Monday, January 03, 2011

Music Notes: Favorite Songs of 2010

I'm a little late posting a "best of" list, since those are usually end of the year tasks. But I'm late for everything else, and it's only three days into the new year, so I think I'm ok.

JLR's Favorite Songs of 2010

These songs don't have much in common other than the fact that I like them all. Some are fun, some have a good beat, some have great lyrics, and some are just fun. These are not necessarily what I would classify as the “best” songs that came out in 2010. Some are. But some are just songs that either I couldn't stop listening to, or songs that made me happy every time they came on the radio. So here they are, in no particular order.

The National, “Bloodbuzz Ohio
It's hard for me to narrow down a list of songs to my absolute favorites, but this one was a no-brainer. This song is both my favorite song of the year and my vote for the best song of the year. The National is one of those bands whose music is so good (and sometimes so over my head) that I feel like maybe I shouldn't be allowed to listen to it, like a club I got into by mistake. “Bloodbuzz Ohio,” like The Pretenders' “My City Was Gone,” has to do with going back home to Ohio, but that's the end of the similarity between the two songs, either in focus or in sound.

Gorillaz, "Melancholy Hill."
It's dating myself, but I'll admit it: my adoration of Damon Albarn goes back to the early 1990's, when I was in high school. I liked Blur in the early days (you had me at "There's No Other Way"), and I liked how the band continued to evolve, so that later albums sounded different from earlier albums but were still recognizable as Blur. Gorillaz seems like it's turning out the same way.

Arcade Fire, “Ready To Start
Was there a music critic this year who didn't like Arcade Fire's The Suburbs album? They pretty much swooned over it, and for good reason. I liked "Modern Man" best at first, but I wound up liking "Ready to Start" the most.

Sleigh Bells, “Rill Rill”
It seemed like whenever I searched for Sleigh Bells on the Internet this year, I would find people writing about “Tell Em.” But it's “Rill Rill” that makes my favorites list, probably because I found myself playing it repeatedly every night for weeks as I cooked my dinner. Any song that makes tedious dinner-making feel like fun-time dance-time gets two thumbs up from me. And apparently, someone at agrees with me. (And on a side note, the same list includes Yeasayer's "Ambling Alp," which was also one of my favorites this year).

The Burning Hotels, “Allison
I posted about this song not too long ago. This is another one that I listened to obsessively this year. I'm not sure what it is about it that makes it so addictive, but listen to it once and see if you don't find yourself singing it the next day.

The Black Keys, “Everlasting Light
Speaking of songs I listened to obsessively, this is a song that I kept telling myself not to keep putting on repeat lest I get tired of it, but I kept in on repeat for weeks and I never did get tired of it.

Spoon, “Written in Reverse
I love Spoon. As in, “I can't help but think a little less of you if you don't like Spoon” love. If you're not a fan, maybe this song will change your mind.

Broken Bells, “The High Road
I wasn't sure what to expect from Broken Bells, but this wasn't it. It was a pleasant surprise, not in the sense of “I hate The Shins and Gnarls Barkley so I'm surprised they didn't put out garbage,” but more of the “This isn't at all what I expected they would sound like if they got together.” I loved “The High Road.” Loved it.

Deer Tick, “20 Miles
Oddly enough, I wasn't blown away by any of the other songs I heard from this album. I say “oddly enough” because I really, really liked this song. Good music, good story, with exactly the right voice for the song.

The Cat Empire, “On My Way
If you saw me in my car this year, dancing as I drove, there is a good chance I was listening to this song.

Sarah Jaffe, “Clementine
I'd never heard of Sarah Jaffe before this year, and honestly, her voice reminds me of a number of other female indie singer-songwriters. But that doesn't mean she isn't on my list of favorite new music discoveries. “Summer Begs” is a great song from Suburban Nature, but “Clementine” is more than great. One of those pretty but heartachey, bittersweet songs.

Dutch, “Just Before the Rain
Dutch is another collaborative effort, this one between Liz Fullerton and Stoupe of Jedi Mind Tricks. Not that Dutch sounds like Portishead, really, but something about the music/voice combo when this song first started playing triggered a PTSD-like flashback to the hours I spent hanging out in my upstairs neighbors' apartment in undergrad, mooching their food and cable and begging them to play something, anything other than Portishead. But then I snapped out of it and realized that I actually really liked this song. Whether it's Stockholm Syndrome or it's just a good song, you'll have to be the judge for yourself.

Janelle MonĂ¡e - "Oh, Maker"
Janelle Monae has one of those voices that sound effortless, and I can understand why she seems to be making everyone else's best-of list for 2010.

The Orbans, “Like a Liar”
See my previous post.

And for songs that make me happy when I hear them:

Hockey, “Song Away
This one was technically released in 2009. But they have two videos for the song, and I'm pretty sure that the second version came out in 2010, so I'm putting it on the list because it's my happy song. I've seen some people who really liked "Too Fake" but found "Song Away" too light-weight. I don't care. When I have a bad day, this song cheers me up. Like making a good comedy, making a good "it's gonna be ok" song is an under-appreciated and harder-than-it seems art form. Plus, how can a song that references Roxy Music be bad?

Guster, “This Could All Be Yours
Like “Song Away,” this song makes me happy when I hear it.

The Pass, “Crosswalk Stereo
The beginning music actually reminds me of “Song Away,” so maybe that's why I like this song so much. Or maybe I like “Song Away” because it reminds me of this one.

And that's all I got. If you have any recommendations for good stuff I missed, please send it my way!

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