Throughout December CHIRP Radio presents its members' favorite music of 2010. Here with a list of his 10 favorite singles from 2010 is CHIRP Radio DJ Dan Morgridge.
(Click here to get the complete list of CHIRP Radio members' picks.)
"Bombay" by El Guincho, from the album Pop Negro (Young Turks) BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
"We are going to explore the cosmos in the ship of the imagination." So states El Guincho in his Carl-Sagan-esque intro to the B-movie/home cinema/let's-film-some-shenanigans (NSFW) video for Bombay, his opus of 2010. The bizarre feats of cinema displayed juxtapose the somewhat sorrowful lyrics - but if you don't speak Spanish, just sit back and appreciate the melodic and almost percussive singing. The instruments weaving in and out, the steel drums and hand claps, and the echoed final cry will keep the song growing in your head for a long time.
"Tin Man" by Future Islands, from the album In Evening Air (Thrill Jockey) BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
While "Tin Man" and my number one song share a prominent steel drum, Future Islands match it with a muscular guitar and the inimitable gruff wails of lead singer Sam Herring. The summer jam for driving around right before sunset, few other songs this year can come close to the gamut of emotions this tune can serve.
"Not In Love ft. Robert Smith" by Crystal Castles (Motown) BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes I always have a soft spot for musical re-imagination - I always find art begets art, so I love seeing someone professionally do the same thing and succeed. Taking the raw material from the rarely-mined field of Canadian glam new wave, Platinum Blonde's tune got an injection of chiptune steroids from Crystal Castles. But then for the December release, the band replaced the anemic, computerized vocals of Alice Practice with none other than Robert Smith. The Cure frontman pours his heart into it like he was 17 and just dumped, instantly owning the song like his name was Hendrix and it was about a joker and a thief.
"Burden Of Tomorrow" by The Tallest Man On Earth, from the album The Wild Hunt (Dead Oceans) BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
In another universe, Swede Kristian Matsson is the world's best Bob Dylan impersonator. Lucky for us, here he's found just enough of his own songwriting voice (and just slightly more forgiving nasal tones) to be an electrifying artist in his own right. From an album of rock-solid songs accompanied only by his own guitar, banjo or piano, Matsson's narrow stand-out is the bright-eyed gleam of "Burden Of Tomorrow", a mythological origin story: "Oh but rumor has it that I wasn't born/I just walked in one frosty morn" - yelped with enough passion that you could almost believe him.
"Runaway" by Kanye West, from the album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (Def Jam) BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
It feels almost criminal to not give Kanye the top spot in this list. You can almost imagine he would go through infinite numbers of online reviews, leaving anonymous comments saying "8.5! DO YOU KNOW HOW MUCH OF A GENIUS I AM FOR PUTTING CHRIS ROCK AND APHEX TWIN ON THE SAME TRACK?!?" But his hubris aside, Kanye has spent a year collaborating on an album with an all-star cast, but more importantly, with the Internet itself. Leaking demos left and right, posting songs without real lyrics, jumping up on tables to rap as the songs hit him - in the cult of the amateur, Kanye is king.
But to describe his finished products as amateur would be a grave mistake - love or hate him, Kanye has agonized over every second, pored over every sample. "Runaway" is the perfect microcosm of the album: a seamless blend of egomania and melancholy, both unsatisfied and unrepentant. Some of the lyrics will cause bystanders to grimace - "I sent this girl a picture of my dick/I don't know what it is with females, but I'm not too good at that shit" is as unrefined as you can imagine a song lyric- but are we grimacing at Kanye, or with him?
"Plastic People" by Four Tet, from the album There Is Love In You (Domino) BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
Four Tet's paean to the club he has used as a sounding board for much of his latest album is a peculiar lie on it's surface - a quiet, scruffy ethereal sound. But it's tempo is pure dance - a touch of two-step, a hint of rave, and a mix of whatever else it takes to get a full crowd at the Metro dancing again (like he did here in October). It's a perfect tune for when everything outside is moving fast and everything inside is moving slow.
"Meet Me In The Basement" by Broken Social Scene, from the album Forgiveness Rock Record (Arts & Crafts) BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
When a band whose vocal talents include Feist, Emily Haines, and several other occasional lead singers, you have to credit them with some moxie for calling an instrumental jam "something that's become our anthem" at the Pitchfork Music Festival this year. But by golly, the song has legs that go all the way to the floor, and the guitar interplay is some of the finest you can bang a head at. Bonus points: the anonymously-submitted video bashing the G20 summit in Toronto that the band put on their YouTube channel.
"The Gaudy Side Of Town" by GAYNGS, from the album Relayted (Jagjaguwar) BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
2010 was a banner year for Justin Vernon. Playing cover tag with Peter Gabriel, having Kanye West decide to make "Woods" the backbone of his penultimate track on his craziest album yet - but you could argue that it all started with him getting to have a little fun with GAYNGS. Not to say that anything on Relayed comes off as tongue-in-cheek; somehow, the band plays a tribute album to 10cc's I'm Not In Love with perfect conviction and execution. But “The Gaudy Side of Town” has a mournful 80’s sax wail, slinking bass, and all-high-hat scattered drums mixed with Vernon ditching his mournful winter hibernation voice for a whispery croon of schmaltzy sleaze, and you have to wonder if playing such a fun role didn't help send him into bigger superstardom (for better or worse).
"Generator ^ Second Floor" by Freelance Whales, from the album Weathervanes (Frenchkiss/Mom and Pop) BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
Weathervanes earned its share of detractors - whether for the band's spontaneous concerts, wacky instruments like a watering can, or some of the rather grating selections from the album itself. With outstanding biases aside, the elements displayed in just the first two build-up minutes alone are stunning - banjo lead, washboard and accordion ambiance, glockenspiel taking over, and then an electric guitar somehow tastefully topping it all off. Then the harmonies pop in, and suddenly you're not cheerfully singing along in the streets to this kind little tune about accepted death.
"O.N.E." by Yeasayer, from the album Odd Blood (Secretly Canadian) BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
One part Animal Collective, one part George Michael, all parts capable of making you dance like the dirtiest hippie imaginable. Anand Wilder sings his own "I Will Survive" like he's so over it, he's already in Copacabana wearing wayfarers and flirting with anyone who might bring him a Mai Tai.
"Heaven's On Fire" by The Radio Dept.
"Dancing With The DJ" by The Knocks
"Neighbor Riffs" by Surfer Blood
"Low Shoulders" by Toro Y Moi
"Ducktails" by Art Vandelay