The Best Singles of 2009

by PopMatters Staff

17 December 2009


40 - 31



Sic Alps
“L Mansion”

Following in the great tradition of psychedelic American and UK garage bands of the late ‘60s, Mike Donovan and Matthew Hartman’s Sic Alps project has helped to reinvigorate the dying rock aesthetic more than a thousand Jet albums ever could. For this 7-inch, the band added one Ty Segall to become a proper power trio, and embracing their new sense of power, the single boasts some of the finest swagger and raunchy riffs ever captured through a collection of broken mics and amps. It is a far cry from much of their early “wall of noise” output, based a on more traditional rock form, but it cements their place as the reigning kings of fiercely independent fuzz, while the Donovan cover on the B-side acknowledges their trajectory. Alan Ranta




“Best I Ever Had”

Although Degrassi: The Next Generation may seem like an usual place to find emerging hip-hop talent, few would’ve guessed that Aubrey Drake Graham would be exactly what the rap world needs right now. With the humorous and sly “Best I Ever Had”, Drake walks over his verses with the swagger of mentor Lil’ Wayne and the everyman charm of pre-Heartbreak Kanye, resulting in a delightfully profane jam for the ladies that every guy wishes they had written themselves. Ace. Evan Sawdey




Brother Ali
“Fresh Air”

The first single off Brother Ali’s fantastic Us, “Fresh Air” is a modest, understated representation of the album on which it resides. Ali, sounding as upbeat as ever, spits positive lyrics about how much he “loves the life [he] live[s]”. It’s no secret that he is best known for his storytelling on more serious topics. But this track, which celebrates the little things in life, is exactly what he and his listeners needed: A breath of “Fresh Air”. Andrew Martin




Thom Yorke
“All for the Best”

Thom Yorke’s cover of Miracle Legion’s song “All for the Best” is not only the stand out track from Ciao My Shining Star: The Songs of Mark Mulcahy, but perhaps one of the best Yorke has ever done. Put together after the sudden death of Miracle Legion frontman Mulcahy’s wife Melissa, Yorke’s haunting, electro-tinged, rendition of the 1987 song soars, simultaneously being reborn while desperately searching for meaning after life with a cherished one has ended. Louis Battaglia




The Airborne Toxic Event
“Sometime Around Midnight”

Confessional songwriting, lyrical storytelling, passionate amplification. In “Sometime Around Midnight”, the Airborne Toxic Event’s Mikel Jollett smashes all of these staid elements together like so many loose-leaves of unfinished poems. Indie rock convention tells us that it’s worthy of mockery to be quite so earnest, let alone to implicate one’s listeners with the second-person. But the song is relentless in its take-no-emotional-prisoners approach, the gradually-surging sonic maelstrom reflecting the lovelorn perturbation that consumes its protagonist. But there’s a deeper dissatisfaction here, too; “Irony,” Jollett seems to be asking, “what has it ever done for me?” Ross Langager




“Die Slow”

Two years makes a world of difference. HEALTH’s 2007 debut was a raucous, wild noise-fest. And a great one. But, as good bands do, HEALTH has evolved and adapted, without losing what made them great in the first place. “Die Slow” is the band scaled back, with a much more deliberate, purposeful sound. Jacob Duzsik’s vocals are still as haunting as in 2007, but feature a more distinct sense of melody. The song builds and builds, but the expected explosion is missing. If “Die Slow” is any indication, HEALTH is much more than a one-trick pony—they’re a band with a untold potential. Jason Cook



cover art

Antony & The Johnsons


Antony & The Johnsons
“Another World”

Death and loss is not new subject matter in pop music, and on paper “Another World” may not seem like much. Gentle piano, droning siren noises and Antony’s quivering vocals listing off items his character will miss (among them bees, things that grow and sound) when they no longer have a world to belong to. “I’m gonna miss the snow / I’m gonna miss the bees,” he sings. But in Hegarty’s more than capable hands, the song has the power to bring to mind any lost loved one, and give them a voice. I haven’t heard a song so easily optimistic, bittersweet and insightful in quite a while. David Amidon




“I’ll Go Crazy If I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight”

No Line on the Horizon may have lacked the hall-of-fame singles of previous U2 efforts, but here’s one transcendent enough to stand with the band’s biggest, grandest anthems. It’s a shimmering rocker emblematic of the best of ‘00s U2: the Edge’s sparkle-chime guitar trickery, Larry Mullen’s skitter-shuffle drums, Adam Clayton’s undulating bass figure, and Bono’s soaring celebration of the right to be ridiculous, shouting out to the beauties and idiots who get a shot at changing the world. The song builds into a mountain of light with all four members going for broke before floating down to a gentle release. Whew, that was crazy… Steve Leftridge




The Antlers

While “Two” will certainly stand on its own as a seminal indie-pop track, the beauty of the song can only fully emerge when heard within the proper context that is Hospice. With a lullaby delivery, singer Peter Silberman transforms psychological scars into gut-wrenching lyrics, expressing profound pain via a hushed whisper that swells into an impassioned moan, making every single hair on your neck stand up every single time you listen, mesmerized to the climatic chapter of the Antler’s Hospice. Louis Battaglia




“House of Flying Daggers (feat. Inspectah Deck, Ghostface Killah, and Method Man)”

It shouldn’t be a question as to whether or not Raekwon’s long-awaited sequel to his 1995 solo debut Only Built for Cuban Linx is the hip-hop album of 2009. But if you need a reminder as to why, look no further than this masterful cipher featuring four of the Wu Tang’s most visceral sword slingers. Atop a menacing beat from the late, great J. Dilla, Inspectah Deck, Ghostface Killah and Method Man help Rae update their group’s classic posse cut “Clan in Da Front” with everything you expect from a classic Wu banger: Kung-fu samples, fine food references and Meth cracking melons like Dutchmasters. Ron Hart


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