Dylan's Top 25 Songs of 2010 (25-1)


25) Method Man, Ghostface Killah, & Raekwon - Dangerous
24) Suckers - Martha
23) Yelawolf - Pop the Trunk
22) Freeway & Jake One - She Makes Me Feel Alright
21) Beach House - Zebra
20) Duck Sauce - Barbara Streisand
19) Dr. Dre feat. Snoop Dogg & Akon - Kush
18) Broken Social Scene - Forced To Love
17) The Arcade Fire - Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)
16) Tobacco - Stretch Your Face
15) The-Dream - Love King


14) The Black Keys - Tighten Up
13) The Roots - Right On feat. Joanna Newsom
12) Yeasayer - O.N.E.
11) Plants and Animals - Tom Cruz
10) Deerhunter - Coronado
9) Curren$y - Audio Dope II
8) Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings - Window Shopping
7) Sleigh Bells - Tell 'Em
6) LCD Soundsystem - I Can Change

5) Goldfrapp - Alive

Many of Goldfrapp's previous popular tracks lean in the direction of edgy synthpop but "Alive" finds the duo paying more dues to glam and 70s stadium rock. Lyrically and rhythmically simple, it relies on a stampede of constantly changing short and sunshiney hooks over a driving synth bass. Lead singer Alison Goldfrapp's whimsical vocal maintains a mood just short of gushy as background synthesizers plummet into chaos.

4) The Tallest Man on Earth - King of Spain

Swedish folk singer-songwriter Kristian Matsson has been around for a few years but a little internet hype for his 2010 album The Wild Hunt and a phenomenal live show couldn't have hurt in skyrocketing his popularity this year. Joyously descriptive and slyly romantic, his scratchy vocals howl over what could otherwise be described as a safe countryside jam. Instead, painting an intimate sketch of ambition and adventure, Matsson strums with a veteran finesse and couples this with vocal might few accomplished folk singers can muster.

3) Kanye West feat. Bon Iver, Rick Ross, Jay-Z & Nicki Minaj - Monster

Knock, knock. Who's there? Yeezy, Bon Iver, Jay-Z, half-Barbie half-Terminator Nicki Minaj--and for about 10 seconds Rick Ross. Oh, and this year's biggest mainstream hip-hop banger.

On an album that sports Elton John alongside Fergie, this combination seems pretty tame. But there's absolutely nothing subtle about "Monster." It schizophrenically shifts between a spookily empty background and an enormous palette of indecipherable groans, apocalyptic children at play, guttural lion roars, infectious haunted house keyboard and an undeniably satisfying open hi-hat and snare combination.

Bon Iver blesses the intro with freakishly distorted crooning and closes the track with a gorgeous outro over a progressive piano solo. In between, we get gigantic rattling and pulsing of Kanye's beat coupled with dynamic and flawlessly chilling verses from the four rappers. The transitions happen so abruptly that it feels like the hip-hop portion of the song is the animated and exaggerated manifestation of Iver's spooky campfire ghost story. Kanye, Jay-Z, Minaj and even Ross exhibit a larger than life sense of character. They flaunt, tantalize, agonize and in the case of Minaj, reach the brink of explosion but Iver calmly closes the song with his subtle delivery before the monsters can destroy the world.

2) The Morning Benders - Promises

"Excuses", the first track on the Morning Benders' 2010 record Big Echo is a ballad. Featuring only safe and subtle melodic and rhythmic changes, it relies on tasteful harmonies and hooks over a perpetual 6/8 beat with a wall of sound gradually increasing in sonic complexity. It's blissful for a while--and certainly catchy--but blatantly unadventurous compared to what they accomplish in their second track, "Promises".

Listening to the lackadaisical first verse of this song can throw you. It's gentle. The lead vocalist stays in a limited range. Perhaps we're in store for a lyrically complex but musically low key indie rock ballad. Maybe there will be a nice guitar solo halfway through but undoubtedly in the tradition of the light-hearted tinkering those first few seconds introduce.

But while "Excuses" is a naive and fleeting summer romance, "Promises" is the painfully bittersweet reflection on a saga of self-fulfilling agony. Lead singer Chris Chu breaks down, the soothing introduction was just a facade in front of his bubbling frustration. The band crescendos and adds hefty distortion and layers under Chu's brilliant lamentation, "They say it's only natural...but I can't help thinking we grew up too fast." Then the band reaches back to that blissful 6/8 sound they discovered on "Excuses" but this time the subject matter is much heavier. The momentous wall of sound packs a much stronger punch with the added context of anger per misguide. Harnessing their finesse at switching rhythmic styles and moods, the Morning Benders render "Promises" an unexpectedly heart-wrenching and beautiful indie rock masterpiece.

1) Janelle Monae feat. Big Boi - Tightrope

Janelle Monae is the type of artist where supplying a laundry list of the genres she trots across is incredibly tempting but in no way does justice to her extraordinary musical talent. She's fearless, polished, boisterous and quirky. When the raucous and funky stomp of "Tightrope" drops she's immediately ready for action, spitting rapidfire lyrics with a liquidy delivery. A brass section with impeccable staccato hits appears during the chorus and Monae elevates her vocal to that of a refreshingly youthful yet experienced soul diva. Big Boi drops in for a few words, keeping his appearance tastefully brief and allowing Monae to run the show from there on out.

"Tightrope" gets even funkier. Sassy adlibs preface an even sassier horn soli. Then Monae commands, "Now shut up" and "Now put some voodoo on it", allowing the track to close in a completely unpredicted manner. Moody strings, DJ scratching, sassy male vocal samples--it's all very easy to miss the first time through. Monae utters her last few words airily and somewhat ambiguously and the song closes with a psychedelic echo of "Happy birthday." "Tightrope" sets the precedent for a deeply complex album but stands alone as a party jam, a funk experiment, a showcase for an immensely talented artist. Pushing the limits of mainstream music like her mentors in OutKast and alluding to the far out musical character of old school acts like Parliament, Monae establishes herself as part of the lineage of true funk. This song coalesces everything she stands for.

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