Some of these come from favorite albums of mine from 2010, while other songs are amazing singular achievements that deserve a second listen even though they came from albums that weren't quite among the year's best. As well, I have embedded a version of every song for your listening pleasure. Let the fun begin.
10. "I Don't Believe You" -- The Thermals [Kill Rock Stars]
Personal Life isn't quite the best album from Portland indie rock trio The Thermals, but that's only because they have so many quality albums to their name. "I Don't Believe You" is perhaps one of their best songs, if not one of the most fun from this past year.
I had seen Reggie Watts on Late Night With Conan O'Brien a few times, not to mention his commercial for Honda. It wasn't until I saw Watts open for Conan at the Dodge Theater (as it was called back then) until I realized just how brilliant the man really is. Not really a song, since Watts is a comedian by trade, but still a very well-done, profanely (and insanely) fun offering.
8. "Strawberry Skies" [ft. Laurel Halo]-- Games [Hippos In Tanks]
I must admit to stealing this one from Gorilla vs. Bear. I'm glad I did, however, because Laurel Halo's vocals mixed with Games' penchant for bombastic, funky 80's-inspired beats makes for an incredible arrangement. There's something impossibly indescribable about this song, and that's all the more better. I just want to sit back and enjoy it, over and over.
I remember the first time I really, truly heard "Helicopter." I was at my computer, listening to Halcyon Digest and doing some work when all the sudden this sullen, lumbering song starts. I think to myself, "Eh, another slow one" and continue on, only to drop everything 30 seconds later once the chorus kicked in. Bradford Cox's vocals layered over lucid, dreamy guitars and a metronomic drum beat demanded my full attention, and I have been hooked ever since.
6. "Round and Round" -- Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti [4AD]
"Round and Round" is, much like "Strawberry Skies" before it, geared towards the 80s-nostalgia audiences. That, mixed with Pink's howling, yearning vocals creates a vividly layered song that seems to have about fifteen different sections to it. It's a song as sincere as it is enjoyable, the crowning achievement on one the year's better albums.
This 8-minute tour de force by San Francisco/Brooklyn trio Lemonade unexpectedly came this past spring. Rife with a jungle/trip hop beat, "Underwater Sonics" features lead singer Callan Clendenin at perhaps his best -- definitely his most yearning. I'm pretty sure there's a sound effect in the song from the Aquatic Ruin Zone level from Sonic The Hedgehog 2.
4. "Do The Astral Plane" -- Flying Lotus [Warp]
This song is, by far, my most listened to song of 2010. For this track, FlyLo has taken acid jazz undertones and mixed them with his indelible synths and arrangements. There's some light scatting going on throughout the song, but that only adds to its charm. "Do The Astral Plane" is the perfect song to listen to at a party, while working out or while trying to unwind -- its versatility is a testament to FlyLo's brilliance.
I'm pretty bummed that Gorilla Manor didn't make it higher on my best of albums list. It's a pretty good album, yet there are some inconsistencies that plague its overall polish. None of that, however, applies to the album's opener "Wide Eyes." The segue at about 2:20 into the song is probably the most transcendent piece of music from this past year. It still gives me chills every time I hear it.
It's hard to argue against "Odessa" as far as Swim is concerned. The song is the perfect single, album opener and an amazing, club-inspired leap forward for Caribou's mastermind Dan Snaith. The album's final track, however, might just be his best. Complete with guest vocals from Born Ruffians' Luke LaLonde, "Jamelia" is a meandering, sincere effort with a fantastic payoff. It is when things get going in the song that LaLonde can really take over, forcing his vocals upon listeners while Snaith crafts an innocent, cascading backbeat.
Sam Herring, lead singer of Baltimore post-wave trio Future Islands, has some of the best vocals I have heard in a long, long time. The vocal track he lays down for "Tin Man" is unfairly amazing. His burly, gentlemanly voice is the perfect compliment to the song's steel drums and quirky, funky drum beat. When Herring wails, "I am the tin man!" towards the end of the song, he is speaking for all of us. We are all the tin man -- astutely captivated by this incredibly decadent and downright inspiring song.