10. Surfer Blood “Floating Vibes”
Surfer Blood suffered from bad timing. They made many people’s best songs of 2009 list with their single, “Swim.” The track’s mixture of surf sensibility with Andrew W.K.-like energy captivated audiences but then their album did not get released until the very beginning of 2010. It is hard for January albums and singles to make people’s end of the year list, especially for beach-centric albums like Surfer Blood’s Astro Coast. In the end, the album and subsequent singles got shafted from a lot of lists. There was really no reason to shaft “Floating Vibes” from any countdowns however. The track may not have been as bombastic as its predecessor but what it lacked in volume it makes up for in catchy riffs and its chamber-pop chorus. The song is ultimately a well constructed surf track, exactly the kind of thing you want from a band called Surfer Blood.
9. LCD Soundsystem “I Can Change”
I was not as over the moon for LCD Soundsystem’s This Is Happening as everyone else. But one thing I did agree with the critics about is that “I Can Change” is a damn good song. Maybe the reason I like the song so much is because I spent a lot of the year rediscovering my love for 80s new wave. James Murphy essentially creates a beat that is the best tribute to Missing Persons I have ever heard. The track’s quirky, fun keyboards lay the foundation for what is ultimately a painful song. Murphy’s vocals sound so raw as he begs to save a relationship; endless crooning “I can change” presumably to a lost love, a sentiment sure to resonate with anyone who has suffered heartache.
8. Drake “Over”
Drake’s schtick has been singing/rapping over sparse beats. “Over” seems to completely break that mould. Boi-1da produces an instrumental that bridges the gap between symphonic masterpiece and score to an action movie. Drake accompanies the instrumental with his simile filled lyrics delivering gems like “I can teach you how to speak my language—Rosetta Stone” and “can you see me? can you see me? get your Visine on.” It is the essential track for one of the year’s brightest stars.
7. Arcade Fire “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)”
It would figure that the best track on Arcade Fire’s The Suburbs is the only song sung by Régine Chassagne on the album. Her vocals has the sexiness of Debbie Harry but the message is very I Heart Huckabees. The message of the dangers of suburb sprawl strikes a nerve with any social conscious person with fear of living in a giant shopping but the disco-inspired indie rock beat should strike a nerve with any music lover.
6. Big Boi “Shutterbugg”
Co-produced between Scott Storch and Big Boi, “Shutterbugg” sounds like a funky late-night casino run. The electrosynths, the funky guitars, and most importantly, the talk-box bleeps that make Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ On a Prayer” sound amateurish. But that is just the music, Big Boi’s patented flow wraps around the beat in a mind bending way that makes the vocal line nearly unusable for mash-ups. The crowning moment of the song, however, is when Big Boi bursts into the chorus of Soul II Soul’s “Back to Life (How Do You Want Me)” as if he is making his own mash-up as he goes.
5. Vampire Weekend “I Think UR a Contra”
There used to be a notion of closing the album with a great song to leave listeners happy. As album’s have been become more and more obsolete, so has the idea of a closing track. Now it seems that the end of the album is where mediocre songs are stuck to extend a good EP into a mediocre album. No one told this to Vampire Weekend. VW closes their brilliant 2010 album, Contra with arguably the album’s strongest track “I Think UR a Contra.” The song is beautifully arranged, stripping away the band’s signature schizophrenic African beats in lieu of lush, pastoral keyboards and Ezra Koenig tongue-in-cheek lyrics about a relationship gone awry.
4. Japandroids “Art Czars”
I have read a lot of blogs countdowns of the best songs of the year and “Art Czars” has been universally overlooked. For me, the track represents something I look for every year: the hope that punk rock is still alive. While my blog becomes more and more hip hop based, in my heart I am still a punk rock kid. “Art Czars” is the perfect punk rock song; it’s fast, sloppy, and thumbs its nose on the very thing that birthed it. When Brian King shouts “Here’s your money back/here’s your punk rock back” it reinforces in my mind that some people still know what true punk rock is and it isn’t what is sold at Hot Topic.
3. Kanye West “Runaway”
It might be hard to believe that two singles were better this year than Kanye’s “Runaway.” “Runaway” seems like the song everyone has waited Kanye to make. Tearful late night appearances seem so gauche, the public wanted an apology from Ye in his own language, music. “Runaway” delivers the apology in the poppiest way possible. The first time I heard the song, I cringed a little at the line “I sent this girl a picture of my dick/I don’t know what it is with females/but I’m not too good at that shit.” Then I realized, Kanye is telling the world “If you’re going to love my music, you need to learn to accept me as a man. I make both private and very public mistakes but you take the good with the bad.” “Runaway” showcased the good of Kanye West.
2. Kanye West “Power”
While “Runaway” was the vulnerable single, “Power” sees Kanye assert himself as the genius he is. The thumping beat mixed with the African chant makes for the perfect backdrop for Kanye’s schizophrenic flow that bounces between “fuck SNL and the whole cast” and a suicide fantasy. For any followers of Kanye on twitter this type of dramatic mood shifts are nothing new but for the world it seems like an unbridled look at the genius at his best.
1. Cee-Lo Green “Fuck You”
Cee-Lo has a knack for writing critically acclaimed songs. We knew Cee-Lo was a genius with his singles “Closet Freak” and “I’ll Be Around” but nothing quite prepared the listening public for Gnarls Barkley’s 2006 single “Crazy.” “Crazy” was named the best song of 2006 by Rolling Stone, #11 of the best songs of the 2000s by Pitchfork, and #100 in Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All-Time. With that type of acclaim, it is hard to think Cee-Lo could ever top that but he may have with “Fuck You.” The neo-soul anthem harkens back to the 60s Motown sound while combining lyrics that are as expletive laden as they are universally understandable, expressing a feeling everyone has experienced. What more do you need from a great pop song?