50. Glasvegas – It’s My Own Cheating Heart that Makes Me Cry
I only recently discovered that I’m a sucker for heartbroken Scottish guys singing about heartbreak. It’s a formula that works for me and it works particularly well in this track where slowed down Phil Specter tambourine driven verses are complemented by a soaring chorus of full on power pop riffs. There’s not a ton here to separate Glasvegas from their fellow Scots in Frightened Rabbit and We Were Promised Jetpacks but that doesn’t make this song any less great.
49. Handsome Furs – All We Want Baby is Everything
Ever slow on the uptake, I feel like I connected with the synth pop revival about a year too late. I am making up for lost time however and this track is one of those responsible for igniting my interest. If someone had told me that this was a new Depeche Mode song aimed at reviving their pop sensibilities I would have probably believed them and been very pleased that Depeche Mode had stopped sucking. Instead I get the knowledge that the Handsome Furs are really fucking good.
48. Fall Out Boy – America’s Suitehearts
I don’t care what you or anyone else says, NO ONE writes consistently better, simple, punk songs than Pete Wentz and it isn’t even close. Contrast this surprisingly underappreciated album to Green Day’s newest masturbatory arena rock opus and its excellence becomes even more apparent. I’m not calling this a guilty pleasure or making apologies for it, I’m on record as REALLY liking Fall Out Boy particularly this clever, possibly derisive, and surprisingly deep “tribute” to America’s tabloid fodder
47. Phenomenal Handclap Band – 15 to 20
Even though this song shamelessly rips off Blondie and even though the rest of the album doesn’t even TOUCH these pop heights, Phenomenal Handclap band’s 2009 output is worthy of mad credit. The funky, disco channeling count off is refreshing in its retro reverence.
46. Washed Out – Feel it All Around
The world needs more smooth yacht inspired indie rock for when two hipsters are bumping horned rimmed glasses and trading hits off of hand rolled and obnoxious American Spirits. This is it. Dreamy and awash with distorted synth, Feel it All Around feels like the preface to what will be an awesomely innovative career.
45. Raekwon ft. Ghostface Killah and Method Man – New Wu
“Tell a friend it’s that symbol again, that W, Coming through, bust a shot on your block” Welcome back guys. Thanks to Raekwon’s AWESOME Only Built 4 Cuban Linx pt. 2 we can all pretend like the uneven at best and awful at worst Wu-Tang comeback album last year never happened and that this track is the official welcome back moment for some of the greatest talents in all of hip hop.
44.The Crocodiles – I Wanna Kill
Just enough lo-fi fuzz to keep your interest but not so much that the irresistible pop melodies don’t sparkle through the distortion drenched haze. Like if The Strokes decided to make their comeback album as a Jesus and Mary Chain tribute band. That being said, the chorus does consist entirely of the lines, “I want to kill tonight” so you know that wherever it is these guys are coming from is well beyond left field.
43. Girls – Lust for Life
So how can a band still shock it’s listeners in modern in digitally desensitized modern America? Make three videos for your first single that progress from NSFW to “Holy shit that’s a dong isn’t it?” to Gay Porn. Add to that the fact that there is absolutely nothing about the song.; a spare, single guitar lick and hand claps combine with charmingly nasal vocals to create a classic (but not boring) indie rock experience.
42. Amadou and Miriam ft. K’Naan – Africa
It was really difficult to pick one song off of this great album to highlight. This wins it due to the fresh voice that by joining Mali’s favorite singing blind couple, Somalian rapper K’Naan brings to the table in what he calls, “the original east coast, west coast collaboration” a balance between world music and pop music that feels easier and truer than the other high points of the album
41. We Were Promised Jetpacks – Ships With Holes Will Sink
Like Franz Ferdinand if they stripped off their euro-trash pretense and just dropped a straightforward rock album. Clearly these guys borrow from a lot of other UK acts like the Frames but their rock edge separates them from their brethren to a certain extent and gives this track in particular some real emotional heft.
40. Patterson Hood – Screwtopia
This year, I get to complain about how criminally underrated Patterson Hood is INSTEAD of how criminally underrated his band the Drive-by Truckers are. When Hood does social commentary he doesn’t play the douchey liberal role, nor does he play the, “I’m just like all you normal folks except for my multimillion selling, Iraq War exploiting, country music album” role. He’s just a normal dude (truly a dude in every sense of the word… hell he even looks like The Dude from The Big Lebowski) calling it as he sees it. It’s refreshing and fantastic and dammit more people should be paying attention.
39. Port O’Brien – Sour Milk/Saltwater
This Alaska/California folk rock act released the album from which Sour Milk/Saltwater comes into an extremely crowded and increasingly homogenous genre and managed to pull of a unique and personal sound that rollicks more than the status quo. You can almost feel the “I lived in fucking Alaska” coming through here.
38. The xx – Vcr
If I made a Best Albums of the year list, The xx’s xx would be damn near the top of the list. In their case though, the unified greatness of the full length is based more on the overall arc of the album rather than on a collection of singular standout tracks. This song comes the closest though as the guy/girl vocal trade off aesthetic functions like a droney Kenny Rogers and Sheena Easton on “We’ve got Tonight.”
37. Cymbals Eat Guitars – Some Trees
I’ve maybe mentioned before how much I wish I had had a chance to experience the birth of indie rock first hand in its infancy rather than my current mode of going back and collecting the individual pieces like some sort of musical archaeologist. When I listen to Guided by Voices and Pavement I’m left to essentially say, “Fuck, I didn’t realize that all the bands I love were at least in part ripping these guys off.” Thankfully, I was informed enough that when I heard this fantastic 2 and ½ minute explosion from Cymbals Eat Guitars I knew exactly who they had ripped off and didn’t care in the slightest.
36. White Rabbits – Percussion Gun
Polished and fun, there is nothing at all cerebral about this song and that might be what makes it so good. Much has already been made about the connections to Britt Daniel and Spoon both in terms of their production relationship and in the fact that these guys sound A LOT like Spoon. No matter, there is enough room in that stripped down Austin sound for the both of ‘em.
35. Art Brut – Demons Out!
Speaking of not cerebral… is it possible that Art Brut are the most lovable act in music right now? You know all those insecurities you have? Art Brut’s Eddie Argos has those too and he’s going to sing about them… in detail. In this song though he chooses his OTHER favorite subject (and my favorite subject) and that is the fact that he knows that his pop cultural tastes are MUCH superior to everyone else’s. This might be the band that I would like to hang out with more than any other.
34. Japandroids – Rockers East Vancouver
Fuzzed out punk rock that that hangs on to its sense of melody just tenuously enough to keep you engaged. Similar to one of my favorite 2008 debut acts Titus Andronicus in their raw power only a little bit cleaner and a little less pretentious.
33. Wavves – No Hope Kids
This album takes WORK, like a lot. It was only upon maybe the 10th or 11th listen that I wasn’t driven bat shit crazy by the lo-fi production and reverb vocals that inform the entire album. It’s the harmony of this song though that unlocked the album and finally allowed it to make sense. Just pay attention and the complexity and poppiness shine through like a beacon rewarding your patience.
32. The Drive by Truckers – Uncle Frank
Originally released on their album Pizza Deliverance, this re-recorded and cleaner track made the B-Side (!) compilation The Fine Print. One of two great songs about dams (really) on the album, this one rises slightly ahead of Jason Isbell’s TVA on the strength of Mike Coley’s class warrior lyrics about doctors and lawyers teaching their kids to water-ski. And while we’re at it, let me just state AGAIN for the record that the amount of great output that these guys generate is absolutely unreal… they’re the best rock band in America.
31. Bowerbirds – Northern Lights
It’s so easy to write great songs about the south and how if you haven’t lived here it’s impossible to understand the subtle things that make it charming and great (note: not referring to racism and republican politics, really just referring to southern girls). This song approaches from the opposite angle as the vocals attest that, “I don’t expect a southern girl to know the northern lights.” This song sounds like a sober Ryan Adams before he became self- important.
30.Yonlu – I Know What it’s Like
For those of you who don’t know his story, it’s worth a read ( just look at the bio on the right side, bottom of the page)…. Okay so now that you’re weeping, listen to the song. I find that - similar to the music of Elliott Smith - Yonlu’s music is almost too heartbreaking and personal to enjoy sometimes. The one difference though is that while you really have to dig to find Smith’s silver lining, Yonlu’s is always evident and I’m not sure if that makes this light, samba inflected standout easier to handle or harder.
29. The Love Language – Manteo
Not gonna lie, I kind of geek out every time a song references a city that I’ve visited and feel some personal connection to. When Old Crow Medicine Show says Roanoke and Johnson City I forget that I’ve heard Wagon Wheel roughly 8 million times. In this song North Carolina’s, The Love Language provide a bit of a kiss off to the primary vacation spot of my youth with lyrics perfectly suited to their richly orchestrated freak-folk inspired pop.
28. Lucero – Goodbye Again
It’s not always good to give established indie rock acts a big major label budget. Often times this leads them to fuck up what works. Not the case for Lucero here as adding a horn section seems like it let them make the album that they were progressing to for years. No album sounded more like the home city of its band than this one. It is straight up Memphis and that’s great.
27. David Sitek – With a Girl Like You
One of the triumvirate of geniuses in TV on the Radio, David Sitek seems to have his hands all over universally great output. From the track “TV in the Radio” off of Wale’s newest (barely missed this list) to this Staxx R&B meets Joy Division love song, I am finding myself consistently falling for every single thing he does.
26. Metic – Gimme Sympathy
With a chorus that a music geek can easily fall in love with, vocalist Emily Haines asks, “Who’d you rather be? The Beatles or the Rolling Stones?” The synth driven, straight forward rock is a real marriage of standard music influences coming together in a modern and fresh way.
25. The Big Pink – Dominos
Of any song on the list this year, this one most deserves to be played the loudest. Totally stylistically innovative in a way that rejects hipster orthodoxy and focuses upon creating a sound that fills a void in the world of decent music. At times throughout the song (and album) you can hear Trent Reznor inspired industrial, 80s synthesizer, and most often soaring Brit Rock choruses that are evocative of Oasis or Blur.