Web Toolbar by Wibiya Bears and Bullets: 2009-12-20

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Bears and Bullets Top 25 Songs of 2009 (Pt. IV: #10 - #1)

We'll continue our top 25 countdown with songs #10 through #1.

#10: Stillness is the Move - Dirty Projectors
As much as people fawned over Merriweather Post Pavilion, Dirty Projector's Bitte Orca rivaled it many ways. Some would even suggest that Orca surpasses MPP in brilliance with its sheer ingenuity and creative flourish, thanks in part to "Stillness is the Move." Often pop music is regarded is simplistic and rudimentary because of lack of originality and mass consumerism. With "Stillness," however, the rhythms, hooks, and harmonies of Amber, Angel and Haley is as uncommon and inventive as anything else we heard this year. Nearly impossible to replicate, although Solange Knowles did a good rendition.

Dirty Projectors - Stillness is the Move

#9: What Would I Want? Sky - Animal Collective
After over three minutes of distorted samples and crashes, Animal Collective's "What Would I Want? Sky," begins to glisten in a clash of brilliant vocal sequences, with a sample of the Grateful Dead's "Unbroken Chain" gently grazing in the background. Few and far between do Animal Collective's songs sound so gloriously uplifting and enriching, with Avey Tare asking, "Is everything alright? You feeling lonely? You feeling homely? You're not the only." The direct contrast between the first and the second half are what make Animal Collective such a polarizing and ingenious group -- with mess is beauty, in the brightest places.

#8: You're a Target - No Age
"You're a Target" accomplished something somewhat rare for No Age; they compiled a rousing, loud and boisterous noise-rock song with a collective harmony and memorable bridge. The song, part of the band's four-track Losing Feeling EP, wouldn't so much as fit with their 2008 album Nouns, because it sounds too mature, too frank and welcoming. "You're a Target," sounds, however, more embracing because the visceral fuzz and melody actual comes clean, unrushed, and still categorically immense.

#7: People Got a Lotta Nerve - Neko Case
How any artist retooled Hall & Oates coined "Maneater," to not only an extent of not only relevance but revitalization is beyond me. In Neko Case's "People Got a Lotta Nerve," the red-haired singer-songwriter boasts her man eater lifestyle not to the party-styled anthem idea of commanding and conquering the opposite sex, but ravaging them until their nothing. And yet, it's insatiably sweet coming from Case's exquisite alt-country voice -- both terrifyingly honest and beautifully broadcast.

Neko Case - People Got a Lotta Nerve

#6: Ambling Alp - Yeasayer
Before first listen to "Ambling Alp," Yeasayer could be deemed more psychedelic than pop. Their 2007 album All Hour Cymbals, aside from the wonderful "2080," sounded like a mirage in the Sonora desert -- long, labored, loose and fluid. "Ambling Alp," albeit very new (released only a few weeks ago), is a terrific step for the Brooklyn band. Pop is often curiously standard and continuous, always looking to achieve what's already been heard. Yet, every so often an artist with enough gall and ambition can make those strides toward a higher level. Radiohead did it, Animal Collective did it, and with "Ambling Alp," Yeasayer is doing it.

Yeasayer - Ambling Alp

#5: Lisztomania - Phoenix
With most of 2009 rumbling over Merriweather Post Pavilion and Bitte Orca, Phoenix's Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix reveled in their indie shadows and helped the band make their first leap into popular culture. "Lisztomania," creates a mass-appeal without asserting itself. Its bright melodies and cheery and leaping chorus, makes Phoenix sound lighter and more alluring than ever before, and it's not even the best song of the album.

Phoenix - Lisztomania

#4: Heads Will Roll - Yeah Yeah Yeahs
The border between dance and rock music is hard to define. Often times those in music business will attempt to trespass on that border, and, more or less, failure is certain. What the Yeah Yeah Yeahs achieved with "Heads Will Roll," not only crosses that border, but takes it down. Karen O shrieks and shrills on a "chrome" dance floor, imploring that everyone should "dance, dance, dance till your dead," while Nick churns a haunting synth lead, almost sounding like noir with poise. The finishing product, glistening in a metallic stream, is heavier than it appears; it rips and tears through the dance-floor with a midnight castle element -- glowing in the dark and shining under the lights.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Heads Will Roll

#3: My Girls - Animal Collective
"My Girls" rushes into the ear with a earthy stream, followed by the emerging electro beat, humming quietly in the back. The song yearns for simplicity, imploring that Panda Bear doesn't "care for fancy things," but that gloriously simplicity is already there. "My Girls," sounds like sped-up evolution. The sounds careen and swirl around the listener, with tiny percussions, vocal samples and bass punches popping out of the back like small cracks on the Earth's surface. It leads and ends in the same fashion, slowly swelling, rising, climaxing, and falling back down to Earth. But before it falls, "My Girls" goes somewhere Animal Collective, until now, haven't found before -- a place lost between sounds and meaning, combining for something unbelievable.

Animal Collective - My Girls

#2: 1901 - Phoenix
"1901" is Phoenix's advertisement for the rest of the world -- it's the culmination of the bands work for the majority of the decade; smart, invigorating, inviting pop music that can make someone smile for days. The song's fuzzy interlude and landscaping synths make Thomas Mars sound cleaner and cooler than ever, bringing the band in the commercial spot light that has been years in the making.

Phoenix - 1901

#1: Two Weeks - Grizzly Bear
"Two Weeks," is Grizzly Bear's triumph on Veckatimest. It's stark, luring, brilliant and incredibly intelligent. Every key note hit by Ed Droste and the rest of the band, honing in on their trademark harmonies, sounds crisper and better than ever. The alarming exceptionalism of "Two Weeks" makes one wonder how much further the band can progress after Veckatimest and 2006's Yellow House. Indeed, if "Two Weeks" can prove anything other than indelible craftsmanship, it's that Grizzly Bear seem to progress at each and every try. How much better can they get?

Grizzly Bear - Two Weeks

Merry Christmas, yall.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Bears and Bullets Top 25 Songs of 2009 (Pt. III)

We'll continue our top 25 countdown with songs #15 through #11.

#15: Lust for Life - Girls
"Lust for Life," opened Girls debut Album with a long stretch of wishes and desires, asking for really the most simple things, but end up getting less than nothing. That "brand new start" lead singer Christopher Owens sings about comes at the back end of everything, after he realizes that those wishes, realistic or not, aren't going to happen. Despite the uplifting harmonies, percussion and tambourine, the song splits between sobering and gleeful, knowing that Owens never ends up getting the "boyfriend," "pizza," or "beach house." And yet the hand-clapped led second verse with the rest of the band filling in delightful 60's California harmonies makes you almost forget how much you can screw up before anything goes right.

#14: Animal - Miike Snow
There's something oddly chilling about Miike Snow's "Animal." The production of each and every beat leading into and ending the four-and-a-half minute song is so precise that the rough idea of human's basic instincts and flaws and they're downfall seems almost counter-intuitive. What is heard, however, is one of the year's more catchy and accessible indie hits.

Miike Snow - Animal

#13: Summertime Clothes - Animal Collective
The first of several Animal Collective songs on this year's list, "Summertime Clothes" is a casually inviting spin into the Baltimore band's engulfing psychedelic pop. The jumpy, blippy, starry summer night single stood in the shadows of "My Girls," during Merriweather Post Pavilion's reign over 2009, but many argue that it surpasses it in excellence. While that may be here or there, "Summertime Clothes" deserves its due recognition.

Animal Collective - Summertime Clothes

#12: Zero - Yeah Yeah Yeahs
The charging anthem of It's Blitz!, "Zero" ushers in the Yeah Yeah Yeahs first and best attempt to bring electro-charged pop to the Brooklyn band's garage-driven sound. When Karen O's voice rises with the "climb, climb, climb," guitarist Nick Zinner's pulsating melody enriches, pushes, and explodes, climbing higher and higher until "Zero's" breaking point. And that "Zero," despite being who they are, sound bigger than ever.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Zero (Live on Letterman)

#11: Swim (To Reach the End) - Surfer Blood
"Swim"'s endless Weezer-esque comparisons are becoming a tad null. Weezer, at their mid-90's peak resembled something close to what Surfer Blood were able to churn out -- the driving hooks, insatiable fuzzy riffs, pounding drums and chanting chorus -- but that 90's band is long gone. "Swim" sounds more complete, refreshing and tauntingly infectious than anything on Raditude, while keeping a keen ear of sincerity in the mix. The song doesn't belong in the 90's, or anywhere else really - it's pop in an endless form, that sounds similar and different after each listen.

Check Back Later for Tracks #10-#1

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Bears and Bullets Top 25 Songs of 2009 (Pt. II)

We'll continue the top 25 countdown with songs #20 through #16.

#20: Feel It All Around - Washed Out
Ernest Greene, more commonly known as the solo outfit Washed Out, made his first real strides towards prevalence a couple months ago with "Feel It All Around," a dream-haze recreation of Gary Low's "I Want You." The loose, earthy semblance in Greene's sparkling vocals echo behind the rich synths and droning tones to create a spectrum of sound that sticks to the listener. Neither present, future or past captures what "Feel It All Around" is, but it isn't timeless either. It's a moment, a fraction of time between everything.

#19: Charlie Darwin - The Low Anthem
"Charlie Darwin," The Low Anthem's story of the American working-class, is a slow-building, harmony-driven song that sails towards the end of the world, or in this case, to a newer old world. The soft harmonica spins a solemn split between the "Oh my God," chants of the sad, sad world "Charlie Darwin" feared.

The Low Anthem - Charlie Darwin

#18: Dominos - The Big Pink
Brit pop, in most forms, took a relative backseat in 2009. The Big Pink, among very few others, seemed to emerge from the once dominating scene with "Dominos," a song that flourished under massive synth bass-lines and impossibly catchy hooks. Those "girls" that "fall like dominoes" may seem a tad more trivial than the subjects on the rest of this list, but what makes "Dominos" last is the constantly flowing rise and fall of the buzzing backdrop for a loud and constant chain of enticement.

#17: The Reeling - Passion Pit
Passion Pit landed their second slot on the Top 25 Songs of 2009 list with "The Reeling," off of Manners. The glistening, both of the electro rhythm and Michael Angelakos' vocals, invigorates the pulse of the "Reeling." It sparkles as an accessible dance track, something that Passion Pit have cultivated along well with churning and bright pop music.

Passion Pit - The Reeling

#16: Walkabout (ft. Noah Lennox) - Atlas Sound
I've mentioned more than once this year that Bradford Cox, the man behind Atlas Sound, Lotus Plaza, and Deerhunter is a total workaholic. The man churns out almost infinite amounts of music behind his three pet projects, and all seem to cling to the indie blogosphere with terrific fever. "Walkabout," the lead single from Atlas Sound's album Logos, features the creative influence of Noah Lennox, more commonly known as Animal Collective's Panda Bear. Never has Cox's music sound so blippy and uplifting as "Walkabout," a song about going away and never looking back to what may or not be left behind, the spins into dream cache'd end, asking "What did you want to be when you grew up?" The question is never answered, but that isn't anything to take away from the song.

Check Back Later for Tracks #15-#11.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Bears and Bullets Top 25 Songs of 2009

With the end of 2009 rapidly approaching, it's finally time for Bears and Bullets' annual Top 25 Songs of the Year list. Singles from The Walkmen and The Very Best topped our list in what many consider to be a somewhat paltry year in 2008, but with a huge 2009 from artists like Animal Collective, Dirty Projectors, Grizzly Bear, and many, many others, 2009 became one of the best years for music this decade.

First, however, lets clear some rules about what can and what cannot be considered for this list. Rule one; The artists' albums on this list must be released within the 2009 calender year - these aren't skewed Grammy rules. Rule two; songs considered for this list must also only be released within the calender year, so this is excludes songs like "Sleepyhead" by Passion Pit and "While You Wait for the Others" from Grizzly Bear, which were heard long before the year started, even though the albums those songs were featured on were released this year.

Now that the rules are clear, lets start with number 25.

#25: Daylight - Matt & Kim
"Daylight," oddly enough, was probably heard more than the other 24 songs on this list. The lead single from Matt & Kim's January album Grand was featured in several TV shows and an immensely popular Bacardi ad, utilizing the song's saloon-esque piano lead and teenage daydream whimsy to capture a sound of youth and playful escape. Kim's light percussion back drop flows through Matt's often high-pitched voice and the gentle electro bass humming behind it, creating a sprawling and yet minimal sound that crashes quickly in the end.

Bacardi Mojito Ad (Featuring Matt & Kim's "Daylight")

#24: James Blues - J. Tillman
J. (Joshua) Tillman, part time solo artist and drummer for Fleet Foxes, released Vacilando Territory Blues (his fifth of sixth lesser-known studio albums) earlier this year. Tillman's quiet acoustic folk is a bit more stripped version of his more well-known band's sound, humming rusty, minimal sounds in "James Blues," a two-and-a-half minute short-story of "poor, poor James" behind slow clapping and aged piano. The end result is the sad story of James, cold and alone, weeping, trying to make sense of what he wants, looking for the same "purpose" as the rest of us.

#23: You and I - Wilco
Wilco's 2009 self-titled album saw a temporary end to the Chicago band's nearly endless album to album drift of trying to find their own identity since 2002's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. The new album's key song hit, thanks in large part to Feist's vocal contribution, is a heartfelt and warm "You and I." The song glues together in Feist and Jeff Tweedy's vocals, combining to a simple little love song and a minimal departure for the band.

Wilco - You and I ft. Feist (Live on Letterman)

#22: Don't Lie - The Mantles
The Mantles album debut clings to a late 50's/early 60's garage niche that explores the gnarling and rusty pre-punk era with fuzz laden-guitars and analog tones. "Don't Lie," is a slow march, compared to most of the other more frenzied tracks on the band's self-titled album, but the sketchy sounds like a journey down a dusty road with nothing around in sight; a minimalist portrait of the older jangly sounds that have found a delightful resurgence as of late.

The Mantles - Don't Lie (Scenes from Paper Moon)

#21: Moth's Wings - Passion Pit
Passion Pit truly broke out last year with their most popular and best single to date, "Sleepyhead." This year's full-length debut, Manners, however featured a stronger collection of songs than 2008's Chunk of Change EP, including "Moth's Wings." Lead singer Michael Angelakos, for as shrill as he may sound at times, never comes off so smooth and fluid as he does here, with the band building a lush score into the drum-lead and piano driven chorus the explodes and carries the song until it flutters away in a gloss of beauty and light.

Check Back Later for Tracks #20-#16