Top 100 Songs of 2010 (10-1)

10. Jimmy Eat World – My Best Theory/Higher Devotion

This one’s pretty simple. “My Best Theory” is the danciest, catchiest, most beguiling song Jimmy Eat World have ever done. An impossible claim, considering they’re one of the best rock bands alive, but it’s true. “My Best Theory” is euphoric in its playfulness; it’s the sound of a band rejuvenated. The whole song is like one elongated hook, but in particular the guitar melody in the chorus is jaw-dropping and as huge as number of pennies saved by Scrooge. The hi-hat dances like a tip-toeing burglar, as confounding as Brett Favre sending penis-showing photos to Jenn Sterger. “My Best Theory” cannot be contained. Shockingly, “Higher Devotion” is just as good. Intense and pop-savvy from the jump; the hi-hat dances with as much vigor as it does on “My Best Theory”. The fuzzed-out guitars drive the song, and lead to that staggering C-section beginning at 1:45. “Higher Devotion” sounds delicious, like star-gazing to Copernicus and simple counting with an abacus. I really liked JEW’s last effort, Chase This Light, but there is no doubt Invented is a better rock record; the band sounds like they’re having more fun than Caribana celebrants basking in the sun. Right on JEW. Keep it up.

9. Broken Bells – The High Road/The Mall & Misery

James Mercer and Danger Mouse are a match made in heaven. Both are pretty much fantastic with whomever they’re working with, but sound completely at home working together here. Both have preternatural pop instincts. Both make love to sound with “The High Road” and “The Mall & Misery”. “The High Road” slaps description in the face; but I’ll take a shot – it deserves the attempt. It’s a calculated, galloping ditty; a sublime piece of music from the first second until exactly 3:00. But then something…happens. For the next 52 seconds, “The High Road” turns into a lamenting, calm-but-venting, movement-preventing, movie-casting moment of indellible brilliance as Mercer repeats “it’s too late to change your mind; you let loss, be your guide.” Wow. Just wow. “The Mall & Misery” is the forgotten track, the symphonic album closer that’s as incessant as anything on the album. Both tracks are astounding and will stand the test of time. Probably a one-off effort from these two geniuses; it’ll have to do.

8. Metric – Eclipse (I’m All Yours)

I’m running out of ways to describe how awesome Metric are, and how quickly they keep adding to their personal pantheon of mega-sized, foot-stomping epics. In a non-album year, they release one of their best songs and one of the best songs of the entire year. Absurd. Never mind the Twilight affiliation, “Eclipse (I’m All Yours)” is its own beautiful animal. Emily’s vulnerable, phoenix-rising chorus and Jimmy Shaw’s wonderful guitar make sure of it. Metric go full bore or they don’t go. The sound of Canadian pop royalty distributing wealth amongst the dominion. The sound of love-soaring divulgence. The sound of youthful promises and endless possibilities. The sound of romantic commitment. The sound of taking the plunge, leaping eyes wide open; ascendence to a private cloud. I can’t stop listening to this song. Damn right I’m yours.

7. Robyn – Call Your Girlfriend/Hang With Me

I’ll say this: Robyn is the best pop star on the planet; Robyn has a knack for resonating deeply at an emotional level and instantly gratifying with her slick, forthright brand of electro-pop; Robyn is real. Her obsession with disco extravaganza is all-encompassing. Her might with the mic is flooring. She puts a spell on melody and the listener and doesn’t let go. “Hang With Me” and “Call Your Girlfriend” are equally stupendous. They have both been #1 on Antares since their release. Robyn governs Sweden by herself (at least she should). Robyn is clever, all the better because of her heart-on-sleeve charm. That doesn’t do her justice, but a neither would a non-stop, Twitter-flooding stream of plaudits, so I’ll stop with this: Robyn is one of a kind and essential.

6. Arcade Fire – Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)

Indispensable. The best track from the extraordinary Suburbs LP, “Sprawl II” is Arcade Fire taking an unforseen deviation in their path. Is there any room at the synth-pop table with Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Killers, Robyn, Metric et al? Yes, they made room. Not having done anything like “Sprawl II” in their uniquely awesome discography to date, the song takes the listener back and on a ride. You’ll need to buckle up, but the view is eminently enjoyable. The lyric is cautious and acerbic, belied in the way it’s sung by angel-voiced Regine Chassagne. The music is strong yet ethereal, focused yet dreamy, espousing a repetitive wont while sticking up a middle-fingered flaunt. AF are already knocking on the door of all-time greatness, and after only three albums, that’s an incredible and preposterous assertion indeed. Patently alive and bursting with pride.

5. Marina & The Diamonds – Shampain

Seeing as how Yeezy’s been spitting dragon fire for years now, Arcade Fire are Indie royalty and Robyn broke in 2005, there is no question that the breakout star of 2010 is Marina Diamandis. A nuclear-powered voice and the most consistently addictive pop hooks on either side of the Atlantic have made sure of that. “Shampain”, the first Marina & The Diamonds song I was introduced to, is the pop masterpiece from The Family Jewels LP. Synth- and hook-laden throughout, it begins with a pop ferocity so huge you’re immediately seeking refuge from the deluge. A microcosm of the entire album, “Shampain” demands success and latches onto anything that might resemble it. Considering the songs still to come on this list, “Shampain” is the best pure pop song of the year. “Shampain” is the Dom Perignon of pop songs, the codeine-infused cough syrup of Weezy’s addiction. “Shampain” is like fame to Julian Assange, ill-advised decisions to LeBron James, money to Oprah and sexual intercourse to Tiger Woods. I believe Rick James said it best when he said, “cocaine is a hell of a drug.” We don’t need to limit that unimaginably wise assertion; addiction comes in many forms. “Shampain” is proof.

4. Future Islands – Vireo’s Eye

The most immediately pleasing song of 2010. It is fresh and buoyant; it is 1984. It is heart and soul and sweat and defiance mixed with two cups of brown sugar, cinnamon, and eye of newt. That propulsive, dark, steady, sans-bullshit bassline. The synthesizers. Those synthesizers; matching the lamenting vocal pleas like an endentured servant, deed for deed. The hooks. Those hooks; inundating the listener like paranoia to a solitary confinement prisoner. The sound of New Wave having a baby with Dr.Frankenstein. The sound of Bobby “Boris” Pickett (guy who sings the Halloween “Monster Mash” song) fronting a New Order cover band. Let’s say you were watching a cartoon one day and magically, the cartoon sucked you into its plot, this is the sound of you trying to get back from whence you came. The gasping, heartbroken lyric. Here are those magical, wounded words…

“A loose, and hazy time,

When you were not my clementine, and I was not your diamond’s eye;

Bereft, as daisies lie

For our love was lost in style, you were strong, I was a child;

We…We’re not kings here, we’re not kings here, we’re just strangers;

A love, has died in song,

Carried down by ancient tongues,

Ferried round the water’s thrum;

And light, along a line,

Along a whirl, a lonely girl;

To be, to see, to sweat, and bleed;

To fall, on your sword, on your sword, on your word;

We, we’re not kings here, we’re not kings here, we’re just strangers;

Be still, by my side,

For you are not my clementine, and I am not your diamond’s eye;

To sleep! By right of you I can’t endure,

In the light of things I can’t ignore,

In spite of all the rose’s thorns,

And hopeless words,

These hopeless words;

We’re not kings here, we’re not kings here, we’re just strangers… and angels.”

3. Scissor Sisters – Invisible Light

The most fun a song had all year. Drama in disco-excess-wrapped ebullience. This party is intense. You’re going to want to drink a lot of water afterward, lest you become deathly ill. While it’s happening though, you don’t care about anything else. It’s the subtly killer “whoooo’s”. It’s Jake Shears’ falsetto. It’s Jake Shears’ tenor slitherings towards the end. It’s the Invisible Light. It’s the opiate utopia. It’s far and away, the best song the usually awesome Scissor Sisters have ever done. It’s the crescendo at 5:03 that’s the best come-in of the year. It’s the instant and beautiful comedown at 5:55. It’s Stuart Thin White Duke Price bringing his best production effort of the year. It’s Sir Ian Fucking McKellen. When Gandalf comes on your track and starts waxing poetic about Babylon, Bricks & Mortar, Sailors, Lust & Swagger, Penetrating Lazer Gazes, Painted Whores and Sexual Gladiators, you know you’re up past your bed time. A scary, enthralling, swingers-sex-club-romp of a song. When does it open again?

2. Miike Snow – Sans Soleil

The dream of waking up next to your soulmate. The realization that it could be gone if you don’t protect it. The love letter years in the making. The vows. The softest song of the year. The most peaceful. Instant gratification incarnate, and yet…there’s more to it. Purportedly sans soleil, it’s the sound of 1,000,000 suns making rapturous heat. Produced with electronics, “Sans Soleil” is brought to life by its humanity. A plaintive croon. A perfectly-paced love story. The piano wailing quietly. The rising and receding tide. The part where you think it’s over at 3:25. The part where it comes back. The snapshot of a moment in time. The chronicle of unfolding life. The sweetness. My favourite song for much of the year. The infiltration of my thoughts. My precious.

1. Yeasayer – Madder Red

I’ve noticed a pattern with songs that end up being my favourite of the year; whether it was Animal Collective’s “My Girls”, The Killers’ “Human”, Helio Sequence’s “Hallelujah” or Beirut’s “Elephant Gun”, they all have at least one thing in common — euphoria. Euphoria, elation, transcendence, nirvana, and pie-in-the-sky, heart-palpitating joyousness — whatever you want to call it, the songs I favour most make me feel like exulting. Such is the power of music, of the songs we connect most closely with.

It’s no surprise then, that I’ve come to Yeasayer’s “Madder Red” as my favourite song of the year. It has struck me with the aformentioned feelings — a song like no other this year — left me spellbound and ready to give praise, unsure of where to direct it. I want to direct it everywhere. I want to go inside this song and feel its innards, caress its skin, make it breakfast and ask it — beg of it — how it came to be. I want to know more…

From the album Odd Blood, allegedly inspired by an LSD-fueled trip to New Zealand, “Madder Red” is the pop masterstroke of the LP. Its charms are countless; its pleasures myriad. It sounds like a night stroll in the Shire only to come upon Gandalf and begin smoking from his pipeweed instantaneously and without introduction. It sounds like a ritual of sacred proportions. It sounds like falling stars racing each other through galaxies. It sounds like a warning. It sounds like blue fire. It’s a shaman’s chant, a lover’s rant, a colony being built by ants. “Madder Red” is at peace with the world but fighting itself on the inside.

Musically, the song is a concoction of undulating rhythms layered one on top of the other, achieving a nuanced sonic template. The synths, the guitars, Anand Wilder’s vocals, the bell rings, the woo’s, the bass, and the drums all serve one another in stark and often disparate ways. At times, the sounds seem at odds with each other — weird because this song is not just a slice of pop majesty, not even a whole bakery of pop majesty; this song is a chain of mother-funking pop majesty bakeries. (What does that mean? Don’t worry.) A sonic pallette of otherworldy pulses adorns this song and it sounds like it could have been recorded on Mars or Betelgeuse. It was actually recorded in New York, so maybe I’m not far off with that one.

Clearly, I’m beyond smitten with the musical arrangement of “Madder Red”, but there are other pleasures here. I do not believe that Anand Wilder’s lyric has to do with religion, but a few word and phrasing choices lend credence to the idea that this song is hymn-like. Also, like my other favourite songs of the past few years, “Madder Red” seems to beckon a higher power. It doesn’t have to mean God. It’s just…something. A power that we don’t know. It’s better that way.

The other pleasure here is the story, and not simply the lyrical story, but moreover the sonic one. The music is mysterious from the jump, itchy and spastic at times, preaching serenity and calm at others. It’s just after the middle part of the song that the story truly begins to unfurl. Beginning at the 1:54 mark, four electric guitar licks, punctuated by a deviously elongated one at the end, break down the core of the song and break down the listener.

Picture yourself in the Sahara desert; tired, beat down, thirsty, unaware of how you got there but desperate to survive and get home. Suddenly, you’ve been chopped down to your feet by an unknown entity. You don’t see anyone or anything around you, but you’re on your ass nevertheless. Then quickly, from the 2:00-2:03 mark, a questioning synth comes in. It’s the sound of getting up. It’s the attempt to gain bearing. It’s the kick to move forward. As soon as you’re up again, that questioning synth re-emerges at 2:15, but it’s slightly different this time. For three seconds, that synth serves to confuse, daze and make weary. You’re down again and seeing double. Trying to shake it off, you see the semblance of water appearing on moving horizons right in front of you. Is it an oasis? Is it a mirage?

At 2:18 we find our answer. All sounds come in at once; it is the oasis we had hoped for. The guitars soar, the vocals woo in unison; your thirst is whetted, anything but relief is lilliputian. Musically, the song explodes and an omnipotent being descends to take you home. Anand Wilder breathes: “please don’t ask me why.” We needn’t ask such a silly thing. We know why. The music told us the second it began.

Top 100 Songs of 2010 (25-11)

25. The National – Conversation 16

The most affecting song on the sublime High Violet LP. It’s miserable, taut, cathartic and illuminating. Matt Berninger sounds more than sad, he sounds like he’s about to jump. Not possessing the strength to stop himself, he relents, “I was afraid I’d eat your brains…cause I-I-I’m evil…” A downtrodden ne’erdowell with a penchant for cannibalism is probably not ideal company. But when he’s this expressive and parallel-world romantic, I think most would glady acquiesce. The sound of a band at their scintillating best, I don’t see how The National can top High Violet and “Conversation 16”. An instant classic.

24. Bombay Bicycle Club – Always Like This

A song that I quite liked last year but one that I truly recognized this year —  a vexing, haunted lament of a tune. This song has left me non-plussed because it starts out so jauntily and then when least expected, it goes all translucent harmony and transfixing. It’s a close-your-eyes, take-a-deep-breath-and-enjoy kind of moment. Radiant music supplemented by a beautiful lyric. Those poignant, unmitigated words, “I’m not whole, I’m not whole, you waste it all; oh you can wait for what I can give; you know what I am, so you know how I live; try to look proud, but you’re not in the slightest; it’s happening now and it’s always been like this.” Seminal stuff from this awesome English band.

23. Gold Panda – You

Loquacious stuff from Derwin Panda, a ballad containing an astonishing 550 words in under four minutes. Just kidding. Containing only three words, “you”, “and” and “me”, the song is vocoded, chopped and screwed yet somehow manages to end up sounding like it lives and breathes among human kind. The song is a fervent and rejoicing love song — incredible considering it repeats only three words, over and over and over. The best electronic music pushes through its technical definitions and seeks to find a connective element that resonates with the listener. Gold Panda has hit the jackpot in that regard. Affectionate at its lily-blossoming core, a love letter simply asking for more, “You” is me, us and everyone else. An impressive trick.

22. The Knife – Colouring of Pigeons

The bewilderment. The grand finale. The dare. The OMG they didn’t. The 2+2=tongue. Come again? The move from an upper-east side flat to the Amazon forest. The Darwin-inspired opera. The reuniting of Karen Dreijer Andersson and brother Olof. The sound of lifting up a sewer drain and having a three-eyed lizard invite you down for some crumpets and English Breakfast tea. The agitated, berserk, rabid genius. The sounds-like-absofunkinlutely-nothing-made-by-anyone-else-on-this-planet-not-that-anyone-could-even-if-they-tried opus. The cymbal at second one. The ominous prayer. The Guillermo Del Toro-style phantasmagoric. The insanity of it all. The growth. The not giving a shit. The crowning. The answer. What was the question?

21. Interpol – Memory Serves

“Obstacle 1”, “C’Mere”, “Slow Hands”, “The New”, “Evil”, “PDA”, “Roland”, “Pioneer to the Falls” and “No I in Threesome” are some of the best songs Interpol have ever done. “Memory Serves” has just joined the fracas. Tension-filled, as the self-titled LP was the last one to be recorded with lauded rhythmic gymnast Carlos D., the issues within the group bleed onto the record. It makes for a more interesting listen; a frenetic, guitars-crashing-in-waves clusterfuck of a song. Thankfully before he left, the band came up with this delerious, hyperkinetic slow jam. While the guitars do all the heavy lifting, the bass saunters in and smokes a cigarette whilst Paul Banks hypnotizes with his slow rolling delivery. The boys are back.

20. Gorillaz – On Melancholy Hill

Dreamy, playful, yearning and floating gently towards Plastic Beach. Gorillaz have had an awesome run over the past three albums, but “On Melancholy Hill” is probably the catchiest song they’ve ever put to record. It also wins the award for song sounding most like its title. The song is melancholic, and it’s knowing, as if on a hill of some kind observing a town or group of people, able to see their follies, but unable to send word of how to fix them. Damon Albarn sounds relaxed but anxious, contemplative but unsure, able but unwilling. The sound of unrequited love, “On Melancholy Hill” is simply a fantastic song.

19. Miike Snow – Cult Logic/Silvia

From the eponymous debut of October, 2009 (and also the deluxe edition release of 2010), “Cult Logic” is simply bad-ass. Its magnetism is instantly rewarding. From the opening second, the song hooks. Simple, straightforward and stirring, “Cult Logic” is St. Peter, waiting at the gates of Dance-pop Heaven, judging those wanting to get in. “Silvia’s” allures are harder to reach. It’s about a feeling. It’s about a point in time. It’s about a destination…You have to bargain with “Silvia” to truly receive its gifts, but the good thing is, whatever you end up giving it, you get more in return. Cascading synths, a consistent piano melody and free-roaming, emotive distortion of the vocals make “Silvia” utterly unique.

18. Marina & The Diamonds – Are You Satisfied?/I Am Not a Robot

The statement of intent and the statement of being. The call to arms and the construction of a moat. The question and the answer.  “Are You Satisfied?” and “I Am Not a Robot” are amazing in equal measure however different the path they take to get there. “Are You Satisfied?”, the thrilling album opener from the unbelievable Family Jewels LP leaves no room for interpretation as to what Ms. Marina Diamandis is after — success. She’s welcoming stardom with a cheeky smile, prodding it with a stick and taunting it with a school-yard sing-along. This woman will get what she wants. There’s simply no other way. “I Am Not a Robot”, oh “I Am Not a Robot”. You are a stunningly vital piece of music. A defence mechanism of a song. Sung with chemical-weapon force, you can hear the exact moment when she becomes a Hypergiant star. The moment happens at 0:47 and things are not the same after that point. Sure, the song is jaunty like Madoff schemes Ponzi, but the sheer horsepower of Diamandis’ voice is what carries this song into another universe. I want to enter into a common law relationship with this song after only a few months of seeing it. We’ll see how things work out, but I’m so optimistic that I want to go furniture shopping and sign up for that joint bank account.

17. Glasser – Home/Apply

“Home”; the caressing, tender, slow-building ode to familiarity. “Apply”; the ritual, the fire, the unknown. Cameron Mesirow has authored two staggeringly different and affecting songs with “Home” and “Apply”. Chanting home over and over again, Mesirow sounds like she’s yearning and celebrating — the difference is irrelevant. When the elevating synth comes in at 1:11, it propels the track to mountain tops like Eyjafjallajokull chose to randomly pop. “Apply” stalks the listener, like a pack of lions moving with calculation toward a zebra — the black and white coloured animal doesn’t stand a chance. Neither did we. The sound of a woman birthing a fantastical intention. Surreal and dazzling.

16. Manic Street Preachers – Some Kind of Nothingness/Golden Platitudes

I’m going to limb out and say that Manic Street Preachers are the most underrated English band of the past 25 years. Hell, they might be the most underrated band on the planet. Anything you could possibly want from a vital rock band — scathing, earnest wit; raw, biting rock ‘n roll; luscious, angelic melodies. James Dean Bradfield, Nicky Wire, Sean Moore and the ghost of Richey Edwards have done it all. The Holy Bible, Everything Must Go, This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours, Journal For Plague Lovers and now Postcards From a Young Man are proof that the Manics are capable of anything. Self-described as the “singles” album, Postcards From a Young Man, a stark departure from the awesomely coarse previous effort JFPL, it’s the sound of the band taking a long, relaxing cruise with melody and making sweet love to it on a nightly basis. Man, did it produce some pretty babies. “Some Kind of Nothingness” is nostalgic and love-torn, erupting into the choir-led refrain, “Remember you? Stretched ouuuuuuttttt in the sun. All alone forever, conclusions foregone…” “Golden Platitudes” is equally awesome. JDB longs for the bygone, but damn does he sound great singing it. Again, a choir joins to refrains of “La la la la la lahhh” and the band sounds like they’ve just created a religion with their exuberance. Wildly impressive stuff — again — from the Welsh vets.

15. The New Pornographers – Crash Years

The catchiest thing they have done in a lonnnnnggggg time. Usually, The New Pornographers charms are hidden — purposely — as they, generally speaking, have more fun that way. “Crash Years” is different. It’s smack-your-face instant. It’s the whistling. It’s the “tonight will be an open mic.” It’s Neko. It’s always Neko. Grab a hand and sing-along. There’s nothing else to do.

14. Foals – This Orient

An awe-inspiring, fast-paced, thrilling, layered, nuanced song from the Total Life Forever record. The Oxford, England band achingly repeat: “it’s your heart; it’s your heart, that gives me this Western feeling.” They keep saying it’s someone else’s heart that makes them swoon, when in actuality, it’s theirs all along. Foals’ Statue of David. Electrifying.

13. Brandon Flowers – Crossfire

Crossfire would stand up as one of the best Killers’ tracks, and it most certainly is the best Brandon Flowers track on the otherwise disappointing Flamingo (excepting “Welcome to Vegas”). It’s possible BF is saving the rest of the A-material for the next Killers record. God I hope so. Nevertheless, “Crossfire” is a commanding, smashing standout of a song. Brandon Flowers has never really used his falsetto like he does in this song, and the result here is gorgeous. A pop-rock juggernaut of a song. Well done BF. More please.

12. Kanye West f. Dwele – Power/Blame Game f. John Legend & Chris Rock

“No one man should have all that power?” Really? Because that sounds like an awfully facetious statement by Kanye, considering he’s the most powerful dude in music. I didn’t really like “Power” at first. I thought it was a decent beat, but it didn’t hit me. Then, after a certain number of listens, I was bludgeoned over the head with a stick and that has allowed me to see (hear) much more clearly. Kanye is burning in “Power”, and his smouldering presence is hella palpable. It’s the choir led-loop to start the song. It’s the lyric. It’s the deep-breath comedown at 3:20. Bonus points for how “Power” fit so well with The Social Network teasers. “Blame Game” is a different animal. It’s the prettiest melody Yeezy’s ever been a part of. Sure, it samples Aphex Twin’s gorgeous “Avril 14”, but that shouldn’t take anything away from “Blame Game”; Kanye makes it his breathtaking own. It’s the aching violin. It’s the angelic piano line. It’s the supportive bass. The music is resplendent, awesome considering its belied by one of the dirtiest, biting lyrics of the year. John Legend sounds great, Kanye slays and Chris Rock is a riot. Bonus points to the hint of laughter from Yeezy’s ex-chick as she tells Rock who, ahem, reupholstered a certain part of her anatomy. Yeezy learned. Now Yeezy teaches.

11. Hot Chip – Take It In

It’s pretty simple: “Take It In” was in my top 50 songs of 2009, and I had listened to it quite it a bit. In 2010 though, I saw it for what it is, namely, the sweetest, warmest, most comforting song of the year. Buoyed by that bewitching, once-in-a-lifetime chorus, “Take It In” is the best song the amazing Hot Chip have ever done. There’s just not much more to it than that. Supreme and vital.