Much as I’ve embraced the running joke about the piss-poor state of indie rock music in 2010, I will say that there have been a handful of songs that I’ve really, really liked.
Here are my favorite 10, all released in 2010. Going back through my Last.fm profile, it’s clear that The Rural Alberta Advantage and LCD Soundsystem are the two artists that I’ve added to my regular personal rotation this year though the albums I’ve listened to most are from ’09 or earlier.
Here are my top ten (with a couple of honorable mentions), and a couple of thoughts on each:
1. Stranger Things (Gorilla Manor – Local Natives)
Thanks to a good friend and roommate, I caught Local Natives as the opening act for Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros (who appear on this list) in October of ’09, and I was absolutely blown away by the band’s energy and music. At different points, Wide Eyes, Airplanes, Sun Hands, World News and their Talking Heads cover Warning Sign have been my favorite tracks since the album was released in February of this year, but Stranger Things encompasses everything this band is so good at: harmony, pushing percussion and a vulnerable, sentimental beauty.
Looks like they’re getting started on a new album in a month, and I can’t tell you how excited I am.
2. Lost in the World (My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy – Kanye West)
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is one of those rare albums that can be listened to straight through over and over again. Runaway, Power and Dark Fantasy are standouts, but Lost in the World is an extraordinary, exhilarating, energetic genre-crossing track that uses an awesome Bon Iver sample to make this track one of the best of the year.
If you check out the list of samples Kanye uses in MBDTF, it’s remarkable. I especially like the 21st Century Schizoid Man sample from King Crimson. For all the weirdness that is Kanye, his ability to incorporate his own personal genius with his extensive knowledge of the whole musical landscape comes through in this must-listen album.
3. Tightrope (The ArchAndroid – Janelle Monae)
Janelle Monae is probably the most exciting artist I’ve learned about this year. She’s another one who can cover the entire world of music of today, and Tightrope is genuine fun. Reminds me of hearing Lauryn Hill’s Doo Wop (That Thing) for the first time.
I’d also suggest checking out Dance or Die which features Saul Williams. The Afrobeat endless groove that creeps in from time to time is near-perfect.
4. Burden of Tomorrow (The Wild Hunt – The Tallest Man on Earth)
In another outstanding album that I only started listening to at the end of the Fall, The Wild Hunt continues the association between The Tallest Man on Earth (a not-that-tall Kristian Matsson) and Bob Dylan, and, for 2010, Matsson wins. The music feels current, relevant and includes compelling vocal work. Listen to the whole album, it’s fantastic.
5. There Are Listed Buildings (Romance is Boring – Los Campesinos!)
To be frank, Los Campesinos! aren’t necessarily the greatest, most consistent band. They are, however, a ton of fun, and put on a great concert. There Are Listed Buildings is the highlight track off 2010’s Romance is Boring, and while it may not be You! Me! Dancing! it’s enough to make the commute to work feel infinitely more tolerable.
6. The High Road (Broken Bells – Broken Bells)
One of the best assembled songs I’ve heard all year.
I had no idea James Mercer is already 40 years old. It makes all his work with The Shins sound so much different.
7. Dance Yrself Clean (This is Happening – LCD Soundsystem)
LCD Soundsystem had for a long time been that thing I was supposed to listen to, but never did. I saw all the references to the eponymous debut and Sound of Silver, but never really listened.
I get it now.
That isn’t to say that the last of the LCD Soundsystem trilogy is the best. Far from it. This is Happening is a very good album whose standout tracks don’t really stand up to phenomenal songs like All My Friends, Daft Punk is Playing at My House, Losing My Edge or Someone Great, but Dance Yrself Clean is by far the best of them.
8. Round and Round (Before Today – Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti)
9. You Must Be Out of Your Mind (Realism – The Magnetic Fields)
This song is equal parts pleasant and funny. The lyrical snark coming through what’s a well orchestrated song makes this by far the best song off of Realism.
10. Firewater – (Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros)
I saw this track while perusing E. Sharpe videos, and instantly fell in love with it. Jade’s powerful voice is spot on, and, if this band sticks around awhile, I’m hoping she’ll be more prominently featured.
Camera Talk – Local Natives
Rill Rill – Sleigh Bells
Midnight Hour – Reflection Eternal ft. Estelle