Throughout the month of December we’ll be posting lists of the best music of the year as determined by the volunteers that make CHIRP what it is. Today’s is from CHIRP DJ, Dan Morgridge and compiles his favorite songs of the year.
Animal Collective “Brother Sport” – Merriweather Post Pavillion (Domino)Amazon / Insound / iTunes
Animal Collective won 2009 like Usain Bolt – so early they could perform a victory lap before the race was even over. And while “My Girls” or “Summertime Clothes” are on the tips of many new fans, I found my single almost immediately – while a finale gets to shoot off all the fireworks, it’s not usually single material. To the bands credit and to everyone else’s boon, they’ve bucked the trend for this exceptional exception. Running along the repetitive, abrasive, and awesome fringes of Animal Collective’s old forest of freak-folk weirdness, Brother Sport gets tribal, huge, and then blooms with one cry into a poppy twin of its’ former self, like the band sent you a birthday cake and jumped right out of it.There’s nothing else like in the album or this year.
Japandroids “Young Hearts Spark Fire” – Post-Nothing (Polyvinyl)Amazon / Insound / iTunes
I was shocked when I saw a five-minute running time for this song, which I’d previously brain-labeled as a sparse punk burner. And while the song could have potentially ended about two minutes in (the lyrics are basically just played twice in a row), the song gives itself a big bridge to ramp itself up with again, and takes off. This could have all been repetitive and grating, but the feedback fuzz, earnest yelps, and heart-on-sleeve lyrics (“Well you can keep tomorrow after tonight we’re not gonna need it…/Background, we’re too drunk to feel it”) catches your ear, plants itself, and waits for your next moment of triumph to blast back to memory as your victory soundtrack.
Micachu and the Shapes “Golden Phone” – Jewellery (Rough Trade)Amazon / Insound / iTunes
While a list boils down to a lot of factors, moods, styles, and other influences, I feel safe saying that Golden Phone is the song I most want to tell someone about at a party, shove headphones in their ears, and then stand there with a stupid grin while I watch them (hopefully) love it. A big hit at CMJ, young brit Mica Levi is a 21 year old who pours out awkwardness in all of her photos. To all of our benefit, her and her band are endlessly more confident in the strange musical world they’ve built – the crowded, cacophonous, and frantic nature of “Golden Phone” does nothing to interrupt it’s pure charm.
Phoenix “1901” – Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix (Glassnote)Amazon / Insound / iTunes
Phoenix has been putting out bedrock-solid pop for years now, and if you always thought they’d be there for a few good spins, you’d be right. But few expected the Parisian duo to come out with an effort like Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix – if they’d been your shy sidekick before, on this album – and 1901 in particular – they took off their glasses, did their hair, and asked you to prom. While the trajectory of the band has probably gotten more experimental than poppier (the inverse of say, Animal Collective’s recent acceptance into the indie-rock elite), it’s only been a small dapple. But it was enough to push a perennial pleaser into a true head-turner.
Big Boi “Shine Blockas” – Sir Luscious Left Foot… Son of Chico DustyiTunes
(Note: Sir Luscious Left Foot was supposed to be released this year. It was not. This song has been leaked. So it goes.) The comparisions and contrasts of Andre 3000 vs. Big Boi were inevitable when they made Speakerboxxx/The Love Below – it was basically asking a nation of music nerds to pick their favorite parent. And while the duo claims that Mommy and Daddy still love each other, Big Boi still has to take care of some personal business with a different persona. Borrowing the mournful wails of “I Miss You” from Harold and the Blue Notes (which Jay-Z has already done on “This Can’t Be Life”, if you’re the type to beef on those things), Big Boi nevertheless puts his stamp on it – a xylophone hovers above the fray, string swells fire off everywhere, Melvin is chopped and scratched into anything and Gucci Mane growls out a verse that should turn heads. Until Andre wakes up and makes something new, Big Boi just took the lead.
Girls “Lust For Life” – Girls (True Panther Sounds)Amazon / Insound / iTunes
“oh i wish i had a sun tan/i wish i had a pizza and a bottle of wine” is not the heaviest lyric to ever come out of 2009, but the voice singing it can make you argue pretty hard for it. By now the bizarre cult-escaping millionaire benefactor childhood of singer Christopher Owens is fairly well-known, but even without the backstory, the song works: the notable lack of polish, the beyond-simple lyrics, and heartfelt ache sting true for any listener.
Jona Vark “Gypsy and the Cat”
The unsigned duo of Xavier Bacash and Lionel Towers may not have a label, an album, or even a website outside of their Myspace page – but they have a hell of a song. The most epic Saturday-morning cartoon theme to have been released this year, the song lets the guitar go rhythm and the Casio lead the way – right into an epic, near-falsetto harmonic wail for the chorus. Elements that could be taken as cheesy are forgiven for the soft-focus vocals and epic buildups – keep an eye on this band.
Beirut “The Concubine” – March of the Zapotec (Pompeii)Amazon / Insound / iTunes
A harmonium, a toy piano, the world-weariest twenty-something voice in the world – if you were playing Taboo:Hipster Edition, you could probably guess Beirut pretty quickly. But while Zach Condon and friends don’t re-invent their wheel on this track, they certainly find magic inside – the infantismally simple harmonium line, the plucky toy piano taking lead, Condon all but building a candlelit pub around you with his voice. Apparently based on the tale of Hadrian and Antinous, Beirut finds stark beauty amongst tragedy yet again.
Thao with the Get Down Stay Down “Know Better Learn Faster” – Know Better Learn Faster (Kill Rock Stars)Amazon / Insound
There are times when you need to describe a song in detail to really sell it to people, and there are times that you tell someone this is what you’ve sung during your past month’s showers, hummed at the last three bus stops, and whistled on the last walk home. This is one of those times.
Major Lazer “Hold The Line” – Guns Don’t Kill People, Lazers Do (Downtown)Amazon / Insound / iTunes
Diplo has done a fine job cementing himself as a musical Don – Mad Decent flourishes, he’s kingmaking new artists left and right, and dropping remixes like candy at a parade. But it’s good to hear the man sit down and make some actual self-inspired work – while many DJs do their best work as a response, Diplo is unfairly forgotten for the work he did on 2004’s Florida. Since collaborating with fidget house innovator Switch, Diplo has been playing the Mark Frost to his David Lynchian oddities, and their aural Twin Peaks is a bizzare and amazing sonic ride.
Moth – Four Tet and Burial
Dominos – The Big Pink
Don’t Haunt This Place – Rural Alberta Advantage
I Want You To Know – Dinosaur Jr.
Generator ^ Second Floor – Freelance Whales