And here it is, the top five best songs of the year, as picked by me.
Royal Bangs - My Car is Haunted (Let it Beep)
The lead single from Royal Bangs sophomore album. I heard them performing on WOXY.com a while back and during the interview portion they said they wanted to do something "bigger" than their first album, in terms of sound. This song is definitely BIG. Huge, anthemic, catchy riffing, a dance section, bizarre percussion, electronics on the fritz, and screamed nonsense. The lyrics are ridiculous ("in the age of lasers, we lost our shit") but it doesn't really even matter. This song rocks so relentlessly, it's overpowering. It's pure ear candy.
The Antlers - Bear (Hospice)
While not the most original thing to come out of New York in the last few years, the Antlers are maybe the most intelligent. The overall cohesiveness of their works, the elaborate storytelling, and heavenly instrumentation. The sparse production serves this song very well, as Peter Silberman almost whispers the kind-of-fucked-up-when-you-think-about-them-but-mostly-really-pretty lyrics over a minimalist piano line. The song actually gets it's start once it jumps into the percussive chorus, with the repeated contradictory declaration of "we're too old, we're not old at all". That hook is where the song really gets you and becomes undeniable in its grace and beauty. It's the sort of thing other bands try and fail to achieve. Silberman's sense of dynamics are really incredible when you listen to something like this. The contrasts of sound really are what make this song which could have easily been somewhat generic. Look for big things from these guys in the years to come with talent like that lurking around in his brain.
Modest Mouse - The Whale Song (No One's First and You're Next)
First released on the limited edition 7" single for another outtake eventually featured on the EP No One's First and You're Next, "The Whale Song" may have been a B-side for "Autumn Beds" but there's no question that it was the better song. Even though it's perhaps the best song Isaac Brock has written since the Good News era, I can see why it didn't fit on We Were Dead. It follows the style of other such epics on that album like "Spitting Venom" and "Parting of the Sensory," but it distinctively has one foot in the 1990's Modest Mouse style that first brought them to indie rock fame. The plodding bassline that opens the song is definitely We Were Dead but then starts an extended guitar intro which is firmly entrenched in the sound of The Moon and Antarctica and The Lonesome Crowded West. Singing doesn't enter the mix until close to the three minute mark, where several different overlapping vocal tracks each come in, building up, adding more and more while the guitar builds to a crescendo in the background. And finally at around 4:20, it climaxes into an extended guitar jam for the remainder of the song. With elements of both new and old, it bridges the gap so well that it should please Modest Mouse fans of all ages. For me personally, I really hope this is the direction the band continues in. It's one of the best songs they've ever recorded, easily, and it's especially satisfying to hear for someone like me who was slightly hesitant about the changes on We Were Dead.
Brand New - At the Bottom (Daisy)
When I first heard The Devil and God are Raging Inside Me, it was a true revelation. This was music that spoke to me. Music that understood my generation and what we've gone through. That's such a rare thing in music these days. It used to be what people looked for. Now nostalgia for an age we weren't alive to see is the norm, along with nonsense or mysticism or whatever the fuck you want to talk about. But Jesse Lacey, to me, is the voice of my generation (sorry Kanye). From Your Favorite Weapon to Daisy, it's like the band grows as we grow. Time passed and it felt like Brand New would NEVER come out with anything new. The wait was brutal. And then in the summer of this year, finally details and an entire song came out. Being the rabid fan I am, I downloaded the radio leak as soon as I could. And just as always, Jesse Lacey had grown with me. If The Devil and God addressed where I was at 15, Daisy addresses where I am now at 18. "At the Bottom" came out at just the right time. It hit home so much, it instantly became one of my favorite Brand New songs. To this day, it has that sentimental value attached to it, just like The Devil and God did three years ago.
Cymbals Eat Guitars - Wind Phoenix (Why There Are Mountains)
Even despite the sentimental value attached to "At the Bottom" and Daisy as a whole, no song this year could possibly compare to this cut from Cymbals Eat Guitars' debut album. I've been championing these guys for a long time now and this is easily the best song they've written. So instantly catchy and endearing, it's like family in song form. Massively upbeat and warm, it feels like joining together with your best friends or your family and just having the time of your life. There's a bit of serious pensiveness, but it mostly sticks to that heartfelt togetherness. In the middle, it builds to the biggest climax of any song this year. The kind of anthemic breakdown that sounds like it should be played in a stadium accompanying fireworks, it's the moment that really made me fall in love with this band. Everyone is playing their hearts out, Joseph D'Agostino is screaming his head off, and it sounds like the band is exploding. Then they retreat back into the song's normal refrain until the outro. It's not the most complicated songwriting in the world, but it's impossible not to love.