The 20 Best Songs of 2009
Hear music! Rock out to our essential mix tape, culled from the best cuts 2009 had to offer.
ROBYN HITCHCOCK, “UP TO OUR NEX”
The great psych-rock surrealist struggles-in unerringly tuneful fashion-to get over, under, and around the feeling of falling in love. “So rad!” “How sad!” Neither. Both. Beautiful.
MOS DEF, “LIFE IN MARVELOUS TIMES”
Over a triumphant beat, Mos futurizes and postulates a Brooklyn of sidewalk sin and sympathy, then concludes, “We can’t be alive in no time but now.”
BASEMENT JAXX, “RAINDROPS”
Pop music’s MDMA moment came and went. This track brings it back-giddier. Go kiss a stranger.
NEKO CASE, “THIS TORNADO LOVES YOU”
Anthropomorphizing meteorological phenomena sounds like the stuff of kids’ music; Case’s breathy coo puts an end to that idea real fast.
LA ROUX, “BULLETPROOF”
A perfect pop hook backed by bubbly eight-bit bloops and delivered by a ginger-pomp’d cross between Annie Lennox and a replicant. The superhuman league.
MIIKE SNOW, “ANIMAL”
Weird how this synth-pop stunner about predeterminism wiggles into your substratum like it’s always been there. Or is that the point?
THE BIG PINK, “DOMINOS”
If you’re going to compare carnal conquests to falling dominos, you should make it sound bigger than God and catchier than death.
JULIAN CASABLANCAS, “11TH DIMENSION”
Who woulda thunk that the boy king of post-millennial cool would end the decade channeling Laura Branigan? And that it’d feel as natural a fit as Marquee Moon?
THE ROOTS, “HOW I GOT OVER”
A satin Latin groove handles the hips while Black Thought’s micro-is-macro sociology targets the head. The heart’s left with a “Someone has to care” refrain. Here’s hoping.
ATLAS SOUND, FEAT. NOAH LENNOX, “WALKABOUT”
Bradford Cox’s dreamy excavation of his childhood continues in gloriously refracted fashion, with vocal help from Animal Collective’s Panda Bear.
DRAKE, FEAT. TREY SONGZ, “SUCCESSFUL”
With two words-“I suppose”-Drake gets into some Gatsby shit. F. Scott’s bling ambivalence never had a hook as seductive as Trey’s golden come-on.
ANTONY AND THE JOHNSONS, “AEON”
A shattering soul aria suggesting that maybe, just maybe, love and pain make sense if you think they last forever.
BAT FOR LASHES, “DANIEL”
That Natasha Khan can make a torch song feel like pure cinema isn’t surprising; that she’s in fact invoking The Karate Kid kind of is.
FLORENCE AND THE MACHINE, “YOU GOT THE LOVE (THE XX REMIX)”
A spitfire with a gift for going big and three young masters of the slow burn meet in the middle for a modern classic of baby-making music.
KID CUDI, FEAT. KANYE WEST & COMMON, “MAKE HER SAY”
Flipping “Poker Face” on its kinky ear, these semiconscious MCs trans-muted the year’s guiltiest pleasure into four funky minutes of winking machismo.
KINGS OF LEON, “USE SOMEBODY”
All swaying arms holding lighters-sorry, cellphones-aloft and singing at the top of your lungs, and oh man, this is gonna be the best. Summer. Ever.
ANIMAL COLLECTIVE, “MY GIRLS”
Kaleidoscoping Mï¿½bius strips of ecstatic vocal melody with synths that shiver like creation, and an argument for domesticity as the only bliss worth believing in.
GIRLS, “HELLHOLE RATRACE”
A plaintive rumble that manages to sound desperate and joyous in the same breath. “In Dreams” for a confused time.
Effervescent, well-appointed radio candy with the refrain “I’ll be anything you ask and more.” Since when did the French become so accommodating?
YEAH YEAH YEAHS, “ZERO”
With her gift for sod-off squawking and tear-streaked realness, Karen O was born to lead the frisky rock revolt that the aughts never earned. So here, with a regal hip check, she strides off by her lonesome, resplendent synth riff all aquiver, cooing, “Get your leather on,” as we gambol on the grave of 2009’s tragic, orgiastic flimflam.