Radioscooter: Best of 2009 (the singles)

After 3 years of shoegazing, introspective alterna-folk-beard-rock – it was time for a bit of a pop blast.

Best of 2009 (the singles)

1. Franz Ferdinand – No You Girls

A great sexy power pop opener that should set the tone for most of this set. This song was introduced during their live 2007 tour and just made it onto Tonight this year. And no, you girls really don’t have any idea how you make a boy feel.

2. Metric – Sick Muse

This year marks a return of the infectious hook/groove guitar riff. This song could diverge into a nonsensical speaking-in-tongues Dave Matthews jam halfway through and still be worthy of inclusion just for its opening.From Fantasies, one of my favorite albums of the year as well.

3. Rocco DeLuca & the Burden – Any Man

Ever since “It Might Get Loud” I’ve been enjoying the bejezus out of some blue-eyed soul. How Mercy avoided most people’s best-of lists is truly beyond me. All the blues power and legitimacy that Jack White covets. Check out the live version of this track on YouTube.

4. JET – She’s A Genius

What can I say? They’re named after one of the best Wings songs ever, they rock, and if this song came on while you were driving your Dodge van on the Ohio turnpike on your way to Cleveland to see your girlfriend, you’d turn it the hell up, roll the windows down and sing along. Loudly.

5. Neko Case – People Got A Lotta Nerve

There are some artists that I hope produce something good enough to include every year. Some artists – I don’t ever have to worry about. Neko Case, whether solo or with New Pornographers has been a consistent joy for years now. Plenty to choose from on Middle Cyclone. This one won both for its borrowed Lloyd Cole opening 12-string chords and for the lyric: “I’m a man-man-man-maneater, but still you’re surprised when I eat ya…”

6. Antony & the Johnsons – Kiss My Name

I was faced with the prospect of either abandoning my bombast mission, leave Antony off the singles list or choose a slightly less maudlin track from The Crying Light. The poster child for pain and personal transformation, he makes Morrissey and Joy Division seem like The Wiggles. For those who haven’t been initiated yet, I realize Antony Hegarty is an acquired taste. Do yourself a favor. Acquire it.

7. Morrissey – Shame is the Name

As a 25 year long Moz fanatic, I don’t wait around for things like “Release Dates” and as such, I featured a track from Years of Refusal on last year’s playlist.  Luckily, this year gave us the B-side compilation Swords, and as any Morrissey fan will attest – his B-Sides often outshine regular album cuts. In a departure from recent work, Shame is the Name revives classic retro Alain Whyte/Boz Boorer Your Arsenal era production, complete with Chrissie Hynde guest vocals, a crunchy bridge segue and cinematic dialogue sfx in the intro.

8. Richard Swift – Lady Luck

An infectious opening groove and R&B unison falsetto. Just the way we like it. He has a few more tasty ones as well. The Atlantic Ocean

9. Regina Spektor – Laughing With

Not as crunchy, but a wonderful lyric that is dear to my heart.  This album was overlooked a bit, I think from the plethora of artsy girl singer songwriters all driving to the hoop this year. (Neko Case, St. Vincent, Toti Amos etc.) From Far

10. The Avett Brothers – Laundry Room

I’ve successfully avoided being moved by these guys for a while. But this album had some excellent writing on it. I passed up the title track for this tastier, shorter gem. From I And Love And You

11. The Phenomenal Handclap Band – Baby

This is an eclectic album by an equally hard to pin down band. There are a few other great soul based dance tracks on their debut album, but this one just kills me dead. Delphonics meets Moby. And they get along. Like waffles and whipped cream.

12. Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeroes – Home

Wow. Look what happens when hippies stop jamming and pushing away the colors and turn their attention to pop songs. Trickle down from the cult-turned-band template that the Polyphonic Spree started some time ago. There’s something about a couple in love singing with each other and touring with a full band in a white schoolbus that just says – um, Partridgy. In a good way. They are  AMAZING live.

13. Twilight Sad – Reflection of the Television

Question: How many amazing “Brogue Invasion” bands can I fit on one playlist? Answer:  How many’ve you got? This song tears me up. “There’s people downstairs, I stole it from a letter –
off your tongue it rolled” From their sophomore release Forget the Night Ahead

14. Lightning Dust – Antonia Jane

Okay, there’s a little sad softer stuff on this playlist. But at least she doesn’t have a beard. Haunting wispy chick folk. Just right for a week where we haven’t broken 10 degrees yet. From The Infinite Light

15. Manchester Orchestra – Shake it Out

Aaand we’re back on track. I don’t know why they named themselves this, and no they don’t sound anything like the Boston Pops OR ELO. This is my favorite NEW band/album of the year.  Rockin’ good news, Lulu. Mean Everything to Nothing

16.Trevor Hall – Unity

Before you all check to see if I’ve been replaced by a pod.- yes, it’s technically a reggae song. And yes, he’s a young white guy from South Carolina effecting a Jamaican accent. And okay, yes – his claim to fame was having a track on Shrek III. And yes, that’s Matisyahu (Hacidic M.C.) singing with him. All that notwithstanding, this is a great, infectious, uplifitng, celebratory song for these troubled times. Play it once and see if you don’t hum it later.

17. Benjy Ferree – Blown Out

I loves me my Glam Rock. So naturally I love this Benjy Ferree release with its Bolan guitars and Sweet hooks. From Come Back To The Five and Dime, Bobby Dee, Bobby Dee

18. The Lonely Forest – We Sing in Time

This Washington band has been around since 2006, but this album has really let them spread their sound out and breathe a bit. From We Sing the Body Electric, but don’t let that fool you.

19. We Were Promised Jetpacks – Moving Clocks run Slow

Their bio says that they cite labelmates Twilight Sad and Frightened Rabbit as influences. Yeah, ya think? Fortunately, as I mentioned before, if you have more hard alt rock melodic Scottish bands – bring them forward with good steed. The more the merrier. Well, the more the thriftier I guess, really. (That’s a Pictish joke)

20. Passion Pit – Little Secrets

More turn-it-up dance electronic rock that will be was on an iPod or CUBE commercial before you finish reading this blog.

21. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Zero

Dear Karen O, thank you for reminding us of the original promise of The Pretenders before James Honeyman Scott died and took their mission statement with him. Dear Yoko…nevermind.

That’s the CD length playlist. Once we get past this Sony-imposed 74 minute technological muzzle, we can all get back to the 90 minutes of music that used to grace our UDXLII’s. Until then – I guess we’ll have to settle for unlimited length i-playlists. So here’s the rest of the set.
22. Bob Mould – Mm 17

I heard Bob Mould playing on the in-store music at Home Depot the other day. I kid you not. And recent Bob too. Not just some Workbook or Sugar standby. Maybe I’m showing my age but the guy is a war machine. he puts out great albums every year and when I saw him in October it was the loudest live show I have ever seen. From Life and Times

23. Brandi Carlile – Bend Before it Breaks

This would have made the prime playlist if it wasn’t so moody. Another phenomenal album from the new queen of indie-alt-country. Give Up The Ghost

24. Grizzly Bear – While You Wait For The Others

I first heard the new GB material from NPR’s All Songs Considered’s SXSW live roundup and knew it would be on my best albums of 2009 list. But I didn’t think there was a single potential. This song proved me wrong. Vekatimest

25. A.C. Newman – Heartbreak Rides

This was going to be my lead song for this playlist earlier in the year. It shifted when the list went another direction but it’s still a strong track and I love the album. Get Guilty

26. Fanfarlo – Drowning Men

Thanks to Tara for this band, back before anyone else I knew had mentioned them to me. Reminiscent of Okkervil River but more British. From Reservoir

27. The Big Pink – Dominos

I begrudgingly include this song here. Why begrudgingly? Because I had to go through 6 “live” videos to find one where they didn’t just sing over a recorded track. And then it turns out that they still used mostly loops and what wasn’t loops sucked. VIDEO So why include them at all? It’s a cool track. Yep. I’m that simple. Like MGMT before them, they blend rock with techno-dance. Unlike MGMT before them, they aren’t self-aware or ironic or even fun. But – sigh – it’s a cool track.

Don’t Call It A Comeback: The 20 Best Songs Of 2007

If I had to assign a lame soundbite title to 2007 musically, it would have to be “The Triumphant Return Of The Pop Rock Song” And by that I’m not referring to the newest Justin Timberlake dance ditty, but rather the well-crafted, under-5-minutes, thoughtful, evocative, hummable, rock type of alt-pop song. You know, like Radiohead used to write before they went all Radiohead and stuff. This movement has been gaining ground for a while and this year it really hit its stride.

This was again another year when it was agonizing to cut many worthy tracks. If I pussed out and did a top 100, maybe I could include them all. But I create these lists to be compiled and played on a single CD. So some big pants decisions had to be made, to quote my friend Nyde. Yes, best Springsteen album since Nebraska. Yes, Icky Thump. But I gotta call ’em as I see ’em. [Also: see the post about Songs Vs. Albums] I suspect by this summer the inclusion of the Kate Nash track (Foundations) will feel about as insightful as the year I thought I was the first and last person who would ever play Chumbawamba’s Tub-Thumpin. But ebb and flow, variety and dynamics and representing the lesser-known artists and so on…
The line between “rock” and “alt-rock” has never been thinner. These songs deserve more than to just be heard on Target commercials and CMJ CD Samplers. if these are “alternative” rock songs, then it’s only alternative to the drivel that most mainstream FM stations are fond of playing. These are all pop rock songs in my book.
And my book is: “Illusions:Tales Of A Reluctant Messiah” By Richard Bach, so you know – it’s all about the kick-ass Rock & Roll!
So then:

(In the order in which they appear on the Radioscooter Best Of 2007 CD. No ranking implied)

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1. Interpol – The Heinrich Maneuver / Our Love To Admire
Note to bands: Ensure your inclusion on year-end wrap-ups with at least one track with a bombastic intro. Fairly typical Interpol restating the modern breakup song with gusto. Some well-placed retro sounds including a blatant lift of the Echo & The Bunnymen orchestra synth stab from The Killing Moon.

2. Nicole Atkins – Party’s Over / Neptune City
A beautiful song from simply one of the absolute top 3 albums of 2007. Lush, retro while not seeming derivative, swirling opus to the Jersey shore.

3. Jesse Malin – Don’t Let Them Take You Down / Glitter In The Gutter
This was a tough call. Jesse’s sitting in the space that Bruce should have occupied but this year I tried to veer away from the absolute mainstream to introduce some newer, as yet non-icon status talents.

4. Brandi Carlile – The Story / The Story
It took a while (years) for me to give Brandi Carlile a chance for a stupid reason that I’m somehow eager to share with you. I kept hearing her name and thought she was an American Idol finalist. Turns out she’s um, not. When she finally gets to her belt zone in this song, you are right there with her for every bad mile.

5. The Arcade Fire – No Cars Go / Neon Bible
Sometimes a really great album doesn’t want to be cut up into bite size morsels. Happily, this isn’t the case with Neon Bible. This one was one of my favorite driving tunes.

6. Tegan & Sara – Call It Off / The Con
The most overlooked album of the year and my number one pick. Nearly a perfect pop album from the tortured queens of young love. Pick any track. Nothing but net.

7. The Shins – Phantom Limb / Wincing The Night Away
Yes okay, this track came out originally on an ep in 2006. But the actual album came out in 2007 and that’s how I’m looking at it. An achingly dear track that instantly makes you remember some dreamy, warm (and perhaps gooey) experience from your youth.

8. Feist – I Feel It All / The Reminder
(Play/Download/Lyrics/Band Website)
It was hard to resist putting the other Feist song on this list. You know – the “1,2,3,4…” one from the iPod iTouch commercials. But after selling my iTouch in complete frustration 6 days after owning it and retreating to the upgrade of the iPod 80GB “classic” I decided I didn’t need any more reminders of that misspent week.

9. Winterpills – Broken Arm / The Light Divides
If you took early Simon & Garfunkel and added some Mamas & Papas to a Pixies-esque rhythm section…you’d get like a darker, rockin’ version of the Weepies. Or – you’d get this Winterpills track.

10. Swati – 2 O’Clock In The Morning / Small Gods
Apparently, I loves me some angst-ridden female songwriters. Move over Cat Power, the bus is filling up. Nice desperation-drenched, red-eyed track.

11. Rogue Wave – Lake Michigan / Asleep At Heaven’s Gate
Borrowing an opening drum part from Kate Bush, this song delivers a lush, shins-like melodic journey through some late August Californian afternoon…in Michigan.

12. The New Pornographers – My Rights Vs. Yours / Challengers
Another contender for my album of the year pick. As a sideband project – they sound tighter and fresher than most of the member’s day-job bands.

13. Portatastic – Sour Shores / Be Still Please
Here’s the one that gets me kicked off the bus. Yes, a blatant 2006 track with no possible excuses other than I just plain missed it last year and had to include it this time. Sue me.

14. The National – Brainy / Boxer
These guys have become the critic’s darlings and while I still don’t see it as an album of the year shoe-in, there are some great tracks. Like this one.

15. Loney, Dear – I Am John / Loney Noir
This year was like part 2 of the Ikea Invasion and this sweet soulful Swede is one of the best of them. Indie folk from the heart.

16. Kate Nash – Foundations / Foundations
I hate anti-relationship, bravado/bitch novelty songs, so they don’t make the cut unless they can hold their own as a solid tune, which is rare. This one does. Just when you think you’ve figured out where this song is going to go, she kicks in a brilliant chorus which reflects genuine emotional vulnerability in a way most pop divas would never choose to go.

17. Okkervil River – Our Life Is Not A Movie Or Maybe / The Stage Names
Like the Shins or The Killers or The Arcade Fire before them, these guys break down some conventions to deliver an amazingly fresh take on the same tired old chords as everyone else starts with. Probably the single of the year on my list.

18. Against Me! – Borne On The FM Waves Of The Heart / New Wave
Like a bat out of hell, this track will have you reliving those classic 70’s boy/girl call & response songs. Turn this one up and sing along with your significant other by the dashboard light.

19. Stars – Take Me To The Riot / In Our Bedroom After The War
Boy this list has a lot of retro pastiche songs on it…Think of them as “homages.” This one is no exception. Shades of Nowhere Girl, but in a good, less droningly annoying way.

20. Chantal Kreviazuk – All I Can Do / Ghost Stories
While scores of other piano playing indie chanteuses get heralded as the next Sara MacLachlan/Tori Amos/Elton John, Kreviazuk continues to quietly steal their thunder by being all that and a phenomenal songwriting bag of chips as well. Sadly, this studio track pales to her live version of this great love song.