My Favorite Songs of the Year – No. 30-21

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30) ‘Take it Upstairs, Einstein’ by Look Mexico! from the album To Bed, To Battle

With song titles that often span a couple of sentences (take ‘You Stay. I go. No Following!’ for example), one may consider Look Mexico an emo-pop outfit. Give their CD a couple of spins and you realize that they cover an even wider musical territory. ‘Take It Upstairs, Einstein’ has an atypically orchestral start but things are soon reduced to frontman Matt Agrella crooning to a lone guitar.  ‘Maybe a good friend is like a great story/ You can pick right where you left off/ But tell me where isthat kind of book/ A book you can’t put down’ he sings. Exquisitive stuff!

 

 

29) ‘Don’t Mess with a Texan’ by Mouse Fire from the album Big Emotion

Though Mouse Fire’s music fits somewhere between Indie rock and Dance-pop it’s unlikely that they figure on the Best of 2010 lists of either of the two genres. On this song however, they hit a rare balance. With incredibly catchy, danceable rhythms and a super thick bass–line coupled with tight musicianship; and not to mention a surprise solo at the bridge, this song packs in enough twists and turns to keep you coming back for more.

 

 

28)  ‘I Can’t Hold It’ by Sneha Khanwalkar from the Love, Sex aur Dhokha OST

Despite the success of Oye Lucky, Lucky Oye!Sneha Khanwalkar largely remains an unknown entity. The only female composer in the industry today, she has a knack for coming up utterly unique musical ideas, like this song for example. Mixing Rajasthani folk and hip-hop beats, Khanwalkar moans ‘I can’t hold it any longer, kunwar-saa!’ which is probably an excellent theme song for an R-rated Balika Vadhu should that ever be made (thank me later for that image in your mind!). But just as you think this is desperate plea from a woman thirsting for (ahem) love (‘Ghani Pyaas ho rahi stronger!’ exclaims a lyric), in comes the ‘Nahi toh F.O.! F.O.! F.O.! F.O.’ chorus. Ram Ram! What a song!

 

 

26) ‘Ready to Start’ by Arcade Fire from the album The Suburbs

Seeing this song by Arcade Fire on a best of 2010 list is no surprise. The dark and beautifully composed track starts off with a haunting guitar-snare countdown and soon explodes into a full blown wave of heartache and disillusionment. With quote-worthy lyrics such as ‘Businessmen drink my blood/ Like the kids in art school said they would’ and ‘All the kids have always known/That the emperor wears no clothes/But to bow to down to them anyway/Is better than to be alone’ this is sure to go down as one the year’s most memorable songs as well as a career-defining single for the Canadian indie-rockers.

 

 

25) ‘Clap Your Hands’ by Sia from the album We Are Born

There’s no denying that this veteran Aussie singer knows her pop music. Sia, who recently co-wrote as many as four songs for Christina Aguilera’s latest outing Bionic, has always been noted for her soulful vocals and her knack for producing catchy, dance-pop rhythms. What makes this song exceptional however is the genuine sense of enjoyment that it exudes; be it through its funky bass-line or the smart use of hand-claps in the chorus that complement the song title beautifully. Though clearly designed as a sugary pop tune meant to set the charts on fire, it somehow doesn’t mass–produced and formulaic, which in itself is an achievement.

 

 

24) ‘Take Everything’ by Greg Laswell from the album Take a Bow

The multi-talented Laswell clearly understands music too well to overdo things on his own solo album. ‘Take Everything’ the lead single off his latest album starts off with such upbeat strumming and cheery pianos that one is almost taken by surprise when the lyrics reveal that is actually a song about heartbreak and being taken advantage of over and over again. With his deep voice, Laswell could have easily recorded this as a deep, brooding track. But the fact that he has been able to combine two opposing ideas and not make a hash of it truly displays his genius.

 

 

23) ‘Immigraniada (We Comin’ Rougher)’ by Gogol Bordello from the album Transcontinental Hustle

Gogol Bordello’s crazy carnival featuring Eugene Hutz’s thickly accented English set against a dizzying backdrop of violins, accordions, and exotic percussion can easily be dismissed as a novelty act, and indeed, many critics and listeners alike have done so. But even the harshest critic would be in awe of the infectious energy they’ve put into this song. What is even more noteworthy is that despite switching to a major label and allowing star producer Rick Rubin to take charge of this album, the band still manages to sound like no one but themselves…naysayers be damned!

 

 

22) ‘Lovesick (Once Again)’ by The Hundred in the Hands from the album The Hundred in the Hands

Electro-pop depending on how you look at it, can either be a very forgiving genre, or a very hard one to stand out in. On one hand, a track can be production-heavy and the vocals auto-tuned, and no one kicks up a storm, but on the other hand, every act sounds like the other. To make things tougher, trying to sound too experimental in this genre (which thrives on sounding experimental ironically) can often end up sounding like a jangling mess. Which is exactly what makes this track so special! Instead of going for the conventional up-tempo, disco channeling option, THitH went the mid-tempo, guitar heavy way, and the result is one of the best tracks of this year. Try not getting the stuttering chorus stuck in your head when you listen to this one. I dare you!

 

 

21) ‘One Match’ by Sarah Harmer from the album Oh Little Fire

Musically-speaking, the only thing one can hold against Sarah Harmer is the fact that she doesn’t make records often enough. Apart from that, there is pretty much nothing that is out of place in  Oh Little Fire her  first outing since 2005, and half a dozen tracks from that album could have fit this list just as deservedly. ‘One Match’ however, for me is the standout track from the record thanks to its stop-start drum beat and his prominent yet unobtrusive bass-lines which serve as the perfect backdrop to Harmer’s honey-dew smooth vocals and playfully evil lyrics such as ‘If I only had one match left/ Would I try to light a fire under you?’. By the time the album title is mentioned at the bridge, it reaches a whole new high and its exceptional how Harmer pulls things back to the starting verse structure. Simple, sweet, and utterly lovable!

 

 

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