The best songs of 2010 according to me. Part, the fourth:#70: “I NEED A DOLLAR” by ALOE BLACC.
The title pretty much covers it. What I think I love most about this song is that it sounds like it could have been written in the 1930s, but it’s very clearly about now. The L.A.-based rapper went full-tilt retro-soul for his latest album Good Things, which includes a horned-up (as in brass) cover of the Velvet Underground’s “Femme Fatale.” “I Need a Dollar” first found a big audience via the HBO Series How to Make It In America. And just looking at the song lists for the show’s episodes is enough to make me miss HBO.
#69: “GOD AND SATAN” by BIFFY CLYRO.
In which the under-rated (at least here in the U.S.) Scottish band invokes both the light and dark sides of the cosmos in contemplating the mechanics of a complicated relationship. It’s also just a sweet, sorta sad song. “When the seesaw snaps and splinters in two, don’t come crying to me. I’ll only see your good side, and believe it’s a miracle.”
#68: “MY OWN SINKING SHIP” by GOOD OLD WAR.
Three guys, a guitar, and an accordion = a tiny slice of folk-rock heaven. From the group’s self-titled sophomore album. The Philly trio cites CS&N as a primary influence, and you can see why here. I love lead singer Keith Goodwin’s dance moves in the later verses. I think he stole them from me.
#67: “BANG BANG BANG” by MARK RONSON & THE BUSINESS INTL.
Mark Ronson is the producer who re-introduced live horns to Top 40 radio a couple years ago via Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black album. Here, sidekicked by rapper Q-Tip (looking sharp!) and MNDR’s Amanda Warner, he re-invents the French-Canadian folk song “Alouette” with Hasselhoffian swagger and the cutting edge audio-visual technology of 1982. A song about plucking skylark feathers turns into a rejection of authoritarian lies and greed. Sweet!
#66: “HANG WITH ME” by ROBYN.
Implausibly, some of this year’s smartest music was dance pop, and the smartest, best dance pop this year came from Sweden’s own Robin Carlsson, or Robyn. And I would love to hang with Robyn, but I’d almost certainly fall recklessly, headlessly in love with her. Robyn coulda been a Britney. She scored an international hit as a teenager with a Max Martin song, but in the years since, has released new music only sporadically. She formed her own label a couple years ago and this year put out Body Talk Pts. 1-3, not just the best dance pop record(s) of the year, but maybe the year’s best album period, Kanye be damned. I love this song’s intimacy. It’s as genuine as it is unexpected.
#65: “AMERICAN SATURDAY NIGHT” by BRAD PAISLEY.
Toby Keith talks about the USA shoving a boot up the ass of the rest of the world. Brad Paisley talks about America as a curated collection of the rest of the world’s most awesome things. Like Amstel Light and the Beatles.
#64: “DO YOU LOVE ME?” by GUSTER.
From the Massachusetts trio’s perfectly titled sixth studio album Easy Wonderful, maybe the best non-Christmas-song Christmas song ever. Dooooo-do-do-do. Doot Doot d-do d-do. Dooooo-do-do-do. Doot Doot d-do d-do. Ding Dong Ding Dong. Guster: Making dorky cool since the mid-90s.
#63: “RIDE” by NAPPY ROOTS.
From The Pursuit of Nappyness, their second album since returning from a five year mid-decade recording hiatus. “Can’t let their friends know they’re not doing good, so you lay low, focus on your kids, and hope somebody remembers something that you did…” A lot of hip-hop is driven by people who’ve never had it, and who’ll do anything to get it. Here’s a song by a group that had it once, has since lost it, and is now re-evaluating. Economists say that the recession ended sometime in 2009. For hip-hop, it’s just arrived.
#62: “CRASH YEARS” by THE NEW PORNOGRAPHERS.
There’s a video for this song, and it’s nice enough, but you don’t get to see the band – this very big band – rocking this song out in it they way they do here. I love the big sound of the toms. I love the cello/bass line (which get stuck in my head for days on end). Also: LIVE WHISTLING. “Tonight will be an open mic!”
#61: “HEARTBEAT SONG” by THE FUTUREHEADS.
“It’s like a cartwheel in my head but my legs are made of lead…” Their lyrics are fun, their melodies are catchy, their stage presence is nerdy, and their tempos are often frantic. Although on their earlier albums they demonstrated a knack for arty vocal arrangements and stranger song structures, on their fourth album The Chaos, they show that they can do the whole straightforward power-pop thing pretty damn well too.
In the next installment: Smoking, drinking, clubbing, and double-entendre-laden not-so-fine dining