I'm a little reluctant to do a "Best of" list because I seemingly haven't sampled or been sufficiently exposed to the wealth of great albums that were released this year. I was also admittedly late to the party with 2009 releases like Dan Deacon's Bromst and These Four Walls by We Were Promised Jetpacks, so I'm sure I'll glom onto some of this year's best albums at some point next year.
This the first group of my selections for songs I consider standout tracks, some from albums, others coming from samplers. So, in roughly alphabetical order by artist (or at least by how iTunes sorts artist names), these are songs I listened to and loved that were released this past year. Where possible, I've linked to sites where you can hear these songs, as well.
Arcade Fire - Modern Man: I'm not going to add much to the mountains of frothy prose that has already been issued about a band that found early critical and, now, great commercial success. At turns reminiscent of Bowie, The Cars and Bruce Springsteen, this very 80s ode to existential disaffection and human irrelevancy in the wake of technology demonstrates why Arcade Fire are hitting their peak. If you haven't seen their brilliant and interactive Wilderness Downtown video, I'd suggest you check it out.
Basia Bulat - Gold Rush: The standout track from Heart of My Own, which was good but not great. A perfect showcase for Basia's dusky, lilting voice, and the surprising energy of which her band is capable.
Beach House - Zebra: This song is like the sunlight on a blustery January day, gauzy and otherworldly. This track popped up on a Sub Pop sampler, and I took an immediate liking to it.
Broken Social Scene - Sweetest Kill: This is one for the makeout mixtape (or MP3 playlist), sounding more than a bit like of Montreal covering a previously unreleased Beatles track.
Four Tet - She Just Likes to Flight: There Is Love In You was another strong January release, demonstrating that 2010 was going to be an outstanding year for new music. Kieran Hebden proved that IDM didn't die at the talons of Owl City, releasing a breathtaking record that's deeply personal despite being largely instrumental. SJLTF starts off slowly, demanding a bit of patience, but the song's unfolding is well worth the effort.
Frightened Rabbit - Living in Color: This foot-stomping, fist-pumping anthem from WWPJ's Scottish countrymen (and former labelmates) exemplifies that our friends across the pond haven't forgotten how to rock, and can more than hold their own against the Jersey sound of The Gaslight Anthem and Titus Andronicus.
Hey Marseilles - Rio: I first encountered this Seattle septet via NPR's Tiny Desk Concert series. Vocalist Matt Bishop sounds like the love child of Colin Meloy and David Ford, and the band crafts effortlessly pretty tunes that resemble at turns Beirut, Neutral Milk Hotel and the Decemberists. I'm simply amazed at how they managed to cram that many people and instruments into Bob Boilen's office.
In the coming days I'll unveil parts II and III of this list, with more Baltimore love, Icelandic cheer, and Canadian charm leading the charge. For now, enjoy!
- The Big Easy