On Monday I'll post my top 10 albums of the year, but I thought I should do something to hold us over. At the bottom of this post is a link do download my 25 favorite songs from this year. The tracklist is below, and it's in the order of my favorite to least favorite (that doesn't mean the compilation gets worse as it goes on though, all of the songs are wonderful).
1. The Antlers - Two
I'll come right out and say that The Antlers album didn't make my AOTY list. I wanted to fit it in somewhere, until I realized that the only song I really like on it is Two. But I like Two a lot. It gives me a feeling of simultaneous sorrow and jubilation. I guess it's a perfect example of musical juxtaposition, and since my life has been similarly both wonderful and horrendous this past year, it's the only sound that seemed to capture the way I feel.
2. M Ward - Fisher of Men
If anything prevented me from ditching Christianity this year, it's this song. As dramatic as that sounds, it's completely true. It's this line: "He put his name in my chorus and the dark before the dawn, so that in my time of weakness I'll remember it's his song." Seriously folks. You have no idea how badly I needed to hear that this year.
3. Andrew Bird - Anonanimal
I've wondered if this might be Andrew Bird's best song. I still wonder that. If it isn't, it's in the top three.
4. Phoenix - Lisztomania
I know this wasn't the track that shot them off like a rocket into space (that one's coming up), but it is the first track on the album, and it really is like an alarm of what's to come. And how fun it is to sing that ridiculous line, "like a riot, like a riot, OHHH!"
5. The Books and Jose Gonzalez - Cello Song
It's been too long since we've had a new track from The Books. So this collaboration they did with Jose was very welcomed. Jose might even do well to tour with The Books. This song is one of their best, and I mean that in regards to both parties. It was the coolest track on the overstuffed Dark Was the Night comp, and got music fans excited for The Books' upcoming tour and new album. (2010, get here now!)
6. Dead Man's Bones - Pa Pa Power
I don't know how this song fits in with the rest of Dead Man's Bones' creepy Halloween album, because this ditty is pure fun and pop. But the plinky little synth jobs by Ryan Gosling that play tag with the children's choir is the smirkiest thing I've heard in indie rock in a while. I love it.
7. Volcano Choir - Island Is
Justin Vernon shouldn't quit Bon Iver, but he needs to make a lot more music like this. He has a talent for subtlety, even without an acoustic guitar in his lap. And that takes skill, folks. As amazing as The Dirty Projectors and Animal Collective can be when it comes to this kind of underachieving musical verbosity, I haven't heard it done better than in Volcano Choir's 'Island Is'.
8. Animal Collective - Daily Routine
This isn't everyone's favorite track on MPP, but it is mine. It's just those ear piercing high-end squeals. I never want them to stop. Even better when they're accompanied by ultra-bright rainbow colored LED columns at Animal Collective's live show.
9. The Flaming Lips - Watching the Planets
It takes a long time before we can get to this triumphant conclusion of Embryonic, but I think enduring the entire psychedelic experience makes this last hurrah all the more massive. It's the best album-closer of 2009.
10. Lymbyc Systym - Teddy
This wins the best instrumental track of the year. What makes it stand out? I'm not exactly sure, except that it sounds like Lymbyc Systym just does everything that two musicians can possibly pack into a 4 and a half minute song.
11. Wilco - I'll Fight
It's a perfectly simple song. So simple, that it's easy to overlook. But that's what Wilco has gotten so good at over the past few years. They have nothing to prove anymore, so they're not going to try. I'll Fight is the most comfortable Wilco song yet.
12. Kings of Convenience - Mrs. Cold
I want to call this the love song of the year. It's just the way Erland sings "Hey baby...". It's so flirtatious. There's nothing creepy or cheesy going on here. It's the song that makes you want to walk over to your crush and smile at them. And get a smile back. (phew!)
13. Japandroids - Young Hearts Spark Fire
Every track on Japandroids' Post Nothing is a fist-pumping, rock out jam. But Young Hearts Spark Fire sounds like their quintessential effort. It's packed with energy, emotion and sincerity.
14. Mos Def - Auditorium
It was a bad year for rap, but not if the only album you heard was Mos Def's The Ecstatic. From start to finish, this record is a jam. But Auditorium stands out. It's the old 70s movie soundtrack sample, the Slick Rick rhymes, and the Madball production. It's just a perfect rap song.
15. Why? - This Blackest Purse
On a pretty disappointing album, Yoni finally got interesting at its end (intentional irony?). This Blackest Purse is a dreadful song, one that is clever enough that it won't bore, but is dark enough to make you think you've wasted your life. And hey, anytime a song can make us ponder our existence, it's doing something right.
16. Phoenix - 1901
This song was probably used in about 15 percent of all electronic media this year. Commercials, film trailers, TV shows, whatever. It was everywhere. But I never did mind it, because it's a great song. I hope Phoenix are now rich as a result of selling it out so much, that way they'll be able to produce many more like it! But seriously, excellent song.
17. Animal Collective - My Girls
There it is! The track that solidified Animal Collective's status as an artistic and cultural icon. They became indie rock, pitchfork media, and CMJ in one moment. It's as if all of this ridiculously indiesploited decade was leading up to this song. Personally, I think it was worth it.
18. Grizzly Bear - Two Weeks
Two Weeks isn't painfully impressive or engaging, but it's not boring or forgettable either. That's what I love about it. It's a balanced song. Never forcing itself into your head, but never unwelcome there either.
19. Noah and the Whale - Blue Skies
I love cinematic music. When I hear it, I feel like I'm in a movie. And, honestly, who doesn't have fun imagining they're in a Truman Show? I guess this song had to be that way though, because Noah and the Whale filmed a movie to go along with the album. I haven't seen the movie, but if it has music like this in it, I'm sure it can't be that bad.
20. Built to Spill - Nowhere Lullaby
Doug Martsch writes the most vulnerable melodies. The things he decides to do with his voice are embarrassing, but who can hate it when he sings with such honesty. Just that he doesn't care if he's stuck in the 90s', what a boss.
21. Wilco - Bull Black Nova
There's some tension and fuzz in Bull Black Nova. It almost takes you back to A Ghost is Born, but not quite. Either way, it's another example of Wilco being incredibly simple on the surface while covering their talented tracks under old snow.
22. Franz Ferdinand - No You Girls
Maybe my love for this song has something to do with my nostalgia for Take Me Out. It has that same pop-dance-rock feeling of the old Franz Ferdinand. But none of it seems worn out to me. I think it's fun. Seriously though guys, what's not to like about this music?
23. Here We Go Magic - Tunnelvision
Sometimes you just have to gradually build your sounds on top of each other until you've reached a crescendo of noise. I don't know why this must be, but it's just how it goes every now and then. Here We Go Magic isn't really doing anything new, they're just another Brooklyn hipster band playing with reverb and fuzz. But they're doing it right.
24. Wooden Birds - False Alarm
I always want to call this an Elliott Smith song when it comes on. And, if you don't realize, that's a very good thing.
25. Voxtrot - Berlin Without Return
Well, this song is pretty good, but the main reason it's here is because my wife and I actually saw Voxtrot play in Berlin when we were there for our honeymoon. Returning to America is something I wouldn't have done if we could go back in time. So this is a song about Berlin, and how it impacted me and Voxtrot in the same way at the same time. We're still going to move there...