And to think that at the beginning of the year I thought that 2010 might not musically hit the heights of its predecessor.
I was completely wrong.
Here is an unfounded attempt at the impossible: trying to rank songs that have shaped the year’s musical landscape.
50: My Body by Young The Giant
In some songs with particularly stomping choruses, the verses are there solely to provide some deviation from the song’s main section. My Body, by the band formerly known as The Jakes, is one such track. With thudding bass and drums, the verses build perfectly to a classic chorus that exemplifies the attitudes of so many people these days, ‘My body tells me no / But I won’t quit / Cause I want more.’
49: Live In Dreams by Wild Nothing
A perfect example of shoegaze achieving so much more than so much other music doing the rounds. Jack Tatum, the man behind Wild Nothing, offers an interesting take on love in Live In Dreams, claiming ‘I’d rather live in dreams and I’d rather die / Because our lips won’t last forever.’ Like its title suggests, this smooth, synth-filled track really does lift you to a more relaxed and subdued state, but without the use of illegal narcotics.
48: White Doves by Young Empires
For a band to come out of nowhere, release a couple of demos online, and have the blogsphere stumbling over itself in universal adoration, it would have to be pretty special. Young Empires play a crisp brand of dance-rock, with instantly-catchy hooks, and White Doves is an excellent representation of the potential that this band have.
47: It Is Not Meant To Be by Tame Impala
Bassist Paisley Adams just about achieves perfection with the see-sawing riff that kick-starts both the song It Is Not Meant To Be and the album Innerspeaker. The expansive track exemplifies all that is Tame Impala, with reverb-soaked guitar and lyrics referencing their love for ‘(having) sand stuck on their feet,’ ‘sitting around smoking weed,’ and ‘sitting by the lake.’ An exemplary opener on an exemplary album.
46: Mace Spray by The Jezabels
Winning the award for the most brooding beginning of the year, The Jezabels’ Mace Spray builds from there, initially reinforced by sparse guitar and typically driving drums. By the time the bridge lifts the Frantic Level to 100%, you really do find yourself hoping that the song doesn’t end; that the song will somehow be sustained. But it does and it can’t be, so you start the song again.
45: Down By The Water by The Drums
Last night I was with some mates and we listened to The Drums‘ Let’s Go Surfing. As we whistled, doo-doo-ed the bass-line, and sang along with the song, I remember having the thought ‘Why on earth do I rate Down By The Water higher than this insanely catchy song?’ Down By The Water is full of cliches: a ridiculously unimaginative chord progression and bass line, not to mention unoriginal lyrics, ‘Baby I’ll carry you all the way home / everybody’s got to love someone.’
Yet, it’s still an amazing song.
44: Sunrise Sunset by We Are Trees
While this song, not to mention the rest of We Are Trees‘ work, truly serves to underpin the superlative voice of James Nee, what really stands out after multiple listens is how perfectly arranged the instruments are for an artist’s first song. Sweeping violins and crashing percussion combine with the exceptional vocalwork to produce an outstanding track.
43: Miami by Foals
A masterful opening, loud drums, a catchy chord progression and an infectious chorus: important elements for any good rock song, but boy, did Foals get it right. Miami is the most instantly-accessible song on an incredible album.
In the same way as Sufjan Stevens, Iron and Wine has regrown his sound, shaping it around more than an acoustic guitar. Unlike Stevens, however, Sam Beam’s music hasn’t been completely reshaped, and still bears many similarities to the tunes that endeared him to so many. Next year’s album promises to be very, very special.
41: Round and Round by Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti
This five-minute track of pure disco-pop gold grabs you, and really does swirl you Round and Round (I’m so sorry, but it really did portray how I felt about the song) in a haze of avant-garde psychedelia. The sound of the telephone call that instigates the mid-track breakdown is a highlight, as well as the resounding ‘Hold on, I’m coming!’ I’ll definitely check these guys out at Laneway next year.
40: Bloodbuzz Ohio by The National
The trademark National drums do kick this song into gear, but once Matt Berninger’s voice, about which no more can be said that hasn’t already been, comes into play, Bloodbuzz Ohio hits more peaks in 4 minutes and 36 seconds than most other artists do in their whole careers.
39: Helicopter by Deerhunter
This song featured in my dream last night. As bizarre as that is, it’s also fairly fitting, given the gentle, soothing, and somewhat otherworldly nature of Deerhunter‘s Helicopter. The vocals are undoubtedly beautiful, and the song itself is framed by a tranquility that completely belies the tragic story behind it.
An excellent Summer track that hit the Internet just as us Southern Hemisphere folk began to hit the beach, Dirty Gold look to be in for a huge future if they can replicate the excellence that California Sunrise hints at. California Sunrise, come on and wake me up indeed.
37: Floating Vibes by Surfer Blood
Firstly, any song with the word ‘vibes’ in its title is going to grab my attention, not to mention one that paints such an interesting mental image as ‘Floating Vibes.’ But then that sun-soaked riff kicks off the track, and it’s really what carries this song, partly helped by frontman John Paul Pitts’ fuzzed-up vocals. Surfer Blood make pretty good Summer tunes given that none of them actually surf.
36: Vocal Chords by Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr
Most reviews I’ve ever read about this band seem to struggle to get beyond their ridiculous name. They seem to forget that about 99.9% or band names are in fact ridiculous, and that this group make incredibly catchy music. I can’t count the number of times I’ve found myself attempting unsuccessfully to sing the pure-falsetto chorus long after the track’s finished. This is definitely a track to check out if you’ve never heard it.
35: Loserspeak In New Tongue by Parades
You’ve probably heard A Community Service Announcement by Jonathan Boulet. If not, then the first time you listen to it you’ll feel like you’ve known it all your life. Well apart from doing everything on his solo album, he also drums in a band called Parades. Parades’ music is even imaginative than that of Mr Boulet, and it’s really pretty difficult to compare them to anyone else. Importantly though, it’s rather brilliant.
34: Time to Wander by Gypsy and the Cat
Xavier Bacash and Lionel Towers are obviously a pair of extremely talented blokes, as few bands ever get asked to support The Strokes after only ever having performed six gigs ever.
Time To Wander is a bouncing brand of sonic delight, exemplifying G&TC‘s ability to create catchy hooks at will, which is a great skill to have. Bright looks the future for these lads.
33: It’s Working by MGMT
Upon the release of their second album, Congratulations, this year, MGMT faced a lot of criticism from some for not making the same music that made them famous. However, if said vilifiers had bothered to listen to the album, and not just listen out for songs similar to Kids or Electric Feel, they’d have heard an album with numerous highlights, of which opener It’s Working is just one.
Apparently the song is Andrew VanWyngarden’s way of saying “Yeah, we went out there and we did a lot of drugs and it’s not that great.”
Remember that kids.
32: Lara Versus The Savage Pack by Midnight Juggernauts
Sprawling, inter-galactic, ethereal, celestial.
The latter half of Midnight Juggernauts‘ slice of dance perfection, Lara Versus the Savage Pack, is so many things. The first half is excellent too.
31: Put The Days Away by Sun Airway
I had a phase earlier in the year that lasted about two days. During that phase I would search Pitchfork tirelessly for good music. I didn’t find much, but I did stumble upon Sun Airway. With what seems like incessantly-expanding drones, the song initially appears somewhat distant, substantiated by lyrics like ‘Trying to live on is so taxing.’ Despite that, however, one gets gradually drawn in by the inviting intonations. The sudden build-up at the end is astonishing.
30: New Theory (Washed Out cover) by Teen Daze
I really don’t know how to describe this song. Teen Daze has taken a Washed Out track and somehow tightened everything. It sounds as though he has just put New Theory through some sort of sonic-alteration machine, because not much has been changed, yet everything is completely different.
29: Blue Blood by Foals
Blue Blood begins with a lone guitar and vocals. Then the bass kicks in. Then, over the course of the song, so many layers are added until it seems like a farrago of randomly assorted instruments. It ends as it begins.
Not altogether original, but it works unspeakably well.
28: Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains) by Arcade Fire
Arcade Fire doing synth-pop disco? That wouldn’t work.
27: There’s Nothing In The Water We Can’t Fight by Cloud Control
There’s Nothing In The Water constantly oscillates between jerky and smooth. A jolting bass riff leads to a fluid verse, ‘Mother Ganga take me higher,’ and the pounding chorus becomes a flowing river of tranquil, harmonising vocals.
Oh, and if you’ve ever been to India, the country that inspired the song, you’ll know that sometimes it is pretty futile to try and fight the germs in the water.
26: Wide Eyes by Local Natives
I love how Local Natives have so few lyrics, yet you don’t even notice until you look at the lyrics page in the album. They manage to fill songs with so much more than just words, and Wide Eyes is no exception. I read somewhere that this song was perfectly suited for road trips, and I wholeheartedly agree. Sounding both raw and polished at the same time, the last minute is probably the perfect way to sign out from an opening song.