The third day of the week means it’s time for the third portion of 2010’s list of best songs. There are a ton of outstanding songs in this list, but I hope you agree with me when I say it’s only getting better. Disagree with a song being so high, or even being included? Sound off in the comments below.
Best Songs of 2010, Tracks 30-21
30. Kaiser Cartel – “Ready to Go”
As soon as the song starts, the charming arrangement of “ba da bum, ba da da dum” and “ha ha ha ha” sets you up for a doozy of an earworm. The next two minutes and forty-nine seconds are going to pass by far too quickly, but they’ll stay with you for hours, if not days. Well-placed drum beats coincide with maracas and a simple guitar to construct a deceptively simple song that works mostly because of the harmonies of the two leads. You’ll find yourself singing along before the end of the first listen.
29. Local Natives – “Airplanes”
These critical favorites from Silver Lake, Los Angeles made a huge splash with their album in 2010, but this understated song of longing was by far my favorite cut. Lead singer Taylor Rice enters intriguing three-part harmonies with his bandmates, expressing a longing tied to a former partner, repeating “I want you back” and “I love it all/So much I call” countless times throughout the piece. Their influences seem to include Vampire Weekend, Fleet Foxes, and even a more laid-back Grizzly Bear, but the sound is all them. This debut certainly ensures more attention for them in the future.
28. Rox – “My Baby Left Me”
This British songstress can belt out her pain like few acts out there, and in a crowded field of retro and vintage acts, there’s something genuine in Roxanne Tataei’s voice. Aided by Al Shux, the man who made “Empire State of Mind” a massive hit, “My Baby Left Me” combines a church organ, swirling strings, and distorted vocals meant to sound like several back up singers to accompany Rox’s syrupy voice. Lyrics like “My baby left me sad/He didn’t do nothin’ right/…/So dry to the bone/And he left me alone” would seem to fit with more of a blues arrangement, but this punched-up, jazzy music elevates the song to an entirely new level.
27. The Decemberists – “Down By the Water”
Many fans have scoffed at this lead single from the Decemberist’s newest album, claiming that Peter Buck’s guest guitar skills make the song sound like a rip-off of older R.E.M. tracks. As someone who’s always hated R.E.M., I couldn’t really care less. With Gillian Welch on backing vocals, there’s very little to dislike about this song. In full alt-country swing, the Decemberists deliver a song full of misery and contempt for a small seaside port town; you really have to listen to them to interpret all of the bitter diatribes and saltiness inherent within.
26. Diamond Rings – “Wait & See”
His sequel of sorts to the utterly disarming song “All Yr Songs” from 2009, Toronto-based John O’Regan delivers again with this gem. “Wait & See” has the same cheap drum machine effect as its predecessor, but the comparisons basically stop there. This is a song with more weight than his previous work, but captivating nonetheless; similar to Robyn’s more popular “Hang With Me,” this song serves as a warning to any potential suitor to not waste his time expecting John to “decide what [he] want[s] to grow up to be.”
25. April Smith and the Great Picture Show – “Colors”
Quite the opposite of “Wait & See,” April Smith’s tune “Colors” is alluring in its sheer earnestness. The song builds slowly, adding layers of instruments as each verse progresses, growing ever more complicated and delightful. Hand claps, cow bell, and even a kazoo lend to the warm and fuzzy atmosphere as Smith crows “I’ll wear your colors, my dear/Until you’re standing right here/Next to the one who adores you/Whose heart is beating for you.” A nautical theme emerges, and the listener can find themselves transported to a port town with all of the happiness that the Decemberists’ missed out on with their entry.
24. Wise Blood – “Solo (4 Claire)”
Ladies and gentleman, we have a sampling artist who can actually create real music. In short: step aside, Girl Talk, your tired shtick isn’t needed any more. He takes cues from rock, R&B, blues, and hip hop, and easily shifts between said genres, with this swaggering and dark take on love for a girl named Claire. Christopher Laufmann hails from Pittsburgh (just like Girl Talk), and there’s an eerie cadence to his work that stays with you long after you finish the song, especially with ominous lyrics like “Claire I want to meet ya/Tie you up and teach ya tonight.”
23. Beach Fossils – “Youth”
More chillwave surf rock to swoon over, and this is even from Brooklyn! It’s like my trifecta of music trends converged into one man. Dustin Payseur distorts his vocals excessively over a simple drum beat and some relatively intermediate guitar skills, but the result is outstanding. The fact that he recorded a lot of this album alone in his attic comes through, as a loneliness lingers over the tune, almost as if he were a wandering musician, busking at a beach resort that had closed for the summer. “I don’t know just what I feel/But I feel it all tonight” seems like the perfect line to describe the Millennials and, let’s be honest, youth in general.
22. Sonny and the Sunsets – “Too Young to Burn”
Sorry to break it to you, but you’re in for a one-two punch of surf rock with this next track. Hand claps, a set of drums, and a single guitar, led by some seriously ennui-infused vocals from Sonny Smith may make this seem like several other songs on the list, but give it another try. Even more frustrating, yearning for the innocence of youth seems to be a theme with a lot of the songs from 2010, and this one certainly doesn’t fail to deliver. More importantly, though, there’s a feeling while listening to this track that elicits not only a bonfire on the beach, but also sitting at the window on a rainy day. Let’s cut to the chase, though – long story short? The line “Every tear rolling down/Is a lesson learned” is worth a listen by itself.
21. Court Yard Hounds – “Ain’t No Son”
Lady Gaga (and even manipulative, opportunistic trollops like Katy Perry) took a lot of credit for the advances made in gay rights in 2010, but more praise should be directed to Court Yard Hounds. This side group of the Dixie Chicks wrote a well-crafted song describing a conversation between a father and son after the latter decided to come out. Characteristic instruments for the sisters like the banjo and mandolin meet more stereotypical rock and roll pieces, including an incredibly enthusiastic guitar solo and overbearing drums. The lyrics are the real star, with lines like “Yeah, you’re a sight to see/What you call freedom/Makes you look like a freak” cutting to the bone.
Get excited about tomorrow, when songs 20-11 will be uploaded…