This is Part 1 of a 3-part retrospective on songs in the year 2010. This list is semi-limited to only three songs per artist, but the songs needn’t be singles. Instead, it’s just the 40 songs that most struck me as being the best of the year. Enjoy!
40. “Derezzed” by Daft Punk
As a whole, the Tron: Legacy soundtrack was pretty miserable. It sounded just like a soundtrack and nothing like Daft Punk. This was the most notable exception, and it was amazing. I want more of this.
39. “Turns Me On” by Big Boi
Big Boi managed to remind everybody that Outkast did, in fact, have two very worthy members. His solo record was full of A+ moments, but this was the highlight for me. Slightly seductive music and pitch perfect delivery from Big Boi. He’s probably the best pure rapper right now.
38. “And the World Laughs With You” by Flying Lotus (feat. Thom Yorke)
This was the first song I’d heard from Flying Lotus, and it convinced me to get the whole record. It’s all impressive, but this is the best of the set. The song is haunting and alive despite its electronic nature. Curiously Yorke isn’t the highlight – he gets distorted to wonderful effect.
37. “Solitude is Bliss” by Tame Impala
Psychedelic rock with a modern twist. The production quality is great, but the hazy feel and singing are excellent. Add to it some excellent guitars, and this is like a “clean” version of a Hendrix/John Lennon-hybrid. It’s pretty trippy and lots of fun.
36. “Palm Road” by Wolf Parade
Wolf Parade have managed to disappoint with every release since their debut record. However, it’s only because the band hasn’t hit the same heights as its first. Taken separately, “Palm Road” is a tight rock song with strong vocals and tight rhythm.
35. “Spanish Sahara” by Foals
I believe this track has the best build of any song this side of “Fake Plastic Trees.” The emotion is raw and powerful, and when you finally hit the loud part it’s not hard to feel shock. Sometimes the song feels too long, but it’s a real keeper.
34. “Even Heroes Have to Die” by Ted Leo and the Pharmacists
The distinctive Ted Leo voice is there, and so is the infectiousness. The song really pops out, reflecting the great energy and creativity of its creators. Occasional breakdowns make this song exceptionally entertaining and enjoyable.
33. “Hell” by Streetlight Manifesto
It’s a cover (originally by the Squirrel Nut Zippers) but it is amazing. Streetlight Manifesto have some of the best horn players in music (not just ska) and they’re in a great state here. This has a breakneck pace and the spelling of “Damnation” is spectacular.
32. “Sprawl II: Mountains Beyond Mountains” by Arcade Fire
Blondie is an obvious inspiration (“Heart of Glass” much?) but that’s alright. The song is still enjoyable, even in this version. The strong lyrical continuity throughout The Suburbs makes this track even more valuable. Strong emotions push this into “must listen” category.
31. “Romance is Boring” by Los Campisanos
It’s all about strong melody here. Particularly, the main refrain is spectacular, absolutely popping out. Tight guitars, lovely singing and great lyrics. It also helps that the slight introductory section (same part as that between chorus and verse) is a strangely arresting guitar line.
30. “Green Eyes” by Wavves
I had managed to avoid the hype and subsequent blowout from the first Wavves release. But here, I heard the song independently, and it was excellent indie. The guitars are great, the vocals are raw and the melody fantastic.
29. “Vesuvius” by Sufjan Stevens
The newest Sufjan record is very difficult, and I personally haven’t found that much to like from it. However, the clear highlight is the very moving “Vesuvius,” a song that finds Sufjan analyzing himself and the world around him.
28. “Bambi” by Tokyo Police Club
Crazy electronics and a very unified rhythm result in a standout track that is miles above the rest of the record. “Bambi” isn’t entirely unique, but it is different enough from the rest of Tokyo Police Club’s output that the effect is great.
27. “Crash Years” by The New Pornographers
“Crash Years” is done in the typical New Pornographers style – strong vocals, strong harmonies, and big sound. This makes it unspectacular in their catalog, but quickly qualifies it as one of the best of 2010. It’s sugary sweet and pure fun.
26. “We Used to Wait” by Arcade Fire
The Suburbs is difficult to pick singular songs out of because everything blends together well to make a strong whole record. “We Used to Wait” is one of the singular pieces thanks to a mesmerizing piano line and impassioned vocals.
25. “Power” by Kanye West
Kanye was kind of a big deal in 2010, and this was the first single for all of it. “Power” shows the rapper near the height of his current abilities, building insane layers of booming rhythm and tight spoken delivery to create a sound of desperation behind his egotism. It’s human, but that’s good.
24. “Colours” by Grouplove
The main draw of this song is the development. It starts as a quiet reflection, but quickly grows louder, eventually ending in a freakout before one of the final refrains. It’s all about the strained singer and exceptional guitars.
23. “Pow Pow” by LCD Soundsystem
Do you remember “Losing My Edge?” This is like a new version, but directed at all of society, rather than just hipsters. It all feels like Talking Heads but with the classical LCD touches. What keeps you coming back is the dry humor. “You’re no Bruce Valance” indeed.
22. “Boyfriend” by Best Coast
Lovely lo-fi pop and emotional vocals. These concepts don’t necessarily make a song great, but the delivery is spot-on. “Boyfriend” is great when turned loud and played driving down the highway. Keep it on all your traveling playlists.
21. “To Old Friends and New” by Titus Andronicus
This is punk rock slowed down, distilled, and with a piano attached. It’s a good thing, and the addition of a female singer makes the raw back-and-forth even more effective. This may not be the easiest way into The Monitor but it’s certainly the best one.