Friday, December 25, 2009

Songs Of The Year: 2009


Hello people, hope you are all feeling well and festive at this time of year, and enjoying the food, frivolities and fun. It's time to share my songs of the year, and get a retrospective on a year in which girls and synths dominated. It's also a shock to think it's the final year of the decade. Here goes....

1. Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up) – Florence & The Machine. Though it sounds like she's saying "Lube it up" in the bridge instead of "Raise It up" (that's probably my filthy mind), this clever concoction of Alice In Wonderland meets Greek Mythology with pagan rites thrown in was refreshing, quirky introduced the world to Florence Welsh, who I've no doubt will be with us for many years to come, coming in a great tradition of British, cooky and brilliant female singer songwriters like Kate Bush and PJ Harvey. Pop brilliance, and though I'm sick of hearing it now, probably my favourite song of the year. 2009 was the year she was robbed of the Mercury Music Prize too, incidentally, by an unworth act I will not even grace with a mention, such is my wrath towards them....

2 Little Lion Man– Mumford and Sons. Seeing this 5-piece supporting the Maccabees in the middle of the year, I (rightly as always, ahem) predicted big things for this band, who are affiliated to the same London folk set that spawned Noah and The Whale and Laura Marling, and it shows. A sincere and heartfelt portrait of a failing relationship, this song forms a great companion to NTW's breakup album The First Days Of Spring.

3. Just Dance – Lady Gaga. Ok she's weird, and clearly one fruit short of a basket, but the 2009, if you remember, began with this slab of 80s revival pop perfection, which instantly reminded me of what Madonna might be doing if she was young and relevant, though on reflection, Gaga may lack the likeability and charisma to still be around in 20 years. Still, this song about getting hosed in a club and forgetting where you are is something most 16 year olds can relate to, so she seemed to capture a moment this year, not least with equally brilliant singles Poker Face and Paparazzi.

4. New York State of Mind – Jay-Z. The elder statesman/ grand dame of hip hop continued his return from retirement with his first album proper (soundtrack to American Gangster notwithstanding) to remind us all how it's done, with The Blueprint 3, and in this song he seems keen to confirm his legacy as on of the greats, putting himself in the same lineage as major league players such as Sinatra, telling us of the Big Apple, "And If I can make it here / I can make it anywhere". Alicia Key's chorus thankfully does well do distract you from his enormous ego. You've got to admire the man's ambition though, and this year, following the Glastonbury appearance of 2008, it seems that he had indeed cemented his reputation as a rapper and musician of genuine distinction, and so his various British media appearances felt like something of a victory tour.

5. I'm Not Your Toy - La Roux. I started the year hating this cauterwalling red headed 21 year old, as she surfed on a wave of Hoxton media set-sponsored acclaim into the charts with 'In The For The Kill'. I must confess I mellowed on her and by halfway through the year found myself liking this infectious synth number, even if it has a bizarre video. It does sound like a Yazoo, Depeche Mode or Erasure number that escaped from 1983, though.

6. Daniel – Bat For Lashes. Another mad as a brush female singer songwriter, though thankfully a good one, Natasha Khan, like many other girls, has a career to thank Amy Winehouse for. Not that they sound remotely the same but as is obvious from my run down of songs, which would normally be a lot more butch, 2009 was dominated by women as a result of the critical and commercial success of Wino back in 2006. Khan, like Florence, is clearly influenced by Kate Bush, but where as Welsh borrows, Khan steals wholesale. That's no bad thing however, and for a generation of music fans who've never heard the anything like this, 'Daniel ' was a brilliant record, which again could have escaped from the better end of 80s music. And apparently, the 'Daniel' it's dedicated to is in fact Ralph Macchio from Karate Kid. Wax on, Wax off!


7. Zero - Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Fashion icon Karen O and her uber-cool band of New Yorkers (pictured) returned this year, moving on from their punk beginnings. Forced into an early release by illegal copies circulating on the internet, the album from this came was a mixed affair which left some accusing the band of flattering to deceive with their promise of going electric, but this electro-punk number certain hit the spot.

8. Warm In The Shadows – Music Go Music. This song hasn't actually been released yet, but having done the rounds in certain critical circles, this LA band, signed to Mercury, toured England in autumn of this year in support of Franz Ferdinand, and, catching them doing a performance at this year's In The City, this is the one song that didn't leave my stereo for weeks. I expect big things from them in 2010, and this was one hell of a taster.

9. Eminem – Beautiful. Two or three years ago he Nearly cashed his chips after a run in with the kind of super-powerful prescription drugs that sadly finished off Michael Jackson this year, but this year everyone's favourite white rapper Marshall Mathers returned with 'Relapse', his first album in five years. Continuing his uniquely tortured, autobiographical style, we had portraits of serial killers in the chilling '3.a.m', insights into fame with 'We Made You', and this, self-produced, rather sentimental number. I have something of a penchant for soft rock, so I just couldn't resist the Paul Rogers intro.....

10. The 59 Sound – The Gaslight Anthem. I have a feeling they may go onto be a minor footnote in music, but I must admit falling in love with the whole 'Jersey Sound' thing early this year, particularly in the run up to Bruce ' The Boss' Springsteen's appearance at Glastonbury and Hard Rock Calling. The inheritors of his Blue-collar, East Coast rock released this compelling dose of story-telling punk rock earlier this year, and though the rest of the album didn't quite live up to it, I still love this record. There's a version from Glasto with them join on stage by the Boss himself here.

Merry Xmas and Happy NY everyone!!!

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