Festive Fifty 2009

on Sunday, December 27, 2009
So it's coming upto the Christmas Bank Holiday and I'm about to present you all with my favourite fifty singles (as well as free downloads, this year) of 2009.

All the songs should have been released in the UK in 2009 or made available for free download by the artists. No re-releases and only one song per artist. Unless I've made a mistake, in which case, anything goes.

Spotify playlist of most of the tracks here. Thoughts? Any other suggestions?

50) Flamboyant Bella - Get A Reaction
Annoying. Catchy. Annoyingly catchy electro-pop.

49) La Roux - Bulletproof
See above.

48) Robbie Williams - Bodies
Painfully embarrassing lyrics ("UK and entropy, I feel like it's fucking me" being just one of many, many examples) but the electro pop elements and the "Bodies in the.." bridge just about make up for it.

47) The Antlers - Bear
Shame that the tender, intriguing moments are overpowered by retro-pop ambitions. But those tender moments are worth it.

46) Arctic Monkeys - Crying Lightning
For the most part, I'm not down with post-debut album Arctic Monkeys and their "mature" sound. But after repeated listens, the sense of menace on 'Crying Lightning' won me over.

45) Baddies - Open One Eye
A thrilling opening which barely relents along the way from a band cited as a meeting of QOTSA and The Futureheads.

44) Chapel Club - Surfacing
Imagine if Interpol covered 'Dream A Little Dream Of Me'. Intriguing. All the more so as I can't tell whether this was released on its November release date or not.

43) Blue Roses - Does Anyone Love Me Now?
This track appeared on one of my old podcasts, capturing the delight and wonder of Blue Roses' mystical folk leanings.

42) Little Comets - One Night In October
Indie-pop done right, with hints of Vampire Weekend and The Maccabees.

41) Dan Black - Alone
Not quite the brilliance of last year's Festive Fifty topper 'HYPNTZ' but perfect indie dancefloor fodder.

40) Gossip - Love Long Distance
As much as I hate Beth Ditto, she has a great voice. Strong melody on the chorus to this cavorting disco number.

39) Banjo Or Freakout - Upside Down
Alessio pulls it off again, this time with a burst of breezy, dream pop.

38) The Sound Of Arrows - Into The Clouds

Magical song. Magical video. Magical artwork. The future of Europop? Look out for more in 2010.

37) The Victorian English Gentlemens Club - Watching The Burglars
"Rumbling basslines, dissonant guitars, eccentric lyrics and catchy hooks" is what I said here, where you can have a listen.

36) Johnny Foreigner - Criminals
Spiralling guitar lines, crashing drums and the usual boy-girl vocals make this a bit by-numbers but still one of the singles of 2009.

35) Two Door Cinema Club - Something Good Can Work
Bustling indie-pop from one of the bands I tipped for the BBC Sound of 2010 poll.

34) Metric - Help I'm Alive
After starting off in a mellow, engaging manner with echoing vocals, 'Help I'm Alive' loses its way a bit after the intro, occasionally dropping into Miley Cyrus territory before regaining composure.

33) Vampire Weekend - Horchata

Picking up where the stunning debut record left off. Magical afro-pop.

32) The XX - Crystalised
The obvious single from the self-titled album. Slow burning, brooding, pseudo-minimalism.

31) Jónsi - Boy Lilikoi
Not quite Sigur Ros but 'Boy Lilikoi' effervesces as every turn, bubbling under with a joyous sense of wonder. This fan-made video is a perfect accompaniment.

30) Phoenix - Lisztomania
Setting the tone for a brilliant album, a simple but wonderful electro pop track.

29) The High Wire - Odds & Evens
This song is so fuzzy, it's almost like it's a beautiful summer's day and your best mate has come along and just given you a massive hug.

28) Pearl Jam - The Fixer
Finally, a Pearl Jam song to put up there with 'Alive'. A punchy alt-rock track with strong melodies.

27) Ebony Bones - The Muzik
A tribal dancefloor hit by a surprisingly ignored act, possibly hurt by her (faux?) eccentricities.

26) Fight Like Apes - Something Global
"GIVE ME MY HOOK" screams May-Kay repeatedly and perhaps ironically in this unrelenting, punchy synthpop album opener.

25) Walls - Burnt Sienna
Bending the rules a bit here. A mysterious, thudding instrumental from a joint collab between Banjo Or Freakout and allez-allez.

24) Kids Love Lies - Count In My Head
The opening '1,2,3,4' gambit annoys me immensely but from there on, this is scuzzy, playful, catchy pop. Bit like Fight Like Apes' little sister.

23) Tubelord - Propeller
Hard, fast, slow, soft. If At The Drive-In did pop songs.

22) Good Shoes - The Way My Heartbeats
Interesting divergence from the immediacy of the first album but still with anthemic aspirations. Read more and download here.

21) Jack Penate - Tonight's Today
A splendidly unexpected turn from a much maligned character. His take on afro-pop.

20) Clock Opera - White Noise

Melodramatic pop song. Slightly bizarre, slightly exciting. Download b-side 'Alouette' here.

19) The Joy Formidable - Cradle
"All I want to see is the end of this". I don't. The shoegaze-meets-pop comparison is lazy but that doesn't make 'Cradle' any less compelling, with its dizzying vocal hooks.

18) Frightened Rabbit - Swim Until You Can't See Land
"The horns and string arrangements give the single a wonderful richness but I can't help feeling that it's a little tepid in comparison to Frightened Rabbit's previous output." Still, very good though. Download a live version here. The b-side 'Fun Stuff' is arguably even better, if you can see past the amateurish production.

17) Black Eyed Peas - I Gotta Feeling
I'm not even sure that the song title makes sense. What I am sure about is that this is an impeccable feel good anthem that makes up for the abortion that was 'Boom Boom Pow'. Mazel tov.

16) Bombay Bicycle Club - Always Like This
I called this Bombay Bicycle Club's finest work (in a post which has mysteriously disappeared, obviously thanks to Blogger and the IFPI being cunts - it was a cleared James Rutledge remix), a compelling mix of Vampire Weekend and Modest Mouse.

15) Pomegranates - Everybody Come Outside
"Playful vocals are enveloped in an irresistable warm fuzz and moments of quiet intensity, recalling the likes of Radiohead and Arcade Fire, intersperse an overwhelming sense of hypnotic rhythm that a Vampire Weekend or a Strokes would be proud of." Download here.

14) Animal Collective - Summertime Clothes
I've never really understood the love for Animal Collective but 'Summertime Clothes' clicked with me. Particularly due to the compelling Letterman performance. This experimental pop single has had me bouncing up and down.

13) Run Toto Run - Sleepyhead

Run Toto Run won over the blogosphere with this amazing cover of an already amazing Passion Pit song. The transitions between mandolin and violin are wonderful. Perhaps even better than the original.

12) Patrick Wolf - Hard Times
Thankfully, not the single with the ridiculous bondage video but instead the one with incisive strings, Wolf's soaring vocals, and a majestic backing choir.

11) Passion Pit - Moth's Wings
For a long time, I thought that Passion Pit were the new Black Kids (i.e one hit wonders with nothing left in the tank). 'Moth's Wings' proved just how wrong I was and a fantastic debut album followed. This sounds "sounds a bit like Michael Jackson covering the amazing Talking Heads track, 'Once In A Lifetime'." Download here

10) Fucked Up - Do They Know It's Christmas?
"WELL TONIGHT THANK GOD IT'S THEM, INSTEAD OF JEEEEEEEEWWWWWSSS". Forget RATM. Forget X Factor Joe. This should have been UK Christmas #1. A cover of the Band Aid single, featuring all your favourite alternative heroes (Ezra Koenig, Kevin Drew, Andrew WK, Kyp Malone, Tegan And Sara, Yo La Tengo etc). And all for charity too.

9) The Big Pink - Dominos
It's not big, it's not clever and it's been on a million adverts. But 'Dominos' still remains the singalong chorus of 2009. "THESE GIRLS FALL LIKE DOMINOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOS"

8) Los Campesinos! - The Sea Is A Good Place To Think Of The Future

This free download was another step away from their twee days and towards a dynamically moody sound, contrasting both hope and hopelessness. Amazing lyrically, beautiful musically.

7) These New Puritans - We Want War

A 7 minute "comeback" single. Would you expect anything less from one of the most progressively brilliant bands around? Hip hop influences, operatic backing vocals and an overwhelming feeling of dread.

6) Yeasayer - Ambling Alp
[Pitchfork TV]
A brilliantly exotic taste of the forthcoming second album from Brooklyn's Yeasayer. "Stick up for yourself son, never mind what else done". Download here.

5) The Drums - Let's Go Surfing
Matching Peter, Bjorn and John in the whistling stakes, 'Let's Go Surfing' was a statement of intent. The Drums do pop and they do it incredibly well.

4) Just Jack - Embers

An astounding return from a bargain bin popstar. The multi-tracked vocals, handclaps and sweeping strings throughout make this stunning.

3) Jamie T - Sticks 'n' Stones
A firecracker of a single, as feisty and lyrically compelling as he's ever been. Building on previous album 'Panic Prevention' and perhaps even surpassing anything from that.

2) The Temper Trap - Sweet Disposition

Shimmering dream pop, with a beautiful lead vocal, jangly guitars and a pulsating drum beat. The perfect soundtrack to one of the year's best films '(500 Days of) Summer'.

1) King Charles - Love Lust

"The galloping drums, shredding guitar lines, sci-fi sound effects, double tracked vocals and brilliant lyrics ("with a guitar in my hand or a gun in my hand, I'd give it all up for your hand in my hand") make this psychedelic prog-folk ballad one of the singles of the year." Or so I said a couple of months ago. And here we are, where I'm proclaiming it my favourite song of 2009.

Download a live version here.

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