This whole Best of the Year thing strikes me as a little contrived.
As with any year, my ITunes was as likely to be playing Serge Gainsbourg or June Christie, Johnny Burnett or Wynn Stewart, as anything released in the current year. But for some reason, in 2010 I got to sample what Everyone Was Talking About. Thank the Internet, my Emusic subscription (still *this* close to canceling – as ever), worthwhile music sites like Stereogum and Music For Ants mixtapes, not to mention Amazon’s selling many of the year’s top albums for $3.99 or less for a few weeks before Christmas. (For that last counterintuitive marketing ploy, thanks and praise to the vanity of musicians obsessing over units sold, regardless of price).
Anyway … no! I am not a professional music critic, if such a profession still exists–nor do I play one on TV. But here are 10 or so good songs and/or albums, just in case you’ve run out of lists to scan.
This is the first time I’ve compiled such a list. And attention, Jezebel editors! Nearly all of my picks feature women! Either as singers, distaff halves of duets (not sure I used “distaff” right there), or … um … bands with girl bass players. I mean nothing by this, or I don’t think I do. (And my record collection in high school was, like, ALL dudes. So maybe I’m evolving.)
Herewith, in no particular order, a mix of song choices and album choices with a couple of just-because-they’re-cool-videos at the end.
PJ Harvey, The Last Living Rose. I love the video as much as the song, ever so English and elegaic. Another new direction for the mercurial Polly.
Cradle, The first of two in my series featuring Welsh women of song, from the aptly named Joy Formidable!
… and the second, Marina and the Diamonds. This is probably the least watched of Marina’s many videos this year, and perhaps not the best song from her altogether amazing album … but this video! Lingerie! Zombies! Thriller homage!
Matt & Kim, AM/FM Sound. I very much enjoyed the Lessons Learned video, where they frolicked naked through Times Square. (“Tourists walk through Times Square inappropriately dressed for the weather.”) Just in case they are stuck for ideas: DO THAT ONE AGAIN!
Best Coast, I Wish I Was Your Boyfriend. I liked some other songs from Crazy for You better, but what a sweet video! The album is great top to bottom, and for me stayed that way for many months after I first heard it. Very high concept, though. As with Sleigh Bells, I imagine there will be whisperings about what they will do for an encore. As with Sleigh Bells, I think it will be something terrific.
Arcade Fire, Sprawl II Mountains Beyond Mountains. OK. Everyone liked this one, but occasionally everyone gets it right.
Superchunk, Digging for Something. Liked ’em, but didn’t love ’em in their heyday, but I played this song more times in my 1995 Camry Wagon this summer than any other except for Rill Rill. Seriously LOL video.
Cults, Go Outside. Ew, that icky Jim Jones intro–what is the point of that?–but what a beautiful tune. More cowbell? Nay! More GLOCKENSPIEL!
‘Allo Darlin’ – I adore the self-titled album as a whole more than this, or any, particular song. Unashamedly emotion-laden, a tad on the twee side, and wise beyond their years. I am also in love with the singer’s Queensland inflections. Lips. Silly. Telephone. Teddy Bear. Bondi Beach and Coogee Bay. (“I like the sound of their names”). I also turn slightly morose at an earlier song of theirs, a simple uke-strumalong called Tallulah. “I’m wondering if/I’ve already heard /All the songs that’ll mean something.”
You should not be thinking such thoughts at such a young age. And the answer is no.
Lykke Li, Get Some. At first underwhelmed by the line “I’m your prostitute. You’re gonna get some.” But then just gave in to the thumping drive of this song, her awkward yet intense body language, and the way she bites her lip with such determination. This girl is scary talented. A whole album coming this year!
Sleigh Bells, Infinity Guitars. I’ve seen a few reviews stating that the Sleigh Bells sound is not a lot more than an audacious, jokey gimmick, but the staying power of that sound is impossible to overstate. Favorite album of the year.
Weepies, Please Speak Well of Me. Special guest appearance by a pair of grownups. Gorgeously understated, modest in scope and sentiment, this song resonated hugely with me in a year where I had to deal with some major people in my life not being there anymore. That might not entirely be what it’s about, but I took it that way….
Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffitti, Round and Round. The only dude singer in this whole bunch, and it would have to be a guy who elsewhere sings “Make me maternal, fertile woman/Make me menstrual, menopause man/Rape me, castrate me, make me gay/Lady, I’m a lady from today.” This song diddles around for nearly two minutes, then becomes a thing of beauty. The two-minute mark is also where this inspired unofficial vid kicks into high gear.
Scissors Sisters, Invisible Light. Dream logic writ large. Buñuel-esque. Memorable jodhpurs.
Yeasayer, Madder Red. This will gross you out a little, and might make you cry. It also might give you newfound admiration for Kristen Bell’s acting chops.