As is often the case, many of my favorite songs this year also appeared on my favorite albums. So here’s what we’ll do: First I’ll tell you about my favorite albums, while also providing my favorite songs from said albums. And then there’ll be a separate section for my favorite songs that weren’t necessarily on my favorite albums.
A few notes:
- If you don’t wanna read any of this and simply want to download my favorite songs, here ya go: Download Cakes’ Favorite Songs of 2010
- The albums are listed in order of personal preference–that is, in the order in which I derived the most enjoyment–not necessarily the order in which they should be ranked based on some objective evaluation of merit or musical “goodness” (although I would hope that there might be some overlap between the two).
- You’re gonna see a bunch of links. To play a song: left click. To download a song: right click, “save target as” or “save link as.”
And here we go…
1. Sleigh Bells – Treats
Holy shit. Sleigh Bells. Anybody who knows me well, already knows how I feel about this band. But for those of you who don’t: I’m in love, obsessed–it’s not healthy. This is face-melting guitar riffs, thunderous pop beats, and sing/scream-a-long chants by a goddess of sex. This is a gallon of energy drink injected through your ears. This is machine guns, chainsaws, and electric bubble gum. This is the most powerful, adrenaline-pumping, ear-splitting, glass-shattering, bone-crushing, explosively catchy shit ever put to record. In short, this is the loudest music ever made. It impels you to crank up the volume and rock out like you’ve never rocked out before. Sleigh Bells have forever revolutionized our perception of just how good–how invincible–music can make you feel. So if you haven’t done so already, listen. At full blast. With room to dance. With friends to join you. (And preferably a few drinks in). Oh, and brace yourself. You’re about to feel how thrillingly awesome it is to be alive.
Sleigh Bells – “Tell ‘Em”
Sleigh Bells – “A/B Machines”
Warning: Sleigh Bells is not for everyone. Please do not enjoy Sleigh Bells if you are old, pregnant, nursing, or may become pregnant. Side effects may include rapid breathing, increased heartbeat, high adrenaline, damaged eardrums, blown speakers, uncontrollable shouting, thrashing, and head-banging, as well as the unshakable conviction of being on top of the world.
2. Beach House – Teen Dream
(Not to be confused with Katy Perry’s Teenage Dream)
If Sleigh Bells was my sickness, Beach House was my cure. Whereas Treats provides the exhilarating sensation of being alive and vividly awake, Teen Dream offers the soothing beauty of being–as its title implies–in a dream. I’m tempted to use words like “chill” to describe this music, but that doesn’t quite do it justice. “Chill” implies apathy, being removed. But these songs are dripping with emotion. They have a pulse and a heartbeat. They also have poppy hooks that’ll get your head bobbing. Yes, Teen Dream is relaxing, lush, ambient, chill (and would provide an apt backdrop for partaking in a certain “chill” activity)–but, it’s also capable of delivering chills.
Beach House – “Zebra”
Beach House – “Norway”
Download Teen Dream
3. Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
I suspected it before, but now I’m convinced: Kanye West is the greatest producer (a.k.a. “beat-maker”) of all time. Believe the hype.
Kanye West – “Power”
Kanye West – “Monster” [Feat. Jay-Z, Rick Ross, Nicki Minaj, Bon Iver]
Download My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
4. Sufjan Stevens – The Age Of Adz
I gotta say up front: Sufjan’s my boy. He’s easily one of my top-five favorite artists of all-time and Illinoise may very well be the best album I own. But, as we venture into The Age of Adz, it quickly becomes apparent: we’re not in Illinois anymore. I’ll admit, this is a tough album to get into. Chaotic bleeps, blips, and glitchy digital noises don’t necessarily make for easy listening. And for those of you who, like myself, originally fell in love with Mr. Stevens for his quiet banjo ballads, this might come as an unwanted change of pace. But give it time and repeated listens. This is Sufjan’s most personal album, his most raw, his most epic. “I Walked” is a post-break up love song reminiscent of The Postal Service’s best moments. “I Want To Be Well” is a colossal anthem for anyone who has ever struggled to find happiness with themselves, ever wanted to feel “normal” but also felt disillusioned by exactly what that meant. It’s some serious stuff–exploring the human condition and whatnot–but if you’re in the mood, and have the patience, The Age Of Adz is well worth a listen (or a million). And if you want some old-school Sufjan, check out “Heirloom,” off his All Delighted People EP (also really good).
Sufjan Stevens – “I Walked”
Sufjan Stevens – “I Want To Be Well”
Sufjan Stevens – “Heirloom”
Download The Age Of Adz
Download All Delighted People EP
5. Vampire Weekend – Contra
This was the best-selling indie album of the year, and for good reason: Contra is instantly likable, and not just by Pitchfork-reading hipsters. On “White Sky” and “Giving Up The Gun,” the Columbia graduates give us infectiously catchy pop-rock jams to be enjoyed by the masses, perfect for various social gatherings. “Holiday” meanwhile found itself in not one but two prime-time Christmas commercials. Now, I’m by no means suggesting that you should admire an artist simply because they’ve achieved mainstream success (I’m looking at you Ke$ha), but in this case I think it speaks to just how accessible the music is. It’s accomplishment to make something so distinctly unique, so diverse in its sound from one song to the next, and yet universally enjoyable. Contra also wins the award for best whoops, hollers, and other non-word vocals.
Vampire Weekend – “White Sky”
Vampire Weekend – “Giving Up The Gun”
6. Big Boi – Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son Of Chico Dusty
There are days when I convince myself that Big Boi’s album is better than Kanye’s. Sir Lucious is clearly the better rapper, effortlessly spewing tongue twisters with his signature flow. And the production is top-notch, wide-ranging in its influences, progressive and fresh. You can’t find a bad–or even generic–song on here. Does this make it a better album than Kanye’s? I don’t know. It’s probably catchier, better for playing loudly with some friends, more likely to get stuck in your head, and more fun. But, hey, Fantasy has a few things going for it, too. So let’s just say what my mom says when I ask her who her favorite child is: “I don’t pick favorites. I love you all equally. I just arbitrarily rank you for year-end lists.”
Big Boi – “Shutterbug” [Feat. Cutty]
Big Boi – “Shine Blockas” [Feat. Gucci Mane]
Download Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son Of Chico Dusty
7. Local Natives – Gorilla Manor
I think this was my most-played album of 2010. This was partly because it came out in February but mostly because it’s endlessly fun to listen to and perfect for so many occasions. As much as I love Sleigh Bells, it turns out that there are very few times when it’s appropriate to blast “Crown On The Ground” (especially now that I’ve graduated and currently reside above an 8-month-old baby). Gorilla Manor is the antithesis of that. You can play it by yourself or with friends, over Sunday-morning breakfast or with Friday-night beers. Genre: semi-folksy indie rock, simultaneously laid back and upbeat, with scattered moments of epicness (e.g. “Who Knows Who Cares”). It’s what one might call a “feel-good album,” ideal for hanging out, BBQing, driving–and it was my go-to for those and countless other (okay, maybe like 12) social occasions.
Local Natives – “Airplanes”
Local Natives – “Sun Hands”
Local Natives – “Who Knows Who Cares”
Download Gorilla Manor
8. Arcade Fire – The Suburbs
I saw Arcade Fire w/ Spoon at Madison Square Garden this year (five rows back). It was my favorite concert, maybe ever. Nine band members, constantly rotating instruments, rocking out in unabashed mania, filling an arena with epic anthems about youth and dreams and love (or the loss thereof). The Suburbs, like its two predecessors, is dedicated to exploring a specific theme–in this case it’s the feeling of being trapped by childhood, by the monotony of a suburban life, and by the society it embodies. It’s a somber theme, but Arcade Fire make it fun with 16 tracks of sprawling rock that implore you to join in song. “We Used To Wait,” for instance, laments the loss of a world before instant attainability (“instattainability”?) and expresses a fear shared by most of us recent graduates: “Now our lives are changing fast.”
Arcade Fire – “We Used To Wait”
Download The Suburbs
9. Crystal Castles – Crystal Castles II
Shortly before Christmas, I drove a rental car and a golden retriever from New York to Florida (long story, don’t ask). As I entered the 9th hour of the second day, I needed a pick-me-up. Some might resort to caffeine, but nay, I turned to my iPod–first blasting Treats, and then this album of throbbing electronica (it’s unclear how the golden retriever felt about my music choices). Like Sleigh Bells, Crystal Castles grab you by the testicles/labia and demand to be played at full volume. Think: lush, ethereal synths; entrancing female vocals; ecstasy, sweat, and strobe lights. If you run whilst listening to this album (particularly “Celestica,” “Empathy,” and “Suffocation”), you will run faster. Guaranteed. And if you happen to be skiing/snowboarding with this music as your soundtrack, you may suddenly feel inclined to attempt a double back-flip 1080 McTwist off a cliff. Godspeed.
Crystal Castles – “Celestica”
Crystal Castles – “Empahty”
Crystal Castles – “Suffocation”
Download Crystal Castles II
10. Girl Talk – All Day
Pete says he’s burnt out on this genre. And that’s understandable. But it’s also tragic. Because this is arguably the greatest mash-up album ever made. I mean, Night Ripper should probably get more credit, since it’s more or less the one that started it all–and yeah, that album’s mixing is more technical and impressive. But whereas Night Ripper‘s schizophrenic, rapid-fire transitions have a tendency to take a toll on the ears, All Day is Gregg Gillis’s most listenable album yet. The mash-ups are stretched out, given room to breath and build, paced just right for maximum enjoyment and head-bobibility. The album also serves as a survey course of the past 50 years of pop music–all blended together seamlessly to elicit the best response possible: “Oh shit!”
Girl Talk – “Get It Get It”
Girl Talk – “Down For The Count”
Download All Day
11. The National – High Violet
Sentimental dudes, gather round. This is your album. Here we have a near-flawless collection of brooding rock. It’s melancholic and beautiful, powerful and poetic, and yet strangely uplifting. Matt Berninger manages to sing about “Sorrow” and “Terrible Love” and the woes of adulthood without sounding trite or lame; he also does it in a majestic baritone that’ll give you goosebumps–if the dynamic orchestration doesn’t get you first (what with rumbling drums, plunking piano, swirling guitar, swelling strings and horns, et al.). “Runaway,” the lesser known of two songs with that title this year, is my personal favorite.
The National – “Runaway”
The National – “Afraid Of Everyone”
Download High Violet
12. The Radio Dept. – Clinging To A Scheme
I originally got into this album via “Heaven’s On Fire,” a song which I’ve played no less than 50 times this year. That particular jam is the aural equivalent of heaven and ice cream and summertime beaches–bright, blissful, magic. “Never Follow Suit” is a reggae-infused track with a similar vibe. And while the rest of the album doesn’t quite reach the celebratory heights of those two, it all has this surreal glow that will leave you feeling serenly content. A great night-time driving album. P.S. ”A Token Of Gratitude” provides the best ping-pong-ball percussion I’ve heard since that Enrique Iglesias song.
The Radio Dept. – “Heaven’s On Fire”
Download Clinging To A Scheme
13. LCD Soundsystem – This Is Happening
James Murphy is the man. The dude’s 40 years old and still infinitely cooler than I can ever hope to be. I saw these guys live–dance-rock electronica, full-band set-up, a wall of flashing lights–and they certifiably rocked my face off. I am at this very moment still searching for my face. Also, listening to the first track, for the first time, is quite a treat. You’ll see what I mean.
LCD Soundsystem – “Dance Yrself Clean”
Download This Is Happening
14. The Tallest Man On Earth – The Wild Hunt
This album sounds like it’s cover–or more specifically, like the music you’d play while driving through the scene on the cover. And if you can’t imagine what that sounds like, think: folksy acoustic guitar–rustic, heartening, strong–and a Bob-Dylan-esque drawl (I’m sure The Tallest Man On Earth is about as sick of hearing this comparison as he is of feilding questions regarding his actual height. But there are worse people you could be compared to.)
The Tallest Man On Earth – “Love Is All”
The Tallest Man On Earth – “Burden Of Tomorrow”
Download The Wild Hunt
15. Big K.R.I.T. – K.R.I.T. Wuz Here
The third best rap album of 2010 (and you can trust the validity of that statement because I listened to all of eight rap albums this year). Big K.R.I.T. is from Mississippi. He makes all his own beats, and uses some killer samples in the process. He and I would get along well due to our mutual affinity for background vocals. Plus, he knows how to use the word literally: “You feeling me too, I mean literally. You rubbin’ my nuts.” Splendid. On “Hometown Hero,” he even manages to make Adele sound badass.
Big K.R.I.T. – “Country Shit”
Big K.R.I.T. – “Hometown Hero”
Download K.R.I.T. Wuz Here*
*This is a remastered version, for those of you who already have it but may have been annoyed by the low volume on the original.
As promised, here are a bunch of other songs I loved this year that weren’t already mentioned above. Not all of them were actually released in 2010, but they were all, for various reasons, very much a part of my 2010.
Spring/Summer Playlist MVPs
Amadou & Mariam – “Sénégal Fast Food”
Fun fact: Amadou and Mariam are blind. Both of them. They met at Mali’s Institute for the Blind, started making music, got married, and now they’re one of the biggest names in world music. ”Sénégal Fast Food,” produced by Manu Chao, combines a few of my favorite things: didgeridoo, harmonica, French vocals. So fun.
Broken Bells – “The High Road”
Broken Bells = Dangermouse (Gnarls Barkley producer) + James Mercer (The Shins’ lead singer). Sounds like a Shins song with funky noise in the background. Fine by me.
ceo – “Come With Me”
ceo doesn’t capitalize his name. I’m not sure how I feel about this. I’d love to hear another album by The Tough Alliance, the duo of which ceo is one half. Until then, this will have to hold me over. Beach-time electro pop.
Cults – “Go Outside”
Best use of xylophone. The Cults offer the same advice my mother did when I was a youth: “Go Outside.”
Diamond Ring – “All Yr Songs”
Cute, simple, catchy, love song. “‘Cause in the winter weather / I’ll lend you my warmest sweater / I would not want you to get cold.”
Dire Straits – “Romeo And Juliet”
Don’t ask me why 2010 was the year I decided to get into “Romeo And Juliet.” Some things are just inexplicable, like how does Mark Knopfler’s voice and guitar sound so cool? The world may never know.
Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros – “Home”
I once wrote over 800 words on why this song was a perfect 10.0 and also one of the best love songs in recent memory. But if you want the cliff notes: catchy whistling, cattle whips, great sing-along chorus. Cornpone confection.
Faces – “Ooh La La”
Some days you wake up and realize you’ve overlooked a classic for far too long. And then you play it every day for the rest of the year to make up for all the time lost.
Free Energy – “Dream City”
Rock & Roll, pure and true.
The Magnetic Fields – “The Luckiest Guy On The Lower East Side”
The most charming song to ever feature what I can only describe as underwater queefing noises.
The Morning Benders – “Excuses”
The Morning Benders – “Excuses [Yours Truly Session]“
This song and Cults’ “Go Outside” took turns being my favorite song to play in the sun. But with the summer months behind us, “Excuses” still gets tons of plays. The layered doo-wop vocals in the end are just too good. Plus, they did this.
The New Pornographers – “Crash Years”
As good as any song the band has made. Catchy whistling and string riffs.
YACHT – “Psychic City (Voodoo City)”
Indescribable. Weird in the best way possible. Five minutes of funky sing-along fun. Brilliant use of the vocals utterances “huhh!” “ahhh!” and “yaih!!” This is what Lady Gaga’s music might sound like if her pop songs were as innovative as her wardrobe. (Zing!)
Yeasayer – “O.N.E.”
Caribbean-lined electro pop with synth swirls, blissful head-bobbin grooves, and a strong finish. Chris Keating’s voice rules.
Birdman & Lil Wayne – “Know What I’m Doin’”
Four years after its release, I discover this song thanks to Pete. Couldn’t get enough.
Cee-Lo Green – “Fuck You”
Remember when Fred Durst made a song with 48 f-bombs? Yeah. This is better than that.
Delorean – “Deli”
I will assume that Delorean named their band after the car-turned-time-machine featured in Back To The Future. And I will assume that they have mind-reading abilities and know exactly what I love in music. This is catchy-as-a-cather’s-mitt electro pop rock, complete with “ooooo”s and crescendos.
Dom – “Living In America”
Passion-Pit-esque synth rock. Cash money.
Fang Island – “Daisy”
“Oooohh, oooohh, oooohhh” –this sound comprises both the opening lyrics and my reaction to this classic-rock-inspired, guitar-solo-filled jam. Don’t let the title fool you. “Daisy” shreds.
Julian Casablancas – “11th Dimension”
It turns out The Strokes frontman sounds great with catchy retro synth chords.
Miike Snow – “Cult Logic”
Dear Miike, Thank you for making such funky electronic awesomeness. Can’t stop grooving to this one. To quote you, in the chorus, it’s “mmmm, mmmm, mmmm.” Yours Truly, Caakes.
The Rapture – “Pieces Of People We Love”
What’s a synonym for “catchy”? Infectious? Yes, let’s say that. I dare you not to tap your foot to this one, or get the “nah nah nah nah” business stuck in your head. Double dog dare you.
Ratatat – “Drugs”
Ratatat – “Bare Feast”
On their fourth LP, aptly titled LP4, Ratatat return to the more upbeat form of their first two albums–and invite new instruments to the party. Cool beans.
The Thermals – “Now We Can See”
This is a rock song made by a rock band, made with good ole distorted guitars and a drum set, with scruffy vocals and a bunch of dudes shouting “Ohh-wayy-ooh-ooo-ooh” –and you’ll join them.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs – “Heads Will Roll [A-Trak Radio Edit]“
This remix blows the original out of the water. Add it to the list of songs most likely to destroy your car’s speakers and/or cause a 120mph speeding violation. I love whatever the squeaky shit is.
Carla Bruni – “Quelqu’un M’a Dit”
I’m such a sucker for French vocals, especially if they’re sung by a former model and the current First Lady of France. Gentlemen, listen at your own risk. If you play to this song too many times, your testicles will disappear.
Emancipator – “Shook One [Sigur Rós Vs. Mobb Deep]“
Exhibit A: “Kaleidoscope” by Tiesto.
Exhibit B: “Year Of Silence” by Crystal Castles.
Exhibit C: This song by Emancipator.
Verdict: If you sample Sigur Rós and/or their lead vocalist Jónsi for your electronic beat, it’ll sound awesome.
Gayngs – “The Gaudy Side Of Town”
Gayngs – “Faded High”
Gayngs is a supergroup made up of like 23+ musicians. One of them is Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon, and that’s all I really needed to give this band a shot. Like Air, Gayngs make songs that sound like they could be in pornos. We’re talking 80′s soft-rock, and yes, there’s saxophone. But this is gorgeous, through and through, and good enough to be taken seriously, especially if you’re looking to unwind (no innuendo intended).
Jens Lekman – “Black Cab”
I finally got around to exploring Jens Lekman’s older stuff this year. Best decision of my
life November. This sentimental Swede is a great story teller and knows how to pluck at my heart strings.
Josh Ritter – “Change Of Time”
Josh Ritter – “The Curse”
Everything I just said about Jens Lekman can be applied to Josh Ritter–well, everything except the part about being Swedish. “Change Of Time” is a sappy folk number that gets pretty damn epic. And “The Curse” will give you chills. It contains my favorite lyrics of 2010 and may very well be the most gorgeous piano ballad ever written about a revived mummified pharaoh (not to be confused with that song about having sex with a pharaoh and subsequently having your vagina put into a sarcophagus).
Washed Out – “You And I”
Genre: chill-wave. Translation: Like sleep-walking/dancing… under water… in outer space.
Wilco – “When You Wake Up Feeling Old”
Some days you wake up and realize that you’ve graduated from college and that your hair’s thinning/receding and that your knees crack every time you bend them. On mornings like these, you think, “Does anyone understand?” And then Jeff Tweedy walks in the room and says, “Yes, son, I understand. Just listen to this song.” And so you do. And amidst its carefree jangling piano and strumming guitar, you hear a simple, thought-provoking question: “Can you be where you want to be?”
The Go! Team – “Everyone’s A V.I.P. To Someone”
I have Adonal to thank for reintroducing me to this song earlier this year. This instrumental post-rock-ish number is the soundtrack for sunshine and happy endings (no, not that kind). Banjo, harmonica, French horn, violin–what more could you ask for? A 70s-TV-theme-song feel? Check. A goosebump-inducing climax? Check.
Harlem Shakes – “Strictly Game”
“This will be a better year!” sing the Harlem Shakes. A song for the optimist in us, or for those who have high hopes for their new-year’s resolutions. ”Stricly Game” makes its round on my iPod every January, but this indie rocker is catchy enough to warrant a high play count in any season.
The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart – “Heart In Your Heartbreak”
Between band name and song title, that’s three “hearts.” Cool observation. Moving on: Here was have some bright, punk-influenced lo-fi rock. The Pains throw in some synths and polish up their sound for their sophomore album.
Thanks for reading.
Again, here’s the link to download all the songs listed above:
Download Cakes’ Favorite Songs of 2010
Don’t worry. I’m not gonna write about these, especially since they’re pretty generic picks. But in case you hadn’t heard, you should see these films.
1. The Social Network
2. Black Swan
3. The King’s Speech
4. Toy Story 3
6. True Grit
7. The Kids Are All Right
8. 127 Hours
10. The Fighter
Three collections of essays and personal narratives. Writing style: funny, witty, heartening, philosophical, and occasionally profound. Topics: lots of specific stories that more or less explore… the human condition, society, pop culture, life, etc. Quick, fun, thought-provoking reads. Again, not all 2010 releases. Just got around to them this year though. I stole two of them from Pete. (Thanks, Pete.)
1) David Foster Wallace - A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again
2) Michael Chabon - Manhood for Amateurs: The Pleasures and Regrets of a Husband, Father, and Son
.3) Chuck Klosterman – Eating The Dinosaur
Yes, for my own year-end list, I would like to list my favorite year-end lists.
1) Pretty Much Amazing’s Best Songs of 2010
I was first introduced to prettymuchamazing.com via a friend who writes for the blog. It’s really good–both the writing of the friend (whose name rhymes with Priss Garth) and the music selections of the site. PMA’s picks are often indie-leaning, but not absurdly obscure, and usually favoring the poppier side of things. It’s the perfect balance between experimental and accessible, between what sounds different/progressive and what sounds good to the common ear.
The list: http://prettymuchamazing.com/feature/best-songs-2010
The songs: Download PMA’s Best Songs of 2010*
*NOTE: To get songs in order: (1) Drag them all into a playlist, (2) Sort by composer (where I’ve stealthily hidden their numerical ranking)
2) Pitchfork’s Top 100 Tracks of 2010
The list: http://pitchfork.com/features/staff-lists/7895-the-top-100-tracks-of-2010/
The songs: Download Pitchfork’s Top 100 Tracks of 2010*
*NOTE: To get songs in order: (1) Drag them all into a playlist, (2) Sort by composer (where I’ve stealthily hidden their numerical ranking)
3) TIME Magazine’s Top 10 Everything of 2010
Every year, TIME magazine does a Top 10 for Everything. And they mean EVERYTHING: News and politics, arts and entertainment, science and pop culture, business and technology–it’s all there. Or rather it’s all here. Or if you prefer to see it all at once, here.
Hopefully that covers anything I missed.