1. Robyn - Dancing On My Own
There are slower, prettier versions of this song that fit the wistful lyrics better, but I prefer the electric original. Something about the energy is both desperate and defiant at the same time. Plus, the electric has that funny little percussion piece (it sounds like a pencil beating on a pipe to me) that I find absolutely addictive. Homegirl dances like crazy, and why not? This lonely song is somehow the most fun single of 2010. For a while, I couldn't decide if this or "Bloodbuzz Ohio" was my favorite, but for me, the choice boiled down to this: This song sounds like 2010 to me. When I think back to this year, this will be the song I remember as defining my moments.
2. The National - Blood Buzz Ohio
A gorgeous song about one of life's most conflicting duties -- going home. The "blood" here is family, home, which can give the best and worst buzzes. The instrumentation is magical, I think, and Matt Beringer's baritone shines all the more in its levelness because the music is so soaring. Honestly, I love this song too much to be able to write about it.
3. Arcade Fire - Sprawl II
I wish, I wish Régine Chassagne sang more often. I know Arcade Fire is an album band, and this song fits in thematically with "The Suburbs," but "Sprawl II" is its own moment, totally removed from anything else in its glory. It is the song at its musical and lyrical best. I love that they twisted a Haitian proverb (Beyond mountains, there are mountains) into a comment on something decidedly American. Sometimes, I wonder if the world's so small. It's the only Arcade Fire song that ever made me do the Running Man dance.
4. Best Coast - Our Deal
This song is just so plaintive and pretty. "When you leave me, you take away everything." I'd say the song is sad, but it feels a bit different than that. It's more ... resigned, I guess. She wishes he'd tell her things, but that's not their deal, so ... that's it. Vocally, this is Bethany Cosentino at her best (probably because she sounds a lot more Neko Case than surfer girl).
5. Kanye West and Bon Iver - Lost in the World
Bon Iver's "Woods" (from 2009's Blood Bank EP) had good parts, but it dragged on into some lengthy weirdness. Here, Kanye takes the best part of Bon Iver's original and builds it into a hell of a song. This song is so full, it reminds me of church. Kanye's retreat isn't a whiskey still -- it's the whole damn city. Either way, they're lost. And as the Gil Scott-Heron sample (from 1970's Comment #1) asks, "Who will survive in America?"
6. Big Boi - Turns Me On
I love this looping lush vocal/keyboard beat. I just love how much the voices play into making that beat. It's so funky and smooth, partially, I think, because those keys really anchor everything. It's a hell of a nasty song, lyrically, but the sound is so smooth you could miss that nastiness. Big Boi is just so creative, so unlike any other rapper. This song, this whole album, is so far ahead of where the rest of rap is, I cannot believe he wrote it two years ago.
7. Janelle Monae featuring Big Boi - Tightrope
Monae is definitely my 2010 crush of the year. She has such a pretty face, and I've always been a sucker for saddle oxfords. I don't know how to characterize most of her songs, but this one is such an obvious hit. Is it a rap song? Is it soul? Jazz? Big band? Who cares! It makes me want to dance. I like how they repurpose the chorus line "I've got to keep my balance" into some kind of repeated chant background noise at the end. My favorite part is when she sings (raps?) "Some callin' me a sinner. Some callin' me a winner. I'm callin' you to dinner. You know exactly what I mean. I'm talkin' boutcha."
8. Katy Perry - Teenage Dream
When Randi first told me she liked this song, my response was something akin to "Absolutely no way will I listen." I hated every Katy Perry song I had ever heard. Then, one late night driving home from work, I heard it on the radio, and I was hooked. It is just a perfect pop song. It totally lives up to its theme - listening to it, I feel like a teenager again (in the good kind of way, that is). This song reminds me of Ryan. He's so full of youthful joy, and spending Saturdays with him this fall (usually watching Gossip Girl or doing something photograph related), I remembered that I'm not old, not yet. Anyway, this song makes me feel downright joyous.
9. Drake - The Resistance
This song is everything I love about Drake. Sometimes I worry he's going to become too much of a mainstream rapper, rhyming about how awesome he is. But this song is him at his lyrically best. It's a song about the changes he has made since becoming famous, the way his friends resent the fact that he isn't the same man he used to be, and how all of that scares him. "What am I afraid of? This is what dreams are supposed to be made of." What other rapper would write lines like this: "I heard they just moved my grandmother to a nursing home, and Il be acting like I don’t know how to work a phone. But hit redial you’ll see that I just called some chick I met at the mall that I barely know at all. Plus this women that I messed with unprotected texted saying she wish she woulda kept it. The one I’m laying next to just looked over and read it. Man, I couldn’t tell you where the fuck my head is. I'm holding on by a thread." It's a struggle he never resolves on this album. The theme carries on into the next song ("Over") with more energy but the same confusion.
10. LCD Soundsystem - Dance Yourself Clean
I love most songs on this album, but this one immediately stood (and continues to stand) out to me. The lyrics are more clever, and I love the beat and the way it builds into something so dancey and energetic. This summer, I spent my lunch breaks biking up some ferocious hills near my office. I began each ride listening to that song precisely because of the way it builds. I usually made it to the first hill just as the song really kicked off. I moved my foot harder down on the pedal just as he sings, "I miss the way the night comes."