Might as well post this before January is over.
20. Antoine Dodson & The Gregory Brothers – Bed Intruder Song (feat. Kelly Dodson)
No other song last year made me smile as much as this one. It’s tempting to write it off as a gimmick or to focus on it solely as an “Internet phenomenon,” but every autotuned turn of phrase is inspiringly creative. How much positive energy and fun can you milk out of what could have been a complete joke (based on a potentially terrible event)? Turns out, a lot.
18. Pantha Du Prince – Stick to My Side
I never would have thought that Pantha Du Prince’s music really needed any vocals, let some from anyone in a (astoundingly overrated) band like Animal Collective. But hey, this sounds great.
17. Kelis – Acapella
A soulful disco turn from Kelis turns out this soaring track that was probably a hard sell for pop-R&B fans, but reveals Kelis as a bona fide diva. Leaves “Milkshake” in the dust and points to a boundless future, 2078 via 1978.
16. Factory Floor – 16-16-9-20-1-14-9-7
Industrial pulse meets minimal techno. Ten minutes of relentless throb. Somehow it’s not long enough. Great study music that helps me focus my mind. Probably not something most “normal” people would enjoy.
15. The Chemical Brothers – Swoon
A gorgeous return to form for Simons/Rowlands, putting their Britrock-bound past out to pasture and sounding more vital than ever. Their block-rockin’ past gives way to a new beginning that couldn’t sound any more fresh and vital.
14. Warpaint – Undertow
This dreamy, seemingly phoned-in jam might sound sound quaint at first listen. So why can’t you get it out of your head?
13. Four Tet – Sing
One of the most creative minds in music today? It’s hard to think of many other artists who sound less bound to our traditional notions of song than Kieran Hebden. Once again, he dissects and reassembles electronic music in a way that’s completely unique.
12. Azari & III – Indigo
House-influence Euro-dance of the early 90s was all over the radio when I was growing up, from Technotronic to Snap!, C+C Music Factory and La Bouche. This was, with a lot of hindsight, a pretty cool soundtrack to growing up, but feels like music from a whole other world now. I didn’t think about this much until it suddenly reared its head once again with Hercules + Love Affair and Azari & III. Like 2009’s “Reckless (With Your Love), “Indigo” is a time capsule rich in spacious, vintage production and soulful vocals. The nostalgia this conjures up hits like a bomb.
11. Portable – This Life of Illusion
I haven’t listened to Portable (or Bodycode) in about two or three years, but even at the height Alan Abrahams fandom, I never would have guessed that he’d put out anything quite as epic sounding as “This Life of Illusion.” His use of vocals and spoken word is always hit and miss for me, but the positive message in this seems to fit his approach perfectly. Words to live by.
10. Oval – Ah!
Markus Popp’s reemergence a mostly-silent decade was enough of a pleasant surprise. But for Oval to come back with a viable single upon his return? The playful flickerings of melody play off the drumming perfectly. Not what we’d ever expect from the man who once brought us “Do While.”
9. Venom & Damage – Deeper
Love this track. Love this silly video. Some of the funkiest breaks of 2010 right here.
8. Blur – Fools Day
Fans would have gobbled up any new songs from these long-hiatus’ed Britpop heroes, but Blur’s return was especially remarkable in that they offered up one of the best songs of their career, and in the most casual, “no hands” fashion possible. Damon’s simple but descriptive lyrics fit the band as they settle into middle age, and make it sound like it’s nothing to be scared of at all. Graham’s guitarwork on this is excellent. Wonderful licks all over the outro, which often pull me back to the beginning for another quick listen.
6. Crystal Castles – Celestica
More gothic electro from the hipster duo you love to hate. These two are practically bringing the soundtrack of our dreams to life and all we do is skewer them for being trashy art students.
5. Bernard Sumner, Hot Chip, and Hot City – Didn’t Know What Love Was
This collaboration was apparently commissioned by Converse as part of some kind of Internet marketing project, and is probably the best argument I’ve seen/heard for shameless “branding” tactics between commerce and art. Then again, I’ve been on a massive New Order/Electronic trip for the past few months, and just love hearing Bernard working on something that sounds as new and exciting as this, so I’m more than willing to overlook whatever circumstances made this song possible. Also, unexpectedly redeems Hot Chip for me, who I’d give up on after the over the top, wacky antics of Made In the Dark.
4. Darkstar – Gold
Not really dubstep, but dubbed-out synthpop. Sparse and cold in a way that’s perfect for winter, and which I haven’t heard done this well since the first Junior Boys album. Just hits home for me.
3. Gorillaz – Stylo
Another half-decade, another ridiculous bounty of adventurous pop from Gorillaz. Does for Mos Def what “Feel Good Inc.” did for De La Soul. Bobby Womack bursting in at the halfway point sent chills down my spine the first time I heard it and still does.
2. Bag Raiders – Way Back Home
Expertly crafted dance pop from down under, the devil is in the details on this track. As if “Shooting Stars” wasn’t proof enough, these guys know their way around a chorus. I’ve probably played this song more than any other this year.
1. Underworld – Always Loved a Film
Underworld at their best since the mid 90s. This song is a massive anthem that positively soars. Maybe it’s energy was too sincere to catch on? I can’t think of any other reasons why this seemed to fly under everyone’s radar the way it did. At least it finally got them on TV. I played this so much in the car this year that I think I started to wear a laser groove in the CD.