Ryan's Top 25 Tracks of 2010: Part III

10. "Swim Until You Can't See Land" - Frightened Rabbit

       I wouldn’t agree with those who say that FR is the Scottish version of the National because they write songs in sorrow tones and depressively intense “meat-and-potatoes indie rock”.  No, they are a different road along the same land.   The Winter of Mixed Drinks was no The Midnight Organ Fight, but nonetheless there was a quality batch of well-written, thoroughly thought of songs.  This track exhibits a more clear-cut, pondersome side of the band, where they stop with the ever so worn break-up “I’m not over you’s” and start with the retrospective “I’m over it and moving on with it’s”.  But wait, although it is less brutally personal and somewhat less oppressive, Scott Hutchinson’s urging words and the upbeat guitar tones push the thought of being on your own and finding yourself on the edge of places but not knowing where you really are.  Their multi-layered composition shows through that they can roll with it, shedding the possible status as a break-up band and taking on a new, more complex skin.  Cheers to them.

9. "Shine Blockas (feat. Gucci Mane)" - Big Boi

       Big Boi put out the best mainstream hip-hop album of the year---it was chock full of treasures that came in every shape and size, jams for every occasion.  “Shutterbugg” obviously took over as the go-to bam-bam of the album for its glass-shattering electro beat that is sort of unlike any other hip-hop beats and irreplaceable flow by none other than his truly, but personally “Shine Blockas” takes the prize for staying golden. 
       It’s hard not to reject a feel-good cruiser of a slapper and luckily for all of us, Gucci doesn’t try to take over the track, but instead he keeps up with the easygoing mood and throws in some true swag.  In fact, schwag defines this track, you feel that nonchalant cool coming over you and you just roll out without giving a fuck.  And it’s also assuring that Sir Patton clearly values style over substance without taking it out of his writing because his rhymes are just as potent as any other on the album.  But his wide-awake, slow and fast, tastilicious flow is without a doubt the greatest feature—it gives any man the ultimate confidence to go at it like that.  After that, the driver of the track is the top-notch production, like the best chauffeur you never had ‘cause he supplies you with an unlimited supply of the bubbly and gets you and your entire posse into the chillest clubs in the City. 
       So many layers and so many nuances to find leave any picky music snob enough to chew on, especially that fantastic soulful sample that is utterly guaranteed to drop lower jaws and lower articles of clothing alike.  Next time you find yourself in that situation, don’t even forget about throwin’ this song on for a booster of swag armor.

8. "Ridin' In My Car" - She & Him

       It was refreshing to see M. Ward and Zooey Deschanel come back with a more polished Volume Two, relative to the obvious freshman LP Volume One.  Volume Two was more than a pleasurable listen all the way through every time: they put a glistening, ‘70s AM finish on every rough corner and shot us straight into California, with each song on the album showcasing a different time and place in that fateful state, starting in the morning and ending late into the night. 
       We find this track playing at midday, where we see Z and M cruisin’ down PCH, top down, and somewhat sepia-toned as they think back to summers and lovers of the past.  Z’s pure and refreshing vocals, especially coupled with M’s soft-spoken voice, shine without a damper cloud as “She” surprisingly shows to be the perfectly sweet and wistful narrator of this chapter.  And once again, M proves why he is “Him” with his strikingly fitting guitar work: reverbed and light, with touches of uniquely smooth twang. 
       It would be inexact to say that the sound is timeless, but it would be equally stupid to register it in with the late ‘60s pop era.  They don’t try to jump into a particular time period, rather they take it as it comes: Z crafts the tunes to precision and M captures that image in time with Mapplethorpe-like precision.  It’s sunny, it’s distinctly time-stamped, and it’s a nostalgic gem.  Sometimes, there’s just nothing better.

7. "Me and the Moon" - The Drums

       The thing about these boys from Brooklyn is that they excel at what they represent.  Take one look at them and call them ‘80s boys by the way they dress and cut their hair, and then further fortify your statement by listening to the reverb-happy tunes that drive their post-punk, new pop sound that is obviously derived from the likes of New Order, the Cure, and the Smiths.  What you’ll quickly find is that they know what they like and do what they like, results come out and they have an invigorating debut that restores my faith that delightful and well-crafted indie pop can still be done well. 
       Their heartsore leanings are easily echoed in the lyrics of this track, where you can find all the elements that make them great: halfway to minimalist arrangement, a steady drum track, wiry guitars that stick to twangy riffs, an easy but prominent bassline, and a singer who longs and pleads in true Moz-esque style.  Their musical style is infectious enough, but throw in some pretty-boy charm and true-to-life songwriting and you have a real story. 
       At every point in the song where it seems to go too straight too long, they make a turn and surprise you.  (Nuance rules, do-do-do-dodo-do-do).  They tell you to dream a little fun with John Hughes responsible for setting the mood (and only that, he isn't that big), and even though that sounds juvenile and overdone by this point in time, you need that track that takes you back to when you didn’t care about that (do-do-do-dodo-do-do).

6. "The High Road" - Broken Bells

       When James Mercer and Danger Mouse launched this project early on in 2010, I didn’t know what to think because I was too pissed at the former for basically kicking out 2 core members of the Shins.  ‘The High Road’ is not only “hard to find”, but it’s also hard to refuse.  The album is an experimentally melodic masterpiece, without a stray song on it and with the utmost highest production and songwriting quality that we can always expect from the two giants in their parts of the musical sky. 
       The song itself boasts so much mastercraft and so many layers that it forces introspection and expression, easily heard in Mercer’s vocals as he vacillates between a low pensive voice to a higher cathartic tone.  The atmosphere feels and sounds shadowy and unclear, as Danger Mouse cues up bubbly synthesizers while Mercer keeps it solemn throughout.  But this is by no means a sad song, it is more forcing the fact that “you let loss be your guide”, that misery will get you to take the wrong turn onto a path of more sorrow.  At the same time, it isn’t inspirational or uplifting either, it just leaves the analysis and interpretation open to the listener.  All things considered, on a completely musical level, the song is hard to pick a fight with, and it possesses a satisfying bridge to the final verse that keeps you coming back. 
       Who knows, you might even reach your sacred place if you meditate while listening to this track, I know I’ve gotten close.

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