Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Top 10 Songs of 2010

10) SEX BOMB-OMB We Are Sex Bob-Omb ("I got a breathalyzer..."*)
“WE ARE SEX BOB-OMB AND WE’RE HERE TO MAKE YOU THINK ABOUT DEATH AND GET SAD AND STUFF!” They sure did nail what I suspected Sex Bob-Omb sounded like as I read the original Scott Pilgrim books when it came time to make the movie. It’s amazing how punk can still seem fresh, and even more so when you realize there’s no electric guitar here – mostly just crashing drums and heavily distorted bass, with a little hint of acoustic strumming to match the coldly cooing vocals, all marching to an anarchic cadence that just keeps on getting louder. Sure, it’s just a song for a soundtrack, but this nifty number nails the spirit of indie rockin’ better than most so-called indie rockers out there this day and age.
*One of the few intelligible lyrics.
-Hear It Here

9) ROBYN Dancing On My Own ("Stilettos and broken bottles/I'm spinning around in circles")
Robyn’s been doing her thing for some time now, and whenever she owns the clubs it puts both the DJs and the dancers at ease, because Robyn has always known how to create instantly catchy pop vocals to match an insanely crowd-moving beat. Her return this year was fierce, with three amazing EPs (or one fantastic album, take your pick) of never-ending rhythm and loveable melodies sure to keep bodies swaying and mouths lip-synching. Still, from over 20 songs released within the year, “Dancing On My Own” shines as the most classic return to form for this long-absent dance hall queen.
-See The Video

8) FLOATER Wondering ("Are you ever gonna take it as far as you're afraid to go?")
It’s almost unfair to include a song from a  power trio based out of Eugene-cum-Portland, OR that have yet to break out of the cult status that has sustained them for nearly two decades. But this almost-annoyingly catchy tune from Floater’s new album Wake is better than most of the crap that passes itself off as rock on the radio these days, for one very important reason: cohesion met by clarity. While not the best representation of the Floater sound (then again, they are such a diverse band; no song is), this tune shows just how good these guys are at songwriting, crafting a hit that lasts just over two minutes and gets every note of “aww yeah” rocking that it can out of it. It’s one of those songs that are so short and sweet that you don’t mind playing it again. And again. And again.
-See Them Play It Live
-Hear It Here

7) SHE & HIM Gonna Get Along Without You Now ("...cos I didn't like you anyhow")
M. Ward and Z. Desch continue to long for the days when the car radio blared sunny country sing-alongs, and their earphoric trips down memory lane keep me confident that Patsy Cline would be proud. Their Volume Two album isn’t quite as mythic as One, but it still has many timeless moments. The first two singles (“Thieves” and “In The Sun,” both originals written by Mrs. Benjamin Gibbard herself) are already classics to me, but it’s their cover of Milton Kellem’s “Gonna Get Along Without Ya Now” that shows just how fun this grouping remains (and counters the sort of slow-burn sadness that they achieved earlier with their rendition of “You Really Got A Hold On Me”). I dare anyone who hears it to resist in clapping and “uh-huh, mm-hmm”ing in unison with the rest of the band.
-Hear It Here

6) ATMOSPHERE The Best Day ("You not alone, it's hard as hell/But don't waste no time feeling sorry for self")
Though they didn’t release a proper full-length follow up to 2008’s When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Hold, Atmosphere did give us a new offering in the form of so-called EPs released together as a “it’s-not-our-next-album” twelve-track deal called <draws breath> To All My Friends, Blood Makes The Blade Holy. Whatever. Though they decided on the touching “Freefallin'” as their official single, I’m giving it up to much more toe-tappin’ “The Best Day,” which rides a Southern soul piano riff and a stripped down blues guitar pluck-and-strum into a head-nodding beat provided by the still-exquisite producer Ant. And Slug stays true to form, giving us his clever wordplay and crafty takes on workday doldrums, reminding us that artists and average Joes alike are just looking for the next good song to free us from the slavery of our daily living.
-See The Video

5) BROKEN BELLS The Ghost Inside ("Just like a whiskey bottle drained on the floor...")
My new favorite duo is the collaborative effort between Danger Mouse and James Mercer, two of the early century’s greatest aural entertainers. Danger Mouse is a producer and multi-instrumentalist who first came to prominence by seamlessly mixing Jay-Z and the Beatles to illegal but immaculate success (The Grey Album). James Mercer is the singer-songwriter for arguably the most important indie rock band of the last decade (The Shins). Together, they’re created bouncy but dusty vintage pop-rock that is as fun as it is melancholy. This latter descriptive is fairly new to the musical masterminds’ output, and it’s nice to seem them embracing their more mature tendencies to let a song ride on more than swinging exuberance or optimistic sheen. This song, like the rest of the album, will keep you grinning somewhat misanthropically while nodding your head, whether it’s at a late night house party or alone in your bedroom.
4) BIG BOI Shutterbugg ("A beehive, cos now everybody buzzin' around me/Could it be the way that the verse's sounding?")
Hot damn, Big Boi can still run that mile-a-minute mouth of his into some of the most interstellar beats in the world of hip-hop. He took some time before dropping his first solo album, but when he did, he wisely decided to drop us all into the middle of one of the thickest slices of pure freshtastic free-range Southern rap ever to grace the charts (which is saying a lot considering he’s a part of Outkast). Producers everywhere must be jealous of Scott Storch and Big Boi for creating the most freaky, futuristic beat of the year, the kind of sound that warmly demands you to roll your windows down and crank the volume up as you shake around in your seat driving around in your ride. It kept the summer cool and the winter warm, and if all of Big Boi’s solo joints are going to spark like this, then André can take his sweet-ass time until his own solo work (or that hopeful Outkast reunion).
-See The Video

3) SPOON Written In Reverse ("Some people are so easily shuffled and dealt")
Spoon has been one of the more consistent rock bands in recent music making, and their minimalism has progressed surprisingly well considering how basic many of their bangers can seem. “Written In Reverse” is no exception. Though it was released as a single in December ’09, the album it was on (Transference) didn’t come out till January. It wasn’t quite as well received as the highlight of their catalogue (still Kill The Moonlight), but the album didn’t have a weak song in it. That confident swagger, those sinister hooks delivered by tight playing, and the dashing Britt Daniels’s love for twisted lyrics are what keep Spoon such a riveting rock band, and “Written In Reverse” is a thrashing touchstone of their loud and lasting legacy.
-See The Video This version is slightly different from the studio version, but a great example of what kind of live band Spoon is. They can build upon the staccato simplicity to remarkable effect.

2) ALOE BLACC I Need A Dollar ("Bad times are comin' and I reap what I don't sow")
With a smoothly distressed voice like Bill Withers, and an understanding of music production that rivals Kanye West and Smokey Robinson alike, Aloe Blacc is a modern day soul impresario, incorporating blues, R&B, Latin, jazz and hip-hop to strong effect by keeping things as simple as possible. It’s really all about the beat and the singing, and Aloe knows it. You may recognize “I Need A Dollar” as the theme song for HBO’s How To Make It In America, but the song stands up on its own – not just for its piano-driven down home funk, but for the idea that these are hard times for poor workin’ folk – as a pop anthem for our times (and a great way to kick off the his solid album Good Things). Blacc’s songs are fresh bursts of oxygen for the soul, and “I Need A Dollar” is the freshest hit of them all.
-See The Video

1) THE TWILIGHT SINGERS Blackbird and the Fox ("Cold blooded, but some like it freezing...")
Anything new by Greg Dulli is cause for celebration, and he has been pulling off some fantastic collaborations lately (Mark Lanegan, Joseph Arthur, Apollonia, Petra Haden and Shawn Smith are amongst the most recent lucky ducks). His latest Twilight Singers single (the first from his eagerly anticipated Dynamite Steps album) finds him dueting with fellow New Orleans adoptee Ani DiFranco for a dusky little ditty, a rollicking bar anthem as seductive as the right drinks with the right stranger in the wrong hole in the wall getaway. It's unclear which singer is which role, but the band encapsulates both the calm before the storm and the splendor of the squalor of a night on the town, the kind of experience where anything seems possible in a very sleazy kind of way. And then it ignites itself on lustful fire, blowing up and burning out into one of the brightest crescendos I had heard all last year.
-Hear It Here

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