Best Songs of 2010

This year many of the world’s finest musicians released their best albums to date (The National, Arcade Fire, Gorillaz etc), which means this has been one of those ‘special’ years in music. Choosing a favourite 40 tracks to represent such a year has been the toughest of these assignments yet (if you have time, check out last years top 40 to compare).

This is a collection of my personal favourites rather than an official Grumpy Man DJs collection. You can listen to the whole playlist free, and without registration on 8tracks .

1. The National – Bloodbuzz Ohio (from High Violet)
The opening drum crescendo and synth wail are a herald of danger. Here comes depression and anger twisted into a positive energy – a bloodbuzz indeed.”I still owe money to the money I owe” is probably the most ‘2010’ lyric ever written.  A dark, triumphant anthem for our times.


2. Arcade Fire –  The Suburbs (from The Suburbs)
OMG!! Chas n’ Dave have bought some Joy Division records and lost their freakin’ minds! Ah hang on, it’s just the first single form the new Arcade Fire album. Plinky plonk piano, swishy atmosperics, and lyrics that walk a fine line between nostalgia and despair. Frikkin genius.


3. Crystal Castles – Baptism (from Crystal Castles)
If all goths were as cool as Alice Glass we’d all be wearing smudged black eyeliner right now. Easily the best dance track of the year. This is bloody Evil, and I loves it.


4. Gorillaz – Stylo (from Plastic Beach)
Bobby Womack, Mos Def, a beat both soulful and robo, video featuring Bruce Willis as a killer cop. “Sometimes it’s hard – huh!” Not, apparently, for you Mr Albarn. Almost chose ‘On Melancholy Hill’ as that is a better song, but this one had Bruce Willis in the video, so meh.


5. Shearwater – Black Eyes (from The Golden Archipelago)
Not many groups begin to reach their peak six albums into their career. Shearwater is one of those rare bands. Each of their last three albums has been an improvement on what went before, and this year’s Golden Archipelago is their most cohesive and engaging record yet. Black Eyes is the standout moment – a monstrous, swaggering slice of DOOM.


6. Blur – Fool’s Day (Single)
Effortless and throwaway. Almost a sketch of a song. However this song stands up against anything Blur have released in their career. A genuinely uplifting little gem, delivered with a lightness of touch no other band heading into it’s fourth decade will ever get near.


7. Yeasayer – Madder Red (from Odd Blood)
Madder Red manages the almost impossible in delivering the sing-along pop hooks at the same time as stretching the form and confounding expectations. This is the years alt-pop anthem.
8. Beach House – Walk In The Park (from Teen Dream)
Teen Dream is such an incredibly consisent record it’s genuinely hard to pick out a highlight, but this is one of them. Woozy, blushing dream pop – Beach House are becoming a Cocteau Twins for the modern generation. And after their drum-machine and four-track origins, now an amazing live act as well.


9. Caribou – Odessa (from Swim)
A David Cronenberg movie in aural form. A disorientated rave track staggers out of the nightclub into a daylight world of slime-covered semi-humans, eyes on stalks. Jerky organic beats and misfiring bass. Caribou brings The New Disco.


10. Joanna Newsom – On A Good Day (from Have One On Me)
If a gang of lovelorn angels spending one minute and forty six seconds gently massaging the crease lines on your forehead, it would feel like this.
11. Deerhunter – Desire Lines (from Halcyon Digest)
The most exciting moment from the awesome Halycon Digest is so nod-tastic that listening to it just once could result in your head snapping off. Who cares if the chug-out ending is stolen from Pixies No 13 Baby? It works brilliantly – and if stealing from Pixies back catalog was a crime every guitar weilding hipster since 1995 would have done hard time.


12. Best Coast – Boyfriend (from Crazy For You)
Retro guitar indie pop from an alternative universe where Belle and Sebastian have been ravaged by a wizard wielding a large bong and a fuzz pedal.
13. Gayngs  The Gaudy Side of Town (from Relayted)
A gorgeous, smooth and smokey sax-tinged 80s vibe monster. Suprising, given that Gayngs are an Indie supergroup which includes members of alt-folkies Bon Iver and Megapuss. This is played straight up, despite channeling the spirit of Kenny G and 10cc.


14. Star Slinger – Elisabeth Fraser (Rework of Cocteau Twins ‘Heaven or Las Vegas’
Rising Manchester producer Star Slinger’s blissed out sci-fi re-imagining of Cocteau Twins ‘Heaven or Las Vegas’ has set the blogosphere alight. Teenage dubstep skankers and middle- aged shoe-gazers alike are lost in its ethereal stoner groove. This is stunning.


15. Sufjan Stevens – I Walked (from The Age Of Adz)
When most artists established in a traditional rock/folk genre adopt electronic sounds the results is often disjointed, ugly and unsatisfying, coming across as a desperate attempt to recapture a fading relevance. Not so The Age of Adz, which is wildly ambitious and wildy successful. Essential.


16. Sharon Van Etten – One Day (from Epic)
Any artist that ignores received wisdom and puts their bangers at the back-end of their album instead of front-loading the best tunes has balls. Van Etten is confident with good reason, because she has made some of the most quietly brilliant and affecting music this year.


17. Zola Jesus – Night (from Stridulum EP)
Nico reborn, this time in a dark warehouse full of synthesisers, bats and a king size jar of Nutella. Christ this is scary.
18. Foals – Spanish Sahara (Total Life Forever)
After a decade of of being a bit shit, British Indie stepped it up a notch in 2010 -the new Foals album a key part of that quality shift. More expansive and ambitious than anything on their previous record, ‘Spanish Sahara’ is the most mature, dark and groove-free offering to date. It’s also their best.


19. Health – USA Boys (from Disco2)
Health’s remix albums are not so much dance-reimaginings as full scale abduction by Industrial techno-fascists.  Menacing in all the right ways.
20. Broken Social Scene – World Sick (from Forgiveness Rock Record)
Expansive jam from the lords of heart-cracking Canadian indie. The ‘Scene’ (who include Feist and members of Tortoise and Metric) bring the love – stepping through a “minefield of crippled affection” to chronicle their love affair with The World.


21. Laura Marling – Rambling Man (from I Speak Because I Can)
Gentle, chugging folk anthem finds Marling channelling Ryan Adams in this uplifting cut from her sophomore triumph. Every single piece ever written about her contains the words ‘new Joni Mitchell’ and ‘mature beyond her years’. Including this one.


22. Strand of Oaks – Sterling (from Pope Killdragon)
Slow, menacing, loner-folk masterpiece that appears to take the form of a confessional delivered by a deranged alcoholic driven to the edge after spending a night in a bed once used by President Kennedy.
23. Broken Bells – The High Road (from Broken Bells)
Brian Burton (better known as Danger Mouse) and James Mercer of The Shins in ‘as good as the sum of their parts’ shock! Burton nails the down-tempo but funky vibe, and I could listen to Mercers voice forever without getting bored.
24. The Radio Dept – Heaven’s on Fire (from Clinging To A Scheme)
Heirs to Air, Sweden’s The Radio Dept are the New Kings of Interesting Soft Pop. If you can listen to this sing all the way through without tapping your toe and seeing a sharp rise on your wistfulness meter, your heart is a lump of black coal.
25. Surfer Blood – Catholic Pagans (from Astrocoast)
The debut album from absurdly young Florida indie guitar band has been rightly hyped. I like that the lead singer looks like a chess club geek (that’s always a good sign). This song appears to be about whiskey, cocaine and the complexity of young love. This years Japandroids.


26. I Am Kloot – Radiation (from Sky At Night)
Astronomy themed stadium indie. This song belongs on a festival stage with a 100,000 people screaming the chorus back and putting their hands in the air as the orchestral wallop hits 2 minutes in. Big Music.
27. Gonjasufi – Sheep (from A Sufi and A Killer)
Sample-tastic tale of a Lion distressed at having to murder a fellow living creature every time he get’s a bit peckish. Strangely touching, and layered with a pleasing swishy dope-fuelled retro-vibe.
28. School Of Seven Bells – Windstorm (from Disconnect From Desire)
More Cocteau Twins-inspired loveliness. This time from a band named after a mythical South American pickpocket training academy.
29. Beck – Ramona (from Scott Pilgrim vs. The World Soundtrack)
Epic, swooning love song written by Beck as part of his ‘fake band’ contribution to Scott Pilgrim vs The World. A year that goes by without an awesome new Beck song is not really a year at all. I just made that rule up.
30. Sam Amidon – I See the Sign (from I See the Sign)
Sam Amidon makes music like noone else. Inspired by traditional Appalachian folk, delivered in a disassembled manner more associated with experimental electronica, and underpinned by brooding string arrangements by Nico Muhly. Brilliant.
31. Klaxons – Echoes (from Surfing The Void)
Meaty, messy and far more ROCK than their previous Nu-Rave offerings. Thankfully still bringing the hooks, as well as what is EASILY the best album cover of the year.
32. Grinderman – Bellringer Blues (from Grinderman 2)
Nick Cave may be almost 97 years old and retired to a Brighton rest home, but he clearly still has MURDER in his heart, and for that we should all be thankful. This track burns with a dark malice that might just scare you inside out.
33. Four Tet – Angel Echoes (from There Is Love in You)
Luscious, looping proto-dance from electonica pioneer Kieran Hebden.
34. Tame Impala – It Is Not Meant To Be (from InnerSpeaker)
A gorgeous slice of contemplative, swooping guitar pop from the Aussie Psych-rockers. “In all honesty, I don’t have a hope in hell”. Aw, chin up mate.
35. Kanye West – Runaway (from My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy)
Possible the gloomiest cut from his dark and visceral new record, West offers “a toast for the douchebags, a toast for the assholes”. Kanye certaily knows how to throw in just enough humour and self-depricating humour to balance the accusations of megalomania. Perhaps predicting the accusations of misogny and nihlism that would be aimed at his new record, he admits “I’m not too much of a romantic” and later “I sent this bitch a picture of my dick, I don’t know what it is with females, but I’m not too good with that shit”.


36. Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti – Round And Round (from Before Today)
Found mix-tape experimenter moves to a more accessible and polished sound, but the results are (thankfully) just as freaky.
37. Steve Mason – Boys Outside (from Boys Outside)
Ex-Beta Band mainman in stunning return to form.
38. Robyn – Dancing On My Own (from Body Talk Pt. 1)
There is definitely an element of gay disco anthem at work here, but the jackhammer electonic bass that drives this dancefloor monster is impossible to resist no matter what your sexual preferences.. Dagadagadagadaga!
39. Midlake – Winter Dies (from The Courage of Others)
Roscoe was all rusty colt 45s, open mid western spaces and grizzly bears. The new record is all sombre fair maidens locked in tall towers, knights n’ wizards n’ shit. Still gorgeous though. 
40. Silje Nes – The Grass Harp (From Opticks)
Velvet Underground meets St Etienne, folk textures weaving in and out of electronica fused clips and crackles. A quiet, understated gem of track.

You can listen to all these tracks in my ‘best of 2010’ playlist on 8-Tracks (no registration required).

Honorable mentions and almosts: As I said this is such a great year for music there are a ton of amazing tunes that just missed the cut, including tracks from John Grant, The Black Keys, Villagers, Interpol, Weezer, Teenage Fanclub, Stornoway, Sleepy Sun, Holly Miranda, MGMT, Anthony & The Johnsons, Avi Buffalo, Damien Jurado and more.


One Response to “Best Songs of 2010”

  1. Lovin this list – thanks!

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