December 28, 2010

Songs 2010: The one where I become a
moon-eyed teenager.

photo by Spuz

My favorite songs of 2010. As I've said before, each year I become convinced that the perfect songs have all been written, that perfect melodies are no longer infinite. But then they arrive at random moments, on a Sunday morning or a Thursday evening. You don't know when to expect them, which makes their discovery even more thrilling.

Thanks to everyone who read my blog this year; I learned about many of these songs from you.
I told myself this post would be short, but you can see what happened...

1 Robyn Dancing On My Own SWE SONG OF THE YEAR
Robyn excels at hairs-on-end emotionalism. At her best, she delivers something deeper than what the current pop charts allow. This was yet another year of minimal contemplation or darkness in pop music. The "echelon" was aglow with glitter sticks and boom boom and, well, that's it. Dancing On My Own took you deep into a mood; this is music for those of us who appreciate rain and clouds. video

2. Katy Perry Teenage Dream USA
If anyone had told me that Katy Fucking Perry would jostle with pixie Robyn for my favorite song of 2010, I'd have told them to fuck off. And yet here we are. I had lunch a few weeks back with a charmer who is 40 and we were talking about being lovestruck. She said, "It's like that Katy Perry song come to life." Which is what makes Teenage Dream so brilliant - it accesses emotions that, as adults, we say we've outgrown. And then we find ourselves smitten with the Magical Feelings Of Love... "You and I will be young forever." Thank you, Katy, just this once. lyric video

3 Kylie Minogue Get Outta My Way UK
I spent much of the summer smirk-singing to myself, "You're all so boring and I don't recognize the zombies you've turned into." The most instantaneous, joyous track on Aphrodite, it's born into the Top 10 Kylie songs. And the lyrics inspire me to snarl at poor tourists on DC streets: "Get outta my way, way outta my way." They also work for the Ass Game (thanks Rod Dale!) "Get outta my ass, way outta my ass." video

4. Ellie Goulding This Love (Will Be Your Downfall) UK
My most played song of the year and the great Lost Single of 2010. Lyrically wise, melodically perfect, and produced (by Starsmith) on a fucking angel's wing. What really breaks me down though, in the end, IS the end. The final 30 seconds, during which the song flutters back down to Earth, is one of the most somber, pretty pieces of pop music of 2010. youtube

5. Bim Head Over Heels UK
A lush mid-tempo in which the pretty boy/girl UK indie duo trade off vocals as layered, blippy electronics bring the song to a swirling climax. Dysfunctional relationships never sounded so beautiful. video

Laura Marling Rambling Man UK This heavy song contains the most wrenching lyric of the year: "It's hard to accept yourself as someone... you don't desire / As someone you don't want to be." That those lines were written by a 20-year-old is astonishing. This is a wise woman, Laura Marling. She will have a long, long career. video

7. Tracey Thorn Hormones UK
Tracey Thorn has almost 30 years of brilliant songs behind her, but I have never heard her create a song THIS lyrically perfect. I admire the careful measures of love, concern and pride apparent in these words: "You worry 'bout growing up, I worry 'bout letting go / 'Cause I know what's coming up / Don't let me be the last one to know... And I have to own up: that dress looks better on you now / Only half grown up, you should really twirl, take a bow." youtube

8. Plan B Love Goes Down UK
Love Goes Down reminds me of the music I heard on AM radio when I was very little, riding in the backseat of a white Cutlass Supreme - we called it the Milk Bottle - in Kansas City, Missouri. Plan B released a rap album prior to this. Who knew then he would make us cry with his melted caramel voice? video

9. Sade Soldier Of Love UK
From the opening line ("Is that a man?" we asked) to the martial beat, it was clear that the most dignified pop star of the past 25 years was bringing an unexpected edge to her first music in ten years. I was just thrilled that I could run around dramatically wailing, "I'm at the borderline of my faith / I'm at the hinterland of my devotion," because, as one would guess, I leave my ex lovers in heaps on the battlefield. video

10. Judie Tzuke If (When You Go) UK
The ballad of the year. Judie's voice, always beautiful, now has a subtle throatiness that gives the lyric a wisdom younger singers could not carry off. The lyric is just sheer enough to be whatever you want it to be. For me, it's a song about death, but it could easily be about a departing lover or friend or child. "I've been trying to find the way to say / How I miss you when you leave / Cause I need to get it clear: / I'll be okay, I just won't breathe." The literally ethereal middle eight - "I'm in the walls and shadows..." - sung by her daughters, gives me chills almost every time I hear it. It's a rare song that rises to the level of touchstone. youtube

11. Hurts The Water UK
Carried by Theo Hutchcraft's delicate vocal, The Water is Hurts' most subtle moment. The versus remind me so much of Scottish group The Blue Nile, which is about as great a compliment as one can pay. The arrangement, too, should be highlighted, especially in the final minute, when the strings wash up and recede like waves on a night beach. youtube

12. Delays Moment Gone UK
The best song on Delay's best album begins with a ghost. Listen on headphones and you'll hear a faint premonition of the chorus ahead. What I appreciate about this band is their willingness to go to the hush - there is no self-consciousness about creating something literally gossamer: "We'll hunt the moon forever, we'll slay it together / And we'll lay this season down." not online :(

13. Cee Lo Green Wildflower USA
When I first heard Wildflower, I thought it was about raising children. "To pull her out from the ground..." Cee Lo sings, "Oh my, how she's grown." Then he holds her "with both my hands, put her right on the table when I get her home." Hmmm. Wait. Is that the baby carrier on the table? There's an "open the flower" metaphor too. Hmmm. OMG. That is not about a baby in a diaper. This is a song about fucking on the dining room table! A pretty fuck song, though, where you "don't apologize" for who you are... "you only have to be beautiful in the beholder's eyes." A technicolor romance of a fuck song. Amazing. Uplifting. youtube

14 Kelis Brave USA
Like all of Flesh Tone, Brave is a manifesto. Making mistakes, making corrections. It has the most empowering chorus of the year, which I shall type out so you can LIVE IT:
"I was super cool, but now I'm super strong / I had nothing to loose, but I was super wrong / It was the circumstance I got the power from / I was super tough, but now I'm super strong." video

15 Scissor Sisters Invisible Light USA
A greased handjob in a dark backroom. A ride on the ferry to the Statue Of Liberty. Lauren Hutton in a DVF wrap dress, rubbing against a man in a subway car at midnight. Times Square and The Gaiety, circa 1982. Diana Ross and Michael Jackson dancing in the World Trade Center version of Oz. Rod Serling's Night Gallery. Sian Phillips, fierce in I Claudius. A worn ragged Great Gatsby t-shirt. Dancing so hard you'll either finally perish... or simply orgasm. video

16. Penguin Prison Golden Train (Royal Palms Mix) USA
Up front: The first official single from Chris Glover's debut album (out in early spring 2011) is made even better by London duo Royal Palms rejig. The extended instrumental in the final third (at 3:20), where a violin duets with a guitar is genius. Kudos to Mr. Penguin for a pop lyric with such beautiful imagery... "Just like a star that can’t be seen from your city at night." video

17. Robyn Hang With Me SWE
This seemed so perfect as a ballad on Body Talk Part I. I thought, "I am going to just memorize these words and recite them to potential mates. " Right? And then Hang With Me morphed into another tears-on-the-dancefloor classic. The first time I heard the album mix in all its glory, the hair on my neck stood up. How does Robyn do this? Does she encode the notes with some sort of emotion enhancers? video

18. Goldfrapp Dreaming UK
The most sophisticated song on the best album of 2010 is laden with nonsensical imagery about "Portal 17," whatever that is, and other vague places, sometimes slurred so you can't. quite. make. out. what Alison is singing. But then, clear as a bell, is the song's core desire: "I want to know you mean to stay." And then zippery synths carry out the last 90 seconds in one of Goldfrapp's most extraordinary moments. youtube

19 Jonsi Tornado UK
The kind of music Bjork no longer makes now that she lives in Brooklyn and eats artisanal cheeses. Thank you, Jonsi, for recognizing the lack of grand emotional moments in pop. The section at 3:05 where the horns stab and the male choral vocal cascades downward... it obliterates me every time. Tornado is a firework that has exploded and trails slowly back down to Earth. youtube

Favorite Unreleased Song: Ed Drewett's Keep Me In Mind

Favorite song not released this year: Melody Gardot's breathtaking and romantic Our Love Is Easy

Some songs that made it to this list and were cut and added and cut at various times: Hoosiers' Who Said Anything About Falling In Love, Hole's Nobody's Daughter, Hurts Wonderful Life (which was on last year's list, but got officially released in 2010), Goldfrapp's Rocket and Alive Again, Kelly Rowland's Commander and Adele's late December single, Rolling In The Deep.

Click here to see more of my favorite songs from the first three quarters of the year.


Paul said...

amazing list. Dreaming by Goldfrapp was definitely my fave song on their rather brilliant album. Robyn's song i really liked yet clearly not as much as other people did as it failed to make my list yet pops up everywhere else. I'm an anomaly.

Teenage Dream - I loathe Katy Perry yet she did create a great, youthful memories tune. Mercifully I was able to enjoy it by other people most notably Darren Criss' Glee version, which still regularly plays on my iPod...

Your blog has been wonderful all year long :)

Michael said...

Have you listened to The Rescues' version of Teenage Dream? Very nice. It seems everyone sings Teenage Dream better than Katy.

Diva Incarnate said...

I liked the Tracey Thorn album - I said it was her Victoria Wood moment on popjustice but don't think people took it as the compliment it was intended to be. I love her voice: it's so gloomy but lovely, and sounds lik she won't tell you lies. It's all true afterall...

My favourite song (not single) was off the Shelby Lynne album, Loser Dreamer, but it seemed to make no impact.

xolondon said...

Looking for The Rescues.

And am buying Loser Dreamer now!

Paul - xo

El MarvelOso said...

Yes: Robyn, Kylie, Tracey, Hurts, Scissor Sisters, Goldfrapp.

We have many of the same artists/ songs in common!

I won't talk about the Sade (ugh).

Diva, the Shelby was on my Honorable Mentions list. She is great. said...

Dancing is my #1 too; massive track. Can't get behind Katy though; I will never support her unless she completely apologizes for her borderline bigoted past. That being said, the Glee version allows me to love that song guilt free! :D