forYoungModerns really really likes to listen to music. The following list serves as a guide to the tunes that weaved their way through our minds, into our hearts and gave us inspiration to get through another late night. And whatever can get you through the night, is alright by us. These are the Jams of the Year.
(A special thanks goes out to our Senior Writer in Los Angeles, William "Too rich for my blood" Sellers -the most talented music journalist this Art Director has ever read. He compiled the bulk of these tunes, but I had to drop some knowledge on this as well. Enjoy! -J. Codling)
Has anything ever been descried as 'sexily dramatic' before? Because that pretty much sums this one up. At a little over six minutes long, "Repeating Angel" is what one commonly refers to as an album's centerpiece and also the band's lengthiest song to date. The song rises and cools repeatedly throughout while the frenzied yet muted guitar and darts of synth keep you hooked from start to finish.
"I Left U Cuz I Luft U"
AdRad's album closer sounds a lot more Grandaddy than Earlimart and resembles an estranged sibling of the defunct Modesto band's best, most heartbreaking songs. And Grandaddy had some really good heartbreaking songs. Singer Jason Lytle always nails the mourning sad sap croon like none other and never and always lets it lean more elegant than hokey.
"Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)"
Arcade Fire debuted the title track of The Suburbs by hosting a loop of the song's opening chords on their website's blog, and it only took hearing the progression of those four chords to know that they had written another classic. "The Suburbs" teeters between alt-country Wilco and Desire-era Dylan but it always feels comfortably Arcade Fire.
On the other end of the spectrum, "Sprawl II" surprisingly summons Blondie, sees the band mess around with synthesizer and create something that makes you move as much as it makes you feel depressed about society. Who would have thought that Arcade Fire would record one of the year's more danceable songs?
"The Science of Imaginary Solutions"
"Science" had been a highlight of Autolux's live set for a while before Transit Transit came out, and luckily nothing's been lost in the album version. With all its build-ups, drummer-singer Carla Azar's terrific performance, and the great release at the end, "Science" shows just how amazing Autolux can be writing songs on such a grand scale.
"I'll take care of you if you'd ask me to" sings Victoria Legrand on this beautiful Teen Dream closer, and judging by the sincerity of her strong yet soothing voice, she means it.
Beck and Bat For Lashes
"Let's Get Lost"
It pains For Young Moderns to have to put up something Twilight-related on our site, but "Let's Get Lost" is too good to pass up. Those damn vampire movies tend to have some pretty decent soundtracks, and this Beck/Bat For Lashes duet was the highlight of the most recent one. The pair suit each other well here, with the dramatic mysteriousness slightly favoring Natasha Kahn's style over Beck Hansen's, but neither ever feeling out of place.
"General Patton (feat. Big Rube)"
The best hip hop song off the year (complete with a staggeringly huge-sounding choir backing the man up) may have not come off of Kanye West's album.
"Only The Young"
FYM is still infatuated with The Killers, and anything Flowers does. But this track, "Only The Young", continues to stand out to us on Flowers first solo album released this year. It's a tune filled with hope, like he is speaking directly to you. It’s music for the damaged, people who have had a few regrets in their life. Flowers is clearly in tune with his spirit, and gracefully provides a voice that comforts every worried soul that hears his testament.
Cee Lo Green
Circumstances were a bit strange when "Fuck You" first came around. It was an instant massive smash on Youtube, but with no actual video initially. "Fuck You" is a bit revolutionary in that it is a massive radio hit that had zero chance of radio airplay, and utilized Youtube as a premier media form for something that didn't quite have a true video right away. But would it have worked so well for a song not as great as this one? Probably not, but expect to see this formula repeated again in the near future.
"Not In Love (feat. Robert Smith)"
The Cure's Robert Smith and Crystal Castles come together naturally well on the stingingly heartbreaking "Not In Love". And the Canadian duo produce the finest, gothiest, and extremely audibly pleasurable dance track in years in "Celestica".
This Brooklyn-via-San Diego band only released a total of four songs in 2010 and half of them are good enough to land on this list. "Go Outside" was a pure, sunny summer jam, and "Most Wanted" is as addictive as the illicit temptations that singer Madeline Follin is warned about trying in the song.
The Dead Weather
Jack White and Allison Mosshart take refuge in the darkness on "Die By The Drop". Featuring: dueling vocal flourishes, sonic murder at midnight guitar work, and a booming chorus. It’s theatrical, authentic, and solidifies how badass (could there be any other phrase to describe them?) The Dead Weather is.
"Die By The Drop"
"Die By The Drop"
"He Would Have Laughed"
If "Revival" doesn't perk you up and gets you to shake a little upon first listen and beyond, then you may need to check your pulse. "He Would Have Laughed", dedicated to the late Jay Reatard, is a dreamily haunting ode to a lost friend who can't find his friends anymore, delivering chills from start to its abrupt finish.
The #1 batshit crazy rap song of the year is a perfect nightmare of a song featuring some of the most disturbing imagery outside of death metal (probably). Read the lyrics (click HERE) along with the song. We dare you. It doesn't hurt that the rave-inspired beat keeps you willingly strapped into the nightmare the entire time.
Where on earth has the West Coast been (particularly South Central Los Angeles) as of late. Dr. Dre‘s "Kush" is a hit, because Nate Dogg is indeed singin’ on it. Along with glossy vintage Dre production, Snoop (is he calling out WILL.I.AM on this?), and Akon make this a stoners anthem for both G’s and hippies to pass the dutch to. Welcome back, Dre.
"Fireworks (feat. Alicia Keys)"
"Fireworks (feat. Alicia Keys) (Deadboy Slo Mo House Edit)"
Drake's sincere and revealing lyrics are a pretty clear (and welcome) resemblance to early Kanye West material, as on the excellent "Fireworks", he riffs on how money changes people and his father reentering his life after he found huge success as a rapper. Deadboy's excellent remix of the song almost completely takes Drake's voice out of the song, but managed to enhance the melancholy undercurrents.
"Eight Hundred Dollar Shoes"
True piano men (Billy Joel still blows) Elton John and Leon Russell came out with a beautiful colaboration of the minds this year on The Union. Elton’s voice continues to age well, as he paints a beautiful portrait of a noble figure (it’s about Leon right?) with a hook that continues to haunt us, "Oh you came to town in headlines, And eight-hundred dollar shoes" (what a great line!).
Baltimore's Future Islands might be the best band in the United States that gets bafflingly little attention even from the indie blogs. The similarly structured "Long Flight" and "Swept Inside" burst with intensity and stop-what-you're-doing-and-listen lyrics from singer J. Gerrit Welmers, the one of a kind frontman with a Tom Waits rasp and a Meat Loaf (yes, Meat Loaf) stage presence.
"Little Dreamer (Jones Remix) (Feat. Victoria Legrand)"
Perhaps the best song on this list that's extremely hard to come across, this Future Island remix by experimental DJ Jones with added background vocals by the perpetually enticing Beach House singer Victoria Legrand, is the sound of the future: purely danceable, beautifully dizzying, and a little bit of pain, this is what artsy remixes can sound at their absolute finest.
An intelligently crafted, constantly evolving song, "Faded High" features vocals from the perspective of a variety of musicians (include Bon Iver's Justin Vernon) and some crafty instrumentation that truly makes this one of the most original songs of 2010.
"Heartbreaker" definitely lives of to its title as the loneliest ballad of the year with yet another perfect vocal delivery by Christopher Owens and classic Girls lyrics that sting ("There's a voice in the back of your head that says you're always going to be alone/Go turn the TV on, turn off your telephone"). "Carolina" borrows a melody from Girls' own 2009 masterpiece "Hellhole Ratrace", but the mesmerizing opening half of the song makes it its own unique anthem.
"Immigraniada (We Comin' Rougher)"Gypsy Punk full of energy and fist pumping kinetic prowess. World travelers Gogol Bordello, continue to impress us with their unique style and ability fill us with joy every time "Immigraniada" comes on. It’s a motivating tune to put on while proving the haters wrong.
"On Melancholy Hill"
Half the songs on Plastic Beach deserve to be on this Best Songs of 2010 list, but Murdoc and company are at their best when they craft songs that are as sad as they are beautiful. "On Melancholy Hill" is quite simply a flawless pop song. It has perfect song structure for radio airplay, melodies that are wonderfully melancholy, as the title implies, but never sappy. "Empire Ants" is split into two great parts: a first half in which tropical piano float throughout Damon Albarn's lonely guitar strumming and vocals, and the spectacular electronic second half, where Little Dragon's Yukimi Nagano's vocal performance is a highlight of the year.
"Before Tigers (Blindfoldfreak Remix)"
HEALTH's remix albums are starting to become more prominent than their actual albums, and when the remixes sound as good as the morose and haunting redoing of "Before Tigers" by Blindfoldfreak and when they throw in an original song like the begging-to-be-sampled-in-a-hip-hop-track "USA BOYS", you can begin to understand why.
One of the better virtually unknown (for now) tracks from a promising band from San Diego, Heavy Hawaii's "Teen Angel" is a surfy-druggy song that's so goddamned catchy and expertly crafted that it kind of makes you wonder if this is going to be one of those songs that explodes in popularity out of nowhere. It's pretty much guaranteed to get stuck in your head at some point.
"Tightrope (feat. Big Boi)"
"Say You'll Go"
"Tightrope" and "Cold War", as amazing as they are, are hopefully just the tips of the massive iceberg that is Janelle's talent. "Say You Go" is the better hint that she is the realest of deals, capable of creating blisteringly stunning pieces of music and large scales.
More hyper-energetic rock from the Vancouver duo, who are poised to have a huge year in 2011, or whenever they finish up album number two.
I think it was the It's Always Sunny in Philedelphia prom scene episode that really brought Alphaville’s "Forever Young" back into the collective unconcious. Jay-Z does an amazing job giving new life and meaning to the tune (Young-the word-could be taken as an ode to himself Young Hova as well as a comment on life). It’s a nostoligic throwback for an aging rap mogul, reminesent of Sinarta's "It was A Very Good Year", and it vividly describes memories any man, who once was a young pup can relate to. (Even my Dad back home can relate to this). "Young Forever" is a slow burner, perfect for late night rollers and Sunday afternoons.
"Good Intentions Paving Company"
"Does Not Suffice"
You can pretty much look at the track listing on the massive triple vinyl box of this album, close your eyes, point to any song, and you're guaranteed that it's going to be very much akin to any of the three songs listed above: majestic, symphonic, utterly fascinating. Joanna Newsom puts into any one song on Have One On Me that many bands put into entire discographies.
"Grow Till Tall"
Jónsi essentially took a lot of the best parts of Sigur Ros and turned them into a solo album of very accessible and brilliants songs, highlighted here by "Grow Till Tall" with its momentous build-up, and the warmly blue piano ballad "Tornado".
"Runaway (feat. Pusha T)"
"Blame Game (feat. John Legend)"
"Lost in the World (feat. Bon Iver)"
"Monster (feat. Jay-Z, Rick Ross, Nicki Minaj & Bon Iver)"
You know an album is great when it can truly boast two centerpieces, possibly three. "Runaway" and "Blame Game" are not only centerpieces on this album, but also two of Kanye's greatest accomplishments to date. "Monster" narrowly misses out on being considered to centerpiece because of a lackluster verse from Jay-Z ("LoooOoOve!") but a career-starting verse from Nicki Minaj is nothing but pure excitement. Sampling Bon Iver's "Woods" on "Lost in the World" is brilliant enough on its own, but Kanye brought in Justin Vernon himself to add some key vocals to it, which makes it one of the most stunning closing tracks in recent memory.
"Dance Yrself Clean"
"All I Want"
"I Can Change"
For the longest time, "All In Want" and "I Can Change", the two songs on this album (besides "Drunk Girls") best fit to be huge singles, were the kind of LCD songs that most people say are their favorites off their albums. And as amazing as those two songs certainly are, the two bookends of This Is Happening, "Dance Yrself Clean" and "Home" pack the personal, emotional punches that truly make James Murphy's songs so unique and spectacular.
Sisterworld is Liars' album about Los Angeles. On "Scissor", singer Angus Andrew paints a scene in an eerie LA parking lot: a person finds (or is he/she the guilty party here?) a brutally bloodied woman laying in a parking lot, tries to drag her to safety, but freaks out when the narrator sees an eye twitch. In other words: the most accurate description of Los Angeles since that Randy Newman song.
"I Am Not A Human Being"
The title track off Wayne’s second offical album of 2010, "I Am Not A Human Being", is grime-filled 808’s and guitar breaks bliss. He is currently in a tie as the greatest rapper alive. He starts off the track rapping about eating pussy for lunch. And who doesn’t do that every now and then.. Genius!
"The Things You Notice"
Marnie Stern's biggest appeal has always been her fiery finger-tapping guitar technique that would make Eddie Van Halen blush accompanied by Zach Hill's chaotic drumming. But on "The Things You Notice", Stern gets a little sentimental and intimate for a change, and it's marvelously welcome. She finds a guitar riff to accompany a radiant vocal melody, and adds some simple yet vehement lyrics ("I was lost and you found me") to create one of the better songs of 2010.
Probably narrowly beating out Kanye's "Blame Game" and "Lost in the World" for sample of the year, this captivating Canadian duo use Jon Brion's ethereal piece "Phone Call" from the Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind soundtrack and apply it beautifully. The result is a perfect waking dream: like an out of body experience; floating in air directly above a comfortably resting you.
Say what you will about MGMT's left field sophomore album, but hearing "Flash Delirium" for the first time early this year was one of the more exciting music moments of 2010. The psych-pop duo completely throw conventional song structure out the window and create a musical representation of an active volcano: a quiet beginning, unnerving momentum building up throughout, and then an unforgettable explosive eruption of an ending. Too bad the rest of Congratulations couldn't keep up the pace.
Quite possibly the most accessible song of No Age's career happens to be one of their most shining moments. Noisy guitar seamlessly flows with a pop interface, as Dean Spunt's inquisition of "When is it my turn to get a win?" becomes a headscratcher: with songs this good, why aren't they a household name already?
A lot of For Young Moderns' favorite albums this year came packed with some very lengthy songs (see: Sufjan Stevens below and Joanna Newsom above). So it's always nice to have a one minute punk rock seizure of a song to bring everything into perspective once again.
"Lewis Takes Off His Shirt"
A wonderfully constructed, rising symphony of a song that builds up to an impassioned climax.
"What's My Name (feat. Drake)"
For a song that is pretty sexually charged, why does the accompanying music have to sound so sad with it's minor chords and somber synths? Somehow, this contrast and sex and depression works extremely well. Maybe a lot of people can relate to that combination.
"U Should Know Better (feat. Snoop Dogg)"
"Cry When You Get Older"
"Dancing On My Own"
"U Should Know Better" is easily the best pop song of 2010 that features a guest verse from Snoop Dogg (Gorillaz wrote the 2nd best one), and "Dancing On My Own" and "Cry When You Get Older" held the #1 and #2 spots in the pop charts all year long in that parallel universe where everyone has good taste.
End of the World Music 2010, Part I of III: There's very little else you really need to hear off of this album than the title track. The witch house gang samples one of the most powerful melodies ever written: the centuries-old Christmas hymn "O Holy Night" (your parents have an Andrea Bocelli version on a CD in their car somewhere), add some stunning cinematic beats and synth over it, and the result is what the Book of Revelations very likely will sound like two years from now.
Even though we love Sleigh Bells' dance-metal-whatever signature sound, the best song off of Treats is also the album's most unique; one that does not employ the huge guitars or the screams. If the rest of the album is a rush through dirty downtown streets at night, "Rill Rill" is a relaxing day at the beach: breezy, fun, and always makes you want to come back for more.
"The Mystery Zone"
Even if Transference was a little off, there's no denying that "The Mystery Zone" may be one of their career best songs. The verses and chorus are so catchy, that Spoon solely focused on them rather than actually figuring out an actual ending to this song.
"All Delighted People (Original Version)"
Sufjan Stevens had a really good year despite almost alienating his fan base by nearly dumping guitars and banjos with samplers and electronics and even some Auto Tune. This hour-long "EP", only 15 minutes shorter than the LP The Age of Adz, contained those familiar acoustic instruments almost as if Sufjan was saying 'Here, enjoy them while they last." Stevens puts the guitars to hard work on the nearly 12 minute opener "All Delighted People" and the 17 minute closer "Djohariah", the former a choir and bombast-filled stunner reminiscent of Illinois, and the latter a ridiculously extended journey into the electric guitar that's reminiscent of Jimi Hendrix jamming with Peter, Paul, and Mary. And, just now, I realized that Leonardo DiCaprio is on the cover. Rad!
"Age of Adz"
"I Want To Be Well"
End of the World Music 2010, Part II of III: If Salem's end of the world music captures its chaos, and Zola Jesus captures its sorrow, then the songs on Sufjan's The Age of Adz capture the introspection of the individual during such dark times. The imagery in the lyrics of the album's title track is as wondrous as the daring, epic peaks of the music that supports it. In "I Want To Be Well", Sufjan infamously gets angry by repeatedly shouting "I'm not fucking around", a bit of a shocking gesture from the guy everyone wanted to take home to mom in 2005, but it resonates deeper which each listen, making it one of the best tracks of 2010. And then there's the 25+ minute closer "Impossible Soul"(separated into two parts above). These days, pretty much only Sufjan Stevens can get away with releasing a 25 minute song (that's longer than an episode of The Simpsons on DVD), but he manages to keep every second of the song relevant and listenable, even warranting repeat listens somehow.
"Giving Up the Gun"
"Giving Up the Gun" is a perfectly well-rounded single that proves that Vampire Weekend have the commercial accessibility to stick around for a long time while expanding their sound creatively. And speaking of expanding their sound, "Diplomat's Son" is the group's biggest experiment to date, stretching out to six minutes in length and throwing in a couple of irresistibly addictive Casio-reggae breakdowns, all adding up to what is surely the best song of the year.
Throw in some pitch-perfect 50's doo-wop backing vocals to The Walkmen being at their best, and you have a song with extremely high replay value.
The most psychedelic and least pop punk song on King of the Beach, "Mickey Mouse" is a brilliant fusion of those two genres that we're kind of surprised not many other bands have jumped on before. Here, Wavves makes psychedelic punk sound rousing and exciting.
End of the World Music, Part III of III: Zola Jesus and her incredible operatically-trained voice can make something that sounds like the world is about to end either harrowing ("Manifest Destiny") or sublime ("Sea Talk"). Either way, it's grandoise and it's beautiful.