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The Perfect 10

In the 1960s, the 3:33 single was both a recipe for pop perfection and a blueprint for the banal, but the rise of FM radio, which opened the airwaves to long-playing sonic art, radically devalued the meager pop song. In the ’00s, however, as iTunes and peer-to-peer file-sharing smashed the artifact of the album (and the music industry as a whole) to bytes, the concise package of the individual song has never seemed more relevant, or fun. Here is our humble list of mixtape essentials and penultimate dance party jams, in 2009 rewind.

1. “When I Grow Up”

Fever Ray

Through eerily pastoral synthesizer mists and skittering electronic beats emerges the mangled, pitch-shifted voice of the Knife’s Karin Dreijer Andersson, suggesting both the Grim Reaper and a mummified tribal dancer ritually exorcising some unknown demon.

2. “Anonanimal”

Andrew Bird

A song within a song within a song, with equally circular lyrics: “I see a sea anemone/The enemy/See a sea anemone/And that’ll be the end of me.” Bird, who performed this number during his autumn visit to Babeville, manages to deliver so much multi-syllabic alliteration without sacrificing resigned ennui.

3. “My Girls”

Animal Collective

Abundant in bristling synths and sing-along melodies, this call for “Four walls and adobe slats” by which to provide for one’s family marks joyful maturation after a decade of experimentation.

4. “1901”


Blissful pop perfection. This Sophia Coppola-approved quartet first brought dance jams to indie parties with “Too Young,” featured in the 2001 film Lost in Translation.

5. “Two Weeks”

Grizzly Bear

When Grizzly Bear appeared at the bottom of a 2005 Soundlab bill, a meager audience witnessed their glorious set. Two weeks later, Grizzly Bear were indie darlings leading the charge for respectability in mainstream circles. “Two Weeks” captures the group’s trademark harmonies in full bloom.

6. “Stillness Is the Move”

Dirty Projectors

2009 was the year for these quintessential art-rockers, whose early work, including a pop opera about Don Henley, earned them least-likely-to-play-Letterman honors, but sure enough they did (Fallon too). “Stillness Is the Move” captures the group’s angular rhythms, fragmented guitar work and awkwardly crystalline harmonies.

7. “Actor Out of Work”

St. Vincent

The highlight of St Vincent’s performance at Babeville this fall, “Actor Out of Work” builds perfectly, juxtaposing handsome vocals with a hauntingly insistent counter-rhythm, all propelled by a bombastic straight-marching beat.

8. “A Teenager in Love”

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart

Yes, that charming beat juxtaposed with brittle, forlorn guitar jangle may seem familiar to those of us with an awkward stance and a poetic bent, but why complain. Although singer Kip Berman is no Morrissey, the lyrics do cleverly abuse the title of Dion and the Belmont’s classic ode to squeaky-clean heartbreak in its lament for “a teenager in love with Christ and heroin.”

9. “Home”

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros

One of the most adorable folk-rock love songs ever, this rollicking sing-along duet culminates in the how-can-you-go-wrong chorus, “Home is where ever I’m with you.”

10. “The Old Days”

Dr. Dog

Dr Dog, who played Mohawk Place in the spring and returns February 1, mixes country and folk elements. Throw in a dandy salon piano and you’ve got yourself a hoedown.

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