Welcome to the tracks that rocked our world over the past year. Disagree with our choices? You can vote your own favourites to the top, over on the Tracks Of 2009 Reader Poll.

You'll also find our 50 albums of the year here.

Plus, to read all-new reviews of the 50 best albums and tracks of the year, plus all the trends that defined the year, pick up the new issue of NME, on sale from Wednesday December 9.

10Die Slow

A driving, relentless riff, guitars put through pedal after pedal until they sound like hell’s own rave, Jake Duszik’s ghostly, coldly lustful vocals oozing contempt and desire at the same time.


Referencing everything from Hitchcock to House Of Holland, it culminated in our gal Gaga killing her boyfriend as a publicity stunt. Postmodern comment? Or simply par for the course? One thing’s for sure, Lady Gaga has devoured Stefani Germanotta for good. The Haus Of Gaga always wins, and this Lady’s not for moving.

8In For The Kill

Strangely powerful yet angel-wing-light at the same time. This will still sound staggering in a decade’s time.

7Let's Go Surfing

The sort of tune that screams “play me!” 12-months-a-year, eight-days-a-week, packing as it does the three key ingredients of perfect pop: nagging riffs, swoon-inducing harmonies and handclaps aplenty.

6Empire State Of Mind

“The city never sleeps, better slip you an Ambien” he spat, but this had a power way beyond pharmaceutical.

5My Girls

For nearly six minutes it teetered on the edge of Frankie Knuckles’ classic ‘Your Love’ (also the base for the much-covered ‘You Got The Love’), but teasingly never quite dived in. Plus the gradual realisation that the “I just want four walls and adobe slabs” lyrics were a paternal rumination over the housing conditions of Noah Lennox’s ‘…Girls’ showed a more human, emotional side to the band.


After ‘Dance Wiv Me’ annihilated dancefloors nationwide, no-one expected its follow-up to enjoy anything like the same level of success. Yet ‘Bonkers’ was such a cast-iron belter it made everyone from skinny-jeaned fops to sportswear-clad trainee muggers make the letter ‘T’ with their hands and bellow “TUNE!” long and loud.


A song that bleeds belief, thanks to Milo Cordell’s swaggering beats and Robbie Furze’s coldly nonchalant lyrics, which combine to create something with the rage of a whirlwind trapped in a very small room. It’s the Big Pink’s equivalent to ‘I Wanna Be Adored’; big, brash and absolutely magnetic.

2Sea Within A Sea

Drumbeat from Neu!. Morbid croon from Nick Cave. Bassline from Can’s ‘Yoo Doo Right’. Synths from Portishead’s ‘The Rip’.
Yep, The Horrors’ ‘Sea Within A Sea’ wasn’t the most original song of the year. Talent borrows, genius steals though, and when the aural patchwork quilt is as enthralling, scary and menacingly euphoric as this, who cares.


Beginning with a synth pulse straight from Studio 54, ‘Zero’ was immediately, grippingly the sound of Yeah Yeah Yeahs emerging from their red booth in the shadows onto the dancefloor. Not just emerging either: as the song stepped up its disco beat with Karen O exhorting you to “climb, climb, climb high up”, then exploded into an ecstatic, multiply-climactic thriller, it was apparent they were storming the floor astride a strutting mirrorball horse.
Talk about stealing the limelight. With ‘Zero’, Karen O made Lady Gaga look like Christopher Biggins in panto in Nuneaton, unleashing the grin that always lurked beneath her hipster fringe, and freeing the bounce within her art star soul.
It was the true coming out of Karen O as priestess, the new Debbie Harry, a punk icon turned diva shown in the way the entire song was of course a celebration of herself, O pronounced ‘Zero’.
She even started wearing a leather jacket with ‘KO’ written with studs on the back, a knowing bridge between street-cool and cheeky showbiz. Yet with Brian Chase cymbal-showering like never before, and Nick Zinner coming up with some gregarious guitar to match his new propulsive synth bravado, this was also the sound of the entire band putting aside their past difficulties and just having fun for the first time. Indeed, the video in which Karen O and her usually sullen bandmates pissed about on shopping trolleys giggling their heads off, was almost shocking.
Karen O said at the time, “We’ve got a death grip on the adolescent way of feeling things…It almost feels like a John Hughes ’80s movie.”
And that’s basically it: put this song on, and you’re immediately transformed into Ferris Bueller, singing ‘Twist and Shout’ on a parade float in downtown Chicago, your girl, your best mate, the entire world, all celebrating you.
Idiot cokeheads could never get anywhere near that ‘Zero’ feeling.
Martin Robinson

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