Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Favorite Songs of 2010

My ground rules for these selections:

  • One track per LP or EP
  • Tracks must be among my favorites

Pretty simple, eh?  As with the albums, I’ve linked the titles for easy preview and purchase at Amazon.  Enjoy!

25. Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band “Wedding Day in Funeralville”

From the John Prine tribute “Broken Hearts and Dirty Windows,” this track is interpreted aptly by Conor Oberst (of Bright Eyes fame).  Prine’s lyrics are compelling, the tune catchy and efficient.

24. Vampire Weekend “Giving Up the Gun”

I like the “beating swords into plowshares” lyrical theme of this track, and like most Vampire Weekend songs, it’s bouncy and danceable.

23. She & Him “In the Sun”

This was the most requested song by my daughter in 2010.  It’s a charming ditty that I gladly play over and over for my beautiful little girl.

22. Buke and Gass “Revel In Contempt”

I love the energy, I love the homemade (home invented?) instruments, and I think as time goes on, I’ll love this band more and more.

21. Broken Social Scene “World Sick”

Do they really have five guitarists?  Intense.  And who can’t relate to the chorus, “I get world sick every time I take a stand”? 

20. Commodore Cosmos “Impending Doom”

Lansing’s own Commodore Cosmos bring out the big guns on this track.  The track sounds like the title suggests, ranging from tense anticipation to all out doom.  It uses quiet-loud dynamics to great effect, and it’s a great song.  I love you, Commodore Cosmos!

19. Johnny Cash “Ain’t No Grave”

It’s Johnny Cash, with Scott Avett on banjo.  Not much could go wrong here.  And it doesn’t.

18. Sleeping at Last “Watermark”

Sleeping at Last have inspired me since I first saw them in ‘98, and this gorgeous track continues the trend, “Dive in with your eyes closed / For the life you were born to claim / And the water will be paralyzed / By the courage you contain.”

17. Belle & Sebastian “I Didn’t See it Coming”

What a fantastic album opener.  It’s sweet, it’s beautiful, the vocals are perfect, and it’s a builder.  “Make me dance, I want to surrender.”

16. Mavis Staples “Wrote a Song for Everyone”

Of all the songs on “You Are Not Alone,” this is the one I find myself singing while washing the dishes.  A sign of a great song in my book.  Also, fantastic guitar tone.

15. The New Pornographers “The Crash Years”

The chorus is electric, and this gem is buried in one of the verses, “Light a candle's end / You are a light turned low / And like the rest of us / You got those old eternity blues.”  Good tune.

14. Janelle Monae “Cold War”

Pop songs everywhere, take notes.  This is how you deliver an opening line, and this is how you sing a hook.  If that weren’t enough, the song is reflective, making you ask yourself “do you know what you’re fighting for?”

13. Titus Andronicus “A More Perfect Union”

This epic rock n’ roll track references The Civil War, Springsteen, and it flat out rocks.  The energy of this track makes me believe these guys are an amazing live band.  Just a hunch.

12. Arcade Fire “City With No Children”

“You never trust a millionaire quoting the Sermon on the Mount.”  Lines like this are why Arcade Fire is one of my favorite bands.  And what a bassline!

11. Josh Ritter “The Curse”

Archaeologist falls in love with mummy, mummy enjoys life more than archaeologist, archaeologist becomes mummy, mummy lives on.  At least I think that’s how it goes.  It’s a beautiful, wonderfully inventive love song.

10. The Avett Brothers “Spanish Pipedream”

From the excellent “Broken Hearts and Dirty Windows” John Prine tribute album comes this gem.  I haven’t heard John Prine’s original, but this song is perfect for the Avett Brothers.

9. The Walkmen “Stranded”

It’s a song of regret and sadness, but it doesn’t make me sad to listen to it.  The horns are the lifeblood of the song, and the vocals are spot on.

8. The Tallest Man on Earth “Burden of Tomorrow”

Few can sing a line like “once I held a glacier to an open flame” and make it sound completely uncontrived.  I love this man’s songs.

7. Joe Pug “Bury Me Far (From My Uniform)”

Poetic-Theo-political commentary set to a charming melody.  If you are unmoved by lines like “Do not find me justice / Just find me a grave / And then bury me far from my uniform / So God might remember my face,” check your pulse.

6. The National “Runaway”

This is a beautiful depiction of facing near insurmountable fears and difficulties, and one of the most singable melodies in The National’s catalog.

5. Mumford & Sons “Sigh No More”

It’s a great song from the opening line, but from 1:50 on, it crescendos, repeating these beautiful lines, “Love it will not betray you, dismay or enslave you, it will set you free / Be more like the man you were made to be / There is a design, an alignment, a cry
Of my heart to see the beauty of love as it was made to be.”  Beautiful.

4. Jonsi “Animal Arithmetic”

This frenetic song feels like it could spin out of control at any point, but it holds together until it releases into its joyous refrain. 

3. Sufjan Stevens “Impossible Soul”

The 25:35 culmination of my favorite album of the year.  It cross-references lines from nearly every other song on the album, it covers five distinct musical and emotional dynamics.  It might be unfair to call it a “song,” since it’s pretty much it’s own EP, but it’s quite an achievement.  An impossible achievement?  Couldn’t resist.

2. The Tallest Man on Earth “The Dreamer”

The electric guitar is a little muddy, the imagery is beautiful as usual, and the chorus is impossibly perfect: “sometimes the blues is just a passing bird, and why can’t that always be?  Tossing aside from your birch’s crown with just enough dark to see how you’re the light over me.”  I put on this song, and just let it wash over me.

1. Sufjan Stevens “All Delighted People (Original Version)”

This song embodies everything that I love about Sufjan Stevens.  It might be the most epic thing I’ve ever heard, packed with wall to wall crescendo’s, and at the center, this beautiful, joyous line, “all delighted people raise their hands.”  If that weren’t enough, it borrows lyrics from one of my all-time favorite songs, Simon & Garfunkel’s “Sound of Silence.”  Clocking in at nearly 12 minutes, I only wish it were longer.  You may disagree, but this is my idea of a perfect song.  My hands are still raised.

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