I’ve made this list for about 5 or 6 years now and I have to say that I think that this might be my weakest one yet. It’s not that the music this year was all that bad; it’s just that I’ve been pretty subpar in my tracking down new music. I blame 2 main things: First, I got a real, steady, full-time job which means that I need to be at work working and not at home listening to and finding new music. This also means that when I get home I’d rather spend time with my wife and my dogs than sit at my computer and find new music. Secondly, one of my main sources for music was a local radio station that went off the air at the beginning of the year. It recently was reincarnated as an online music station so hopefully that means I’ll continue to get some new music.
So after all that, here are my Top Ten Songs for 2010. As always, these are not necessarily songs that were released in 2010, but instead songs that I found and listened to a lot this year. Additionally, they are not in order of favorite, but, well, not really in any kind of an order. It’s just how I wrote them up. So there’s that…
1. Burn the Bowery – Jesse Malin and the Saint Marks Social – I first heard about Jesse Malin while listening to NPR on my way to work early one Saturday morning. This song is my favorite of those I’ve listened to, and with good reason. The fuzzed out electric guitar and anthemic singing the encompass and envelop this song make it feel so much larger than it ought to. Yet it still feels like something you’d see in a local club on a Friday night. Malin is the real thing and I’d encourage you to check him out.
2. One Way Road – John Butler Trio – I love funk/rap songs that have a strong guitar in them. This is my case in point. To me, it sounds almost like Led Zeppelin playing an acoustic set with an almost Sublime-type white guy rap. I know it sounds weird, so just listen to the song and enjoy it.
3. Audience – Cold War Kids – I loved the Cold War Kids when they came out with their first single Hang Me Out to Dry. Then came their second album and it was pretty meh. Just not that great. But with this new album they’ve recaptured what was missing on the second one and really nailed it home. I love the song Audience for it’s strong piano backing paired with a funky guitar line and good beat. And yes, this song is #3 in my all-time top played songs on iTunes. It’s a keeper.
4. No Control – School of Language – Frankly I have no idea what genre this band fits into but I call it indie. I love this song because of the repetitive beat that it has and the way that all of the instruments build and fall together throughout the song. This song also represents a greater interest this year in similar bands like Field Music, The Sea and Cake, Pinback, and Fanfarlo. All similar styles that I definitely encourage you to check out if you like this song.
5. I Get Along – Bishop Allen – I like songs that sound happy. I really have no idea how to describe what that sounds like, but I know it when I hear it. This is a happy song. Acoustic, fast paced guitar with and strong and steady beat all combine to make me love this song. Couple the fun little interlude in the middle and I’m sold all the way. Bishop Allen has made some great stuff in the past and I would say this song rates right up there with the best of them.
6. She’s Disaster – Lovedrug – About 6 years ago a friend and I were riding in his car when he asked me if I knew who Lovedrug was. I did not and he proceeded to introduce me. Both the band and I have grown a lot since then, but I’d venture to say that we are both getting better as we age and change. This song is off the +/- EP which is definitely worth your time but this song is my favorite. It’s a more mellow and traditional rock song that has a haunting lead guitar line paired with a spooky synth and handclaps that make it really work. Tied for Number 1 in plays on my iTunes with another Lovedrug song from this EP.
7. She – Britten – I love music that my friends make because I typically know the story behind the song and why they wrote it. This is not one of those times. Britten and I have a great mutual friend and we met through him and I’ve now followed his career for the past few years. He’s really making his own way in the music scene but I think that you’ll agree that this song, part acoustic rock and part R & B, really has it. Whatever “it” may be these days. So enjoy it and don’t try to pigeon hole him. You’ll just be frustrated. Enjoy the talent and go from there.
8. Switch Kids – The Henry Clay People – I first heard of this band when we watched the fantastic move TiMER. They were featured in the movie as a band that the characters went to see/played in and I liked this song enough on the first listen that I watched the credits to find out who they were. This song, with it’s old school rock n’ roll sound and audience participation sound, hearkens me back to the days of college when my friends and I would pack out the seediest bar in town to hear our friends play music louder than was probably good for our ears while we shouted the lyrics at the top of our lungs and bobbed our heads like we were really cool. Yeah, I miss those days and Legends of Rodeo shows. So this song is a great reminder of fun times past. Listen and enjoy.
9. Glory – Radical Face – A regular customer/friend of mine this summer at Starbucks told me about Radical Face. I really like this song for the meandering piano sound and slow build that it provides throughout the song. It’s a little different than what you usually hear, but if you have read any of my previous music stuff, you know I’m into that. Add in the acoustic guitar and I’m sold.
10. At the Beach – The Avett Brothers – These guys totally blew up last year but as I was going through some of their stuff that I had not yet heard I ran across this song. To me it sounds like it could be straight out of the Woodstock era with the banjoy/acoustic sound and whimsical sound that it brings out. A perfect summer song and a high note to end this list on…
…But, if you’ve seen my previous music lists, you know that I am not one to only stop at 10 songs. Those were the songs that caught my fancy this year, but there were a few albums that were released that caught my ear and made it into heavy rotation on my iTunes and then there were two other songs released by friends of mine that I have to include. I’ll start with them and I’ll call them 10a and 10b because they were definitely my favorite songs this year but I feel a little weird putting them on this list in the regular songs since they weren’t really released. So here they are.
10a. You Can Be All Kinds of Emotional – Zach Williams with Brian Elmquist – Zach Williams might be my favorite artist of all time. Seeing him play music is an experience for me, and I’m not that sure why. We’re friends for sure, but I guess it is just the raw emotion that exudes from Zach when he plays. If I could afford to fly to NYC each time he plays a show I’d be there. Instead I look for him on YouTube and download the songs he makes available. This is one of them.
The sound on this video is not great, but you get the idea…
10b. Strawberry Crazy – Legends of Rodeo – I’ve been a fan of Legends of Rodeo since my freshman year of college when many a Friday or Saturday night was spent at one of their shows. This continued on for many years until both the band and I moved on to other places and things. However, this summer they got back together for a reunion show and while the cost of a plane ticket to go to the show was cost prohibitive (See above entry…), I did manage to trade a bootleg copy of one of their concerts for the Rarities CD they gave out at the show. It included a recorded version of Strawberry Crazy, which up to that point I had only heard live and on my bootleg. What a great song about a shy kid and mixtapes…
And now, songs from albums that I really enjoyed…
11. You and Your Heart – Jack Johnson – Ok, I’ll admit it. I did not really enjoy Jack’s newest album as much as some of his other offerings, but maybe it is one of those albums that will grow on me. However, this song is fantastic. I have no idea how Jack created the high/low sound with his guitar (I’m not a musician…), but the effect that it has on the song is great. Definitely a song that makes me tap my toes and I love the little bridge that he interspersed at about the 2:20 mark of the song. It’s pretty vintage Jack so if you like him, you’ll like this song.
12. I Was Made For Sunny Days – The Weepies – Classic Weepies here. A bouncy little folksy pop song that has great harmonies and sticks in your head for days. Essentially this whole album is an extension of what their previous work was, and that is a really good thing. And for someone who got married to the love of their life (read: Me…) this year, this is a great song.
13. In the Sun – She & Him – This was the quintessential summer song. Bouncy, jangling and all about sunshine. The musical partnership of M.Ward and Zooey Deshannel has generated many great songs but I have to admit that even though this song is a little syrupy, it’s my favorite. Optimism and sunshine make beautiful music together and this is the soundtrack. Definitely a must have for fans of folk/pop.
14. We Used to Wait – Arcade Fire – The Arcade Fire’s album The Suburbs is a fantastic record and I’d definitely recommend it to anyone. But for me this song really stood out because of the haunting and repetitive piano loop and the way that there are all of these intense builds throughout the song. It’s a pretty good representation of the entire album; songs with good beats that draw you in and surround you with the music.
15. Mi Amigo – Kings of Leon – For some reason I got really into Kings of Leon this summer and fall. I’ve been a fan for a really long time, like maybe 6 years or so, but I guess that the timing was just right for me this summer. This song is my favorite off of their new album, probably because of the hard driving beat and meandering lead guitar. It just gets stuck in my head and begs to be played over and over again. So I oblige. I figure if you are a KOL fan you’ve already picked up their new album, but if not I’d recomend it. It’s basically an extension of their previous release, but that one made them famous and a ton of money, so I guess they just figured why mess with what works.
16. Devil’s in the Jukebox – Ray LaMontagne and the Pariah Dogs – If you are looking for some old soul music that will make you feel really good when you listen to it, then put this song on repeat. The lyrics are pretty repetitive but the same formula that has worked for both Ray in his music and me in my listening is here. Give me a good beat, some fun bridges, a steady build and a solo here and there and it is pretty much guranteed that I’ll like it.
So there it is. My top songs from 2010. Hope you enjoy and maybe even hear something new here.
Love and Sweatpants.