Scott's Top 15 Songs of 2010: Part III

5. Jamie Lidell - "The Ring"

To be honest, "The Ring" is the only song I've heard by Jamie Lidell, but what a song it is. Mr. Lidell belts a desperate tale of a man trying to recover a long lost marriage over some seriously warped vocal loops. The eclectic accompaniment bends the blues into a shuffling junkyard beat of rattling drums, steady pianos, and frantic trumpet bleats. Lidell's voice swoons and roars in top form, easily channeling the lyrics' emotional turmoil. It's rare that someone approaches the decades-old, fixed chord progressions of the blues with such unique vision.

4. Janelle Monáe - "Tightrope (Feat. Big Boi)"
Dylan already wrote up a pretty good post about this track in his own top 5 list, but I feel like I can add a little bit to the discussion. Of all the songs on Janelle Monáe's massive, genre hopping debut album, The ArchAndroid, "Tightrope" comes off as one of the more conventional cuts on first listen. Initially, the spotlight centers on Monáe's high flying vocals, riding a slippery funk groove and firing off lines like "Some callin' me a sinner / Some callin' me a winner / I'm callin' you to dinner / And you know exactly what I mean" with infectious confidence.

However, subsequent spins reveal an impeccable devotion to detail and layering that cuts deeper than the bedding in your typical sedimentary rock outcrop. The male and female backing vocals are a particular highlight, filling out the tight rhythms with supporting harmonies that never threaten to overwhelm Monáe's voice.

Though his guest appearance merely consists of a brief verse and a few adlibs here and there, Big Boi's chilled out presence provides a perfect foil to Monáe's fiery performance. His lines fit in perfectly as yet another element of a truly swingin' track.

3. Big Boi - "Shutterbugg (Feat. Cutty)"

Yes, Big Boi does make two appearances in my top 5, this time the wildly inventive electronic stomp of "Shutterbugg", the first single off of Sir Lucious Left Foot... The Son of Chico Dusty. Mr. Patton eschews mainstream rap's standard autotune in favor of an arsenal of talkboxes that blast forth like a legion of robo-bullfrogs marching in lockstep. This track also features some of the best use of unsampled electric guitar in any rap song I've heard, with axe work ranging from staccato melodic lines to funky Hendrix flourishes.

As for the man himself, Big Boi boasts with a swift flow that perfectly complements the streamlined beat. Despite talk of "this finger on the trigger" and the like, he keeps things as chill as the drinks in the club he's rapping about. Probably the best song you will ever hear at a frat party.

2. She & Him - "In the Sun"

With "In the Sun", She & Him have crafted a gem of an indie-pop song. Zooey Deschanel proves once again that she's not just another actress who sings, but M. Ward's guitar playing and production elevate this song from breezy singalong to detailed composition. Ward's lush arrangements bathe Deschanel's vocals in layers of reverbed guitar chords and keyboard atmospheres, and his warbling closing solo channels some pretty sweet tones. A great summer track.

1. The Tallest Man on Earth - "King of Spain"
My favorite song of 2010 was The Tallest Man on Earth's "King of Spain", the galloping centerpiece of his magnificent second album, The Wild Hunt. Every second of this track bleeds raw emotion, from Kristian Matsson's roughly resonating acoustic strums to his expressive vocals: he screams his lungs out one second, only to whisper the next. The song never lets up, reaching a powerful climax with Matsson's closing howl.

Matsson's evocative lyrics are the key ingredient in making "King of Spain" an instant classic. I sort of wonder whether Matsson was partly inspired by Nikolai Gogol's short story "Diary of a Madman", in which a lowly Russian clerk goes insane and imagines himself as the king of Spain. Both Matsson and Gogol weave tales that initially glimmer with an almost playful confession of yearning. Like Gogol's protagonist, however, the narrator of "King of Spain" finds his fantasy to be mere "illusion"; the desire to "reinvent my name" becomes a feverish, tortured imagination of an escape from nameless mediocrity.

Well, I hope that didn't sound too pretentious; that's just my two cents on the song's meaning. "King of Spain" is an infectious romp, complex yet concise; it's a perfect song.

Thank you very much for reading our blog; it was a great year for music!

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