Monday, December 27, 2010

The Best Songs from 2010

by Conroy

With only days left in 2010, it's time for my annual Top 10 Songs list. As with the previous versions, this list will count down what I consider to be the ten best songs from this year. There are a couple of ground rules for songs to be eligible to make the list:
  • If at all possible, I try to include only one song per artist. For instance, I could have included multiple songs from the album The Suburbs by Arcade Fire, but adhering to my rule, and because I wasn't overawed by the additional tracks, I've included just one song from the album. However, if we turned back time and I was writing about my Top 10 songs from say 1996, I would have included multiple songs from Weezer's spectacular album Pinkerton (after all, three songs from this album are included in my Top 100 Songs).  
  • All songs must be released in this calendar year (i.e. 2010). For instance, Vampire Weekend released an album, Contra, this year. The wonderful track "Horchata" leads off the album, and it would certainly have made the Top 10 for 2010 except that the song was released as a single near the end of last year (2009). Since it was released separate from the rest of the album and gained widespread airplay, I must disqualify it from consideration for songs from 2010. Alas, the late release last year meant that it missed making the list for a musically loaded 2009.
Also, as you read through this list I offer a caution. As with all annual lists, my Top 10 Songs is based on impressions from this year with only a limited amount of time to have heard and internalized each of these songs. Often it takes years or more for the significance of a song, album, or any other artistic creation to become clear. I publish these lists because I think it's fun, generates discussion, and identifies some of the outstanding songs from the past year. However, it could be that I look back years from now with different opinions of what really was best from 2010.  

Okay that's enough background, the list:

Conroy's Top 10 Songs of 2010

10. "Ambling Alp" by Yeasayer. I love the recurring computer tremolo effect in the background of this song. There are a few well-timed changes in pace, and the vocal delivery is memorable and compliments the various computer and instrumental effects. In case you're curious, the Ambling Alp was the nickname of Heavyweight boxing champion Primo Carnera, which explains the lyrical reference to Max Schmeling.

9. "911" by Delta Spirit. "911" is a great example of a song with upbeat music and despairing lyrics, a combination that I love, if only because such juxtaposition includes an irony that I think says something important about life. This song makes you want to dance, but includes lyrics such as: "The day ain't nothin' but a sentence paid / You work so hard and nothin' changed", and "The union crooks treat me like a pawn / They said to strike and I lost my job". The rest of the lyrics are a polemic against the politicians and wars fought since 9/11, which is not a recommendation to the song, but an explanation for the title.

8. "Follow" by Fools & Horses. Fools & Horses are a Baltimore band but they play like a national act. "Follow" is one of their best ever efforts. The song is propelled by some great guitar licks. I also love how the transitions from the chorus to the verses.

7. "Hollywood" by Codeine Velvet Club. Hearing "Hollywood" you would think it's a song by The Fratellis, and that's because Codeine Velvet Club is a side project of Fratellis frontman Jon Lawler. Like many Fratellis songs, this track is really propulsive with the versus packing as much punch as the chorus and bridge.

6. "Oh I Wonder" by Victoria Vox. When I saw Victoria Vox in early 2009 as part of a local musicians show put on by WTMD (Towson, MD) I was impressed by little more than her ability to mimic the sound of a trumpet with nothing but her vocal chords. I had no idea she was capable of producing the music on her 2010 album Exact Change. The album was largely financed by her fans, and the track "Oh I Wonder" should have been nothing less than a hit. It includes her trademark ukulele, but is backed by great guitar and drums and she sings with vigor (not so original) lyrics about a lover who didn't love her.

5. "Ready to Start" by Arcade Fire. Arcade Fire's The Suburbs is probably the best album of the year and as you would expect from this band, all sixteen tracks are excellent and fit together musically and thematically. "Ready to Start" is the best song on the album and a listen will reveal the familiar atmospheric Arcade Fire sound. In fact, this one track is a good example for the entire album, which explores the experience (not necessarily good or bad, or maybe both) of growing up and living in the suburbs.

4. "Dilly" by Band of Horses. Band of Horses releases good album after good album. I'm a great admirer of their 2006 debut Everything All the Time, but 2010's Infinite Arms is just as good. I love vocal key change in the chorus of "Dilly". I should also note that the song "Laredo" gets an honorable mention (see below) and was in strong consideration to make the Top 10 Songs.

3. "She Needs Me" by Fyfe Dangerfield. From the first listen, "She Needs Me" impresses as a great song. The drum beat and easy vocal delivery slowly build to a euphoric chorus as Fyfe sings, "...this is where I want to be / she needs me...". Like other great songs we get to enjoy this simple verse to ecstatic chorus change a couple of times during the song.

2. "Congratulations" by MGMT. MGMT hit the big time in 2008 with their debut alum Oracular Spectacular and the break-out hit songs "Time to Pretend", "Kids", and "Electric Feel". However, their 2010 follow-up, Congratulations is a better album. The title track is down right mellow compared the the electric dance romps on Oracular, but it's simple guitar and drum beat works great with a knowingly ironic vocal delivery of lyrics considering the band's new found fame. "Congratulations" will never be the hit that "Time to Pretend" was, but it's nearly as good of a song.

1. "Bloodbuzz Ohio" by The National. "Bloodbuzz Ohio" is the standout song from 2010. I like it so much that it vaulted not just into my Top 250 Songs, but into my Top 100 Songs at number 86. It's the only song from 2010 to crack the Top 250 Songs (so far). There's so much to recommend this track, the haunting and hypnotic bass line and drum beat. The atmospheric guitars. Matt Berninger's baritone vocal delivery and ironic lyrics ("I still owe money to the money to the money I owe / I never thought about love when I thought about home"). More than anything, it may be the song's ability to evoke an emotional response, a hallmark of all great music. And like great music, the song gets better and better with repeated listens. Unfortunately this song is so good that is largely overshadows the rest of the album High Violet, which is unfair because the entire album is superb.

 Honorable mention: "Half Light II" and "Sprawl II" by Arcade Fire, "Good to Be" by Backyard Tire Fire, "Laredo" by Band of Horses, "The High Road" by Broken Bells, "Spectacular Girl" by Eels, "Crash Years" by The New Pornographers, and "Zorbing" by Stornoway.

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1 comment:

  1. Great list, but all these songs are geared toward indie rock. What about the great songs from Cee-lo Green, Grace Potter, and Adele (to name a few)? Give hip-hop and music with some grooves a little more love...