year in reviewWhen I was 33, it was a very good year.

*Sigh*  When are people gonna figure it out?  A DJ from ‘The Bay’s Old School ‘(89.1 KISS FM) radio said one gorgeous California day, “Gotta wonder if anyone will remember Lady Gaga in 40 years.”  The comment came immediately after a spinning of Marvin Gaye’s “Got To Give It Up,” a track that damn near won every award on the planet in 1977.  “Time will tell,” the DJ continued, but we already know the outcome:  Gaga will have a few good singles and win a Grammy, before fading into obscurity, or worse yet she’ll pull some brand of gossip magazine faux-pas, which will have nothing to do with music, signaling her timely demise, while she converts to Islam and marries a film director, forcing him to cast her in a movie that she ultimately destroys.  She’ll be bigger than Madonna in the same way that Oasis became bigger than The Beatles.

Exactly . . .  like . . . that. (Sarcasm, if you’re confused.).

But despite all my vitriol, it seems that every genre of music that I ever passionately loved became retro in 2010.  Neo-Soul became an oft used term, and with the backing of a brutally def record ala John Legend and The Roots, and another tree-shaking release by Aloe Blacc.  Hip-hop was also pretty sweet in 2010, with loads of Wu-Tang related projects, and new Kanye (if you’re into that sort of thing).

Comebacks were no longer accompanied by sighs of grief, and our elder rock-heroes made a new case for ‘fading away’ as opposed to ‘burning out.’  And who better to lead the procession than Neil Young?  Elvis Costello, Robert Plant, and Bryan Ferry followed in ‘Old Neil’s’ footsteps, producing some of their best material, yet.

The truly, truly remarkable resurgence was in the 90s dream-pop/shoe gazer genre; wearing a new face, but simply continuing the wonderment.  Indie rock got tired of trying to sound like Modest Mouse, and realized a broader scope.  Wild Nothing, Warpaint, and Kisses put out albums that  sort of f-ed me up with joy, and ushered in the new decade with style.  One thing is to remain constant, though: when it comes to music, the fringes always know best.  They don’t cater to that mess on the Grammy’s.

But the Robot can be an indecisive jerk at times, and refused to rank these songs in any given order.  Alas, here are 25 tracks that you MUST know -  to truly understand 2010’s year in music (says me) – beyond all the Radio Gaga.  Sure, there’s a bunch left out, but there’s only so many hours in a life.  I’ll try to make your next visit to the record shop a quick one.

I’ll shut up, now:

The New

Fistful of Mercy – These Things Go ‘Round (As I Call You Down)

Yeah, that’s George Harrison’s kid playing with Ben Harper and Joseph Arthur.  Can you say supergroup?  Cuz . . . this . . . group . . . is . . . er, pretty good.

Band of Horses – Laredo (Infinite Arms)

Alt-country rockers  (if you wanna call ‘em that) BOH made an executive decision to double their vocal lines; the results were awesome.  “Laredo” serves to example.

Circa Survive! – Lazarus (Appendage)

You might want to watch these guys – their Appendage E.P. is showing maturity in the emo genre.  Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of these emo/hipster/scenester rockers?

The Sword – Tres Brujas (Warp Riders)

Southern fried, constipated, metal – I think that about sums it up.  If Lynyrd Skynyrd were alive today, The Sword might just beat their asses dead.

Gorillaz – Stylo Feat. Mos Def and Bobby Womack (Plastic Beach)

Three great tastes that go great together – there’s more obscure star-power on this track.  Gorillaz do it again, with a little help from their friends

Pretty Lights – So Much in the Dark (Glowing In The Darkest Night)

The best sample-hop I’ve heard since DJ Shadow.  Also, I just made up that term – it’s sampled, hip-hop.  Derrr!

Trophy Scars – Trazodone (Darkness, Oh Hell)

Ugly Kid Joe meets Afghan Whigs meets Tom Waits meets Desaparecedos.  Translated: seriously bitchin’ shit.

Aloe Blacc – Hey Brother (Good Things)

Stevie Wonder’s voice with Bill Wither’s musicality; “Hey, Brother” could be “Use Me” part II.

The Old

Cee-Lo Green and Lauren Bennet – Love Gun (Ladykiller)

Not a Kiss cover, but Cee-Lo is a genius, and bringing Lauren Bennet on to sing this James Bond-esque hum-dinger of a track, smacks of his brilliance: laughable, danceable, schlocky and fantastic.

Off! – Darkness (The First Four EPs)

Keith Morris (of pre-Rollins, Black Flag fame) is back, and this time he’s bringing his nearest and most dearest to spit snot at “the system.”  This is 47 seconds of punk rock heaven. Don’t blink, you might miss.

Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan – You Won’t Let Me Down, Again (Hawk)

Lanegan is old, let’s face it.  Campbell is young.  It don’t stop ‘em from making some of the most haunting, sounds of the year..

John Legend and The Roots -  Wholly Holy (Wake Up!)

Legend isn’t old, but everything from his Wake Up! cover record is – a spectacle of homages to the sounds that came before.  For some reason, he reminds me of Jeff Buckley on this classic, classic Marvin Gaye cover, and there’s nothing bad about that.

Bryan Ferry – Shameless (Olympia)

Like Roxy Music, only crabbier.  You can still dance to Ferry’s fine, gorgeous, messes, and The Groove Armada brings it on “Shameless.”

Killing Joke – Absolute Dissent (Absolute Dissent)

Martin “Youth” Glover (The Orb) rejoins the band after 20 years!  One of my favorite industrial/punk bands of all time is back to start some more tribal bonfires.  Anarchy in the U.K. and everywhere else, too!

Bruce Springsteen – Because the Night (The Promise)

Patti Smith might have taken it to #13 on the Billboard charts in ‘78, but The Boss wrote it!  He just released his own version of said recording last month – long overdue..

Soundgarden – Jesus Christ Pose – Live at Sturgis SD, 1993 (Telephantasm)

I can’t think of a more fitting place to let loose on some knee-rattling screeching and guitar feedback; the high point of this year’s Telephantasm release.

Elvis Costello – 5 Small Words (National Ransom)

Americana done Costello style – the guy knows what’s what.  My favorite track off the album, but probably not the overall best.  That should tell you something.

Grinderman – Mickey Mouse and the Goodbye Man (Grinderman 2)

Record of the year, but “Mickey Mou. . .”   Aw, shit.  Just listen to the whole record; the best Nick Cave has ever been.  Epic!

Neil Young – Walk With Me (Le Noise)

No, no wait . . . this is the album of the year, maybe.  Just Neil, with Daniel Lanois producing this 8 song record.  An open invitation to behold NY’s life, told the only way Neil Young should ever tell a story – with guitar in hand

Robert Plant – Angel Dance (Band of Joy)

Legendary Zeppelin Brit does Los Lobos.  Solid as Led.

Charlie Hunter – Oh Danny Boy (Public Domain)

Fabulous treatment of the most traditional of Irish folk songs.  A master take of Hunter playing both guitar and bass, simultaneously, on his 7-stringed, custom axe.  The guy amazes.

The Dreamy

Antony and the Johnsons feat. Bjork – Fletta (Swanlights)

A hauntingly beautiful song by two of the most hauntingly beautiful voices of our generation.  Everyone wins, here.

Wild Nothing – Your Rabbit Feet (Golden Haze)

The 90s are alive and well, on “Your Rabbit Feet.”  Smacks of Jesus and Mary Chain and many others in my tape collection from high school.

Warpaint – Undertow (The Fool)

Catch a high off these gorgeous, glistening vapors; Warpaint is a thrilling surprise debut effort.  Undertow reminds me of Miki Berenyi (Lush), which makes it my favorite.

Kisses – Bermuda (Heart of the Nightlife)

I seriously think this might be my favorite new band of 2010.  Disregard the silly band name, and the sickly sweet synth lines, this song (and this record) will have you grinning like the silly bastard you are.  Intoxicating.

2 Responses to “2010 Wrap-Up: Songs of the Year”

  1. The Bricklayer says:

    It is great that you included Band of Horses. I am sure you have seen my posts about them. I think their two-man lead vocal treatment is beautiful. They remind me of America sometimes, which qualifies as high praise from me.

  2. MIles Christopher says:

    Yeah, I think that lone move really put a unique identifier on their sound. Not to downplay what they’ve done before, but it just kind of separates them; just seems to make a good band even better. America is definitely a good comparison – hopefully, BOH will make a similar impression in the long run.

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