the photography, music and ramblings of Matt Lipstein

Stupidfresh Best Songs of 2009

It's my pleasure to present to you the StupidFresh Best Songs of 2009 list! This was a good year for music. I was spending more time at home (thanks to a certain someone who came to live with us), and that seemed to translate to mining for more music online.

Looking over these selections, a few themes become apparent.

(1) There aren't many new artists included. Not sure what that says about the state of music - you be the judge. That being said, many of our old favorite groups were making songs with a new edge to them. Jay-Z has two (count 'em, two!) tracks included here. His new album really surprised me with it's diversity of styles and forward thinking music.

(2) There's more hip-hop on here than I would've expected. I've been walking around with pennant for the past few years which reads " Hip-hop is dead', but it looks as if there now may be a resurrection. I will now lower, but not release, said pennant.

(3) I still have a place in my heart for quality song-writing, even if it isn't steeped in the acoustic-guitar singer-songwriter aesthetic that I used to savor. In particular, the Rain Machine, Dirty Projectors and Micachu tracks all are exquisitely written but come at you at little but from the left.

There were also a good amount of older songs that came my way in 2009, but aren't new. Don't fret - you can listen to those on the StupidFresh Best Songs of 2009 (new to me edition).

Ok, enough preamble jibber-jabber from me. Press play, listen up and enjoy! And of course, if you like anything you hear support the artists by buying their stuff.

1) Dirty Projectors + David Byrne - Knotty Pine
This is the lead track from the Dark Was the Night compilation that came out last February which produced a slew of great songs (even if they're not all included on this list). If you're new to the unique song writing approach the Dirty Projectors take to their songs, "Knotty Pine" is a great place to start. It's got the slightly jarring time signature, excellent vocals and harmonies (complimented here by David Byrne no less), and those freaky Dave Longstreth guitar lines. If someone asked me what genre this is, I'd say "tweaked-out art-rock with a twist", which admittedly doesn't mean anything at all. But it sure does sound good.

2) Jay-Z - Empire State of Mind (ft. Alicia Keys)
Ok, I know this song is a huge radio hit and is now all but ubiquitous. However, it's also completely awesome. In a year where NYC was on a crazy roller-coaster ride, it felt great to end up with a true anthem for the city. Hova's rhyme style is as tight as ever, the music is driving, and that chorus - I mean damn! Makes me feel good to live in the best city in the world.

3) Phoenix - Lisztomania
Even though Phoenix have been making great albums and playing crazy shows for years, 2009 was their breakout. It all seems to go back to that SNL appearance. And then there was the fan made brat-pack video, and then the Brooklyn video response. Its been a long time coming for the little French band that could. Lisztomania is from their newest record called Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix - the title alone would've gotten them on this list!

4) Devendra Banhart - Baby
Devendra always ran hot and cold for me. Some of his music is brilliant, and other songs are too out-there for me. And the fact that I peripherally hear about which young starlet he's dating took away from his appeal. All that being said, "Baby" is a perfect little pop-nugget. Picture in your mind your favorite fella or lady-friend, listen to this cut and then smile at the fact you're in love.

5) Kid Cudi - Make Her Say (ft. Kanye West, Common & A-Trak)
Nice lineup! Hip-hop's new wunderkind Kid Cudi takes control of the track declaring "Me first" and we're off. Kanye and Common contribute solid verses here too, and A-Track provides some fine scratches. Remember when scratching was a pre-requisite in a rap song?

6) Amy Millan - I Will Follow You Into the Dark
You may not recognize the name, but you'll know the voice. Amy Millan provides the distinct female vocals in the band Stars. She's been branching out on her own, and this year did a great cover of this Decemberists Death Cab for Cutie track (nice catch John W.!) . A lil' slide guitar and some country twang never hurt anybody right?

7) Micachu & The Shapes - Golden Phone
It's fair to say that Micachu was this year's blogosphere darling (if there can be such a thing). People simply loved her. Listen to "Golden Phone" and it's easy to see why. The sound is fresh, raw and good. And she looks cute and weird, which the bloggers always like. Good for you Micachu.

8) Rain Machine - Smiling Black Faces
Rain Machine is the side-projector of Kyp Malone, better know for his work with TV On the Radio. I've only heard a handful of songs from the full-length, but "Smiling Black Faces" really took a hold of me. The lyrics are deep and challenging, the music is tricky and a touch sloppy, and the overall feeling is powerful.

9) Regina Spektor - Eet
It must be hard being Regina. I'd imagine she feels like she's on the razor's edge when releasing new songs. On one hand, her music has the potential to be too out-there for the masses that now celebrate her. On the other hand, her core fan-base really gravitate to her unique quirks and twitches. So I was glad to listen to her new album Far and marvel at her ability to dance on the razor's edge. This track "Eet" is pure-pop candy.

10) N.A.S.A - Gifted (ft. Kanye West, Santogold, Lykke Li)
This songs got a little somethin' for everyone. An electro dance track runs underneath providing a bed for Kanye to get aggro and nasty, Lykke to be Swedish and sweet, and allows Santogold to do whatever she does (which I can't figure out what it is that people seem to love so much). Even so, "Gifted" is a fun time and that is a good thing.

11) Junior Boys - Hazel
Take a little Depeche Mode, some New Order, a dash of Hot Chip, sprinkle in some Postal Service and stir thoroughly. Serve in a tall lipstick-stained glass and drink in one swallow. This magical combination will produce Junior Boys. Even though I heard they had a rough go of their live show earlier this year in NYC, the album still can't be denied, with this song "Hazel" being a standout.

12) Lee Fields & The Expressions - Ladies
I think he likes ladies.

13) Jay-Z - What We Talkin' About (ft. Luke Steele)
Track #2 from the jigga-man. I was compelled to include this not only for the sweet rhyming syncopation that starts the second verse, but also for that backup track! Was this song written for The Warriors soundtrack? Is this some future ish that I'm not familiar with? Kudos to Jay for going bleeding-edge in the '09.

14) The National - So Far Around the Bend
It would make sense that The National track from the Dark Was the Night compilation would be kick-ass. The album was curated by National members (and twin brothers) Bryce and Aaron Dessner. "So Far Around the Bend" shows the boys stretching out a bit and adding more pieces into the instrumentation. The clarinet with the delay on it really makes it for me on this song. In fact, I liked it so much I did a cover of it! My version will be showing up soon on the 2009 Infinite Regress Covers Mix Tape. For now you should thoroughly enjoy the original.

15) Volcano Choir - Island, IS
This is Justin Vernon on vocals, better known as Bon Iver. But this ain't your daddy's Bon Iver acoustic track - the opening guitar loop will make you aware of that. As Volcano Choir, Vernon makes a song that is hypnotic and dreamy, and makes me feel the slightest bit uncomfortable - which I'm ok with. Mostly.

16) The Streets - Trust Me
Mike Skinner (aka The Streets) used a pretty innovative technique this year when it came to releasing a slew of new tracks he had made. As opposed to releasing an album for purchase, or posting songs to his website, he opted to release songs, one-by-one on his Twitter feed. A blatant shtick? Sure, but it still caught my attention, and a lot of those songs were darn good, "Trust Me" being my favorite. A few weeks after it's debut, Skinner asked fans to remix the song and re-submit back on Twitter. Which I did with pleasure (check my remix here).

17) Dirty Projectors - Two Doves
Sure - I'll bookend this year's best-of list with the Dirty Projectors. I wrote about this song earlier this year here on SF, and at the time I was still unsure about the whole album, even though this track had already won my heart. Turns out all I needed was a little more time. Bitte Ocra is tremendous - there I said it.

*Thanks to Rebecca D. for the awesome illustration! Check out her work at Drawing Challenge.*


2 Responses to “Stupidfresh Best Songs of 2009”

  1. # Anonymous Anonymous

    thanks for the introduction to lee fields. finally - after 33 years - a track inspired by the brothers johnson's land of ladies  

  2. # Blogger Katy

    Thanks for the list(s) and was glad to see Phoenix on there. I feel late to the party on them, but I am very excited to now be invited. I fell for the Cadillac commercial and then heard 'em on NPR...I am a fan. Thanks for those links to the brat pack videos.  

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