2010 has been a fantastic year for music, making it especially difficult for us to narrow our list down to 15. After much deliberation, we’ve made our choices and now bring you TUiW’s picks for the Best Songs of the Year.
15. Local Natives – “Sun Hands”
Local Natives have all the sophistication and worldliness of Grizzly Bear without the austerity. There’s no better example of that than “Sun Hands,” an energetic, wide-eyed indie anthem with all the pastoral trappings and Talking Heads influences that you need to Make It on a blog in 2010. And yet Local Natives is more than the sum of their parts, and “Sun Hands” is a catchy song that is hard to get out of your head once it takes up space there. (J)
14. Broken Social Scene – “Forced to Love”
When the record came out in May, I wrote that “Forced to Love” is “the type of song that demands loud speakers on a sunny day,” a description that holds true even in the cold days of winter. It’s the standout track on Forgiveness Rock Record, one that has the band at their best, not only playing to the rafters, but over them. (M)
13. Wavves – “Post Acid”
Wavves mostly ditched the lo-fi in favor of a different quintessentially 1990s sound: the power-punk of Lookout Records. Like someone else you’ll be seeing a little higher on the list, Nathan Williams distilled his self-loathing and public meltdowns into some of the most infectious and catchy music of the year. On “Post Acid,” Williams turns in a ranging, stomping piece of SoCal punk with energy and hookiness to spare. Its hard to think of a song that earned an intro from John Norris more than “Post Acid.” (J)
12. The Morning Benders – “Excuses”
A lush, beautiful song that recalls the Wall of Sound, “Excuses” kicks off Big Echo in grand fashion. The crashing drums and wobbly strings, combined with the “la-la-las” make the song incredibly catchy, and one that won’t leave your head for days. (M)
11. Wye Oak – “Emmylou”
My Neighbor/My Creator, like a lot of EPs, expanded Wye Oak’s slowcore-leaning musical aesthetic, nowhere more so than on the infectious rocker “Emmylou.” The song reshapes the Wye Oak aesthetic, adding a punkish energy and a slight power-pop edge, while not losing their confessional, sharply lyrical style. Like other Wye Oak songs, “Emmylou” is pretty, but it isn’t nearly as fragile.
10. Best Coast – “Boyfriend”
Best Coast had a breakout year in 2010, and the lead off single from Crazy For You is about as catchy as they come. Bethany Cosentino shares her yearning for a boy, while also adding that he has a better girlfriend already that’s “prettier and skinnier.” It’s a charming track that’s just as fun to listen to one the hundredth time as it is on the first. (M)
9. Arcade Fire – “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)”
Even given the expanded sonic palate of The Suburbs, the album concluding Blondie/disco of “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)” comes as a bit of a surprise. The only song that features Regine on lead vocals, “Sprawl II” makes great use of her voice, setting it against a rising synth line that betrays a kind of innocence. “Sprawl II” summarizes the entire album, finding a measure of beauty in the “Dead shopping malls” that “rise like mountains beyond mountains” while still showing how stifling living there can be (“quit these pretentious things and just punch the clock”). (J)
8. Robyn – “Dancing On My Own”
One of the most infectious dance songs of 2010, “Dancing On My Own” displays a vulnerability not often found in the genre. Frequently aggressive in her songs, here Robyn has a sad side to her tone, offering up a song that is both moving and catchy as hell. It’s hard to listen to “Dancing On My Own” without hoping that all pop songs could be this good. (M)
7. Deerhunter – “Desire Lines”
On “Desire Lines” Bradford Cox digs deep into his library, merging everything from 1960s doo-wop to shoegaze to ambient noise to make an anthem to being bored and disappointed. With lyrics about outgrowing enthusiasm, “Desire Lines” feels like a great anthem for a time when a lot of us were struggling just to find jobs we didn’t want. And yet there’s a quality of serenity to the song, as if Cox is at peace with the notion of forever cycling through desire and disappointment. (J)
6. Superchunk – “Digging for Something”
After a nine year absence from the studio, Superchunk returned, with “Digging for Something” kicking off Majesty Shredding. It’s a swift and insanely catchy rocker, and it’s probably the year’s best rock song. With John Darnielle providing some back up vocals, “Digging for Something” is the type of song that you can listen to and start over right away.(M)
5. Big Boi – “Shutterbug”
Being the straight-man in a group is a difficult and unrewarding task. Ask Jason Bateman or Chico Marx. So it was easy to, if not overlook Big Boi, then at least expect a more straightforward album than you’d look for from Andre 3000. However Big Boi smashed that expectation, nowhere more so than the infectious bass-rattler “Shutterbugg.” Big Boi rattles off classic lyrics like machine gun bursts, climaxing in the catchy bridge and a command to “throw your deuce up in the sky for the shutterbugg.” (J)
4. Joanna Newsom – “Good Intentions Paving Co.”
With a nod from Joni Mitchell and Carly Simon, Joanna Newsom offered up one of her catchiest and most accessible songs. Always a fan of long, flowing narrative, Newsom her crafts a song full of pop sensibility without giving up her unique sound in the process. If you’ve been hung up on Newsom and her love it or hate it voice before, be sure to give this track a try before writing her off. You won’t regret it. (M)
3. Beach House – “Walk in the Park”
For such a melancholy song, “Walk in the Park” is oddly soaring. That contrast, one that permeates Teen Dream, somehow makes “Walk in the Park” all the more heartbreaking. Depicting a shattering relationship with Beach House’s usual ambiguity (“the face that you saw at the door, isn’t looking at you anymore”), before switching to its equally wrenching conclusion. “Walk in the Park” is a beautiful, fragile, sad song and one of the best of the year. (J)
2. LCD Soundsystem – “I Can Change”
James Murphy hasn’t been shy about getting introspective in the past, but on “I Can Change,” he starts to question the idea of we change one another to be in love. “Love is a murderer” he cries in the song, offering a serious rumination on love in complete contrast to the goofier “Drunk Girls,” found previously on the record. Murphy has said there might not be any more LCD Soundsystem records, but if he keeps putting out singles like this, we’ll have more than enough great songs to keep us satisfied.
1. Kanye West – “Runaway”
What better way to summarize 2010 – a year that gave us The Decision and Rand Paul and the continued success of Jersey Shore – than with an infectious toast to douchebags, assholes, and scumbags. On “Runaway,” Kanye confronted his public persona, his award show escapades, and his outspokenness and generally agreed with the haters, while at the same time showing how that side of his personality is inseparable from his genius. From 35 minute music videos to moving paintings to epic SNL performances, Kanye reminded us all of his outsized ambition, and nowhere did he cash in on that more than our Song of the Year. (J)
Be sure to come back tomorrow as our Best of 2010 coverage wraps up with the 15 best albums of the year.