the important and the not-so-important, horribly conflated.

20/10 Best Songs, 5-1

In music on December 4, 2010 at 7:46 pm

5. Crystal Castles / “Suffocation” – The lyrics are bleak, the bass so distorted that it grates, and everything about the song is busy and LOUD—but “Suffocation” is still probably the best electronic track released this year. Why? Because it’s all-consuming: by the third big crescendo of this Crystal Castles II stand-out, you can’t hear yourself think. This is not your normal dancehall dull throb or brain-numbing pulse—it’s more like the electric sensation of being able to feel every peripheral nerve fire at the same time. It’s anticipatory. And its subsequent release is abrupt and strangely beautiful.





4. Deerhunter / “Revival” –  I would probably start going to church again if every Spiritual, like Deerhunter’s “Revival,” could blend genres and embrace the moral ambiguity (“You won’t regret / if you choose to believe it”) and uncertainty (“All these darkened hallways”) that comes with giving yourself completely to something as fragile as faith. The song lasts just over two minutes, but there’s so many ideas and musical spaces to explore here: “Revival” is in constant flux—a propulsive and persistent representation of the aphorism, it is always easier to hold a “belief” than “to believe.”




3. Joanna Newsom / “Good Intentions Paving Company” – Good god, this song is amazing. The initial track leaked prior to the release of Newsom’s Have One on Me, “Good Intentions” was a stunner from the first listen. Much of Newsom’s work is intentionally maximalist, packing brilliant countermelodies and string embellishments into every nook and cranny of the central theme (played on piano or harp). But “Good Intentions is simple and direct in all the right ways; various instruments pass in and out of the mix, but the song’s jaunty pulse remains constant. “In the quiet hour / i feel like i see everything,” Newsom sings as this travelling song pulls over to the side of the road to soak in all the tiny flashes of beauty that they passed miles back.




2. Robyn / “Hang With Me” – Is this pop? You’re allowed to write sensitive and emotive lyrics without overdoing it? You can sing these lyrics without unnecessary flourishes and minimal over-dubbing? You can put all of that over a 2-step beat and intelligent synth lines? This is way too smart for Americans…This all sounds vaguely socialist…There must be a Swede behind such a creation. Robyn put together an insane collection (Body Talk) of some of the best top-40-worthy tracks this year, but “Hang with Me,” possibly the greatest “I-think-it’s-probably-better-if-we’re-just-friends” song ever created, tops them all—a distillation of all that’s right with her idea of what pop should sound like.

1. The Radio Dept. / “Heaven’s On Fire” – There were more intricately composed tracks released in 2010. There were a lot more original and witty lyrics written. There were better beats and better bass lines. But no song returned optimism and genuine fun to music quite like The Radio Dept.’s “Heaven’s on Fire.” It’s as infectious and unabashedly upbeat as a small child’s joy, and it’s a song that iTunes says I played 71—scratch that, 72—times this year. I’m not embarrassed.

  1. I knew Heaven’s on Fire would be number 1!!! It’s my number 1 this year as well, yay! I totally agree: it’s not the most amazingly inventive song every written, but it just feels so good and so right. Perfect.

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