Friday, December 24, 2010

Top 10 Songs of the Year

As a Christmas gift to you, I present my top 10 songs of the year. Most of them should have caught your ear, but that doesn't mean you necessarily bought them. Have no fear, all 10 are available for download right here. This year was a big step up for the blog and I couldn't have done it without the support and encouragement of a lot of people. Here's to an even better 2011.

#10. Beach House - Zebra
A funny thing happened this year, I actually met a band. Over the years I've been fortunate to meet a few people after a show, waiting with random fans at a side door or bus. But, never was I invited back stage or allowed to have a drink with them, until Beach House. The Baltimore duo put out a fantastic album this year and Zebra was the highlight. Thank you, thank you, thank you to Alex and Victoria.
[Update: Track removed at label's request.]

#9. Vampire Weekend - Giving Up The Gun
I have to wonder; would this song be as great without the video? Probably. Contra in every aspect was a step forward for them. I can't wait to hear what's next.
[Update: Track removed at label's request.]

#8. Broken Social Scene - All to All (DJ Mom Jeans Remix)
I feel it is not only acceptable to put a remix on this list, but absolutely necessary. It seemed everywhere you looked, a new band was dishing out remixes. I'll be honest, I've listened to this song so much, I don't even remember what the original sounds like. I don't think that was the point.

#7. The National - Bloodbuzz Ohio
If there was an award for best drums in a song, this would win. I love the beat, it's almost begging the rest of the band to run. They don't, and I doubt they ever will.
[Update: Track removed at label's request.]

#6. Shout Out Louds - 1999
Give it up for Sweden! You'll find fellow Swedes Junip, in my top 5 albums of the year and now this perfect gem that easily got lost in the shuffle this year. Check out the full album Work.

#5. LCD Soundsystem - Dance Yrself Clean
Word of advice, it's supposed to start off very low. I don't know how many times I play this for someone and they say "I can't hear it. Turn it up". James Murphy and Co. know what they are doing. Everyone makes a 9 minute track that doesn't start to break until the 3 minute mark. Duh.

#4 Gayngs - By Your Side (Sade Cover)
Speechless, seriously.

#3. Kele - Everything You Wanted (RAC Remix)
I feel like this should be a shared spot. Yes, Kele left Bloc Party and released his solo album, The Boxer. But RAC (Remix Artist Collective) did what they always do, created an awesome remix. Head to their page for remixes for Tokyo Police Club, Ra Ra Riot, U2 and Radiohead to name a few.

#2. Cee-Lo - Fuck You
If there is anyone in the world that can make anger and pain sound like a toe tapping Motown classic, it's Cee Lo. Hands down the best pop song of the year.
[Update: Track removed at label's request.]

#1. Kanye West - Runaway (ft Pusha T)
Number one album, number one song. As he handed away half of his record for free, the early version of Runaway was already a standout track. The final version, a full 9 minutes in length gives you all the emotion you can handle. The distorted last 3 minutes still kill me.
[Update: Track removed at label's request.]

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Best Albums of 2010

Last year I literally waited until December 31st to post my top 5 albums, but I have to say this year was less gut-wrenching. As I reflect on the year, I'm amazed that my scope is just getting bigger and bigger without losing my pop sensibility. When I started this blog, I just wanted to turn people on to good music, no matter the artist or genre. If this list doesn't prove that, nothing will...

#5. Kings Of Leon - Come Around Sundown
The Followill clan had a pretty tough act to follow with the massive success of Only By The Night. However, instead of pleasing the older fans and returning to their rock roots or making another top 40 album for the new fans and cash; they did neither. Maybe they have enough money, or don't really feel the need to prove their success, but these guys made a great album seem effortless. There are no anthems, no dirty late night rockers, just a seamless album that show yet another side of this talented band. When everyone was going for lo-fi this year, this was an album that was meant to be heard, clearly and confidently.

#4. A-Trak - Dirty South Dance 2
A few years ago Billboard named Diplo's Never Scared mix as one of their top ten albums of the year. At the time it was a bold move, especially since Diplo was fairly unknown. But it taught me something. The value of production, mixing and accessibility. DJ are the new (or maybe they always have been) litmus test. If they can get an entire room moving and dancing with a wide array of obscure tracks and remixes, who's to say that isn't a talent worth recognizing. A-Trak gave this away for free and it has not faded or stopped banging since this summer. Blending hip hop vocals and electronic beats isn't anything new. But to hear the mix, the energy and the skills; he simply made a classic.

#3. Junip - Fields
The Swedish trio have been all over my blog this year, so I hope you took notice. I gave you a track from the Black Refuge Ep and reviewed their Chicago show as well. I was glad to see them showing up on a few best of lists, because it sadly went under the radar this year. I joked that it took them 10 years to make a proper debut album, but I'd wait another decade for something this good. You know you have a great album when every time you listen to it, you finish with a new favorite song. Is it the keys in "Rope & Summit", the lyrics of "In Every Direction" or that damn bottle in "Howl"? It's pretty much everything.

#2. LCD Soundsystem - This Is Happening
I recently read an article where James Murphy said "When people call us 'electronic', it makes me want to pull my eyeballs out... Disco is dance music, and disco was played by bands". This entire year when people asked me to describe LCD, I was at a lost for words, often comparing them to the Talking Heads. But, I knew it. They were making disco, and I was too afraid to even utter the words out of my mouth. Honestly, who listens to disco? Even better, who admits to making disco music? This talented band does and if you aren't embarrassed to be dancing and bobbing your head, please pick this up.

#1. Kanye West - My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
This album is without a doubt, a game changer. I simply refuse to hate on this guy. There is a reason he's getting 5 star reviews and on most, if not all best of lists. We always knew he was a great producer, and most of his albums leaned heavy on beats. But, this time around Kanye pushed aside his ego and brought honesty and emotion to a hip hop album like no one has ever done before. You want a hit? Blast "All of the Lights". You want soul? Try "Devil in a New Dress". A hip hop summit? Throw on "Monster. A classic? Toast them assholes on "Runaway". How about a laugh? "Who the fuck got your pussy all reupholstered?". Kanye West is a bad dude.