2010 was a good year for music. The month of May alone covered more than most music fans could hope for. This list was extremely hard to do. Even the tracks lowest on this list are some excellent tracks and I had to snub a lot of great ones, whether through forgetfulness or for the sake of the list. To keep it from getting overwhelmingly large, I also limited the tracks to one per artist, even if that artist had multiple releases this year. I should also note that this list reflects only my own humble opinion and not those of my two other regular contributors, Arvind and Nikhil, so the name may be a little misleading. In fact, it’s very likely they’ll disagree with me.
A lot of great tracks got snubbed, but everything on this list earned its spot in my mind.
Now, without further ado:
52. Magic Man – Monster
Magic Man is a Boston duo who gave away their album, Real Life Color for free, encouraging people to simply tell others about their music and share it as much as they could. During a week where I just browsed through bandcamp, their music was a pleasant surprise both for its quality and originality. Like many on this list, “Monster” is the best track off a very good album, its simple electronic beats and engaging melodies make it one of my favorite discoveries of 2010.
As a disclaimer, their track, “Monster” may start this list, but in doing so it beat about fifty other contenders and hundreds of other tracks I’ve heard from this year. The first song on the list is always the first I mentally crap on, but this is a great song in my opinion.
51. Tanlines -Reinfo
Continuing the electronic bent is Tanlines’ “Reinfo,” from their EP Settings, an EP that I wasn’t aware got the Pitchfork endorsement until about a month after I’d had it. The easy, tropical quality of “Reinfo” is a new sound for all the electronic music I’ve heard. It’s also deceptively intricate, with a quiet acoustic guitar and levels upon levels of sounds, its a song that rewards the headphones listener. Even without the intricacies, Tanlines hit the spot by being not-exactly-dance but not-quite-anything-else.
50. Dan Mangan – Road Regrets
My video of the year, by the way
Canadian singer-songwriter Mangan’s album Nice, Nice, Very Nice seemed to slip quietly under the radar this year and I think I might know why: “Road Regrets” is its first track and it’s so good you don’t end up listening to the rest of the album because, hey, why not just listen to that song one more time? Right? Its grand, cinematic quality begs for a road trip montage in a major motion picture, the kind where a lover leaves, but not without looking back. Just that once.
49. Beat Connection – Sunburn
The hard thing about these year-end lists is that you want the people who read your stuff to listen to and buy these songs, but with a song called “Sunburn” that’s off an EP called Surf Noir, it’s unavoidable that the timing of the list and the optimal time to listen to the track aren’t going to sync up. “Sunburn” has an easy, languid feel that’s perfect for a summer day on the beach–something that doesn’t really happen in December often. Even so, check out “Sunburn” and think how great it’ll be when the sun comes out again.
48. Vampire Weekend – Giving Up The Gun
I’ll admit, I was pretty disappointed with Contra, Vampire Weekend’s sophomore album. It didn’t have the bright, catchy tunes that I’d love on their debut. Thankfully, “Giving Up the Gun” fills this niche exceedingly well, showing that Ezra can still write a damn good pop song. Even with its oblique lyrics and the package it comes wrapped in.
47. Pomegranates – Create Your Own Reality
I was really, really late to the Pomegranates party. I didn’t get their last album, Everybody Come Outside! until a year after it’d been released and their 2010 album One of Us almost passed me by entirely. Thankfully, I got my hands on it and it’s full of the light, bright songs that Pomegranates are so good at. “Create Your Own Reality” is simply my favorite song from One of Us, from the orchestral production touches to the bittersweet delivery of the lyrics, it’s simply a gorgeous song.
46. Jamie Lidell – Enough’s Enough
Jamie Lidell’s fusion of soul, motown, funk and seemingly every other sounds the man’s ever heard make his records an easy joy to listen to. “Enough’s Enough” is as catchy as the best Motown tracks and its thick, schizophrenic production demands multiple listens. The bassline alone can keep my interest for the whole song.
45. Cee Lo Green – Fuck You
Speaking of Motown-inspired tracks, it’s the track that dominated summer. And even though the radio edit butchered the sly expletive use and Glee just plain butchered it, it’s hard not to love this song. It’s the rare song that gets played a lot, but doesn’t reach the point of getting annoying. It’s still been played enough that a write-up seems entirely unnecessary, so hopefully you skipped all this and hit play.
44. LCD Soundsystem – I Can Change
Like Contra, I was really disappointed with This is Happening, save this single song. “I Can Change” is a good dance song, sure. And its catchy. But lyrically, it’s one of my favorite songs of this year, from Murphy’s sly self-deprecating humor to its inglorious sentiment it seems to hit everywhere. Pretty much every line in this song is wonderfully quotable:
“Love is an open book to a verse of your bad poetry…
and this is coming from me.”
43. Cathy Davey – Happy Slapping
Cathy Davey’s one of the few artists on this list that flew under the radar of pretty much everyone I know. Unfortunate, given how much I liked her album. “Happy Slapping” is at first, almost annoyingly cutesy-sounding, but its darker sentiment is revealed when Davey starts singing, “When you’re alone do you worry ’bout me?” Combining happy sounds with sad lyrics isn’t a new conceit but Davey’s use of it is nonetheless masterful. Even if you’re singing along to the utterly depressing lyrics, it’s hard not to whistle to the infectious melody.
42. Arcade Fire –
Sprawl II (Mountains Upon Mountains)
The Suburbs was just not my thing at all. I don’t really want to go into all the things I didn’t like about it, so I’ll instead say what I liked about it. This song. “Sprawl II” continues Win Butler’s desperate attempt to make a grand generational statement (despite the fact that Funeral already did it), but it’s infectious. It’s catchy, grandiose but not overly so and it’s wrapped in a pretty pop package. At the end of the day I have to admit that I can’t help but sing along with it a little even if I want to tell Win Butler to quit these pretentious things and just punch the clock.
41. Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. – Nothing But Our Love
This band may just have the highest good music to bad name ratio ever. “Nothing But Our Love” is an absolutely gorgeous song and it’s the kind that you just expect everyone you know to really like. I’ve deleted like five sentences while trying to figure out what to write about this song, but it just seems so damn obvious listening to it. So just listen to it and if you don’t like it, you’re probably in the wrong place.
(But please stay)