I’ll be changing the format of Chipped Hip in the new year, which will allow me to offer more downloads as well as update a little more frequently. But just to wipe the slate clean for this past year, here are my top ten songs of 2009. My top ten albums will follow tomorrow. Interestingly, the two lists are fairly different, as some of the top songs came from albums that I didn’t otherwise care for.
10. Washed Out – “Feel It All Around”
With sighing harmonies and woozy synth bliss, “Feel It All Around” is the sonic equivalent to a slow motion montage (or, as I previously wrote, a Polaroid picture). If you know of a song that better evokes hazy summer nostalgia than this, I’d like to hear it.
9. Matt & Kim – “Lessons Learned”
Matt & Kim scale back the usual piano punk madness for a delicate, textured song that could be a ballad if only the drums weren’t moving in double time. The centrepiece of Grand, its droning synths and layered vocals sound positively, er, grand.
8. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – “Young Adult Friction”
It turns out that this Brooklyn outfit is just as good at jangle pop as it is at fuzz rock. “Young Adult Friction” is a punny ’80s throwback that’s the second best library-based love song of 2009 (spoiler alert!).
7. Atlas Sound – “Quick Canal”
Stereolab’s Lætitia Sadier offers sublime, echoing vocals to this dreamy nine-minute electro vamp. I still can’t tell if she’s singing “wisdom is love” or “wisdom is learned,” but either way, it sounds like a revelation.
6. Hannah Georgas – “The National”
I find the National fucking boring, but this song is folk pop at its most affecting. Over a plucking banjo and barely-there harmonies, Georgas reminisces about a defunct relationship, half-hoping and half-fearing that she’ll run into him at a National concert.
5. Girls – “Hellhole Ratrace”
The song that plays after the lights have been turned on and everyone’s gone home, while the bartender stacks chairs and mops up beer. Mopey self-pity gives way to sublime euphoria, repeating on and on into infinity (okay, actually for about seven minutes).
4. Said the Whale – “Camilo (The Magician)”
Between the version that appeared on The Magician EP and the one from Islands Disappear a few months later, I listened to “Camilo” more than any other song in 2009. And still I never tire of the grungy guitar riffs and stuttering chorus of this power pop gem.
3. God Help the Girl – “God Help the Girl”
This portrait of a reclusive romantic is so vivid that it provided songwriter Stuart Murdoch with the inspiration for an entire musical based on the same character. And although it describes a girl going into reclusion, witty lyrics mean that it’s as funny as it is poignant.
2. Animal Collective – “My Girls”
My friend Colin invented a dance to this song, which involved lots of clapping and hopping from side to side. Now try imaging him doing that same dance to anything off Here Comes the Indian. That’s how far this band has come.
1. Camera Obscura – “French Navy”
Swooning, orchestral soul pop with a timeless complaint: “I wanted to control it / But love, I couldn’t hold it.” But it’s the details that really make it come alive—the “dusty library,” the “dietary restriction”—and gives it the personal touch needed to become a breakup classic.