The End of LCD Soundsystem

So ends the short-but-phenomenal career of LCD Soundsystem.  I can honestly say that I’m disappointed in how I didn’t get to see them live.  This evening’s webcast only confirms the idea that live LCD would have been spectacular, perhaps only rivaling my live Radiohead experience.

In honor of the final performance, I now post the final song played by the band.  Here’s to hoping for more excellence from whatever James Murphy does.  And maybe, just maybe, they’ll come back one day for a few more shows.

BEST ALBUMS OF 2010: 5-1

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Here we go…

05. Tourist History by Two Door Cinema Club

That’s right – it’s time to gush even more about the most addictive record of 2010.  I’ve already discussed the ultra-strong songs, the youthful exuberance and the driving rhythms.  What else could be said?  If you’re not on board yet, I’d suggest trying the superb singles “What You Know” and “Something Good Can Work.”  Now consider that this is their debut album and that the band is very young.  Many “mature” artists can’t make something so polished and cohesive.

For some, this pick will seem silly and void of real value.  In a way that argument is partially true.  The songs deal in very basic romantic emotion and the band doesn’t really break new ground.  Yet after making countless versions of my Best Albums list, I couldn’t put them anywhere else.  Sometimes music is just good and simply enjoyableTourist History is that for me and endlessly on repeat.

04. This is Happening by LCD Soundsystem

It’s hard to follow up on a record that contained the greatest song of the 2000s.  James Murphy doesn’t even bother really – This is Happening stands tall without anything like “All My Friends.”  But it’s better that way.  Instead of trying to recapture that brilliance, he keeps moving forward, introducing more sounds, better lyrics, better singing and powerful personal discussion across a full album.

What makes this record so amazing is how each song packs a punch.  Opener “Dance Yrself Clean” hits you upside the head when the drums kick in.  “Drunk Girls” is a sustained song-long rush.  “One Touch” has a wonderful groove.  “All I Want” is the saddest tune ever done by LCD and you feel for Murphy.  “I Can Change” feels naked and exposed.  “Pow Pow” is brilliant fun.  They all have something, and that’s why I can’t get away from this record.  It is personal to LCD Soundsystem, yet you can honestly sympathize and that connection is genuinely moving.

03. The Suburbs by Arcade Fire

Different versions of this list have The Suburbs all over the place, but I can’t really justify the record outside the top three.  Quite simply this is one of the most complete albums I’ve ever had the pleasure of hearing.  No song, no sound feels out of place in the grand scheme of things.  Win Butler and company have built on the sonic foundations of Neon Bible and done something stunning.  Much like Grizzly Bear’s Veckatimest, the beauty offered here is something to marvel at.

Of course the 2,000 pound gorilla in the room still stands: this is no Funeral.  It lacks the true hard-hitters like “Rebellion (Lies)” or the “Neighborhood” tracks.  But that doesn’t matter.  It isn’t Funeral and that’s the point.  Arcade Fire have moved in a new direction and gained a great deal of artistic merit in doing so.  This is a triumphant release by a rising super-band and deserves the praise it has been dealt.  The Suburbs is a fantastic record and you need to hear it.

02. Forgiveness Rock Record by Broken Social Scene

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Grandiose has lost so much value as a phrase in music.  Everybody talks about how big a sound is, often citing arena acts that reach the biggest audiences.  But here, the sheer effort and enthusiasm of such a large group pushes Forgiveness Rock Record into an overwhelming place.  The sounds are layered from everywhere and the song styles are varied.  The huge build in “Chase Scene” is insane.  “Art House Director” is upbeat and exciting.  The productions values are phenomenal and the music is clear.

But you know what?  It doesn’t matter how big and exciting this is – the music itself is phenomenal.  I love the strong drums, the exciting guitars, the boisterous strings and the blaring horns.  It all blends to a tremendous point that few records can achieve: the songs are excellent standalone and the album is even better as a whole.  Yes, it’s just as good as You Forgot it People.  And that’s saying something.

01. High Violet by The National

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Here we are with the best record of 2010.  Just everything about it works.  There is a real confidence in the band, exploring emotional realms and building a real sense of atmosphere.  Dark drums, tight bass and simmering guitars make every song consistent.  And that really matters here – there is no song worth skipping because they all bring so much to the table.  The album supports itself, making even the super high points (“Conversation 16” and “Lemonworld”) add to a much bigger whole.

So what makes this the clear top record of 2010?  For me it’s the details.  Matt Berninger is at his haunting best with vocals.  The lyrics are somber yet complex and draw you further into each piece.  The strings in many songs are just enough to push the whole thing over the edge.

Yes, High Violet is that good.  It is memorable, powerful and will convert you to following The National.  Feel the reward and explore the brilliance.

BEST SONGS OF 2010: 20-6

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20. “Go Do” by Jonsi

Much like the best Sigur Ros songs, this track just fills the brain with a sense of wonder.  It simply feels like flying above a landscape and viewing the whole beautiful world.  The song is both pretty and epic – those thudding drums are amazing, and the voice combines perfectly with flutes and strings to push forward and into the mind.

19. “Compliments” by Band of Horses

When I first heard this, I didn’t realize it was Band of Horses – the voices and guitars were slightly different.  But after 20 listens, it was clear that this was a new height for the band.  Strong, exploratory lyrics and a slightly swung meter make this song stick.  Of course, without those great guitars, this wouldn’t be on the list.  This song stands with even “The Funeral” in their catalog.

18. “F*** You” by Cee Lo Green

Delightful profanity is always fun, but this time it’s universal.  “F*** You” was everywhere last year, and with good reason.  The song itself is a pitch-perfect blend of 1960s style and modern production.  It’s a great cousin to “Hey Ya” and seems to have just as much air time.  What puts it over the edge is Cee Lo Green, with excellent singing and playful wit (“Just thought you should know n*****”).

17. “Everlasting Light” by The Black Keys

This is tight.  Blues rock was supposed to be dead unless it was done by Jack White.  Instead, these guys out of Akron lay down some of the most muscular, passionate music in years.  The song is very simple, but it just works.  A very focused guitar, a straightforward drum and a great singer make this one of the best songs of the year.  Be sure to see these guys live too – they rock.

16. “Cousins” by Vampire Weekend

It’s unlikely that the band will ever capture the pop perfection of “A-Punk” but this song certainly taps a similar vein of brilliance.  Psychotic guitars drive the song, and it always feels just on the edge of collapse.  Instead, they push the pace forward, making this wild track one of the most satisfying in their short career.  It certainly helps that the final-lap close is an exceptional release.

15. “Let it Sway” by Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin

This is pure pop near its best.  Light jangling guitars, catchy melodies, easy-to-hear lyrics and a reasonable song structure are all crucial.  But the most important parts are the intro and outro.  That opening guitar salvo is very welcoming and danceable, and the closing breakdown has some excellent handclaps.  Fabulous track.

14. “Something Good Can Work” by Two Door Cinema Club

These Irish guys can summon up some infectious music.  Focused and consistent drumming help push the piece forward while the vocalist enthusiastically explores a potential relationship start.  Of course, the content doesn’t really matter so much here.  Those brilliant gutiars and synths make this one of the most upbeat tracks all year and works great on repeat.

13. “Lemonworld” by The National

One of the most complex and emotionally weighty songs on this list.  It’s certainly The National, but it’s better than most of their works.  Lyrically, this is a powerful reflection on the sorrows of modern life and escapism, and it blends perfectly with Matt Berninger’s baritone.  The straining strings and monolithic drums only help to give the song a distinctive and touching feel.

12. “Written in Reverse” by Spoon

Spoon is at their best when stripped down and rocking out.  “Written in Reverse” is just that type of song, and the true best off the underrated Transference.  Britt Daniels works the vocals with his typically confident style, the piano keys get beaten to lovely effect, and the guitar is simply attacked.  This has quickly joined the status of classic Spoon songs, and rightfully so.

11. “All of the Lights” by Kanye West

The most exciting (and exhausting) song on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is also the best.  Rihanna doesn’t suck, Kanye is sharp, and the horns are awesome.  Of course, it’s the speed and percussion that matter here.  It feels like going downhill, especially in that chorus.  And, oh that chorus.  Almost makes you want to buy some new light bulbs.

10. “Tightrope” by Janelle Monae

Janelle Monae had one of the most successful breakouts in music this year.  She managed to juggle an appearance of part-diva, part-artist, and all-round entertainer.  “Tightrope” is her brightest point in what is practically a supernova of a debut.  She sings like Aretha, has artistic integrity, and had a phenomenal backing band.  If you can somehow avoid the power of “Tightrope” you’re not human.  This is what happens when R&B is truly great.

09. “I Don’t Believe You” by The Thermals

There isn’t a particularly strong reason for why this song is so good.  It might be the pop-punk precision.  In only three minutes, The Thermals display great presence and personality.  Maybe it’s the guitar.  They’re exceptionally tight, offering a relentless melodic background.  Or maybe it’s those vocals, slightly strained and generally angry.  Or maybe it’s all of it at once.  Punk is fun, but when it’s refined it is great.

08. “All I Want” by LCD Soundsystem

This is the most emotional song on This is Happening, and also the best.  James Murphy sounds at the brink of pure breakdown throughout the song, and you can’t help but share his pain when he describes a breakup, noting “It’s too late to make it [the relationship] strong.”  Yes, the musicianship is all there, but the sad, pathetic cries push this to a different plane of song.  Murphy is human, and you cry with him as he wails “Take me home.”

07. “Chase Scene” by Broken Social Scene

Right from the start, it’s clear you’re in for something wild.  That strange guitar strum is pretty cool, and it quickly develops into an interesting multi-vocalist effort.  Of course, it hits hardest when heavier drums start to pick up.  And from there, it sounds like beautiful chaos.  Massive, unrelenting horns and strings just build, growing to a point of explosion.  Thankfully, the band gives us that release, with one final epic chord.  It’s tiring to listen to, but insanely awesome.

06. “I Want the World to Stop” by Belle & Sebastian

Such a beautiful, delicate song.  It exists in real fragility for so much of its first few half, feeling very dependent on itself.  Without those vocals, the keyboards or lightly plucking guitars, it would just fall apart into nothingness.  But then, strings and horns pick up and give the structure real meat.  Everything picks up, and the gorgeously catchy piece becomes powerful and infectious.  But the one constant, and the clincher, is the drumming.  Everything feels so unified, and this is the center point.  It’s a shame it took me so long to find this band – they’re amazing.

BEST SONGS OF 2010: 40-21

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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.

Song Roundup 8: Club Music–Indie Mix

Let’s not even talk about the massive gap in posts this time.  Maybe later.

I hate club music.  I try not to hate much music, but club music just represents some of my least favorite parts of sound and sonic mentality.  Club music represents sweaty parties full of people drinking to be drunk and dancing only for the sexuality.  I appreciate fun, but this style of music turns heavy bass into a disgusting sensation, rather than an invigorating one.  So on this latest Song Roundup, I want to look at indie music that would make me more comfortable at that next awful party (if only for a few minutes).

There weren’t truly limits on this list, but I did purposefully avoid “indie” techno, as Daft Punk and Justice are essentially definitive dance music.  I can hope that they’re a given for this type of list.

“Idioteque” by Radiohead

Sometimes they’re guitar gods, other times they fiddle with electronics.  Radiohead is a proven musical powerhouse that can touch many genres.  “Idioteque” is one of the most singular songs in their catalog.  That’s quite an accomplishment, but it goes further, making disaster sound exhilarating.  The terrifying sound of primordial computer composition blends perfectly with the rest of the band.  I always get chills, but the rhythm keeps me from a statuesque state.

“Daft Punk is Playing at My House” by LCD Soundsystem

Most LCD songs would be fair game here, but “Daft Punk” is one of the group’s most muscular efforts.  The song really pops with good speakers or headphones and deserves to be played loud.  I’m personally very fond of the version on the London Sessions release, but whatever rendition you get should do the trick.

“Whoo! Alright – Yeah… Uh Huh.” by The Rapture

Dance punk died too quickly in the early 2000s.  That is to say, I wasn’t really aware of it until it was already dead.  But we do have artifacts like this to keep us happy.  The tastefully complex variation on a simple disco drum is the real foundation of this song.  It keeps everything moving at a high tempo and lets the funky guitars work their magic above the rhythm.  But what pushes this over the edge and into greatness is that last bit of lyrical breakdown at the 2:34 mark – almost makes even me want to dance.

“I Can Talk” by Two Door Cinema Club

Two Door Cinema Club has been my guilty-pleasure band-of-choice ever since I first heard them.  Their debut record (Tourist History) is nothing innovative, but it’s simply brimming with energy.  “I Can Talk” is amongst the highlights.  The song has a blistering guitar attack, fun vocals and a massive disco drum/bass pattern filling all the space.  Embrace this Irish band – I think they’re in for big things.

“Dancing Choose” by TV on the Radio

I normally associate TVotR as dense, thinking music.  But at least a few tracks off their most recent record have worked to break my mental stereotype.  Dear Science has some heavy soul power, and tons of personality, and “Dancing Choose” highlights all of that.  Impassioned vocals blend with a propulsive tempo and wild horns to make the art-centric TVotR seem loose and fun.

“Heads Will Roll” by Yeah Yeah Yeahs

Many have discussed this before, but it’s always shocking to listen to YYYs change from a raw garage band to something more like glam rock or disco rock.  In particular, singer Karen O has removed some of that punk edge and suddenly sounds like a powerful diva.  “Heads Will Roll” is the most powerful example of this change, and makes a strong case for why we should embrace the “new” YYYs.  They do this kind of music the right way.

BEST ALBUMS OF THE DECADE: 30-21

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Welcome to Part 2 of the Decade’s Best Albums list.  Check back tomorrow for more of this list!  Thanks again for reading!

30. Microcastle by Deerhunter

It’s always nice to see a blend of noise rock and catchiness.  Here, we get all the squawking feedback and loud thrashing, but it all makes sense.  While especially true in Super Song “Nothing Ever Happened,” most of the songs reach this lovely status.

29. It’s Blitz by Yeah Yeah Yeahs

This can be best described as Karen O’s dance diva album.  Equal parts disco and pure energy, It’s Blitz is a very polished disk, featuring great songs and strong emotion.  While those in “the scene” may argue in favor of their first album, I think this release finds the Yeahs at their highest point.

28. Twin Cinema by The New Pornographers

Bonus points all over the place for being so infectious.  Clean guitars, clear vocals (even if you don’t know what they mean), and brilliant harmonizing make Twin Cinema a fantastic road record.  Turn it up, sing along at the top of your voice, and you’re forced to smile.

27. Everything All the Time by Band of Horses

On paper, this sounds like a generic indie album.  Ringing guitars, emotive lyrics, stuff like that.  But Band of Horses do everything so well.  It’s like a primer for anyone new to the land of indie music.  Of course, having instantly memorable guitar lines (see: “Wicked Gil” and “The Funeral”) helps, too.

26. Chutes Too Narrow by The Shins

Even better than the album that many claimed would “change your life” (Oh Inverted World).  Here, the production values are cranked up, the songwriting varied, and the singing bold and loud.  This is a phenomenal effort across the board, offering personal insight blended with great guitars.

25. Third by Portishead

It’s unfortunate that Portishead waited so long to release their third proper album.  But, the wait revealed something amazing: a band at the same powers (or greater) than when it went on hiatus.  Offering a different direction from their trip-hop 90s albums, Third is an atmospheric masterpiece of minimal electronica.  You will be left haunted and amazed, from start to finish.

24. Hearts of Oak by Ted Leo and the Pharmacists

This is a relatively late addition to this list.  Only this month have I had the chance to listen to Ted Leo.  But from first note on, I knew I was in for something special.  Like a more punk-rock REM, or a free-flowing Weezer, Hearts of Oak is charming and powerful.  Tight melodies and pinpoint lyrics make this a rising star in my music collection.

23. Seven Swans by Sufjan Stevens

Folk generally leaves me with a bad taste or just generally bored.  But here is an album from a Sufjan Stevens stripped to just his guitar and banjo.  Lightly plucked, Seven Swans is a powerful album, full of personal religious reflections.  It’s rare to see an album this concerned with Biblical ideals outside of ironic or Christian Rock releases.  Stevens weaves powerful songs, unapologetic, even if he can reach a wide audience.

22. Rather Ripped by Sonic Youth

Here lies the best Sonic Youth album this side of Daydream Nation.  It’s a bold statement, but I just love the tunes on Rather Ripped.  They’re faster to get at you than any other Youth release (especially the bright “Reena” and the strong “Incinerate”), but manage to stay with you just like their whole catalogue.  Hear this once for the great highlights.  Hear it over and over for all the details.

21. Sound of Silver by LCD Soundsystem

It starts off just like “Losing My Edge,” but instantly veers off, creating a new blend of dance and rock, all while considering what it is to become older.  This is the home to the decade’s best song (“All My Friends”), and more memorable moments.  This album is so interesting because of its dual power: all the songs are fantastic, but they work even better together.

BEST SONGS OF THE DECADE: 20-1

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Here concludes my look at the best songs of the decade.  For this edition, I will also have a link to each track on YouTube.  Just click on the last part of each write-up.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this version of favoritism.  Please leave some comments about what you view as the best songs.  Also, check in tomorrow to see the first part of my Decade’s Best Albums list.  Thanks for reading!

20. “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger” by Daft Punk

Techno is a tough thing for me to get behind.  I appreciate all the rhythm and neat computer-ish music.  But the whole thing just seems so fake and cold to me.  But then there’s Daft Punk.  I can’t help but like them.  They know how to conjure a beat and get your body to move.  “Harder, Better” is the highest point of their work.  Thanks to an amazing vocoder breakdown and a real swagger, even just hearing the song causes heads to bop and feet to tap.  I like to believe that, were I a break dancer I would freak out to this song.

19. “Staralfur” by Sigur Ros

Soundscapes can tend to be a bit boring, generally left for those relaxation mixes to be heard before sleep.  Sigur Ros manages to pull the soundscape into a new land, thanks to innovative instrumentation.  The powerful strings blend with light piano notes and production noises.  Things take off when the voice comes in.  Sigur Ros has a real give in their lead singer: he transforms songs from otherworldly to angelic.  You needn’t know what he’s saying, you just feel it.

18. “Energy” by Apples in Stereo

It’s a pretty instant attraction when this song turns on.  The mood can be completely somber, but then “Energy” turns everything bright.  The bright chords, bright voices, optimistic lyrics and fun tempo all add up to something great.  Where Sigur Ros could bring you to another planet, Apples in Stereo carry you to a better place – a state of personal satisfaction.  “And the world is made of energy / And there’s a lot inside of you, and there’s a lot inside of me.”

17. “Pyramid Song” by Radiohead

It bothers me to leave Radiohead so low on my list.  But such was the nature of song content this decade.  “Pyramid Song” has the distinctive nature of being a decidedly unique song in the Radiohead canon.  Everything feels eerie, right from the start.  Syncopated piano rhythms ride above strange electronic sounds and strings.  Soon enough, the drums kick in, slowly dragging their way in, adding to the strangely swung feel.  The whole thing feels like it’s carrying you off to heaven, or maybe hell.  But then Yorke’s last clear claim rings out in your mind: nothing to fear and nothing to doubt.  Believe in this song.

16. “Lisztomania” by Phoenix

One of the best songs from this year, “Lisztomania” is a pop masterpiece.  Catchy lyrics and bright music carry this song along.  Great guitars and solid bopping music are complimented by a touch of electronica, giving the song an interesting touch.  Really, you could pick “1901” here, too.  Both are great songs, proving Phoenix one of the best from 2009.

15. “Blind” by Hercules & Love Affair (feat. Antony)

Disco tends to seem cheesy to me.  Maybe it’s the stereotyped guy-in-white-suit thing.  Whatever the case, “Blind” is strangely freed from any sort of bad disco feeling.  Maybe it has to do with Antony’s vocals.  They really steal the show here, transforming the careful emotional classical singer into a dominant power.  I can’t help but feel like dancing through this song and yet feel terrible for doing do.  Perhaps that is where Hercules & Love Affair really succeed.  They get complex emotions to work in music.

14. “Reena” by Sonic Youth

“Reena” is so wonderfully constructed, making it one of my all-time favorite Sonic Youth songs.  First, it grabs you with those ringing guitars.  Then Kim Gordon manages to sing without sounding annoying.  But after all of the introductory “pop song” stuff, they decide to go all Sonic Youth on us.  For my money, it’s one of their best breakdowns since Daydream Nation.  Everything just goes crazy, drums pounding, guitars thrashing, and then Steve Shelley pulls it back together.  Very circular, very awesome.

13. “The Funeral” by Band of Horses

Songs can have some powerful effects, but it’s rare for me to be actually bothered by music.  Band of Horses succeeds here with those haunting, lightly plucked notes that open the song.  Instantly, you realize that this is something very weighty and somber.  Of course, the careful vocals only add to this effect.  “The Funeral” is so powerful that even the loud rocking sections manage to add to the mood.  Repeated listens diminish some of this song’s power, but never leave you feeling comfortable.  Maybe it’s better that way.

12. “Maps” by Yeah Yeah Yeahs

For all of the loud rock and crazy moments on Fever to Tell, it is the one ballad-like song that we all remember.  Everything about this song gives shivers down the spine.  Those crashing drums, that intro guitar, even the loud rock guitar.  But, of course, it’s Karen O that we all adore here.  Instead of yelling and stalking the stage, she lightly explains her love.  It’s powerful, tragic, and stunning.  This is an impact song.

11. “I’ll Believe in Anything” by Wolf Parade

This song and “Shine a Light” stand tall as the highlights from Wolf Parade’s debut album.  But for some reason, “I’ll Believe in Anything” always seems a step ahead.  I think it has to do with the unashamed emotion that flows in this song.  Seemingly a tale of longing for a lost lover, the whole thing is a bit difficult to dissect.  But it is clear that there is a distinct pain in Spencer Krug’s voice.  The loud crashing music only adds to the raw strength of this song.  By the end of the song, you are also willing to believe, if only for your own happiness.

10. “Clocks” by Coldplay

Coldplay is a very overrated (yes, really) band that garners popular attention because of their refined combination of Radiohead and U2.  They’re big, don’t really have a distinct message, and can generally be described as dull.

So why are they in my top 10?  Because this song is so good.  Perhaps Coldplay was just meant to play this one song and get on with their lives.  I’m a sucker for a good piano song, and this thing is just fantastic.  Chris Martin sings without getting overly annoying, and the looping piano phrase is just brilliant.  And I can’t help but feel taken away when that last phrase hits: “Home, home, where I wanted to go.”

9. “Mothers, Sisters, Daughters & Wives” by Voxtrot

This may be the most low-key song included on my list.  But the whole thing is wonderful rock.  A great, clear voice works well with the instantly appealing guitars and tight drums.  It’s a shame that this band hasn’t really caught on.  With the EP named for this song, they unleashed a set of five amazing tracks.  Every one of them features memorable music, but this is the best of the bunch.

8. “While You Wait for the Others” by Grizzly Bear

Grizzly Bear made a huge leap from enjoyable folk to super songwriters.  The key track off this year’s Veckatimest is a real highlight.  Its atmosphere is powerful and evocative, bringing forth real emotional responses.  Those voices, that guitar… it’s musical brilliance, with just enough muscle to keep it around your brain for months.  This song clearly eclipses all others from this year, constantly echoing in my head.  This is one to remember.

7. “3rd Planet” by Modest Mouse

It starts so simply.  Lightly plucked, quietly entered.  And then the self-admissions happen.  And then the world starts to open up with giant faith statements, and comments about the nature of the earth.  Oh, yeah, the guitars kick it up too.  This song is a great way to enter the land of The Moon & Antarctica, it’s familiar and disarming all at the same time.  Of course, this was the one song where we all wondered, “Is this really Modest Mouse?”  It’s unfortunate they haven’t reached a height like this again.

6. “White Winter Hymnal” by Fleet Foxes

If you don’t like the singing, then I don’t know what you’re doing.  I mean, first there is the lead voice, strong, right on pitch, beats the pants off any American Idol-type pop artist today.  Then there are the backing voices.  Each of these singers could take the lead spot and this song would still be in the top ten.  Instead, they blend and create a harmonious point of glory.  This only functions to add to the amazing musical arrangement, thus creating a powerful, memorable song.

5. “Nothing Ever Happened” by Deerhunter

In an album full of abstract ideas, “Nothing Every Happened” stands out as a beautiful culmination of all the strange noise-rock, but with a very accessible mindset.  Of course, it helps to have one of the best outros of the decade working for you.  Big bold drums give up the limelight for the stunning guitar work.  From the noisy breakdown comes the huge finish: clear, powerful, singular notes.

4. “My Mathematical Mind” by Spoon

It’s sometimes hard to point out what makes Spoon so great.  I guess it’s that they break down their songs into the most minimal of ideas, removing the unimportant fuss.  They kind of make you work for it – fill in the gaps almost.  Here, there’s a sort of self-assured power on display.  I don’t really know why exactly this song strikes so much more than any other Spoon song though.  I think it has to do with the pianos, the ideas (“I’m gonna stop riding the brakes”), and Britt Daniels’ smooth voice.  Or maybe it’s just that this song is really one of the four best of the decade.

3. “A-Punk” by Vampire Weekend

The best song of last year is certainly the best pure pop on from the decade.  It’s extremely bright, and from the moment you hear that chord structure, you’re hooked.  For the next two minutes, you have no choice: you bop your head, and you let the music get at you.  Or you watch the video and enjoy even more.

2. “Rebellion (Lies)” by Arcade Fire

Arcade Fire are all about big song and big emotions.  While some may argue that a few of the “Neighborhood” songs are better, I don’t think you can go wrong with “Rebellion (Lies)”  It stands out as such a strong song.  Call-and-response ending in yells of “Lies,” and a string part that acts as primary instrumental melody.  The guitar flourishes and an enraged lead voice closing out the song.  Each of these moments mean so much to those who have heard the song.  If you’re not amongst the believers, let this song prove the might of the Arcade Fire.

1. “All My Friends” by LCD Soundsystem

So Pitchfork nearly got it right, placing “All My Friends” at second in their decade-list.  But I view them as wrong.

There are so many great songs focusing on emotion, devastating tragedy, and difficult choices.  But it’s rare for a song to confront the idea of growing up like this.  Yeah, many have taken the general “I hope I die before I get old” path, but how many have really taken the idea of age and turned it into a 7-minute opus?

The whole song grapples with life and this transitional idea.  It’s really strange at first, but by the third minute you’re left wondering where else this guy will go.  It’s an intelligent analysis of the self, and James Murphy has some of the best lyrics in recent memory strewn together to make “All My Friends” work.

Of course, without the backing track, his words are just a poetic reflection.  Instead, the base layer of piano kicks the whole thing along, allowing a gradual build across the entire song.  More guitars are added, louder drums, and even more piano.  Everything almost becomes overwhelming, finally ending in the stunning, maybe empowering reflection, “If I could see all my friends tonight.”

James Murphy has penned the greatest song of this decade.  Its musical, lyrical, emotional, and human elements are all greater than any other single track from another source.  His mastery of his craft and an understanding of himself have resulted in a brilliant song that is forever echoing for me.  It is like no other.