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The DB’s 30 Favorite Songs of 2009 (1-15)

by Jonathan B Perry

Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs

Yes,  we’re halfway through 2010, but I’ve gathered my 30 favorite songs of 2009 anyway.  Like any good self-respecting music snob and addict, I think my music taste is pretty darn good.  All music snobs feel this way and usually hold that their taste is superior.  But taste is taste.  You might not like the sort of stuff I like (if you’re crazy) and vice versa.  I used to keep a spreadsheet of  around a thousand bands and albums I rated as I sifted through reviews and recommendations.  It’s always great finding a new good band you can sink your teeth into.  And for me, there’s this need to share these niftiest sounds with my friends.  It’s sick, I know.

For reference, 80s New Wave might be the base of my popular music-food pyramid.  That and mid-to-late Beatles.  I especially like songs with strong melodies and harmonies with unique instrumental sounds.  More recently I favor Indie/Alternative music and listen to the U of Nebraska’s radio station (90.3 KRNU) to hear new stuff that circumvents mainstream radio, though I still listen to mainstream radio sometimes.

(Most of these songs were released on albums in 2009, though in some cases there may be a song or 2 that came out in 2008, but didn’t hit it big until 2009.  There’s an unhealthy number of break-up songs in the list.  Maybe 20%.  It’s demented.)

So, here they are:  The Domesticated Bachelor’s Favorite Songs of of 2009.

1. “Heads Will Roll”-Yeah Yeah Yeahs:

I can’t seem to shake the lyrics to this song.  I keep walking around all Tourette’s-like chanting “Off off with your head!  Dance dance dance ’til you’re dead!  Heads will roll… on the floor!”  I imagine people are concerned, but they should know better by now.  For this reason (crazy hooky lyrics), I’d say this is probably my favorite song of 2009.  And like any red-blooded Goth-wannabe guy (minus the weird clothes, makeup and ultra-gloom.  Ok, I’m not Goth.), I have a little thing for Karen O of the YYYs.  I suppose she and the band are not really Goth (more weird/cool), though the video for this song might bend a little that way.  In some performances she looks like she’s doing semaphore or some sort of bizarre sign language, and she often has this incredible look of joy or amusement or ecstasy on her face when she’s singing.  Pretty swell.  I also appreciate her whisper-singing-cooing sweet nothings into my earbuds (in the bridge).  Anyway, “Heads Will Roll” is a super song.  It really gets a good bit of synth going in a minor key while Karen O sings her headless dancing fantasy.

2. “Two Weeks”-Grizzly Bear:

Lyrics for this song aren’t as clear for me as for “Heads Will Roll”, but that’s ok because “Two Weeks” is really a beautiful tune.  Gorgeous even. This song opens with a simple piano plinking, a bass, then some great ascending vocal harmonies.  The soaring melody and harmonies are awesome and happy and I’ve installed this song in my iTunes “Happy Songs” playlist that I use as self-medication for depression and pining.  I heard “Two Weeks” on a tv show, maybe “How I Met Your Mother”, and Googled it immediately.  Turns out I already had the album.  Apparently I’d downloaded it from while it was their cheap promo of the day, but for some reason hadn’t really listened to it much.  The band has some other good songs on their 2 albums, but this is probably the best and deserves lots of attention.

3. “Hundred Hearts”-The Swimmers:

The local college radio station played this a lot and it was right down my alley.  It’s a well-written song all the way around: great tune, harmony, instrumentation, and a great beat.  I especially like it when the phrasing gets faster then slows in the middle of each verse, then there’s that keyboard that climbs up and down.  I seem to be appreciating songs more with male and female vocals.  Adds nice texture.

4. “Chinese”-Lily Allen Share Chinese by Lily Allen
I was introduced to this song when my brother Jay showed me a video of a children’s choir covering it.  They do a really great job, but the original is awesome.  My iTunes list says I’ve listened to this one over 50 times already.  I love the wall of sound.  It’s beautiful and sad.  She sings about a comfortable evening at home with her mom and for the longest time I interpreted from the lyrics that her mom had died, but apparently she’s not dead, so…

5. “Young Adult Friction”-The Pains of Being Pure at Heart:

The entire album is actually quite listenable, but this is a standout.  To me the sound is a little similar to My Bloody Valentine, but a bit more accessible.  Not so dense or distorted, but this is still one of the ‘noisier’ songs on my list.  I like the boy/girl vocals on this, too.  A few of the band’s videos are in 8mm, which is a pretty great effect that could be used more.

6. “Did You See Me Coming?”-Pet Shop Boys Share Did You See Me Coming? by Pet Shop Boys
I’ve been a huge PSB fan since “West End Girls” came out when I was in grade school.  A high school ex even mailed me mix-tapes of largely PSB music.  The band has been going strong for a good 25 years now, and though the recent quality has been more mixed than in the golden age, this last PSB album was probably their strongest in a while.  Almost a perfect song, except for an unremarkable bridge, but it’s ok.  Still awesome.

7. “Carol Brown”-The Flight of the Conchords:

I had this song stuck in my head for weeks, too.  “Carol Brown just took a bus out of town, but I’m hoping that you’ll stick around.“  Flight of the Conchords‘ song “Carol Brown” is a modern “50 Ways To Leave Your Lover“, except it’s happening to you and it’s a little sad, though it’s also funny and a bit hopeful.  Good for therapy.  Jemaine bemoans the different ways women have left him and those exes form a choir to explore his issues.  It seems that whenever my brother Jay and I get together we find ourselves watching episodes of FotC’s HBO music comedy series or video clips on YouTube.  I’m sad they won’t be making the show anymore. I kind of wish I’d done a list like this last year, just so I could put up “Prince of Parties” from their last album, but I digress.

8. “Bang!” & 9. “Last Dance”-The Raveonettes: Share Bang! by The Raveonettes

I’ve really enjoyed the Raveonettes ever since their first album came out.  This Danish duo who sound like a more tuneful Jesus and Mary Chain (reverby alt group from the 80s & 90s) would sell more albums in a perfect world, but then they’d be less of a rare find.  Really, though, they don’t do too badly.  The albums are consistently very good.  I’m surprised there’s no video for “Bang!”.  Hopefully there will be an awesome video to push them into the stratosphere (like videos mean anything these days).  In “Bang!”, I’m not sure what those kids want to do out in the street all summer long, but it can’t be too obscene if it’s played on the radio.  In the song “Last Dance” we have another potential prom song about impending end of love (and maybe death, I guess).  Great songs, both of them.

10. “Fireflies”-Owl City:

This song is like a warm blanket of colorful sounds and lyrics.  The band sounds almost exactly like The Postal Service, with the intricate electronic beeping and the singer’s voice resembling Ben Gibbard’s (who also fronts Death Cab For Cutie).  It’s a hopeful tune about insomnia and has a special unspeakable meaning for me that must be pushed way down into my gut until it squishes the life out of those dumb stomach butterflies.

11. “1901”-Phoenix:

This French group put out a great album and the song, “1901”, was used endlessly in a car commercial, which is great for exposure and not nearly as frowned upon as it once was by the snobby music community.  It’s accepted that the music biz is broken, so bands need exposure any way it can be gotten.  I love the band’s sound and I always get the feeling that the singer is going through puberty with the voice cracking and changing.

12. “A Better Love”-El Perro Del Mar Share A Better Love by El Perro Del Mar
Is that hammer dulcimer?  I think so.  Pretty cool (even if it’s synthesized).  This sad break-up song insinuates itself in the brain with stuff like “This isn’t over ’til I say when.  When.  When.” sung in a quiet voice.  I suspect that if you listen to it in the wrong frame of mind, it might be a tearjerker (I actually want to hear it backwards).  I have way too many break-up songs on this list, maybe 20% (what’s up with that?), but it could just be that break-up songs are written with more emotion and get a bigger helping of love and junk, so they end up being the cream of the crop.

13. “Use Somebody”-Kings of Leon:

“Use Somebody” was played endlessly on the radio and deservedly so.  It’s a fantastic song full of longing.  It seems the brothers and cousins in Kings of Leon have only been improving their Indie/Southern Rock songwriting with each member taking a turn at songwriting on the album.  I’m afraid I may have OD’d on this one a little.

14. “Silver Moons”-Sunset Rubdown:

I heard “Silver Moons” around the same time I heard “Hundred Hearts” by the Swimmers on college radio, so in my head I pair these 2 together.  To me, the singer for Sunset Rubdown sounds a bit like the lead singer for Men Without Hats (“Safety Dance“), though more so in other songs.  The song builds from piano to full band and goes back and forth.  The chorus is probably my favorite when they sing “Maybe these days are over over now.  And I loved it better than anyone else you know.”  Sweetly passionate and sentimental.  I am officially a sad sack.

15. “Love, Save the Empty”-Erin McCarley:

At first I was unable to figure out the title of the song.  Now it makes me think of recycling (save the empty).  Probably one of my guilty pleasures, I listened to this song and “Chinese” by Lily Allen about the same time frame.  I often find pairs of songs that go together for me, usually because I discover them almost simultaneously.  “Love, Save the Empty” was used in the movie He’s Just Not That Into You, which I actually saw with humans and enjoyed.  Apparently Erin McCarley attended Baylor University, though about a decade or more after my dad finished up his PhD there (yeah, we lived in Waco for a bit).  This is a sweet song, starting with a simple piano part that eventually builds to a full band with strings.  Great tune and excellent sound.


(30 Fav Songs of ’09: 16-30)

Related Links:

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Depeche Mode and High School Girls

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