Best Tracks of 2010 – Part IV

It’s Thursday, and we’re down to the top twenty songs left in the list.  With only two days left, today you get to pore over the songs that landed between 20 and 11 on the list, and decide if I’m brilliant, insane, or a mixture of the two. Be sure to tell me what you love and hate from the list in the comments.

Best Songs of 2010, Tracks 20-11

20.  Tame Impala – “Solitude Is Bliss”
Another complicated and layered piece of rock and roll/electronic/chillwave that deals with a sense of introverted pride.  Are we sensing a pattern here, folks?  This four piece psychedelic rock band from Australia  recorded this album almost in its entirety at a beach shack about four hours south of their hometown of Perth.  Lines like “There’s a party in my head/And no one is invited” belies a certain flirtatious aspect of the song – are they singing about drugs or just the concept of having fun without a crowd of people around you?  Not sure I know (or care), but the song remains incredible regardless.

19.  Andy Davis – “Kiss It Goodbye”
A great guy from Nashville, Andy Davis has been wallowing in relative obscurity for years, outside of the occasional attention from a show called Grey’s Anatomy.  He has an outstanding ear for hooks and lyrics, and this nugget has been hidden for far too long.  Detailing the course of a break up while blaming himself for the relationship’s ruin, Davis creates a pop classic with lines like “I’m a concrete floor; sometimes I can’t be rested on/Don’t you give me your heart I can’t even be trusted with my own.”  He may not be well-known enough to merit a Wikipedia page, but don’t assume that will last for long; Andy Davis will be hugely popular if he keeps creating songs like this.

18. Freelance Whales – “Generator ^ Second Floor”
There’s a morbid playfulness utilized in this catchy ditty about a funeral (or possibly even a dream).  Lead singer Judah Dadone fronts this group of multi-instrumentalist indie rockers from Queens on an astounding piece regaling us with someone making requests about their own wake while recalling flashes of memory from his childhood.  The thing that’s so endearing about this song, though, is not the fixation on death, but the ability to make an uplifting song from dark subject material.   “Don’t fix my smile,” Dadone coos, adding, “Life is long enough/We will put this flesh/Into the ground again.”

17. She & Him – “Don’t Look Back”
Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward returned this year with a second album that seemed too forced in comparison to the magic of their debut.  That said, this gem encapsulated so much of the appeal that was present in Volume One: unabashed optimism, sunny vocals, and real messages.  Zooey’s protagonist advises her lover that they don’t need to spend every second of their relationship together, but, and more importantly, fixating on the past is detrimental to the future.  Emotional heft with catchy music and the usual guitar badassery from M. Ward? Yes, please!

16. Free Energy – “Bang Pop”
Speaking of catchy, welcome to a well-crafted rock song meant to get you dancing in the aisles and strutting down the street.  This is the second year running where I included a song from this Philly-based band, and it’s quite obvious why once you listen to their music.  Nonsensical lyrics that seem to imply the protagonist has met and fallen in love with a girl from outer space synch up perfectly with a killer guitar solo, impeccable timing, and a steady drum beat to create a sonic force of nature.  I challenge you to listen to this and not immediately add it to your work out play list, let alone tap your foot in time.

15. Grace Potter and the Nocturnals – “Fooling Myself”
I like to describe Grace Potter and the Nocturnals as a more feminine version of Ryan Adams and the Cardinals. The Waitsfield, Vermont band mixes blues, rock, soul, and even alt-country into an amalgam of genres that fits her velvety voice perfectly.  Slow guitars, laid back drums, and a set of backing vocals create an almost ethereal atmosphere to the song – similar almost to a subdued Fleetwood Mac cut.  There’s a smoky dive bar aspect to the music that’s enchanting and pulls you in, always leaving you wanting more.

14. The Black Keys – “Tighten Up”
Speaking of old school rock and blues, The Black Keys harken back to 60s and 70s acts with this slice of perfection from the perennial critical favorite.  Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney, based in Ohio, harken to Franz Ferdinand’s “Take Me Out” or the Fleet Foxes’ “Mykonos” when their bridge changes the song, taking it an entirely new direction.  Omnipresent DJ Danger Mouse produced the track after working on an earlier album with the duo, and this seems to fit in well with the sound of those songs.  Clearly I’m a sucker for a tune that involves whistling or hand claps (in this case, the former figures in heavily to the melody), but the grit behind it cements this as a huge favorite.

13. Ray LaMontagne and the Pariah Dogs – “Old Before Your Time”
I’ll be completely up front about this: I included this song on the list because it feels like Ray legitimately wrote a song about my life.  I personally connect with the majority of the lyrics, and the bluegrass tinge with LaMontagne’s trademark husky vocals just adds to the reasons that I love this cut so much.  Ray’s protagonist sings about his own stubbornness and faults, but also has the self-awareness to realize when he made mistakes and how he grew from them.  The lyrics and vocals are certainly the centerpiece here, but the banjo evokes a feeling that you’ve stumbled upon this music in a backwoods restaurant.  You can imagine the country pines surrounding your cabin as the group’s music transports you back in time by several decades.  Trust me, if there were more music like this, I wouldn’t mind living then at all.

12. Adele – “Rolling in the Deep”
Remember way back to a time several years ago,  when I speculated that Adele had the potential to be a huge talent?  This song delivers on that potential and then some.  The apparent bastard child of “Cold Shoulder” and “Chasing Pavements,” this song from the British siren features her growling instrument hitting insane notes with incessant backing vocals and almost martial drum beats.  There’s a defiant anger in the tone of the song – a message of “You could have had it all, but you went and screwed everything up.”  The climax builds to a hand-clapping/foot-stomping fever of intensity that’s certain to win her massive amounts of fans State-side.

11. 1,2,3 – “Confetti”
This pulsating stoner rock is the kind of music that comes across as instantly familiar and recognizable.  One listens to this song like one would put on a favorite hoodie, and if it takes a few listens to understand the appeal, I understand completely; even your favorite hoodie was stiff and uncomfortable initially.  Pittsburgh-based duo 1,2,3 (Nic Snyder and Josh Sickels) bring a certain brash attitude to their songs that is simultaneously full of earnestness and bravado.  The line “Even though we’re all gonna die here/You’re my kind, dear” is practically existential in its treatment of modern relationships.  Sure, we might not last forever, or even matter while we’re here, but what does matter in our brief time on Earth is the relationships we treasure.  Relationships and, apparently, great music.  1,2,3 is, at this point, two for two.

We’re almost done at this point.  Tomorrow will hold the end of the week and the end of the list: the final ten songs of the 2010.  Feel free to sound off in the comments below.

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