Welcome to Listmas 2010! Listmas is an annual tradition on Faronheit that dates all the way back to the crazy year known as 2008. In previous incarnations, Listmas has lasted a total of 3 weeks across December, spending a whole lot of time counting down the year’s best EPs, reissues, movies, TV shows, songs and albums. It’s a hefty task, but also a whole lot of fun. With a somewhat odd way the weeks have lined up this year (or maybe it’s just the economy), Listmas has been reduced down to 2 weeks. As such, the focus will be entirely on two lists, each revealed over the course of one week’s time. This week it begins with Faronheit’s Top 50 Songs of 2010. Of all the lists every year, this is the toughest one to crack. The simplest reason as to why is that for every album and EP released this year, there’s at least ten times the number of songs. We’re overwhelmed by songs should we choose to be, but thankfully some stand out as being better than others. Of course other times an entire record is filled to the brim with strong songs and picking a highlight is near (if not) impossible. So it does stand to reason that though this list is supposed to count down the 50 best songs of the year, if an entire record is mindblowing perhaps the artist or a single song from that album won’t be represented on this list. There are a few steadfast rules I keep for my Top 50 Songs list. They are as follows:
-To be eligible for this list, a song must have appeared on an album, EP, or standalone 7″ single with a 2010 release date. If a song originally appeared on a 2009 album/EP or will appear on a 2011 album/EP, it is not eligible to be included on this list.
-If an artist self-releases an album, EP or 7″ and then signs to a label later in the year, the self-released stuff is eligible for this list provided a tracklisting for a forthcoming label effort has no crossover. If there is overlap between a self-released 2010 piece of music and a label-released 2011 piece of music, the label-released (see: more widely available) music automatically disqualifies the original or demo recordings from this list. If an unsigned artist signs to a label but has not revealed details on any forthcoming releases, the original self-released recordings stand and remain eligible for the list. Should a self-released song make the list one year, the same song released on a label the following year becomes ineligible. The only exception is if the original self-released version of a song vastly differs from the professionally recorded, label-released version.
-To help keep this list as diverse as possible, there is a 2 song limit per artist release. Better translated, you won’t see 3 songs from any one album, but if an artist put out an album AND an EP or 7″ this year and there’s 3 AMAZING songs between them, then it’s okay.
All that said and hopefully clarified, writing this year’s list of the Top 50 Songs was a beast and a half. I doubt I’ve had a tougher time coming up with a final list that met with my total satisfaction. So after multiple writes and re-writes, I’m proud to present the first 10 tracks of my Top 50 Songs of 2010. Each day, I’ll be revealing 10 new songs until we reach the Top 10 on Friday. I will also be sure to include free mp3s whenever possible. I hope you enjoy this list, and discover some new music as a result of it. If you’ve got a list of your own, or a song suggestion I might have missed, or just a general argument against the placement of a certain song, please let me know in the comments. Thanks!
50. Matt & Kim – Cameras
Three albums in, it’s getting to the point where Matt & Kim seem to be running out of new tricks to keep people interested. Sure, their sugar-coated indie pop and overly happy dispositions have earned them a wealth of fans who are more than willing to smile right back at them even after their songs have gone way past stale, but honestly they need to start exploring some new sounds. “Cameras” earns them credit in this respect for it’s fair mixture of xylophones, synths and horns at a lower energy level than they normally work at. It was a very smart choice as a single as well because the rest of the record doesn’t fair so well. Additionally it’s one of the catchiest songs they’ve ever written, fun and memorable for all the right reasons.
49. The Black Keys – Next Girl
The Black Keys don’t need any more promotion than they’re already getting. It may have taken them awhile, but with each new release their profile gets larger and larger. So many of us have been following the Akron duo for a long time, so it’s nice to see their intense guitar and drums combo get radio play and things of that nature. Their latest album “Brothers” is another solid effort and something of a return to form in regards to their earlier stuff. While “Tighten Up” is getting all the attention for the band in terms of popularity, the album’s first single and (quite “Frank”-ly hilarious) video was for “Next Girl”, a song that’s like a marriage between where the band was and where they currently are. The fuzzy blues-driven guitars and lyrics about losing and gaining women are as advertised, with an extra dose of fun and a little bit of catchy. Need another reason to love the song? Watch the puppet known as Frank the Dinosaur get busy with some good-looking women.
48. Women – Eyesore (MP3)
Six-and-a-half minutes. If you look at the lengths of every other song by the band Women, none of them even make it to the five minute mark. The majority are about half that length. But “Eyesore” is not your average Women song. It meanders and shifts like a child with ADHD before finally settling into a groove with a couple minutes left. Upon reaching that apex, you get the impression the band could keep going forever if they wanted to. To put it another way, “Eyesore” sees Women pushing their sound farther and into darker places than they ever have before, and it shows real promise for their future. Almost ironically then, after some serious in-fighting and the cancellation of a tour, there’s talk that Women might call it quits. There’s not much of a higher note they could have gone out on.
47. Glasser – Home (MP3)
Cameron Mesirow, aka Glasser, makes complicated music despite being just one person. She has a full backing band for her live shows, and she needs every bit of that and more to recreate the tracks on her debut album “Ring” (see how they put together a live version of “Treasury of We” here). The song “Home” is a particular standout thanks largely to the way the song builds in and around itself. Starting with some relatively basic percussion, Mesirow’s dubbed, overdubbed and harmonized vocals sit front and center the first time through. The second time the synths come in and add another layer. Then comes the light brush of violins and with them a certain beautiful urgency. Other songs on the album play with similar themes and intensity, but none quite capture the magnificence that is Glasser quite like “Home”.
46. Shout Out Louds – Fall Hard
I really like the Shout Out Louds and wish them all the best, but their newest album “Work” made it sound like they had the worst jobs in the world. It’s not necessarily a miserable record, just flat and uninspired compared to what they’ve put out previously. And while I was aware and critical of the album as a whole, there was a highlight or two that turned a challenging listen into a bit easier one. “Fall Hard” marks one of the band’s best songs to date, and it does everything right. From the toe-tapping tempo to the hook based around the line “if you fall hard, I’ll fall harder” to the small bit of backing vocals by Bebban Stenborg to the horns that pop up in the bridge, this is one of the few underrated pop gems of 2010. Given the record it was surrounded by, it’s no wonder “Fall Hard” hasn’t gotten quite the attention it deserves. Be sure to give it a listen if you have yet to do so.
45. Matthew Dear – Little People (Black City) (MP3)
This is not a song for amateurs. Listening to Matthew Dear in general can be a challenge, but “Little People (Black City)” is like making the decision to climb Everest after doing pretty well on the wall at your local fitness center. This nearly 9.5 minute dance track evolves, devolves and then re-animates just when you think it’s dead. It is a living, breathing organism unto itself with multiple movements and structural sonic shifts. The way it starts, straight in full dance mode with an interesting synth and a relatively normal beat seduces you into thinking that this could be just another club track with a Bowie-esque vocal performance. Then the beat cranks up, the vocal gets really low, there’s some crazy-ass spoken word sort of thing going on before the whole thing amps back up to keep you going harder and faster than ever. Despite everything that goes on though, nothing feels out of place or forced. Those 9+ minute fly by. They’re weird as shit, but equal amounts of brilliant too.
44. Frankie Rose and the Outs – Little Brown Haired Girls (MP3)
“Little Brown Haired Girls” clocks in at a little under 3 minutes, and on close inspection, it probably only needs to be about 90 seconds or so. That’s not to say any time is wasted, but the song renders a bit unconventional as it lacks verses. What you get instead is the ebb and flow of quieter instrumental moments building up to the big and loud harmonized chorus of “I can be alone/it’s a long, long way from home/I’ll be on my own/it’s a long, long way from home”. Like surfing in the ocean, you sit there waiting for that wave to come along, you jump on it for a few seconds of fun, then it knocks you down. But you want that thrill again. So you watch as the next wave builds slowly and then hitch a ride again as it rolls by. The between-chorus parts are interesting because they’re all just a little different, but no matter how quiet it may get, the drums hold that tempo and keep your head bobbing the entire time. It’s a slightly off-kilter but nevertheless near-flawless take on your standard pop song.
43. Broken Social Scene – Sentimental X’s
With each new album it seems that Broken Social Scene get more and more notice for their bigger, more epic songs. In the early days, talking about the subdued instrumentals of “Feel Good Lost” and generally sedate “You Forgot It In People”, it was the atmospheric beauty the band was able to conjure that made them so seductive. Which is why though a song like “World Sick” is a great addition to the BSS catalogue, it’s “Sentimental X’s” that steals the record right from under its nose. Emily Haines handles the emotionally strapped lead vocals, with the other former women of the band (Feist, Amy Millan) helping out with backing vocals. No matter how much Kevin Drew and Brendan Canning like to think of themselves as the two main players in the collective, the loss of these three women as regular fixtures has left a small hole that not even replacement Lisa Lobsinger can fill. The lyrics of “Sentimental X’s” tell of a relationship gone but not quite forgotten, when you hold onto the threads of what you once had by staying in touch (though eventually losing touch) with your ex. And that’s how it goes with this band in general, and though nobody has any regrets in the end, it’s both a comfort and a pain to hear from the women we used to love when they were part of the band dynamic.
42. Here We Go Magic – Collector (MP3)
After the sparse but brilliant bedroom recordings of the Here We Go Magic debut, Luke Temple brought together a full band for the sophmore album “Pigeons”. That turned out to be an inspired move, bringing new depth and vigor to the project. “Collector” may not have the quirky charm or even quite the weirdly intense hook that “Fangela” did last year, but what it lacks in homespun goodness it plays up in energy and oddities. The pace is remarkably brisk and the vibe is bouncy and fun, but there’s dischord and darkness hanging out in the back. It’s almost like two polar opposite tracks were combined for this new whole, yet everything works in a very smart and creative way. That the final couple minutes descend into almost pure instrumental is an inspired move as well. Listen to this enough times and it’ll be stuck in your head for weeks.
41. El Guincho – Bombay (MP3)
Am I a bad person for saying that the first time I heard this song was via its music video? The reason I ask is because in case you’ve not seen it, the video for “Bombay” is about the craziest, most NSFW thing that was released this past year. Naked women everywhere and a whole lot of WTF later, you’re hooked. Call it a situation of excellence via association. Like if a topless woman tried to sell me potato chips, I’d probably want a whole lot of potato chips for awhile. Now whenever I hear this song, the video replays in my mind and now here we are, among the best songs of the year. Something about that Steelpan drum that just makes the song so fun and Spanish and honestly I’m really judging the music or the visuals I associate with it. I’m not a pervert, I promise, but this song just feels compelling for both all the right and the wrong reasons. Maybe give it a listen sans video if you haven’t done so yet.