Best Songs of 2009: #41-50

Yes, it's that time of the year again. Just as we did at the end of 2008, all of Animal Noises' coverage in December will be about the best music of the past year-- plus, we'll also be touching on best-of-decade material as well. Along with a day-by-day countdown of the top 30 albums of 2009 (which starts tomorrow, by the way), we'll be rolling out lists like this one, at 10 items per day. So stay tuned all December. It's going to get pretty busy around here.

50. "Buddy" -- Iran

49. "Fangela" -- Here We Go Magic

48. "Silver Trembling Hands" -- The Flaming Lips

47. "Winter Games" -- Foreign Born

46. "I'm On a Boat (Feat. T-Pain)" -- The Lonely Island

45. "Laura" -- Girls

44. "Autumn Beds" -- Modest Mouse

43. "Soundtrack 2 My Life" -- Kid Cudi

41. "Lisztomania" -- Phoenix

[Previously on Animal Noises: Best of 2009 So Far: #1-5]


Tuesday's Releases (11/24): Now Streaming

As the year winds down, releases are going to be hard to come by. However, as long as Spinner continues to provide albums for your streaming pleasure, we'll continue to put them up here for you to preview. Unfortunately today, there's only one though. Maybe that changes at some point in the next day or so, but until then, enjoy listening to Tom Waits' Glitter and Doom Live. As always, credit for the original idea goes out to LargeHeartedBoy. Plus, head over to 20 Watts to check out the reviews I supervise over there, including this Tom Waits record, Rihanna, Animal Collective and Blackroc.

[Previously on Animal Noises: Tuesday's Releases (11/17): Now Streaming]


Music Video Monday: "Modern World"

Track: Modern World
Artist: Wolf Parade
Album: Apologies to the Queen Mary
Year: 2005

Wolf Parade's "Modern World" doesn't make the grandest statement of all the tracks on 2005's Apologies to the Queen Mary. Rather, on an album full of great songs, it functions, through no fault of its own, as part of the larger picture. However, the video for said track, on the other hand, is a completely different story.

Appearing like something out of a Tim Burton-animated film, the video depicts the band as clay-type figures, being put out of work by modern technology. The visual, more than the words themselves, function as an interestingly fantastic social commentary. What happens if technology gets so advanced that human beings are no longer needed to make the stark and sprawling musical landscapes which we enjoy today? All of the sampling and electronic experimentation here are substituted by some gaudy, monstrous music machine, but the question lingers just the same. Whether the band actually harbors these fears or not is irrelevant, as the production makes a simple, yet powerful statement to be considered at the least.

[Previously on Animal Noises: Weekly Top 10: Ghost Songs]


Pre-Screening: Animal Collective's Fall Be Kind EP

Album: Fall Be Kind EP
Artist: Animal Collective
Label: Domino
Due Out: November 23rd (digital)/December 15th (physical)

Perhaps Animal Collective will never recapture balled up, pure energy quite like they did on January's Merriweather Post Pavillion. A testament to how far they've come over the past decade, the album was a pop masterpiece, littered with the type of tracks the band just never seemed to possess to that point. It was a catchy and mesmerizing trip full of lush and strange scenery the likes of which we've rarely witnessed. And yet, they've almost pulled it off again with their latest effort, the Fall Be Kind EP, albeit with just five tracks to work with.

To start, Fall Be Kind is not Merriweather Post Pavillion. In comparison to the ladder, the former is raw, untamed and loose. Fall Be Kind is, in many ways, a return to the norm for a band that has made a living out of making out of disjointed song structure and a lack of audible lyrics for the majority of their careers. Yet, it's also ushered in a new era for them as well. Obviously, based on the offerings here, extensive electronic sampling and experimentation are now here to stay in the Animal Collective repertoire, and there's no going back.

Though we spoke of opener "Graze" yesterday on the blog, it is good enough to note again. When viewed in the full experience, the song stands as your sampler for how the rest of the effort will go. It's constantly shifting, from its beginnings in low, shallow ambience to the quiet middle, and then the crazed, flute-based conclusion. Even in its quieter moments, this track, and all the others always seem to have much more lurking in the background. It's a rush of energy that only shows itself every so often, yet for those fleeting minutes, define the recording.

Which is where the collection's top track, "What Would I Want? Sky" comes in. Sampling the Grateful Dead's "Unbroken Chain," it utilizes subtly brilliant bursts of unkempt creativity to ingrain itself into the listener's consciousness. Though one would initially judge it as a complex piece of art, by the mid-point, it reveals itself as the rest of the album does-- an exercise in satisfactory simplicity. The song is catchy and thoughtful all at once, and brings together all of the band's respective styles better than any track they've ever assembled. From the opening notes you'll know that this may be one of the best songs the band has ever written, as insightful as it is basic. As easy-to-digest as it is mind-boggling.

The overriding sense of honestly disheveled noise continues throughout the remainder of the album. Though "Bleeding" incorporates it all into a much more subdued package of echoes and layered vocals, "On A Highway" takes a much louder approach. It's mechanical, futuristic and distant, pitting walls of sound against teams of voices. Even when it all comes together with a helpful percussion section at the halfway mark, the song still fights itself continuously, raging in spite of the apparent semblance of order.

To close, "I Think I Can" gives us a trippy, ghostly trot. Tribal drums, which make cameo appearances throughout the EP, join forces with incessant chants to rope us into a track that is covertly pop. Like everything else here, you just can't fight the wordless hooks the band has become so apt at. The continued sampling and looping repetition will invariably grab you for the full seven minutes of this final number, and before you know it, Fall Be Kind is suddenly over.

For a follow-up to their most commercially- and critically-successful record yet, the Fall Be Kind EP surely delivers in a way that few (myself included) would have imagined. Instead of attempting to recreate the sounds of Merriweather Post Pavillion, the band recreated its older sound in its new image. Trading in the frenzied, spooky ambience of their early days, today's iteration instead makes superior electronic noise with samples and experimentation-- not an easy feat in a scene increasingly crowded with such acts. Yet, they continue to excel. Before our very eyes, Animal Collective has become one of the most prolific acts to the 21st century. Prepare accordingly.

Rating: 8.5/10

Best Track: "What Would I Want? Sky"


Matt's Track of the Week: "Call An Ambulance"

Song: Call An Ambulance
Artist: Albert Hammond, Jr.
Album: Yours To Keep
Year: 2007

When Albert Hammond, Jr. set out on his own from The Strokes to prove himself as a solo artist, he wanted to make a statement, and that he did. Yours To Keep was an artistic departure from the sound we had come to know from Hammond, that featured softer guitar sounds, poppy bells, and catchier melodies. Still, it was clear that he was the man behind The Strokes' signature sound. He was just doing things his way.

"Call An Ambulance" is a semi-comical account of getting cozy with someone else's girlfriend at a party when her significant other came down with a cold, and the drama that followed. In this case, Hammond makes a move on her with nothing but a few thrills in mind, but after the fact, he gets attached. Once her boyfriend recovers, he doesn't want to lose her, but he doesn't know what will happen. This laid back, bouncer is one of the album's highlights, and is a pretty good representation of the rest of the song set, if you have yet to hear it. Check it out below.

New Animal Collective, "Graze"

Continuing on the new material train, Animal Collective's got something brewing as well. Perhaps you've heard.

With the Fall Be Kind EP just around the corner, we finally get our first taste of the studio recording. "Graze," the initial offering, seems to be a combination of Merriweather Post Pavillion's pop insanity and the old tribal shouting we all know and love (or at least, I do, can't say the same for Matt however). I'd actually compare the track more to El Guincho than things Animal Collective has done in the past, to be honest. It's tropical, trippy and wild, not unlike AC, but very much like El Guincho's Alegranza. Check it out at Stereogum, or below. Fall Be Kind is out digitally on November 23rd and physically on December 15th, via Domino.

[Previously on Animal Noises: New Animal Collective Video, "In the Flowers"]

New Vampire Weekend Video, "Cousins"

Well, if this track and the previously-released "Horchata," are any indication, we're in for quite a time when Contra comes out. "Cousins," the first official single off of Vampire Weekend's second album, is a crazed mix of California pop and garage punk. The video below actually does a great job of reflecting this fact, with continuous cuts and randomness throughout. Needless to say, I'm excited. And you should be too. Check it out below, and stay tuned for Vampire Weekend's Contra, out January 12th via XL.

Weekly Top 10: Title Tracks

This week's idea for the playlist comes courtesy of Matt, so he should receive all credit for any popularity the idea may end up having. Many times, artists name an album after an overwhelming idea presented forth, a lyric that had substantial meaning, or in other cases, a certain track on the album. Though it shouldn't inflate standards that the song shares a name with the album, it can at times-- if a track is important enough to have the same name as the record, then some feel it should be the one most indicative, or just best, in general. For the tracks below, we felt that each of the ones we chose fell into one, or both of those two categories. Maybe you agree. In any case, check it out below.

[Previously on Animal Noises: Weekly Top 10: Songs Without Choruses]


New Beach House, "Norway"

Though no Merriweather Post Pavillion, I imagine the excitement for Beach House's January release, Teen Dream, will be measurable here on the web. From the sound of "Norway," it'd be a crime not to get at least a little pumped about it.

The song is dreamy pop, with a folksy edge to it. Though starting slow, it gains parts within seconds, and the result could be one of the indie scene's favorite tracks of 2010 (not to get ahead of myself, of course). It's a spirited flight-- not danceable, but it doesn't have to be. Simply put, it's elegantly enthusiastic.

You'll definitely want to check out the track below, courtesy of Pitchfork. Teen Dream comes out January 26th, by the way, via Sub Pop.

New Passion Pit Video, "Little Secrets"

Glad to see that my favorite track from Passion Pit's breakout debut Manners is finally a video single. Unfortunately, however, Sony Music has decided that the video won't be able to be embedded into blogs like this fine establishment here, as well as others. But why? Wouldn't you want more people to see your video, and subsequently purchase your product if they haven't already? Alas, I digress.

The video's actually pretty cool. I personally think it's a partial nod to 2001: A Space Odyssey, one of my favorite films, but regardless, the crazed animation bouncing along with Passion Pit's high-pitched synths, etc. is definitely worth a look. Check the deal over on Youtube.

[Previously on Animal Noises: New Passion Pit Video, "Eyes As Candles"]

John's Track of the Week: "Beach Comber"

Song: Beach Comber
Artist: Real Estate
Album: Real Estate
Year: 2009

Real Estate is another prime example of how the internet hype machine can possibly be the greatest thing to ever happen to young musicians. The band hails from New Jersey and are not too far removed from college, yet, due to lead singer Martin Courtney's time in Washington state, have been able to recreate the sounds of the Pacific Northwest for us East Coasters, and the country's mass consumption. Half-woodsy, half-surf rock, their debut is a relaxing trip down the Jersey Shore, without all the negatives of, y'know, being in New Jersey.

The album starts out with sterling opener "Beach Comber." It's a fair introduction to the record overall, and really establishes the mood well. With Courtney's Ben Gibbard-esque vocals, set against a folksy, Cave Singers-type riff, the track leaps and bounds at a pleasant tempo. Noticeably, the track, and the album as a whole, is devoid of self-awareness. The band delivers decisively as old pros, rather than rookies to the game. It's a refreshing jaunt into the freedoms of youth, and in the end, you come out better for it. Check it out below, courtesy of Pitchfork, if you haven't already.


Tuesday's Releases (11/17): Now Streaming

Another Tuesday, another batch of albums for you to go check out over at Spinner. Though this week is once again devoid of some of the week's most notable contributions-- see 50 Cent, Real Estate and Annie for starters-- there are still a few albums worth your while. As always, credit for the original idea goes out to LargeHeartedBoy.


Paper Bag Records Releases Free Covers Album

To commemorate the label's seven-year anniversary, Paper Bag Records has released covers album, The Seven Year Itch, free to the masses. Included on the 12-track set are the label's most notable acts covering classics from Nirvana, Bob Dylan, Beck and more. It's definitely worth the price of admission (which is nothing, but still), so check out the download over at the label's site, or below.

Paper Bag Records -- The Seven Year Itch

Track List:

1. How Bizarre (OMC cover), CFCF
2. Smells Like Teen Spirit (Nirvana cover), Winter Gloves
3. Electric Avenue (Eddy Grant cover), Woodhands
4. Dying in Africa (Nicolas Makelberge cover), Sally Shapiro
5. Falling Out (Rikk Agnew cover), You Say Party! We Say Die!
6. Daniel (Bat For Lashes cover), Josh Reichmann
7. Gamma Ray (Beck cover), Laura Barrett
8. I Want You (Bob Dylan cover), Rock Plaza Central
9. Strange Animal (Gowan cover), The Acorn
10. Heinz (Artery cover), Little Girls
11. Behold A Lady (OutKast cover), Slim Twig
12. Du er min ojesten (Peter Malberg cover), Under Byen

New Eels, "Little Bird"

Not too far removed from this year's excellent effort, Hombre Lobo, Eels have another album in store already. End Times, from the sound of first single, "Little Bird," appears more subdued and somber than its predecessor. Though not necessarily depressing, the track nevertheless attempts to tug at your heartstrings, harping on lonely, heartsick themes. You can check it out for yourself below if you wish, courtesy of the band for the price of an email. And keep an eye out for End Times, due out January 19th via Vagrant.

[Previously on Animal Noises: Album Review: Eels]

Music Video Monday: "All The Pretty Girls"

Track: All The Pretty Girls
Artist: fun.
Album: Aim and Ignite
Year: 2009

The video for this fun.'s "All The Pretty Girls" came out fairly recently, so I figured it'd be worth giving a look for today's Monday feature.

Functioning mainly as an ironic commentary on both band life, and their own lives as well, "All The Pretty Girls" depicts the members of fun. running from a crazed group of females. Originally running away from separate crowds, members Nate Ruess (The Format), Andrew Dost (Anathallo) and Jack Antonoff (Steel Train) eventually meet in typical comedic fashion, and then proceed to run together, before being trapped in a building. Suddenly, the three are talking pinatas of themselves, and are subsequently beaten by the mob with sticks. This is where the irony vanishes, since the songs more works to convey a version this point, than the previous one.

The other brief point of interest is the band's selection of attire for the video. Really skinny jeans, moccasins, white pants, a jean jacket, a cut-off plaid shirt and a pseudo-Sgt. Pepper's jacket all make appearances-- perhaps a further commentary, or just random clothing selection? Regardless, the wardrobe choices do stand out, which I suppose is one of the points of a video to begin with. Check it out below if you haven't already.

[Previously on Animal Noises: Weekly Top 10: Album Closers]


New Animal Collective Video, "In the Flowers"

A shame I didn't get to catch this yesterday, but no matter, we're on it now. Animal Collective has released another video from Merriweather Post Pavillion, this time in the form of "In the Flowers." Just like always, it's trippy. Except this time, it employs elements of stop-action, cartoons, live action and a bunch of psychedelic filters to get its point across. You'll definitely want to check this exotic urban adventure below.

[Previously on Animal Noises: Animal Collective Remixes Phoenix's "Love Like A Sunset"]

Pre-Screening: 50 Cent's Before I Self Destruct

Album: Before I Self Destruct
Artist: 50 Cent
Label: Interscope/Shady/Aftermath
Due Out: November 16th

Left for dead by hip-hop observers and many of his peers, 50 Cent's latest album initially seemed like just another bust-in-the-making. When one hits his stride as early as 50, everything else just pales in comparison. Thus, mostly everything he's put out since Get Rich Or Die Tryin' has disappointed, regardless of its individual merits, at least in my eyes. However, on Before I Self Destruct, it appears he has finally changed the formula. Realizing that his tired rhymes and once-novel subject matter are now old hat, it appears that the man also known as Curtis Jackson has reinvented himself. Or at least, it would seem that way through the first few tracks of the album.

From the first notes of opener "The Invitation," it's evident that 50 Cent is a remade rapper. Gone is the overly playful cockiness of past efforts. In its place, there's a large and noticeable chip on his shoulder, the type only developed by having something to prove-- which he does. Regardless of how many hits he's turned out, or Get Rich's icon status, the fact is that in recent years, he's fallen off. At first glance, he seems ready to meet that challenge, tossing out a more primitive model of swagger that sets a dark, yet redeeming mood for the effort as a whole.

As the album continues, tracks like "Then Days Went By" and "Death To My Enemies" show 50 in a new role. Even while touching on pop, he's more reserved than normal. His rhymes are more heated snarls now than the lazy drawl he executed so well earlier in his career. He's obviously aged, but not in the same way that a Jay-Z has. At this point in his career, all Jay can talk about is what he's done, yet here, due to his tragic downfall, 50 is able to speak to what he'll accomplish in the future. Still, he talks like someone with some time in the game behind him, almost a mentoring presence, if not for the threats he dishes out with regular frequency.

On top of this newfound desire, there's also the superior musical elements he employs. Viewing the hip-hop world around him going increasingly experimental with electronic instrumentation, Self Destruct pulls out all the stops. Tracks like "Do You Think About Me" and "Hold Me Down" are rife with soaring keyboards, and fits of electronic whirring and buzzing. Even 50's pal Eminem seems to be up to the level of high performance set in the early goings, as his contribution to "Psycho" may be the best actual rapping he's done in about five years.

However, as much as these first samples appear to show a changed and more determined rapper, the rest reverts back to some of the habits that got him to this low point in the first place. Half of the album comes off as R&B filler, as tracks like "Strong Enough" and "Get It Hot" excel for just brief moments at a time, before eventually fading back into the all-too-familiar scenery. Many of the songs from the sixth on seem to bleed together, especially lyrically, where they lack mightily in comparison to the still-superior backing beats.

To make matters worse, the singles (some assumed, others not so much), are all so out-of-character for this album which appeared to be about redemption. "OK, You're Right," the Ne-Yo featured "Baby By Me" and R. Kelly featured closer "Could've Been You" are made-for-radio drivel, only aided by decent arrangements. Their commercial successes will, unfortunately, end up taking away from the album as a whole, which, by the end, loses a lot of value to the listener already.

When you reach the final bars of Before I Self Destruct, it should take a second to fully comprehend what you've just heard. What started as a potential comeback story of the year ends as just a slight uptick in a downward crawl for someone who used to be one of the biggest names in hip-hop. If 50 Cent had approached the entire record like he did the first five or so tracks, I'd be hailing it as one of the best rap albums of the year. Instead, after such an average effort to close out the record, it will probably just sit as a footnote to a decent year for the genre. In no way would I call it bad. However, Before I Self Destruct could have been so much better. And that is what's most frustrating. Similarities include

Rating: 7.0/10

Best Track: "Death To My Enemies" (not available, but check out "Pyscho")


Matt's Track of the Week: "Digital Love"

Song: Digital Love
Artist: Daft Punk
Album: Discovery
Year: 2001

It's hard to believe that such an iconic and genre defining group like Daft Punk could have come together with the breakup of another musical endeavor. Before Thomas Bagalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo founded their infamous French House duo, they played in a short-lived indie rock group alongside Phoenix's Laurent Brancowitz. The group disbanded after only a few shows together, but not before inspiring the pairing of phrases that would go on to be their new moniker. At the time, a reviewer in the now defunct UK music publication Melody Maker offhandedly referred to the trio's sound as "a bunch of daft punk", and when it came to naming their new project, it stuck out as the clear choice.

When recording Discovery, Daft Punk wanted to invoke the innocence and creativity of childhood through their songs. To do this, the group relied heavily on sampling, and the sounds of 70s and 80s dance music to recreate the fun and carefree nature of those times. "Digital Love" is a perfect example of this in action. It contains a poppy hook, heavy use of auto-tune, and bright synth and guitar sounds. Like others on this seminal release, it's a straightforward love song with a sound that's easy to move to, further paying homage to the album's concepts and the beginnings of dance music. Still, it's complicated production and unique vibe make it a tune that you find yourself returning to time and time again. Check it out below.