The 100 Best Tracks of 2009, 100 Best Songs of 2009, 100 Best Cuts of 2009, Whatever You Want to Call This
Some things you should know about this if you’re here for the first time:
1. This is not an attempt to list the bestselling or most popular stuff out there – it’s strictly for fun.
2. If you’re looking for Taylor Swift or Jason Mraz or anyone who’s ever been on American Idol, you are about as faraway from all that garbage as you can possibly be right now. Welcome to our world of incredibly good, fun songs that 99% of the world (ok, maybe not 99%) have never heard of!
3. Because our primary raison d’etre is our role as a New York live music blog, this is a very New York-centric list, with some welcome guests from around the world.
4. Because all of these songs are so good, there’s no real ranking here other than what’s sitting at the #1 position. Virtually all of these links will take you to each individual song. Enjoy!
1. Bobby Vacant & the Weary – Never Looking Back
Scary stuff, an anthem for anyone with a checkered past. From the new album out on Luxotone.
2. Bobby Vacant & the Weary – Tear Back the Night
The gleefully morbid title track.
3. The Brooklyn What – Planet’s So Lonely
A blues number, part Otis Rush, past Stooges, from the Brooklyn What for Borough President cd. Great guitar solo!
4. Dan Bryk – My Alleged Career
A funny, spot-on slap at major label stupidity from the killer new cd Pop Psychology.
5. Maynard & the Musties – Elvis Museum
Smartly metaphorical urban country. Ryan Adams (who produced) on piano. From their new cd So Many Funerals.
6. The Brooklyn What – Gentrification Rock
The Brooklyn band are possible the only group in town whose raison d’etre is to fight the waves of trendoids and tourists turning the city into a sterile, bland mall town, and the greedy developers destroying entire city blocks to make room for them. This is a furious, sarcastic punk rock dance number and the title track from their latest ep.
7. Dan Bryk – City Of
The most hilariously accurate view of the state of the music world, 2009. Also from Pop Psychology.
8. Jay Bennett – I’ll Decorate My Love
Haunting solo acoustic from the late Wilco virtuoso’s final album, Whatever Happened, I Apologize.
9. Jay Bennett – The Engines Are Idle
Even more haunting, also from Whatever Happened, I Apologize.
10. Daniel Bernstein – Joyless Now
The most gorgeously jangly depiction of madness ever written – once a staple of Bernstein’s old band the Larval Organs’ shows, he held the room riveted with this at Sidewalk last summer.
11. The Brooklyn What – The In-Crowd
“Is this the crowd, the crowd you wanna be in? Nah, nah nah nah, nah nah, nah nah!” From The Brooklyn What for Borough President.
12. The Brooklyn What – No Chords
A quiet, funny, brutally satirical number about gentrification and trendoids, also from the Brooklyn What for Borough President.
13. Curtis Eller’s American Circus – Sugar for the Horses
Aptly aphoristic, sardonically cynical oldtimey ragtime number from the excellent NYC banjoist/tunesmith. From his Wirewalkers & Assassins cd.
14. Botanica – How
Check their new live cd americanundone for this killer gypsy punk broadside. “How many idiots on the head of a pin?”
15. The Oxygen Ponies – Love Yr Way
Love in a time of choler – under the Bush regime. From their amazing new cd Harmony Handgrenade.
16. The Motion Sick – Some Lonely Day
With its snarling bass intro, funky bounce and haunting 60s psych-folk melody, it’s about the price you pay for being a nonconformist. From the winner of the Boston Phoenix’s 2009 Best Boston Band competition.
17. Jenifer Jackson – Maybe
Typically gorgeous, brooding art-pop song from this multistylistic rock goddess. Unreleased.
18. Elisa Flynn – Timber
Towering, majestic art-rock dirge from the NYC rocker’s excellent new cd Songs About Birds & Ghosts
19. Gillen and Turk – Dear Mr. President
Undoubtedly written during the Bush regime; doesn’t appear to have beeen released. The duo slayed with this at Beefstock upstate this past spring.
20. Jang Sa-ik – Wild Rose
Big Orbison-esque hit for the Korean crooner, soon to be a big world music crossover hit here in the US.He brought down the house with this at his show at NY City Center in April.
21. Vera Beren’s Gothic Chamber Blues Ensemble – The Nod
Arguably the most charismatic frontwoman in rock, the ferocious, dramatic contralto chanteuse attacks this with gale force. It’s on her myspace.
22. McGinty and White – Knees
One of the great lyrics of the decade. “You can keep my heart, you bitch, just give me back my knees.” From their new cd McGinty & White Sing Selections from the McGinty &White Songbook.
23. Jenifer Jackson – Groundward
Dark, murky, minimalist fingerpicked dirge. Unreleased.
24. The Asylum Street Spankers – My Baby in the CIA
Hilarious, spot-on Bush-era commentary from the Texas oldtimey crew.
25. Livia Hoffman – All My Imaginary Children
Intense, casually sardonic ballad by one of the most under-the-radar songwriters out there.
26. Marty Willson-Piper – The Sniper
The ethics of assassination in about six understated riveting minutes from the great songwriter and twelve-string guitarist of the Church.
27. The Jazz Funeral – Goodnight (Is How I Say Goodbye)
Bitter, propulsive janglerock anthem from maybe the best band ever from Staten Island, NY. Free download.
The sultry oldtimey siren gets dark and apocalyptic here. “There’s nothing bad that can’t get worse.”
29. Marty Willson-Piper – Feed Your Mind
Margaritaville transposed to an unnamed tourist bar somewhere in western Europe – absolutely hilarious.
30. The Asylum Street Spankers – TV Party
Black Flag cover updated for the end of the zeros. Also hilarious.
31. System Noise – Untitled
This is a real departure for the NYC-based art/noise-rockers, a Jorma Kaukonen-style acoustic ballad with one of frontwoman Sarah Mucho’s most intense lyrics. Unreleased.
32. LJ Murphy – This Is Nothing Like Bliss
The NYC noir rock legend goes deep into vintage soul/R&B territory for this one. Unreleased.
33. Juliana Nash – Love Song for New York
“It’s 3 AM and I’m drunk again!” A fond evocation of a time before the trust fund set discovered New York. Unknown if this was ever released or not.
34. Carol Lipnik & Spookarama– Cuckoo Bird
Typical phantasmagorical noir cabaret from the 4-octave siren.
35. Paul Wallfisch – Swimming in the Ocean at Night
A solo version of his band Botanica’s menacing classic Botanica vs. the Truth Fish – it was pretty evil when he played it at Small Beast at the Delancey back in March.
36. Curtis Eller’s American Circus – John Wilkes Booth
A more sardonic, tongue-in-cheek version of #26. From the Taking Up Serpents cd.
37. Curtis Eller’s American Circus – Sweatshop Fire
Scorching, characteristically historically imbued banjo punk from the charismatic NY songwriter. Also from Wirewalkers & Assassins.
38. Steve Wynn – 405
An old Dream Syndicate song (a LA freeway reference) resurrected on Wynn’s sensational new live cd.
39. Steve Kilbey – Forever Lasts for Nothing
Sort of an update – melodically at least – on the Church classic Bel Air, with a more timely lyric. From his Painkiller cd.
40. Kerry Kennedy – One from the Mountain
Absolutely haunting southwestern gothic dirge from the James Jackson Toth catalog, resurrected by the NYC noir siren. It’s on her myspace.
41. Kerry Kennedy – Dive
This is a Kennedy original, a characteristically menacing anthem. Unreleased; look for a 2010 album.
42. Ivo Popasov – Dance of the Falcon
Adrenaline-fueled title track from the legendary Bulgarian gypsy clarinetist’s latest album Dance of the Falcon.
43. Ivo Papasov – Prayer from the Mountains
A more ornate, orchestral composition but still amazingly intense. Also from Dance of the Falcon.
44. Ten Pound Heads – All Hands on Deck
Dark brooding art-rock anthem from the Brooklyn band’s superb debut album.
45. Mostly Other People Do the Killing – Allentown
We won’t spoil the joke other than to describe this as a Billy Joel cover by the world’s funniest free jazz band, from This Is Our Moosic.
46. And the Wiremen – Sleep
Southwestern gothic in the tradition of Friends of Dean Martinez or Giant Sand, by this excellent, atmospheric Brooklyn crew.
47. Edison Woods – Dear Heaven
Typically wrenching, poignant lyrics and understated, amospheric beauty from frontwoman Julia Frodahl
48. Bobby Vacant & the Weary – Some Walk
Sardonic Bukowskiesque ballad: “Don’t look to tomorrow, just get through the day.” Also from Tear Back the Night.
49. Ian Hunter – Man Overboard
Big anguished 6/8 anthem, title track from Hunter’s superb new cd.
50. System Noise – Now We Know
Magnificent, Pink Floyd/Procol Harum style epic. The band has gone on hiatus, but expect a recording out sometime in 2010.
51. The Whiskey Daredevils – Stories About Texas
Spot-on, hilarious portrait of a guy who’s not exactly what he says he is, by the killer Cleveland roots rockers.
52. Jang Sa-ik – This Is Not It
The art-rock crooner is a superstar in South Korea, not yet known here outside the Korean community: this big carpe diem anthem could help change that.
53. Mark Steiner – Cigarettes
One of the great noir rocker’s signature songs, a towering, 6/8 tremolo-guitar anthem released on his Fallen Birds cd in 2007, he absolutely slayed at Cake Shop with this in August.
54. Amy Allison – The Needle Skips
A battered 45 as metaphor for life itself, bittersweet and poignant and funny too. From her new career-best cd Sheffield Streets.
55. Livia Hoffman – Infinite Jest
Big rocking anthem with a characteristically anguished lyric from the underground chanteuse.
56. The New Collisions – Caged Us Kids
A blast of furious fun by the Boston new wave revivalists. On their killer new ep.
57. Abby Travis – Now Was
The highly sought-after bassist is also a first-rate noir cabaret songwriter, and this is one of her best. She killed with this at the Delancey last winter.
58. Warsaw Village Band – Circle No. 1
Dark gypsy instrumental stuff from the Polish group’s excellent new cd out on Barbes Records.
59. The Snow – Undertow
Clever, sardonic art-rock from Melomane frontman Pierre de Gaillande’s latest project.
60. Ingrid Olava – It’s All Right, Ma, I’m Only Bleeding
Absolutely riveting, perfect cover of the Dylan classic. Unreleased – this was the high point of her show at the Delancey in NYC last winter.
61. Myles Turney – Nobody’s Prize
Scathing, dismissive anti-trendoid number by the excellent Americana/blues guitarist. It’s on his myspace.
62. Kelli Rae Powell – Some Bridges Are Good to Burn
Centerpiece to the oldtimey siren’s stupendously good, frequently bitter new cd New Words for Old Lullabies
63. Balthrop, Alabama – Bride of Frankenstein
Self-explanatory track from the Brooklyn rock behemoths’ viscerally menacing new ep.
64. Balthrop, Alabama – Prom Story
60s teen pulp redone with savage black humor. Also on the new ep.
65. Balthrop, Alabama – Red Hook Pool
This is the most New York-centric of the songs and has characteristically bite.
66. The Church – Anchorage
Savage, magnificent Steve Kilbey anthem – whether this is a mea culpa or a distribe about someone else, it packs a wallop. From their new one Untitled #23.
67. Chris Eminizer – Ashes to the Sun
Spot-on, artsy post-9/11 anthem from the New York-based songwriter.
68. Fishtank Ensemble – Spirit Prison
Careening, rocking gypsy stuff by the crazy Bay Area crew.
69. Fishtank Ensemble – Samurai Over Serbia
This blends the band’s gypsy feel with Asian influences.
70. Alpha Blondy – Wish You Were Here
Pink Floyd cover, maybe better than the iconic original, by the African reggae legend. High point of his show at Central Park Summerstage this past summer.
71. The Motion Sick – God Hates Kansas
Briskly incisive, insightful rocker from this excellent, lyrical Boston band.
72. Ward White – Getting Along Is Easy
Sardonic, bitter and wickedly lyrical stuff from the great underground NYC songwriter (and half of McGinty and White). From his new one Pulling Out.
73. Dan Bryk – Apologia
The Canadian-American rocker offers this hilariously tongue-in-cheek mea culpa from an imaginary record executive. From Bryk’s excellent new cd Pop Psychology.
74. The New Collisions – The Beautiful and Numb
Lush sweeping new wave-inflected apocalypse anthem, a perfect soundtrack piece for NYC’s Lower East Side. Figures it would take a Boston band to write it.
75. Dan Bryk – Street Team
Graham Parker’s Mercury Poisoning updated for the end of the zeros with much more deliciously funny detail. Also from the new cd Pop Psychology.
76. Amy Allison – Mardi Gras Moon
A typically witty, sardonic number, this one about drinking and popping pills: “I hear the distant music of the band/I’m losing all the feeling in my hands.”
77. The Asylum Street Spankers – Stick Magnetic Ribbons on Your SUV
The smartly political oldtimey band’s big late-Bush-era hit.
78. Joe Pug – One Thousand Men
Antiwar anthem that recasts a Jefferson quote as something that Stalin might have said. Confrontational, to say the least. From his new ep In the Meantime.
79. Kelli Rae Powell – Don’t Slow Down, Zachary
A road trip to hell – or away from hell? Wrenchingly poignant. Also from New Words for Old Lullabies.
A haunting and evocative 9/11 composition; forthcoming on cd in 2010.
81. Spanking Charlene – Requiem
That’s obviously not the title – but that’s what it is. Unreleased; the version the fiery NYC punk/Americana rockers did at Lakeside this past July was majestic and heartwrenching.
82. The Ulrich/Ziegler Duo – Since Cincinnati
Written by Big Lazy frontman Steve Ulrich, this is a cinematic blue-sky theme featuring all kinds of gorgeous guitar. Unreleased – yet another great live moment from Small Beast at the Delancey.
83. Love Camp 7 – (Beware of) The Angry Driver (Yeah)
A tasty, jangly, brutally sarcastic number about sadistic city bus drivers in Brooklyn. From their equally catchy, jangly new cd Union Garage.
84. The Asylum Street Spankers – My Favorite Records
A hilarious theme for vinyl lovers (and fans of contrapuntal vocals) everywhere. From their killer live cd What? And Give Up Show Business?
85. The Oxygen Ponies – The War Is Over
Fiery, murderous Bush-era broadside from the excellent art-rockers’ new cd Harmony Handgrenade.
86. Jeff Zentner – Burning Season
Brilliantly metaphorical Nashville gothic, from the North Carolina songwriter’s new cd The Dying Days of Summer.
87. Little Annie – In the Sand
The noir cabaret chanteuse’s cute, catchy seaside resort ditty is actually a devastatingly funny anti-trendoid rant. Unreleased and due out in 2010; she killed with it at Galapagos in December.
88. The Motion Sick – Grace Kelly
Viciously metaphorical sendup of a drama queen by the Boston rockers, from the Her Brilliant Fifteen cd.
89. The Oxygen Ponies – Finger Trigger
More late Bush-era fury from Harmony Handgrenade.
90. The Oxygen Ponies – Villains
This one doesn’t name names, but it doesn’t need to. Raw power. Another one from Harmony Handgrenade.
91. Matthew Grimm & the Red Smear – Ayn Rand Sucks
This song needed to be wrtten and it’s a good thing this guy did it. And it’s hysterically funny. From his new, career-best cd The Ghost of Rock N Roll.
92. The Church – Deadman’s Hand
Murky, sweeping, angry Iraq war parable from the Australian art-rock legends’ latest Untitled #23.
93. McGinty and White – Rewrite
One of Ward White’s greatest lyrics – and he has dozens – this breaks every wall, fourth wall, convention, whatever you can think of. Surreal and also very funny in a mean way. From the duo’s brilliant new debut cd McGinty & White Sing Selections from the McGinty &White Songbook.
94. Dan Bryk – Treat of the Week
Savage blast of fury against record label blandness and corporate culture. Also from Pop Psychology.
95. Lenny Molotov – Devil’s Empire
Fiery and ultimately triumphant Woody Guthrie-style antifascist tirade. From the new cd Illuminated Blues.
96. Matthew Grimm & the Red Smear – White
Can the great Americana rocker do hip-hop too? You bet. As funny as anything else he’s ever done. Also from The Ghost of Rock & Roll.
97. Alice Texas – Oh, My Beautiful
NYC noir rock doesn’t get any more sweeping or beautiful than this towering anthem. Unreleased; the version she did at Small Beast at the Delancey in June was transcendent.
98. Lenny Molotov – Freedom Tower
A metaphor for life in a surveillance state, from the NYC Americana songwriter. This was supposed to be what the replacement for the World Trade Center was supposed to be called. But this one has helicopter gunships on the roof, and spycams everywhere…from Molotov’s new cd Illuminated Blues.
99. Liza & the WonderWheels – Cold Wind
Uncharacteristically chilly anthem by the usually psychedelic, catchy new wave rockers. Unreleased – the acoustic version they did at the Parkside Lounge this fall was amazing.
100. Post No Bills – GDDUMOA
One of the funnest things about youtube and myspace is the amateur stuff you find there. We stumbled across this hilarious acoustic song while looking for another band with the same name. The title is an acronym for God Damn Donut Under Mike Owens’s Ass. Apparently poor Mike Owens, whoever he is, needed an operation, and the recovery process included sitting on a glorified inner tube. “I’m the only cure for the hemorrhoid you got from a strap-on,” sings the inflatable ring in a lazy southern drawl. Until Mike Owens finds out about this and fires off an irate message to myspace to take the song down, here it is.
And just for fun (and to give some added perspective to this list), here are the #1 songs of the year for 2008 from this site and our predecessor e-zine going all the way back to its inception in 2000:
2008: Steve Wynn – I Don’t Deserve This
2007: Amy Allison – Turn Out the Lights
2006: System Noise – Daydreaming
2005: LJ Murphy – Pretty for the Parlor
2004: Botanica – Good
2003: The Wirebirds – This Green Hell
2002: Bob Dylan – Mississippi
2001: Mary Lee’s Corvette – Idiot Wind
2000: Ninth House – Put a Stake Right Through It