The 60 Best Songs of 2010

by PopMatters Staff

23 December 2010


50 - 41


Flying Lotus feat. Thom Yorke
”...And the World Laughs With You”

Am I crazy for craving a full album-length collaboration between Flying Lotus and Thom Yorke after hearing “...And the World Laughs With You”? This is electronic music imbued with the same gnawing loneliness as The Eraser, but Yorke’s production was never so jawdroppingly dense. The vocal guest spot grabs our attention just long enough for goosebumps—desolate cries of “I need to know you’re out there” float like waves atop Ellison’s hyperkinetic stutter-synth whirlpool—but just brief enough for the producer to move on with restless abandon to his next wild idea (in this case, free-jazz excursion “Arkestry”). Zach Schonfeld




The Roots
“How I Got Over”

“How I Got Over” functions as a transition track of sorts on the Roots’ masterful album of the same name: it shifts smoothly from the hopelessness of How I Got Over‘s downtrodden opening tracks to the inspired resolve of its latter half. But it’s also a stunningly potent slice of soul-flavored hip-hop in its own right. Black Thought and company don’t just throw in the R&B vocals and jazz keys for kicks; they capture the world-weary cadence and dusty energy of ‘70s soul itself with startling confidence. Somebody’s gotta care. Zach Schonfeld




Beach House

Breathless “ah-ah” vocal sighs, haunting detuned synth layers, and a seductive chorus (“Norway-ay-ay!”) that positively floats. “Every single step of the way, we’ve just tried to go more, go further,” recalled Alex Scally of Teen Dream‘s recording, and “Norway” typifies the sort of depth and climax that travels above and beyond 2008’s Devotion (which was pretty damn good already). Critics have been calling Beach House “dreamlike” for years. Here, in these blissful four minutes, is the culmination of that particular descriptor—layers of soaring dreampop heaven that call to mind more classic Slowdive and Mazzy Star than today’s indie landscape. Gorgeous. Zach Schonfeld




Crystal Castles feat. Robert Smith
“Not in Love”

Dear Doctor, when I said I required ‘The Cure’ for my broken heart, this is not entirely what I’d anticipated. Having said that, it has worked wonders. In no time I was back on my feet, dancing no less, beneath the mirrorball, arms stretched aloft, praying to the Gods of Electro Loveliness. In fact so potent were the powers of this medicinal compound I recommend it be widely prescribed alongside those other remedies you sent previously, namely Mr. Dylan’s “If You See Her Say Hello” and Mr. Cohen’s “Hey That’s No Way to Say Goodbye”. So, thanks Doc! Matt James




Owen Pallett
“E Is for Estranged”

If you’re looking for a song that will make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, here’s a prime contender. “E Is For Estranged”, coming 10 tracks deep on Pallett’s 12 song Heartland, is the pivotal climax of the album, a song that the record gradually builds up to and then lets unfurl in all of its operatic glory. It’s lush, orchestrated, drop-dead gorgeous… and utterly harrowing. Lyrically, it’s a little reminiscent of Joni Mitchell’s “The Circle Game”, but “E Is for Estranged” occupies its own position on an LP that’s part of a grander concept. Strings swoop, pianos plink, Pallett croons and “E Is for Estranged” is ultimately a breathtaking song seemingly about the chiasmic divide between fathers and sons. Simply put, “E Is for Estranged” charts the growing maturity and sophistication of Owen Pallett as a songwriter. And it may just well break your heart. Zachary Houle




“Go Do”

For anyone impressed by the way Sigur Rós have lightened up over their last couple of albums, lead singer Jonsî‘s solo debut Go is an absolute treat. Album opener and lead single “Go Do” exemplifies the sense of fun the Icelandic vocalist seems to have discovered lately. The introduction includes soft, acoustic guitar, shimmering flutes, and high register piano before a pounding bass drum, handclaps, and stomping feet join in. Jonsí‘s beautiful falsetto makes its full appearance shortly thereafter, singing the song’s joyous melodies in English. But the way Jonsí‘s accent and tendency to run his words together makes most of the lyrics unintelligible. Instead, what sticks with you about “Go Do” is the way the melody, bright instrumental accompaniment, and especially that pounding percussion work together in a perfect package. It’s a song that marries unconventional instruments with pop sensibilities to create something that sounds exotic but feels familiar. Chris Conaton




Frog Eyes
“A Flower in a Glove”

Frog Eyes can be a difficult band. Frontman Carey Mercer has perhaps the greatest voice in indie rock, a bellowing growl that moves to a caterwauling falsetto in the same breath. That voice, combined with the band’s penchant for knotty compositions and patches of noise, frightens many listeners away. Fortunately for them and for longtime fans alike, “A Flower in a Glove” is the kind of guitar epic that Mercer has been building up to for his entire career. Immediate and gripping without sacrificing the sheer force and epic quality of Frog Eyes’s best songs, the track’s beauty and drama will leave you as breathless as Mercer after his staggering vocal performance. Corey Beasley




Kylie Minogue
“All the Lovers”

Celebratory yet wistfully elegiac, “All the Lovers” is retro in the best possible way, Kylie’s disco fetishism channeled towards its most meaningful purpose yet. It is a song that could have just as easily been Donna Summer’s “Last Dance” in one circa 1978 past life, or Cher’s “Believe” in another turn-of-the-millennium incarnation, a fond farewell to the good times or a post-AIDS reawakening of romance and community. Now, fittingly, it is the rare love song that acknowledges the existence of both personal and cultural history, and the euphoric realization that these are things that brought us to who and where we are now. Jer Fairall



cover art

Gil Scott-Heron


Gil Scott-Heron
“New York Is Killing Me”

Gil Scott-Heron’s influence on rap is undeniable, but he barely released any music in the decades when the style was flourishing. Now, with his first studio release in 16 years, a raspy-voiced, world-weary Scott-Heron offers us a vision of New York profoundly different from the celebration one finds in, say, “Empire State of Mind”. The syncopated hand-claps that drive the song show why he was so influential. The lyrics that long for rest and escape, though, reveal someone with a different set of preoccupations compared to many of his followers. Tomas Hachard




Surfer Blood
“Take It Easy”

Surf music saw quite a resurgence in 2010, and few bands took as much advantage of this genre—and accomplished it with so much use of cultural juxtapositions—as Surfer Blood. Blending the old-school sound and mixing from bands like the Beach Boys and Dick Dale, and the newer technique, phrasing, and tropes of indie rock, “Take It Easy” asks the listener to dance and chill all at once. Singer John Paul Pitts’ sweet-sounding voice both adds an otherworldly layer and prevents the song from wandering too far into dreamy obscurity. The song both ebbs and flows and strikes and swerves, analogizing the diversity of the ocean itself. While it captures perfectly the feeling and sound of summer 2010, it could just as easily be the Talking Heads’ attempt at surf music. And how cool is that? Matthew Werner


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