My Top 100 Songs of 2009 – 80-71

Today I continue my ten-part series showcasing my personal picks for the best songs of last year.

80. Nickel Eye – Brandy of the Damned

Seems like all last year, the Strokes were running around doing all kinds of different things unrelated to their core band.  Julian and Albert pursued solo projects, while Fabrizio started Little Joy.  The only one that sat around and counted money was Nick Valensi.  Bassist Nikolai Fraiture started the Nickel Eye project, churning out a debut album in January of 2009.  While I was mostly underwhelmed with the majority of the disc, “Brandy of the Damned” is the ultra-repetitive, ultra-catchy standout.

79.  Green Day – Christian’s Inferno

21st Century Breakdown is all over the place.  The 70-minute, three-part “concept” album is littered with ballads, anthem rock, and good ol’ fashioned 90’s punk.  “Christian’s Inferno,” the angriest song on the album, falls in the last category.  While the band certainly tries new sounds and expands their scope, there’s nothing like returning to some retro Green Day and rocking out with the crowd, Nimrod-era style.

78.  Peter Bjorn and John – Nothing to Worry About

This track, for those of you who didn’t notice, is a complete repeat of “Amsterdam,” a previous hit for this band.  It merely adds a hip-hop beat and mockingly chants (in the same cadence as the old track) to “do this thing, this type of thing.”  Are PB&J mocking their listeners?  Possibly.  But it works.  Because you can dance to it.  And I shimmied the first time, so why not enjoy the remix?  The formula ultimately will wear thin, but for now, these guys sincerely have nothing to worry about.

77. Diamond Center – The Deer Pistol

Handclaps, crescendo moans, and Brandi Price’s haunting voice provide the backbone for the finest track from My Only Companion, the 2009 effort from this Richmond-by-way-of-Lubbock group.  The psycho-billy folk is prominent throughout, but “The Deer Pistol” shows the group’s ability to slide in and out of the “trip” to create something just as far out, slightly Southern, and, in this case, fucking infectious.

76. Flaming Lips – Watching the Planets

Once a decade, Wayne Coyne and the boys reinvent themselves.  They were super-weird in the 80’s, spectacularly indie in the 90’s, and cinematic pop in the 00’s.  So what now?  Well, they’re really weird again, but with years of experience behind them.  So I guess you could say Embryonic is a very structured, less random, and overall enjoyable, yet incredibly strange listen.  The finest track from the disc is the final one, and if you saw them perform it on the now-defunct “Tonight Show With Conan O’Brien,” you will agree.  Bringing their insanity to network TV via lyrics written on hands, unconventional wardrobe, and that damn gong, the Lips have started a new, awesome chapter in their already seminal career.

75. Art Brut – DC Comics and Chocolate Milkshake

Eddie Argos has kept this hilarious little project relevant and, believe it or not, still quirky and funny after three albums, and good for him.  Argos’ talent for writing songs about people I know and experiences I’ve had, describing them to the simplest and most humorous terms, gives me a reason to laugh at life.  And that is why “DC Comics and Chocolate Milkshake” is dedicated to some people I met in college (who will remain nameless, but for those of you in my inner circle, it will be obvious).  “I love the taste of cereal/I have it for almost every meal.”  “DC Comics and Chocolate Milkshake/Even though I’m 28……I’ll never get over that amazing taste!”

74. Passion Pit – The Reeling

Amazing how one guy makes an EP of love songs for his girlfriend and it gets so much press he is able to start one of the biggest indie-dance bands out there right now.  There is certainly a difference between the Chunk of Change EP of 2008 and the Manners LP of 2009, though.  For one thing, the slow bits have been abandoned for sing-along “ya-ya” choruses and dance-along electro beats.  A wise decision, Mr. Angelakos.  Their transformation on stage was a sight to behold, as well.  When I first saw them at SXSW 2009, they were a drunken, bearded, tired, inexperienced mess that needed a lot of work.  By the time Monolith came around in the fall, they were a pumped-up, energetic, bass-heavy Music Factory, in the C&C vein.  “The Reeling” is a prime example of the new Passion Pit that dominates Manners, one of the best albums of 2009.

73. Animal Collective – Brother Sport

This band finally hit their stride with Merriwhether Post Pavilion, losing the unconventions and focusing on a platform easier to sit through.  Even on the long tracks, like “Brother Sport,” the song is an event all on its own, starting with a bang and building over six minutes to an irresistible war of beats, chimes, loops, and vocal harmony.  It feels like two minutes.  It is prime AC; let’s hope they keep it up.

72. St. Vincent – Marrow

“Marrow” is the loudest, most aggressive, and best track from Actor, hands down. The verses are soft and dreamy, typical Annie Clark.  But the chorus throws you for a loop, blasting a spy-movie guitar lick, a bass-heavy drum beat, and a simple spelling of the word “help.”  By the time Clark is wailing a guitar solo near the end, the listener has been exposed to some rock’n’roll demon she’s been hiding.  It’s the best example of the transformation from Marry Me to Actor – the pop is there, but it’s a little more dangerous.  And I like that….a lot.

71. Major Lazer – Pon De Floor

So daggering didn’t take off like we hoped it would.  Even on most dance floors, it’s considered sexual assault (but apparently not at Major Lazer shows, even ones at Manhattan Best Buys).  It’s probably for the best; I’m just glad the guys picked such a bad-ass track to promote it with.  The hook is either a machine, an altered vocal, or both, but at the end of the day, it’s irrelevant; this semi-instrumental track is a banger from start to finish, and it’s a great introduction to the most fun-loving, blatantly sexual, and fucking crazy group since 2 Live Crew.

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