Monday, January 3, 2011

2010 soundtrack (part three of three)

so, here we have it, the last of my top songs of 2010. as i began writing and forming this list, other artists kept coming to mind and i regretted not including them -- best coast and rihanna and janelle monae and damien juardo -- but then i couldn't really find any songs that i had already included that shouldn't get a mention. so, i guess, all that is to say that this list is hardly comprehensive or immutable, but it is a fairly good representation of my year in music. as a reminder, you can right-click on and then download any of the highlighted songs. or you can just plain old click on them and they'll stream for you.

sprawl ii - arcade fire
i can't say that i have an absolute favorite song of 2010, but 'sprawl ii' is my absolute favorite song of the moment. régine chassagne has a beautiful voice, and as casey said, 'i wish, i wish (she) sang more often.' i like arcade fire, but this song, at least to my ears, is just a step above their other work on this album. the lyrics are full of meaning -- and based loosely on a haitian proverb -- even if they're not the most uplifting: 'they heard me singing and they told me to stop/ quit these pretentious things and just punch the clock/ sometimes i wonder if the world's so small/ can we ever get away from the sprawl?' and, of course, there's an epic and lovely beat that underlies the whole piece. amazing through and through.

go outside - the cults
more than a couple of the songs on this top-30 list came from a collaborative mix we put together over at 'would you jump rope.' jasper nominated 'go outside' for the mix, and i'm glad she did. the cults, who i'd never heard prior to this song, have a wonderfully earnest, poppy sound that lends itself to sing alongs. i love sing-along songs. 'go outside,' like a few other songs on this list, has nice dreamy vocals over a fast beat. i love the triangle and hand-clap sounds that show up from time to time. also, the song's lyrics are perfect for motivating yourself during a portland winter when it would be so much easier to stay inside and do nothing useful. 'i think it's good to go out/ cause if you don't you'll never make a memory that will stay/ i think that you should wake up.'

boxer - lovers
lovers is my favorite new band of the year, hands down. i saw them play live not long after getting back to portland. the whole band seemed to really love being on stage, playing together, getting the crowd excited. i love earnest musicians. anyhow, their newest album 'dark light' is listenable the whole way through; there's not a single song on it that i wouldn't be happy to listen to. that said, there are three songs that i just can't get enough of: 'figure 8,' 'barnacle' and, of course, 'boxer.' if i were going with lyrics alone, i might choose barnacle, which has simple but very astute lyrics. ultimately, though, 'boxer' wins. the synth beat in the beginning rolls into a catchy, forceful song. i should add that the lyrics here are similarly simple yet insightful: 'what a drag not to know how you are. what a drag not to know how you feel.'

clap your hands - sia
in the interest of full disclosure, 'clap you hands' came to my attention only very recently -- as in the last three weeks -- via another year-end list. that said, it totally deserves a place in my top 10. i think it's my favorite dance number this year. that might be due, in part, to the fact that some of my other favorite dance songs from this year ('dancing on my own' and 'teenage dream') were so overexposed its difficult for them to summon up in me the same excitement that this song does and that they probably did in their early days. i really appreciate sia's deep (in some places), staccato vocals. they mesh really well with the underlying beat, which does a good job of keeping you tapping your foot the entire way through. the video, too, is worth a look; it's one of my favorites in recent memory.

arcadia - dirty mittens
i cannot wait until the new dirty mittens album drops. until then, i have 'arcadia,' an early release from the album. i guess, technically, this song belongs to 2011, but this is my blog, so i'm bending the rules. chelsea morrisey's voice is exquisite. you know i mean i like a voice when i use that word, which i reserve only for the best because it just sounds so damn pretentious. anyhow, i absolutely love her voice, the slight shake in it, the way it's light but still substantial. yes, please. also, i love the way dirty mittens is able to find places in its pieces for saxophones and strings and guitars and drums. it all comes together to make really beautiful sounds. arcadia is a great showcase for everything that makes dirty mitten my favorite local band.

julius - starfucker
if dirty mittens is my favorite local band, then starfucker comes in at a very close second (or maybe third, given lovers) place. there was a time in my life, not long after i moved to portland, that i was listening to nothing but starfucker and passion pit. starfucker's electronic, synthy sound and echoey vocals are just, well, great. i can't think of a better, more descriptive word. sorry about that. i like their sound so much that on my way out of portland in 2009, i left a day early to catch their show in phoenix. i jumped up and down to their music with a room full of 18-year-olds. i felt like a chaperone, but their performance was so good that i didn't much mind. starfucker is slated to release a full album this march. if 'julius' is any indication of what they have in store for us, then i'm sure they'll be back on this list come next january.

howlin' for you - black keys
i remember, a couple years back, asking my friend holly (who is much better at digging up new music than i) to give me the name of a new band i ought to listen to. black keys was her response. i listened to five seconds worth of their music and decided it wasn't what i was looking for. idiot. somehow came across my radar again. this second time i was hooked. like most of the albums that a lot of these songs are from, i can listen to brothers the whole way through. i chose 'howlin' for you' because it does a good job of capturing the black keys' soul sound and upbeat, foot-stomping rhythms. really, the drum just catches you straight away, pulls you into this song, and never lets you go. i also can't get enough of the twangy guitar sound that runs through this song. (runners up: 'tighten up' and 'ten cent pistol')

rill rill - sleigh bells
this is another album that was graciously interneted to me while i was away. a big part of the reason i love sleigh bells is that their sound is very unique, very much their own. they play a lot with loud, angry electric riffs and loud, angry vocals. their music has a very intense energy that makes this album a pleasure to listen to. 'rill rill' is a bit more subdued than some of their other pieces, 'tell 'em' for instance, but it still fits nicely with their overall sound. i enjoy the deep drumming in the background and the layered percussion in general. the lead singer's sweet, feminine voice offers a really nice contrast. there's a place in this song (around 2:30) where the background drops out out and the lyrics are left virtually alone. the vocals sound good alone as they do in the context of the rest of the song. all around goodness.

we fell off the roof - seabear
i fell in love with this band under some pretty unexpected circumstances: while lost and cold in the middle of the sudanese desert and in need of some calming, contemplative music. seabear was exactly what that night needed, and it's what it got. again, this is an album that i can listen straight through, so it's difficult to pick a favorite. 'lion face boy,' 'in winters eyes' and 'i'll build you a fire' are all lovely. the reason i went with 'we feel off the roof' has a lot to do with the way the lead singer plays with the word 'off' holding it there, letting it stretch to really nice effect. i also love how it occasionally builds to this fast, exciting instrumental solo only to die back down leaving room for vocals once again. it's a slow one, to be sure, but sometimes something slow is just what you need.

i think i like u 2 - jamaica
the fact that i can get past the title of this song and include it in my top 10 should speak to how much i like this band and its sound. my friend jeff sent me their album, 'no problem,' calling them a phoenix knock-off. not in a bad way - they're also french and have a very similar sound. but if they're a phoenix knock off, and they probably are, they're a pretty great one. the guitar riff that runs through this song is pretty catchy and so is the refrain - 'i think like you, too/ i think i like you, too.' basically it all comes together in a way that makes me want to get up and dance a bit. ok, a lot. you should check out the music video, too, which indicates that band has a certain level of self-deprecative humor, which only serves to make me like them more.