My Favorite Songs of 2010

Music is a huge part of my life. Before I check my email, I have iTunes up in the morning. I listen to music on my commute and then in the office. I can’t stand silence in my apartment and soon have my iPod plugged into my stereo after I’m back home. I spend too much money on concert tickets and devoted countless hours to standing in the sweltering summer heat for free shows. Music keeps me sane, and I carefully curate lists for each writing project.

I used to eagerly listen to the top 40 countdown on the radio when I was younger, and below I’m counting down my own top 40 of my favorite songs from 2010. I limited it to one per artist, and illustrated with some wonderful public domain images I thought matched the music. Let me know what I missed! I’m always, always looking for new music. How would I function without it?

I’ve put free and legal downloads where available.


40. Alcoholic Faith Mission – My Eyes to See

Founded by Danish musicians transported to Brooklyn, Alcoholic Faith Mission brings a fresh enthusiasm to the well worn music lament that “nothing ever really changes.”
Listen


39. Jukebox the Ghost – Empire

A catchy, piano-driven song from the Philadelphia-based Jukebox the Ghost, who get bonus points for posing with one of the “Play Me I’m Yours” pianos that were installed around NYC this past summer.
Listen | Download (right click)


38. Miike Snow – Rabbit

Insanely fun dance music from the Swedish band (led by American Andrew Wyatt), that has a video which is, to quote a YouTube commenter, “crazy town.”
Listen


37.
Jamie Drake – Plumbline

“Plumbline” is a lovely, folk-inspired song from LA-based Jamie Drake, which is made unforgettable by her gorgeous, soulful voice.
Listen | Download (right click)


36. of Montreal – Coquet Coquette

Although I wasn’t as into the new of Montreal album as their past efforts (tone down the sleaze just a little, Kevin Barnes), they’re too good not to have a few moments of brilliance. Plus, I’m still a little obsessed with their guitarist, Bryan Poole.
Listen | Download (right click)


35. The Naked and Famous – Punching in a Dream

The Naked and Famous are adorable New Zealanders (I mean come on, their lead singer flies in a paper airplane in the music video), and if clubs actually played music as good and positive as this, I would be tempted to go.
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34. Broken Bells – The High Road

I expected more from a collaboration between DJ Dangermouse and James Mercer of the Shins, but while a lot of their self-titled album was forgettable to me, I like the drifter chic moodiness of this song.
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33. Xiu Xiu – Dear God, I Hate Myself

Two times I have seen Xiu Xiu: once at the most uncomfortably personal concert I’ve ever seen in a half-filled Oklahoma venue, another as they covered Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures this summer with Deerhoof before a huge summer crowd. Both times left me depleted, despairing. Dear God…
Listen


32. Fang Island – Daisy

At that same summer concert: an opening ray of guitar-driven sunshine from Brooklyn-based Fang Island! My spirits are restored. I want one of their hoodies.
Listen | Download (right click)


31. Junip – In Every Direction

The Swedish band Junip is led by José González, better known for his solo work, but I love how being with a band adds more texture to his enchanting voice.
Listen


30. Jónsi – Go Do

Now the opposite: a singer better known for his band work. Jónsi is the lead singer of the Icelandic Sigur Rós. Apparently he sings in English on this song rather than his made up Hopelandic language, but you could have fooled me. This video may give you nightmares, the song will make you thing of ethereal fantasy worlds. It will even out, I promise.
Listen


29. Moon Duo – Stumbling Down 22nd St.

Do you need to scare those shimmery fantasy worlds out of your mind now? Put on some headphones and zone out to this fuzzy sound from San Francisco-based Moon Duo. It’s not a reincarnation of the Velvet Underground, but they are getting close.
Listen | Download (right click)


28.
Blitzen Trapper – Heaven and Earth

Portland’s Blitzen Trapper have refined their alt-folk down to a piano ballad, and it actually works quite well. I never thought I would call a song of theirs exquisite.
Listen | Download (right click)


27. Das Racist – Rainbow in the Dark

When I saw Das Racist play at Pianos this year, someone asked me if the group was “for real” as they did their dumb/smart rap spectacle on the tiny stage. Yes…and no. There are heavy doses of sarcasm and ridiculousness here (after all, they did get known by singing a song called “Combination Taco Bell and Pizza Hut”), but they are undeniably talented.
Listen


26. Beach House – Norway

I’m in love with the bent notes on this song. And this Baltimore band’s dreamy pop is so “of the moment,” I’m surprised it’s not washing out every coffee shop in Williamsburg. Oh, maybe it is…I’ll report back.
Listen | Download (right click)


25. Deer Tick – Christ Jesus

A Rhode Island band led by John McCauley’s rough, wonderfully anguished voice, Deer Tick makes the kind of music that makes me want to do irrational things, like move to France or New York with just a suitcase…
Listen


24. Maps & Atlases – Solid Ground

Chicago-based Maps & Atlases seems to be composed entirely of urban woodsmen, and this song is so well structured and orchestrated, of course it’s been on repeat.
Listen | Download (right click)


23. Hot Chip – Take It In

For their 2010 album, the English electropop band Hot Chip used the same bust of Hadrian I have on a t-shirt as their album art. So now I inadvertently have a Hot chip shirt. No, this isn’t a complaint, especially if it puts their intelligent dance music stuck in my head all day.
Listen


22. Tobacco – Fresh Hex (feat. Beck)

Tobacco fits a lot into this minute and a half psychedelic dance track by starting right the hell away with Beck’s dense lyrics about…concrete cactus cracking in the coliseum… Remember how good he was on Odelay? Okay, now just pair that with the wild noise of Black Moth Super Rainbow, which Tobacco fronts. The best video I could find just has pictures of someone’s cat. It weirdly works. Enjoy.
Listen | Download (right click)


21. Franz Nicolay – This is Not a Pipe

I was disappointed when I heard that Franz Nicolay was no longer with the Hold Steady, his wild stage presence will be missed, but I’m thrilled that his solo work is so good. Not the circus-keyboard music you might imagine, this is beautiful and vulnerable. Who knew the old Magritte surrealist reference could still have such emotional weight?
Listen | Download (right click)


20. The National – Bloodbuzz Ohio

I admit to taking the National for granted, they are just so reliable in creating quality indie rock. High Violet is a great album, and although I haven’t had it in rotation as much as their past work, I expect to be listening to this for years without it losing its luster.
Listen


19. Ravens & Chimes – Division Street

Earlier this year, I saw Voxtrot’s last concert ever, and Ravens & Chimes was the opener. I’m captivated by their breathtaking music and its honest intensity.
Listen | Download (right click)


18. Phantogram – Mouthful of Diamonds

There are things in this song I would love to say to certain people: “the world is not around because of you/you know I’m not around because of you.” Except I can’t say them in a way that’s as direct, yet elegant, as Phantogram. Oh well.
Listen


17. Deerhunter – Helicopter

A summer night, I see Deerhunter perform on a pier in the Hudson River, ending their set with a building static that you think is going to turn into a song, and then realize that it is the song, and then let it absorb you. But don’t worry, they make songs like “Helicopter,” too.
Listen


16. Wye Oak – I Hope You Die

Unsurprisingly dark, “I Hope You Die” is still more sorrow than rage, and Wye Oak lets both smolder into ash. Put it under your eyes for the next battle.
Listen | Download (right click)


15. Mumford & Sons – White Blank Page

Technically released in 2009, I’m going with the US release of 2010 since that’s when Mumford & Sons came into my life. Yes, they try to turn every song of theirs into a banjo-driven epic, but I love them for it. And of all the many listens I gave Sigh No More, this furious track got the most plays.
Listen


14. Destroyer – Chinatown

This is from an album that won’t come up until next year, but I’ve been so obsessed with Dan Bejar, aka Destroyer, this year that I have to put something from him on this list. His voice is just so unique and perfect for the bizarre poetry that he sets to music. Here he borrows a tasteful amount of Kevin Barnes’ sleaze to make a glittery track that is surprisingly dancey.
Listen | Download (right click)


13. Frightened Rabbit – Not Miserable

Seeing the Scottish band Frightened Rabbit play an acoustic set in a Brooklyn record store, I was able to hear some of their new album stripped to just Scott Hutchison’s earnest lyrics and barely contained voice. This song stands out for me, with its slow build over basically one phrase, more and more desperate and unbelievable each time.
Listen


12. Rogue Wave – We Will Make a Song Destroy

No, Rogue Wave’s Permalight isn’t perfect. But this song is an example of their great songwriting  full of surprising turns and Zach Rogue’s heartfelt voice. And you have to admire a band that keeps going after kidney transplants, the tragic death of a member, and Rogue’s own paralyzing injury. I hope that nothing ever stops them.
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11. Dean & Britta – Knives from Bavaria

All of the music Dean & Britta wrote to accompany 13 of Andy Warhol’s screentests has the perfect Silver Factory mood. This song stands out for me with the breathy vocals and newcomer to New York lyrics.
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10. Kanye West – Runaway (feat. Pusha T)

Hey, did you know Kanye West put out an album? Yeah, I heard some people thought it was good. Well, I am definitely one of them. While it’s not the godly perfection that some music sites think it is, it’s his best album yet. Even if his lyrics are still ego driven and kind of awful. And yet the sampling and production is so brilliant, you can forget. I’ve had this song on repeat all week. And video bonus points for the ballet.
Listen


9. Owen Pallett – Lewis Takes Off His Shirt

When I saw Owen Pallett open for the Mountain Goats, I was amazed at how he mixed layers of violin into complex melodies. Not only is this a great song, but this live video is incredible. Pouring rain starts halfway into the song and just keeps getting more intense into a storm, but he refuses to leave the stage before it ends, willing to sacrifice his instrument, maybe anything, for this music. Seriously, if there is a better live performance video out there, I haven’t seen it. Gives me chills every time.
Listen


8. LCD Soundsystem – I Can Change

I worry that finally “getting” LCD Soundsystem means I am getting old and disillusioned. I worry I will never be cooler than I am now, in my 20s living in Brooklyn. I worry that I will soon feel awkward going to concerts, that the bands will be older than me, that I will be irrelevant. I guess James Murphy makes me feel better about all of that. He understands.
Listen


7. Yeasayer – Ambling Alp

Good thing Yeasayer is here to pick me up from the floor of self-pity with unabashed optimism. And somehow they make it not annoying. Although this video…kind of creepy.
Listen | Download (right click)


6. Quadron – Slippin’

I just realized there is a lot of Scandinavian music on this list. Well, if they keep making music like this, I might have to move there (because you know, there’s nothing happening in Brooklyn). Quadron is putting out the best soul music around and Coco’s voice is just so smooth. I saw them play earlier this year and it was a killer performance. I’m hoping to hear a lot more from them in the future. This is from another album that was technically released in 2009, but I’m going with the US release.
Listen


5. Breathe Owl Breathe – Dog Walkers of the New Age

I was prepared to hate this band, from their twee name to the fact that the lead singer wears a cape while performing. I was so wrong. This song perfectly captures that mood of crossing the Manhattan Bridge on the train at night, thinking of all the living beings out there in the lights, in and under those tall buildings. Together, yet so alone.
Listen


4. Wolf Parade – Ghost Pressure

For about a month this year, I listened to all of Expo 86 on an endless loop at work. It kept me going. I’m so glad that Wolf Parade is back on track with the well-crafted indie rock that drew me to Apologies to the Queen Mary. I had a hard time picking a favorite from this album for this list, but went with “Ghost Pressure” for the way Dan Boeckner throws himself into it and the rest of the band follows without looking back.
Listen | Download (right click)


3. Caribou – Odessa

Oh Caribou, you’ve come a long way. While you’ve always been making great electronica, you have made a song that is just so insanely amazing, with so many driving hooks, no wonder this is topping so many people’s lists. Keep doing what you’re doing.
Listen | Download (right click)


2. The Hold Steady – The Weekenders

I didn’t love their new album, but at least it had one of the Hold Steady’s best songs yet. “The Weekenders” is a sort of sequel to “Chips Ahoy!,” referencing the girl who can predict horse races to get money to get high. Now everyone is older, memories faded, but still there. It reminds me why I love the Hold Steady, the way their music is an evolving narrative, with characters and themes pulsing through if you pay attention. Plus, it has the best line of a song this year: “this theme of this party’s the industrial age, and you came in dressed like a trainwreck.”
Listen


1. Arcade Fire – We Used to Wait

I had a hard time deciding which song to put first, as my favorite song from 2010, and I ended up having to give it to the Arcade Fire. Not only did they release an incredible album with The Suburbs, they made an immersive experience to go with this song. “The Wilderness Downtown” takes you back to your hometown, to your home, using images from google resources to make a surprisingly emotional experience. It changed the way I thought about music videos, about the power of the internet for storytelling.
Experience It

5 thoughts on “My Favorite Songs of 2010

  1. Posky says:

    These were very interesting and very good picks. However, you’ve given yourself away as a music nerd. You should have tossed in ICP’s “Miracles” to throw everyone off the trail.

  2. Ian says:

    This is a really good list :)

  3. very good list. I LOVE THE PICTURES.

  4. Patrick says:

    This was too neat an idea not to steal >_>

  5. Casey says:

    Good list, but more notably, very nice layout/presentation.

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