Top Songs of 2010: #37-33

I just got back from seeing The Fighter. As my friend noted, it was much more uplifting than he had expected it to be. It was, too. I wouldn’t describe it as “feel-good” by any means. It’s challenging on a lot of levels, but offers a sense of promise that people can be greater than themselves with the right love and support. I understand that may not exactly be the message that others got from it, but hey, I’m an optimist. When I want to be. Anyway, it’s left me energized and so, rather, than hit the town on this wonderful New Year’s Day, I’m going to continue my recovery by continuing my list.

#37 – “Brave Man’s Death” by J Roddy Walston and the Business

This is actually a nice companion song to The Fighter thematically. Though that film relied heavily on “How You Like Me Now” by The Heavy, it shares a lot more in common with “Brave Man’s Death.” This is a song that explores the complicated nature of family relationships, and the fulfillment of individual potential. Walston’s lyrics are truly remarkable as he remarks on his father’s deathbed accolades and his mother’s suicide. Clearly, the protagonist has dealt with a lot of fucked up pressure from his parents – his mom’s suicide note read, “Boy, if you wanna live / you gotta die like a brave man.” The message of the song is that death can give purpose to life as Walston pleads in the chorus, “I don’t wanna die in the middle of the night / I want a brave man’s death.”

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Top Songs of 2010: #42-38

I am back in Tejas now, and lovin’ it. Most of my grad school cohort skipped town for the holidays, and I have nothing to do, so I’ve actually been somewhat productive today. I went to the bank, the grocery store and two different post offices! Tonight I’ll be headed out to feast on some local Austin music. For now, the list must go on. As usual, feel free to let me know what your thoughts are.

#42 – “I Need A Dollar” by Aloe Blacc

I actually met Aloe Blacc in 2006. As a striving Southern California R&B artist he came to give a lecture to my Sociology of Popular Music class about his experiences making music and with the music industry. After class I talked with him about my own desire to be a professional musician and he gave me an autographed copy of his album from that year, Shine Through. I listened to it once or twice and didn’t think of it again.

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Top Songs of 2010: #47-43

Hey all, here we go – the moment I’ve been waiting for: the start of my year-end list. Hopefully this will expose you to some new stuff while recapping some of the musical moments that made this such a great year for you. And 2010 was a great year for music. It’s been nearly impossible to narrow everything down and then to rank it in terms of quality. But that’s my job on this site. Before we get started, I’ll throw in three more Honorable Mention songs that I left out of the last post that we could effectively consider 48-50. In no particular order:

I Can’t Write Left-Handed” – The Roots & John Legend; Two leading lights in modern R&B and hip-hop. The Roots have been crazy busy this year, and while I haven’t heard their critically-acclaimed album, How I Got Over, this track from the covers album, Wake Up! immediately stood out to me. Legend sounds great on this old Bill Withers track and the band rocks out.

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Top Songs of 2010: Honorable Mention

I’ve got 40 songs to share with you all in this post, so I’ll leave the commentary to a minimum. Suffice it to say that I will issue the disclaimer that I have clearly not heard every song that came out this year, so this cannot be a comprehensive list. Additionally, my tastes tend to skew away from straightforward pop, as many of you reading this already know, so you sadly won’t find Katy Perry or Rihanna on here, even though they are very good. Additionally, since this is a songs list, there is nothing by Baths, Four Tet, or Girl Talk, all of whom made fantastic albums this year but I didn’t think that any single tracks stood out from those selections. Finally, there are no repeat artists. Each artists gets one representation on this list. So if they appear in the HM that follows, they will not be appearing in the top 47. Here’s a palette warmer before the main event…man, I love these songs:
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#1 – The Smiths

Here we are. The end of the most public list I’ve made in my life yet. And days before the conclusion of my list, the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame announced their inductees for this year. They heeded my advice (clearly) with Tom Waits (yay!), but have also added Dr. John, Darlene Love, Alice Cooper and Neil Diamond. Certainly arguments can be made for each…but I make better arguments for the 20 on my list. 🙂 I actually don’t mind Dr. John – a paragon of New Orleans music (check “Right Place Wrong Time“) – but the others are a bit more suspect to me. Inducting Darlene Love, known for her recordings with Phil Spector in the 60s, is like inducting Horace Grant to the NBA Hall of Fame just because he happened to win a few championships. He may have been a part of the team, but he wasn’t the reason they won. And sadly, the Beastie Boys, Donna Summer and LL Cool J were all passed over. Sad, but no surprise. There’s always next year.

In the meantime, we look at what could have been and what may never be. The Smiths are a towering presence in the history of popular music, particularly in Britain where their impact is analogous to that of Nirvana stateside. In the early 80s, popular music on both sides of the Atlantic was filled with artifice – costumes, synthesizers – and the Smiths tapped into a desire for “authenticity” amongst music fans. They were very consciously a “guitar band.” They deliberately wore their street clothes onstage. The name was chosen for its simplicity, its implication of universality that was in clear opposition to many popular artists at the time. Continue reading

#2 – Sonic Youth

Sonic Youth have quite a reputation, no matter who ask. Proponents characterize this band as the godparents of all rock that followed them, while critics deride them as “just noise.” I probably fall somewhere in the middle (though their ranking on this list indicates that I lean considerably toward the former). SY have been tremendously influential and groundbreaking, but there are very few singles you can just pop on to get a sense of them. Sonic Youth make you work; they demand much of their listeners, and active listening is rewarding, though tiring.

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#3 – Kraftwerk

Okay, let’s wrap this thing up. I had to ignore the blog for a bit there, due to the unreasonableness of professors wanting me to write final papers for them or something absurd. Apparently, it was going to affect my grades so I had to do it. And now here we are and the whole music blogging world has gone and started putting out their year-end lists! I’m still counting down this list, and some have even wondered why I’m bothering with devoting so much time to this.

Well, I’m fascinated with how we, as a culture and society, determine what to canonize – what is important enough for our society to remember. This is why I critique the VMAs, the Grammys and now the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame. These are the broadest cultural markers for future music fans and historians and are dictating our musical history – at least the dominant stories of our history – in significant ways. And frankly, I’m not going down without a fight. A determinedly passive fight from the margins of the blogosphere, but a fight nevertheless. So suck it, haters.

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