30. Sleigh Bells- Infinity Guitars
Watch the video HERE
Sleigh Bells melts your face, and you like it. Last year, I pegged “Crown on the Ground” one of the top songs of the year, and in the meantime they decided to actually release a proper album. Sleigh Bells has a pretty basic formula, but it’s unique and fun as hell. Upbeat, danceable, fuzzed out like shit, and leading to countless instances of people checking their speakers to make sure they still work, “Infinity Guitars” takes a pretty lazy beat, pushes the guitar until it’s fuzzed out as hell, and then takes Alexis Krauss’ vocals and puts them behind about 3 layers of production. The song ambles, pretty much repeating the same lyrics (seriously, there are eight lines of lyrics in the entire song) for about two minutes before the Delorean reaches 88 miles per hour and we’re treated to 30 seconds of upbeat face-melting noise pop. I’m not sure why I made a Back to the Future reference just there, though Sleigh Bells would have been an improvement over the soundtrack in the future scenes from Back to the Future 2.
This could have amped it up to Back to the Future 3 status
29. Frightened Rabbit- Things
Listen to it HERE
Frightened Rabbit, one of my top bands of 2008 not to make my 2008 list because I hadn’t listened to it enough at the time, again gets hosed in my 2010 list, being the last album out to not make the top albums list. Seriously guys, you were this close with The Winter of Mixed Drinks (awesome title, by the way). Really they suffer from the fact that The Midnight Organ was so good, had so many good songs, and was subject of one of my favorite blurbs ever (“Coldplay for people with self-respect”). Their soaring, expectation-less angst was unmatched, and they couldn’t have hoped to hit that point again with this album. The band expanded, and their sound did too. It’s sort of like John Mayer looking at Jessica Simpson- she’s gotten bigger, but she doesn’t look as good as she did before, even if she is sexual napalm.
Let it also be known that the only way John Mayer can make an Elitish.com yearend list is if we’re making jokes about his racist genitalia.
“Things” starts the album off showing the shift away from their previous forlorn Scottish folk-rock ways, with distortion splashing throughout, and as a fitting bridge between Midnight Organ and Mixed Drinks, they throw us a bone by tossing a thematic motif in the lyric of, “You’re my human heat, for the things are only things, and nothing brings me like you bring me.” It builds and drives somewhat recklessly, as Scott Hutchison dances through the rising melody. It’s a solid way to start a solid album, and it is in no way racist. Which is the opposite of John Mayer’s junk.
Ha, seriously, what a douchetard.
28. Frightened Rabbit- Swim Until You Can’t See the Land
Watch the video HERE
“Things” goes right into “Swim Until You Can’t See the Land“, and fittingly falls just about one spot ahead of it. This “worst swimming instructional guide ever” track was a single before it was released on this album, and it’s good single material. It’s catchy, it’s grandiose, it’s even insert random descriptor that music reviewers say (angular guitar?), and it’s definitely good enough to land in the top 50 songs of the year. But it also shows a bit of the lyrical shift for the band that put the album just a shade below “Top albums of 2010” territory for me. Instead of blunt yet honest lyrics like, “It takes more than fucking someone you don’t know to stay warm,” we get swimming out to sea as a metaphor for willful drowning. And it’s good, but when you’ve come to love the direct, “holy shit did he just say he has an STD?” kind of lyrics, the song feels like a bit of a letdown for a band whose sophomore effort probably had 3 of the top 15 songs of 2008.
27. Girl Talk- Jump the Stage
Listen to it HERE
Really, putting Girl Talk tracks onto a “top songs of the year” list is as tricky to peg as it is ultimately pointless, lazy, and sort of like cheating. At this point, you’d start to think that the Girl Talk shtick would get old, but apart from a few misses (how do you not go into the chorus of “Paint it Black” when you sample it!?) and re-used samples from earlier albums, All Day still manage to be goofy, fun, and incredibly danceable, with a great number of laugh-out-loud-holy-shit-he-mixed-that-with-THAT-and-it-works-so-fucking-great moments.
Girl Talk, a.k.a. Gregg Gillis, who has gone from clean shaven to long hair to sort of looking like the Caveman from those Progressive Commercials, breaks the album up into “tracks” as a courtesy, he insists that it’s a single mix that should be listened to all at once, probably while fuckin’ raging.
So when you want to break apart a Girl Talk song, you choose the ones that have the most “HA!” moments. This one is up there, from the use of Skee-Lo’s “I Wish” through the awesome combination of Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s “Shimmy Shimmy Ya” with Radiohead’s “Creep,” and finally with the incredibly epic combination of Lady Gaga’s “LoveGame” overlapped with Beastie Boys’ “Hey Ladies” all over Iggy Pop’s “Lust For Life.” It works incredibly, and it’s one of the most lightheartedly fun moments of any track this year. So come on, awkward white hipsters, hit those dance floors, and feel superior when you let yourself think you’re the only one that caught that sampled use of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.
26. Girl Talk- Let It Out
Listen to it HERE
Yeah, you might be noticing that I just rocked back-to-back instances of the same band having consecutive spots on the year end list. That’s two repeat artists. Full on Double Repeat artists, how is this happening?
Really it’s almost impossible to separate Girl Talk tracks. They’re not meant as songs, and having them included on this list is a good indicator of the laziness of someone who doesn’t start releasing his top 2010 list until February. So I can’t really put these too high on my list- despite the fact that I enjoy the hell out of them, they’re not stand alone. They’re not meant to be stand alone. So, I just arbitrarily pick out the two that have my favorite moments. As everyone except for Guy Pierce in Memento surely remember, I had a good handful of sections in “Jump the Stage” that I really liked. And they might be some of the best moments on this album which, spoiler alerts, will end up on my top 10 albums of the year list.
Spoilers do not apply to fictional characters in Christopher Nolan films
And really, as far as the number of laugh out loud awesome moments go, “Jump the Stage” is probably a better track than “Let It Out.” So why is this one spot higher than the other? I’ve got four words for you.
Mr. Fucking. Blue. Sky.
Not to be confused with Mr. Yellow Baby Sun of your Nightmares
Really, that’s all it takes for me, a badass instance of using “Mr. Blue Sky” by E.L.O. Sure, there’s a fun bit with “Loser” by Beck, and Gillis’ use of “Rude Boys” by Rihanna to close things out is a lot of fun, but really this song is on here because of E.L.O. Listening to this song, my initial twitter response (because fuck the social media generation, sigh) was “Oh Girl Talk, you had me at Mr. Blue Sky by E.L.O.” And he does. Does that make me easy? Like, a mash-up slut? I don’t know, probably. But I’m okay with that.
I tried to google image search “Mash Up Slut” and…well, here, just, here’s a picture of pizza instead. I’ll be back after my eye wash.
25. The National- Bloodbuzz Ohio
Listen to it HERE
The National is a lot like Spoon- they’ve been around forever (The National formed in 1999, Spoon in 1993), and they’re so consistently solid that it’s easy to overlook their efforts. In High Violet, the fifth album from the Brooklyn-via-Cincinnati five-piece, you get exactly what you expect from The National. There’s no musical leaps being made by the band here, it’s a series of songs that sound like they could be placed on just about any National album. And, for those of us who have listened to Alligator and Boxer, that’s not a bad thing at all.
With Bloodbuzz Ohio, we see the ultimate example of what The National thrives doing. The song is dense, upbeat, yet mopey at the same time. Matt Berninger’s voice sounds like a funeral procession at times, full of sorrow and dejection. High Violet took a year to record, and as Berninger told Stereogum, “We started out trying to make a pop record. I had the word HAPPINESS taped to my wall. We veered off that course immediately.”
Haha, holy shit guys. I think The National moved up a few spots on my inevitable “Top 10 awesome bands that just need a hug” list (coming soon to an elitish.com near you). Listening to The National is like walking by a crazy, depressing homeless person that happens to have an adorable tiny puppy with them. You have no idea how to react to that. Hell, google images can’t even handle that shit.
See, this is the closest I can come to matching that analogy.
Lyrically, the outstanding chorus is what sets this track apart, as the driving instrumentals that still somehow seem to amble do their job, Berninger croons, “I still owe money to the money to the money I owe, I never thought about love when I thought about home.” Hey, if you’re going to do bleak, you might as well do bleak well, and few can match The National on that front.
24. The Arcade Fire- The Suburbs
Watch the video HERE
The first track, and title track, of The Arcade Fire’s 2010 release starts with upbeat, almost carefree piano as the backbone of the strong, a sort of happy sounding instrumentals that clashes a bit with The Arcade Fire’s usual gloomy ways. And lyrically, there is a disconnect, as Win Butler paints a sort of familiar scene of dissatisfaction with a Suburban status-quo, an American Beauty-esque unnamable despondency. But, but, the music part is like, sort of happy, right? Right?
And really, it’s not so bad. The suburbs have boobs that shoot flowers at you, after all.
“In the suburbs I learned to drive, and you told me we’d never survive. Grab your mother’s keys, we’re leaving,” the song starts. The song highlights a couple in their quest to escape the suburbs, the thematic “Neighborhoods” of 2004’s Funeral, and a combination of suburban boredom (or, to quote the song, “By the time the first bombs fell, we were already bored”) with the eventual resignation of a sort of Suburban circle of life, and as the opportunity to leave fades, so does the desire. “In the parking lot we’re still waiting, it’s already passed, so move you feet from hot pavement and into the grass,” Butler cedes at the end of the song, emphasizing, along with the chorus of, “Sometimes I can’t believe it, I’m moving past the feeling,” that despite his greatest efforts and intentions to move to the city (cough, hot pavement, cough) to the grass (cough, suburban lawns, cough) he’s moved on.
So basically he’s like a combination of Kevin Spacey in American Beauty, Donnie Darko, and like every fucking character from every fucking “dark” TV show, movie, or book that derides Suburban life. And it would be frustrating as hell, if not for the fact that The Arcade Fire aren’t heavy handed, instead relying on a theme that, in focusing on our past childhood, we waste too much of our present adulthood. “I want a daughter while I’m still young,” Butler says, only to close out the verse, “and show her some beauty before the damage is done.” Depressing? Sure, but oddly optimistic in a way too.
See, at least The Arcade Fire had the good sense not to squish their protagonist with a goddamn airplane engine…
23. Peter Adams- Cumulus Spires
Listen to it HERE
Cincinnati’s “the most hi-fi low-fi recorder ever” Peter Adams, who was a pretty big deal in my 2008 list always seems to be changing his stylistic approach with each recording. The Spiral Eyes started with oceanic electronic noise building to a music box and kicking into an upbeat anthemic rock song. The rest of the album followed suit- catchy, four minute songs with strings and the ability to make your eyes bulge out when you’re told, “yeah, all that instrumentation and vocals? All done by one fucking guy, man!” Then came I Woke Up With Planets in my Face, where his sound was pretty much the same, yet totally different. Sure there were the three minute jaunties, “Ziggurat” being one of the standout tracks, but the real heart and soul were the sprawling seven minute orchestral epics, “Antarctica” and “The Seventh Seal,” which delicately guided us along for the duration with precise use of strings, and some of the most “surprisingly easy to rock out to this violin section” moments of anything I’ve ever listened to.
2010 did not bring us any new Peter Adams albums, instead we received two separate EPs- I Am a Strange Loop and Dances for Heather, both of which were recorded for the Cincinnati ballet. Dances for Heather is one 15 minute instrumental track that is split into three different tracks (but each track earns a spot on this list). And before you can disgustedly throw down your laptops and shout, “EWW! BALLET!? What the shit!?” let me tell you this. Shut up. While you wouldn’t assume that a recording for a ballet would actually be orchestral pop, or even have lyrics, “Cumulus Spires,” the closing track to this EP, sprawls for nearly eight minutes, but it gives you a healthy dose of excitement and, well, just solid musicianship.
Starting off with slow, pretty violin for over a minute, by the time the track kicks into a Russian-sounding instrumental jam off, you might assume the track will just be an instrumental. But when Adams’ always light and gentle vocals kick in, the track begins to sound more like the epic lengthy tracks of Planets. There’s an ambiance about this song, and while it’s not as catchy as “Antarctica,” for example, it still manages to peg itself as an eight minute song that feels like it rushes by in four. At times it glides softly in place, at other times it soars. There’s more violin focus than his previous work at play here, the guitar sort of lingers in the background, which is to be expected for a ballet piece I guess. But no matter what, as just a listening experience, it’s incredibly awarding.
And keep in mind, ballet is cool again because it makes Natalie Portman go all Lesbian on Mila Kunis, so there’s that too.
And the Oscar goes to…cunnilingus.
22. The New Pornographers- Your Hands (Together)
Watch the video HERE
It feels like I’m not doing my job as completely as I should, since the three songs from Together by The New Pornographers that I’m putting on this list all happen to be the first three tracks from the album. But hey, nothing wrong with an album being top-heavy. After two tracks of, “Oh, that’s cute” songs, Carl Newman and company decide to add in a dash of excitement, giving us probably the most upbeat track on the whole album. Power chords pepper the track, as the whole track is essentially sung with some level of harmonies occurring, with Kurt Dahle getting to really let loose on the drums during the chorus, which is another thing that The New Pornographers have to start doing more like having Neko Case belt her way through a power pop anthem, okay? Sorry, had to get that out of my system.
Like this! Do you not remember this!?
It’s crazy to think that The New Pornographers have been around for ten years, a fact that should make me feel incredibly old, save for the fact that I didn’t hear about them until I was in High School and they were already two albums into their discography. But that’s beside the point. Listening to The New Pornographers now, you can appreciate the songs, and in fact, tracks like “Your Hands (Together)” are very well done songs. But, unfortunately, everything the band does will invariably be compared to their earlier work, which was so transcendent it is sort of hard to match. But we can’t fault them for trying.
I was gonna make a Yasmine Bleeth joke about how like, she used to be impossibly hot but she’s still putting herself out there, but apparently the only thing she’s done recently is get busted for coke, and she hasn’t worked since 2003. So I guess that analogy sort of imploded upon itself.
21. Sleigh Bells- A B Machines
Listen to it HERE
It’s hard to really give Sleigh Bells their appropriate dues. These are not lyrics that you go into depth interpreting, these are not intricately composed musical sonnets. This is screeching howling guitar, fuzzed out, over a drum beat and “Got my A machines on the table/ got my B machines on the floor” serving as the ONLY lyrics in the damn song. When bands are described as noise pop, never is it more true for Sleigh Bells. It’s pop, this is not music meant to be delved into and interpreted, this is music you listen to just for the cathartic experience of that listen. You consume it, you are done with it, you consume it again.
The only difference being that the noise aspects of the music normally would repel casual listeners. Not so here, somehow the meshing guitar elevates this song from simplistic repetition to high quality dance music. It’s as accessible as any band with these elements will ever sound, and it’s enjoyable as hell to listen to as well.
And so, part three of five has been completed. A few more lists to go, and then we’ll get the top 10 albums of the year, so stay tuned.