Top 50 Singles 2009 – The Top Ten

by MV

What’s that sound? Fanfare? Trumpets? Hysterical screaming? No, it’s actually tumbleweed. Festive tumbleweed, perhaps. Everyone’s pretty much in a holiday mood now, I’m assuming, so now is clearly the best time to sneak out the much-anticipated (HA!) conclusion to my annual rundown of tunes of the good variety.

Behind the click below are my top 10 tracks of the year. And you can listen to a (rather pitiful) 42 of the 50 tracks over here via Spotify.

If anyone’s paying attention, what do you reckon to my choices? Too obvious? Not obvious enough? Most importantly – what have I missed? What’s been floating your 2009-shaped boat that should be in here?

So, here goes…

10. La Roux – Bulletproof

Polarising opinions like no one else this year (OK, except perhaps Gaga until she put out Bad Romance), La Roux nonetheless, for my money, were one of the more reliable performers of the 80s-obsessed Class of ’09. Leaving aside a succession of increasingly jaw-droppingly naive interviews, this year was a good one for Elly Jackson and her ice-cream head. Bulletproof’s jittery Yazoo-pillaging and controlled hysterics were my highlight.

She say: Nothing remotely sensible about anything. Obviously.
Best Bit: The intro, which sounds like it’s falling over itself. In a good way.
See also: The self-titled debut is solid enough, but there was more fun to be had with remixes. Predictable link to Skream’s In For The Kill remix here.

9. Metric – Help I’m Alive

There’s a hierarchy of Emily Haines love in my head. Bottom of the list sits the solo/Soft Skeleton material which wastes her pop-ready vocal talents on drab mumbly twindie. Top of the list is the idea (if not quite the reality) of collaborations with Tiesto. Very near the top, though, is any Metric song that is this great. Much like Monster Hospital a few years back, the original is lent more power by an absolutely blinding pop makeover. Here it’s the Twelves doing the work, but that it doesn’t diminish the appeal of the simple, stuttering rock of the original is to its credit.

They say: “It was completely an accident that it got out to the world. We were just going to make it a 7” limited edition for a tour, and then we started getting calls from friends telling us that KCRW was playing “Help I’m Alive” and then it went to #1 in Canada and got into the top 100 in the States, it totally went and ran off by itself ”
Best Bit: 1.37 onwards – simple but effective.
See also: Definitely check out The Twelves remix.

8. MSTRKRFT ft. John Legend – Heartbreaker

As I probably said at the time, this silk-smooth slice of electro-soul is an absolute world away from DFA 1979. Strangely though, that’s no bad thing. For me, an effective rehabilitation of the image of John Legend – a man that clearly has a voice, but didn’t seem keen to use it on anything with any life to it previously. Also, quite possibly the best thing MSTRKRFT have put their name to so far.

They say: [On courting R’n’B artists] “Other than John Legend, no one was receptive to the idea of working with us at all… I mean, no one knew who we were. This music is completely unknown to that world – they have no idea we’re playing festivals, that the kids like us; they don’t know anything about us. They’re like: ‘This is that weird Euro shit, right?’ And we’re like: ‘Yeah, yeah it is. Expand your audience into Europe with us Canadians.”
See also: Well, the offical non-embeddable vid is here. MSTRKRFT put out lots of good stuff, and I even found a solo John Legend song that I sort of liked, really because of this RAC remix though.

7. Annie – Anthonio

I still don’t understand why this was left off Don’t Stop, but nevermind. Here it is in all its rubbish video glory. Don’t let that put you off though, because it’s a brilliant slice of mid-paced Italo-disco type thing that almost makes up for me forgetting to include anything at all by Sally Shapiro in this list. It raised hopes that Annie’s sophomore album could be a classic in the making, but that wasn’t quite to be. Nevertheless, this is near-perfect.

She say: [On why Anthonio isn’t on the album] “It was actually a song I just recorded. I like to have some releases that are just special for fans. It’s sometimes good to keep the album a little bit special.”
See also: Fred Falke remix (three words which tended to signify quality in 2009); Songs Remind Me Of You.

6. Jay-Z ft. Alicia Keys – Empire State of Mind

If this list pretended to be objective in any way at all, this would be higher up the list. As it stands, I don’t feel a massive connection with a song about loving a city I’ve never been to. However, if there’s been a better chorus than Alicia Keys’ contribution here this year, then I haven’t heard it. Jay-Z is coasting, but that kind of fits with the laidback vibe. An instant classic, without any doubt.

Best Bit: 0.57 – first chorus hit
See also: Run This Town

5. Passion Pit – The Reeling

If Manners didn’t quite live up to the early hype, this lead single more than compensated for it. The glorious blast of energy that kicks things off is probably one of my moments of the year. The over-massaged, falsetto vocals actually, I’ve decided, come into their own in the hyperactive chorus. The relatively underwhelming verses leave this a step away from real classic status, but at its best The Reeling sounds like carefree, arms in the air dancing, in a welcome summer downpour, somewhere in a field in anywhere.

They say: “Listen to my voice on this record. I have to repeat myself. That is a particular character I have decided to sing. I don’t normally sing that way. It’s a whole other voice. My father sang opera for many years and he thinks that I am absolutely insane. But he loves it. But he has no idea what I am doing. It’s not necessarily not good for you, but it’s not the way people are supposed to sing.”
Best Bit: That incredible first 20 seconds or so – best played really, really loud.
See also: Moths Wings was another album highlight.

4. Saint Etienne – Method of Modern Love

The fact that I’ve already mentioned them three times so far, in a year in which they basically only put out a single and a remix album, should give some indication of the depth of my current obsession with this band. In any right-thinking world, this would have been number one for several weeks. A Richard X/Hannah Robinson track merely fronted by the band, it’s pop music as good as some of Girls Aloud’s better moments, while still retaining the unique Cracknell charm and beauty. Simply ace – and the lack of a proper video is inexcusable.

Richard X say: “Having been a fan I’m sure I’ve ripped off many ideas from them, hence why we seem a good fit. I was also a big fan of the Icerink label they had for a while, and that informed some of my pop sensibilities.”
Best Bit: Another one with a rather good intro, I’d say?
See also: Their latest best of compilation, London Conversations, came out this year, and is perfect.

3. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Zero

It’s always amazing to see a band taking a step to the next level. It would be a mistake to say that It’s Blitz and its lead single marked an entirely new chapter for the band – they’ve hinted at this kind of synth-assisted savvy in places since their debut. But this felt like ambition fully realised, a mature album without all the grimness maturity usually implies. If Heads Will Roll gave more visceral thrills later in the year, this was a blinding statement of intent and thus it wins out here.

Best Bit: The joyful synth explosion around 2.42
See also: Can’t go without mentioning this awesome A-Trak remix of Heads Will Roll.

2. Kid Sister – Right Hand Hi

More synth-based pop fun, shock horror. Kid Sister popped up somewhere relatively lowly in my list last year with the fun but silly Pro Nails, but this one’s barely been off my iPod since it showed up months and months ago. It bombed on its UK release, but I’m still holding out for a reissue in 2010. We can but dream. Anyway, it’s up here because of its relentless energy, sense of fun, and would be number one if it wasn’t for the fact that a certain other Lady went and did it all that little bit better…

She say: “Music like me, like A-Trak, like whatever, all of our little network, our little family, I hope music like that becomes the mainstream rather than listening to these bastardized versions of it that we hear on the radio. Because you’ll hear a lot of these Top 40 producers, they’ll straight up bite some of the stuff that is going on “underground,” and they do it in such a way that it’s just tasteless.”
Best Bit: Intros tend to feature heavily in this slot don’t they? Stabby synths though!
See also: If you’re in the US, pick up her album. If you’re in the UK – wait ’til March! That’ll learn ya.

1. Lady Gaga – Bad Romance

It couldn’t be anything else, could it? I’ve proved on numerous occasions that I’m a massive fan of preposterous music. The more ludicrously overblown the gooderer, as far as I’m concerned. (Although strangely I don’t love Queen all that much, but that’s another story) This record is the queen of ludicro-pop in 2009. Without this, Gaga would probably have been a top 20 entry at best – with one of her better Fame tunes like Paparazzi or Just Dance. I don’t buy into the theory that she was rubbish and now she’s great. She was great already, now she’s bloody amazing. Fin.

She say: “I don’t wanna be one song. I wanna be the next 25 years of pop music.”
Best Bit: I have a passionate love of the bit at 3.59 where she switches back from the random French into a drunken-drawled ‘I don’t wanna be frrrieeends…’
See also: The vast majority of things she’s put out this year (we’ll excuse the rubbish LoveGame as that was floating around in early 08); and it’s always worth another look at her showing the X Factor lot what a pop star looks like.