The Best 25 Songs Of 2010

Click the links to listen to the songs!

25. “Katayanagi Twins vs. Sex Bob-omb” – Cornelius and Beck

If there was one problem with Edgar Wright’s Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, it was that Scott Pilgrim’s band Sex Bob-omb didn’t suck.  “We Are Sex Bob-omb” and “Threshold” were punk gold, and “Garbage Truck” and “Summertime” were both fun enough jams.  So when Wright but Beck’s best song for the movie, “Threshold,” into one of its most memorable and epic scenes, he put it against electronic noise, and he didn’t bother finding any synchronicity between the warring musical acts.  The Katayanagi Twins, evil exes five and six, just add noise, and for a second, the entire backbone of the song, “Treshold,” vanishes entirely.  This one sounds like “Threshold,” already a good song, being played in the middle of a warzone.

Bonus video: Scene From Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World

24. “Tighten Up” – The Black Keys

Their album Brothers was an exercise in more of the same, but The Black Keys’ Danger Mouse produced single “Tighten Up” stands up as their best song.  The whistling to start it, Carney’s beats, and Auerbach’s best singing performance help highlight the chorusless song, which ends in a breakdown that reminds me of last year’s Them Crooked Vultures album.  The Black Keys might have created their first blues standard.

23. “Empire Ants (Featuring Little Dragon)” – Gorillaz

It isn’t De La Soul’s “Feel Good Inc.” reprise, “Superfast Jellyfish,” or the ultra badass “Stylo” that ends up as the peak to Gorillaz’ third album.  Instead, it’s “Empire Ants,” which starts out as a very melancholy track.  But it later is turned over entirely to Little Dragon, which gets me excited for wherever that band is going (check out last year’s Machine Dreams if you like this, though, because I bet you haven’t).  Halfway through it begins to swirl, gathers its energy, and explodes.

22. “Monster (Featuring Justin Vernon, Rick Ross, Jay-Z and Nicki Minaj)” – Kanye West

In “Monster,” Kanye West has what might be his very best verse.  He rhymes “esophagus” with “sarcophagus,” and his last words are “I’m in the future so the present is my past/my presence is a present, kiss my ass.”  He’s at his cleverest, and he smokes Jay-Z’s corny but endearing verse with a swagger that Jay-Z just manages to match next track on “So Appalled.”  Rick Ross and Justin Vernon manage fine parts, too, but what puts “Monster” up and above is the best verse of the entire year: Minaj’s part can only be described as “insane” as she seems to flip between two personalities (which is emphasized in the video).  “Monster” is messy, but it’s easily the rawest song that Kanye West has ever cut.

21. “Helicopter” – Deerhunter

“Helicopter” officially convinces me that Bradford Cox is an amazingly adept songwriter, and a vocalist to be reckoned with.  Though it doesn’t exactly tell the story, it chronicles the thoughts of a prostitute who has been stolen away into sexual slavery.  The regal instrumentation and the enticing beat might mislead one into believing that this is a happy song, but as Cox’s pained and defeated vocal goes “no one cares for me” first and “and now they are through with me” later, he captures the emotional turmoil of a person whose only function is to be used, and the devastation that comes when no one even wants to do that anymore.

20. “Cold War” – Janelle Monáe

“Cold War” at first seems confident.  Its urgent beat makes it sound like a fight song, but then you start looking at how deep into despair Monáe goes.  “So you think I’m alone, but being alone’s the only way to be” and “I was made to believe there’s something wrong with me” are cries for help.  It might be a fun song (with a guitar solo for whatever reason), but it’s also flooringly emotional.

19. “A More Perfect Union” – Titus Andronicus

The Monitor begins with a speech from Abraham Lincoln, and then all of a sudden you get Patrick Stickles screaming. That “tramps like us, baby we were born to die” line sounds like something that he’s just saying to make you think of who he wants to be, but that “rally around the flag” bit, and guitar strings being shredded apart are enough to break that Springsteenian comparison off to give Titus Andronicus their own independent identity.  “A More Perfect Union” is furious and feral.

18. “O.N.E.” – Yeasayer

Yeasayer’s Odd Blood centerpiece, “O.N.E.” is a song about breaking addiction that gets you addicted.  Whether you’re thinking about a beer or a girl, the song follows pays good attention to its ambiguous subject.  Its hooks are varied and shoved against each other, and it reminds you of the kind of song that Michael Jackson might put on Thriller.

17. “POWER (Featuring Dwele),” “POWER (Remix Featuring Jay-Z and Swizz Beatz)” – Kanye West

Kanye West’s first reveal in 2010 was “POWER,” one of the best gloat songs in hip hop.  “At the end of the day, god damn it I’m killing this shit/I know damn well y’all feeling this shit/I don’t need your pussy, bitch, I’m on my own dick” and “my childlike creativity and honesty are honestly being crowed by these grown thoughts” are some of the statements that both assert and demonstrate his dominance.  And then, when you think that “POWER” is the most gigantic hip hop song you’ve ever heard, the remix instantly proves you wrong.

16. “Round And Round” – Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti

I like to think of this one all sprawled out in pieces, with every little hook and melody requiring assembly.  The song’s backbone, that “merry go round (up and around we go)” line, is already worthy of the album, but a new reason to like the song is introduced every few seconds, whether it’s “lady/set me free,” that “everything’s my fault” bit, or the part where Pink pulls a Costello voice out.  When everything’s finally in place, he makes sense of it all with that big chorus that he’d been saving (“H-hold on”).  “Round And Round” is so positively huge that it almost undoes Before Today‘s brooding negativity that surrounds it on all sides.

15. “Bloodbuzz Ohio” – The National

It might not have the emotive finish of “Terrible Love,” the sing-along chorus of “Mr. November,” or the sweeping high of “England,” but “Bloodbuzz Ohio” is still the grandest of all songs by The National.  It’s a recollection of the past that spits out an evocative line just about every second: “I never married, but Ohio don’t remember me,” “Lay my head on the hood of your car/Take it too far,” “I never thought about love when I thought about home.”  After it gets all of that beauty out of the way, and the horns keep swelling, it just contemplates itself with an ending that at once does so little and so much.

14. “Lost In The World (Featuring Justin Vernon),” “Who Will Survive In America?” – Kanye West

A take on Bon Iver’s Blood Bank song “Woods,” “Lost In The World” starts with a few stanzas (each the same lyrics) from that song.  Then the explosive beat kicks in, and Kanye starts following “you’re my” with confliction ideas: Devil, angel, lies, truth, questions, proof, stress masseuse.  After that, it goes chorus then variation then chorus then variation for a while without losing any momentum.  Jungle beats bring the song into an old Gil Scott-Heron speech to close the most important album of the year.

13. “All I Want” – LCD Soundsystem

“All I Want” gets quickly out of control and it feels like it’s going to diverge into pure noise.  That riff from Bowie’s “Heroes” holds the song barely together, and This Is Happening’s answer to “Someone Great” starts to get pretty sad.  “All I want is your pity/All I want is your bitter tears,” goes the pathetically honest chorus.  James Murphy feels vengeful, or god, something, about the girl he can’t have, and he hopes that she might join him in his misery.  It doesn’t get a lot sadder than “All I Want,” and this is great evidence that along with dizzying highs like “All My Friends,” Murphy can pull off devastating lows.

12. “Odessa” – Caribou

Opening an album with what’s far and away its best song, and your best song, isn’t a great idea, and Caribou’s Swim eventually starts to make you realize how front-heavy it is.  That’s all the fault of “Odessa,” which is the best thing that Daniel Snaith will probably ever write.  The song feels underwater, like the rest of the album, but it bubbles right under the surface with that weird progression and those oddly catching shrieks.  Snaith pleasantly sings about a girl who’s been silent about a bad marriage for so long that when she wants to finally speak out, she’s forgotten what it is she wants to say.  Her confusion is echoed in the song, which has so many sound effects to listen to that it sounds like a song from M.I.A.’s Kala: Bizarre noises all somehow being spat out in a way that makes you want to dance.

11. “Black Sheep” – Metric

In the Scott Pilgrim comic series, The Clash At Demonhead are pretty much the shit.  They toured with Pixies and New Order and are one of the quickest rising bands in Canada.  In 2009, Metric released Fantasies, a solid album that sported a great song: “Stadium Love.”  Of course, they were so scared that “Black Sheep” defined their sound so perfectly that they made the dumbest move of their entire career and made it so that their best song wasn’t released on any album of theirs.  Now “Black Sheep,” a song that rocks psychotically hard, is more closely associated with a fictional band.  “Black Sheep” easily exceeds the expectation of what we imagine a song by The Clash At Demonhead might sound like thanks to Emily Haines’ incredible range (Brie Larson’s movie version is a bit sexier, sure, but Haines’ dreamier and higher vocal fit the song better), the powerful guitars, the swooping melodies, and the post-chorus drum beat.

Bonus video: Music Video for “Black Sheep”/Scene from Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World

10. “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)” – Arcade Fire

This song cuts through grumpiness like butter.  You can’t help but feel a little cheery as Régine Chassagne stares her suburban squelching in the face with dreams of living in a city that may or may not want her.  The eighties synths and dreamy joy of it all are nice upsides, but what makes “Sprawl II” so great is that it’s the best thing lyrically all year.  “We rode our bikes to the nearest park/Sat under the swings, and kissed in the dark/We shield our eyes from the police lights/We run away, but we don’t know why,” which reflects the happenings of “Sprawl I (Flatlands),” casts the suburbs in a good, nostalgic light after Régine complains “they heard me singing, and they told me to stop.”  All in a little ball, “Mountains Beyond Mountains” is about rising above oppression, the good old days, and yearning for a better tomorrow.

9. “Fuck You” – Cee-Lo

This is one of those pop songs that everybody seems to love.  OutKast’s “Hey Ya!,” Kanye West’s “Gold Digger,” Gorillaz’ “Feel Good Inc.,” Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy” (also sung by Cee-Lo Green), and M.I.A.’s “Paper Planes” are all other good examples, but this is one that seemed pretty much doomed to never make a dent in radio stations thanks to how thoroughly gutted its necessary censored version is (“Forget You,” ugh).  Still, the shit version managed to peak at number ten.  Of course, real fans of the song are enamored with the filthy language that it revels in.  Cee-Lo sounds ecstatic telling his girl to kiss off, and his backup singers seem to love their “ain’t that some shit?” line.  Of course, making some sort of statement about the pointlessness of censorship undermines the fact that “Fuck You” is destined to be a soul classic.

8. “Dancing On My Own” – Robyn

I can’t think of a lot of songs that resonate with me as hard as “Dancing On My Own” that are sung from a female perspective.  It’s not really about the boy that she’s missing out on or her jealousy towards the girl that gets him rather than her ongoing failure to attract anybody.  “Hang With Me,” “Call Your Girlfriend,” and a few other Robyn songs this year are similarly effective, but this one’s beats are bigger, with that build and CRASH going into the chorus giving me chills every time.

7. “Tightrope (Featuring Big Boi)” – Janelle Monáe

“Whether I’m high or low,” Janelle Monáe obviously didn’t care.  Both “Cold War” and “Tightrope” failed to chart.  She’s showing everyone on the charts who’s boss, though.  “Tightrope” is a dance song that starts tight and winds up funky and spacy.  Big Boi has one of his best verses (“Whether we high or low we gonna get back up/Like the DOW Jones or NASDAQ/Sorta like a thong in an ass crack”), and Janelle Monáe talks about how great music needs to take risks.  It’s music about music; some LCD Soundsystem shit.  The key difference is that while James Murphy hopes and hopes that he’s doing it right, Janelle is busy showing everybody else how it’s done.

6. “I Can Change” – LCD Soundsytem

Though neither song from the “All I Want” and “I Can Change” pairing can touch either song from Sound Of Silver’s “Someone Great” and “All My Friends” pairing, they come admirably close.  Both of the new ones are really sad, too.  “I Can Change” finds Murphy so dissatisfied with himself and desperate to stay with the person that he loves that he’s willing to discard himself and reinvent who he is.  Of course, there’s always some hope in change.  I’ve heard this called the most boring LCD Soundsystem song, and that might be right.  The pulse underneath the lyrics progresses normally, the beep boops aren’t really dynamic, and the gliding synths make this sound more eighties than your usual LCD Soundsystem song.  Of course, the typical background music just serves to lay Murphy’s excellent vocal and pained lyrics barer.  “Love is a curse/Shoved in a hearse.”  Huh?  “Love is an open book to averse/Of your bad poetry/And this is coming from me.”  Oh.

5. “Terrible Love (Alternate Version)” – The National

When High Violet opened with the standard version of “Terrible Love,” it felt shy and understated.  Everyone knew there was a better version out there, and the alternate version that they decided to release on the deluxe version of High Violet perfectly fit what everyone wanted.  It hits harder, with that swirling, maddening ending.  The song “Terrible Love” is really broad, but for something that seems to reflect both on unrequited love and a broken relationship, it gets things pretty on point.  “It’s quiet company” (or is it “quite a company?”), “but I won’t follow you into the rabbit hole,” and as Berninger is practically screaming at the end, “it takes an ocean not to break.”  It’s strokes are broad but precise, making “Terrible Love” universal but effective.

4. “Shine Blockas (Featuring Gucci Mane)” – Big Boi

Big Boi’s album is capped with a drugged out song called “Shine Blockas,” which has an infectious sung chorus from Gucci Mane.  Sure, it was released in 2009, but the song finds a new home and settles in so nicely on Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty that the day I got my hands on the album, I listened to “Shine Blockas” forty times.   It really can hang with some of the great OutKast songs, like “Rosa Parks” or “Ms. Jackson,” and Gucci’s verse fills in where we’d normally expect Andre.  Big Boi makes it sound easy, and Gucci makes it sounds like he doesn’t even care about doing a good verse, but he spits the best one of his entire life anyway.  He says his name a few times (because saying “Gucci!” just kind of sounds awesome, just try it a few times), and then leaps into that crazy chorus again, which after hearing “Chill a little, sit a minute/I can’t close my safe no more ‘cause I got too much money in it” a few times already, you’re dying to hear a hundredth time.

3. “Out Go The Lights” – Spoon

Britt Daniel’s lyrics tend to work best as bite-size morsels of easily digestible wit.  Of course, when it comes to his songs, you have to wonder if anything is ever actually on his mind.  Transference is different.  I don’t like it as much as Kill The Moonlight, but it seems lyrically focused on Daniel’s romantic pain, especially on chiller tracks like “Nobody Gets Me But You” and “Out Go The Lights.”  After the bedtime wish “Goodnight Laura,” which is just a piano track with vocals, the drums snap into “Out Go The Lights,” which dives into a flashblack: “You walk into the ballroom like/The cough, the wind, the rain was right/Then all them heads went left to right/Then out with the lights.”  The song is full of regret over what might have been the woman of Daniel’s dreams.

Every line stuns, even throwaways like “I know your mechanisms” and “I came here for the noise.”  Then there are the whoppers like “you became like that on which your heart was fixed,” “oh, but nobody knows you or wants you when you’re down or kicked,” and, this one he says thrice and ends on, “you always look good that way.”  After the brilliant lyrics quit coming, the song sombers down for about a minute and a half, with a calming bass line accompanied by a ghostly percussive crash bringing it to a close.  “Out Go The Lights” is the perfect synthesis of a love song and a lullaby.

2. “Runaway (Featuring Pusha T)” – Kanye West

My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy has been called the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band of hip hop, so I guess that makes “Runaway” its “A Day In The Life.”  The tinny single piano notes, the “look atcha”s, that crashing on the chorus, and Kanye’s modestly (whoa) limited singing abilities all make for a ridiculously honest song from Kanye, which makes his entire celebrity persona feel like a bit of a joke.  And he’s joking here, too.  The final segment, which impatient listeners claim makes the song “overlong,” is an extended vocoder solo, which almost sounds like it’s mocking 808’s And Heartbreak.

The rest of the song takes down 808’s, too.  Kanye’s had a change of heart about the girl that broke his, and he’s apparently really sorry that he sent “this bitch” a picture of his dick.  Of course, while we have Kanye West making apologies, looking for the positive side of douchebags much like himself (and making fun of those who refer to him as such), Pusha T plays the devil on his shoulder, talking about pussy, Versace sofas, and Mai Tais.  Kanye West has a bunch of confessions spewing out one after the other: “I sent this bitch a picture of my dick,” “I could have me a good girl and still be addicted to them hoodrats,” “never was a much of a romantic/I could never take the intimacy.”  Kanye West is constantly one of the most difficult celebrities to understand, and with “Runaway,” it looks like he finally understands himself.

Bonus video: The Runaway Film

1. “World Sick” – Broken Social Scene

I’m almost never sure about these things so quickly, but after the first time I heard Broken Social Scene’s “World Sick,” I knew that it would wind up in this slot.  Something about that solo after the chorus makes my hair stand on end.  One of the things I’d always do with the song when it came out was listen to it while I was jogging between buildings on campus, because that opening, bounding beat was the perfect pace for running.  And while it went, you had these hopes-shattered lyrics, sung like a more learned, pained MGMT: “We’ve got a minefield of crippled affection,” “I’m sick of the self-love, losing the bless me,” “we got a lady/who’s wanting to dance/men with the maybe/looking for endings.”

Suddenly, the entire song is turned on it’s head.  In comes the distorted guitars, the descending high notes, and the cymbals start crashing like crazy.  The song is ascending at a very rapid rate, and then after “I get world sick every time I take a stand/I get world sick, my love is for my man” is said once or twice, the song spirals down, down, down with that simple guitar solo.  Then after that, it runs into the ground and proceeds to pick the song back up from scratch for another climb and fall.

Then after everything is done, it just sort of lingers there for like two minutes, sort of like the ending of “Purple Rain.”  One of the reasons why “World Sick” is number one on this list is because it’s the most titanic song that I’ve ever heard, but the charm to that is that even with its commanding size, it’s so unsure of itself.  It’s about futility in effort, and with how little “World Sick” was noticed maybe they have a point.  But it stands at the top of its class as the best song of 2010.

Honorable Mentions:

“I Didn’t See It Coming” – Belle And Sebastian

“In My Eyes” – Robyn

“Glitter” – No Age

“My Skateboard Will Go On” – Anamanaguchi

“Afraid Of Everyone” – The National

“Empty Room” – Arcade Fire

“Heartbreaker” – Girls

“Hang With Me” – Robyn

“I Want The World To Stop” – Belle And Sebastian

“Fever Dreaming” – No Age

“Combination Pizza Hut And Taco Bell” – Das Racist

“Digging For Something” – Superchunk

“Sorrow” – The National

“Juveniles” – The Walkmen

“Running With The Wolves” – Cloud Cult

“Shutterbug” – Big Boi

“Crown On The Ground” – Sleigh Bells

“Hard Times (Featuring Black Thought)” – John Legend and The Roots

“Rill Rill” – Sleigh Bells

“Tiger” – Maximum Balloon

“CMYK” – James Blake

“Bottled In Cork” – Ted Leo and The Pharmacists

“Soldier Of Love” – Sade

“Stylo” – Gorillaz

“Count Me Out” – Foxy Shazam

“Children’s Work” – Dessa

“On Melancholy Hill” – Gorillaz

“Shred And Transcend” – No Age

“Internet Connection” – M.I.A.

“Life Prowler” – No Age

“Home” – LCD Soundsystem

“Giving Up The Gun” – Vampire Weekend

“Unexplainable Stories” – Cloud Cult

“Meet Me In The Basement” – Broken Social Scene

“There’s So Much Energy In Us” – Cloud Cult

“Matches To Paper Dolls” – Dessa

“Heaven’s On Fire” – The Radio Dept.

“One Life Stand” – Hot Chip

“Dance Or Die (Featuring Saul Williams)” – Janelle Monáe

“England” – The National

“Dixon’s Girl” – Dessa

“The Weekenders” – The Hold Steady

“Bury Pts. 1 & 3” – The Fall

“Tangerine (Featuring T.I. And Khujo)” – Big Boi

“Hurricane J” – The Hold Steady

“Call Your Girlfriend” – Robyn

“Seamstress” – Dessa

“Be Still (Featuring Janelle Monáe)” – Big Boi

“All Of The Lights” – Kanye West

“Who’s That?  Brooown!” – Das Racist

“The Battle Of Hampton Roads” – Titus Andronicus

“Window Seat” – Erykah Badu

“Come Alive (War Of The Roses)” – Janelle Monáe

“Doncamatic” – Gorillaz

“White Sky” – Vampire Weekend

“The Ghost Inside” – Broken Bells

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Published in: on February 1, 2011 at 12:08 AM  Comments (1)  

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  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by mroswaldhobbes, Joey Daniewicz. Joey Daniewicz said: JUST FINISHED MY PAGE FOR MY BEST 25 SONGS OF 2010: https://noisecritic.wordpress.com/2011/02/01/306/ VIEW AND COMMENT FOR THE LOVE OF GOD […]


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