My 13 favorite songs of 2009
This is my favorite new song featuring an artist from beyond the grave. Blakroc was conceived by Damon Dash (famous for co-founding Rock-a-Fella records with Jay-Z) to incorporate rap M.C.s with the bluesy rock of the Black Keys. “Coochie” incorporates a previously unreleased performance from Ol’ Dirty Bastard of the Wu Tang Clan, along with Ludacris and music by the Black Keys. The result is a funky blues jam with a bragging ODB stealing the show.
#12. “Say Please” by Monsters of Folk
Monsters of Folk is the indie super-group including Conor Oberst (Bright Eyes) and Jim James (My Morning Jacket). This song doesn’t sound too folkie to me at all, but more like a classic rocker that makes you want to sing along. The straightforward guitar solo rocks, but my favorite instrument (harpsichord?) delivers this oddly cool repetitive plucking sound.
#11. “I Hate My Job” by Cam’ron
A very timely hip-hop track about unemployment and underemployment, which really connects with anyone who is currently in a shit job, no job, or has been there before (basically, everyone). The main music is a catchy piano riff, and there are soulful chants repeated throughout. Cam’ron is usually big on the bragging, but this earnest song works without any of it.
#10. “Here to Fall” by Yo La Tengo
This is a breakup song with bleak lyrics combined with uplifting music. Organs, strings, drums and guitars combine for a busy musical backdrop that brings immediate energy to the downfall described in the lyrics. The song feels orchestral in scale.
#9. “I Gotta Feeling” by Lil’ Wayne
Did anyone else find the Black Eyed Peas song “I Gotta Feeling” fun and catchy, but were embarrassed by the mass amount of simplistic and hokey lyrics? And the song was safely going to find its way onto Bar Mitzvah circuit DJ playlists without the pandering use of Mazel Tov and L’Chayim. Thankfully, Lil’ Wayne has come to the rescue with his “No Ceilings” mix tape. Weezy salvaged the catchy hook and beats, brings his loony stream of consciousness flow, and loses the rest of the Black Eyed Peas handiwork.
#8. “Zero” by Yeah Yeah Yeahs
“Zero” is an uplifting celebration for all the insignificant nobodies. There are all sorts of crazy digital beats, synth notes, and machine-like effects that build to a danceable frenzy. Karen O insults you and puts you in your place, all the while leading to a cathartic emotional high. It feels like the electronic-dance equivalent of “Creep” by Radiohead.
#7. “Dirt Off Your Android” by Jaydiohead
Remember when all those mashups came out including Jay-Z’s “Black Album”? The most famous was Danger Mouse’s “The Grey Album” (“The Black Album” + the Beatles’ “White Album”), but there were tons of others like “The Black and Blue Album” (+ Weezer), “The Black and Purple Album” (+ Prince), “The Double-Black Album” (+ Metallica), etc. But it wasn’t until New Year’s Day of 2009 that the first Jaydiohead album was released, featuring some excellent mashups of Jay-Z with Radiohead. Somehow Jay-Z’s lyrics feel natural over edited segments of “Paranoid Android”, and Jay-Z’s voice and the music of Radiohead seem to energize each other. It all leads to the climactic brushing of the dirt off your shoulder.
#6. “Shine Blockas” by Big Boi (ft. Gucci Mane)
This song is by Big Boi from Outkast from a solo album that has inexplicably remained unreleased. However, it is only so long before tracks get leaked, and this is another Outkast great. Over a soulful 70s sample, Big Boi and Gucci Mane rap about not letting anyone hold them back from doing their thing.
#5. “That’s Not My Name” by The Ting Tings
What a ridiculously catchy song! Great hook, fun beats, and a bratty attitude. This song was released in 2008 in Europe, but not until January of 2009 on the radio in the U.S., so I’m counting it. U.S.A.! U.S.A.! If Gwen Stefani’s solo tracks were way cooler, they’d sound like this song.
#4. “Empire State of Mind” by Jay-Z (ft. Alicia Keys)
I saw Jay-Z perform at the "grand re-opening" of the Palladium in Hollywood after it had closed for renovations. Jay-Z compared himself to the original grand opening act at the Palladium, Frank Sinatra, even calling himself "old brown eyes". This song is clearly a loving tribute to and attempt to update of Sinatra’s “New York, New York” as the city’s anthem. Jay-Z’s lyrics are decent, but it is Alicia Keys’ swelling chorus and her piano that really makes this song so much fun.
#3. “Don’t Haunt this Place” by The Rural Alberta Advantage
One of the most high-energy and uplifting songs about a couple in a fight that seems to border on relationship-ending that I’ve ever heard. The vocals and harmonizing are beautiful, great chord progression, and amazing emotive drumming.
#2. “Crown on the Ground” by Sleigh Bells
Don’t adjust your speakers, the blown out sound is intentional. Sleigh Bells is the combination of a hard-core rock guitarist and a former singer from a manufactured girl-group. It is like a bizarro version of the White Stripes. Somehow the repetitive riffs and nonsensical lyrics add up to crazy fun!
#1. “When the Night Comes” by Dan Auerbach (ft. Jessica Lea Mayfield)
It is difficult to explain why this song has such an impact on me. This song is off a solo project from the lead singer of the Black Keys, whom I love for their raw bluesy-rock sound. But this song plays like a sweet lullaby. The music and voices seem comforting, but something about the repetition of the lyrics is disconcerting. And at the end the song goes to a minor key, and it definitely seems like things are taking a dark turn. This song feels dreamlike, providing an emotional experience without clear logical explanation.