Saturday, January 01, 2011
The Top 50 Songs of 2010
2010 was quite a year. It was a rebirth, a reaffirmation of my love of music (and writing about it, and taking pictures of it). I still feel as if I'm catching up, but the end of the year provided a great opportunity to revisit what I loved and seek out what I missed.
This is a list of the songs that mattered to me. Please share your own in the comments.
Update: I've received a copyright notice from Google, so I'm going to pull the download link. Sorry.
50. Magda - "Get Down Goblin"
play in the States, which is always a treat.
49. Delorean - "Real Love"
48. Azure Ray - "Don't Leave My Mind"
47. Broken Social Scene - "World Sick"
46. Scuba - "Before"
Scuba, a.k.a. Paul Rose, head of Hotflush Recordings, put out an album called Triangulation, which sticks to three general elements, as its name suggests. There's the clattering beats, the bass groove, and then something that I'd describe as "atmosphere." Often, it's negative space and static, adding to the austerity of the music. But in "Before," Rose adds a splash of soul, sampling a woman's voice, and letting in some light.
45. Stereolab - "Everybody's Weird Except Me"
went on hiatus two years ago, but they accumulated enough material during the sessions for Chemical Chords that they were able to release another album. It was named Not Music, perhaps a play on the group's experimental leanings, which sometimes resemble avant garde noise, rather than traditional pop songs. But not so with "Everybody's Weird Except Me," a lovely track with Laetitia Sadier's pleasant vocals over a playful beat. Stereolab has been missed, but I don't think we've heard the last of them.
44. Lali Puna - "Remember"
43. Ellen Allien - "Our Utopie"
amazing collaboration with Apparat, eight official mixes, and played hundreds of sets. What's more, she's evolved on each original release. "Our Utopie," the chiming opener of her newest album Dust, promises more pop-oriented structure, and the album has more prominent vocals and even some guitars. It wasn't her best work, but Dust was a reminder of how innovative she is.
42. Booka Shade - "Teenage Spaceman"
show at Music Hall reaffirmed their dominance of the live setting. While most electronic artists bring a mixer and two turntables (or a laptop) and leave it at that, Arno and Walter bring a piles of equipment, which translates into a massive experience. I do miss their subtler days (Movements is a classic), but as their newest album More! suggests, they've embraced a denser style. The tension between evolving and staying true to what made you great is a tricky one, and Booka haven't quite found the perfect balance, but no doubt they'll be back.
41. jj - "I'm The One / Money On My Mind"
covered T.I. and sampled Lil' Wayne, adding gleefully obscene lyrics and bubbling synth to their repertoire. "I'm The One / Money On My Mind" takes the xx's "Intro," a wordless track ripe for additions, and inserts Elin Kastlander's woozy voice. It's not nearly as groundbreaking as "Ecstasy," but I'm eager to hear what they come up with next.
40. Matthew Dear - "Little People (Black City)"
39. Baths - "Hall"
38. Teen Daze - "Saviour"
batch of songs, and remixing kindred spirits like Washed Out, Yeasayer and Local Natives. There's something exhilarating about his brand of electronic music - "Saviour" is a sweeping testament to that.
37. Azari & III - "Reckless (With Your Love) (Tensnake Remix)"
36. Basia Bulat - “Heart Of My Own”
St. Vincent show in Central Park over the summer, I'd argue that she upstaged the top of the bill, playing three instruments and sounding amazing. It's a shame that so many of her Canadian contemporaries get such a larger chunk of the spotlight, because Bulat might be one of her country's best kept secrets.
35. Deerhunter - "Helicopter"
Bloc Party?) Cox's earnest vocals are emphasized with guitars and drum clashes, but the instruments never overpower his delivery. I can't say I listened to the rest of Halcyon Digest much, but if it sounds like this, I'm there. Seriously, guy is adorable - even Sony Music apologized to him for taking down his mixtapes.
34. Braids - “Lemonade”
Kanine Records has to be one of the most underrated imprints out there. Their current roster has the likes of Surfer Blood, the Depreciation Guild and D.I.Y. favorites Eternal Summers and Dream Diary. They put out the debut of a little band called Grizzly Bear, too. The hits continue with Canada's Braids, a delightful indie pop group with an atmospheric swirler, building to a crescendo before dissipating into a watery finish. Beautiful.
33. Twin Sister - “Lady Daydream”
Daytrotter Session or this great live footage.
32. Hot Chip - “I Feel Better”
hilarious music video demonstrates, the band hasn't lost its sense of humor.
31. Serena-Maneesh - "I Just Want To See Your Face"
suberb self-titled debut. Listening to this song is comparable to the first time I heard Loveless - and I can think of no higher musical praise.
30. Beach Fossils - "Daydream"
29. Taras van de Voorde - "1998"
RA, which is where I first heard it, spawning a bunch of remixes. But as with Coke and the Gap, the best idea was the first one.
28. Efdemin - "Night Train"
Seeing Efdemin at Mister Saturday Night was a real treat, and it proved that he's just as good at commanding a dance floor. This is one of the best electronic albums of the year, no doubt.
27. James Blake - “CMYK”
26. Toro Y Moi - "Blessa"
25. Pantha Du Prince - “The Splendour”
Saturn Strobe," one of the most sublime electronic tracks that I've ever heard. Although Black Noise doesn't have anything to that magnitude, it's still a stately, elegant record, with gems like "The Splendour." Although some might be more excited by the appearance of Panda Bear on "Stick By My Side," for me, less is more.
24. Four Tet - “Angel Echoes”
23. Beach House - “Norway”
22. Belle and Sebastian - “I Want The World To Stop"
21. Stars - "Fixed"
play for two hours in September was amazing, and a reminder of how much I adore their back catalogue. "Fixed" is the full-blast single of The Five Ghosts, the "Take Me To the Riot" or "Ageless Beauty" (still my favorite Stars song) of the album. In other words, exhilarating stuff.
20. Lindstrøm & Christabelle - "Can't Stop"
Gawker puts it, this song is for "dancing; arguing with the bartender about how expensive the drinks are after dancing; dancing more." Amen.
19. Jamie xx - "Far Nearer"
interviewing, released a solo cut, which takes things in a dubstep direction. No word on whether he'll release a full album or just a single or two, but "Far Nearer" was a sensation when it debuted on the radio. I can't think of many bands that the internet would freak out about if such a thing happened, but the xx definitely occupy the highest echelon, which is well deserved. In other Jamie business, he DJed in New York and at the Boiler Room. Busy man!
18. The Pipettes - “Stop The Music (Justus Köhncke Remix)”
17. Lucky Soul - "White Russian Doll"
chromewaves for first introducing me, and letting me know that they had a new release. So good. Now then, why aren't these guys huge yet?
16. The Radio Dept. - "Heaven's On Fire"
15. Crystal Castles - “Celestica”
copyright disputes - the Toronto duo has had a rough time. Still, they managed to come up with one of the purest three-and-a-half minutes of electropop this year, a pristine piece that's as precise as singer Alex Glass's mascara. But for a band known for is icy demeanor, there's some vulnerability here, some naked uncertainty under the synth crescendos: "When it's cold outside, hold me/Don't hold me."
14. Yeasayer - "Madder Red"
Back during Yeasayer's All Hour Cymbals era, there was a song called "2080," which was tremendous. "Madder Red," from Odd Blood, is a proud successor to that ambitious, harmonious effort, an absolute triumph. Singer Chris Keating is an able storyteller, weaving apologies into the chorus, while his bandmates provide a stunning accompaniment. As they proved at Governors Island, this band is as huge as the venues that they play.
13. Phantogram - “Mouthful of Diamonds”
12. Robyn - “Dancing On My Own”
local show in November and two at Webster Hall in August. (She'll be performing at Radio City Music Hall in February.) The centerpiece of her new record is the "Dancing On My Own," an ode to unrequited love. Almost a minute in, the chorus hits and Robyn's impressive pipes take over, but there's still that emotional vulnerability. In an age of robotic pop stars, Robyn's real.
10. Duck Sauce - “Barbra Streisand”
video that played like a who's who of independent music. It was also a celebration of New York - of its vibrancy, its culture and first and foremost, its people. Call me biased, but we are the best city in the world for a reason. As for the song itself, it's built around a sample of Boney M's "Gotta Go Home," specifically the opening riff and the "Oooh"-ing chorus, with the addition of the absurd, but somehow completely appropriate "Barbra Streisand" refrain. Amazing.
9. Sleigh Bells - “Rill Rill”
8. Tennis - “Marathon”
seven months sailing, escaping the limitations of modern life in a way most of us can only dream of. With that in mind, their music is conceptual, charting the course of their journeys, but on its most primal level, the songs are dreams of sunnier days and happier people. "Marathon" is the center of that desire, as Moore's buoyant voice floating in splashes of reverb and synth, slashes of guitar breaking like waves. Their upcoming full-length, Cape Dory, is already sounding like one of the best albums of 2011.
7. Cults - “Go Outside”
accolades followed, and then by the end of the year they had been scooped up by Columbia, Sony Music's imprint that seems to specialize in poaching young talent. Still, one good song is sometimes all it takes, and "Go Outside," is spectacular. Madeline Follin's voice goes up for miles, while the signature harpsichord adds a certain delicacy. But Cults looks to be more than just a buzz band - as their #Offline set demonstrated, there's a lot more going on here than just a couple good singles. Their debut album, which should arrive in the spring, is one of my most anticipated releases.
6. The National - “Bloodbuzz Ohio”
sitting down with the New York Times Magazine and hitting No. 3 on the Billboard charts. It's a stunning ascension, and one that's been truly hard-earned and well-deserved. Boxer was an obsessive listen for the better part of two years for me, and it's still a thrill. High Violet didn't resound quite as strongly, but "Bloodbuzz Ohio" easily captures the stately heights of past works, from the instant the drumsticks flick to open the song. Matt Berninger's baritone is one of the most remarkable instruments in music right now.
5. Caribou - "Odessa"
4. Mount Kimbie - “Would Know”
October performance at the Bunker, Dominic Maker and Kai Campos, better known as Mount Kimbie, did something you're never supposed to do during DJ sets: In front of the packed crowd, they stopped and allowed for applause. Generally when an electronic artist is billed as "live," they're just playing their own songs off a laptop or, perhaps, a sampler (Booka Shade's an exception). But Kimbie played a real set, resembling more of a band than two producers. One of them even plucked a guitar! The audience loved it, and so did I - Crooks & Lovers grew to be one of my favorite releases in the final months of the year. "Would Know," with its skittering synths, generous bassline and cryptic vocals, is dubstep for the future.
3. Janelle Monáe - “Tightrope (ft. Big Boi)”
Cold War"), her opus The Archandroid almost single-handedly argued for the relevance of the album. Spanning 18 tracks and over 68 minutes, it's roughly twice as long as everyone else's release, but despite the length, it's a never boring. Likewise on "Tightrope," with a flexing beat that echoes Monáe's lithe dance moves and features, as she puts it, "the funkiest horn section in Metropolis." And then there's that voice, flowing and contracting, moving like no one else.
2. School of Seven Bells - "Bye Bye Bye"
Buried towards the end of Disconnect From Desire, "Bye Bye Bye" is quintessential Bells, a churning pop song with dramatic heights and the Deheza twin's crystalline vocals. Alas, the harmonizing is only on record now, with Claudia's departure from the band in October (she's the one with longer hair), but they're soldiering on as a duo. With such sad news, the song's lyrics take on even more meaning: "Into the wind back to the day we met where you'll settle into/A standing pile of stones I'll skip across that ocean we knew/One by one till there's nothing left of you."
1. Wild Nothing - “Live In Dreams”
There was no doubt that Wild Nothing was favorite band this year - I listened to Gemini far more than any other album. It was more decision of whether to feature "Live In Dreams," "Summer Holiday" or "Chinatown," as each of those songs are individually so amazing. I ended up going with the album's nostalgic opener, which epitomizes a lot of what I liked this year. From its slow fade in, there's a delicacy to the music and Jack Tatum's unapologetic romanticism that's hard to resist. The shoegaze and '80s influences are well documented, and while it sounds as if it's from another era, its emotions are very much those from 2010.