The top 10 indie songs of 2009 are a testament to the fact that the independent labels, or the indie artists themselves, are taking on the task of breaking new musical ground in creativity and originality. This is a welcome trend as the major labels are increasingly relying on cookie-cutter pop acts to stay afloat.
- Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros – "Home." With a freewheeling hippie spirit, the collective that is Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros takes the acid-fried country-rock of Gram Parsons and The Byrds and adds a Johnny and June style vocal duet. Crisp but organic reverb soaks everything from the vocals to the jangley guitars. All these elements make it the greatest indie song of 2009.
- Neko Case – "People Got A Lotta Nerve." Clear, bell-like guitar riffing defines this song. But that's not to say the playing sounds like U2's The Edge. A down-to-earth feel cuts through the reverb with the guitars and Neko Case's smooth and rich singing voice. This indie song is like a creamy latte.
- The Dead Weather – "Are Friends Electric?" Part of the debut vinyl single from Jack White's third band, this song is a rock n' roll reworking of the original electro/new wave version by Gary Numen. Prominent electric organ and psychedelic guitar droning battle for dominance underneath Alison Mosshart's understated echoed vocals.
- Wilco – "You Never Know." It's pretty safe to say Wilco took a page out of the George Harrison songwriting book for this indie song of 2009. But it sounds more like a tribute than a rip-off, which is good. A peaceful, laid-back rhythm anchors a mix of acoustic guitar strumming, drawn-out Harrison-like slide guitar licks, vocal harmonies and cascading piano.
- Fleet Foxes – "False Knight On The Road." Part of the "Mykonos" vinyl single, it's simplicity in arrangement makes this a beautiful indie song. Just vocals and finger-picked acoustic guitar, both with slight reverb. The lyrical imagery paints a vivid picture that has elements of both British and Asian folk tales. Its this aspect that comparisons can be drawn to Paul Simon.
- Monsters of Folk – "Say Please." Despite the name of this supergroup, featuring Conor Oberst, Jim James and M. Ward, this indie song isn't folk, although it retains the organic feel of that genre. There is little more than straight-up guitar, drums, bass and vocals. The mix of an acoustic guitar-based rhythm that sways like a wave pool and a jagged electric guitar solo recalls some of Elvis Costello's later work.
- Phoenix – "1901." While the buzzing electronics and precise drumming that dominate a certain sector of modern indie songs are present they're only a backdrop for the quick, bright electric guitar strumming. The yelping vocals add uniqueness as well to this lush and layered song.
- The Smashing Pumpkins – "A Song For A Son." Probably winning the title for most indie of indie songs, The Smashing Pumpkins are releasing all of the band's new album online for free. This is the first song released and takes a lot of cues from bombastic 1970s rock. A plaintive piano intro soon transitions into an extended guitar solo from Billy Corgan. What could have been a truly epic song is hurt some from the strange production technique of mixing the vocals very high in the mix and the drums very low.
- The Passion Pit – "Sleepyhead." This song gets its strengths and weaknesses both from its heavily electronic stew. Blips and beeps and buzz are fashionable now in indie songs so this one isn't extremely original. However, the arrangement of it all is energetic and infectious. The vocal effects that at times make the singing sound like urgent fairies are an interesting touch.
- Metric – "Help I'm Alive." This indie song of 2009 is perfect for anyone who's a sucker for a good chorus hook, here an updraft effect with crunchy guitars. Metric is another band that blends the traditional rock elements of bass, guitar and drums with electronica elements, mostly with the robotic drums and a droning sound mid-mix. The vocals are reminiscent of Garbage's Shirley Manson.
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