1. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – “Soft Shock” – It’s difficult to choose the best song on a nearly flawless album (It’s Blitz!), but “Soft Shock” is it. The song is ridiculously listenable and never gets old. Karen O’s soft “Ooh’s” are lovely and the way she sings the lyrics, “Catch your shuteye / In your room / In my room,” is sexy as hell – even on a song about a break-up.
2. Grizzly Bear – “Two Weeks” – Veckatimest is one of 2009’s best albums and “Two Weeks” – the album’s first single – is just as good. The song is punctuated by fantastic and bouncy keyboards and jarring vocals that will keep you on edge.
3. Passion Pit – “Moth’s Wings” –Here is a song that I’ve had on loop for awhile now. Michael Angelakos’ falsetto sounds innocent enough on the track, but the lyrics are as tortured and beautiful as it gets (“Your flowers are withering/Your mother’s gone insane/Your leaves have drifted away/But the clouds are clearing up”).
4. Bat for Lashes – “Daniel” – This song is aesthetically rich and beautiful. You can hear the yearning in singer Natasha Khan’s velvet voice amidst the hazy synthy backdrop, and the moodiness and darkness of this stripped down love song haunts you and keeps your attention the whole way through.
5. Phoenix – “Liszotomania” – On “Liszotomania,” Phoenix successfully offers a toe-tapping and fast-paced rock song that gets right in your face from the get-go. It’s catchy as hell and brings out a ton of emotion (disgust, loneliness, misguidance…), as well as a mix-and-match of infectious guitar riffs and beats.
6. Matisyahu – “One Day” – Just like John Lennon’s “Imagine” from 38 years ago, Matisyahu’s “One Day” is an idealistic and inspirational song about the beauty of life and the hope for an end to violence and war. There’s a sense of naiveté to Matisyahu’s prayer for peace as he sings, “One day this will all change/Stop with the violence, down with the hate/One day we’ll all be free.” Even though it’s difficult to imagine this ever coming to fruition, “One Day” is so full of hope, you might start believing.
7. Bon Iver – “Beach Baby” – Gentle and tortured, “Beach Baby” has one of the best—and most simple—lyrics I’ve ever heard: “When you’re out, tell your lucky one, to know that you’ll leave/but don’t you lock when you’re fleeing, I’d like not to hear keys.” It is a haunting catharsis of a lover who knows their loved one is leaving, but wishes him or her to stay—if only until their coffee warms.
8. Matt and Kim – “Daylight” – Not just that song from a Bacardi commercial, “Daylight” is a frenetic and chipper song that is heavy on keyboards, percussion, and child-like lyrics about being young and poor in the city. There’s something so fun and simple about this song, and its carefree lyrics (about taking scissors to your clothes and slipping and sliding on subway grates, for example) will make you feel carefree, too.
9. Animal Collective – “My Girls” – You cannot have a top 10 songs of 2009 without a mention of Animal Collective. At the heart of their album, Merriweather Post Pavillion, is “My Girls,” a song written by Panda Bear as a promise to provide a home for his wife and daughter. The electronics in this song are as gentle and light as the bubbles in champagne and the chorus is catchy and top-notch. There’s a maturity and rawness to a song that highlights the real priorities in life. Plus, it introduced “Adobe slabs” into our lexicon.
10. Neon Indian – “Deadbeat Summer” – If I were alive in the early 1980’s, this song conveys how I envision the summers to have been like. The beats and droning vocals are dripping with nostalgia, and exhibit the slightly cheesy sounds of that decade. This song gives you a sense of familiarity, as well as a euphoric feeling of laziness—a perfectly chill track.