40. The Black Keys – Everlasting Light
Brothers is an excellent album. Song to song its one of The Black Keys’ best. Needless to say I had a lot of trouble deciding which to pick to represent it, but at the end of the day it was an easy decision. Dan Auerbach doing falsetto for an entire song is just something that shouldn’t work, but over the deep blistering guitar fuzz and backup singers it somehow does. Auerbach uses trains as a motif in the lyrics and its fitting that “Everlasting Light” sounds like a train plodding, plodding down the tracks until it builds and fizzes out.
39. Outasight – She’s Leaving Home
I’ll admit upfront, I love this song because of its beat, an incredible turn-around of one my favorite Beatles tracks. Outasight’s a charismatic dude and I honestly don’t think many rappers could pull off this reinterpretation. His voice, even when rapping about the fallout of the relationship maintains a sense of optimism, the same optimism that producer 6th Sense somehow drew out of the melancholy sample. It is in its own way astounding.
“They say home is where the heart is
But what happens when you departing?”
38. Cults – Go Outside
Some part of me doesn’t want to admit this is a great song. I don’t know why but something about a band’s first song being so insanely catchy gets me. And then I put on the song and I sing along with it and I don’t care whatever the hell I was thinking about earlier. Since being discovered on bandcamp in February, Cults has gotten signed, done a tour and released a second single. And it still doesn’t matter yet because “Go Outside” is just that good.
37. DJ Bahler – Forty Winks
(Passion Pit vs. Goldfrapp vs. Mary O’Hara)
I’m not sure if it’s fair to post this. A reinvigoration of Passion Pit’s hit, “Sleepyhead,” “Forty Winks” draws out all the different parts of the original to give all the excellent parts their own due. The falsetto over the harp, slowed to a melodious level that keeps it distinct and recognizable, but definitely different. Drawing out the Keroauc sample “…and everything is going to the beat” and then finally letting the song explode into its verses and chorus making it a grander song than it could have ever hoped to be before.
36. Broken Bells – The High Road
When I first heard “The High Road” I wasn’t blown away or anything, but when it was done I wanted to listen to it again. And again. And again. The result was that it inexplicably became one of my most-listened-to songs of this year. It’s the perfect fusion of the Shins’ sound and Danger Mouse’s exceptional production skills, a synchronicity I don’t think they achieved anywhere else on the album. The catchy chorus, strangely elegant coda are nothing near what you’d imagine from the song’s first strange synth line.
In the end, it’s a journey and one you want to keep taking.
35. The Walkmen – Stranded
I missed a chance to see The Walkmen my senior year of high school. Thinking about that now, my only thought is goddamnit. “Stranded” is curiously unlike their other stuff, but it’s also very not at all. The mariachi horns seem to be a big change to their sound, but it ends up working as well as Johnny Cash’s foray into the field. Sad and lonely, the elegant horns add to the sentiment of the song’s title and lead singer Hamilton Leithauser kills his delivery as always.
34. Mountain Man – Sewee Sewee
This is the definition of unforced beauty. Requiring nothing more than a guitar and their pipes, the three female singers that make up Mountain Man capture a modest, rugged magnificence. Just listen to the song.
Seeing them live only helped enforce this image, as they quieted a normally noisy venue quickly and seemed to barely even try in doing so. Few performances have that stark intimacy and feeling that a performance by them is the same in front of a sold-out venue or a few family friends. Lovely, just lovely.
33. The Radio Dept. – Heaven’s on Fire
What are the youth to do? Dance, apparently. I don’t know what the hell else you could do listening to this song. Maybe sing along as well. It’s the kind of song that I wish was played at parties more often. Maybe youth culture is being destroyed by a bogus capitalist process. More likely, I’m going to the wrong parties.
32. Beach House – Used to Be
I wouldn’t listen to this song if you are at all feeling sentimental at the moment. It might wreck you. Beach House hit home with the pure feeling of nostalgia with “Used to Be.” From the simple melody and piano to the subdued explosion in the middle of the song, it sounds great too. This is also definitely a song that’s just a personal favorite because of the kind of person I am, so doing an objective-ish writeup is genuinely hard. I think if this song hits, it hits. And by the end you’re stuck feeling all sentimental.
31. Freelance Whales – Hannah
I saw these guys a few nights ago (as of this writing) and I didn’t even know their album had come out this year, I thought it had in ’09. Weathervanes is full-up-to-the brim with infectious pop songs and “Hannah” is just my personal favorite, mostly for its happy-go-lucky verses about putting on a song. I still am not sure what being vaguely attracted to rooftops entails, but it’s hard to care with a song as lovely as this.