BEST OF 2009

Mrs Mackerel’s Top Ten of 2009

10: William Elliott Whitmore – Old Devils

An early office fave, yer man sounds like he’s been smoking filterless Camels since the cradle. All credit to Mr Whitmore for getting a word like nefarious into the lyrics. Foot-tapping, frenzied social commentary, with a strangely prophetic feel considering the cost of clearing one’s moat in the 21st century.

9: Soulsavers – Unbalanced Pieces

Mark Lanegan is my main man, in a musical sense, knocking Mr Morrissey off the top spot he occupied in my affections for many, many years. So he has to be here. He makes a lot of fine music with a lot of different people and this is yet another example of his talents. Nobody, but nobody has a voice to rival this.

8. Eels – That Look You Gave That Guy

A simple, genuine song of unrequited love from another man with voice so raw that it can send tingles down my spine. The music is layered with straight chord changes and little bit of finger picking. Somebody needs to tell her how he feels. This is Mark Everett. The man’s a genius.

7: Calexico – Frank’s Tavern

This song sways and lilts in a quintessentially Calexico way – a way that always draws me in to a gentler parallel universe where I imagine pretty white horses, John and Joey with their ten gallon hats, meaningful stares across dusty saloon bars … maybe I should get out more? Joey loves the girl in the white dress, but I simply love the way he manages to sing “wobbly” in a way that doesn’t sound silly. This is a song of yearning and lost love, a good sprinkling of the trademark Calexico mariachi pipes.

6: The Roadside Graves – Far and Wide   (Download this song)

At first, I almost thought I was listening to a bit of Johnny Cash, which is, of course, always a good thing. I also think I’ve got strong knees (“Give me a girl with strong knees”) – stronger than the MM’s anyway – so there’s a bit of empathy there too. A bit of everything is thrown into the mixer here, but it works. And what really sells it to me is the bit of fiddling followed by the hoe-down bit in the middle.

5:  The Decemberists – The Rake’s Song

Gather round, gather round, it’s another every day story of country folk. Dark tales are their speciality. For me, it’s the drumming that adds the menace and the rage. I’m sure they’re a lovely bunch of people. Really. Just don’t book them for any babysitting.

4: A.A. Bondy –  I Can See the Pines Are Dancing   (Download this song)

I just need a lighter to sway in time to this one. All roads lead to the chorus, which twinkles. “This is the howling at the moon; these are the arms you fell in to.” This song got under my skin and stayed there.

3: First Aid Kit – Hard Believer

It’s always hard to choose your favourite, and to be honest it could have been any of the top three. The harmonies on this are beautiful and the lyrics ain’t half bad either. “Don’t preach about morality, it’s just human sense to me.” Enough said.

2:  The Low Anthem – (Don’t Tremble)

I just love this song.  Gently, gently. Bit of harmonica. But it’s the lyrics that set it apart for me, and the way he sings very closely and intimately into the mic. Play it loud so you catch every word.

“If the wind surrounds your house, do not turn and twist about. Just wait it out.”  Well I did, but trembled quite a lot.

1: The Cave Singers – I Don’t Mind   (Download this song)

When I first heard the Cave Singers, I have to admit I thought the lead was female. (Always the last to catch on, I know). But actually the vocal range of Pete Quirk is quite phenomenal and this song just showcases it. He could be singing about suicide but I find it a really uplifting song. The finger-picking guitar bit is a brilliant back-drop to the soaring vocals. Low lights, Friday night, bit of kitchen dancing. Irresistible.

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MM’s Top Ten of 2009

10: Conor Oberst & The Mystic Valley Boys – Nikorette   (Download this song)

9: Soft Black – Time Gets Away And Has Its Way With You

8: Withered Hand – Hard On

7: Real Estate – Fake Blues  (Download this song)

6: Obits – Two Headed Coin   (Download this song)

5: Cave Singers – At The Cut

4: Roadside Graves – Far And Wide

3: Low Anthem – Charlie Darwin   (Download this song)

2: Dan Auerbach – Heartbroken In Disrepair

1: The Decemberists – The Rake’s Song

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Mr Popper’s Top Ten of 2009

10. Brendan Benson – Feel Like Taking You Home  (Download this song)

From the opening notes of the piano to the infectious beat that grips you it’s impossible not to bob along with Mr Benson.  With the nicely understated production and Brendan’s deadpan delivery fitting perfectly this song took only 2 or 3 listens before I knew why it had to make the top 10.  Sometimes simplicity is a bit of genius, especially when it has enough little nuances to keep you interested long term – brilliant.

9. Withered Hand – Hard On

Firstly Withered Hand needs a mention for the best name of 2009.  Secondly Hard On is a gem of a song.  Bleak, yet darkly funny it’s been a stalwart of the playlist since I first heard it.  The slanted, yet spot on observations appeal to my subversive streak whilst making me cringe a little, probably my favourite new artist of the year.  Excellent album too with Cornflake another cracking tune.

8. Mark Matos & Os Beaches – Hired Hand  (Download this song)

Hypnotic electric organs always do it for me.  From my early teenage years I was a big Doors fan and Ray Manzarek’s haunting and sometimes discordant organ play was a big part of that.  ‘Hired Hand’ has an opening couple of lines which automatically get your attention. The rest of the song is melodic and wistful ensuring my newly acquired country gene was on full alert.  Quite outstanding, with the last part of the song bravely bared down, letting you enjoy the rather marvellous organ.  Did I mention the organ?

7. Dan Auerbach – Heartbroken, In Disrepair

Dirty old song this.  Guitar riff of the year..?  Maybe.  Echoing repeats of the last lyric growled..?  Definitely.  Together they work perfectly.  ‘God may forgive you.. that’s not enough’ berates an anguished Dan and I for one believe him.  Doesn’t need time to grow on you – you like it immediately and it’s no use pretending otherwise.

6. Brown Bird – Wrong Black Mare

Where did this come from?  A late arrival which demanded to be included thanks to it’s genuine campfire feel and grim lyrics, another true country song. Imbued with an atmosphere of dread, thanks in no small part to the drawl of Brown Bird and his evocative use of language. You just know there’s trouble when the animals get ‘spooked’.

5. The Decemberists – The Rake’s Song

Really well crafted The Rake’s Song draws you in with a rhythmic guitar and plenty of crashing drums before you realise your listening to a man confessing to infanticide.  Equally good whether stuck elbow deep in suds washing up or after a night in the the pub – no higher praise is there?

4. The Sunparlour Players – Joy In What You Lack  (Download this song)

The opening to this utterly gorgeous song is hair on the back of your neck stuff.  You know instantly this song is different, it has ‘it’.  And then it gets better with a simple guitar, mouth organ, mocking vocals and a complete story in under 3 minutes that makes you want to listen to it again – straight away.  You know the sort.  It also gets top marks for floating about in your head for up to a week after you last heard it.

3. Roadside Graves – Far & Wide

An instant hit – a folk song which you can’t help fall in love with.  Meanders along beautifully – your foot taps involuntarily and you have a big grin on your face.  My flatmate’s number one of the year and I can see why.  The mesmeric nature of it reminded me of some of the fabulous (Paul Geovanni) Wicker Man soundtrack, which can only bode well.  I also like my girls with strong knees.  Obviously.

2. The Cave Singers – I Don’t Mind

Had a magnificent battle with the eventual number one.  I could barely split them, mainly because this song is so damn close to perfect.  Reminds me a bit of Creedence Clearwater Revival in their pomp but that still wouldn’t do it justice (okay, maybe it would).  Every time I listen to it I regret it didn’t make it number one.  I am so in love with this song I think in the future this could become my all time favourite ever song…  But hey let’s not get carried away.  Alright then, go and listen to it.. now!

1. Big Pink – Velvet

I don’t want to carried away (again, but it’s hard okay) because I have truly loved this song since I first heard it what seems like, well ages ago.  My teenage gene reawakened for the first time in 15 (alright 20) years – I got the thrashy guitar, gloomy sentiment, epic amounts of feedback and the gorgeous drummer doing the ‘ahhhhhhh’ (distorted) backing vocals.  Course I did – I’m a kid when it comes to music and when something gets you proper and deep down and you go ‘yes!’ when it comes on for the 93rd time, you can’t explain it.  I don’t want to try.  I just love this song.

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Barry-Sean’s Top Ten of 2009

10. Brown Bird – Wrong  Black Mare

What a brilliant story-song. The tune and vocals lend themselves perfectly to what is a really sad and brutal tale. It feels like one of those fireside tales that warn of bad things unless you change your ways … just in song format.

9. Withered Hand – Hard On  (Download this song)

Hated the title when Mr MM first introduced me to this track. But the song itself is wonderful with one of the best lyrics of the year. Great cover!

8. Big Pink – Velvet  (Download this song)

Moody, melodic and actually a little seedy-sounding, Velvet feels like a twisted love song. Really glad Big Pink are being recognised for some great tunes now.

7. The Builders & The Butchers – Down In The Hole  (Download this song)

Brilliantly simple tune and great, gritty lyrics. I’ve sung along with this track (badly) many times since first hearing it back in August.

6. Soulsavers – You Will Miss Me When I Burn

I love this track. I love the tune, I love the vocals and I love the lyrics. A work of genius but not one to listen to when you’re down in the dumps.

5. The Decemberists – The Rake’s Song

A truly brilliant story-song … even if the story is about a complete bastard who rejoices at the death of his wife and then murders his kids. Nice one Decemberists – you bunch of sick genii!

4. Echo & The Bunnymen – Think I Need it Too

Another fantastic track from the best band ever. The elder statesmen of post-punk can still more than hold their own against the up and comers.

3. Dan Auerbach – Heartbroken, in Disrepair

This was probably my favourite song of the year for longer than any other. Classy, moody guitar (sounds a little Marr-like) and great vocals make an awesome contribution to the music of 2009 from Mr Auerbach.

2. Willard Grant Conspiracy – Preparing for the Fall

This moody, melancholic work of genius starts in eerie quietness and builds to a cataclysmic crescendo. Doom-Rock meets Country in a dark and foreboding tale of I don’t know what!

1.  Chapel Club – Surfacing

And talking of Doom-Rock, this hit me from out of the blue towards the end of the year and pipped Dan Auerbach and WGC to my 2009 number one spot. Pity the miserable buggers that own the rights to ‘Dream a little dream’ wouldn’t let them release this for sale.

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Dr Roddy’s Top Ten of 2009

10. The Decemberists – Rake’s Song

9. Tame Impala – Half Full Glass Of Wine  (Download this song)

I love this song because it’s a Rocker’s dream. You could say that it is heavily influenced by Cream (there are worse influences, Paul Young?), but this young Australian trio pull that 70s guitar driven rock sound off perfectly.

8. William Elliot Whitmore – Johnny Law

A wonderful tale is told in this song about an over zealous Police officer abusing his position of power, with little or no provocation. And the anger that comes from being on the receiving end of that. You can hear the contempt in Whitmore’s voice. I’m sure we can all relate to that on some level. And all set to a great country riff.

7. Imperial Leisure – King Of Kings

What a fantastic track this is. It lures you in with the lamenting sound of mexican brass, then hits you with a wall of sound, drums, bass, organ, guitar and DJ. It gallops along with more of that brass section at a real anthemic tempo. Whilst the lyrics describe the perils of constant piss ups (“At half I was feeling fine, but now it’s past time I’m like a scene of a crime”). A place a few of us may visit this festive season?

6. She Keeps Bees – Gimmie

With its sultry grimy guitar riff and its practically pornographic lyrics which deal with a lusty sexual power struggle, this is a belter of a record. I first heard this song in May and it was destined for my top 10 all the way through the year.

5. Brown Bird – Wrong Black Mare

A bluesy sounding guitar, eerie fiddle and a plucked at banjo lead you into a dark tale. Of the wider implications of betting on the “wrong black mare”. For me this type of under produced stripped down sound is right on the money, but when coupled with the grave sounding voice of David Lamb it just about approaches perfection.

4. Jamie T – Chaka Demus

This song always makes me smile. It has a great pop hook and a infectious bassline, all of this is powered along by a ‘I can’t stop my feet from tapping’ beat and Jamie’s great use of langauge.  Again Jamie T manages to be consistent without being repetitive or producing any pop dross.

3. Deer Tick – The Ghost

I do believe that for me,  this is the perfect country song everything about it is right from its tempo, chord changes and tales of unwanted?, unrequited? love with some one you despise. Delivered with disdain by one of the finest ruff gravely voices I’ve had the pleasure to hear. Country? it fairly wreaks of knackered Ford pick ups and cheap liquor.

2. Wooden Wand – Eyes  (Download this song)

Wooden Wand has been a revelation for me this year. From the first time I heard, Resuscitation distillery blues, I knew that I was hooked. the Born Bad album was a triumph. This however led me to a problem, which Wooden Wand track am I going to put in to this list? I went with Eyes because although it was a bit of a gate crasher to the list, I think that it is his best song so far. that wonderful ever present riff, with a dreamy lyrical delivery (except the great delivery of the word “eyes”!) and a great solo at the end which truly showcase the mans talent without being all wanky. A refreshing change?

1. Roadside Graves – Far And Wide

As Tina Turner once said “simply the best”. Words almost fail me when it comes to talking about this record. That is how much I love it. From its first hearing there was no doubt that this would feature high in my faves of the year. In fact before hearing it, they are called “Roadside Graves” that in itself had me interested. I love these two folky guitar melodies working with each other in the intro, the song just seems to build constantly from here on in. Bass, drums and lyrics which are sung in a angelic fashion by a pure, wonderful voice. I’m going to stop there so I don’t make you all throw up with my unstoppable gushing.

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Polly Pocket’s Top Ten of 2009

10 – Emiliana Torrini – Jungle Drum

9 – The Low Anthem – To Ohio  (Download this song)

8 – William Elliott Whitmore – Old Devils

7 – Port O’Brien – Sour Milk / Salt Water

6 – Doves – Kingdom Of Rust

5 – One EskimO – Hometime

4 – Big Pink – Dominos  (Download this song)

3 – Withered Hand – Hard On

2 – Jamie T – Spiders Web

1 – Dead Weather – I Cut Like A Buffalo

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