1. Robyn - "Dancing On My Own"
My pick for Single Of The Year until something better comes along. Gorgeous Swedish heartbreak wrapped in thrilling club music duds, as if to prove that Top 40 can aspire to heights beyond mere ear candy.
2. Sleigh Bells - "Tell 'Em"
Drum machines + metal guitar + lighter-than-air female vocals? It's a formula that has no business sounding this good blasting out of crappy car stereo speakers, pummeling pop with a sticky-sweet center.
Available on: Treats (Mom & Pop Music)
3. LCD Soundsystem - "All I Want"
James Murphy's third (and best) album is a love letter to Seventies post-punk and art-rock, channeling Eno as filtered through Bowie and Iggy, most gloriously on "All I Want." Yeah, it's a definite homage to "Heroes," but only Murphy could go beyond mere parody to recontextualize the actual spirit of the original, turning it inward and downward. Desperation in anthem-sized form? Perfect.
Available on: This Is Happening (Virgin)
4. Arcade Fire - "We Used To Wait"
A highlight on an album stuffed with 'em, as Win Butler bemoans the death of letter-writing while the AF collective builds a slow-burning epic behind him. Still wondering if this band validates five years of critical acclaim and hype? The first release of that to-the-sky chorus ("Oooh, we used to wait") is concrete proof.
Available on: The Suburbs (Merge)
5. Best Coast - "Boyfriend"
Sun-kissed girl-group vocals straight out of the Phil Spector handbook, atop a riff borrowed from The Cure circa-1987. The perfect soundtrack for August sunsets and long, ugly break-ups on the beach.
Available on: Crazy For You (Mexican Summer)
6. The-Dream - "Yamaha"
Smack-dab in the middle of Love King—an otherwise by-the-numbers set of current R&B—comes the best Prince track since the Purple One changed his name to an unpronounceable symbol. What follows is a glorious twelve-minute suite showing The-Dream (the same man who gave us "Umbrella" and "Single Ladies") at his absolute peak, a reminder of the creative possibilities still lurking in mainstream urban production.
Available on: Love King (Island Def Jam)
7. Underworld - "Scribble"
More than a decade removed from their chart-topping peak, Underworld return with their best single in forever, as rapturous and expansive as anything from Second Toughest In The Infants. A marvelous, welcome return to form.
Available on: Barking (Om/Cooking Vinyl)
8. Janelle Monáe - "Cold War"
One of the few completely unique voices in modern R&B, Monáe walks the thin line between defeat and defiance on this standout from The ArchAndroid, backed by a track that feels like OutKast's genre-melding sound updated for 2010 in full-blown Technicolor.
Available on: The ArchAndroid (Bad Boy/Wondaland)
9. Mark Ronson & The Business Intl - "Bang Bang Bang"
God bless UK producer extraordinaire for bringing Q-Tip back to the radio. The fact that this track also kicks like a '60s garage band trapped inside an early Nineties disco? Bonus.
Available on: Record Collection (Columbia)
10. The Roots featuring Monsters Of Folk - "Dear God 2.0"
The Roots' finest album since 2001 works for a variety of reasons, not least being the seamless integration of contributions as disparate as Joanna Newsom, John Legend, and My Morning Jacket's Jim James. It's the latter at work here, as James' high-and-lonesome croon provides the perfect counterpoint to Black Thought's gritty, grungy soul-searching, the age-old quest for spirituality blown up to the level of street symphony.
Available on: How I Got Over (Island Def Jam)