Sunday, January 02, 2011

It's a journey--it's yours if you want it

The Best Songs of 2010

I've compiled a list of my favorite "singles" of 2010. I use the word singles a little loosely here, since many of the bands and artists I like don't really release radio singles, but in most cases, the songs were either released with videos or released as "advance singles." Sometimes, however, I'm a little more loose with the definition. For example, "Sprawl II" by Arcade Fire has not really been a single (with video, etc.), but since the band played it on SNL, I'm going with it.

The reason I've decided to confine myself to "singles" is to narrow down the field. Instead of leaving every excellent song from every great album of the year open for the choosing, I've been a bit more selective. In some cases the best "single" from an album is not the best song from that album, but that's just how it goes.

Also, though several artists here had more than one great single this year, I've also limited my list to one song per album.

Now, a word about some of my selections. Most people who know me expect the list to be indie heavy, and it is. But I also liked a great many pop songs this year. So I guess some people might be surprised by one or two songs here.

Anyway, on with it, in alphabetical order.

  • All to All - Broken Social Scene. A gorgeous, slightly spacey, kind of ethereal song that is simply a joy to listen to.
  • Animal Arithmetic - Jónsi. Insanely uplifting song on which Jónsi rattles off carpe diem imagery over a strangely springlike industrial cacophony of rhythm.
  • Another World - Chemical Brothers. Bouncy, propelling. If I could go back in time to when I was a DJ, I'd end my set with this song.
  • Bird 1 - Underworld. A classic-sounding song from my all-time favorite electronic group. Full of strange images and awesome beats.
  • Bloodbuzz Ohio - The National. This is a strong contender for best song of the year. Everything about this song works for me, from the drum and piano line to the economic downturn-inspired lyrics. And as I said in my review of the album, the line "I was carried to Ohio in a swarm of bees" is the best single line of the year.
  • Boyfriend - Best Coast. If Liz Phair made lo-fi high school girl songs with a Beach Boys touch, it might sound like Best Coast.
  • Break Your Heart - Taio Cruz feat. Ludacris. So this might be the first surprise on the list. Here's the thing: this song has a great beat and a catchy chorus, and when I hear it, it gets stuck in my head for hours.
  • Cooler than Me - Mike Posner. Another pop song! I love everything about this song, especially the beat. It's a silly pop song, but I crank it when it comes on the radio.
  • Dancing On My Own - Robyn. Robyn should be huge in this country, but instead she's huge everywhere else. "Dancing on My Own" is a danceable little rejection number that just sounds great. "Stilettos and broken bottles . . . "
  • Dog Days are Over - Florence and the Machine. This song was everywhere this year, and I fell in love with it after watching a performance on the MTV VMAs. I love the sound of Florence's voice, and I am also intrigued by the song's structure.
  • Fire with Fire - Scissor Sisters. This song is perhaps the most mainstream-sounding Scissor Sisters song, and in fact reminds me a lot of The Killers. But Jake Shears' voice is spectacular as always, and this upbeat song has a great sound.
  • Fuck You -- Cee-lo Green. What else needs to be said? Brilliant.
  • Giving Up the Gun - Vampire Weekend. This song is Vampire Weekend's most electronic song, with its dancey drum machines, but it is also their best song. Their new album showed a lot of range, and "Giving Up the Gun" is a standout.
  • Heirloom - Sufjan Stevens. I'm cheating a little by having two Sufjan Stevens songs on my list, but that is because this one comes from the All Delighted People EP, released a month before his new album. "Heirloom" is a gorgeous piece of acoustic artistry, and it would fit right on Seven Swans, and it has some great Simon and Garfunkel-esque harmonies added.
  • I Can Change - LCD Soundsystem. The actual best song of the year.
  • I Died So I Could Haunt You - Stars. With a title like that how could it not be great?
  • I Want the World to Stop - Belle and Sebastian. The new album has taken a little while to grow on me, and I don't think that this song is the best song on the album, but it was an actual single, and I really like it quite a lot. The really cool bass line makes want to dance around the apartment a bit.
  • Invent it All Again - Faded Paper Figures. This electronic indie pop band has produced some nice little songs, and their single "Invent it all Again" is another gem. It is pop silliness in the Owl City vein, but with much more interesting lyrics and imagery.
  • Little Lion Man - Mumford and Sons. This is the best song on a stellar album. The acoustic strum propels the verses forward to the thumping drums of the chorus, and the heartfelt lyrics tug at the soul a bit.
  • Love and Leave - Scattered Trees. Did I just say something about tugging at the soul? On this single from the forthcoming album Sympathy, singer Nate Eiesland's voice gorgeously channels a little Chris Martin, while he sings a heartbreaking dirge of lost love. Even knowing the song is about the death of a father, we can still read it as a song about a heart broken by romantic love. That's a brilliant aspect of the song: the way it can express the universal in the private.
  • Magic - B.o.B. feat. Rivers Cuomo. A huge guilty pleasure. I know that Rivers Cuomo from Weezer has fallen from the graces of most indie rock fans, and obviously this collaboration with rapper B.oB. doesn't help that image. But I don't care--I think "Magic" is big fun, and finds B.oB. at his most Outkasty.
  • The Man - Eels. The new Eels album is their best in years, and "The Man" is a remarkably catchy song. Simple drum machine beats under Mark Everett's uncharacteristically upbeat lyrics make for a delightful combination.
  • Monster - Kanye West. The best rap song I've heard in a long time. The song opens brilliantly with some fuzzed-up Justin Vernon (Bon Iver) lines, and then proceeds as a series of brilliant performances over an amazingly simple but throbbing beat. Rick Ross, Kanye, Jay-Z -- all excellent here. But the showstopper is Nicki Minaj, whose strange schizophrenic verse takes on a wild ride, culminating in the best use of speak-growling ever used in a song. "Monster" is phenomenal.
  • Rocket - Goldfrapp. Silly, dirty, very dancey. I love it.
  • Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains) - Arcade Fire. This might be Arcade Fire's best song. Regine Chassagne sings of suburban angst over a disco-like beat. What could be wrong with that?
  • Too Much - Sufjan Stevens. As I said, I cheated a little with two Sufjan songs, but oh well. Two different albums. The Age of Adz represents a huge sonic departure for Sufjan, and "Too Much," while not my favorite song on the album, really showcases the "new" Sufjan. It has lush background voices, it has repeated movements, it has odd but gorgeous horns. This is weird and different, but we should not be so surprised by it.
  • Undercover Martyn - Two Door Cinema Club. Brit pop, straight up. Awesome beats, great vocals, great Irish indie fun.
  • Where I'm Going - Cut Copy. When I saw Cut Copy play at Lollapalooza, I loved all the songs from their first album, but I was really intrigued by their new single. While still embracing the 80s sounds of their other songs, "Where I'm Going" is a bit of a departure. A great departure. And I just love the "Yeah, yeah, yeah, whooo!" chorus.
So there you have it. Judge me if you want. But if you want to hear these songs, you can download a zip file of all of them! And then you can trash the songs you don't like! And it's all free! Click here!

5 Comments:

At 2:30 AM, Blogger P "N" K posited...

The .zip download. Man. A+++++++etc

 
At 3:18 AM, Blogger gitanin posited...

GOOD POST.

 
At 8:08 PM, Blogger CoachDub posited...

Thanks, Parker. Happy to do it.

 
At 8:23 PM, Blogger PBear posited...

"Shooting Holes" by Twin Shadow would probably make my top 15. Check out the album if you haven't yet.

 
At 11:15 AM, Anonymous Miriam & Barry posited...

Thanks for the music!!!

 

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