Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Top 30 Tracks of 2010


Sorry for the long delay! Between work, life, getting engaged and the holidays, I've been stressed and too lazy to write. So we're back. Grooves will continue with Brian Eno's Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks in 2011. Until then, here are some year end insights starting with In The Wake's Top 30 Tracks of 2010!

30. Mumford & Sons - "The Cave" - My sister demanded me listen to the Mumford & Sons album Sigh No More for quite some time and sadly I took too long to get to the quality folk rock record. "The Cave" is definitely a stand out single for the new band. When the banjos kick in, this song really takes off.

29. John Legend & The Roots - "Compared To What" - The smoothest man in R&B plus the smoothest band in hip hop team up for an album of 70's soul cuts with a slant on social justice and change? Yes please! This cover of the Les McCann and Eddie Harris stands up nicely with todays world politics and the American experience in 2010. You can get this track on Wake Up!

28. Neil Young - "Walk With Me" - Neil Young + Daniel Lanois = LeNoise. A strange album of sorts as it's just Neil and his guitar plus effects and production care of Lanois. The end result is a spaced out take on Neil's chunky, grunge guitar playing. It's a refreshing track.

27. Broken Bells - "The High Road" - Although Broken Bells is an overall disappointing album, it has a of few catchy, inescapable tunes. The straightforward poppy goodness of this track is undeniable and is one of those songs that you can't help but sing along to.

26. Goldfrapp - "Alive" - Goldfrapp's Head First is a slice of delightful pop music. Where many are swooning for Lady Gaga, I swoon for Alison Goldfrapp. A blindingly catchy synth pop tune in the vein of Olivia Newton John in the 80's, it's saccharine sweet and amazingly fun to party to. The video is also pretty amazing.

25. Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti - "Bright Lit Blue Skies" - Although this may be the worst band name of the year, the album Before Today has some crazy good pop tunes smattered around some weirder experimentation. This track is a surf pop anthem, simple in it's hook but catchy as hell. This song reeks of California.

24. The Black Keys - "Tighten Up" - Brothers was a revelation for the Black Keys. extending their sound past their gritty Delta blues roots into the realm of soul, rock and R&B at times really extended the fan base of the veteran blues men. The lead single from the album is definitely one of their catchiest tunes yet.

23. School of Seven Bells - "Dust Devil" - Much like their first album, the sophomore effort Disconnect From Desire is taking a while to really sink in for me, but it's a great musical experience. The incessant beat and static musical track intertwined with the Deheza twins' impressive vocal arrangements lives up to the intensity of the titular windstorm.

22. Sleepy Sun - "Marina" - Psych rock was KILLING it in 2010. Sleepy Sun is no exception. Fever is a fantastic record and the lead off track "Marina" is a hodge podge of great sounds. Starting off with a fuzzy, heavy riff and swaying into sublime vocals and back again before breaking into an islandy breakdown, it's got everything a psych rock fan could want.

21. Autolux - "Spots" - Waiting for Transit Transit was the worst. When it finally came, it was good but it was hyped up for me being a huge Autolux fan. That being said, the record has it's fair share of great tracks and this sleepy, swooning track is definitely the best of the lot. Carla Azar's jazzy drums are the highlight of this beguiling track.

20. Gorillaz ft. Bobby Womack & Mos Def - "Stylo" - The darker cousin of "Feel Good Inc.", this track is hectic, static and overwhelmingly catchy. Bobby Womack steals the show.

19. Kylesa - "Tired Climb" - Another late addition to the 2010 album line-up, Kylesa's intense Spiral Shadow starts off with a raging blast. "Tired Climb" feels like the title, an uphill battle of heavy guitars, snarling vocals and an catchy hook that digs in deep.

18. Surfer Blood - "Floating Vibes" - Remember Weezer? Neither do I until I listen to Surfer Blood. Astro Coast is what Weezer should aspire to. Smart yet still catchy. Youthful yet not cliche. Lyrically great and with a hook to speed down the Atlantic City Expressway to, "Floating Vibes" was the real song of the Summer of 2010.

17. The Black Angels - "Yellow Elevator #2" - Honing in on a much more concise and hook laden approach, The Black Angels' Phosphene Dream is just as psychedelic as their previous two albums. Jefferson Airplane and The 13th Floor Elevators (wonder if this an homage?) melted into a new psychedelia. One of the spaciest tracks of the year.

16. Owen Pallett - "Midnight Directives" - When Owen Pallett was forced to drop his former moniker Final Fantasy due to a video game franchise, he emerged with his most triumphant record. "Midnight Directives" is a revelation. It's frantic, melodic and bombastic.

15. Brian Eno - "2 Forms of Anger" - Brian Eno with Jon Hopkins and Leo Abraham create one of the most paranoid songs I've ever heard. Starting out with what sounds like the churning of some robotic fortress, the song slowly builds and builds with sounds both foreign and rudimentary. The pulsating bleeps that come in and out and echo to the final building guitar riff. It's a glorious feast for the ears.

14. Teenage Fanclub - "Sometimes I Don't Need To Believe In Anything" - Power pop's greatest revivalists came out with their best albums in years. The sprawling album opener is about as good as it gets. Swelling synth strings, smooth vocal harmonies and and a catchy fuzzy riff bring this song to new heights of catchiness.

13. Grinderman - "When My Baby Comes" - Nick Cave's Grinderman is obnoxious. But it's the best kind of obnoxious because it's Nick Cave. The first half is a weird tribal croon that swells with Warren Ellis' strings before the build to ecstasy, then takes a dive into dark, twisted guitar snarl and drums that break bones. A fantastic song from the coolest record of the year.

12. The Sword - "Lawless Lands" - ZZ Top meets Iron Maiden with a dash of Zep. The Sword finally has found the right balance of southern blues rock, cock rock swagger and back to basics metal on Warp Riders. This track is easily the best unheard hard rock song of the year.

11. Charlotte Gainsbourg - "IRM" - Have you even had an MRI? This song embodies that feeling perfectly. Echoey, bone rattling percussion, buzzing sounds that are unnatural and that come in and out randomly and somehow just in time with each other. Charlotte's dazed vocals add just enough dynamic to this drone of a song.

10. Tame Impala - "Alter Ego" - Psychedelia is definitely on the upswing, especially in inide rock circles. Tame Impala's Innerspeaker is a fantastic record. When this track beams in and starts it's otherworldly shift into guitars drenched in all sorts of effects, you are instantly transported to another place that is all at once unique and familiar.

9. MGMT - "Siberian Breaks" - I'm a sucker for epics and "Siberian Breaks" is the best of the year. A pop epic is something that doesn't come often. Usually metal or prog will cover that, but MGMT have written their most dynamic song here. Shifting from Kinks-esque sunny pop and morphing into McCartney style melodies and landing in a future scape of synthesizers, this is a travelogue for an acid trip.

8. Dr. Dog - "Shame, Shame" - Philadelphia's own freak folkers consistently release quality albums and Shame, Shame follows suit. Their songs are honest, heart wrenching and fun. This titular track pulls on the heart strings and Toby Leaman's fantastic vocal performance brigns this song to it's lofty pop goodness.

7. Grinderman - "Worm Tamer" - Have I mentioned how badass Nick Cave is? He doesn't get all the credit as Warren Ellis, Jim Sclavunos and Martyn Casey are a helluva backing band. "Worm Tamer" is a static garage rocker that snarls with beeps, buzzes and all sorts of feedback squeals as Cave croons about his girl being a "mambo rider" and a "serpent wrangler." It's dark, sexual and it's creeps forth like the worm of the title. And it fucking rocks.

6. Black Mountain - "The Hair Song" - Black Mountain ditched the long-winded epics on Wilderness Heart and the songs are better for it. The poppiest Black Mountain song yet, "The Hair Song" is the best the Webber/McBean vocal duality and features one of the most wonderfully constructed psych pop tracks of the year.

5. Arcade Fire - "Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)" - The best song to encapsulate the overall feeling of The Suburbs (both the album and the place.) Regine Chassagne steals the show with yet another brilliant vocal performance over what sounds like the end credits to a lost John Hughes film.

4. Charlotte Gainsbourg - "Time of the Assassins" - Producing and writing the album, Beck has lifted Charlotte Gainsbourg's music career to new heights. Her brush with a near death experience and his obsession with death matched perfectly on IRM and this haunting tune is the perfect embodiment of that. slow plucked acoustic guitars, lofty backing vocals and strings combine with Charlotte's gentle voice for a dark yet sweet tune.

3. The Black Keys - "Howlin' For You" - Starting off with a Gary Glitter infused drum beat and developing into a fuzzed out reconstruction of classic blues riffs drenched in muddled fuzz, "Howlin' For You" is undeniably my favorite Black Keys song yet. It's quirky, catchy and ultimately satisfying.

2. Tame Impala - "Lucidity" - When bands tap into the sound of The Beatles, a lot of people shrug, but I must completely disagree. Taking a taste of "Tomorrow Never Knows" acid and launching into a crunchy garage rock riff drenched in reverb, this song takes off (much like the video) and immediately lifts the listener into the stratosphere before crashing back down in a fury of guitars and fuzz.

1. Gorillaz featuring Little Dragon - "Empire Ants" - The dreamiest song of the year. What is so special about this particular Gorillaz track? Well besides it sounding unlike anything else in the Gorillaz canon, it's a space rock anthem for the ages. Beautiful shimmering piano, dream pop guitars and Damon Albarn start the song up and midway through, Little Dragon's Yukimi Nagano takes over as does the synth parade. It's a beautifully melancholy song (superior to "On Melancholy Hill" from the same record.) If you were to tell me that Gorillaz, the makers of "Clint Eastwood" and "Dare" were to ever release a song of such pop sweetness, I'd probably have laughed in your face. But on Plastic Beach, there are several of these moments, none of which compare to "Empire Ants."

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