Best music of 2009

What I really enjoyed listening to during the past year.

Over the past year, I’ve been enjoying music more than ever, and so it has been natural for me to make a list over the music I enjoyed the most during 2009. You can see a lot of “greatest music of the past year” lists on the internet from professional reviewers or magazines, and mine might shock in the way that the list doesn’t look like most of the others. What are normally favourites don’t necessarily get the top spot here. And that is not because I can’t appreciate the crazy amount of work done, originality shown or the beautiful message within those certain favourites, it’s just that I rank solely based on the listening enjoyment I’ve had with the music and not solely on whether it’s the most original or a landmark effort. It might be—but it’s not required.

I’ve made lists for what I think are the best songs of 2009 and what I think are the best albums. They’re presented below with some text for each, noting why I like them. The date displayed below the title/artist is the original release date for the single or the album (usually local to Europe if not global), and below each description is a note that tells you whether I’ve featured this track or not before, in a Song of the Now.

I think that’s enough for an intro. Let’s check out the greatest music of ‘09!

Best songs of 2009


#40

21 Guns

Green Day

May 25

With a sound that is unmistakenly Green Day, 21 Guns is an epic stadium rock ballad. The feature in one of the biggest summer movies of the year helped a lot, too.

SOTN Runner-up, June

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#39

Secretly

The William Blakes

January 19

Danish hit-crafters craft an unmistakable early summer hit that buries all accusations that they’ve done something silly, but instead manifests confidence that they know how to write earworms.

Song of the Now, March 22

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#38

Little Secrets

Passion Pit

December 14

Armed with a choir of children, Michael Angelakos sings about horrible burning secrets as if he was on the way to the kindergarden. The track is addicting, the lyrics worrying, and that’s the epitome of Passion Pit.

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#37

Uprising

Muse

August 3

Another song from Muse about repression and resistance may sound like a cliché going too far, but with new musical elements such as synths and something as primitive as stadium chants, the band manages to create yet another addicting single. And from that, there is no resistance.

SOTN Runner-up, August

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#36

Sunshine

Ginger Ninja

June 22

As if it was genetically engineered from the start to be a summer hit (and who wouldn’t think that after reading the title), this Danish song swept over the nation in the hot months with its sweet guitars and unignorable chorus.

Song of the Now, August 10

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#35

Internet Warrior

Oh No Ono

February 9

Experimental pop with sound effects, airy guitars, symphony hints and addicting synth hooks by the band with the weird name hit the collective ears of Denmark in early spring, and this was the track marching in front.

SOTN Runner-up, February

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#34

Under the Sheets

Ellie Goulding

November 15

This electropop diva is seen as an exciting musical talent we’ll hear more from in 2010, and this first single, released late last year, is very promising.

SOTN Runner-up, December

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#33

Unfinished Business

White Lies

Original release 2008

This song, re-released to airplay in Denmark in autumn 2009, is an eerie musical rock piece about big feelings even after death; unfinished business.

Album “To Lose My Life…” pictured

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#32

Broken Hearts

Kiss Kiss Kiss

June 8

A semi-retro track constructed with fresh guitar riffs coupled with sweeping synths and a set of lyrics that could be taken from old maritime love stories; broken hearts waiting in the harbour.

Song of the Now, July 29

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#31

Red

Daniel Merriweather

May 18

In a sweeping minimalistic ballad where Mr. Merriweather makes clear all of his feelings, he sings about something as serious as the current world situation and world leaders and how they’re without love. Without question one of his strongest songs.

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#30

Repeaterbeater

Mew

August 24

This guitar-heavy track from Mew is seemingly partially about questions to oneself and partially about domestic violence. It’s a short an easy track to rock out to, and all of it is sprinkled with xylophone-esque synth tunes in the background.

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#29

Remedy

Little Boots

August 17

The highlight of Victoria Hesketh’s singles of 2009, produced by Lady Gaga-famed RedOne, brought her inches from the top of the UK Singles Chart and singlehandedly cements Little Boots’ position as a master of contagious rhythms—perhaps the kind she sings about in the track itself.

SOTN Runner-up, September

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#28

I Lost My Voice

WhoMadeWho

May 5

A song belonging in the realm of very well done experimental electronic tracks. WhoMadeWho mixes various synthy sounds with light percussion and at the end, the voice of the singer gets a treatment as well. An adventure in modern song crafting.

Song of the Now, May 27; Album “The Plot” pictured

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#27

Heads Will Roll

Yeah Yeah Yeahs

June 29

The New York band combines an addictive alternate dance jam with confetti, glitter and macabre visions, Karen O orders your head chopped off at increasing intensity while the synths sweep in the background.

Song of the Now, September 13

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#26

Magnificent

U2

May 4

The second single from U2’s 2009 album No Line on the Horizon, Magnificent, is an epic stadium rock love song; it is U2 as we’re used to. And, as Bono in the song explains “I was born to sing for you”, I acknowledge the fact and enjoy the song.

Song of the Now, April 12

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#25

The Reeling

Passion Pit

May 8

A synthpop take on old soul styles and dark visions, the first single from the debut studio album of Passion Pit, explains tales of an unfortunate being while dancing in reeling circular formations around it as if it were all a happy fairytale. And they invite us to join.

SOTN Runner-up, August

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#24

Animal

Miike Snow

August 10

In this tune from the northern electropop trio Miike Snow, the only thing more prominent than the addictive throbbing synth rhythms in the background is the confession that the protagonist of the song is an animal without feelings, perhaps contrary to the self-aware behaviour displayed.

SOTN Runner-up, September

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#23

Love Long Distance

Gossip

September 13

American garage rock monsters Gossip turn into disco dancers in this song about long distance relationships—both good and bad. The guitar steps in the background to instead welcome the synth and the good ol’ grand piano to the limelight in this epic that has a nod to Marvin Gaye’s classic I Heard It Through the Grapevine. An interesting change in genre for Gossip; lead singer Beth Ditto’s soul-inspired sound fits in more perfectly than ever.

SOTN Runner-up, October

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#22

Brother Sport

Animal Collective

November 9

A wonderful and melodic sound is crafted by the psychedelic fellas in Animal Collective in this song about opening ones mouth and talking things over after a sad event in ones life. While the sung parts of the song makes for easy sing-a-long, the musical breaks could very well be audial interpretations of a tumultuous mind and situation.

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#21

I Don’t Like Your Band

Annie

October 19

In this excellent album track, underground pop queen Annie crafts boy-rejecting bubblegum pop on top of beeping robots and squiggly synths.

Song of the Now, October 26; Album “Don’t Stop” pictured

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#20

Standing on the Shore

Empire of the Sun

June 12

Several layers of guitar play on top of heavy drum machine beats while EOTS front man Luke Steele sings about ships and refusing to talk. And while he’s dancing with sword fish ladies, I can’t help but tap my feet along to the fresh tune.

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#19

I Lay My Head

Fallulah

August 31

The debut single by this new Danish R&B diva is filled with guitar loops and handclaps and a terrible boy that kept cheating all the girls, including herself. Everyone in Denmark sang along to this tune in the gloomy autumn. And so did I.

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#18

While You Wait for the Others

Grizzly Bear

August 31

The Brooklyn-based indie rockers at Grizzly Bear serve up brilliant guitars, amazing voice harmonies and other forms of magic in this very pop-inclined rock tune about uncertainties and waiting time.

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#17

The Girl and the Robot

Röyksopp

June 15

The Norwegian synth duo Röyksopp’s third album Junior was released in spring and the highlight of the album is this single that features Swedish singer Robyn. She sings of a both tragic and weird love situation as she explains how she’s in love with a robot that never comes home from work. All of this while many synth chords bubble and fizzle in the background.

SOTN Runner-up, April

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#16

I’m Not Alone

Calvin Harris

April 6

This first single from Calvin Harris’ 2009 album Ready for the Weekend starts in a slow almost guitar pop mood, then soon dives head first into some serious trance synth riffs, marking that Harris’ 2009 party has begun. After some time, everybody knew those exact sixteen chords making up the background of the chorus, and it is surely already a trademark jam by him.

SOTN Runner-up, April

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#15

Bulletproof

La Roux

June 22

This summer belonged to UK electropop duo La Roux, who generated pretty big hits in the first half of 2009, including the Song of the Now Quicksand, but finally managed to get the top spot of the Singles Chart with Bulletproof. The song has a simple chorus that works extremely well; incredible synths that have tons of dimension, a fantastic drumbeat and finally less shrill vocals as earlier tracks, but it still works just as well. A marvellous piece of summer pop.

SOTN Runner-up, July

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#14

Did You See Me Coming?

Pet Shop Boys

June 1

When synthpop favourites Pet Shop Boys were releasing a new album in March, I was hotly anticipating it but I definitely did not see this coming: Second single Did You See Me Coming? happened to charm me more than the first single. It’s an innocent love pop song that starts off with an acoustic guitar which is soon accompanied by an amazing arrangement of synths which are there for the rest of the song where Neil Tennant utters that “you don’t have to be in who’s who to know what’s what”.

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#13

Two Weeks

Grizzly Bear

June 1

A simple piano riff dominates this genre-blending high class track from folk rockers Grizzly Bear, where the entire band sings along with impressive vocal harmonies to a tune that enters your heart, with varied and intriguing instrumentation. Experimental rock at its best.

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#12

My Girls

Animal Collective

March 23

A piece of psychedelic pop as absolutely mesmerising as its cover image, but in a good way. This track shows Animal Collective at their most pop-esque moment with a tune that is very accessible about the simple life. The synth riffs in this track, although simple, are dominating and sound so amazing my speakers might just explode from the awesomeness that is this song.

Song of the Now, August 14

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#11

No You Girls

Franz Ferdinand

April 6

The second single from Franz Ferdinand’s third album, Tonight, this disco-inspired dance-rock track hit the airwaves in the spring, and when it did, guaranteed dancing was abound. Having both a terribly addictive chorus and an incredible depth, this is a track I enjoyed for long parts of last year.

Song of the Now, April 22

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#10

Crystalised

The xx

April 27

Coming seemingly out of nowhere, the 20-year old indie rockers in The xx from South London garnered massive hype during the year, and their debut single, Crystalised, combines howling noises with simple guitar and bass riffs and a lightly percussive drum machine. The two singers of the band sing to each other about breaking relationships, but—perhaps in an effort to spice it up—in big metaphors related to things like sun and glaciers melting, not to mention the title-grabber, crystalisation.

SOTN Runner-up, December

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#9

Fail Forever

When Saints Go Machine

March 2

This Danish band with the name taking inspiration from a popular US gospel hymn released this ballad track that has a pulsing background overlaid with cello samples and an absolutely soothing vocal. Sounding like a new Antony Hegarty with a beat box, front man Nikolaj Vonsild sings of visions falling apart just in time for the cello to kick in.

Song of the Now, April 19

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#8

Tonight’s Today

Jack Peñate

March 30

Mr. Peñate sings Tonight’s Today as if looking back on a bad part of life. As if until just now, he’s been a zombie all along, and now he’s just waking up and figuring out that “there’s still so much more I can do”. He sings that he’s ringing church bells day and night, and with that I’ll agree; there’s much more he can do. One example is to produce splendid southern-inspired pop songs, and that example we have right here. This one’s got it all: Exotic guitars, fancy percussion and a chorus that simply screams participation. And that’s no problem: Give me a cold drink and a Hawaiian Lei, and I’ll be dancing all the way down the beach.

Song of the Now, April 25

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#7

Farewell to the Fairground

White Lies

March 23

British post-punk revival act White Lies got a lot of hype for their debut album in the past year, and in my opinion, the strongest track from the album was second single Farewell to the Fairground. A song filled to the brim with feelings, lead singer Harry McVeigh sings lyrics of rejecting a dark place or time in ones life and continually trying to escape it to arrive at something new; “keep on running, there’s no place like home”. The song is well orchestrated with an impressive drum loop I’ve air-drummed many times, and a simple and eerie but catchy musical hook that is played in the beginning and the end. This is a song to dream to.

SOTN Runner-up, April

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#6

Introducing Palace Players

Mew

June 1

One of the most popular bands from Denmark, Mew, was back with this first single from their new album released in the past year. Packed with the usual non-sensical lyrics, front man Jonas Bjerre sings of fixed things that ended up broken anyway, and then switching seats and jumping off the seesaw. It matters not so much, however, as the musical part of the song is pure excellence; the electric guitar stutters in a quirky pattern that takes a while to get used to. However, when you do, you realize it’s musical excellence, just like the rest of this track with its dreamy synthy strings, musical breakdowns, funny lyrics and delicate but catchy chorus.

SOTN Runner-up, July

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#5

Sweet Disposition

The Temper Trap

Originally released 2008

This song by Australian The Temper Trap, although originally being released in 2008, enjoyed much success in the autumn of the past year due to being used in several commercials and also being near the release of their debut album, so as an exception, it’s included in this list. And immediately, when it was first played on the radio this autumn, I was in love. Filled with rhytmical guitars arpeggiating either up or down, bathed in its own echo and lead singer Dougy Mandagy’s soothing falsetto vocals on top. Put those ingredients together and you have Sweet Disposition, a stadium rock track that lyrically seems to be bent on sweet reconciliation.

Song of the Now, August 18

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#4

Undisclosed Desires

Muse

November 16

In Undisclosed Desires, a track I predicted would be a single, Muse puts away the electric guitar for the first time and instead swaps it with a synth Depeche Mode would be proud of. A track packed with musicality, interesting lyrics and a special atmosphere, there’s no doubt that the British rock trio masters the synthpop genre while however still managing to keep a certain Muse sound. This is living evidence that bands challenging themselves and trying out new genres often leads to good results, contrary to popular misconceptions. With this electronic wonder, Muse has produced one of their finest tracks in years.

Song of the Now, September 22

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#3

We Are the People

Empire of the Sun

February 23

Australian band Empire of the Sun combines acoustic guitars with synthpop music and heartbroken lyrics, and the result is absolute bliss. While guitars are being played in the foreground and various layers of synth bubbling, sweeping and squiggling at various paces in the background, avoiding to sing along must surely be one of the hardest things in the world. This track creates an atmosphere of adventure; of being some place new; of challening times with friends. It’s a much perfected track; at some point while listening to this song, you hand clap along and inevitably wonder if it would in any way be possible for these guys to stack any more hooks on top of this beautiful monster.

SOTN Runner-up, April

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#2

Fireflies

Owl City

December 2

No one really knows where he came from, but suddenly he was just everywhere; this youngin’ named Adam Young from Owl City. Fireflies, a single from his big label debut Ocean Eyes, is a synthpop song about dreaming, one with a lyrical story that undeniably comes off with a certain degree of “cuteness”. Mr. Young (along with assistant vocalist Matt Thiessen) sings of “ten thousand lightning bugs”, disco balls and teardrops. But when they, helped along with the impressive layers of synths and drum machines, sing of believing that planet Earth turns slowly, it feels like I can fly. It’s an impressive composition, both melodically and in production, and that it got to #1 in the US Hot 100 is mighty impressive for an indie artist.

SOTN Runner-up, October

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#1

11th Dimension

Julian Casablancas

October 6

When it was public that The Strokes vocalist Julian Casablancas was working on a solo album, I don’t know how many expected that it would have a distinctive smell of synthpop. His debut solo single, 11th Dimension, with its dominating and incredible synthesizer riffs reeks of it, standing as a prime example that 2009 was a year of amazing synthpop. Not long after this track was released, it was stuck in my head for ages and gave me something to play air synth to at work or in the subway. This composition, with its precision programmed guitar riffs chiming in on top of tall synthesizers and crisp drum machines, has an unmatched ability to make me happy every time I hear it, even today. Like the four minutes it takes are some of undiluted and unsurpassed bliss. Julian Casablancas has shown that although he’s a master of one of the past decade’s best rock bands, inside him is a machine heart that beats with love for old analog synths. And when it comes out to play, the results are mind-blowing. This is in my opinion, the greatest song of 2009. And, although it arrived late in the year, when I think of the past year, I will think of all the ridiculous dance moves I made inside my abode to this impressive track.

Song of the Now, October 12

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Best albums of 2009


#20

WHT

Troels Abrahamsen

May 4

Danish indie DJ and band front man Troels Abrahamsen combined ol’ timey instruments with new drum machines and synths and created a distinctive organic sound that was present in this great electronic album from start to finish.

Noteworthy tracks: We’re Like This, Switch It Off, End Scene


#19

Enter Metropolis

Dúné

August 24

The Danish indie/electrorockers from Dúné answers great expectations by releasing a sophomore album that is varied, deep and shows the struggle of teens trying to make it big in life, overcoming whatever obstacles are in the way.

Track Victim of the City: Song of the Now, June 6

Noteworthy tracks: To Metropolis, Please Bring Me Back, Everybody Fights the Lust


#18

I Don’t Care

Birk Storm

February 2

Danish hip hop drummer takes the funk genre and combines it with electro as he makes it his own in this fresh record. From the bubbly rhythms of Side by Side, the vocal harmonies in The Shine and the rapping in Don’t Take the Jump, this is an album that combines confessionals and ups and downs in life with a party feeling, a young freshness, a big attitude and even bigger drum machines.

Track I Don’t Care: Song of the Now, January 18

Noteworthy tracks: I Even Got To Move My Own Feet, I Don’t Care, Resignation


#17

Ocean Eyes

Owl City

July 14

North American synthpop brainchild project Owl City appeared out of nowhere and borrows a lot from a band I have never heard about, but delivers with an impressive synthpop album where everything sounds the same, but when Adam Young is behind it, everything sounds good. All tracks have impressive attention brought to the varying drum machines and synths, and the melodies are crafted in such a way that they just don’t let go of you.

Track Fireflies: SOTN Runner-up, October; #2 in Songs of the Year

Noteworthy tracks: Cave In, Meteor Shower, The Tip of the Iceberg


#16

Music for Men

Gossip

June 19

“Music for Men”, the title of the album says in glittery pink with a woman on the front cover. While I’m not sure about the symbolism of that, I am sure that this is a pretty mindblowing album that blends old school rock with disco, soul and gospel and the result is both very interesting and also completely okay to dance to.

Track Love Long Distance: SOTN Runner-up, October; #23 in Songs of the Year

Noteworthy tracks: Pop Goes The World, Love and Let Love, Love Long Distance


#15

Love & War

Daniel Merriweather

May 22

From the old-time groove in Impossible to the duet with Adele in Water and a Flame, Daniel Merriweather blends pop, soul and R&B in a way that sounds like it was recorded before World War II, and the style of music fits him perfectly. The album has a lot of different songs that all make you wonder why they were invented now and not a gajillion years ago, because they’re really that great.

Track Change: SOTN Runner-up, March
Track Red: #31 in Songs of the Year

Noteworthy tracks: Could You, Chainsaw, Impossible


#14

Eggs

Oh No Ono

April 20

Danish pop/rock band gets inspired by some of the really big players in the history of music and takes us many weird places on a journey filled with huge ambitions; we arrive at a tea party, a ballet, we swim around and look at icicles and finally journey out into the internet all while we listen to symphonious sounds, hand claps, sound effects, funny stories and wonder if this could be any bigger, and if I may, any weirder. But in the end, all is good. As a reversed and encoded clip in the final song says: “I’ll play my song, and it’ll be impossible to be angry.”

Track Internet Warrior: SOTN Runner-up, February; #35 in Songs of the Year

Noteworthy tracks: Icicles, Swim, Helplessly Young


#13

xx

The xx

August 16

The 20-year old boys and girls in The xx goes back to the basics and creates their own sound and genre on this highly-praised debut record. Simple duets on top of a stack of very ordinary instruments create a sound that is unmistakably theirs, yet with enough variation all of the way to make this album a very interesting one that is perfect for a time to relax, ideally late at night, staring out into the night.

Track Crystalised: SOTN Runner-up, December; #10 in Songs of the Year

Noteworthy tracks: Heart Skipped a Beat, Islands, Infinity


#12

Merriweather Post Pavilion

Animal Collective

January 11

Weird noises, blipping synths and singable melodies and lyrics form the basis of this album that seems like a dream from start to finish. This is a record lyrically filled with out-of-body experiences, simple needs and daily routines, spiced up with some of the greatest melodies and senses of musicality found in 2009. Let’s face it: Before this album, I had no idea who these guys were. Now, I respect them infinitely. This is pretty darn good.

Track My Girls: Song of the Now, August 14; #12 in Songs of the Year
Track Brother Sport: #22 in Songs of the Year

Noteworthy tracks: In the Flowers, Summertime Clothes, Bluish


#11

Miike Snow

Miike Snow

May 22

In what is easily one of the most overlooked albums of the year, Swedish producer duo Bloodshy & Avant, of Britney Spears’ Toxic fame, team up with New York singer/songwriter Andrew Wyatt and create synth music of various flavours blended with various heavy sentiments and stories that result in a lot of catchy tracks with plenty of room for the experimentation that is often lost in those really popular diva-ish pop songs these guys usually craft.

Track Animal: SOTN Runner-up, September; #24 in Songs of the Year

Noteworthy tracks: Silvia, Black and Blue, Plastic Jungle

#10

Veckatimest

Grizzly Bear

May 24

Grizzly Bear was yet another band that made the leap into my consciousness in the past year with this amazing indie/folk rock album. With incredible songs, varied soundscapes and nothing short of amazing vocal harmonies, this American band has created an album that is incredibly interesting from start to finish. I’m not usually much into the folk rock genre, so the fact that it’s so high on my list of best albums of the past year, let alone even on it, says a lot about how big this masterpiece really is. It’s filled with music that on every single listen sounds increasingly universal and essential.

Track Two Weeks: #13 in Songs of the Year
Track While You Wait for the Others: #18 in Songs of the Year

Noteworthy tracks: Southern Point, Fine For Now, Dory

#9

Conditions

The Temper Trap

August 9

On Conditions, young Australian rockers The Temper Trap indulge in big stadium rock pieces that in their all-encompassing nature deal with large problems in front of even greater guitars and echoes. But in the middle of the big pieces, they also play less dominating minimalistic odes to love, hope and everything in between. Through it all is lead singer Dougy Mandagy’s falsetto voice that guides us through ups and down in an album that helps you to both chill out and scream out loud.

Track Sweet Disposition: Song of the Now, August 18; #5 in Songs of the Year

Noteworthy tracks: Love Lost, Fader, Science of Fear

#8

To Lose My Life…

White Lies

January 19

Post-punk revivalists White Lies gained a lot of hype this year for this album with three pillars on the front, where they sing of dark endeavours like funerals, fears of flying, places to hide and unfinished business. Lead by singer Harry McVeigh, the band tells clandestine stories in these ten songs, now and then backed up by lots of guitars and the obligatory symphonical strings to help the feelings get across. After a listen to this album, I feel oddly refreshed and ready for new adventures.

Track Farewell to the Fairground: SOTN Runner-up, April; #7 in Songs of the Year
Track Unfinished Business: #33 in Songs of the Year

Noteworthy tracks: Death, To Lose My Life, From the Stars

#7

Manners

Passion Pit

May 18

This album is a story of sweet deception, in many ways. The American electropop band Passion Pit let out dark secrets on their oddly named debut album Manners. However, the dark stories being told in the lyrics are covered in wonky pop music that at a glance seems so happy it almost negates the sad lyrics in the songs themselves. Yet, when looking at the cover image, it’s hard to imagine what’s waiting inside is dance-pop. Lead singer Michael Angelakos’ shrill falsetto dominates in the musical landscape, and if you can ignore the sad lyrics, you’ll be signing along in the happiest mood ever.

Track The Reeling: SOTN Runner-up, August; #25 in Songs of the Year
Track Little Secrets: #38 in Songs of the Year

Noteworthy tracks: Make Light, To Kingdom Come, Sleepyhead

#6

Phrazes for the Young

Julian Casablancas

October 30

Lead singer of The Strokes, Julian Casablancas, shares educative and clever phrases he wished he had known when he was young and does it over the course of 8 tracks that vary from country to alternative rock to synthpop and back again. It sounds wicked and not long after you start listening to this sequence of tracks, it becomes clear that this man is talented not only in terms of songwriting, but also musical engineering and lyrics; and that it spans over more than one genre is even more impressive.

Track 11th Dimension: Song of the Now, October 12; #1 Song of the Year

Noteworthy tracks: Glass, Tourist, Left & Right in the Dark

#5

Tonight: Franz Ferdinand

Franz Ferdinand

January 25

The third studio album by British indie rock band Franz Ferdinand, released early last year, sees them take their music genre in a different direction than what was the reality thus far. Decisively influenced by different dance genres that had their heights during decades that are now distant history, the band includes synths heavily in their track and create many floor-stompers on a concept album about a party and the morning after. With many funny stories and aspects of the party being covered in the various tracks, it all culminates in the 8-minute long track Lucid Dreams where the band revels in what seems like a dance floor track seen through a filter of the likes of inebriation; hard synth tones and dreamy electric guitars on top of a minimalistic drum beat that is only sometimes present. Concept albums serve Franz Ferdinand well; this is their best album yet.

Track No You Girls: Song of the Now, April 22; #11 in Songs of the Year

Noteworthy tracks: Can’t Stop Feeling, Lucid Dreams, Twilight Omens

#4

Ten Makes a Face

When Saints Go Machine

May 18

If there ever was serious pop music, then this is it. The Danish band When Saints Go Machine crafts electropop on this genrebending monster of an album, going from soothing ballads like Fail Forever, floor-stomping synth riffs on Spitting Image all the way to the splendid vocal harmonies of Pick Up Your Tears and Run. Vocalist Nikolaj Vonsild sings of insanity, fallen empires, unknown romances and a gang on this album which gives us an entire spectrum of feelings, and it does so with a certain undeniable grace. Definitely one of the greatest Danish albums from the past year.

Track Fail Forever: Song of the Now, April 19; #9 in Songs of the Year

Noteworthy tracks: Spitting Image, Pick Up Your Tears and Run, Head Over Heartbeat

#3

The Resistance

Muse

September 3

With The Resistance, the British rock trio Muse continues their genre-bending journey into the mainstream. They combine many different genres and many different sources of inspiration to present a varied palette of their abilities; electronic, stadium rock and southern rock influences can all be found on this record. Most notably is a move towards classical music. In songs like United States of Eurasia, there are distinct symphonic sounds, while the album ends with a three-piece actual symphony. There’s no doubt that they’re trying out a lot of different things on this album, and a lot of them are very pop-inclined. The variety on this album made it very enjoyable to listen to.

Track Undisclosed Desires: Song of the Now, September 22; #4 in Songs of the Year
Track Uprising: SOTN Runner-up, August; #37 in Songs of the Year

Noteworthy tracks: Resistance, Unnatural Selection, Guiding Light

#2

No More Stories Are Told Today I’m Sorry They Washed Away No More Stories The World Is Grey I’m Tired Let’s Wash Away

Mew

August 17

The opening track on this album is called New Terrain, and how appropriately named: Danish band Mew’s fifth studio album with the preposterously long title is filled with new forward-looking adventures for both the band and the listeners. Mew challenges themselves constantly with things such as songs that start fast and end slow (opposite to their usual way) and even a song that can be played freakin’ backwards. Not only that, but this record is also very varied, going between different genres of rock and pop. They take us to warm Hawaii and to the Beach and all the way back into the cold dark drum machines in Tricks of the Trade and the confessions in Sometimes Life Isn’t Easy. To challenge oneself and get a result this amazing, varied and distinctive gets a whole lot of respect in my book. The folks in Mew paint big lyrical and musical pictures with their art. And, additionally, it’s a joy to listen to. It’s without question the best Danish album of 2009—perhaps in years. It’s world class.

Track Introducing Palace Players: SOTN Runner-up, July; #6 in Songs of the Year
Track Repeaterbeater: #30 in Songs of the Year

Noteworthy tracks: Beach, Hawaii, Tricks of the Trade

#1

Walking on a Dream

Empire of the Sun

February 23

The year of 2009 has been one where I have discovered a lot of music, but the one album I have always been able to return to has been the debut album by Australian synthpop duo Empire of the Sun. They have an unmistakable blend of acoustic guitars, synthesizers, drum machines and falsetto singing that creates a very unique atmosphere that is always enjoyable, no matter what kind of song they endeavour in. The band’s lyrics, albeit often incredibly nosensical (such as “Kings Cross hot shot / Jesus Christ on weblog” in Swordfish Hotkiss Night), paint peculiar pictures (such as “Be easy now, go hiking through the hills in a summer gown” in Half Mast) and if not warming, you can at least laugh about them. No matter what, the combination of lyrics that describe odd but epic situations all while guitars, strings and drum machines play in your ears make it sound like you are listening to one of your dearest memories. This especially reigns true in the instrumental track Country that feels like looking out into a deep landscape while driving past communities and pockets of local greatness at high speed in a train. But Empire of the Sun will always seem far from reality at best and strikingly bizarre at worst; their image representing big adventures in foreign empires—just like the movie from which they stole their name—coupled with the strange lyrics all create a sense of mystery. But that is okay, because this kind of music lives by and for a dream or memory of great times. You can put this on and instantly have a rapture as you revel in good times; whether they happen now or happened earlier is not a problem, this music is ready for all of it. The album Walking on a Dream is without a doubt my favourite album of 2009. Thanks for a wonderful year of music, not least to EOTS.

Track We Are the People: SOTN Runner-up, April; #3 in Songs of the Year
Track Standing on the Shore: #20 in Songs of the Year

Noteworthy tracks: Walking on a Dream, Half Mast, Swordfish Hotkiss Night

And thus, my list of the best music of 2009 is over. It’s been a great year—I look forward to the musical discoveries I’ll make in this year.

5 comments

Brennen wrote at January 6th, 2010, 5:47 PM

Awesome music choices! I'm surprised that I have listened to so many listed here. Can't wait to check out the one's I haven't! Thanks man and I love your dedication.

musicnsoul wrote at April 14th, 2010, 4:43 PM

awesome list, i list your site to stumble upon. hope you can update more often.

Paul Gledhill wrote at May 17th, 2010, 6:14 PM

thank you sooooo much. this music is amazing and im loving oh no ono. whilst not all of it is new to me it is still brilliant.
and props to the amount of british music :)

Matthew wrote at May 18th, 2010, 2:37 AM

I found it interesting you had Green Day along side groups like Pet Shop Boys and Animal Collective. They've been one of my favorite bands since I was a kid.

And while I am no longer a kid… I still enjoy them.

Good list!

Scholarships for Single Mothers wrote at October 3rd, 2010, 4:56 PM

I wonder how much of this music will stand the test of time. Do you think a lot of this music will be covered in 10 or 15 years like the Beatles are today?

Shoot me a mention on Twitter if you want to comment on this post. Cheers!

pongsocket

Pongsocket is the visual blog and creative outlet by 26-year old Andy Graulund from Copenhagen, Denmark.

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