Saturday, January 1, 2011

The 50 Best Singles Of 2010: 20-11

[Welcome back to my yearly countdown of the finest individual tracks of the year. As always, the rules and regulations: This list is limited to commercial singles and/or videos released in 2010. Album tracks and fan-made clips, good as they might be, don't count. Official YouTube links are included when possible to avoid unwelcome deletions. Thanks and happy listening!]

20. Vampire Weekend – Giving Up The Gun

Blogosphere mainstays VW push their sound even further into original territory, Ezra Koenig’s vocals skating elegantly over a driving rhythm bed more laptop electro than Afropop.

19. Local Natives – Airplanes

Lyrics about the death of a grandparent typically arrive with suitably portending music; not so with up-and-comers Local Natives, who turn “Airplanes” into a full-blown celebration full of bouncy percussion and joyous harmonies.

18. Big Boi featuring Cutty – Shutterbugg

Shoulda-been-huge single from Big Boi’s excellent solo effort, Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son Of Chico Dusty. And yes, the vocoder beats AutoTune seven days a week and twice on Sunday.

17. Sade – Soldier Of Love

A decade removed from Lovers Rock, yet Sade Adu remains as ageless as ever, with her monstrous comeback single adding just a touch of Portishead-flavored darkness to that smoother-than-silk delivery.

16. Best Coast – Boyfriend

Sun-kissed indie rock as filtered through time-warp nostalgia, with girl group harmonies straight out of the Phil Spector handbook and Bethany Cosentino waiting-waiting-waiting by the phone—and hoping that he’s home.

15. The National – Bloodbuzz Ohio

What makes The National so potent is contrasts, how Matt Berninger’s half-awake baritone seems at odds with the surging drums and insistent build, or that moment when all the wisps of hazy lyrics suddenly consolidate into the most succinct summation of America in 2010: “I still owe money/ To the money/ To the money I owe.”

14. Robyn – Indestructible

Initially debuted in hushed chamber music fashion, then recast as infectious club banger, and perfect in both guises. Robyn is one of the very few artists making pop music for adults, smart and hooky all at once; ignore her at your own peril.

13. Gorillaz – On Melancholy Hill

For most of Plastic Beach, Damon Albarn seems content to let his well-chosen cast of guests do the heavy lifting, but he wisely takes over for the album’s very best track, a late-summer gem that sounds like the electrified cousin of “Waterloo Sunset.”

12. The Gaslight Anthem – American Slang

No young band does pure rock better than the Gaslight, as evidenced by American Slang’s opening number, a potent mix of unvarnished guitars, four-on-the-floor beats, and absolute conviction.

11. Beach House – Norway

The wonderfully haunted standout from Teen Dream lives up to its album’s title, woozy and elusive at first before exploding into the kind of spellbinding sonics that need no translation.

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