Saturday, December 18, 2010

Mixtape 2010

This happens to be my favorite time of year. Not necessarily because of the holidays, although I am looking forward to having a week off from work and spending time with the family and some old friends. No, the real treat for me is seeing all these Best of 2010 lists. Now, I admit, being a big music nerd does have its disadvantages though, seeing as everyone has been posting their respective Best Of lists already; the downside is that I have refused to read any of them yet so I can compile my own lists and not get influenced by everyone else. That being said, it's now time to share my Best Songs Of 2010. Once again, it'll be the ingredients to DJ Brian L.'s perfect mixtape. So let's get to it:

Mixtape 2010

10. "Canada" The Thermals
Over the course of the last few years, Portland, Oregon's The Thermals have shifted from political pop punk to a more power pop pose. And it suits them very well. This year, they released another great album of catchy-as-hell songs called Personal Life. But nothing on that album can top the one-off single they put out in time for the Winter Olympics, fittingly titled, "Canada." They pack the song with enough whoa-whoa's in two minutes to make Canada sound like the greatest place on earth.


9. "Always Loved A Film" Underworld
Underworld has always been one of my favorite acts to emerge out of that whole "electronica" movement of the late 90's. Along with The Prodigy, Underworld were more of a band. They weren't faceless DJs crafting swirling techno. At their best, they made memorable songs that happened to also fit a rave just as easily as it did some deep headphone listening. "Always Loved A Film" is their best song since "Born Slippy (Nuxx Version)" thanks to that euphoric chorus: "Heaven....Can you feel it?" Yes, we certainly can.

8. "Poor Animal" Zola Jesus
One listen to Zola Jesus and I was floored by that voice. Calling it other-worldly is putting it mildly. Niki Roza Danilova channels Siouxsie Sioux and Natasha Khan (Bat For Lashes) and adds some unwavering power. "Poor Animal" appears on the Valusia EP and it's striking because of an added New Wave pulse that isn't always heard on her other songs. It stands out in the best way possible.

  Zola Jesus - Poor Animal by souterraintransmissions  

7. "I Can Change" LCD Soundsystem
It turns out that LCD Soundsystem can do no wrong. Their album, This Is Happening was another masterpiece under the belt of James Murphy and his cohorts. It would be easy for anyone who's heard the album to pick any song as a favorite, but for me, "I Can Change" is the total standout. It's a heartbreaking synthpop song with Murphy pleading to save a relationship, but the best part is that the song doesn't start off achingly, as he sings to his love, "Never change" before transforming to near desperation promising to change "if it helps you fall in love." Still, it's not the sappy love song it seems to be as even Murphy can't resist a witty one-liner like: "love is an open book to a verse of your bad poetry and this is coming from me."

6. "Art Czars" Japandroids
Last year was Japandroids' breakout year. The two-man garage/punk/power pop duo put out my favorite album of 2009, Post-Nothing, a collection of songs tailor-made for instant shout-alongs. This year, they took a victory lap, touring non-stop and releasing a series of 7" singles. Each one contained a new song and a cover as a B-side. "Art Czars" was the first one out of the gates (backed by a ballsy cover of Big Black's "Racer-X") and it did not disappoint. Everything that made Japandroids awesome is still intact: bashing drums, fuzzed-out guitars and a chorus worth shouting- "Here's your money back, here's your punk rock back!" 

  Japandroids Art Czars by Somethingfortheweekend

5. "Heartsink" Blood Red Shoes
Blood Red Shoes was one of my favorite new discoveries of the year. In a two-week span, I stumbled across their awesome album, Fire Like This, fell in love with this song, and saw them live. Like Japandroids, Blood Red Shoes sound much bigger than their two-person, guitar/drums setup might imply. And everything about "Heartsink" is perfect yet simple. Here's to hoping that everyone else catches up and discovers Blood Red Shoes because in an ideal world they'd be as big as their sound.


4. "At The Indie Disco" The Divine Comedy
Neil Hannon, the man behind the band, The Divine Comedy, has been making music for 21 years. He had been making grandiose orchestral pop long before it was fashionable. "At The Indie Disco" is one of those songs that just make me swoon. It's probably because he namedrops a bunch of great bands, but he does it in a way that it turns into a love song not only to a girl, but to all those bands he mentions. Plus he mentions The Wannadies?!! Who even remembers that band? But the kicker is quite arguably my favorite line of the year: "she makes my heart beat the same way as at the start of 'Blue Monday'" I want a girl who makes my heart do that, too. 

  The Divine Comedy //At The Indie Disco by welle20  

3. "Fuck You" Cee Lo Green
Yes, I admit, I fell into the hype of this song. But honestly, it's just that good. And it's not only because he says that naughty "F-word" but because it's just a perfect pop song. It's proof that the genius behind Gnarls Barkley wasn't Danger Mouse, after all, but it was Cee Lo and his honey-dipped croon.

2. "Not In Love (feat. Robert Smith)" Crystal Castles
Crystal Castles are a bit of a trainwreck. Their live shows are chaotic and unpredictable. But honestly, that's just part of their charm, if you can even call it that. This reworking of "Not In Love" (a cover of a Platinum Blonde song) surpasses the original  version that appeared on Crystal Castles' 2010 self-titled album. The secret: The Cure's Robert Smith with his unmistakable voice taking the place of Alice Glass' robotic shrieking. It gives the icy electronics some much-needed warmth.

The kind folks at RCRD LBL even have this song up as a free download. So go get it and begin to play it repeatedly.

1. "Dancing On My Own" Robyn
Somewhere in an alternate universe, I like to believe that Robyn is a bigger star than Lady GaGa. Nothing against GaGa, by any means. It's just that Robyn has managed to morph from a teen pop star (remember "Show Me Love"?) to a toughened up diva. She released 3 volumes of Body Talk this year alone and each mini-album revealed an artist that was fully capable of balancing heartfelt emotion with dance pop grace. "Dancing On My Own" was the centerpiece of it all. That opening synth line is enough to hook anyone in but once she gets to chorus it becomes impossible to resist. Be prepared to hit that repeat button.

OK, so that does it. My Top 10 Songs of 2010. Up next is my top albums of 2010.

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