Thursday, December 23, 2010

Top 50 Songs of 2010: 25 - 1

..And now, the 25 best songs of the year. After this, I'll be listing the top 10 albums of 2010.

25. "Slow Jabroni"

Surfer Blood
Astro Coast

Astro Coast's slow burner, "Slow Jabroni" is riveting in expressing cold separation and striking intimacy that's impressively honest for such a young band: "Ooohhhhh...take it easy on me".

24. "The Popular Thing"

Jukebox the Ghost
Everything Under the Sun 

A big, happy, piano pop bear hug.

23. "All Things This Way"

Male Bonding
Nothing Hurts

At a minute and a half, "All Thing This Way" must be 2010's highest concentration of face-melting rock.


22. "Blessa" 

Toro Y Moi
Causers of This

"Blessa" rides the gentle waves of a summer coastline, while warped beats and keyboard glisten, submerged below.

21. "Bottled in Cork"

Ted Leo and the Pharmacists
The Brutalist Bricks

Feel-good rock that actually rocks. Ted Leo and co. remain electrifying.

20. "Bang Pop"

Free Energy
Stuck on Nothing

Speaking of feel-good rock, how about feel-on-top-of-the-world rock?

19. "Devil in a New Dress"

Kanye West [ft. Rick Ross]
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

That looped sample from "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow" by Smokey Robinson, that swaggering guitar bridge, that smooth-as-silk verse from Rick Ross: all make for a showstopping track.

18. "What's In It For?"

Avi Buffalo
Avi Buffalo

"What's In It For?" has the warmth and sing-along friendliness of a campfire song, only with some beautiful guitar flourishes and an airy chorus the Shins wish they'd discovered first. 

17. "True Loves"

Hooray for Earth
[Album out Spring 2011]

Forgive me again for perhaps jumping the gun on another pre-released song, but "True Loves" demands urgency: tribal drums frame a sleek, futuristic pop song that rises and falls like airwaves into space.

16. "Where'd All the Time Go?" 

Dr. Dog
Shame, Shame

"Where'd All the Time Go?" is charming, 60's-washed folk pop showcasing Dr. Dog at their most assured and most musically engaging.

15. "Oh, Maker"

Janelle Monae
The ArchAndroid (Suites II and III)

Nestled among a frenzy of high-tempo funk, experimental pop and a vast array of other wild and wonderful genre fusions, I found this song's sweet soulful tune irresistible and performed beautifully. 

14. "Carolina"

Broken Dreams Club EP

Girls channel Pink Floyd to stunning effect, before emerging with the kind of sweeping, heartfelt chorus we all knew Girls was capable of. But here they outdo themselves.

13. "Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)"

Arcade Fire
The Suburbs

The Suburbs intends to be, but it is on this track where it feels like there's the most at stake. Throbbing synths ring out like approaching alarms and Regine Chassagne's singing is, well, mountainous on a truly compelling epic.

12. "Let's Go Surfing" 

The Drums
The Drums

That whistle. Sure, this is an awesome song in large part because of that surfy riff, and the simplicity is disarming (the guy just wants to go surfing, and don't care 'bout nuthin' else). But that carefree whistle is probably what I'll remember most about this song.

11. "All Day Day Light"

The Morning Benders
Big Echo

With a chorus you want to shout from the rooftops (once you watch the music video to figure out the words), "All Day Day Light" is a great indie rock band at its far.

10. "When I'm With You" 

Best Coast
Crazy For You

Southern California stoner pop with a penchant for the days of fun-in-the-sun Beach Boys. Best Coast's debut LP closes on this exciting lo-fi rocker that combines a cowabunga surf riff with lyrics less innocent than its surface suggests.

9. "Year's Not Long" 

Male Bonding 
Nothing Hurts 

It only takes about 6 seconds for the year's best punk album to burst with a transcendent fury.  While Kevin Hendrick's ghostly wail floats above, Robin Silas Christian and John Arthur Webb lay down a fiery punk soundscape leaving no earth unscorched.

 8. "Diplomat's Son"

Vampire Weekend

Playful synth beats and a sunny tropical melody propels Vampire Weekend's longest track to a warm summer day you never want to end.

7. "Ambling Alp"

Odd Blood

Primal urgency makes the futuristic pop of "Ambling Alp" compelling from start to finish. The thundering drums force you alert, while the soaring chorus pulls you closer and commands you to live in the now.

6. "Tightrope"

Janelle Monae [ft. Big Boi]
The ArchAndroid (Suites II and III)

Staying stationary for the duration of this frenzied boogie is scientifically impossible.

5. "Stay Close"

Stay Close

The official song of summer 2010. Rare are songs like this that can capture the enthusiastic freedom, fond nostalgia, and simple high-on-life excitement that this Ibiza-flavored dance pop gem can.

4. "Swim" 

Surfer Blood
Astro Coast

As you can tell, I absolutely love songs that explode right out of the gates, and "Swim" is one such song. But the fact that it keeps bursting through a pounding drums and a stadium-sized chorus quickly earned the song a place in the year's top 5.

3. "Free Energy"

Free Energy
Stuck on Nothing 

Everyone has an anthem, at least for certain periods in their life, whether they admit it or not.  I don't know if "Free Energy", with its classic rock swagger and lyrics about finally letting out into the world on your terms, is that song for me right now. But it's trying awfully hard to be.

2. "Runaway"

Kanye West [ft. Pusha T]
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

A stunning response to his many haters. Every artistic risk works here, from the sparse piano-note time keeper to the opaque singing dying an autotuned death. I'm moved in particular by the latter motion, as the meaning is unknown, but breathy gaps in the gorgeous drone prove that something is trying to get through.

1. "Heaven's on Fire"

The Radio Dept.
Clinging to a Scheme

The best, and most romantic, song of the year is not about romance. It is probably not obvious upon the first few listens, as the first obstacle is the shoegazing haze softening Johan Duncanson's humble vocals, but it's about the soullessness of the music industry, working for profits rather than art.  This position is more authoritative when taking the opening quote seriously: Thurston Moore's railing against rock and roll as "big business" and "the bogus capitalist process that is destroying youth culture". The lyrics are thematically clever, hinting that it's actually a girl Duncanson's thinking about; whenever he sees her, "heaven's on fire". But ultimately, the message is strengthened by the sonics, which are gorgeous from all sides. Heavenly piano pulls the composition skyward and weaves through the bridge. Clean bass and warm guitar ground the song in a strong melodic base. Duncanson's low drone bends with the melody just enough to guide it along wonderfully. The piece de resistance is probably that burst of joyful horns and Disney strings to add just another flourish. As all these elements wash over, it feels like a grand symphony for that really special someone. While the Radio Dept. seem to have more political intentions in mind, it doesn't make "Heaven's on Fire" any less intimate, even if the only sure love here is between me and this song.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Top 50 Songs of 2010: 50 - 26

I've done the tabulations, calculated the masses, and mixed and matched bubbling chemicals in test tubes to finally arrive at the 50 best songs of the year! I've never done such a song-ranking experiment, and it was not without arduous list making, checking it twice, thrice, etc. But while my methods ultimately aren't scientific, and more weight should be given to ordering in, say, the top 25, this list represents the best songs of 2010 I've had the pleasure of listening to. First are songs 50 to 26.

"Go Outside" by Cults
"Chinatown" by Wild Nothing
"Mirror, Mirror" by Dr. Dog

50. "Hold Yuh (Double Dubplate) ft. Gyptian"

Major Lazer & La Roux 

An unexpectedly moving finale to an underrated mixtape.

49. "In the Sun" 

She & Him
Volume 2

The chorus really doesn't have to be "in the sun", but it's not important, and that's the point. This is simple, innocent, charming pop. And Zooey certainly doesn't hurt. 

48. "Daisy" 

Fang Island
Fang Island 

Fang Island likes to think that no matter what age we are, there's a sugar-crazed 10 year old inside of all of us.

47. "Imagination (I Want You to Know)" 

Miami Horror

Unpretentious dance pop that's South Beach-dreamin'. 

46. "If You Want It"

TV Girl
TV Girl EP

A song about featuring drunken bedroom antics, it's a pleasant surprise that "If You Want It" is so carefree and bursting with life.

45. "Some Kind of Nature"

Plastic Beach
Alternating between a bouncy pop song and a foreboding bass-heavy tune, "Some Kind of Nature" is one of Plastic Beach's most replayable tracks. 

44. "Limit to Your Love"

James Blake
James Blake (out February 7th, 2011)

Although this has yet to see a proper album release, it was impossible to ignore this absolutely breathtaking cover that beats the Feist original. 


43. "I Want to Be Well"

Sufjan Stevens
The Age of Adz

A unpredictable odyssey-within-an-odyssey that exhibits Stevens' bold new course into electronica on Age of Adz.

42. "Am I Real?" 

Nite Jewel
Am I Real? EP
The budding 80s-style synthpop artist turns out a polished gem with groove and intellect.

41. "Waterfall"

The Fresh & Onlys
Play It Strange 

A easy, rambling jam that lovingly pays homage to 60s garage pop and psychedelic rock.

40. "My Chariot"

The Depreciation Guild
Spirit Youth 

Beautiful shoegaze pop that makes no hesitation in embracing the latter.


39. "I Don't Believe You"

The Thermals
Personal Life

I may not be liking the Thermals' recent move towards a slower pop-punk style, but as long as they can still drop a fist-pumping powder keg like this, I'll be looking for them on tour.

38. "Jesus"

Sun Bronzed Greek Gods EP

A bite-sized nugget of sparkling, riff-drenched pop.

37. "Post Acid"

King of the Beach

While Wavves is now more pop punk than fuzz-times-10 punk (Wavvves), he still has legions of haters. You can buy or pass on the snappy melody of "Post Acid", but whatever you think of him, he may be thinking the joke's on you: "I'm just having fun with YOOOUUUUU!"

36. "Jackie Wants a Black Eye"

Dr. Dog
Shame, Shame

Dr. Dog's easygoing, nostalgic pop rock is on full display on Shame, Shame's penultimate song.

35. "Dark Trance" 

Free Energy
Stuck on Nothing

Heartfelt power pop with powerful words of wisdom: "But if you wait too might miss that song, you might never meet that girl..."

34. "Written in Reverse"


Don't piss off Spoon, or they'll make a song like this that will almost literally kick your ass.

33. "Home"

LCD Soundsystem
This Is Happening

In an album of solid long-running songs, "Home" feels the most impactful and complete. Don't miss the music video, as it's easily one of the year's best.

32. "Excuses"

The Morning Benders
Big Echo

Swirling in a beautiful collage of cinematic strings and earthy drums, "Excuses" is one of the year's best album openers. 

31. "Round and Round"

Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti
Before Today 

For all its dimensions (aged-sound, modern sound, avant-garde, catchy), what's most impressive about "Round and Round" is that all those seemingly contradictory traits coalesce seamlessly into a lovably quirky pop song. 

30. "Valley Hump Crash"

No Age
Everything in Between

Not one of Everything in Between's more hyped tracks, but "Valley Hump Crash" simply wins you over on a ridiculously strong guitar riff.

29. "Can't Stay Awake"

Cloud Nothings
Turning On

Turning On bursts open on this jangly lo-fi firecracker from a promising bedroom pop artist.

28. "Giving Up the Gun" 

Vampire Weekend

One of Contra's most fully realized singles is a head-turning showcase for a band that's only getting better.

27. "Book of Stories"

The Drums
The Drums

Perhaps 2010's best 80s-aping band, The Drums have a capture a beautiful melancholy on the catchy "Book of Stories". 

26. "Rhinestone Eyes"

Plastic Beach

Stark synths deliver a solid groove and alarming melodrama that drips with cool.