on iTunes proves it. High above the rest, Grizzly Bear are the new Radiohead as far as I’m concerned. Veckatimest will be the next OK Computer or Parachutes or any other timeless album you can think of. Period.

It’s not too early to wish everyone a Happy New Year, right? Happy New Year!

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