John Walker's Electronic House

Things Of The Year 2010: Songs

by on Jan.01, 2011, under The Rest

Not all albums are good all the way through, and nor indeed can I always be bothered to find out. These were the songs that most infiltrated my 2010, despite their not all being released in 2010. I’m not going to play by your “rules”. Kieron plays by rules, and has posted his top 40 here. I had heard three of the songs before yesterday. I bet most of them feature bleepy-bloopy noises and shouty 20-something girls wearing school uniforms. And Dan’s top 10 is always worth reading, and he’s an endless source of great music tips (even though he likes that awful Best Coast album).

Please let me know the songs I should have included below.


Janelle Monáe – Tightrope (Letterman version)

She may have the most distractingly annoying hair of all time, but this is an enormous, epic song, and I think the Letterman performance is the definitive version. It’s as classy as Frank Sinatra without the malevolent evil, and unquestionably boosted by the presence of a Muppet playing lead guitar. And clearly any performance can only be improved by a hooded Sean Combs bringing out a cape. I’ve yet to listen to the whole album, but recently learning that it’s the second in a series of concept albums about robots suddenly makes me a lot more interested.

Tim Ford – The Brantford Song

If I hadn’t kept my Albums list to only those released in 2010, then my favourites of the year would unquestionably be the Friends In Bellwoods pair. It’s the source for me of Forest City Lovers, The Acorn, Bellewoods, Timber Timbre, Tim Ford, Kate Rogers, and my favourite album of last year, The Rural Alberta Advantage. I love The Brantford Song very much and keep coming back to it, but there’s no video – Spotify link above. He’s now in The Racoon Wedding, so I’ll put a video of that below instead.

Casiotone For The Painfully Alone – Old Panda Days

There’s no video for this one, but here’s a static image to accompany the song:

The Advance Bass Battery Life album came out in 2009, but it arrived in my life in 2010. And the opening track is like an excellent cuddle. I love its percussive crashing, contrasting the beautifully stilted keyboard remix and gentle, warm-milk voice. It’s a shame the project is no more, because it was a consistently excellent thing. This song came up over and over for me throughout the year.

The National – Fake Empire

As I said in the albums post, I only listened to the new The Nationals album because of rediscovering Fake Empire. Released in 2007, I adored it then, but it didn’t get played anything like as often as it was in 2010. I cannot think of another song in the last year that I’ve listened to again and again and again in a row, on multiple occasions. There’s no official video, which is why I’ve put the Letterman version above. Blimey, what can I say? It’s a perfect song.

WHY? – This Blackest Purse

I adored cLOUDDEAD, but secretly preferred when they leant further away from the more traditional hip-hop. So Yoni Wolf’s WHY? releases heading increasingly toward more sung pieces is a treat. 2009’s Eskimo Snow didn’t reach me until 2010, and so the incredible track This Blackest Purse is yet another year-late entry to this list. The album has pretty much shed the last traces of his hip-hop origins (well, not quite origins, being born a Messianic Jew), and I think loses something for going quite that far. The album can even be compared to Sufjan Stevens, which isn’t something you’d have predicted. This Blackest Purse actually sounds more Cloud Cult than anything – the band I most frequently confused with cLOUDDEAD simply because of the spelling. But the ghost of cLOUDDEAD is in his voice, and the swells and bursts of energy make it a huge song. (Oh, and while I’m here, what on Earth happened to the new 13 & God album that was promised this year?)

Max Tundra – Will Get Fooled Again

I’m absolutely mystified how this wasn’t in my list for 2008 or 2009 – did I really only discover Max Tundra in 2010, after he’d already given up the project? It must be so. This song is so beyond excellent, just an endless burst of joy and idiocy. The video matches, as if Peter Greenaway and David Lynch teamed up to direct Le Voyage dans la lune. In 1963.

Vessels – Wave Those Arms, Airmen (Little Evil remix)

Okay, I think all my most important songs of 2010 were from 2009. Because despite Vessels putting out an EP last year (Meatman), it’s 2009’s Wave Those Arms, Airmen (Little Evil remix) that is my 2010 track. From their album of B-sides and remixes, Retreat, it’s an incredible combination of the majestic scale of the post-rock original, that after a minute of its five becomes something so much more. It’s disjointed beats, odd time signatures, etc, make for such an interesting shape. Enormous and excellent.

Pagan Wanderer Lu – Banish Negative Thoughts

Did I say before that my favourite track was Self Doubt Gun? It might be Banish Negative Thoughts. Although it could well be European Monsoon. But it’s probably Banish Negative Thoughts. “How can I banish negative thoughts / when everything’s so unbearably awful?” Exactly. And it’s from 2010!

Rock Plaza Central – Fuckup

Definitely not from 2010 – in fact it’s from 2003 – for personal reasons this is one of the most significant songs of 2010 for me. Use your imagination. There’s only a Spotify link for this one, I’m afraid.

Sleigh Bells – Infinity Guitars

The whole album is utterly magnificent, but this song is called Infinity Guitars, and therefore it is the best.

Darwin Deez – Radar Detector

A last-minute addition! The inestimable Dan reminds me of this utterly wonderful song. It’s essentially one hook, repeated. But it’s a hook of such magnificence that it deserves to be repeated forever.


16 Comments for this entry

  • Jambe

    Good God, most of them couldn’t sing if their lives depended on it (Janelle Monáe being the obvious exception – how fantastic is she?). At least The National understand how to harmonize, I suppose. Most of this stuff is so overprocessed and/or poorly-sung that it makes me cringe!

    Oh, John, I do adore you, but we’ll just have to disagree about music! The Darwin Deez song is cute and catchy but I don’t think I’d appreciate it much without the fun video accompanying it.

    I hope your two zero one one is a good’n.

  • Gassalasca

    Yeah, I’m not much of a fan of either John Walker music or Kieron Gillen music, but I think I prefer John’s.

    So, what are your favourite tracks of 2010 Jambe? :)

  • Xercies

    I’ve listened to Janelle Monáe’s album and i wasn’t that impressed, sure a few songs in there are pretty damn good but as a whole listen it drags on a little bit to much and it is a little to samey.

  • Duncan

    I’m not too fussed on most of this, the Darwin Deez song is just annoying without the accompanying video. but I have just bought the Sleigh Bells album, so thank you for mentioning them.

  • Blissett

    Well I think that’s a rather splendid list indeed John (as is Kieron’s).

    I’ll contribute a couple of additional tracks, the first from an album released in 2010 and the second one from 2009 that I only discovered last year.

    They’re rather different but each magnificent in it’s own way.

  • Jambe

    Cee Lo Green’s big hit? I really can’t say tbh, as I don’t focus much on the date of a song’s release. The Dead Weather album has a good song or two on it if you like raunchy grungy alt/garage rock.

    I’m not prejudiced against vocalists who aren’t classically trained (as evinced by my enjoyment of Jack White). I just think the way the linked people sing in an annoyingly affected manner. It might be totally genuine but to my ears it grates.

    These “best of the year” lists are a neophile’s game. There is so much music out there I haven’t heard and I don’t really care when it was produced. Last year I was surely newly exposed to more stuff that was produced prior to 2010 than during… it just really doesn’t matter to me. I listen to it as I find it.

  • Gassalasca

    Still, I would like to hear what great old tracks you discovered in 2010. :)

  • Thants
    The best version of Tightrope isn’t that amazing video? And her hair is annoying? You’ve taken leave of your senses, my good man!

  • Jambe

    Really? Well.

    Listen to for a while, Beat Blender or Groove Salad are what I usually have on. I’m often listening to ambient stuff as work in front of monitors, canvasses and drawing boards so I can’t have many distracting vocals.

    Stuff that I’ve recently been impressed with? M83, The American Dollar, Workbench, a surprisingly good bit of stuff from the Adult Swim music channel… Caravan Palace are an electroswing group I like, they’ve had some really fun stuff out in the last few years iirc. Also, there’s the Kahvi Collective for free compilations (and they’re all available in an open-source format and container if you want). Plenty of meh and crap at Kahvi but there but some real gems too.

    I happened upon a nice Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra CD just a few days ago which cost me $7 but would’ve cost probably $50 to have imported. There’s this song “Soul Growl” that is the purest expression I’ve found of what I love about ska/jazz fusiony groups. Groovy. Diesler comes to mind along that route, who recently got a mention from the Aurgasm folks. Makes you wanna move.

    Good vocalists? Origa. Anything that comes out of her mouth is gold if you ask me. Yael Naim isn’t a great vocalist but I adore her accent. I’m likewise not into Evanesence but the singer, something Lee, sounds nice in that song Good Enough. Cheesy and sentimental but I like it for some reason.

    I was recently exposed to this. It’s apparently at least five years old, and it really moves me:

    I was aware of John Bulter but hadn’t seen that performance. That kinda stuff is about as close as I come to a religious experience. Stargazing, landscape, getting lost in painting or coding, and really beautiful music. Numinous experiences ftw.

    I’ve rambled like a clown. Now it’s your turn.

  • Jambe

    Also, I lean towards John’s opinion of Monáe’s hair. I’m not annoyed by other people’s hair unless it stinks but her hair is certainly silly. But she has a sort of upbeat silly attitude, so perhaps it’s fitting.

  • Jambe

    Also also, John, what is this!?

    How long have you been hiding it from your loyal listeners? Why is it not used?

    I don’t really care all that much tbh but a Doings-site would be nice to point people to.

  • Gassalasca

    Thanks, Jambe! :)

  • Alex B

    Old post, but I just found this:

    Definitely one of my songs of 2011, and I think everyone should listen. Even if you don’t like rap.

  • drewski

    Ahh, The National. How delightful. It always bugs me how bands sounds washed out and hollow on the Letterman set, but when I saw them live earlier this year, they were mind blowing.

    Top song.