It's hard to believe it's already been a year since we compiled Our Favorite Albums of 2009. But, with the end of any year, it's good to reflect back on what you experienced.
What makes for a great song? Everyone's opinion differs on the subject. Music bloggers and critics are known for making lists of what you should have been listening to all year. When it comes down to it, a great song is a personal experience and sometimes there's no other way to explain the resonance.
Below (and in no particular order) are a few of the songs that stood out to me in 2010. Stay tuned for the second part of this list in the near future.
(the artist names link to official websites and song titles link to audio/video webpages)
Birds & Batteries - "The Villain"
California indie-pop group crafts an elusive, slow-burning mystery.
Nneka - "The Uncomfortable Truth"
Socially conscious neo-soul with Afro-beat rhythms and a hip-hop edge from this Nigerian-German songwriter.
Beach House - "Norway"
Dreamy layers of floating echoes and hushed vocals made this Baltimore duo's song one of my early picks from the year.
Yeasayer - "Ambling Alp"
Genre (and culture) bending indie worldbeat synth rock from the Brooklyn band's impressive sophomore album. Also one of the trippiest videos of the year.
Massive Attack - "Paradise Circus" and "Saturday Come Slow"
What can I say? I love me some Massive Attack. And with cameos from Hope Sandoval and Damon Albarn respectively, "Paradise Circus" and "Saturday Come Slow" were two of my most-rotated songs of the year. Moody, hypnotic and rather dystopian chill-out tracks from the pioneers of trip-hop.
Portico Quartet - "The Visitor"
British contemporary jazz that's atmospheric and cinematically noir. I just heard of the quartet this year from my sister, who's seen them perform in Paris and Boston. The use of an instrument called the "hang" lends an exotic steel drum-like element to the group's cool fusion.
Yelawolf - "Love is Not Enough" (explicit)
Southern rap coming from a white skateboarder in backwoods Alabama. Spitfire lyrics wax on smalltown America with some of the year's best beats to back it up. Yelawolf's "Love is Not Enough" is an underachiever's self-loathing rejection of heartbreak - crass but honest, with a chorus that will stick in your head.
Foals - "Spanish Sahara"
Brit math-rockers trade in their jitters on this powerfully restrained track. It builds from a whisper and breaks into the kind of unnerving, icy waves perfectly reflected in the subtly engaging video.
Janelle Monae - "Tightrope"
One of last year's biggest breakout artists, Monae's brand of funked-out soul and James Brown footwork earned her the respect of hip-hop moguls Big Boi and Diddy.
Blitzen Trapper - "Heaven and Earth"
Reverent piano ballad with a folksy alt-country bent. It's really quite lovely and hangs with you.
The National - "Bloodbuzz Ohio"
A somber roadtrip through Americana with churning rhythms to drive home the nostalgia.
The Black Keys - "Tighten Up"
After a decade of groovus, gritty blues-rock, this Akron, Ohio duo may have finally gotten their due. A great hook and plenty of whistling was enough to get back to some old school rockin'. The music video is playfully entertaining as well.
For Part II of the list, please click here.