Top 75 Tracks 2010 – Top 20 Time!
All of these songs are guaranteed wonderful.
And now into the top twenty we go…
20. Janelle Monae – Cold War
Oh no, I’ve put a Janelle Monae song that isn’t Tightrope in my Top 20. Why? I like Tightrope. I don’t think Tightrope is quite as radical and exciting as people seem to think it is. It’s very retro, and I got a bit bored of it quite quickly. This one, on the other hand, I can play again, and again, and againagainagain. I love the swirling fairgound organ that kicks things off and carries it along. The one-take, teary headshot video has been done many times before, but I still love it. And I actually quite like the lyrics. (I still think The ArchAndroid goes on a bit, though.)
19. Sunday Girl vs. Diplo – Four Floors
Continuing a very pop-step themed list this year, here’s a remix that should very clearly have been a single in its own right (instead of this, which is significantly less good). Interestingly, put next to the dubstep-flavoured tracks that did make that eventual leap to the pop charts, this one still sounds quite raw, looking back. It has more in common with dubstep’s original doomy, deep sound than much that came after. It doesn’t try to ratchet up the tempo or the goofiness, but still sounds to me like a hit in waiting. It’s majestic, restrained and classy. Having said that, I’ve still yet to really love a Sunday Girl original, and much like the early Ellie Goulding tracks, her wispy voice works best when accompanied by thump rather than jangle – this Rusko mix of Hey Stop is another great example.
18. Teeth – See Spaces
You know when you see a band, and they sort of sound like they’re messing around, finding their way, for most of the set, and then – just on the verge of giving up – you release they have something massive up their sleeves? This is that. Ostensibly a band that have listened to lots of Le Tigre and want to create a bit of carnage, they also have ‘See Spaces’ in their arsenal. Not so far off some of what Crystal Castles have been doing of late, but a totally great example of it nonetheless. It’s all about the mighty synth riff, which whacks you around the face at the start, and with little threat of intrusion from the mostly buried vocals, continues to do so for the track’s duration.
17. Kid Sister – Daydreaming
Probably would have been higher if I didn’t associate it more with the back end of 2009 than this year. Regardless, it had a proper single release in 2010, and its lovely video merits a mention. I’m sort of dubious as to whether the video actually has any merit beyond the presence of Melissa’s infectious smile throughout, but in any case it makes me very happy and fits perfectly with the simple summery pop thrills of the song. Last year in the BBC Sound of 2010 thingy I voted for Kid Sister. A shame my prophecy skillz are so weak, as Kid Sis should by rights be massive. Boo to the UK.
16. Ocelot – Beating Hearts (Louis La Roche Remix)
Remix of the year, no contest. And, perhaps, remixer of the year. Mr. La Roche is a 19-year old Brit, who’s been getting his paws dirty on a variety of already pretty sweet tracks this year. His gift, shared with other recent greats like Fred Falke and (especially) Starsmith, is in adding a layer of SHINY to everything. Often it’s subtle stuff, simply making the original sound somehow more right, but then he’ll throw in a burst of newness that takes it to a whole new level. To quote myself, from my original review: sifting out the mediocrity and elevating the celebratory. Here’s the original, for comparison and actual proper videoness.
15. The Chemical Brothers – Swoon
I don’t know what it is about the Chemicals. I can go years without caring for anything they do, and then they put out something like this. Last time it happened was with Star Guitar, and it only took the best part of the decade for the next one to show up. Swoon is the most wonderfully self-explanatory track I’ve come across in years. Written on a page, or over the vast majority of music, the songs refrain ‘just remember to fall in love – there’s nothing else’ sounds incredibly trite. Marry it with a dance record that literally sounds like falling in love, and it becomes the embodiment of truth.
14. Parenthetical Girls – Young Throats
ACTUALLY not on Youtube in any form. Amazing. Anyway, please do listen via the Soundcloud link above. This is, in some ways, one of the stranger choices to make my top 20 this year. It bears something in common with a grimey, muddy take on an old glam-rock stomper, but it’s undercut by some truly dark lyrics, obscure yet not quite obscure enough to stop it bringing to mind some pretty horrible images. It’s a seductive track, with its dreamily angelic chorus backing vocals, but also one punctuated by brutal synth stabs and harsh rhythms. Quite different to anything else in this list. Quite brilliant.
13. Kelis – Acapella
Consistently reinventing herself in brilliant ways over the last decade, for me, 2010’s Flesh Tone and its full on embracing of club culture and cheesy chart-bothering producers like David Guetta, is her most successful creation to date. This soaring, majestic beauty kicked things off back in the spring. Definitely one of the most stunning vids of the year too.
12. Magnetic Man – I Need Air
After various nearly and not-quite moments throughout 2010, the late summer moment when whatever dubstep once was went overground. I tend to shy away from including anything on these lists because of their ‘significance’ or anything like that, but for me it’s always a pretty glorious moment when the upper reaches of the charts welcome a new sound. Regardless of whether it’s grafted on to existing styles, or even parasitic on them, it’s still such a joy when music that has the ambition to reach a mass audience takes on board some new ideas. It helps that this is a bit of a tune, too, of course.
11. Crystal Castles – Baptism
I’ll admit it took me a little while to grow out of regarding Crystal Castles as a bit of a novelty sideshow for Skins fans. There’s still an element of that of course, but you soon stop worrying when they’re knocking out tracks like this. A pretty stunning year for Alice Glass & co, starting it off with the rather lovely Celestica and, improbably, ending it by creating perfect retro-pop with Robert Smith. It feels slightly perverse to exclude either of those tracks from the list, but rules is rules, and this year I was most in the mood for being smacked full on in the face with mad bleeps and shouting. And for me, gloriously mental video and all, Baptism is the track from Crystal Castles’ year that sounds most vital.
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