Here are the songs I enjoyed most this year. This playlist conveniently fits on an 80-minute CD, and more thought than you would expect has gone into their order. It's a tradition.
1. Broken Bells - "The Mall & Misery"
I've mentioned that I prefer James Mercer's output with The Shins, but this album had its moments. I mistakenly burned the final track to the beginning of a CD, and it took me a while to figure out why the first song I'd hear in my car sounded so much like the last song I'd hear at work via the mp3 album. Good story, right? Anyway, that's why Broken Bells bats leadoff in 2010.
2. Menomena - "Taos"
This is probably my favorite song of 2010. At the very least, it's my favorite song to play LOUD. I was pleased to see these gentlemen perform at The Bottleneck -- Nick and I walked in and took a seat just as they took the stage. The joy of seeing a great Tuesday night performance without sitting through two opening bands cannot be overstated.
3. The xx - "VCR"
I'd been intentionally avoiding this band, partly due to their name, partly because I knew it was a minimalist boy/girl thingamajig. Then one day, I watched a video of a Shiba Inu dog slowly falling asleep as this song played, and the boycott was over.
4. The Stone Roses - "Bye Bye Badman"
In "Shaun of the Dead", when our heroes are rummaging through Shaun's record collection to separate the keepers from the projectile weapons, they keep both The Stone Roses' self-titled debut and their largely dismissed follow-up. "I liked it!" Shaun says. I always understood the reference, though I'd never heard either full album. This song comes from their acclaimed debut, and is about halfway between Echo & The Bunnymen and Oasis in both timeline and feel.
5. Yeah Yeah Yeahs - "Y Control"
6. Spoon - "The Mystery Zone"
This was the first song I noticed playing at Henry's after I proposed to my girlfriend in a bar, while I ordered two more vanilla vodka and Coke's. It sounded good.
715 Restaurant played Spoon's "Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga" from start to finish as we enjoyed our pre-engagement dinner, and "Transference" was in my car as we drove home that night, fielding calls and texts from well-wishers. Picture yourself / set up for good in a whole other life / In the mystery zone.
7. Sleigh Bells - "Rill Rill"
It's always hard to gauge the latest big thing to emerge from Brooklyn, and harder still when said Next Big Thing intentionally compresses and distorts its music. While some of their songs are literally difficult to endure (i.e. "Crown on the Ground"), "Rill Rill" is a pleasure throughout, similar to Broken Social Scene's "Anthems for a 17-Year-Old Girl" in both tone and what-the-fuck-are-they-singing-aboutness.
8. The Talking Heads - "I'm Not in Love"
It is surprising and disturbing that 31 years passed before I became aware of this very good song by this famous band. Up yours, classic rock radio stations!
9. Camera Obscura - "French Navy"
Most likely, the song I heard most frequently during the year, due to its placement on several mix CDs.
10. Built to Spill - "The Weather"
I ate at the Built to Grill food truck, but it had nothing to do with this very nice song that I discovered when some lady put it in a weather-related blog post. I am trying to convince Alipete to use it in her wedding, should she choose to be married someday.
11. Elvis Costello - "You Belong to Me"
I like having some of Costello's old stuff remain unknown to me. It's like a bookshelf I can occassionally visit when I need to find something decent to read for an upcoming flight.
12. We Were Promised Jetpacks - "Roll Up Your Sleeves"
I had a hard time choosing which song to include from "These Four Walls", the album I listened to most frequently this year. This band is Scottish, isn't afraid to rock, and repeats a lot of their lyrics. So, I chose the very representative "Roll Up Your Sleeves". It features a Scottish pronunciation of "Queue", an aggressive guitar riff, and the words "Stay calm" repeated nine consecutive times before "Keep warm" is repeated twice. As far as repeated phrases go, you could do much worse.
13. Beck - "Hey, That's No Way to Say Goodbye" (Leonard Cohen cover)
Californian/Space Alien (Cohen is Canadian.)
I looked this up after reading an interview with A.C. Newman of The New Pornographers:
"I always remember being 22 and going through a terrible breakup when I was completely despairing, and I remember hearing that song and I kind of turned on a dime. Somehow, that song seemed too wise. I thought, "Yeah, it's true. That is no way to say goodbye." I just remember I went from being completely in despair to like, "Yeah, this is no big deal. Let's put it in perspective." Just based on that, it has to win as my all time favorite song."I like this Beck version best of those I found, despite its poor audio quality.
14. The New Pornographers - "We End Up Together"
Songwriter A.C. Newman explains:
"One of the upstairs bathrooms at Seaside Lounge is a closet-sized little thing, and on the inside of the door is written the graffiti: "We End Up Togther." You read this many times before you realize that there is a missing "e" in "together." It struck me as a really great line, and as far as I knew it hadn't been used in a song yet. I just went from there. When I started laying down the vocals for this song, the guys who worked at the studio slowly began to notice something familiar about that line. They would usually figure it out upon returning from the bathroom.It's a nice sentiment, but both Alipete and I have been unsuccessful trying to twist the lyrics to fall in with his claim.
Even though the line doesn't show up until the very end, it is still the subtext that pushes along all of the other lyrics. It's a song about all of the times in the past that I had met my wife, or been in the same room as my wife, and had been completely unaware that, well, we end up together."
15. Telekinesis - "Tokyo"
An awesome song. Until it's in your head for a few consecutive days. Then try to take a break, listen to some vintage Metallica or something. You'll get past it, and the song will sound great again.
16. The Clash - "Koka Kola"
Again, a huge band but you only hear the same four songs of theirs on the radio. All the shitty lists that populate the internet, yet it took me until this year to find one list that recommended this song.
17. Plumtree - "Scott Pilgrim"
This song inspired the comic, and therefore the film. I experienced both in 2010, ten years after this band ceased to exist. Too bad - 2010 could use a fun girl band like this. One that murdered K$sha, preferably.
18. Gillian Welch - "Black Star" (live Radiohead cover)
I don't know - the metadata claims this was recorded live in Minneapolis on September 24, 2004. The original version was background music for making out in high school. I suppose if I bothered to interpret the lyrics to this song or that album, those sessions would have been more morose. EVEN MORESO. To date, I have not made out to this cover version, and do not plan to.
19. Nirvana - "Paper Cuts"
I planned ahead, and passed most of my time during the '09 Christmastime snowstorm with my Playstation. When I finally ventured out of my mom's house to meet other beer drinkers downtown, my new present -- the deluxe remaster of "Bleach" -- played in the car stereo. "Paper Cuts" was a perfect soundtrack for the dark, snowy, foreboding Wichita streets.
20. The Futureheads - "Struck Dumb"
I just like this song.