By Mark Kawasaki
[Wanna know how to get your "best of" list published here? Well you can do it by adding a comment, of course, but you can also join our monthly book club. That's what Mark, our final best of guest lister of 2010, did. Get the jump on next year's list and join us at Eddie's Attic on January 31 as we read Nick Hornby's Juliet, Naked. Now here are Mark's top tracks of 2010, most of which interestingly are not singles. - Rube]
10. The Walkmen – Stranded
from the album Lisbon
The Walkmen’s analog sound, with vintage single-coil guitars that sound like plucked wind chimes, is interpreted loosely to maximize the gripping effect of the human element. ‘Stranded’ features a rickety horn section and was recorded live as a group, the only track from a set of New Orleans inspired songs that made it onto the album. The horns echo the cry of the lonesome lyrics like a suicide letter being read over a funeral march.
9. Alexander Ebert – Truth
I imagine Alex Ebert, and his alter ego Edward Sharpe, to be so fundamentally different from myself that I can’t help but to envy him. His meandering personal and artistic quest for truth and happiness against the backdrop of a desert itinerant commune makes for some great music. And no one can better incorporate whistling into a song.
Alexander – Truth
8. Metric – Black Sheep
from the soundtrack Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World
This tight little song didn’t make the cut for Metric’s 2009 album ‘Fantasies’ but ended up being used in the film Scott Pilgrim vs. the World and is often played live. As evidenced in the film, the song really sucks when sung by anyone other than Emily Haines, which makes me wonder what a lot of other bad songs would sound like with her singing. She’s just that good.
7. Dr. Dog – Shadow People
from the album Shame Shame
Truly an indie anthem for fringe characters, Dr. Dog asks, “Where did all the shadow people go?” Man, I’m constantly asking myself that same question. And don’t say Little Five Points. For the most part, Bradford Cox got it right when he said in an interview that Atlanta is “like a Kinko’s at night”.
6. LCD Soundsystem – Pow Pow
from the album This Is Happening
Certainly not the strongest song on the album, but the reality here is that I listen to ‘Pow Pow’ more than any of the other songs, usually to get myself pumped up for some dreaded task like cleaning my cat’s litter box. Try it, it really works!
5. Foals – Spanish Sahara
from the album Total Life Forever
This epic song builds from a slow pulse into a breathtakingly beautiful swirl of sound that envelops and intoxicates in the best possible way. If you ever just want to feel something, you’ve got 6+ minutes here to help make it happen.
4. Beach House – 10 Mile Stereo
from the album Teen Dream
Beach House is probably the band I most regret not seeing live this year. I’m a sucker for the simple yet surprising musical patterns and Victoria Legrand’s sultry (almost manly) voice. ‘10 Mile Stereo’ was the song I discovered first and have shared the most from their excellent album. Consider making an old-school CD purchase here, as it comes with a DVD of videos for every song.
3. The National – Lemonworld
from the album High Violet
The National’s lyrics are often so personal and intimate, it’s almost embarrassing. But of course that is exactly what we want from them, and I’m sure they’ve added troves of fans with High Violet as a result. ‘Lemonworld’ is my favorite song on the album, and contains one of the best lyrics: “I gave my heart to the Army, the only sentimental thing I could think of, with cousins and colors and somewhere overseas, but it’ll take a better war to kill a college man like me.”
2. Deerhunter – Desire Lines
from the album Halcyon Digest
Yes, Deerhunter is an Atlanta band. But more specifically they are a Cobb County band. And that’s significant because perhaps it sheds light on why Bradford Cox is Bradford Cox. Growing up in the conservative county but still sticking around several years later, with their Notown studio set up in Marietta, one has to wonder if Bradford and Co. artistically and psychologically feed off being suburban outcasts. Add to that the Bedroom Databank songs, and the picture of Bradford holed up in his bedroom producing massive amounts of material and then going out to perform a show in a sundress really comes together. ‘Desire Lines’ is the best song, and there are times that I have an almost physical need to hear it, but ‘Helicopter’ comes in a close second, with the guilt-ridden lyrics haunting me as I imagine Bradford running down Whitlock Avenue trying to hide from his imaginary helicopters.
1. Arcade Fire – Ready To Start
from the album The Suburbs
I’m not afraid to admit what Arcade Fire’s album The Suburbs meant to me this year. It affected me in ways that I haven’t experienced in years, in ways that I thought no longer possible from music. The theme of the album, not just nostalgia for the past but mourning the loss of the ability to experience nostalgia for the past, is spattered throughout, with lines being repeated and revisited like novelistic motifs, to make the album a cohesive artistic product like no other this year. ‘Ready to Start’ is the album’s clearest vision of where to go from here, letting go and moving forward into a dark future of boundless possibility. The thumping rhythm gets you jumping and propels you forward with the words, “My mind is open wide, And now I’m ready to start.”