20 Best Songs from 2009

December 21, 2009

One quick note to remind you that for my singles lists I always disqualify any song from an album that makes my best album lists — this gives me the chance to highlight a larger amount of music and keeps things from being bogged down with the same representation of artists.

20) His Master’s Voice – Monsters of Folk
This album closer from the side-project super-group is repeat-button worthy. Lyrics of “Mohammed rolling dice with Christ” roll into a melody quite ethereal that conjures the great explorations of pop musicians fumbling with God of the past. The rest of the album’s good, but the best follow up to this amazing song is the “Tribute” EP that Jim James (of this group and My Morning Jacket) released this year– it covers George Harrison songs stripped down and acoustic and it’s a must-own (just be prepared to look under “Yim Yames” to find it).

19) Queen of the Supermarket – Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band
Okay, I’ll admit that when I first heard this song I thought it was maybe the weakest track on “Working on a Dream.” It felt off and close to cheesy. But the more I heard it and the more I listened through it all the way through to the closing notes and the check-out scanning sound effects, the more I loved it. It’s the attention to detail and the authenticity it contains, it’s like a heartfelt short story of love and longing based in vivid reality that should be mundane if it weren’t presented with such passion. There are great moments all over the album and it’s sad not to put my favorite artists work on my top 10 album list, but the competition was just too fierce this year and for me this album as a whole had a couple of weak links on it in which it didn’t measure up to its past few predecessors; had every moment on the album evoked this much emotion and adult-pop sensibility, I’d have been forced to throw it at the top.

18) Best I Ever Had – Drake
Drake, an alum of the best teenage melodrama soap of all time (Degrassi) caught the attention of Lil Wayne and Young Money with his rapping skills, got signed, blew up all over the internet and released the entertaining EP “So Far Gone” this year. He’s not the next Pac, Kanye or Q-tip; he lacks the street cred for “Gangsta rep” and the political consciousness of Protest Rap, the quirkiness of backpack rap, etc. al. Yet he does have clear skill, and this pop rap track about a romantic liaison was one of the best summer songs this year. Find your niche and take it for all it’s worth, Drake.

17)  Neighbor’s Know My Name – Trey Songz
Trey has promise but clutters his album with the occasional guest spot of a terrible rapper (Gucci Mane, who deserves to be in prison by the way) or an asinine chorus (pick a track at random off the final quarter of the album). But when he’s on, he’s on, as this catchy, fun, ridiculous, silly and dirty pop single proves. Does he sing these things with a straight-face? Does he read the lyrics of early R Kelly albums as if they were scripture? The verdict is still out.

16) Shining Down – Lupe Fiasco

Lupe released this single back in the late summer to tease the upcoming “Lazers” album that has yet to emerge (it’s now currently due in January). It’s not on par with his 2 full length albums he’s had thus far, but it features a great hook by Matthew Santos and enough Lupe wit to keep us ready to hear another proper full-length release from the best and most politically conscious young MC out right now. He followed the momentum by crafting a 25 minute show-off set of rhymes on the Thanksgiving-day released mixtape “Enemy of the State: A Love Story.” Now get the album out, Lupe!

15) Lungs – Steve Earle

Earle’s new “Townes” record (which is a collection of cover songs by Steve of his idol and deceased friend Townes Van Zandt) was on my list at one point–ironically it was upstaged by Earle’s son (who in another ironic note is named after Townes Van Zandt). This is the best moment on that record, a short quick blast of a song that stands out in large part by the layer of distortion, murk and fury courtesy of Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine.

14) I And Love And You- The Avett Brothers

The Avett brothers, for whatever reason, tend to invite freakish levels of devotion and adoration in most of their fans. Their music is good– a palatable and inviting blend of modern alt-country and folk– and this song brings out all of their best qualities at once.

13) Know Your Enemy – Green Day

A punky, repititive, fist-in-the-air track that rocks like the Clash and the Ramones off of Green Day’s latest rock opera outing, “21st Century Breakdown.” Go ahead, “Give me revolution!”

12) Two Weeks – Grizzly Bear

“Vecktameist” was a fine album this year, but there were a few somehwhat snooze-worthy sections on it. This song is the major highlight (followed closely by “Southern Point”) a harmony-layered romp through what sounds like late 60s era Laurel Canyon.  A gorgeous song that is a little bit better each time you hear it but one that also feels familiar on the first spin.

11) Rebels – Drive by Truckers

Taken from the odds’n’sods rarities collection DBT released this year, this cover of an old Tom Petty song rocks stronger than I can possibly describe here. These lyrics were made to be sung by Patterson Hood– now that I’ve heard their version I’m thinking it had to have been their song all along.

10) Meet Me on the Equinox – Death Cab for Cutie

Death Cab didn’t release a full album this year but remained consistently present; they released a nice 5 song EP, “The Open Window” as well as this terrific single which ended up on the “Twilight-New Moon” soundtrack (which was inexplicably loaded with new music by indie bands). So the best thing to emerge fromt that clustermug mess of vampire-lite was a decent soundtrack, and this is the best moment from that. It ranks with Death Cab’s finest singles containing lyrics a bit more gothic than usual and a melody that taps in with it perfectly, crooned by Gibbard who sounds in fine form.

9) Got Nuffin – Spoon

Spoon key up a bouncy bass guitar beat and make an indie hipster dance out of lyrics about having “nuffin” to lose but “darkness and shadows.” Dance hipsters,dance!

8 ) California – Wild Light

This poppy sing-along song will run circles around your memory, getting you to sing along with a profanity laden chant deriding the entire state of California before you realize what you’re saying. It’s like the Beach Boys cussing uncles formed a band.

7) Blood Bank – Bon Iver

Iver’s most emotionally connectional song to date is a haunting ballad about a couple seemingly falling for each other in line to give blood. This is folk music for the 21st century and it sticks with you as soon as you hear it.

6) DOA – Jay Z

Jay dropped “The Blueprint 3” which played like a string of great singles, at least in its first half. The best of those (although a close second, so close it almost brushes up against it is “Run This Town”) is this one, an almost tossed off  braggadocio mic control fest by Jay showing off and urging the death of mediocrity and banal repetitiveness that is evident in the myriad of auto-tune hip-pop singles cluttering the airwaves of the 2000s. The horns hit here, accenting the raps perfectly.

5) Sugarfoot – Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears

This group flew out of Nashville to start making the closest thing to funk and rhythym perfection since James Brown passed on. “Sugarfoot” is the funnest, loudest and most exuberant track off the excellent as a whole “Tell ‘Em What Your Name Is” album. This song was given away promotionally from a lot of magazines and web music download services this year, so if you missed it then just  buy it now because it’s freaking awesome.

4) Unity – Trevor Hall

I cringed when I found out that Trevor Hall was a white guy in a Buddhist monastery in southern california, especially when I saw photos of him and he looked like a hippy version of Kurt Cobain. I did so because listening to this song, he sounds Jamaican. Something about aping reggae culture right down to vocal inflections that aren’t naturally yours doesn’t quite set right with me. That being said, this songs is near perfect. It’s such a well of spirtual power, a call to sacred religous universalism sung and played in such a stirring, powerful way. The rest of the album might not be worth much, but this song justifies Trevor’s attempt at sacred art.

3) The Fixer – Pearl Jam

Eddie Vedder roars like always but the band tigtens up and plays loud, fast and furious, moreso than ever before, getting right to the point. The lyrics are the most upbeat and poisitive of perhaps any Pearl Jam single ever, all about “fighting to get it back again, ” cleaning up the dirty, finding the lost, making things fixed and new. A timely song if ever there was one for anyone feeling like it’s well past time to do something relevant and meaningful in the world.

2) French Navy – Camera Obscura
God this song is pretty. It sounds like a Phil Spector produced ’60s girl pop record that would have been a smash back then but it sounds fresh and timeless today as well. The strings are so poppy, the vocals delicious. Play it on repeat and I guarantee you’ll be in a good mood.


1) My Girls – Animal Collective
A big, joyous dance song. “I don’t mean to seem like I care about material things,” they sing. “I just want four walls and adobe slabs for my girls!” It’s a trippy, freak folk dance song about a man providing for his family that just happens to be the catchiest song of the year.

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5 Responses to “20 Best Songs from 2009”

  1. Love All Around said

    love this list!

    #14 rocks!!
    And $4 is the best! (he’s in a hindu temple, btw)
    #7 would be my number one!

  2. Jason said

    lupe in the 20 best of the year, rofl.

    • dmhamby2 said

      Since the internet acronym’s are a bit pretentiously geeky, I had to google rofl. Rolling on the floor laughing? Really? You’re laughing that the most talented, critically acclaimed and worthwhile rapper remotely close to mainstream made a best-of list? Go listen to Flo-Rida then. Besides, it’s a bit late to criticize a 2009 round-up list in March.

  3. #13 rulz said

    NUMBER 13 SHOUD BE AT #1

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