Music is arguably more crucial to human existence than adequate blood flow. Want proof? At Fast Horse World Headquarters, we bicker somewhere between six and 84 times per day about which XM radio station to listen to, sometimes resorting to yelling — all in the interest of finding good music, not because we hate each other. But nowhere to be found is a defibrillator. I rest my case.
At the risk of offending, well, everyone, I’ve decided to cap off the great year known as 2009 with a recollection of the year’s best music. How is “best music” defined? It’s rather precise: “best” = “my favorite.”
Compiling a list like this is one of the hardest things in the world to do. If I’d have spent the energy and passion I put into this post instead on, say, ending steroid use in baseball, Craig Counsell would finally get his due. And I’m pretty sure I’ll want to leave comments arguing with myself, pointing out great music I forgot to include — starting about 10 minutes after I publish this.
One thing I was pretty strict about: 2009. If the music wasn’t released this year, it didn’t qualify. So as much as I’d love to tell you about the Kings of Leon’s newest album (which was released in 2008 but came to fame in 2009) or this awesome version of Tom Jones’ “If He Should Ever Leave You” (though this version was recorded this year, the song was released earlier), I can’t.
Is this list foolishy and hopelessly biased and shortsighted? Hell ,yeah. But for every ounce of shortsightedness this list has, these songs have a full metric ton of awesomeness. Will I feel very differently about this list in a day, week, month or year? Absolutely, but we’ll all get over it.
I encourage you to share your own suggestions. We all love discovering new tunes.
Now behold, in no particular order, the raddest tunes of 2009.
Avett Brothers – “Laundry Room”
I could really choose any song from the album “I and Love and You,” which is perhaps the best album of 2009. The title track is the big single and a beautiful tune, and “Ten Thousand Words” shows off a great bit of brotherly harmonizing. But “Laundry Room” steals the show.
Jimmy Fallon as Neil Young – “Fresh Prince Theme“
“In West Philadelphia, born and raised — on the playground is where I spent most of my days.” For people of a certain generation, reciting those lyrics is second nature. Jimmy Fallon, in a dead-on Neil Young impersonation, takes Will Smith’s hip-hop theme folk. And it’s oddly beautiful. Discovering this song made me giddy.
Camera Obscura – “French Navy”
Very nice lead vocal with a perfect chorus that just brings it on home.
Pearl Jam – “The Fixer“
For some stupid reason, the record label or someone connected with this awesome song doesn’t want me to show this awesome video — YouTube embedding has been disabled. Boo.
Kid Cudi – “Pursuit of Happiness”
It took me way too long to hear this song for the first time, but when I did, me likey. A great hook makes this song an instant hit. But I don’t condone driving drunk.
Brother Ali – “Us”
Maybe Minneapolis isn’t known for its rap scene (sorry, Atmosphere), but Brother Ali is reason enough for the Twin Cities to stake its claim. (This video is for a different, slightly shorter version of the song, but it’s cool.)
The Dead Weather – “I Cut Like a Buffalo”
No, I cannot talk about the Dead Weather without talking about Jack White. Thanks for asking. That’d be like talking about Simon and Garfunkel without talking about Simon. In my book, the Dead Weather don’t keep up with White’s work in his previous side project, but “Buffalo” does indeed rock my socks.
Gossip – “Heavy Cross”
Beth Ditto will rock your face off with a powerful lead vocal in this infectious dance-rock number. Whenever I hear the first few bars of this song, the stereo gets turned up to 11.
Animal Collective – “My Girls”
I think this is the go-to song for people who want other people to think they’re hip. It just sounds like cool kids are supposed to like it.
Modest Mouse – “Satellite Skin“
One of my favorite bands keeps on keepin’ on. I love when great bands don’t fade.
The Decemberists – “The Rake’s Song”
Not afraid to write quirky songs that contain vocabulary most fans wouldn’t have previously heard — let alone understood — The Decemberists excel at simple folk tunes, funky dance numbers and stuff that borders on straight-up hard rock.
Bon Iver – “Blood Bank”
If this understated, slightly haunting song doesn’t qualify as gorgeous, I’m not sure what does.
Jay-Z and Alicia Keys – “Empire State of Mind“
In my book, Ms. Keys gets the credit for this song. Enough said.
Andrew Bird – “Oh No“
Jodi Petrich: Don’t listen to this song. Bird is a great songwriter, though he arguably leans a bit too much on his crutch of choice: whistling. Jodi hates whistling.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs – “Zero”
Sure, the guitarist is great and the drummer really holds it down, but vocalist Karen O puts any Yeah Yeah Yeahs song over the top. “Zero” is no exception.
Rodrigo y Gabriela – “Buster Voodo”
Perhaps best known for their amazing nylon-string covers of classics like “Stairway to Heaven,” this Hendrix-y song from the new album 11:11 simply rocks.
Grizzly Bear – “Two Weeks”
Was this song overplayed during the past year? Yes. Is it still good? Yes.
Chairlift – “Bruises”
Bass-driven tune with a sweet melody. Your girlfriend will love it, and you won’t have to tell her you do, too.
Passion Pit – “Sleepyhead“
Go ahead. Listen to this song, and then try to tell me it’s not stuck in your head. And then I’ll call you a liar. Because at that point, you’ll be a liar.
Felt – “Protagonists“
It seems this is the Current’s most often played hip-hop song of late, and that’s a good thing.
Norah Jones – “Chasing Pirates“
Part of me hates myself for putting this song on this list, but the rest of me can’t help myself.