After looking over the 30 songs I listened to the most this year — the metal, the electro, the indie rock, the folk, the guitar rock, even (gasp) pop — one thing has occurred to me: music is in a good place. Here are my 30 favorite songs of 2010:
30. Deftones – “Diamond Eyes”
The world of mainstream modern rock has been pretty barren of talent over the last decade, but at least Deftones are still around. Personally I love the dichotomy of the Meshuggah-esque verses and the tremendous chorus melody.
The bouncy bass, frantic piano riffs, and snappy drums frame Britt Daniel’s vocals in a way that is undeniably Spoon.
28. Head Like A Kite featuring Asya Smoosh – “Let’s Start It All Again”
Trent Moorman and Dave Einmo enlist one half of Smoosh for an unshakably catchy pseudo trip-hop track.
It’s like a sped-up version of “Blister in the Sun,” which is definitely a good thing.
When I hear that opening bass line, only one thing goes though my head: “Awwwwwww shit.”
Strip away the bleeps and bloops and beating of the imaginary drums, and what do you have? A solid pop song that can only be enhanced by the trademark LCD sound.
24. Hobosexual – “Van Candy”
Sometimes the greatest thing about a rock and roll song is the subtlety, such as in this song where the hook is practically whispered. Makes the riff hit even harder.
The second part of a album-opening double shot of quality songmanship (with “Cats And Dogs”) is a prime reason why this band has picked up so many fans so quickly. If you can write catchy melodies, you’ve already won half the battle.
One of the more fitting songs for the sunny summer months of 2010. These youngsters would have fit right into the fabled Laurel Canyon scene.
Popgrass all-stars pay tribute to criminally underrated country singer (and all-time badass) John Prine with a wild cover of one of Prine’s best.
Don’t know what my favorite part is — is it the McCartney-influenced vocals or gritty Lennon-style guitar solo at the end?
19. The New Pornographers – “Your Hands (Together)
A.C. Newman’s maximalist style results in a muscular rager that sounds like a union march rally cry.
An adorable yet melancholic song from a French/Finnish duo that proves just how important a vocal delivery can be.
I kind of dismissed this song at first, but after watching bikers line dance to the chorus in the video I can’t stop listening to it. It’s not a song that hits you upside the head, but it will burrow its way into your brain and set up a nice little cottage for the winter.
It’s an abstract take on pop, bluegrass, and even Radiohead-style alternative that is refreshing and musically invigorating.
Just watch the video. Observe the emotion Monae puts into the song. Then think about how catchy it is. Damn, right?
The guitars flip the chemistry of Campbell’s and Lanegan’s vocals — a neatly-strummed acoustic up front against a dusty electric buried just beneath the ground. One day this duo will sing the phone book. I will buy that record and love every second of it.
Drenched in reverb, Surfer Blood weaves its way through shouty verses and a Caribbean breakdown before ending on that wonderful refrain — “Swim to reach the end!”
12. Cloudeater – “Decade”
Like if TV On the Radio collaborated with Blackstreet and Massive Attack. These Georgians have yet to release a full album, but if they have anything like “Decade” on the back burner, I expect good things will come their way quickly.
L.O.V. that organ, L.O.V. those horns, and especially L.O.V. the way Michael Fitzpatrick oozes charisma while singing “L.O.V. for you and me, it’s just the way it’s got to be.”
Violin virtuoso Bird turns a classic Shel Silverstein poem into a silly, heart-tugging, minor-key masterpiece. Which is to say, he does it justice.
Mike Campbell’s searing Gibson Les Paul absolutely owns Petty’s take-off of the Beatles’ classic “I Want You (She’s So Heavy).” And those lyrics … my God, Petty hasn’t lost a step.
The Keys’ addition of bass and keyboards really shine on this spacey and spooky tale that isn’t too far off from “Billie Jean.”
Eric Earley sits down at the old piano to let Sadie know that while he can never change, he can write a cheap love song like nobody’s business.
There’s so many vocal melodies, they could have gotten seven more songs out of them. Instead they concentrated on making one freaking unbelievable one.
5. Alain Johannes – “Endless Eyes”
Johannes grabs his custom cigar box guitar and pours his heart out in a style that calls to mind Chris Cornell’s debut solo record Euphoria Morning (which was a straight-up collaboration between Cornell, Johannes, and the late Natasha Schneider).
4. Beach House – “Zebra”
This is called getting the most out of the chorus. If it’s good enough, it’s all you need.
3. Arcade Fire – “Rococo”
The way it builds to the unison yells of “Rococo, rococo, rococo” is pure heaven. Plus, it’s an Arcade Fire song with an honest-to-gosh guitar solo. Gotta give some kudos there.
2. The Moondoggies – “What Took So Long”
The Rhodes intro is like a subdued version of something out of glory days Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, but the rest of the song is pure Moondoggies. I dare you to not bellow out “What took so long?” Seriously, I dare you.
1. Yeasayer – “Madder Red”
In the 1980s, “Madder Red” would have vaulted whatever movie it was featured in to the top of the box office, and it would have hit the top of Casey Kasem’s top 40. Maybe I think that because it sort of sounds like The Moody Blues’ 1986 hit “Wildest Dreams,” but I digress. The weird thing is, despite its overt 80s-ness, I find this song very reflective of 2010’s musical climate. It’s got the harmonies, the cleverly hidden guitar riffiness, the almost overbearing effects, but in essence it’s just another well-written pop song that takes a few chances. A few expertly-executed, totally-rewarding chances.