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Top 100 Tracks of 2010 (100-76)

 

Just like every other year end list I’ve done for 2010, I decided to up the anty with my top tracks list by taking it from 50 to 100 songs. I know…I know…it may seem like a bit much. I can explain. Every year I compile my best songs list while making the 18 hour, cross-country drive to my parent’s house for the holidays. As I drive, I explore my i-Pod for the year’s stand-out songs and jot down titles into a notebook when I feel one is worthy of the list (not the safest driving method, I understand). By trip’s end this year, my list totaled 114.  I had a lot of fat to trim, and as I reached the 100 mark, it became more and more difficult to cut great song after great song. As a result, I’ve doubled my workload, but I don’t mind. These tracks have meant a lot to me this past year – the least I can do is give them the recognition they deserve.

 

100. “2012”

PS I Love You

What better way to start a 2010 list than with a song titled “2012”? Okay, it doesn’t make much sense, but I couldn’t help but squeeze this song on as the caboose to the list.

 

99. “Who Fingered Rock n’ Roll”

Cornershop

Back in the mid-90s Cornershop scored a hit with “Brimful of Asha”, a groovy track saturated with sitar and lyrics about using bosoms as pillows.  Unbeknownst to me, Cornershop survived the 90s and are still kicking out strange middle-eastern versions of the theme to “Wonder Years”. And they do ask a great question: who did finger rock n’ roll? My bets on Richard Marx.

98. “Arkansas”

Damien Jurado

Its nice to see Damien still thriving in the music world. His 2010 “Saint Bartlett” shows him taking his sound back to the sparse environs of “Ghost of David”, but the stand out song of the album, “Arkansas”, is probably the most produced. In the tradition of love songs to states, Jurado focuses his break-up with Arkansas.  It doesn’t necessarily have the double meaning found in a “Georgia On My Mind”, but then again, I did once date a girl named Rhode Island.

97. “I Don’t Believe You”

The Thermals

“I Don’t Believe You” is one of the only songs on The Thermals 2010 release “Personal Life” that features distorted power chords and – SHOCKER – it’s the best song on the album. A lesson in not straying from what works.

96. “Thank You For Your Love”

Antony and the Johnsons

A few months ago a fellow BDWPS contributer, PtheStudP, asked me if I’d purchased the new Antony and the Johnsons. I replied by saying, “Nah, I think I’m kinda done with Antony and his voice.” He of course berated me and called me a fool.  His verbal beating forced me to give The Johnsons one more chance, and I was quickly humbled by my disrespect.  Antony and the Johnsons – I want to thank you for your music.

95. “Racer X”

Japandroids

The Japandroids covering the Big Black song “Racer X”? YES PLEASE!

94. “What To Say”

Born Ruffians

2010 was a rough year for Born Ruffians with their disappointing release “Say It”.  Amidst the sloppy collection of songs, “What To Say” is a stand-out due to its memorable melody and its discussion of the age old inability to talk to women. Is it sad that a 32 year old man still relates to this teenage dilemma?

93. “Ain’t No Grave”

Johnny Cash

Would it be wrong of me to accuse Rick Ruben of manipulating Johnny Cash near the end of his life? I understand that Ruben’s production helped give Cash a rebirth in the music world, but now that Cash has died, more and more music keeps coming out from their sessions together, and it seems lik 90% of the tunes are about dying. I’m just saying… Despite the discomfort associated with listening to the ghost of Johnny sing on the 2010 release “American Recordings VI”, I can’t deny what an excellent song “Ain’t No Grave” turned out to be with its layers of dragging chains, spooky organs, and creaking piano keys. “Ain’t No Grave” is more evidence that Rick Ruben, manipulator or not, can make a good song great.

92. “38 Souls”

Bottomless Pit

Although I loved the music of 2010, I have to admit that the year was truly defined for me by Pavement. I spent most of my life scoffing at the suggestion of Pavement, but this year I opened up to the possibility that they may actually be good, and damn it, they were! As a result, I spent a large portion of the year searching for the modern equivalent of Pavement. I thought Bottomless Pit could fill that void, but I found that they are influenced by more than just Pavement.  For example, on “38 Souls”, a song about capturing souls, the band is able to conjure the ghosts of the 90s, channeling the sounds of Jawbox, Sebadoh, and even Dinosaur Jr. Now if they could just capture the soul of Stephen Malkmus.

91. “One Polaroid a Day”

Ted Leo and the Pharmacists

This song stood out to me simply because it shows Ted Leo trying something new.  Instead of his usual falsetto rantings, this is a slow groove with Leo exploring his lower register.  He’s no Isaac Hayes, but the change of pace was welcomed in 2010.

90. “Threshold”

Beck

Doesn’t Beck sound happy on this song? That’s the sound of a man escaping the clutches of Danger Mouse. Rejoice!

89. “Be Yourself”

Robin Pecknold

I’ve always thought that Fleet Foxes sound a lot like CSNY, so it’s probably fitting that the best song on the tribute album to Graham Nash be by Robin Pecknold.

88. “Jail La La”

Dum Dum Girls

Only the Dum Dum Girls could make being “covered in shit” sound adorable.

87. “In Every Direction”

Junip

If I were to make a year end list for video games (which I have no right attempting), I would put “Red Dead Redemption” at the top due to its never ending landscape that I wasted hours of my life exploring.  My favorite part of the game’s storyline though is when you first enter into Mexico – the game shifts from its annoying harmonica music to an actual soundtrack of Jose Gonzalez’s “Far Away”.  A month after passing the game, I purchased Junip’s 2010 release “Fields”, and everytime I listened to it, Jose’s voice would bring back the image of John Marston entering Mexico where there is nothing but desolation “in every direction”.

86. “General Patton”

Big Boi

When your nickname is General Patton, you better have a song that lives up to Patton’s legacy, and Big Boi steps up to the challenge with this song, an operetic-orchestral chaos that is more fit for Darth Vader than Patton.  It’s possibly the only song that will have you nodding your head to the chants of a concert choir.

85. “Heartbeat Song”

The Futureheads

When I posted my list of the “Best Summer Albums of 2010”, my friend Tim emailed me, pointing out that I once made fun of him for liking The Futureheads. I was forced to admit defeat writing, “Yeah, that’s because I’m a pretentious douche”.  Not even a pretentious douche can deny the melody of “Heartbeat Song”.

84. “Angry World”

Neil Young

Neil Young was a bit misleading with he called his new album “Le Noise” a folk metal album.  Lyrics about the plight of polar bears and bison aren’t necessarily the most metal of subject matter.  If only the album had more songs like “Angry World”, matching the wave of distortion with lyrics that delve into the darker side of the human psyche.  I’d like to believe “Angry World” presents what it may have sounded like if Neil had joined Black Sabbath when Ozzy left.

83. “Roman Candles”

Suckers

I present to you the Seven Dwarves of indie rock!  “Roman Candles” is a reminder that whistling was fun before Andrew Bird came along.

82. “July Flame”

Laura Veirs

Most depressing 4th of July song ever.

81. “Norway”

Beach House

I don’t necessarily love this song. It’s more of an addiction to the disorientation felt while listening to the sickly guitars.  Not even Robitussin can save you from the nausea of “Norway”.

80. “ONE”

Yeasayer

Yeasayer’s “Odd Blood” pissed me off. When did they become a dance band? Unfortunately, “ONE” made it very difficult to hate them for long.  I would be lying if I said I’ve never danced to this song while cooking pork chops with a plum-ginger sauce. I’m straight, I SWEAR.

79. “Early Warnings”

Love is All

What if John Lennon woke up and didn’t fall out of bed, rather knocked his head on a bookshelf? What if instead of dragging a comb across his hair he almost choked on his toothbrush?  Yes my friends, we’ve discovered the anti-thesis to The Beatles “A Day in the Life”.

78. “Odessa”

Caribou

The actual city of Odessa, Texas is not nearly as fun as this song would suggest.

77. “Kids On the Run”

Tallest Man on Earth

With “Kids On the Run”, Kristian Matsson ditches his acoustic guitar for a piano, and surprisingly it’s the best song on the album.  It could be due in part to the poignant lyrics that reveal a story of two scorned lovers, still running away from their past like children. Basically, it’s “Born To Run” except in this version Wendy is trying to escape Bruce and his velvet rims.

76. “Fuck You”

Cee Lo Green

Yesterday I was riding in the car with my mom when this song came on the radio. Even though I’m a grown man, I still felt uncomfortable as the chorus arrived, knowing the YouTube sensation lyrics of “Fuck You!” were just ahead. Then, just when it arrived, the lyrics “Forget you!” came out the speakers as my mom sang along. I took comfort in knowing my mom was oblivious to the actual lyrics, and it made me realize this song is great, with or without the cursing (although I’ll take the cursing version if I must choose).

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Best Summer Albums of 2010 (20-11)

For me, music moves with the seasons. In the winter I tend to listen to more somber artists, the fall is the perfect time for folk and blues, while the spring is filled with the energetic life of punk and metal.  My favorite season of all though, musically, would have to be summer. There is just something fun about summer, something exciting.  Whether it be a cook-out, a trip to the beach, or a drive through the mountains, the time for high-spirits and goofy grins can be found in the summer time air.

As a result of both my love of summer music and the fact that I’m way behind on album reviews on some amazing offerings from 2010, I decided to create a list of the Top 20 Summer Albums of 2010. Don’t get confused; this isn’t the top 20 albums of the year thus far. You won’t find any Broken Social Scene, Liars, or Beach House despite their impressive output in 2010. For now, they will have to wait (more on them in December). This list is about albums that work perfectly as the back-drop to your summer excursions, to your daily commute, to your afternoon by the pool. Each album has that same positive energy or fiery attitude that will fill your summer days and nights with a fitting soundtrack.

20. Apples in Stereo
“Travelers in Space & Time”
[Yep Roc Records 2010]

I’m not sure I like the direction Robert Schneider is taking The Apples in Stereo.  They once were a gritty pop-punk group hailing from the Elephant Six Collective, but over the course of the past two albums the sound has drastically changed towards a crystal clear space odyssey.  Schneider’s obsession with the vocodor continues on “Travelers in Space & Time” and so doesn’t his fixation with space travel. Almost every song seems to discuss intergalactic travel.  Despite the slow demise of The Apples and Stereo, Schneider continues to write alluring pop tunes, blending the 70s and 80s into some type of futuristic dance hybrid.  Although this apple is bruised, it’s still dripping with a sweet sincerity that will keep the doctor away for at least the summer months.

I guess I’m not the only one who thought “Dream About the Future” sounded like something from “The Peanuts”:

19. Holy Fuck
“Latin”
[Young Turks]

As much as I adore the band name “Holy Fuck”, I have to admit that the moniker is more suited for a metal band. At no point while listening to Holy Fuck will you actually exclaim “Holy fuck!”  Instead, the band’s live-techno decoupage of melody and decisive drum tracks will fill you with a calming state of quietude. Somehow the funky vibe of their pulsing onslaught provides you with confidence, gives you cool, leaves you feeling like Vincent Vega, like nothing can stop you (unless of course you’re caught reading Modesty Blaise on the toilet).  Unlike other albums on this list, “Latin” isn’t meant for those summer days in the sun. Oh no. This album provides an atmosphere suited primarily for those primal nights out scavenging the sweltering streets and dirty nightclubs in search of that life, that energy, that fire that makes summer so electrifying.

This video for “Latin America” and its sunny swimming footage totally contradicts my belief this is an album for summer nights. So be it:

18. Kate Nash
“My Best Friend is You”
[Fiction]

This list may stray from most summer music countdowns. Instead of albums, the masses usually search out the summer-hit songs, which are invariably pop tunes.  If you are a person who scours the radio for the upbeat melodies of pop music but feel over-inundated by Lady GaGa and Justin Bieber, the British songstress Kate Nash may be just what you’re looking for.  While her songs are catchy and seem to be the cheerful tones of summer, Nash’s output on her 2010 album “My Best Friend is You” carries themes and storylines that require a little more maturity than “Poker Face” (we get it GaGa: poke her face, el oh el!). There is still summer fun present here with lyrics that say things like “barbeque is good” and “I love swimming”, but don’t be deceived. In “Mansion Song” the innocent chorus of “I don’t have to be your baby, I don’t have to be your baby, I don’t have to be your baby” is sang right alongside the rambling diatribe of “I can get fucked like the best of men; like the best of men, like the worst of pain, inflicted on another young girl again.” While the rest of America swoons over Bieber’s “Baby”, I’ll stick with Kate Nash’s caustic take on “baby”.

This video for “Do-Wah-Doo” is like “LOST” with bad teeth:

17. Vampire Weekend
“Contra”
[XL Recordings]

Personally, I will not be listening to “Contra” this summer. Not because it’s bad or doesn’t suit the spirit of summer – quite the contrary. My avoidance of Vampire Weekend in the coming months is a direct result of me listening to their 2010 release “Contra” non-stop for the entire month of February. Some would call it overkill; I would call it an addiction to joyous melodies.   I’m guessing you’ve also fallen into the same Vampire Weekend trap (if you are an avid reader, you would know that it was picked as a ‘Best New Album’ when it first came out), but if you haven’t had the fortune of listening to Vampire Weekend and their tender tropical songs about “drinking horchata” and getting  “away on a summer’s day”, then treat yourself to “Contra” (and a nice cool glass of horchata while you’re at it).

This video reminds me of “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure”. All that is missing is Abe Lincoln and, of course, the Wyld Stallions:

16. Hunx and his Punx
“Gay Singles”
[Matador]

Your eyes aren’t playing tricks on you. The cover of Hunx and his Punx’s first album “Gay Singles” is simply a picture of a guy’s crotch, his junk only hidden by a pair of zebra print underwear.  In this case, you can judge an album by its cover. “Gay Singles” is a collection of songs released over the past couple years that all happen to be gay love songs. I know the heterosexual in me is supposed to hate this album.  No testosterone driven male should enjoy gay love songs, right?  Well, I can’t deny it any longer. It’s time I come out of the musical closet and admit that I LOVE gay love songs, specifically Hunx and his Punx (although the Lemonhead’s “Big Gay Heart” may be my all-time favorite homo-love song). Despite the fact that the lyrics and effeminate vocals would make any right-wing conservative cringe, the songs, at their core, are as honest, pure, and comforting as anything by the Shangri-Las in the 60s.  And just like the Shangri-Las, Hunx happens to also enjoy kissing guys. Get over your homophobia already and get on the dance floor.

You may recognize the song “Gimmie Gimmie Your Love” from Lenscrafter comercials. I’m guessing Lenscrafter doesn’t want their customers seeing this video, specifically the 1:45 mark where food gets involved:

15. Gorillaz
“Plastic Beach”
[Parlophone/Virgin Records]

The summer of 1995 was one of my most memorable for several reasons. For one, I started my first job as a lifeguard and worked alongside my brother who would be heading off to Iowa State in the fall. Like any other summer, music played a big part in our daily routine.  Two albums stick out most when I think back: Warren G’s “G Funk Era” and Blur’s “The Great Escape”.  I loved Blur’s grandiose approach to Brit-pop with songs about the simple, everyday life of a “Charmless Man” or relaxing days in a “Country House”.  Warren G, on the other hand, told harsh tales of the American streets through a sparse, evocative landscape of pounding basslines and the occasional pleas of Nate Dogg.  The Gorillaz “Plastic Island” is a combination of these two great albums of 95’ with Blur front-man Damon Albarn at the helm, providing his own unique nuances to the world of hip-hop with guest rappers ranging from Snoop Dogg to Mos Def. Although the album title may suggest another collection of upbeat summer jams, “Plastic Beach” is anything but cheery.  Albarn’s backing tracks always seem on the edge of breaking into a celebratory tone, yet the bounding bassline reassures that this is a gangsta rap album for a new century.  Snoop Dogg hasn’t sounded this fresh in years, and without Danger Mouse meddling with his genius, Albarn brilliantly captures the ill-omened world of the plastic beach.  With the BP oil spill I can’t think of a more fitting album for the gulf coast in 2010.

This summer’s “Regulate” is “Stylo”:

14.  Dum Dum Girls
“I Will Be”
[Sub-Pop]

There will always be room in the summer music mix for a cheery grrrl band with adorable vocals and lovable retro-jangle-pop tunes.  In the 80s it was The Go-Gos and The Bangles, while the 90s produced Veruca Salt and The Breeders.  It has been a while since we’ve heard it, but it looks like The Dum Dum Girls have brought this delightful music style back. It seems basic by nature: harmonizing, innocent vocals over bright guitars, and choppy, simple drumbeats. It’s so simple; you’d think it would have become stale after all these years. But on “I Will Be” the Dum Dum Girl’s reverb soaked collection of two-minute songs is somehow a refreshing blend that will dry up any hint of sadness within.

13.Futureheads
“The Chaos”
[Nul/Dovecote]

The Futureheads have been hyped for years now as the next Franz Ferdinand, but it never really panned out for them.  Really, it’s a shame.  “The Chaos” is my first venture into the band’s music, and if it’s any sign of what has come before, the hype was warranted.  This album is a fusion of Devo and Gang of Four, pointed riffs and memorable chants of “Stop the noise!” and “This is the life!”  While the album sounds like it could have been a lost vinyl from the early 80s, it also sparkles with freshness that echoes toward the future.  Maybe they missed the boat when it comes to breaking through the mainstream, but with the type of fight evidenced in “The Chaos”, the tides may turn back in their direction.

Because the game show motif just hasn’t been done enough in music videos, here’s “The Heartbeat Song”:

12. Tony Allen

“Secret Agent”
[Nonesuch/World Circuit]

Remember the scene in “Sideways” where Miles and Jack are driving along the California coast, heading towards wine country while upbeat jazz plays in the background?  Now imagine the same scene, except this time Miles and Jack are driving along the African coast, heading towards South Africa’s wine country (yes it exists!) while the same jazz stylings are playing with the addition of an African choir, a hint of 70s funk, and bubbling drums that seem to be on the verge of spilling over at any moment. This, in a nutshell, is Tony Allen, the 70-year-old drum legend who helped create the influential Afrobeat sound of the 1970s . While most artists lose their passion with age, Tony Allen continues to produce music filled with soul and vigor as shown on his 2010 release “Secret Agent”.

This video reminds me of an African “Soul Train”:

11. Delorean
“Subiza”
[True Panther]

“Subiza” is a multi-faceted summer album because it can serve all your needs.  Its house dance beats seem perfect for a night on the town, yet the airy harmonies and bright vocals lend themselves to a hot afternoon with friends. I’m guessing the Spanish band Delorean’s chameleon-like approach to dance music may have something to do with that.  While other artists like Ruby Suns and Yeasayer have abandoned the ambient natural harmonies that once defined them, Delorean has found a way to move the dance-beat forward without completely abandoning that sun-drenched environment.  The result is much like the planet Pandora in “Avatar”: it looks like a vivid, natural world filled with life, yet there are brief moments where you realize it’s all manufactured.  Which, when you think about it, isn’t such a bad thing.

Watch this video for “Stay Close” and tell me I’m not spot on:

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