You thought you were never getting this list...
Starting January 1st, 2005, I decided to pull a little masochistic prank on myself. I decided to pay strict attention to the playcounts of all the different songs in my library. If I listened to a song, it got counted - be it in the car via CD, at a club, or on the radio. Obviously, it can't be 100% perfect (buzzed at a bar laughing with friends isn't exactly the best time to note "hey! this is that one obscure b-side to the Oasis song I like, does anyone have a pen? I'm never going to remember that they played this in 4 hours.), the point is... I get closer than most. Last.fm helps a ton in that regard. So does the fact that I hate the radio stations available to me, and most of the songs I listen to are off of CDs that I own.
Speaking of CDs, this year, my listening habits changed unconsciously from a mostly song-based listening approach to a mostly album-based one. I don't really know what to make of that, and it isn't really reflected here, but I thought it was interesting, at least.
Anyway, for the sixth year in a row, this is the list of the songs that I listened to the most for the entire year. Believe me when I say that this list is pretty damned accurate. Also, I've made comments on each song - what the song meant to me personally, where I found the song, where I listened to it the most, etc.
30. Dessa - Matches to Paper Dolls
The best beat of A Badly Broken Code paired with some of the better introspective lyrics on the album. The sped-up sample certainly didn’t hurt it at all. Still, I’m a little surprised I listened to this song this much.
29. Frightened Rabbit - Keep Yourself Warm
Embarrassingly enough, I have NBC's Chuck to thank for my 2010-long obsession with Frightened Rabbit. I sort of liked "A Modern Leper" in 2008, but for some reason, I never thought to give the rest of The Midnight Organ Fight a try. I heard this song on season two of Chuck, and finally checked it out. Even then, this particular song didn’t strike me the first time I heard it. Given a couple listens, though, and I was hooked. Once the song picks up steam around midway through, there’s no stopping it. If I had heard this one earlier in the year, it would be much further up the list.
28. The National – Sorrow
High Violet was my favorite CD this year – by far. How did it get only one song on this list (and so low on this list, at that)? The simple truth is that it was nearly impossible to listen to just one song off High Violet. Anytime I wanted to hear “Sorrow” (and why wouldn’t you? The “I don’t want to get over you” part gives me shivers every time I hear it), I had to start with “Terrible Love”. If I wanted to hear “Conversation 16” (easily my favorite off the CD), well… “England” was just after that, and that’s a great song, too. Positions 31-60 are littered with other songs off of High Violet.
27. Children 18:3 - Cover Your Eyes
I mostly played this song because it was the lead single to the new album, which I was rabidly anticipating. It’s not really even one of the 2 or 3 best songs on Rain’s a’ Comin’, it just benefited from being new music by a band I love.
26. Yeasayer - Ambling Alp
This is sort of the same situation described above, but I like this song more. I didn’t really care for All Hour Cymbals, so I greeted the news of a new Yeasayer CD with a pretty emphatic “meh”. Once I heard “Ambling Alp” (I actually heard it toward the end of 2009), that changed in a hurry. The lead single for Odd Blood did a great job of setting the stage for one of my favorite CDs of 2010.
25. Crystal Castles - Doe Deer
More advance single action here, with the added benefit that this particular song is a minute and a half long and goes great with just about every violent video game ever.
24. Memoryhouse - Sleep Patterns
I really like this song. It’s that perfect kind of half-awake dreamy sounding song that feels warm and familiar. Earlier in the year, this song was a lot higher on the chart, I just sort of forgot about it as the year went on. With winter bearing down, I’d really like to revisit warm sounding songs like this.
23. Titus Andronicus - A More Perfect Union
This one’s length kind of works against it, as does the fact that The Monitor was a lot like High Violet (albums best experienced all at once). My 20 minute commute didn’t allow me to get much more than 3 songs into the CD before I arrived at my destination.
22. The Hold Steady - Hurricane J
Yet another advance single, but this one is my favorite one of the bunch. At first, something about Craig’s vocals threw me a little. It wasn’t until Linds (my Hold Steady-hating wife) asked me “Is he actually trying to sing?” that I figured it out. Huh. Craig Finn actually (kind of) singing. Cool.
21. The Thermals - A Pillar of Salt
I adore the main riff to this song, as well as the lyrics. There were numerous times where I’m quite certain that I took a chunk out of my hearing range and my car’s speaker life to this song.
20. Children 18:3 - Lost So Long
Everything about Rain’s a’ Comin’ led up to this. It wisely stretches out the “Rain’s comin’!” part at the end, before coming to an abrupt, but perfect ending. The only complaint I have is that they decide to stick a meaningless piano instrumental track after it on the album (I usually excise the track – seriously, it adds nothing, why does it exist?).
19. Yeasayer - O.N.E.
For a while, I thought this was the best song off of Odd Blood. That’s not quite true, but it does have all the qualities that make up a good Yeasayer song: a heavily 80’s-borrowed vibe, a catchy as the plague hook, and a certain bit of weirdness that uniquifies everything. Few songs better nailed those three elements than “O.N.E.” this year.
18. Rosefield - Save a Bullet
Back in 2005, there was a band called Rosefield Rivals. They played a sort of Emo-Pop mixed with Power Pop. Usually I’d dislike such a band, but they wrote such hooky music (plus they played the local club 2 or 3 times, and put on a great live show) that I had no choice but to love them. Then they all got pissed at each other and broke up, as such bands tend to do. Most of the creative force behind Rosefield Rivals made a band called Rosefield, and they took the world by force and….. made a grand total of two songs before breaking up again long before pretty much anyone even recognized what had happened. This is one of those two songs (I don’t have “All That You Got”, though I’d love to remedy that if someone would be willing to help out).
17. Frightened Rabbit - The Twist
It would seem that Frightened Rabbit make music that I wouldn’t be able to identify with. I’m happily married, and just about everything FR does (especially on The Midnight Organ Fight) is centered around being profoundly unhappy with relationships. I don’t know how to explain the appeal, but even so, when Scott Hutchison sings “I need company, I need human heat…” it still resonates with me. Plus that breakdown that happens after the second chorus is just awesome.
16. Frightened Rabbit - Nothing Like You
“There is nothing quite like someone new, and this girl she was nothing like you…” I wish I’d had this song back when I, you know, actually had breakups. Instead, the song was merely a perfect piece of pop-rock music.
15. The Thermals - Here's Your Future
I’m not really sure why this song got played more than “A Pillar of Salt”. I certainly like “Pillar” more. I think the problem lies in the fact that I played “Pillar” pretty heavily right around August of last year, whereas “Here’s Your Future” started getting plays around February. Ah, well. No one ever said this list was perfect.
14. American Fangs - Le Kick
This one is kind of a weird outlier. I don’t generally like American Fangs brand of Hot Topic punk rock anymore, but the band kind of caught me off guard. I reviewed songs for the now (maybe?) defunct website c0nsensus. Basically, you had a lot of people who just wanted someone to hear their music, so you got a LOT of dross, with the occasional diamond (I plan on writing more on this at a later date). “Le Kick” sort of came out of nowhere. It found its way onto several playlists (“Music to Shoot Stuff To” and “Music to Evade The Fuzz To” the primary two). This might have inflated the song’s playcount, but it’s a kind of honest inflation (if that even makes sense). I played the song because even beyond the adrenaline kick (which I did enjoy), I just plain like the song. I finally broke down and bought the CD, which isn’t nearly as good as this one song, but I suppose they deserve a little credit and some spare money for “Le Kick”.
13. P.O.S. - Low Light Low Life
The best song of last year’s best album. Rocks twice as hard when seen live and with the full crew (since it is a full Doomtree crew song, unlike most of P.O.S.’ other solo work).
12. Arcade Fire - Ready to Start
That subtle little downshift at the beginning of the song threw me. I was expecting the chord progression to go in a different direction. The fact that it defied my expectation even in that seemingly tiny way set the mood for this song. I knew The Suburbs would be great after this one.
11. Julian Casblancas - 11th Dimension
The CD this song comes from sucks. I thought this song kind of sucked the first time I heard it… now it’s my ringtone.
10. Crystal Castles – Celestica
I can never understand the lyrics to Crystal Castles songs.
9. Japandroids - Younger Us
8. Washed Out - Feel It All Around
I played this one a ton in the early spring months. I love everything about the sound of this song.
7. The Hold Steady - The Weekenders
This is pretty much the quintessential Hold Steady song. It has all of the trappings – self-reference, an anthemic chorus, a lot of clever one-liners. On the album that sounded the least like a Hold Steady album, we get the song that sounds the most like a Hold Steady song.
6. Sleigh Bells - Infinity Guitars
I already gave this song quite a few listens when it and “Crown on the Ground” came seemingly out of nowhere toward the end of last year. Then, after Treats turned out to be completely awesome, it got a ton of plays on just about every list that needed an adrenaline boost. As an added bonus, this song’s coda sounded absolutely killer coming out of a good sound system.
5. Fuck Buttons – Olympians
How did I miss this one last year?? I paid so much attention to the obviously-epic “Surf Solar” that I sort of glossed over the best song on the CD. Then one night, after several drinks, I curled up in my recliner, put on my headphones and gave Tarot Sport another listen. I fell asleep pretty quickly, but by some miracle, managed to awaken into some sort of half-drunken trance right when “Olympians” switches things up about 4 or 5 minutes in. Right then, I could have sworn that “Olympians” was the greatest song ever made – I didn’t even know which song it was (I had to scramble to read from the iPod to figure it out). That night remains one of my favorite experiences with music. This song is over ten minutes long, and I still managed to play it more than almost any other song this year.
4. The xx - Intro
(number 8 on this list last year)
There's no particular reason I play this song so much; it's not the most substantive song on this list (in fact, it's probably the least substantive song on this list), it's just so mellow and easy to listen to. There's never a time when I don't want to hear it. It's what got me to give The XX album a second try last year, and I can't imagine that I'll stop listening to it anytime soon.
3. Frightened Rabbit - Swim Until You Can't See Land
I was actually kind of shocked that I had played this song that much… until I thought back. “Swim” is immersive – put in the right mood, it felt as though you were floating in the middle of a limitless sea. Certainly it got plenty of plays in the car, at my PC, etc… but laying back in the dark in my recliner listening to this song… there isn’t anything quite like it.
2. Sleigh Bells - Tell 'Em
One of my favorite parts about “Tell ‘Em” is how after about 20 seconds of it, you know whether you’ll love the artist that plays it, or despise them. Everyone I played this for this year loved it. I’ve heard people complain about the gimmickiness of the “Beyond in-the-red” style mastering, about the general lameness of the lyrics (the band has admitted as much), and any of fifty other supposed problems with Sleigh Bells. My favorite comment goes “I feel like I’m getting beat up when I listen to them”… in this case, that’s a good thing, right?
1. Yeasayer - Madder Red
(6th favorite song of 2010)
I still think this was the catchiest song of 2010. The towering hook, the “oohs” in the beginning, the great fade out at the end… no song this year was as easily replayable as this one. Number two was a long way off.