05. hercules and love affair – blind (mp3)
andy butler and antony hegarty must have been listening to the arcade fire’s “wake up” when they were writing this song and figured the merits of having a “now that i’m older” line. for them, though, it’s not so much a newfound coldness of heart, but a shattered myth of the luxury of hindsight – that of eventually getting so close to your dreams that you couldn’t see it anymore for what it used to mean to you. it’s a tragic blindness that’s juxtaposed with an ironically upbeat disco melody, which really serves as the perfect context for us to hear antony’s voice in its fullest and clearest form.
04. beach house – heart of chambers (mp3)
you could call this the song that got this blog started, gracing the first post of this humble webspace. there’s a surreal quality to the sound of beach house – one that’s perfected in devotion and captured beautifully in this song – that lets you float along, but never lets you go, holding on to you with the rhythm of each ebb and flow. there’s a haunting sound of the past, but also a stirring semblance of a distant future, both of which add to an unspeakable charm of the present in which time stands still for just that little while.
03. radiohead – jigsaw falling into place (mp3)
ok, i’m not sure if this still counts as this year’s song, since in rainbows came out last year (but the single’s released this year!), but since i’ve been consistently listening to this through the year, i think it deserves its place here. this could possibly be one of the more straightforward radiohead songs that i love, simply because it actually translates pretty darn well what jigsaws falling into place actually sounds like. everything’s rather sketchy at the start, in fact it all stays tentative until thom yorke’s announces that “the beat goes round and round”. from then everything clicks, and the pieces fall into place in a frenzy.
02. the magnetic fields – too drunk to dream (mp3)
stephin merritt has a wicked sense of humor, which sounds even better when it’s delivered in typical magnetic fields’ folk singalong fashion, but only this time (as the album title suggests) washed in a sea of distortion. more than simply promoting the (if illusory) benefits of drunkenness, this is really a lovesick ballad sung with face planted on the bar counter, though never to drunk to forget the reason for the binge in the first place. i don’t know about you, but my ears start ringing when i’ve had too much to drink. for stephin merritt, i think it’s what he hears all day long.
01. fleet foxes – white winter hymnal (mp3)
was there ever a doubt “white winter hymnal” would make it to number one? all the cliches of music writing – adjectives like warm, timeless and even classic – actually do genuinely apply to this masterpiece (ah, another cliche!). but far from sounding like a rousing epic (oh, that word!), this is in fact one of the gentlest and most sensitive recordings to have made such an impact, delivering in lush (and another!) tones and with a delightful cannon a song that’s personal yet aware, deeply intimate but also sensibly worldly.