The Top 25 Songs of 2010

25. Weezer “All My Friends Are Insects” (part of bonus material from Hurley)

People are consistently disappointed by Weezer, so I was really hoping Hurley would be at least good enough to shut people up for awhile (myself included). It wasn’t, but I was happy to see it was at least better than the band’s worst album to date, the offensively bad Raditude. With that said, my favorite Weezer song of the year was not featured on Hurley, but was an outtake featured on the expanded edition. I believe it was a song Rivers Cuomo contributed to Yo Gabba Gabba when the band were guest performers on the show, but whatever – it’s still the best thing Weezer has done in quite some time. In less than two minutes, we get several killer hooks, odd stories about Cuomo’s insect-related eccentricities, and a guitar solo that arguably ranks as one of Cuomo’s best.

24. Here We Go Magic “Collector” (from Pigeons)

This five-minute trance-inducing dream pop freak-out is the best track yet from Brooklyn’s Here We Go Magic, who released their sophomore record Pigeons just a short six months after their debut. The debut was actually just songwriter Luke Temple, but Pigeons features a full band – a very strange and frenetic band, but a band nonetheless. “Collector” find’s HWGM’s various resources – fumbling freakout guitars, airy synths, relentlessly propelling drums and multiple layers of conflicting vocal melodies – coming together in the most effortless and natural sense. Utilizing what is basically an eight-bar blues progression, the beauty of its simplicity becomes even more apparent when thrown into the chaos of the musicians.

23. Fang Island “Sideswiper” (from Fang Island)

This song might be the Aireoke Jam of the Year. It’s extremely difficult to hear it and NOT do air guitar of some kind. In “Sideswiper”, much like Fang Island’s entire self-titled debut full-length, the riffs shoot at you like bullets from an AK-47, or shower on you like a cavalcade of bombs from an enormous, racing fleet of B-52’s, or take you over like your first case of chicken pox. Maybe you kind of get what I’m saying – these fuckers are RELENTLESS about their riffing. But then, as in the second section of this song, they will all of a sudden turn around and get all fun and poppy, a great dichotomy that has become a Fang Island staple.

22. Shout Out Louds “Show Me Something New” (from Work)

One of two Swedish bands on this list, Shout Out Louds are not necessarily a band that strives to bring new and crazy ideas into the world. They are more interested in making a brand of catchy pop rock with new wave sensibilities, often proudly wearing influences such as The Cure and The Church on their sleeves. “Show Me Something New” is one of the more upbeat tracks on Work, which is probably the band’s most downbeat collection of songs to date. Thus, it gets buried as the second to last song on the album (just like another song on this list). That’s too bad, because it sounds like a freaking hit to me – those simple lead lines and their crisp tones, that “So much to live for!” hook, and the chorus that’s oddly reminiscent of the one hit by The Buggles.

21. Ra Ra Riot “Boy” (from The Orchard)

I played this song out early in the year, but looking back, it was one of my early favorites of 2010. I just really love that bassline, even though it’s one of those things that’s so obviously catchy it’s almost annoying. But this is a great song. It embodies more or less everything I love about Ra Ra Riot – their ability to rock without being loud, their insistence in weaving all sorts of complex melodies together in a manner that should be too busy but somehow works, and the stellar rhythm section. Everything about the drums and bass on this song is about as close to perfect as one can hope in a pop song, and they are the biggest contributors to the infectiousness of this track.

20. No Age “Fever Dreaming” (from Everything in Between)

There is something about the main guitar riff in this song that makes me want to run a marathon and punch through a brick wall simultaneously. It’s powerful and propelling, great for running, and just an overall relentless rocker. I’ve listened to this song at least fifty times, and I still can’t tell what’s going on in the section before the chorus – the lo-fi recording does a lot to smear the sound around, and it makes it hard to distinguish. At first it bothered me, but now I kinda like it – it allows me to hear whatever I want to hear at that part, and it feels like it should be pretty close to complete freedom of thought, if such a thing exists.

19. The Seven Degrees of Stephen Egerton feat. Bill McShane “Never Again” (from The Seven Degrees of Stephen Egerton)

Stephen Egerton has made a name for himself as the guitarist for celebrated punk acts Descendents and All, but he is also a very gifted songwriter, producer, and multi-instrumentalist. He has been utilizing all of the aforementioned talents over the past several years for the good of compiling The Seven Degrees of Stephen Egerton, a showcase of 16 collaborations with various singers of semi-known underground bands. One of those singers was Bill McShane, singer/guitarist for Manhattan, KS power pop trio Ultimate Fakebook. Their collaboration yielded “Never Again”, a truly unique pop-punk tune that (perhaps unintentionally) pushes the boundaries of that genre into the realms of shuffle and Vaudeville-style jams. If it all sounds very strange, that’s because it is, but it’s also a wonderful tongue-in-cheek thumb-of-the-nose from McShane, who promises “If the Wizard of Oz is lying, then you know I’ll know it, babe.” That’s what’s awesome about this song – it manages to be a total punk rock song while still retaining that Midwest geekiness that made UFB and Descendents so great.

18. Jaill “On the Beat” (from That’s How We Burn)

At first, I thought this song was about heroin – “3am weeknight, shot up in bed,” sings Jail song master Vincent Kirchner. But the more I listen to it, the more it just seems like an ode to living a rock and roll lifestyle – one that is unpredictable, but not necessarily drugged-out. Either way, it’s a damn awesome song that describes what I want to say to a lot of people who disagree with my choices – “If you don’t like this life, well then I guess I understand.” Plus, the guitar sounds, fumbling drums and strange accents lace this tune with some pretty addictive candy. Mucho gusto.

17. Teenage Fanclub “Sometimes I Don’t Need To Believe In Anything” (from Shadows)

The best song on the new Teenage Fanclub album was contributed by Gerard Love, one of three main songwriters in the group. It seems that in this later stage of Teenage Fanclub’s career, he has become the go-to songwriter for the biggest gems. Back in the band’s 90’s heyday, it used to be Norman Blake, but Blake is kinda turning into a Scottish John Denver, or something – not that John Denver is bad, but Blake’s songs seem to be more obvious nowadays, like he doesn’t care to try too hard anymore. The third songwriter, Ray McGinley, has always been the least interesting, but at least now he is experimenting with some new textures and production ideas that make his songs stand out a little more. This song, Love’s latest masterpiece, is simple and mostly quiet, until it busts into that epic, rambling chorus, that is.

16. Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin “Back in the Saddle” (from Let it Sway)

The song is a fun little quirky pop song with some big killer hooks, but with the video, the thing becomes EPIC. This just came out recently, but it’s by far the video of the year, and it probably won’t be available for that long, so check it out now. I don’t think the song’s title or anything about it has to do with Aerosmith necessarily (aside from the obvious fact that “Back in the Saddle” is also the name of a popular Aerosmith song), but the video is a top notch tribute to (and a classic parody of) the vintage five-piece’s late-eighties/early-nineties video collection, and it’s a freaking hoot.

15. Sun Kil Moon “You Are My Sun” (from Admiral Fell Promises)

Mark Kozelek’s fourth album as Sun Kil Moon, Admiral Fell Promises, is the closest one to a solo album yet, but that certainly benefits a song like “You Are My Sun”. It’s a perfectly delicate, intricately arranged love song, bearing this pang of sincerity that makes me want to belt it out to the woman I love. Also like a lot of songs on the album, “Sun” is oddly akin to progressive rock, albeit sung and played only by Kozelek with a nylon-stringed guitar. But its several different sections, which weave together seamlessly and effortlessly, complement each other beautifully and represent a whole new and exciting musical path for Kozelek.

14. The National “England” (from High Violet)

This is the tour de force of High Violet, the track that sends the album careening to new highs right at the end. Usually the second to last track on a record is one of the worst – historically, that is the track placement reserved for the runt of the batch. But in certain sequences, that runt can surprise you and bust out some Hulk type kick-your-ass shit. “England” is that type of song, and contains one of my favorite vocal performances by Matt Berninger. When he talks of how the subject of the song “put an ocean and a river between everything, yourself and home,” the music seems to reflect that sentiment perfectly. And when everything explodes all grandiose-like in the end, it doesn’t feel forced, only necessary.

13. Local Natives “Wide Eyes” (from Gorilla Manor)

Though Local Natives definitely fall into a certain category of indie band that has been almost obnoxiously present over the last few years, they write better songs and have stronger hooks than most of their musical peers. “Wide Eyes” is a killer driving song, and I love driving songs. I had my moment with this one driving around in Chicago, and it was the perfect song for that experience – racing through Chicago traffic with skyscrapers towering above me and this tribal pop song blasting out of the speakers felt more than appropriate.

12. Deerhunter “Desire Lines” (from Halcyon Digest)

This spiraling masterpiece was not written by main Deerhunter contributor Bradford Cox, but by his Tobin Sprout-esque counterpart Lockett Pundt. Though Pundt only contributes a couple songs to each release, his are always standouts, and in the case of Halcyon Digest, he scores the best song on the record. As is the case with many Deerhunter tunes, the song is a series of simple melodies and riffs that weave and intertwine with each other, but it’s just done so perfectly here that it can’t really be fucked with. It seems to be the peak of the aforementioned “Deerhunter formula”, but Cox is already steering away from that a bit. It’s almost as if he’s trying to stay one step ahead of his quiet yet brilliant partner.

11. The Posies “Licenses to Hide” (from Blood/Candy)

I have started to describe this song to people as a sort of mini rock opera, because it really sounds like a little three-minute Broadway musical or something that could easily be staged in some way. Ken Stringfellow seems to have drummed up a tribute to Brian Wilson, Freddie Mercury, and any other songwriter who has utilized the multi-faceted, fractured idea construction technique while still creating something totally distinctive. It’s more than a return to form – it’s a total evolution for Stringfellow, as are the contributions on Blood/Candy from songwriting partner Jon Auer. This album marks their reinstating of their original songwriting method – which involves Auer and Stringfellow composing all the songs themselves – and it seems to have paid off.

10. Field Music “Them That Do Nothing”/”Effortlessly” (from Measure)

After seeing this band live and realizing the importance of the dynamic between the two Brewis brothers David and Peter, I decided to pick one of each of their songs to tie for this spot. These guys might as well be Siamese twins, as they are more or less joined at the musical hip. When they play live together, they are so on point, it’s almost as if they don’t even realize there is anyone else watching. If that sounds like a bad thing, believe me, it’s not – their songs are so complex and interweaving that they almost need to be in their own little world to pull it off. “Them that Do Nothing” has some killer left/right guitar recording techniques and a killer chorus, while “Effortlessly” just flat out rocks with its lighting guitar cascades and driving, monstrous drums.

9. Dungen “Min Anda Van” (from Skit I Allt)

(This is a different song, but a great one nonetheless. Couldn’t find a video for “Min Anda Van”.)

It’s hard to write about Dungen’s music in a specific way because I have no idea what Gustav Estejs is singing about, but there is always a sense that some grand theme is being tackled. But, since the title of their latest and best album literally translates to “Fuck it All”, maybe that’s not the case. Who knows? All I know is I could not help but listen to this song over and over again these last few months – the whole record, actually. But this song (track 2 on the record), once it first came on, I went, “oooh, I wasn’t expecting that”. It kinda gave me chills, thanks to that hushed production of that opening piano. And all the arrangements and orchestrations are absolutely spot on. This band is so fucking good, seriously – they should be freaking superstars.

8. Dr. Dog “Where’d All the Time Go?” (from Shame, Shame)

If Dr. Dog continues at the pace they have been going the last three years, they are bound for classic rock radio glory, and “Where’s All the Time Go” will be the most overplayed. It’s a brilliantly composed song, one of Dr. Dog’s masterworks thus far – which could have something to do with the fact that it’s already eight years old. It’s practically already classic rock. The band wanted to more accurately mirror their live shows with this record, and seem to have picked a batch of songs that would be appropriate for such a concept. An eight-year-old song is surely going to be one of the tighter ones your group has to offer. It also boasts some of Scott McMicken’s best and most gut wrenching lyrics. I especially like the line “She gets dressed up like a pillow, so she’s always in bed.”

7. The Soft Pack “Answer to Yourself” (from The Soft Pack)

“I think I’m gonna die before I see my time.” This is one of the most affecting lyrics of the year. It’s sting is felt even more since the song was being passed around the internet right around the time of the death of punk rocker Jay Reatard. When an interviewer asked Reatard why he released so much music with various side projects and bands, Reatard said he just didn’t think he had much time left. And he was right, and that’s pretty fucked up – not that Reatard felt that way, but that more people DON’T feel that way. We really should all embrace the time we have, because it’s not that much – and if you find on the day you realize this that you’ve squandered that time, you’ll have no one to answer to but yourself. And that’s what I think about when this song comes on, before I start rocking the fuck out, that is. It’s a great fucking rock song, one of my favorite singles of the year.

6. Owen Pallett “E Is for Estranged” (from Heartland)

It’s really hard to pick one song on Heartland to sum up its whole experience, as it is a concept album, and all the songs work together for the good of a greater whole. But since it was such a beloved record for me in 2010, I felt it more than deserved a mention here somewhere. I’m not sure that this is my favorite song on the record – there are a lot that tie for first, but this is definitely one of them. I do believe “E is for Estranged” most successfully recaps many of Heartland’s overall themes, and acts as kind of that moment of exposition before the great battle (that is “Tryst with Mephistopheles”). The inherent meaningless of creation and our natural drive towards it are ideas that permeate Heartland, and they are best summed up in these lines: “Haven’t you heard? I am a flightless bird – I am a liar feeding facts to a false fire. If pathos is born out of bullshit, then I’ll score you a string ensemble.” And we all know that with Pallett, it would be a pretty stellar one.

5. Motion City Soundtrack “Disappear” (from My Dinosaur Life)

Justin Pierre has this grit about his voice on this track that he has never displayed on a recording before. Returning producer Mark Hoppus (the Blink-182 bassist who produced the most popular Motion City Soundtrack release, 2005’s Commit This to Memory) really got a great performance out of Pierre for this one. It’s one of those takes that seems so radically different from everything else the singer has done, there almost had to have been some intentional steering in another direction by some party. In any case, “Bravo!” is my final reaction. This song rocks so relentlessly, and helped me to appreciate MCS a lot more overall. These guys have a great way of letting each of their songs exist as its own entity while still maintaining a recognizable overall sound, and that takes, at the very least, a lot of energy.

4. Ariel Pink “Round and Round” (from Before Today)

It’s insanely difficult to create a song that truly affects someone, physically and emotionally, and Areil Pink has achieved this with “Round and Round”. I saw him live twice this year, and at both shows, when this song was played, a seemingly lackadaisical audience all of a sudden exploded into party mode. There’s just something about this song that does that to people. It makes sense when you think about it – Before Today is Pink’s, what, twelfth album or something? The man has been writing songs for quite some time, so he’s bound to have a classic pop up every once in awhile. This might just be his best one yet.

3. Superchunk “Rosemarie” (from Majesty Shredding)

It’s always hard to pick a favorite song from my favorite album of any given year, but in this case, I’m going with a song that just gives me a really great feeling every time it comes on. Every time, I just kind of nod to myself and say “Yeah,” you know? It’s one of those. The guitar parts are so playful and their tones masterful, and the chorus is damn near perfect. It seems a tiny bit odd to pick this one since it’s one of the more downplayed numbers on an album that rocks pretty much all the way through, but “Rosemarie” is still a fantastic mid-tempo rock song that is perfectly easy to freak out to; so there.

2. Ben Folds & Nick Hornby “Belinda” (from Lonely Avenue)

This tale of a one-hit-wonder who’s one hit is a love song about the woman he left but is still in love with is one of the most heart-wrenching pop songs in quite some time. It’s proof that Ben Folds has evolved into a grade A, class act songwriter, and deserves a spot up there with the greats. He always displayed this potential, but this song is where it all seems to come to fruition, and (maybe kind of ironically) with the lyrical help of author Nick Hornby. The track certainly hits home for someone like me who more or less dedicates his life to music, but its one-hit wonder character – who is miserable but still finds a way to carry on – could be easily relatable with anyone who has felt heartbreak of any kind.

1. Girls “Carolina” (from the Broken Dreams Club EP)

I didn’t include Broken Dreams Club in my albums of the year because it’s technically an EP, but maybe I was being too nitpicky there. It’s six songs, but in over thirty minutes, so it’s more or less the length of a normal LP nowadays. Anyway, this is my favorite song from Girls yet. It’s really like four songs in one, but executed using no more than four chords, and all in very simple progressions. It has such a great trajectory to it, and is produced so smartly it feels like it literally takes you to all these different places in a seven minute time span. I’m not sure how Chris Owens makes timeless songwriting seem so effortless, but it’s getting to the point where I am trusting him to do just that, and that could end up being a bad thing. But alas, no one can consistently write winners forever…or can they? The moment I heard “Carolina”, it stood out to me as a song doing something worthy of my time and attention, even though there isn’t anything really crazy going on, and that usually doesn’t happen.

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2 Responses to “The Top 25 Songs of 2010”

  1. Tweets that mention presents Record Geek Heaven's Top 25 Songs of 2010: -- Topsy.com Says:

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by hellohawk. hellohawk said: If you already saw the top albums, move on to Record Geek Heaven's Top 25 Songs of 2010: http://bit.ly/gqpR7n […]

  2. Let It Sway: Best of 2010 Lists « sslyby Says:

    […] Back in the Saddle: #16: Record Geek Heaven […]

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