You thought the endless lists and general short-term nostalgia was over? Oh, how silly you all are.
Here's an exhaustive* list of the top 99 singles of 2009 according to the only website that counts, aka Musick:
- Amerie 'Heard 'Em All'
- Animal Collective 'My Girls'
- Annie 'My Love Is Better'
- Antony & The Johnsons 'Crazy In Love'
- Au Revoir Simone 'Another Likely Story (Aeroplane Remix)'
- Bat For Lashes 'Daniel'
- Beach House 'Norway'
- Best Coast 'When I'm With You'
- Beth Jeans Houghton 'I Will Return I Promise'
- Beyoncé 'Sweet Dreams'
- Beyoncé 'Halo'
- The Big Pink 'Velvet'
- Blue Roses 'Does Anyone Love Me Now?'
- Brigadier Ambrose 'Helium'
- Casiokids 'Finn Bikkjen'
- Charlotte Gainsbourg 'IRM'
- Chew Lips 'Salt Air'
- Cold Cave 'Love Comes Close'
- Crookers feat. Kelis 'No Security'
- Dirty Projectors 'Stillness Is The Move'
- Discovery 'Carby'
- Dizzee Rascal 'Holiday'
- Drake 'Best I Ever Had'
- The Drums 'Let's Go Surfing'
- Ellie Goulding 'Under The Sheets'
- Erik Hassle 'Hurtful'
- Fever Ray 'Seven'
- Florence & The Machine 'Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)'
- Frankmusik 'Gotta Boyfriend'
- Friendly Fires 'Kiss Of Life'
- Fuck Buttons 'Surf Solar'
- Girls 'Lust For Life'
- Golden Silvers 'True No9 Blues (True Romance)'
- Good Shoes 'The Way My Heartbeats'
- Gossip 'Heavy Cross'
- Grizzly Bear 'Two Weeks'
- Health 'Die Slow'
- Holly Miranda 'Forest Green Oh Forest Green'
- The Horrors 'Who Can Say'
- HURTS 'Wonderful Life'
- The Invisible 'London Girl'
- Jack Penate 'Pull My Heart Away'
- Jamie T 'Sticks 'N' Stones'
- Jay-Z feat. Kanye West and Rihanna 'Run This Town'
- Jazmine Sullivan 'Bust Your Windows'
- Jordin Sparks 'Battlefield'
- Julian Casablancas '11th Dimension'
- Karen O & The Kids 'All Is Love'
- Kid Cudi, MGMT & Ratatat 'Pursuit of Happiness (Nightmare)'
- Kings of Convenience 'Boat Behind'
- La Roux 'In For The Kill'
- Lady GaGa 'Bad Romance'
- Lady GaGa 'Paparazzi'
- Laura Marling 'Goodbye England (Covered In Snow)'
- Le Corps Mince de Francoise 'Something Golden'
- Liars 'Scissors'
- Lily Allen 'The Fear'
- Little Boots 'Remedy'
- The Maccabees 'Love You Better'
- Major Lazer feat. Mr Lex & Santigold 'Hold The Line'
- Manna 'Some Girls/Some Boys'
- Marina & The Diamonds 'Mowgli's Road'
- Maxwell 'Pretty Wings'
- Mayer Hawthorne 'Just Ain't Gonna Work Out'
- Micachu 'Golden Phone'
- Mini Viva 'I Wish'
- Mos Def 'Life In Marvellous Times'
- Mpho 'Box 'N' Locks'
- Mumford & Sons 'Little Lion Man'
- The Pains of Being Pure At Heart 'Higher Than The Stars'
- Passion Pit 'The Reeling'
- Penguin Prison 'Animal Animal'
- The Phenomenal Handclap Band '15-20'
- Phoenix '1901'
- Pop Levi 'Police $ign'
- Raphael Saadiq 'Sure Hope You Mean It'
- Rihanna 'Russian Roulette'
- Roisin Murphy 'Orally Fixated'
- Rose Elinor Dougall 'Start/Stop/Synchro'
- Royksopp feat. Robyn 'The Girl And The Robot'
- The Saturdays 'Ego'
- Shakira 'She Wolf'
- Slow Club 'It Doesn't Have To Be Beautiful'
- Solange 'Stillness Is The Move'
- Sonic Youth 'What We Know'
- Taken By Trees 'My Girls' / 'Sweet Child O' Mine'
- Thom Yorke 'Hearing Damage'
- VV Brown 'Shark In The Water'
- The Veronicas '4 Ever'
- The Very Best 'Warm Heart of Africa'
- Washed Out 'Feel It All Around'
- Wavves 'So Bored'
- Wild Beasts 'All The King's Men'
- Wildbirds & Peacedrums 'My Heart'
- The xx 'Islands'
- Yeah Yeah Yeahs 'Zero'
- Yeasayer 'Ambling Alp'
* the ones we could remember
You thought the endless lists and general short-term nostalgia was over? Oh, how silly you all are.
The Horrors – Primary Colours
If someone had told us we'd be putting The Horror's second album as our album of the year we would have laughed in their face, simultaneously spraying them with spittle and generally making them look like a laughing stock. And yet, Primary Colours is such a monumental piece of work that even if you think they look like a bunch of malnourished Tim Burton clones, it's impossible to deny the results. Cynics have suggested that the quality is down to Geoff Barrow, he of Portishead fame, who came on board as producer, and though his fingerprints are all over it – the creeping keyboard figure that rises out of 'Sea Within a Sea' was similarly used on last year's Third – the songs are key, and luckily they're more than amazing. From the slow-burning opening of 'Mirror's Image' to the propulsive, Can-esque drive of 'Sea Within a Sea', Primary Colours takes the template of their debut and piles on layers of keyboards, treated guitars and in amongst the noise, Faris Badwan's strangled vocals. 'Who Can Say' managed to overcome the nagging thought that it might have been about Peaches Gelfof by being just about the best thing we heard all year, an exciting mix of Motown-esque drums, dramatic pauses and a keyboard riff from pop heaven. 'New Ice Age' and 'Three Decades' resembled the best songs from their debut only much better, whilst the heady keyboard swirls of 'Scarlet Fields' saw them playing with different textures. So, there you have it. The second album by a band written off as a joke has won the coveted Musick album of 2009 award. Next year, put your bets on Scouting For Girls.
Key track: 'Who Can Say'
Fever Ray – Fever Ray
Musick is a big fan of albums that feel like they exist in their own little world. They get released in the same way as other albums, but listening to them feels almost alien, as if the only way to fully appreciate it is to dress up in white face paint and put on a blonde wig. Maybe that's just with this album. Created by Karin Dreijer Andersson, aka one half of The Knife, Fever Ray is an eerie concoction, mixing creepy, slow-moving melodies with Andersson's often heavily treated vocals. On the one hand everything is made to keep the listener unsettled and at arm's length, but there's also a warm core to the record that centres around the birth of Andersson's child. The mundane – lyrics about dishwasher tablets, tending to a neighbour's plants, etc – is twisted and contorted, whilst the harrowing 'Concrete Walls' hints at post-natal depression. As with Bjork's Vespertine, it's an album that deals with the domestic, but also seems to rally against greed and the need for power (“More, give me more, give me more”). It's an album that you need to live with, it's dark secrets revealing themselves slowly and carefully. Best not to listen to it if you're having a bad day, but if you're looking to be transported to some kind of dark netherworld then this is a brilliant place to start.
Key track: 'Seven'
The xx – xx
With a musical palette as minimal as the artwork and a live presence that bordered on the comatose, these four (as they were then - Baria Qureshi has since left) ridiculously young Londoners took hold of the latter quarter of 2009 with their beautiful, drip-feed pop. Centred around the loving glances cast between lead singers Romy Croft and Oliver Sim, there's a strange atmosphere that runs throughout the album, the listener feeling as if he or she is intruding on a private conversation. Musically, it's a skeletal mix of spindly guitar lines, atmospheric drum patterns and little else. In fact, it's so minimal and patient that when it does reach a relative crescendo or a shift in pace it can feel like the biggest rush. 'Islands' is as pacey as it gets, Croft and Sim exchanging coy lines over a pattering drum sound, whilst the album drifts into beautiful stillness with the closing 'Stars'. Taking its cue from acts like Aaliyah as much as the more obvious influences such as The Cure (at least in terms of their favourite colour; black), xx was the sound of youthful exuberance tinged by dark nights and lack of sleep.
Key track: 'Crystalised'
Florence & The Machine – Lungs
Of all the acts hyped to the hilt come January 2009, Florence and her Machine seemed the least likely to finish the year with one of the biggest selling debuts. If early single Kiss With A Fist was all playful petulance, the newer songs on Lungs show that playful spirit had been channelled into gorgeously OTT epics that mixed strings, choirs, pounding drums, fluttering harps and, if you listen carefully, a kitchen sink solo. It is pop turned up to eleven, with everything pushed to the front to create a wall of sound so strong it often threatens to overwhelm the songs. It’s this tension that makes ‘Cosmic Love’ or ‘Howl’ so powerful, as if they’re about to implode at any minute. Riding the crest of the sonic wave is Florence herself, the owner of a voice so swollen with emotion it’s almost painful to listen to her dissect and rebuild relationships in each song. Credit must also go to producers Paul Epworth and James Ford who somehow manage to keep the various strands together, making sure the songs themselves remain the key ingredient. Lungs is momentous not just because it lives up to the hype, but because it has the feel of a timeless record, one that can’t be simply dismissed as ‘the sound of 2009’. It’s more than that.
Key track: ‘Drumming’
Wild Beasts – Two Dancers
Remember the days of landfill indie? No, really, try and remember them because it’s important to remember the bad times so we can appreciate the good. Cumbria’s Wild Beasts may use guitars, drums and vocals and all be men, but they’re also evidence that using those instruments need not make you The Courteeners. For their second album, these four super intelligent young men decided to play about with time signatures, tamper with ideas of love and sex and throw out the rulebook that stated it wasn’t a good idea for white men to mess about with falsetto. Two Dancers is a complex, densely layered concoction that swirls about on a maelstrom of highly strung guitars and pounding drums, but somewhere in the middle gorgeous melodies start to appear as on the wonderfully catchy, ‘All The King’s Men’. As with Dirty Projectors or Grizzly Bear, the band are aware of how sounds play off each other, of how well harmonies can coalesce with sudden blasts of noise and then simmer down to something beautiful. Basically, it’s enough to warrant much excitement as to where they might go next.
Key track: ‘All The King’s Men’
Annie – Don’t Stop
For connoisseurs of perfect pop, Annie’s much-delayed second album was anticipated with such fevered emotion that over 200 pages had been created on the Popjustice.com forum before it finally saw the light of day. Thankfully, no-one was disappointed, with producers Xenomania, Paul Epworth and Richard X combining to create one of the best pop albums in recent years. In amongst the playground chants (‘Hey Annie’), stuttering electro (‘I Don’t Like Your Band’) and sophisticated synth ballads (‘Marie Cherie’), Annie’s glacial vocals and unique delivery helped make each song at least twenty times more memorable than most other chart music, which, given the fact this inexplicably failed to chart, is all the more amazing. In it’s original incarnation, the brilliant fuzz-pop of ‘My Love Is Better’ featured a certain Girls Aloud on the chorus, but record company wrangles meant they were removed. This is probably not that significant, but for the sake of symbolism we’ll assume it was because they couldn’t handle the fact that the quirky pop mantle had been passed on to someone else. Girls Aloud are dead, long live Annie.
Key track: ‘I Don’t Like Your Band’
Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavilion
In the past, it’s been easier to slip Animal Collective’s name into a conversation in the hope of impressing someone than it has been to actually enjoy listening to them. Previous albums have been as wilfully impenetrable as they have been inspiring. Merriweather Post Pavilion changes all that however, being simultaneously more grown-up and controlled and yet with a childish urge to experiment. Musically, it’s as Technicolor as the mind-bending cover art, with pulsating dance rhythms emerging unexpectedly on tracks such as opener ‘In The Flowers’ and the jubilant single ‘Summertime Clothes’. With ‘My Girls’, they made their finest song, a simple, heartfelt plea for domestic bliss (“I just want four walls and adobe slats for my girls”), cased in a euphoric musical confection.
Key track: ‘My Girls’
Antony & The Johnsons – The Crying Light
For the follow-up to the Mercury-prize winning, I Am A Bird Now, Antony Hegarty and his band of not-so-merry men and women, scaled down their sound to the bare bones. Piano, strings, a smattering of drums here and there and very little else augment that tremulous, haunting voice on songs that deal with the end of the world (‘Another World’), death (‘Her Eyes Are Underneath The Ground’) and father-son relationships (the bluesy ‘Aeon’). So sparse are the arrangements, that the slightest thing can trigger the raising of a hair on the back of the neck, such as the mournful flute that appears from nowhere on ‘One Dove’ or the way everything falls away during ‘Kiss My Name’ to leave a lonely drum tattoo. By the closing ‘Everglade’, however, Antony seems to be transported to a different world, as swooning, sumptuous strings cascade around a swollen vocal. Less showy it maybe, but The Crying Light is more than equal to its predecessor.
Key track: ‘One Dove’
Dirty Projectors – Bitte Orca
Not many albums avoid pigeon-holing as keenly as Bitte Orca. Like the album’s title, things seem to have been thrown together because frontman Dave Longstreth thought they might sound good together and it’s to his infinite credit that they nearly always do. So, we get modern-day R&B as performed by four white folk from Brooklyn in the shape of ‘Stillness Is The Move’, cinematic chamber pop (‘Two Doves’) and discordant guitar noise peppering an otherwise sombre harmony-lead ditty (‘Temecula Sunrise’). Unlike most albums that try everything but master nothing, Bitte Orca works because the ideas never swallow the songs. ‘Useful Chamber’ may have undulating keyboard riffs and strange, backward noises, but it also has a brilliant melody and somehow all the fragments are held together. Plus, they’re Bjork’s favourite band, so, you know, it stands to reason that they’re amazing.
Key track: ‘Stillness Is The Move’
Yeah Yeah Yeahs – It’s Blitz!
Show Your Bones, Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ last album, is one of Musick’s favourite things, ever. Needless to say, expectation for the follow-up was high and not even the admission that Nick Zinner had stepped away from his guitars in favour of the synth could dampen it. Luckily, It’s Blitz! represents the perfect follow-up, expanding on their core sound to take in elements of dance (‘Zero’, ‘Heads Will Roll’) and, er, Celtic folk (‘Skeletons’), whilst not forgetting the things that made people fall for them in the first place. At the centre of the musical melee, Karen O crafted an emotional core that gave each song a weight that contemporaries such as The Killers or MGMT could never match. ‘Runaway’ and ‘Hysteric’ were two of the best songs they’d ever committed to tape, the former a tear-stained ballad, the latter a gorgeous tribute to finding the right person.
Key track: ‘Zero’
Grizzly Bear – Veckatimest
Of all the surprises in 2009, few could match seeing Grizzly Bear’s third album nestling at no. 8 on the US album charts. For all Veckatimest’s splendour, it’s hardly an easy listen, what with the undulating time signatures, off-kilter melodies and complex string arrangements (courtesy of classical protégé Nico Mulhy). Yet, there’s something warm and inviting about the chamber music the band create, be it with the simple piano riff on ‘Two Weeks’ or the sumptuous harmonies that swirl around nearly every track. Somewhere in the mix, however, there’s a sense of unease, as if the ground beneath your feet isn’t as solid as you thought. Somehow, the band has conspired to make the most beautiful and delicate soundtrack to impending doom.
Key track: ‘Two Weeks’
Mos Def – The Ecstatic
In what felt like a pretty barren year for hip-hop, it was kind of surprising that the one stone-cold classic came from Mos Def. Not that he doesn’t have pedigree – 1999’s Black On Both Sides, naturally – but his recent output was either muddled (The New Danger) or creatively impotent (2006’s True Magic). From the off, Mos Def sounds rejuvenated here, spitting politically charged rhymes over aggressive horn-blasts on ‘Twilite Speedball’ or heady, swirling narratives on the brilliant future-pop of ‘Life In Marvellous Times’. Featuring production from Madlib, Chad Hugo and the late J Dilla, The Ecstatic fuses funk, jazz and Afrobeat to create a dense, layered sound that rewards repeated listens.
Key track: ‘Quiet Dog Bite Hard’
Girls – Album
It’s easy to be cynical about Girls considering the fact that they’ve seemingly appeared out of nowhere with a fully-formed debut, aesthetic (heroin chic Hanson) and a penchant for artfully debauched music videos. It all seems a bit too perfect to be true. Thankfully, Album is a delight, mixing singer Christoper Owens’ heartbreaking tales of addiction and loveloss with Beach Boys-esque harmonies or stoned wig-outs (the seven-minute ‘Hellhole Ratface’ is a definite highlight). Forget the back story (singer was raised in a cult, becomes a drug addict, meets millionaire who gives him some cash, forms a band) and focus on the music, man.
Key track: ‘Lust For Life’
Brigadier Ambrose – Fuzzo
Yes they’re friends of the blog and it’s true that we might not have heard this album had this not been the case, but how we came about hearing about them is neither here nor there. The fact remains that if this album was an embarrassment to music then it would not be on this list. Hailing from the cultural black-hole that is Medway (main claim to fame; chavs), they’ve created an album that bristles with a strange mix of despondency and aggression, both in awe of the town that spawned them and simultaneously wanting to burn it to the ground. Musically, it’s a mixture of Graham Coxon-esque guitars, jaunty keyboard flurries and time signature changes that would make Pavement proud. The best thing to come out of Medway…ever!
Key track: ‘Helium'
Micachu – Jewellery
The word ‘original’ is banded about with such disregard for the English language that we once heard it used to describe Kasabian. Kasabian! The music Micachu (aka 22-year-old Mica Levi) makes is wholly original, sounding, at times, like an argument between four different songs. Levi is known to utilise everyday objects in her songs (such as a hoover on ‘Turn Me Well’) or make sounds using instruments she’s created herself, which makes it all sound terribly pretentious. It’s not, it’s just a brilliant example of a hugely creative young talent proving magic can happen on a shoestring (which appears on a number of tracks no doubt).
Key track: 'Golden Phone'
Jack Peñate – Everything Is New
The title of Peñate’s second album could not have been more appropriate had he called it This Second Album Is Really Quite Different To The First One. As with friends The Maccabees, Peñate ditched the prevailing sound of his debut (a kind of annoying indie rockabilly) in favour of a much more expansive sound, taking in afrobeat (‘Tonight’s Today’) and elements of dance and gospel (‘Pull My Heart Away’). Helped by producer Paul Epworth, Everything Is New is the sound of a young talent realising his potential.
Key track: ‘Pull My Heart Away'
La Roux – La Roux
There are very simple rules when it comes to having a top 3 single. Firstly, the song must enter high and then drop down rapidly. Secondly, the song must be by an established act and/or talent show winner. Thirdly, if neither of the former, then the song must be on an advert or a pleasant listen for when you’re driving in your car or sat in the kitchen. Somehow, La Roux’s ‘In For The Kill’ managed to break all these rules, taking on a life of its own as it slowly clambered into the public consciousness. Fronted by the shock of red hair that is Elly Jackson, La Roux managed to combine icy synths and cheap beats with lyrics about love and loss to create a handful of perfect pop singles.
Key track: ‘In For The Kill’
Lady GaGa – The Fame Monster
From prospective one-hit wonder to the world’s biggest pop star in the space of twelve months, Lady GaGa has straddled 2009 in a way that’s made all of us feel slightly uncomfortable. Whilst most people would be happy with a debut that features two of the biggest selling singles of the year, Lady GaGa wasn’t content until she’d recorded an extra eight songs, four of which could be singles, one of which features Beyoncé and all of which must make Madonna choke on her Kabbalah water. Good enough to be the follow-up to The Fame proper, The Fame Monster is somehow even better for showing complete disregard for anything as boring as following a normal release schedule.
Key track: ‘Alejandro’
The Maccabees – Wall Of Arms
Drafting in Arcade Fire’s producer Markus Dravs and adding a whole load of shimmering guitar lines does not a band make, of course, but on The Maccabees’ second album it makes for a far more dynamic album then they mustered with their debut. Built around those towering guitars and Orlando Weeks’ swollen, yelping vocals, the “indie also-rans” (source: just about every music journalist, circa 2007), have taken a massive leap towards building a lasting career. Plus, ‘Love You Better’ is properly amazing.
Key track: ‘Love You Better’
Cold Cave – Love Comes Close
Hailing from Philadelphia, Cold Cave is less a band and more a one-off experiment. Featuring members of bands with names like Xiu Xiu and Prurient, the whole thing could easily whiff too strongly of arty intellectualising, and yet, for all its icy detachment, Love Comes Close is a beautifully human album. Cloaked in synths and simple drum programming, its nine songs are paeans to life in sprawling cities, with deceptively simple choruses at the heart of each one.
Key track: ‘Love Comes Close’
The other day we were queuing in the Post Office when who should we see but Missy Elliott, standing there in her (slightly tatty, it has to be said) gold tracksuit. Now, regular readers to Musick will know that our relationship has soured somewhat following a nasty argument about money and a mildly negative review of some of Missy's recent output. With that in mind, we approached cautiously, keeping a small pack of Cadbury Snacks at hand just in case our offer of an apology wasn't accepted (Missy loves her chocolate). Thankfully, Missy seemed to have forgotten all about our disagreements and treated us to a big hug and an incredibly convoluted hand shake that involved elbows and all sorts.
We asked Missy what she'd been up to given the fact that her new album, Block Party, was due out about ten months ago and has yet to materialise. She went on about how Timbaland had just started night school (he's doing a woodwork course) and that the record label weren't particulalry happy with how the first couple of songs had done. We sensed some sadness behind the sunglasses and tried to cheer her up by offering to listen to some of the new songs she'd been working on. So, over some milky tea and another bag of Minstrels she played us this:
We're not going to lie, what followed was pretty ugly. Things were said, stereos were smashed, words like "rehashed" and "former glories" were banded about and it all ended with Missy trying to stuff a Wagon Wheel somewhere a Wagon Wheel does not belong. Still, it's best to be honest with Missy and hopefully she'll realise that we were only trying to help. Fingers crossed there's better on the album, should it ever materialise.
We've featured these two acts a couple of times of late, but they're both back once again with the renegade master, which is nice. First up are Hot Chip who recently gave us this and have now come back with this, their first single from their new album of the same name:
Apologies for the static, it's what Parlophone have determined appropriate for the visuals before the video is finished (they started filming it today, fact fans). It's a rather wonderful single, no? It's got all your favourite Hot Chip elements without being an obvious rip off of former glories. Plus, the sentiment is typically sweet, taking the idea of a one night stand and turning it into something that lasts a whole lifetime...oh God.
Next up, it's Marina & The Diamonds who's only just released this as a kind of 'buzz' single, so is now back with what will be her first single proper. We're guessing this will come out at some point in January, perhaps just before the BRITS, where perhaps she might, possibly, who knows, win an award? Either way, it will be around the time of all those lovely lists proclaiming her and her ilk as the resurrection or something. This is 'Hollywood', which comes with it's very own video:
As with most of Marina's songs this takes a little while to sink in. It might be the jauntiness, or the faint whiff of Mika in the music and Paloma Faith in the 'wackiness'. But we tend to think that Marina is better than that, and the bit where she puts on an American accent and says, "Oh my God you look just like Shakira, no no you're Catherine Zeta, actually my name's Marina", proves it.