My Top 100 Songs of 2009 – 40-31

Today I continue my ten-part series showcasing my personal picks for the best songs of last year.

40. Phoenix – Lisztomania

It’s been a long time coming, but thanks to Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, the French quartet are now a festival circuit band and one of the biggest groups in the world.  Their jazz-fused, stream-of-consciousness take on upbeat pop is clearly expressed through this track, featuring an unconventional chorus that, like so many things Phoenix, works perfectly, even if it’s a bit outside the boundaries of what we normally hear on CHR.

39. YACHT – Psychic City (Voodoo City)

See Mystery Lights was a success in so many ways it’s hard to describe exactly what it is to people who have never heard it.  The best definition would be a dance album, but it was unusual and experimental at the same time.  A quirky upbeat album that made you, well, think.  The obvious highlight, however, is the carefree standout “Psychic City,” featuring an infectious “a-yah-yah-yah” mixed in with a “Huh!” and “OH-HO-HO-OH!” that’s pretty perfect with friends on a road trip.

38. Neon Indian – Terminally Chill

Probably the catchiest, most radio-friendly track off my favorite album of 2009, Psychic Chasms, Alan Palomo drops his drug-induced 80’s riffage around what could be interpreted as a bangin’ hip-hop beat.  The repetitive chants don’t hurt either.

37. Passion Pit – Little Secrets

What makes this song awesome?  Is it the crowd-pleasing “Higher and Higher” chant done by those little children?  Is it that peaked falsetto in the chorus?  Is it that blast of bass at the beginning that compels you to move?  No.  It’s the simple observation that this song has the same chord progression as Steve Winwood’s “Higher Love.”  And that’s a good thing.  Mashup, anyone?

36. Major Lazer – Can’t Stop Now

While most of Guns Don’t Kill People, Lazers Do is a freak-dance fest, daggering and all, “Can’t Stop Now” could be seen as the early interlude that showcases Switch and Diplo’s production chops.  It ends up in the process as one of the best tracks on the disc – a dub song so convincing you forget you’re listening to a project from two white American DJs messing around with international sounds.

35. Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes – Janglin

What makes Edward Sharpe and his crew stand out from the rest of these new indie pop bands your little sister loves is pure authenticity.  The music Sharpe writes is witty, beautiful, and relevant.  In “Janglin,” we hear the finest of the Arcade Fire, Polyphonic Spree, and any other credible band of the indie movement of the past decade.  A moody bridge creeps around before we go back to that happy-feeling chorus, proving the subtle Sharpe has more depth than he’s leading us to believe.

34. Green Day – American Eulogy

Green Day nowadays are more of a stadium-rock band than the snotty punks we fell in love with in 1994.  And while I’m one of those people who is totally okay with their transformation to more anthem rock tendencies and Queen-esque posturing as they age, there’s nothing like hearing them punch out a Nirmrod-era three-minute tune like the old days.  Except this time, it’s a two-part Clash-inspired frenzy, conceptually rocked and rolled.  “American Eulogy” is the best example of Green Day tying their new style with their old flavor on their latest album.  They’re masters at both, so of course, it works.

33. Grizzly Bear – While You Wait For the Others (featuring Michael McDonald)

While there’s certainly nothing wrong with the original vocals on Veckatimest (it is, after all, one of the best on the disc), Michael McDonald’s contribution made for one of the most interesting, and surprisingly kick-ass, collaborations in 2009.  The sappiest and frankly lamest Doobie Brother was given a burst of indie cred last year when he lent his trademark Smokey the Bear-ish croon to the Brooklyn group’s career gem.

32. Dent May – Meet Me In the Garden

“Meet Me In the Garden” is a prime example of the underrated force that is Dent May.  Sure, his gimmick may be that dumb ukulele, but the man writes well-layered pop songs with Paul Simon-like unique instrumentation.  Give the man and his album a chance, and you’ll see why he deserves another look.

31. Raekwon – New Wu (featuring Ghostface Killah and Method Man)

While the majority of the Wu-Tang family has either made music sporadically, died, or churned out bargain bin material, Raekwon delivered the proper sequel to his classic Only Built For Cuban Linx.  It took him forever to make, but Part 2 was worth the wait.  The best track, without a doubt, is the collab with fellow Killah Beez Ghostface and Method Man, two of the more respected members of the old Clan.  So throw your “Ws” up!

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