Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Listening Post: The 20 Best Singles of 2009 (6 & 5)

6. Alice in Chains -- Check My Brain

Who'd have thought it possible? 14 years after their last album of new material, Alice in Chains thundered back in 2009 with a song that wasn't just a respectable post-Layne Staley effort -- it was damn well one of Alice in Chains's best singles, period. With new frontman William Duvall stepping in for the late, great Staley and Jerry Cantrell once again assuming the role of the second half of Alice's frontal assault of harmonic acrobatics, Check My Brain was a full-on powerhouse of a song. It was with a tip of the hat to irony that after a storied career sludging through the dark murk of Seattle's signature sound, Alice's new single focused on -- of all things -- California. The first line alone let you know that the band had somehow emerged into the light: "So I found myself in the sun, oh yeah/hell of a place to end a run, oh yeah/California I'm fine, somebody check my brain." But while the lyrics may have signaled a newfound respect for survival, the buzzsaw guitars and swirling harmonies let you know that some things hadn't changed -- and, man, what a beautiful thing that was. Welcome back, boys.

5. Lady GaGa -- Bad Romance

Love her or hate her, you can't deny her: 2009 belonged to Lady GaGa. Sure, Poker Face and Paparazzi were more infectious than Ebola and only slightly less dangerous when exposed to for long periods of time. But it was late in the year that GaGa unleashed her best single yet -- the song that allowed her to fulfill the promise she'd shown when she first grabbed pop culture by the balls: Bad Romance. It seems too early to call the single "classic GaGa" but in the kinetic, ADD world we now inhabit -- where a year ago seems like ancient history -- maybe it's not as impossible as you'd think. It's probably better, though, to just say that Bad Romance has the self-proclaimed product that is Lady GaGa firing on all cylinders and the result is hot, cool, sexy, and just plain bad-ass. Say what you will, it's a great fucking song.

Tomorrow: 4 & 3

The 20 Best Singles of 2009: 7. Spinnerette -- Baptized by Fire; 8. Deadmau5 & Kaskade -- I Remember

The 20 Best Singles of 2009: 9. The Dead Weather -- Treat Me Like Your Mother; 10. My Chemical Romance -- Desolation Row

The 20 Best Singles of 2009: 11. Little Boots -- New In Town; 12. Miike Snow -- Silvia

The 20 Best Singles of 2009: 13. The Sounds -- No One Sleeps When I'm Awake; 14. Blue October -- Dirt Room

The 20 Best Singles of 2009: 15. Jay-Z (w/Alicia Keys) -- Empire State of Mind; 16. Company of Thieves -- Oscar Wilde

The 20 Best Singles of 2009: 17. Yeah Yeah Yeahs -- Heads Will Roll; 18. Doves -- Jetstream

The 20 Best Singles of 2009: 19. Mos Def -- Quiet Dog; 20. Florence + the Machine -- Kiss With a Fist


Anonymous said...

Bad Romance is one of my favorite songs of the year, and I don't even like the majority of Lady Gaga's stuff.

Peach said...

What I love about Lady Gaga is that her songs can easily take more then one tone.
I watched her perform Bad Romance on Ellen and the first minute or so with just the piano and her voice were breathtaking, slow and playfull.
And then comes the beat and suddenly the song beomes and obessive, frenetic clusterfuck.

And I love both versions.

Sheriff Bart said...

What got me hooked on AIC was Staley and Cantrell doing things vocally that just shouldn't be done. At least not outside of a conservatory. Here they were applying those harmonies to grunge and pulling it off beautifully. You pinned it when you said "harmonic acrobatics". It's the auditory equivalent of watching a trapeze act. Eventually you have to stop and ask someone "How do they do that?"
When Staley died, I thought the AIC sound was gone as well. Really good to see DuVall stepping up to the plate.