I'm really good at making mixtapes. Call them Mix CDs or Playlists as they, technically, are now but whatever the case may be, I still like to call them mixtapes. I'm known as the person who makes them for my friends. I obsess over the perfect track list and more importantly, the perfect sequence of the songs. So it should come as no surprise that it would take me weeks to come up with my Best of 2009 picks. Finally, here is my Top 10 Songs of 2009, or as I'm calling it:
"The 10 Ingredients to DJ Brian L.'s 2009 Mixtape"
10. "Actor Out Of Work" St. Vincent
Annie Clark might sound coy and playful, but this song is anything but that. She throws clever lyrical jabs at an unwanted lover ("you're an extra, lost in the scene.") Essentially a kiss-off covered in sweetness all wrapped by a guitar that sounds like it's being choked by barbed wire.
9. "Oh My God" Ida Maria
Everything I read about Ida Maria didn't really make me want to rush out and hop on a hype-filled bandwagon. Then I saw her perform live and was completely won over. Her voice is rough-- mixing some Bjork-like yelping and Joan Jett's smokey rasp. "Oh My God" is the perfect introduction to Ida Maria's addictive punk rock howl.
8. "Die Slow" Health
It's no big secret that Nine Inch Nails is my favorite band. So much so, that one of the major reasons I initially joined Twitter was to follow Trent Reznor. That said, Trent made mention of this song on one of his Tweets, and I'll be honest, I checked it out based solely on that recommendation. It turns out that this song is all sorts of awesome. LA's Health is a noise-rock band with plenty of emphasis on noise. But on "Die Slow," they actually tone the noise down and come up for air long enough to deliver a fist-pumping anthem. Noise rock that actually does ROCK!
7. "Daniel" Bat For Lashes
I was pretty indifferent about Bat For Lashes. That is, up until I heard "Daniel" for the first time. It was only then that I began to get what made Natasha Khan so appealing. This is one of those songs where everything about it is just right- the airy, almost New Wave synths, Khan's breathy, other-worldly voice...it all comes together so perfectly it just demands repeated listens.
6. "All We Want, Baby, Is Everything" Handsome Furs
As co-frontman of Wolf Parade, Daniel Boeckner is the more straightforward songwriter...the prefect foil to Spencer Krug's eccentricities. But left to his own devices, Boeckner is able to let his anthemic side blossom into something more. With Handsome Furs, he teams with his wife, Alexei Perry, for some fiery, stripped-down electro pop. "All We Want, Baby, Is Everything" is their doe-eyed love song with a huge, soaring chorus that calls for instant sing-alongs.
5. "Treat Me Like Your Mother" The Dead Weather
With a lineup that boasts Jack White on drums, Alison Mosshart of the Kills on vocals, and White's fellow Raconteurs, Dean Fertita and Jack Lawrence, it's almost expected that they'd deliver the goods. "Treat Me Like Your Mother" is everything you'd expect from them and then some. A dirty, straight-up scorcher that rocks harder than just about anything that's come before it or anything that will come after it, for that matter.
4. "Last Dance" The Raveonettes
The Raveonettes were always a band that seemed on the verge of making a major breakthrough. They were almost there with last year's killer noise-pop single, "Aly, Walk With Me." But "Last Dance" manages to top "Aly..." by ditching the noise and concentrating on pop. And the move works wonders. Even with its dark lyrics about addiction and overdose, "Last Dance" still manages to sparkle. It's a wonder what a catchy chorus can do for a song.
3. "Young Hearts Spark Fire" Japandroids
Often times, the first song I hear from a band ends up being my favorite. Such is the case with the Smiths ("Girlfriend In A Coma") and the Pixies ("Here Comes Your Man.") We can now add Japandroids to that impressive list. Two guys from Vancouver playing high-energy, fuzzed-out garage punk. "Young Hearts Spark Fire" is a masterpiece with flaws- sure the singing isn't the best, sure it's a little messy, but the energy is undeniable. It's just one of those songs that longs for the lost days of our youth captured to perfection with a chorus you can't help but shout along to and arguably my favorite lyric of the year: "Well, you can keep tomorrow, after tonight, we're not gonna need it."
2. "Dominos" The Big Pink
Admittedly, the first song I heard from The Big Pink was "Velvet," which might actually be my favorite song of theirs. But the first time I ever heard "Dominos" it was obvious that this was the single the band wanted to push. Many have attempted to balance the worlds of electronic and rock music but few have done it as well as The Big Pink. A slick electro beat, loads of guitar noise, and a chorus so huge that it's easy to ignore that it's only five words long.
1. "Zero" Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Probably the biggest surprise of the year was the re-emergence of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. The NY trio practically recast themselves as glitzy electro rockers. And the transformation didn't dull the band's edginess. "Zero" is instantly addictive with its sleek synths and Karen O's signature sneer. But it's when Nick Zinner's razor-sharp guitars finally kick in sounding as if it was lifted straight out of Nine Inch Nails' playbook that the YYYs show that they're more than just fashionable trainwrecks. Get your leather on, indeed.
Alright, so there have it. Two Best of 2009 lists down and the "Big One" to go. I'll likely have my Top Albums of '09 up on the blog by Wednesday at the latest. Here's a little spoiler: Passion Pit may actually end up on the list...no, I'm just kidding. There's a better chance that I'd grow wings than there is of Passion Pit making it on any of my Best Of lists.