This is my version of a “best of” list, although I am very often listening to music that was no released this year. This year in particular, I was not actively discovering or trying out too many new releases. I’m not sure why, I guess I just was pre-occupied with other things. While I frequently become obsessed with new songs, it often takes me a while to warm to entire new albums.
Here are the tunes, albums and concerts that worth noting this year.
Albums: What was in heavy rotation.
1. 2. 3.
–The National High Violet. I saw them in concert this year and really enjoyed all the tracks off of this album. So it is likely I am going to get it and love it to pieces. I do need to take some time with an album though and really listen. That didn’t get a chance to happen in 2010.
– Sparklehorse Dark Night of the Soul. Last June, I listened to this album on NPR’s First Listen. And I LOVED it. It was, sadly, another that fell through the cracks and didn’t get the attention I know it deserves from me.
Top Five Songs (not in any particular order):
1. Islands – the xx
Whole album was brilliant. This song is the takeaway, craveable, I’m gonna need to hear that again track.
2. Home – Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros
This song defined summer 2010 for me.
3. Tightrope – Janelle Monae (featuring Big Boi)
This video. The dancing. Her hair. I mean, really… what’s not to love about Janelle Monae and this tune?
4. Norway – Beach House
I heard first heard a version of this that someone recorded and stuck online and it was a “what the fuck is this?” moment in all the right ways. The album version released in January didn’t disappoint and never got old.
5. The High Road – Broken Bells
Love at first “Come on and get the minimum…” This might not even be the best track on this album technically, but damn it, it’s the one I fell for fast and hard.
– Let’s Get Lost, Bat for Lashes (featuring Beck).
A song that was on one of the Twilight movie soundtracks, whichever one came out this year and consequently was overlooked. It’s excellent.
– Gold Guns Girls, Metric
Their first single of the most recent album (Help, I’m alive) was just ok for me. I wasn’t excited about it. And then I heard this track. This is the Metric I know and love.
Other songs that I discovered or rediscovered in 2010:
– Wake Up, Arcade Fire
Always liked this song, but didn’t love this song until I gave it and the album Funeral (2004) a real second listen after it was featured on the trailer for Where the Wild Things Are last year. Resulting in me deeply falling in love with it. The performance from the concert Terry Gilliam directed and streamed online(Unstaged), makes me cry.
– Rainbow in the Dark, Dio
I’m not a metalhead. I can appreciate a lot of Metal and find some of it incredibly beautiful, but don’t generally get in a mood where I want to listen to a lot of it. My brother and one of my closest friends have introduced me to a lot of songs that I wouldn’t normally have come across. This is one of them that really stuck with me and I listened to it a lot this year. Ronnie James Dio had been diagnosed with stomach cancer in 2009 and sadly, passed away this year. There are also several live versions of this song that display how his considerable vocal ability is even more impressive on stage then in any recording.
– Your Arms Around Me, Jens Lekman
I never really warmed to Jens Lekman. Turns out I needed to give him a chance or just find the right tunes, perhaps? I saw this one used in the beautiful pool scene in the flick Whip It and needed to hear it again and again after that.
– Oh! Sweet Nuthin, The Velvet Underground
I feel like Lou Reed and Bowie tunes are like visiting old friends or lovers and I will obsess over them, one at a time, for the rest of my life. I had a brief affair with this one in college. Again when it was used in the movie High Fidelity. And this year it just needed to be on every playlist or mix I made. It is timeless. It is seven minutes of heaven or perhaps another dimension made of coolness and rainy days.
– Every track off of Surfer Rosa, the Pixies
You know that thing that happens when you are like “Oh HEY, I haven’t listened to the Pixies (or the Cure or the Smiths or Joy Division or Yo La Tengo) in a while”… So then you fire up one of their songs and then pretty soon you want to do nothing but listen to ALL of their music and all of the music you used to listen to alongside them. For weeks. Yeah. This. This one in 2010. A LOT.
– By Your Side, Beachwood Sparks
I had never heard of this band. Which is sad because they broke up several years ago. I learned about their cover of the 90’s Sade love song while reading the Scott Pilgrim books. Bryan Lee O’Malley included little notes in the back cover of each book and this song and a note about the band was included on a playlist he listened to while writing the books. I loved it, loved it, loved it. I’m big into jangly music this year (see Edward Sharpe, see Beach House) and this mellow, sweet countryish cover out-jangles all. I was super delighted to see it used on the soundtrack to Edgar Wright’s Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World for an excellent scene.
– Long Way Home, Tom Waits
Mates of State covered this song for their covers album Crushes this year and reminded me how much I enjoy it. So good. Belongs to the “good day, roadtrippy, jaunty Tom Waits catalog”. (You know, as opposed to his “gravel + heartbreak catalog” or his “weirdo banging on pots and pans in the backyard” catalog. Both also quite good.)
– O Children, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
No surprise here. I’ve always had a thing for Nick Cave. And anyone who knows me knows I can’t shut up about the scene that so beautifully used this song in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
Listen to all the songs here:
I don’t get out to as many live shows as I would like to. This year the highlights were:
– The National at House of Blues in Chicago. Terrible viewing, but excellent sound. They are very intense live. Really, really good show.
– Mates of State at the new Met in Rhode Island. This show was very underattended, but it was really fun. The Mates of State harmonies sound as fantastic live as they do recorded, their chemistry is sweet and infectious and they played nearly every track of Re-Arrange Us (2008) an album I positively adored.
Side Note: All hail the glorious return of the Met! A throwback to my teenhood, they reopened in different space and it’s wonderful. Tiny space. Great views. Great sound.
– Matt and Kim, also at the Met. I’ve been wanting to see these hyper, happy, crazy kids for a while. This was the perfect venue to see them. It was the last stop of their tour. They were on fire, everything you would expect from them live and beyond. Also, Kim Schafino is from RI, so her entire family was there and she stopped and told stories a lot. It was like a really big house party. I danced my ass off at this show. SO. MUCH. FUN. I should have picked up their new release Sidewalks at the show, but the latter part of 2010 was not so flush with the money. It’s likely this album will make my list for 2011.
See my follow-up post with a round up of links to other “Best of 2010” music lists!