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musicforants.com’s Best Songs of 2010

Date December 16, 2010

(photo by cubagallery)

Best songs of the year is typically the most difficult list to make but also the most rewarding. There’s nothing more indicative of a year in music then it’s greatest songs, and evident from the tracks listed below, I’d venture to say 2010 was a pretty great year.

To add some perspective and keep my head from exploding due to too much writing (it could happen), I asked Matt to help with the list this year. We combined our favorite songs (carefully removing any artist overlaps) and came up with a definitive 50 best songs of 2010, presented in highly unscientific ordered list form. My songs have a “-TJ” next to them and Matt’s are marked with a “-MG”. Simple enough, right?

There’s a link by each song choice where you can download/hear the song, and you can download complete zip of all the songs listed below by clicking this link. If you like a song, do the right thing and go buy music by that artist. I hope you enjoy these 50 songs just as much as we do!

50. Pure Ecstasy – Easy MP3
“Easy” is some perfect pop melancholy wrapped in a blanket of fuzz. That might make Pure Ecstasy sound like hundreds of other bands right now, but these guys have it down better than just about everyone else. Now if only we could get a full-length, or at least a singles collection. -MG

49. Phantogram – Mouthful of Diamonds MP3

“Mouthful of Diamonds” hooks you in immediately with it’s old-school drum loops, irresistibly buzzy synths, and Sarah Barthel’s seductive vocals. The duo specializes in addicting, well-crafted electro pop and there’s no better example then this exquisite tune. – TJ

48. Lindstrom & Christabelle – Lovesick MP3

Lindstrøm dropped this song early in the year, but it stayed in heavy rotation for the next 11 months. “Lovesick” sounds like some alternate universe future disco, complete with piano stabs Christabelle cooing over everything. Also, it sounds like she’s saying “caramel empanada”. -MG

47. Japandroids – Younger Us MP3

One of my favorite tracks last year was Japandroids thrilling garage-punk anthem “Young Hearts Spark Fire” and this year’s single, “Younger Us” is a perfect continuation of the song’s passionate, nostalgic lyrics and explosive, fuzzed-out guitar riffs. -TJ

46. Gorillaz – Some Kind of Nature (ft. Lou Reed) Y2B

Picking just one song from Plastic Beach was hard, but I found myself going back to this one featuring Lou Reed rather than something more obvious. I don’t know how Damon Albarn managed to make the wily Reed sound at home so far out of his comfort zone, but it totally works. -MG

45. Cults – Go Outside MP3

Cults splashed onto the indie scene this year with nary more than a random press photo and a couple of exuberant throwback pop songs and now look how far they’ve come. I said: It really shows how far an infectious sing-a-long chorus and some glockenspiel will go when put in the right hands. The band has used some simple elements and made one of the most charming, joyous tracks of the year. – TJ

44. Gil Scott-Heron – Your Soul and Mine MP3

I’m New Here has no shortage of great tracks, but they’re all good for different reasons. “Your Soul and Mine” encapsulates the entire album, the sparse production providing accompaniment to Scott-Heron’s despondent prose but still somehow coming off as completely beautiful. -MG

43. Delorean – Real Love MP3

“Real Love” is one of the most cathartic tracks of the year and, as evidenced by their live show, also one of the funnest to dance along with. Mixing fluttering vocals with swirling bursts of synths and a vibrant house beat, the song is one breathtaking high after another. – TJ

42. Matthew Dear – You Put A Smell On Me MP3

Was there a song this year that sounded as filthy? You can almost taste the sweat dripping off of this jam. The songs blasts with the right kind of dark bombast to turn it into the soundtrack to any number of lascivious behaviors. -MG

41. Fang Island – Daisy MP3

I said: “Daisy” is an incredibly dense, nosiefest of a song that beats even Los Campesinos! in it’s excess and musical unrestraint. Comparisons are really mute though, because in all honestly this doesn’t sound like anything I’ve heard before, all I know for sure is that I really like it. Prepare for yourself for time-signature changes, outrageous guitar solos, and finely-tuned vocal harmonies. – TJ

Follow the jump below to see the rest of the list!

40. Clive Tanaka y su orquestra – Neu Chicago MP3

This paean to lonely souls came out of nowhere and promptly dominated the stereo for a solid week. It’s heavy-hearted but not despondent; intent on not being alone, he’s adamant about securing his new love. Even if it means they both go down together. -MG

39. Tokyo Police Club – Bambi MP3

Tokyo Police Club’s blistering single “Bambi” comes in at under 3 minutes long but packs a enormous punch. The juxtaposition between the twitchy keys and the ragged, mathy guitar riffs set the frenzied tone of the song as wide-eyed singer Dave Monks spins a yarn about tiny woodland kingdoms and killers with colored kites. It has one of those melodies that burrows deep into your sub-concious and refuses to come out. -TJ

38. Yeasayer – O.N.E. MP3

“O.N.E.” seems content to bash you with its strain of mutant disco, that is until it takes off in the last minute, adding another layer to things. If it weren’t for that switch, this song would still be pretty good, but nowhere near the future neon heaven it becomes. -MG

37. Best Coast – Our Deal MP3

Best Coast’s very first songs were of the fuzzy lo-fi variety with bled-together instruments and distant vocals. That’s why “Our Deal” was such a pleasant surprise, a 50’s-era chamber pop ballad with a tinge of old-school country and a delightful melody. Bethany Cosentino’s crystal-clear vocals are the highlight, wistful, endearing and at times, almost achingly pretty. – TJ

36. Chromeo – Night By Night MP3

Chromeo made their best album with Business Casual, and it says something that “Night by Night” is best song on the record. It acts as the perfect summation of Chromeo up to this point, referencing past trends while simultaneously making their own path. Also, more P-Thugg is always a good thing. -MG

35. Local Natives – Camera Talk MP3

Local Natives’ debut album Gorilla Manor is filled with dynamic, well-crafted songs and “Camera Talk” is the stand-out track. The song begins with a rhythmic assault of frenetic drumming and twisting guitars, adding lush strings and the band’s enthralling three-part harmonies as the tune progresses. By you reach the winsome chorus, you’re already swept away by this jubilant song. – TJ

34. Hot Chip -Take It In MP3

Hot Chip is making this kind heartfelt electronic pop better than anyone right now, and “Take It In” is the perfect example. Starting with a good amount of brooding, things take a drastic turn during the chorus, betraying the mood of the verses. It sounds like giving up at first, but turns into the sound of everything working out.-MG

33. Caribou – Kaili MP3

Through Caribou’s five albums, Dan Snaith has mastered genres from from psychedelic, shoegaze, to 60’s-era dream pop, but this year’s foray into synth-soaked electro-pop may be his best fit yet, with “Kaili” being the biggest highlight. The hypnotic track piles on layers of dizzying synths, tribal percussion and a spellbinding hook climaxing in a rush of sonic euphoria. -TJ

32. The Tallest Man on Earth – King of Spain MP3

The Tallest Man on Earth burst back into 2010 with this blaze of a song. One would think that we have heard everything we can from the duo of dude & guitar by this point. But with just his gravel voice and six strings, Kristian Matsson defies logic every time. -MG

31. Broken Social Scene – All to All MP3

If there’s any band that you would say doesn’t need to add another female singer, Broken Social Scene would be that band, but as “All to All” proves, you would be wrong. Lisa Lobsinger takes the vocal reins during this heartfelt ballad that rivals “Anthems for a Seventeen Year Old Girl” in it’s beauty. Her vocals are backed by a mesmerizing beat and an overwhelmingly lovely combination of synths and strings that you can’t help but embrace. -TJ

30. Sleigh Bells – Crown On The Ground MP3

If you want to get technical, you could claim this came out in 2009. Whatever. When something bangs this hard, you put it on a list every change you get. I still get a big, stupid grin on my face every time that beat kicks in like some southern rap jam blasting out of blown out speakers. -MG

29. Spoon – The Mystery Zone MP3

Spoon’s “Mystery Zone” starts abruptly with Britt Daniels gritty vocal and a jagged guitar line and ends even more suddenly, cutting Daniels off mid-sentence, which may make you look down to see if your iPod is working right (or wonder if you downloaded a corrupt file). In between all that abruptness though, is a rousing tune with a propulsive beat, orchestral flourishes, and an undeniably catchy melody. What else would you expect from Spoon? -TJ

28. The Morning Benders – Excuses MP3

The Morning Benders sound both current and timeless, reminding you of things you’ve heard before while remaining its own entity. “Excuses” is the perfect example of the aesthetic that they’ve already nearly perfected. Those syrupy strings and the breakdown in the middle get me every time. -MG

27. Belle & Sebastian – I Want The World To Stop MP3

With it’s dynamic, funky bass line, infectious call-and-response chorus, and bombastic horn outbursts, this song is immediately engrossing but also gets better the more time you spend with it (although you might say the same about all B&S songs). The band is still full of wide-eyed innocence, with Stuart musing about the fast-paced modern world. Another irresistible pop morsel from the bestest of bands. – TJ

26. Ariel Pink’s Haunted Grafitti – Round and Round MP3

Ariel Pink is a weird dude that made a semi-normal, but still pretty weird album. I don’t know what it says that “Round & Round” is probably the least strange thing on Before Today, but any analysis goes right out the window as soon as that chorus hits. HOLD ON. -MG

25. The Radio Dept. – Heaven’s On Fire MP3

“Heaven’s On Fire” takes after many a Swedish indie pop songs with bright, sunshiney music and melancholy lyrics. The exceptionally jubilant track opens with an astute quote from Thurston Moore before coming in with the most infectious keyboard riff imaginable. From there it’s all jangly guitars, wistful vocals, topped off with a cheery saxophone solo that solidifies the track as the go-to summer pop jam of 2010. -TJ

24. Twin Shadow – I Can’t Wait MP3

I don’t know that I hit repeat on any song more this year. It’s that stupid melody in the verses, it never goes on for as long as I want it to. Then again, would it be as good if it didn’t leave me wanting more? I don’t know. I better listen to it again to find out. -MG

23. The Besnard Lakes – Albatross MP3

The word “triumphant” gets thrown around a lot in music criticism, but it’s not often that there’s a track that fits the word so impeccably as “Albatross”. The song starts simply enough with a washy, distorted guitar riff that juxtaposes nicely with Olga Gorea’s angelic vocals. About two-thirds through the song though, the song explodes with vicious, expansive guitar, vigorous drumming and majestic trumpets. Triumphant indeed. -TJ

22. Janelle Monae – Cold War Y2B

Janelle Monáe’s songs almost always sound better in the context of her crazy future dystopia, but “Cold War” does just fine on its own. Cindi Mayweather expresses serious doubts about her journey, but we can all relate to the sentiment. And for as bombastic as that beat is, Monáe shows she more than has the pipes to keep up. -MG

21. Beach House – 10 Mile Stereo MP3

“10 Mile Stereo” would have been the best song on Teen Dream even without the push of that final crescendo. But then that cymbal hits and the drums pound a little bit more and Victoria Legreand rules over everything like a banshee queen and there’s nothing else that reach the heights it hits. -MG

20. of Montreal – Enemy Gene MP3

of Montreal’s duality, both musically and lyrically has never been so exposed as on “Enemy Gene”. Kevin sings some of his most interesting lyrics to date, “How can I trust my fractious heart knowing I have the enemy gene?” pitting his desire to love against the genetic proclivity towards hate. Add a playful bassline, keyboards, liberated drumming, flutes, pipe organ and a certain female superstar named Janelle Monae and that equals something really magnificent. – TJ

19. Robyn – Hang With Me MP3

When I looked back at my notes for this post, all I had written for this song one word: “bliss”. I think I’ll just leave it at that. -MG

18. The New Pornographers – Crash Years MP3

Although Challengers is generally underrated, I do agree it lacked a certain punch that made their first three albums so grand. This song , and the album that contains it, more then makes up for that. The track features everything you’d ask from Canadian collective: a captivating hook, lush orchestration, and a knockout lead vocal performance from the invaluable Neko Case. It all makes for one of the most satisfying and memorable pop songs of the year. -TJ

17. Deerhunter – Revival MP3

I think I like “Revival” so much because it’s almost exactly the song I’ve been waiting for Deerhunter to make. I was pretty nonplussed with Halcyon Digest, but I keep going back for this song. It’s near-perfect pop, the shambling beat, that drone and the tension that builds and builds before finally being released in vapor with a howl by Bradford Cox. It’s not a revival of a sound or style, but of what makes music great. -MG

16. Titus Andronicus – A Pot In Which To Piss MP3

Titus Andronicus’ exhilarating album, The Monitor is full of large-scale, angst-ridden tunes, but I find this raging punk-epic about the harsh realities of making it as a rock band to be the most awe-inspiring. The song masterfully twists and turns through passages of sprawling guitar, ecstatic bar-rock piano, and passionate sing-a-long verses, all while delivering some of the most astonishing lyrics I’ve heard. What other band can make a line like “you ain’t never been no virgin, kid, you were f**ked from the start” sound like Shakespeare? – TJ

15. The-Dream – Yamaha Y2B

Oh man. Talk about a burner. The-Dream proves once again that he’s one of the best out there on “Yamaha”, even if it does sound a bit like a Prince pastiche. The vocals, the beat, the synths and that chorus all just seem to slide right into place. And when the stutter-stop beat locks in toward the end! Man! It’s one of the smoothest moments of the year. Prince should be proud of his progeny. -MG

14. Jonsi – Go Do MP3

“Go Do” is a triumphant fulfillment of all the pop sensibilities hinted at throughout Sigur Ros’ career. Jonsí’s vocals are as exquisite as ever, the instrumentation is glorious with fluttering piccolos, expansive strings, and a pounding bass drum, and the chorus couldn’t be any more uplifting. The Nico Muhly-composed arrangement is bursting at every seam, helping to make this a joyous and stunningly gorgeous track. – TJ

13. Summer Camp – Round The Moon MP3

This a great example of one that snuck up on me. I had heard it around here and there, but it wasn’t until it showed up on one of Gorilla vs. Bear’s mixes that I finally fell for it. This year had no shortage of great climaxes (see: the rest of this list), but few of them could touch when Warmsley and Sankey’s voices dance around each other and drift off into abandon. I can’t fathom how I ever slept on this one. -MG

12. Wolf Parade – Yulia MP3

I said: The incredible Dan Boeckner-penned “Yulia” tells a tragic love story of an astronaut on a failed mission who will never see his lover again. The lyrics, which have Dan yearning for the titular figure amidst heartbreaking lines like “I’m standing here, drifting alone… and I won’t be bringing my body back” are backed by the Expo 86’s poppiest refrain with an aggressively upbeat keyboard riff and drum beat. The melody is wistful and yet incredibly uplifting, even triumphant. This is beautiful, powerful songwriting. – TJ

11. Crystal Castles – Not In Love (ft. Robert Smith) MP3

You can focus on the oddity of how this is a cover of a song featuring someone who was a contemporary of the original artist. Or you can focus on what a vast improvement this version is over the Platinum Blonde original and Crystal Castle’s previous cover. But all of that misses the point. The point being: THE CHORUS DESTROYS. Seriously. -MG

10. Joanna Newsom – Good Intentions Paving Company MP3

In this seven-minute baroque-pop opus, Joanna Newsom beautifully describes a tumultuous relationship as a trip on streets laid down by the good intentions paving company (which as the old adage goes, is the “road to hell”). Through her poetic lyrics, Newsom goes on an introspective journey concluding with an epiphany where she chooses the warmth of her lover’s embrace in spite of a potentially disastrous end. The tale is accompanied by a gorgeous melody and one of finest instrumental compositions of the year. The lovely piano theme and playful flourishes of banjo, guitar and trombone mingle with a more refined, yet still refreshingly unique vocal performance by Newsom. -TJ

9. James Blake – Limit To Your Love MP3

“Limit to Your Love” is an exercise in restraint. Rather than lay everything on us at once, Blake teases the elements of the song out, slowly building the song over time. Which makes the ending, when everything finally comes together, that much more of a revelation. Blake released three excellent EPs this year, but this song shows that he has barely scratched the surface of what he is capable of. – MG

8. Owen Pallett – Lewis Takes Off His Shirt MP3

Many people’s first exposure to this song was the stunning video of Owen playing the track in the pouring rain at a festival in Guelph. As the wind and rain intensifies, a stage hand pleads with him to leave the stage, to which he yells “let me just finish the song”. While the performance itself was unbelievable (how many artists would risk electrocution for the sake of a pop song?) the track itself is the strongest testament to the artist’s brilliance. The opening whirlwind of synths, cascading strings, bouyant trumpets, and scampering electronics all lead to a thrilling finale with Owen passionately singing “I’m never gonna give it to you” in defiance to the world or whatever (rain included) is standing in his way. -TJ

7. LCD Soundsystem – Dance Yrself Clean MP3

For a band known for their hard-hitting electro beats, their lastest album begins very modestly, with pitter-patter percussion and Murphy quietly singing lines filled with the typical dose of ironic humor. Don’t let the first three minutes fool you though, when the beat finally drops it’s a revelation. The erratic, buzzy synths sound like a marriage between Daft Punk and The Knife while Murphy’s vocal performance becomes uncharacteristically charismatic. The title describes the transcendent feeling best as dancing yourself clean is the only sensible reaction to the explosion of sound that ensues. -TJ

6. Big Boi – Shutterbugg (ft. Cutty) MP3

“Shutterbug” is notable because none of it makes any sense. I don’t understand how any sane person can think, “Yeah, let’s make a beat out of some chopped-up vocoder.” But that’s what makes Big Boi great, he defies logic with almost every move he makes. He’s completely on point here, proving that while we all want something new from OutKast, he can hold things down all on his own. -MG

5. The National – Conversation 16 MP3

I once heard a National fan say the only two things he pays attention to when listening to the band are the lyrics and the drumming. I wouldn’t infer that one should overlook the invaluable contributions that the rest of the band provide, but I do think he has a point. The lyrics (which during the live show, Matt Berninger said were about “marriage… and cannibalism”) are some of the most brilliant that the band have penned. Along with the ferocious drum pattern, as well as Berninger’s striking baritone and sinister guitar atmospherics, “Conversation 16” is four of the most outstanding minutes of music this year. -TJ

4. Kanye West – All Of The Lights Y2B

The most immediate and arresting track from My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is also one of the best. Some faux-tension builds for the first 30 second, but it’s just playfighting before the song detonates and never looks back. With a cast too hilariously numerous to name here, the song becomes a frenetic blast of horns and drums and in the process becomes the touchstone of why Kanye West is easily making the most important and exciting music right now. -MG

3. Arcade Fire – Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains) MP3

Through two outstanding albums and an EP, Arcade Fire have shown their mastery of orchestral indie rock. Who then would have anticipated that the best song on their third album would be a synth-pop disco dance song? Although it uses a different instrumental palette, replacing guitars and pipe organ with synths and drum machines, The Suburbs‘ penultimate track is actually not a huge departure from what Arcade Fire do best. It has a towering wall of sound, an uplifting, addicting melody and ends with surging crescendo. Regine gives the vocal performance of her life making the lyrics seem both melancholic and incredibly hopeful. It all combines to make a glorious, breathtaking anthem that’s as catchy as it is powerful. -TJ

2. Cee-Lo Green – F**k You! MP3

Best pop song since “Hey Ya!”? Maybe. It is probably the most ubiquitous since OutKast’s 2003 jam, or at least since Rihanna’s “Umbrella”. It’s also one of the most infectious songs in recent memory, a scathing kiss-off set to a modern update of some serious Motown soul. The organ, the backing vocals, and that glorious proclamation evolve into pure catharsis. This thing was made for singing along at the top of your lungs. -MG

1. Sufjan Stevens – Impossible Soul MP3

Sufjan Stevens has never done the expected. This is the man that did an album of electronic instrumentals about the zodiac immediately followed by a banjo laden folk album based on Bible stories. After his most acclaimed album he took a five-year break in which all he released was a Christmas box set, a symphony about a highway, and some outtakes. That being said, when Age of Adz was announced and I heard there would be a 25-minute song (that’s longer then a Simpsons episode), I laughed it off as typical Sufjan overzealousness. After countless listens though, it’s become more and more clear that “Impossible Soul” is Sufjan Steven’s masterpiece and the best song of 2010.

When Sufjan performed a rough, abridged version of this song last year, it was introduced as a response to the charge that he had never written a love song. What results is one of the most ambitious, imaginative, genius, magnanimous and altogether magnficient displays of pop music that I think has ever been created (or even attempted). The five-part suite essentially goes through the multiple stages of a relationship starting with a devastating break-up, ending with level-headed acceptance, and featuring lots of psychotherapy and soul-searching in between.

His different emotions are illustrated by the numerous music styles, there’s a classic rock guitar solo, a glitchy auto-tune section, a bombastic, celebratory dance-off, plenty of orchestral and electronic mayhem, and a gorgeous acoustic section. Not only is this song a melting pot of every musical genre prevalent in the last decade but is essentially a one-upping of all of them. As ridiculous as it may sound, I feel like this is the Abbey Road medley equivalent for our time, and that’s really the highest compliment I think I could give any piece of music. -TJ

Download all the songs in a zip by clicking here. (alt)

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25 Responses to “musicforants.com’s Best Songs of 2010”

  1. osfeditor said:

    Great List, there were some songs that many blogs didnt recognize like you did. Not sure I’d be Sufjan first, but thats me :) Good job!

  2. Mint Shows said:

    GREAT list. I was going to compile my favorite songs of 2010, but you guys just did it for me.

    BTW: Link to the referenced Owen Pallet performance at Guelph http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T7WxTP3ger8

  3. Taylor said:

    Thanks for the video link, Mint! I meant to include that, but I forgot.

  4. Ray said:


  5. Austin said:

    Couldn’t agree more with Impossible Soul being number 1. Great list!

  6. Cheryse said:

    A job well done, Taylor!

  7. Andrew said:

    liked it a lot. I wasn’t excpecting Impossible Soul as the top song of the year but I don’t really disagree. It has almost every style of everything that Sufjan has done in one 25 minute masterpiece. Is Sufjan going to be on top of all of your lists this year?

  8. Taylor said:

    Hmm, good question. I honestly do not know yet. It’s close between two for the albums list.

  9. fearlessweaver said:

    Really nice; one of my favorite lists I’ve read. I love that Sufjan album so much that that “Impossible Soul” isn’t even one of my favorite song on the album, and I still think it’s a great pick. I’ve linked to my list of best singles as well.

  10. fearlessweaver said:

    Actually, this is my singles list:

  11. thomas hank$ said:

    it would have been nice to see flying lotus on there.
    it would have been really nice.
    maybe a little too nice.
    what’s your motive?
    i’m not like that.
    stop it!

    no, but really… nice list! Im pretty happy to see James Blake so high on there.

  12. G said:

    great list, I second the nod for Wolf Parade and Yulia, great song and album as a long-time fan of theirs. I haven’t seen WP on any other lists and they are high on mine and should be on others as well.

  13. yoski said:

    ummm no two door cinema club? glad you included sleigh bells and yeasayer though. much props.

  14. Taylor said:

    “Something Good Can Work” just barely missed the list.

  15. Allie McDonough said:

    Thanks for putting Hot Chip’s “Take it in” on this list. I hear so much hype about “I Feel Better” that it makes me think some bloggers out there don’t listen to the whole album before deciding which is their favorite song. Way to go!

  16. james h said:

    Fantastic stuff, and thanks for all your work on the blog this year – much appreciated.

  17. AnnaMarie said:

    Unable to DL the zip files…:( i want to hear these all in “order”. HELP

  18. Taylor said:

    The uploading.com DL is working for me, but I’m re-upping to somewhere to Hotfile now.

    New link is up. Download away!

  19. noah said:

    Check out this mstrbtrs remix for Of Montreal-For Our Elegant Caste (mstrbtrs). It’s pretty cool. it’s on my tumblr- noahfell.tumblr.com

  20. Amber said:

    I love how after downloading the zip I realized I already had most of these songs. Thanks for keeping me rocking all year long. :)

  21. Peggie Burdman said:

    You spoke about quite a few engaging points on this page. I came across it by searching Google and I’ve got to confess that I am now subscribed to your site, it is quite great (;

  22. jen said:

    my fav list

  23. Rudy said:

    argh – ZIP link is down :( / would you plz rehost ?!


  24. Taylor said:

    try this one: http://uploading.com/files/8fde6bec/bestsongsof2010.zip/

  25. wall art said:

    I wanna be a hipster!