25 Favorite Songs of 2010

I have to preface this by saying that this is an extremely subjective list. Obviously, any list ranking best/favorite music is entirely subjective. But with albums, I feel like I’m better at objectively knowing whether I like one album better than another, where songs are trickier. Does this make any sense? I just feel like my love of a song is more based on circumstance and the personal experiences I have attached to it. It has even less to do with whether I think one song is actually better than another. For instance, “Shutterbugg” and “Dancing On My Own” are great songs, but if so many people I know weren’t also obsessed with them, I would still like them, but they probably wouldn’t have the placement on this list that they do. When a song creates that sort of communal experience for you, you’re much more likely to feel strongly about it.

So I can’t claim this is my perfect-ultimate-desert-island-top-25-of-2o10 list, but they’re all awesome goddamn songs that are worth your time. I’m going to write some short little blurbs (plus links!) to go with each, but I’m a little burnt out from writing 50 albums reviews (seriously, that was a little too ambitious), so I’m going to keep them short.

#25 – Zola Jesus – “Lightsick”

I haven’t spent enough time with Zola Jesus’s other material to figure out what it is about it that so many people love. But I took to this song instantly, with its simple accompaniment of echoing piano and atmospherics, on top of which Nika Danilova delivers a gorgeous melody in a bravura vocal performance.

#24 – Deerhunter – “Helicopter”

A track of stunning beauty, paired with some melancholy lyrics from Bradford Cox that are cryptic yet evocative. Turns out they tell the tragic story of a Russian boy who was sold into prostitution and may have been murdered by members of a crime ring.

#23 – The Radio Dept. – “This Time Around”

My favorite track from Radio Dept.’s album is a sugar-rush of a song, with a tireless drum machine, distantly shimmering guitars, and some great vocals.

#22 – Kanye West feat. Rick Ross – “Devil In A New Dress”

Weird choice, right? Let’s just say you can’t really go wrong with any of the songs from MBDTF, and I’ve really taken a shine to this one. It’s use of a Smokey Robinson sample as part of a monolithic beat that borders on psychedelic rock (there’s a guitar solo!) is some of the best production on the album. Kanye sounds great, but my favorite part of this song is Rick Ross. He spits a verse that is one of his most expert boasts of extravagance, but Kanye’s achievement is making him sound both unstoppable and oddly lonely atop that giant pile of money.

#21 – Titus Andronicus – “A More Perfect Union”

An amazing Abe Lincoln quote (can you imagine Obama saying that shit?), an explosion of guitars and drums, New Jersey references, a flipped Springsteen line, a blistering guitar riff, group chants, tempo changes, etc. What more could you ask for from a Titus Andronicus song in 2010?

#20 – Crystal Castles feat. Robert Smith – “Not In Love”

If Crystal Castles’ self-titled sophomore album is the last entry in the “goth rave” genre, I won’t be too upset. Anyway, the glory of a song like this–which revamps an album track with a new vocal from The Cure’s Robert Smith–can never be recreated.

#19 – Fang Island – “Careful Crossers”

This song from Fang Island’s debut may not have vocals, but it’s the best showcase of the absurd glee that their rock-to-the-point-of-absurdity approach to music can create in listeners like myself.

#18 – Delorean – “Stay Close”

The opener to the album by Spanish quartet Delorean (which almost made it on my albums list) is a masterful dance track, hinging on a wonderfully evocative vocal sample, that defies gravity by never giving in to the conventional “drop”. Rather, it hints at it for its duration, skirting along on its buoyant instrumentals and refusing to fall from the clouds.

#17 – LCD Soundsystem – “Dance Yrself Clean”

Maybe the isn’t the most lyrically or musically accomplished song on an album filled with near-perfect tracks. I didn’t even love it that much when I first heard it. But listening to the reserved first three minutes knowing that drop is about to come makes the anticipation one of my favorite parts. And it only gets better from there.

#16 – Avi Buffalo – “Remember Last Time”

This jammiest of tracks from Avi Buffalo’s self-titled debut is a beautifully composed epic, beginning with a complex verse-chorus segment, fading into a quieter middle segment, and then returning in full force for a fuzzy, Wilco-like outro.

#15 – Small Black – “Camouflage”

It’s hard for me to explain my attachment to this little track that opens Small Black’s album New Chain. But for a few weeks it was practically all I listened to. It seems gentle but is quite danceable and has a lovely sentimental tint to it, especially in that repeated vocal refrain at the end which FOR THE LIFE OF ME I CANNOT DECIPHER. (“I know the weight that you carry”?) Why didn’t I ask them when they played a show at Middlebury? Maybe in our age of boundless information, the not knowing makes it special.

#14 – Phantogram – “When I’m Small”

This highlight from Phantogram’s Eyelid Movies has a strong aura of summer nights for me…probably because I listened to it on a lot of nights this summer. One of my favorite things about it is the way the bridges are structured to draw out your anticipation for the return to the root, making the finale all the more satisfying.

#13 – Dom – “Burn Bridges”

An effortless, sunny synth-pop tune that’s about breakups but hides it beneath its blissful sound. Racked up one of the highest play counts for me over the course of the year.

#12 – Jay Electronica – “Exhibit C”

An absolute beast of a track; the best by rap’s new Man of Mystery, the wandering, non-album-releasing Jay Electronica. This guy gets it.

#11 – The Walkmen – “Stranded”

The gorgeous, horn-laden centerpiece to The Walkmen’s Lisbon. Sounds like it came straight out of a different time and place. I listen to this on loud, loud speakers any time I get the chance.

#10 – Baths – “Apologetic Shoulderblades”

Will Wiesenfeld turns his quirky voice into a choir of harmonizing angels before blasting it apart with a perfect storm of stuttering beats and heavenly synths. A simple song but one that I could listen to forever.

#9 – Big Boi feat. Cutty – “Shutterbugg”

No party I was at this fall went without a round (or two) of “Shutterbugg” if I had anything to say about it. Luckily, almost everyone who hears it gets on board. It’s just that good.

#8 – Here We Go Magic – “Collector”

An odd song with an odd lyrical fixation (people who collect things) that turned into a perfect windows-down spring anthem for me on account of its boundless, exuberant energy, which doesn’t once subside in its five minutes.

#7 – The Black Keys – “Everlasting Light”

I grinned ear to ear the first time I heard this sexy, groovy opener from Brothers. My fears that these boys’ well of ideas had gone dry were immediately dissipated.

#6 – Kanye West feat. Rick Ross, Jay-Z, Nicki Minaj & Bon Iver – “Monster”

I understand that “Power” acts as a better calling card for MBDTF, and the fixation of most critics on “Runaway” as the album’s paramount track befuddles me. But, I mean, “Monster”, come on. So much more fun! The Kanye line! (You know which one, especially if you’ve spent any time with me over the past few months!) And Nicki Minaj is…..clearly a different class of human. Probably not human, actually. I stood in a dark room and screamed along with every word of her verse with a varying assortment of friends and strangers at least four times this fall.

#5 – Jamie Lidell – “The Ring”

Lidell’s avant-funk at its finest. That warped beatbox, hammered piano, clamoring percussion, handclaps, horns in all the right spots, and an amazing vocal performance from Lidell himself. He blew it out of the water live, as well.

#4 – Arcade Fire – “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)”

Typically Regine’s contributions are some of my least favorite Arcade Fire bits (“In the Backseat”, the egregiously awful first half of “Black Wave/Bad Vibrations”). But this song is more or less perfect. A dance-influenced beat, electronic flourishes, classic Arcade Fire key change, and that beautiful, expressive melody.

#3 – Robyn – “Dancing On My Own”

How often does a song come along that makes people drop whatever what they’re doing and run into the next room to dance when it comes on? I know that’s unusual for me, at least. But I dun seen it happen with “Dancing On My Own”. It’s that kind of a song.

#2 – Joanna Newsom – “Baby Birch”

I enjoy Joanna Newsom’s Have One On Me when I listen to it, but it didn’t make it on to my albums list. It just feels like it would be dishonest, because there’s still so much of the album I don’t understand. It’s just so big! This song, on the other hand, is the perfect size–at 9 and a half minutes. The lyrics, which elliptically concern an abortion, have enough emotional complexity to fill a whole book with their story. And the music starts with just harp and voice–it’s structure is remarkably simple for Newsom–and builds to incorporate a full band with harmonized vocals. Not many 10 minute songs sustain interest like this.

#1 – The National – “England”

At first, I scoffed when my brother suggested that this song was the best thing The National have ever done. At the time I didn’t even think it was the best song on High Violet. But its grandiose, epic quality grew on me more and more and now I most definitely agree with him. This is an incredible, career-defining piece of music. Just listen.

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~ by toren on December 18, 2010.

5 Responses to “25 Favorite Songs of 2010”

  1. Toren, this is crazy. My world has new facets. Nice blurbs. Good mix of music worlds. Game changer. Get someone to pay you to do this already. Fuck.

  2. […] more, and the EP’s heart-wrenching closer “Lightsick” squeaked its way onto my Top 25 Songs of 2010 list. Advance single “Vessel” from her upcoming LP Conatus indicates she’ll be […]

  3. Never heard of Small Black – “Camouflage”, or Phantogram, loving those ( :

    Some good choices, enjoyed going through your top 25.

    Maybe you might want to stop by my top 100 of 2010, actually its more of a top 200 with all the adding I’ve done :

    http://moviesandsongs365.blogspot.com/2011/07/top-100-songs-of-2010.html

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