Singles Of the Year, the Top 40 Countdown (10-1)

Part 4 of 4: Here’s the mother load, numbers 10 through 1. An excellent year for the 7-inch single. I don’t think it’s been this good since sometime back in the 90’s. To me the 7″ is the perfect pop medium.  It’s immediate and somewhat inexpensive to procure one, though prices are increasing especially compared to the 99 cent mp3. Every label I ever hear discuss singles says that they’re money losers, but they keep releasing them. Obviously this kind of music has relied on the obsession of the very few since it began, and the labels putting out singles these days are doing it because they love the medium. Being an old schooler, I much prefer holding onto the record sleeve as the record spins.  I’m not sure how many kids these days are buying actual singles, I know albums are back in fashion, but the single, not so much.  If it happens, once your bitten by the bug of the 7 inch single it’s hard to find a cure. If you haven’t been bitten, check out my favorite 10 singles from this year and odds are you will be.  Here’s to deep pockets and a love of the pop rush!

1. Sea Lions – Let’s Groove (Yay!)

The Sea Lions remind me of two things: I had a cassette of Surf Classics when I was a kid that got endless play through many snowy Ohio winters on my walkman. I vaguely remember what songs were on it, but more than anything I remember the sunny-warm vibe I would get from listening to it.  The second thing they remind me of is 7 Seconds, well, more like the mellow younger brothers of 7 Seconds, a band that got me through my high school years.  The Sea Lions aren’t quite surf, not quite punk, and not quite twee.  What they are is ballsy to make the A-side of their first single an instrumental, but the Sea Lions seem to know what they’re doing. In a year where sun, surf and sand were recurring themes around the indieverse the Sea Lions did it the best. No trendy reverb or washed out vocals, just straight up pop. The instrumental Let’s Groove is punk informed version of the Ventures while the two B-sides shoot the curl of pop perfection.

mp3: Good Feelings

2. Crystal Stilts – Love Is a Wave (Slumberland)

I thought the Crystal Stilts were all gloom and doom, but this song has to be the most upbeat thing the band have ever done.  They almost sound happy, but surely not complacent. This single literally will set off sparks from your record player, or maybe it’s just JB’s guitar.  Last year the Crystal Stilts were riding high after just releasing their first album, and this single shows that record was no fluke.  In fact Love Is a Wave pretty much lays down the gauntlet for what other bands must surpass to become great.  It’s that good.

mp3: Love Is a Wave

3. Magic Kids – Hey Boy (Goner)

Hey Boy starts off with a chorus of  angelic girls singing, “Hey boy where’s your girlfriend, she needs your attention, hey boy where’s your little girl tonight?” I know I throw around Phil Spector’s name quite a bit, but this song will make you believe  he’s either out of jail or the Magic Kids went to prison to record this.  This was their first and only single, but it was so good that it had people thinking that they were contrived to fool the indieverse (We later found out that the Magic Kids are a Barbara’s spin-off band.)  How else do you explain two songs that excel so well in doing that trippy, melody laden Brian Wilson thing.

mp3: Hey Boy

4. Fergus & Geronimo – Blind Muslim Girl (Tic Tac Totally)

Fergus & Geronimo have the dubious honor of being the only band to appear twice in this year’s countdown. For being a part time band Jason Kelly and Andrew Savage (of Wax Museums and Teenage Cool Kids) have easily surpassed both of their other bands. This single, like so many other songs here, is 2 minutes 45 seconds of undeniable pop. Blind Muslim Girl is the pop side and Powerful Lovin’ is the soulful b-side. If these guys would turn up the production a bit, they could go gold.

mp3: Blind Muslim Girl

5. France Has the Bomb – Invisible Angle (Hozac)

Wow! Invisible Angle is like lightning in a jar. The riff on the A-side just slices through the air straight to my brain. I love the scratchy in your face  guitars and the big fat chunky bass solo right in the middle.  France has the Bomb were a much needed jolt of electricity in this sludgy, hazy, distortion heavy year of music.
mp3: Invisible Angle

6. Rose Elinor Dougall – Stop/Start/Synchro (Elefant)

A Former Pippette, now out on her own and all the better for it. It starts out sounding like the Divine Comedy, then morphs into sweet dancy pop that St. Etienne use to make. This was my favorite of the three single she released this year. Album due next year, absolutely can’t wait.

mp3: Start/Stop/Synchro

7. Best Coast – Sun Was High (Art Fag)

Last year the Vivian Girls seemed to set off the imaginations of a whole bunch of girls in their bedrooms who up until that point were content with listening to the Ronnettes, Shangri-La’s Crystals, Shirelles and Black Tambourine by themselves. That is no longer the case and Best Coast are one of the finest examples of the post Vivian Girls girl groups sweeping the nation. Three songs drenched in minimalist girly reverb. I’m wondering if I’ll ever tire of this stuff.

mp3: Sun Was High (So Was I)

8. Emil & Friends – Downed Economy (Transparent)

This is easily the best single that Hot Chip never released. It’s funky, so funky it’ll have you dragging your friends onto the dance floor. The b-side is nearly as good, but not in such an obvious way, more 70’s disco than 80’s sythn. Emil & Friends could be the most fun you’ll have from two sides of vinyl all year.
mp3: Downed Economy

9. The Cave Weddings – Bring Your Love (HoZac)

Cave Weddings is an appropriate name for this Albany, New York band. They’re a little rockabilly, a little Flying Nun and a little a umm, wedding in a cave. It’s a bit damp and dark, but mostly it’s a blast because you you can smash stuff up and get wild because after all, it’s a cave and you don’t have to worry about keeping the place tidy.

mp3: Bring Your Love

10. tUnE-YaRdS – Hatari (4AD)

The Tun-Yards album came out last year, but the record got picked up by 4AD and was reissued this year with bonus songs. 4AD also put out this single of one of the best songs on the album with a herky-jerky remix of Hatari on the b-side. I love the way Tune-Yards effortlessly meld African style chant into a pop song while throwing in the kitchen sing for good measure.

mp3: Hatari (Karn Remix)

[40-31] [30-21] [20-11] [10-1]


  1. Jayd McFerson · December 17, 2009

    Great Top 40 list. Thank you very much for introducing me to so many good tunes. Happy Holidays.

  2. brogues · December 22, 2009

    Woah…that top 4 is magic! I just bought a 2nd copy of the Sea Lions single as my other one is gonna wear out for sure. “Let’s Groove” gets a great reaction whenever I play it at ‘DJ’ nights. Good work Finest Kiss!

    • Toby · December 22, 2009

      You’ve worn it out? Wow! Single of the year confirmation if there ever was one.

  3. Jason · December 23, 2009

    You obviously know a good tune when you hear it. Nice to see you write well too…and know your music history!

  4. Jason · December 30, 2009

    Wow, excellent work on this huge countdown! So much good stuff I missed, sea lions on YAY!…great…best end of year list I’ve seen. Take a break for gods sake. You’re making everyone else look bad.

    • Toby · December 30, 2009

      Jason, you should know that there is no rest for the obsessed.

  5. Aaliyah · December 31, 2009

    i love invivible angel

  6. Pingback: Music Download » The Sea Lions played PopFest & are sticking around a little longer - 2010 dates & some MP3s

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