This is a musicblog. Every weekday we post a couple of mp3s and write about them. Songs are only kept online for a short time. This is a page from our archives and thus the mp3s linked to may not longer be available. Visit our front page for new songs and words.

December 31, 2010



Wombs - "Protein Shake"

Kidnapped! Dragged by the hair and folded like an old suit into the back of a trunk! Driven in hot desert dust and chinks of light! Left to die of thirst in a dark cell with a spider buddy and more chinks of light! Hallucinating angels and six-foot cool glasses of beer! Piercing hunger! Madness! Preening despite the conditions! Slicking back greased hair and rubbing dirt into skin! Sex a secret luxury! Stoic torture! What day is it!? Why, sir, it's New Year's Day! A flick of the tongue! Across tips of the teeth! A smile, a flash, a burst, and freedom! The end of old suffering! The end of old skins! The end of all scrimping and wringing and churn! The start of flight! The start of barely, of healthy, of true.


Posted by Dan at 3:31 PM | Comments (1)

December 30, 2010


Auto Portrait by Vladimir Nikolic

Charlotte Dada - "Don't Let Me Down". Charlotte's dusky serenade, plus racket. Or a one-man band, the village percussion section, crawling on hands & knees through the dust, Charlotte in tow, playing the essence of an anniversary. Dada's "Don't Let Me Down", recorded in Ghana in the early 1970s, paints a love-affair that's coloured by punchlines, hijinks, poorly fastened rafts. A love-song sung at 11am, during an accidental eclipse.

[from the out of print Money Be No Sand / Aquarium Drunkard coincidentally posted about this (plus photo!) last week.]

Wye Oak - "Civilian". Terrific bristling number, like a hand searching the back of a dusty drawer and finding a bearclaw. (The animal hand, not the donut.) Imagine two lovers in bed, fist-fighting; an untouched glass of water; a card that is never signed. Wye Oak have brought a bag that contains everything.

[website/Civilian is due March 8 - pre-order]


Don't miss issue two of the Incongruous Quarterly, announced earlier this week - Dan curated the music section, including unreleased "unpublishable" material by Little Scream, Grand Trine, Holy Fuck, Mean Wind, Amy Klein of Titus Andronicus, and many more.

Also, I hope you downloaded the Ernest Djedje song Dan posted - by some incongruous synchronicity, I had been rocking the very same tune for the past two weeks.

(photo above, Autoportraits, by Vladimir Nikolic)

Posted by Sean at 11:46 AM | Comments (1)

December 24, 2010

Bent Rings

Troupe Majidi - "Rsami" "Take this note to your father, do not show it to anyone, do not read it yourself, it is meant only for him." Heji's mother was cold and her hands were cold, clasping the note closed in his palm.

Heji went out into the wet air and headed over the ridge. Down the dirt road under the catavan trees and past jum bushes, down into the twinkle lights of Manaja, its sweaty streets and pulsing life. He passed street women and honking taxi cabs, big large men guarding light-up bars, a man in an alley eating something out of a paper bag. When he got to the corner with the gas station and the burnt-down papery, he went up the stairs above the grocer and saw a skinny old man on a stool in front of a door. "I must see my father," said Heji to the skinny old man. The man did not answer, but slouched back on his stool, his cigarette nearly falling out of his mouth, and opened the door to loud music inside. Heji had never been inside Bar Panther, and he was surprised how dark it was. The light behind the bar was all there was, and he tried to remain calm while he searched in the darkness for his father. He got very close to a few patrons, only to find they were not his father, their faces drowsy and confused as he approached, the smell nauseating. He was hit by the swinging bathroom door, and he stumbled toward the bar. He climbed on a stool and asked the bartender, his voice shaking, "Have you seen my father? Is he here?" The bartender smirked down at Heji, "Who is your father?" "Luni Tesit, he's a worker at Rejar Factories." The bartender lost his smirk. "He's busy, what do you want?" "I am supposed to give him a note from my mother." "Give it to me, I will give it to your father." "No, I was told to give it to only him." Heji made the mistake of holding the note near his face, as if to say, "this, here, is my job," and the bartender snatched it from his hand. Heji bit his tongue and tried not to wail as the bartender read the paper. He crumpled it, "Wait here."

A few endless minutes went by as Heji waited for the bartender to return. He looked around, sleepy sad faces everywhere and the music so terribly loud. He put his head near the bar, craned it sideways to try to read the note without touching it. It appeared to be blank. It appeared to be a ripped piece of the calendar, a ripped square showing today's date. Suddenly the doors to the back room burst open and Heji's father came out, smiling. "Hej! What are you doing here?" he asked in their language, "Come on, let's go home." He did not seem drunk, he was not upset, he said he was just very busy but that business went very well. They talked on the way home about what they would bake the next day in celebration; crushed mangos and lime juice and sugar.

[Buy from Sublime Frequencies]


It's Christmas Eve, and as my gift to you readers, I am extremely proud to send you to the music section of Issue 2 of The Incongruous Quarterly, edited by myself, the inimitable Emma Healey, and Mike Chaulk. The Incongruous Quarterly, if you haven't already heard, is an online quarterly publication focusing on 'publishing the unpublishable'. So Emma asked me to help curate a music section for the new issue, a collection of 'unpublishable' music from artists we love. And the result is really really great. The range of finished-ness and unpublish-ability is wide and makes for a unique listening experience, it's almost like looking at a craft fair; some of it is insanely lush antiques and some are just scrawls on a postcard, but each have their beauty, their own particular existence. It's a kind of mixtape unlike any I've compiled before, it's rough edges mixed with gilded curves, it's poetry and sound experiments and kick-you-in-the-face demo recordings.
Tracks from Jumbling Towers, Jasmyn Burke of RatTail, Amy Klein of Titus Andronicus, Grand Trine, Holy Fuck, Mean Wind, Little Scream, and others.
Go listen, enjoy.
(NB: it's not holiday-ish or christmas-y, but it is a gift)

Posted by Dan at 12:09 AM | Comments (3)

December 23, 2010


Big storm

Molly Sweeney - "Florida". Molly Sweeney's new album is called Gold Rings and Fur Pelts, and listening to these songs I imagine also fur rings and gold pelts, animals that gleam in the woods. Think of a gold coin, and of its molecular bonds slackening; think of a gold coin falling apart, slowly, melting without heat. Think of a girl at a riverside or on a roof, the coins in her pocket blurring into the evening.

[Molly Sweeney lives in Montreal / I am not sure if she has a label / MySpace]

Javelin - "Oh! Centra". When Boris bumped into Luke on the street, Luke had told him about his new girlfriend. "She has legs up to here," Luke said. Boris had heard her name as "Sandra". Sandra, with legs up to here. But at Wednesday's Christmas party, Luke walked in the door with his sweetheart and Boris, clutching a mug of red wine, saw clearly that he had misheard her name. This woman was not Sandra. This woman was in fact Centra, aka the business district, aka downtown Brasilia, soaring with skyscrapers and buzzing with neon lights and garlanded by highways. She wore a sweater over her shopping malls. She had eyes like rotating restaurants. Boris kissed her on both cheeks. "You must be Boris," she said. Boris was very jealous of Luke, Luke in his overlarge hockey jersey. Centra had legs up to here.

[buy / MySpace]



Watch Michael Lukk Litwak's video for the Nocturnes' lovely song, "Cradle".

For a limited time, Dead Oceans is selling all of its 2010 releases for $5 at Amazon's MP3 store. Including excellent records by White Hinterland, the Good Ones, Frog Eyes and the Tallest Man on Earth.

Here is an exquisite poem.

(photo source)

Posted by Sean at 12:28 PM | Comments (0)

December 21, 2010



Mean Wind - "Kingdom Come"

This story takes place in a sacred house. A treasure house hidden by trees and down a rocky lane. The air thick with humid history, a fortifying stillness, a rousing energy of glad, of birth in the face of death. The story is simple: a family grows up. But the house, glory be, the house is what makes it. Like gilded velvet curtains around the same old play.

Mean Wind are continually impressive, clever, sparkling. They have a new EP

Posted by Dan at 12:48 PM | Comments (1)

December 20, 2010



Owen Pallett ft Shara Worden - "The Great Elsewhere [Export version]".

I won my job, dancing. I stepped onto the polished floor and straightened my tie and then moved like a jackrabbit, white and black, loose and flying. Robert hired my on the spot. I won my love, dancing. I stepped onto the polished floor and tied my shoes and then moved like a dragonfly, green and black, sure and darting. L.N. came to my room that night. I won my pride, dancing. I won my life, my fortune, my notion of myself. I kicked and swerved. But I did not win my god. I have spent twenty-five years under the vast weather, among thunderclaps, stepping & pivoting & showing the sky the palms of my hands. The universe has not answered. My steps have left ten thousand illuminations, and it has not answered.

[taken from Owen Palett's new free EP, Export; a different version of "The Great Elsewhere", with Owen singing, appears on Heartland. Shara Worden sings with My Brightest Diamond.]


Lots of elsewhere things to look at:

Back to the World have done an extraordinary, inspiring, thoughtful, three-pronged 2010 round-up. My favourite bits include Carl Wilson on "Autotune the News", Destroyer, Boardwalk Empire, Joanna Newsom/Tonetta and Bernie Sanders, and Chris Randle on Batman, drone, Scott Pilgrim and Nicki Minaj's "Monster" verse.

After posting his favourite albums of 2010, Matt Skatterbrain has now posted his favourite songs. The best of indie-pop, noise-pop and jangle.

I also really enjoyed Ami's Best of 2010 post at I Was Young When I Left Home. Love the way his favourite songs are flashed to memories of place & time.

The exquisite music-blog Juan and Only have done a silly thing and posted their favourite Said the Gramophone tracks of 2010 - at least the ones which weren't on my Best Of list last week. They're also holding a contest which could net you the collected 2010 postings of one of my favourite pairs of ears on the net.

Midnight Poutine has finally revealed its Best Montreal Albums of the Decade list (intro/#25-#21/#20-#16/#15-#11/#10-#6/#5-#1), assembled through a critic's poll. Although the #1 spot isn't a big surprise, it's a wonderful rearview mirror - I moved to Montreal in 2000.

(photo source)

Posted by Sean at 3:44 PM | Comments (3)

December 15, 2010

Flashlit Fingers Glowing Orange

Daniel Kroha's New Band Who Don't Have A Name Yet - "Don't Get In The Car"

I've always been a victim of something or other. This time it was third-degree carpet burn. It was a balancing accident involving a shopping cart, a copy of Northern Newsly, and a soon-to-be-stained basement carpet. When the wheel hit the magazine, I dove face-first into the scotch guard at 25mph and it ripped my face up. It looked like I'd rubbed my face in a Denny's skillet. I had a job interview the next day, cashier at Brady's. I told the guy I got mugged. He was fat and his white shirt tucked into his belt was stretched so tight I could see the hairs on his stomach through the fabric. "What'd they mug you with, a cheese grater?" he sat back in his chair, so proud. I saw my chance, "No, actually, they stole all my money and ID, and threw me down on the pavement," I looked at the floor, drawing him in, "I've got bad balance so I don't have the reflexes to protect my head when I fall." I got the job. Floor cashier first week. I even dated the guy's daughter. Well, dated. We jerked each other off after doing whippets in the walk-in fridge. I went right out and finished my shift. She liked my face the way it looked, she said it was like kissing a zombie. I looked at her and said in a low slow voice, "Braaaas.." and went for her shirt. She liked that.

Viva L'American Death Ray - "First Impression"

I've always been a victim of something or other. This time it was a stab in the back. Me and Theo, we've always been close. Coupla ding-dings, my dad used to say, when we were kids. We used to run weed and sell firecrackers and beat up smaller kids for their bikes, stuff like that. But we were best buddies, like brothers. We mixed our blood, we called it doing The Viking's Cheers. One time I even took heat for Theo. I remember we were 16, well I was 16-and-a-half, and he wanted to steal a car. He hadn't got his driver's license yet, and I had mine, but he wanted to try driving so he said let's steal Mackenzie Greyhound's car, 'cause she was a rich kid in our neighbourhood so she wouldn't care. Well when the cops tried to catch us, Theo jumped out of the car and they didn't see him so when they finally got me, with a big knee on my back, I didn't tell them he was with me. He'd been to jail before so they were gonna really send him away but I didn't say nothing. So here we are, me and Theo, 6 years later, and it's like he's forgotten all about what I did for him. I have to hear from Patty Greyhound, Mackenzie's little trampy sister, that Theo's been saying you got no heart and you're basically a goof. Some brother. Some friend. Coupla ding-dings my ding-ding.

[Buy Yeti Ten from Yeti Publishing]

Posted by Dan at 8:54 PM | Comments (1)

December 13, 2010


These are my 100 favourite songs of 2010: songs I love more than gold & silver & snowstorms on the smaller side.

I follow just one arbitrary rule: that no artist may be listed twice.

I made similar lists in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009. There were just so many rattling bingo tunes this year that I expanded the list from 75 to 100. Guys, I had to.

The best way to browse this list is to click the little arrow beside each song and then to listen as you read. The things you like you can then download by right- or ctrl-clicking with your mouse.

You can also download the complete 100 songs, in two parts: part one, songs 1-50 (290mb) / part two, songs 51-100 (281mb). (mirrors: 1-50/51-100)

Said the Gramophone is one of the oldest musicblogs. We try to do just two things well: finding good songs, and writing about them. We don't mess about with tour-dates, videos or advertising. We post new songs and old songs, write clumsy dreams of what we hear. If this is your first time here, I hope you'll bookmark us or subscribe via RSS. You can also follow me on Twitter.

Said the Gramophone's Best Songs of 2010 - Cole Rise's 'Lunar'
original photograph by Cole Rise

  1. Robyn - "Dancing On My Own" (EP version) [buy]
    I don't think that 2010 had a song, the song, unless it was #69. Any of the next three songs could have taken the crown. But let's give it to Robyn, to "Dancing On My Own", a song which lacks "Tightrope"'s ambition and "Broken Heart"'s depth, which offers instead a perfect pop moment, shining and concise. Robyn hasn't just made a sad club song - she's tried to make a quintessential one, majestic in its melancholy, fragile and unrepentant. Misty-eyed disco is so often demure, wilting: here it's both self-composed and desperate, cold and hot. Over a grim bassline, skeletal woodblock, Robyn is the only source of warmth, singing bare and bittersweet. She has made the song's context its subject, its title, its refrain. She's given us a salve, and told us when to use it.
  2. Janelle Monae ft Big Boi - "Tightrope" [buy]
    Outer space funk, but only barely unfamiliar, just the far side of uncanny. Janelle is plainly, so plainly, extraordinary; she raps like an unflappable rattlesnake-snatching Missy Elliott, sings like a backstage soul queen, dances like a new genius. There are horns, strings, turntable scratches - but these vintage signifiers are part of a fresh weird thing, alive and electric, dancing free. No other song was as exhilarating in 2010; it's just a little too long.
  3. Alicia Keys - "Try Sleeping with a Broken Heart" [buy]
    Alicia Keys had three big singles in 2010 - "Un-Thinkable", "Empire State of Mind pt II", and this. It's only my stupid arbitrary rule that's kept all three from my top 20 - they're marvelous, not just as works of melody & harmony, but as productions, arrangements, altogethers. "Try Sleeping with a Broken Heart" owes equal debts to Prince and JS Bach, to synths and thunderclaps. Like Robyn on "Dancing On My Own", Keys has to sing her melancholy and then beyond it. It isn't just that she'll make it, without you; first she has to find a way. The finding's not always easy. (thank you kelly!)
  4. Sleigh Bells - "Rill Rill" [buy]
    "Rill Rill" is breath & snap & jingle, like the office Xmas party that might go late, that goes late, with the girls you weren't sure would come; there they are; hi. It's hot as steam on glass, such a nimble groove.
  5. Joanna Newsom - "Good Intentions Paving Company" [buy]
    Dan told this song almost impossibly well, as a very small story. Still, it bears saying - "Good Intentions Paving Company" is the grooviest song Joanna Newsom has ever written. This is not, admittedly, saying much; but "Good Intentions" is effortless in its adaptation of 70s singer-songwriterisms, roving and wry, soft pop with a sharp right hook. Joanna's lyrics are still daft & gorgeous filigree (So with a solemn auld lang syne, sealed, delivered, I sang...), but "Good Intentions" is nothing too complicated - just a losing love-song, a fist-fight with the fog.
  6. Arcade Fire - "Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)" [buy]
    The strongest moment on The Suburbs is the song that sounds least like the group I first fell in love with, almost a decade ago. And this makes me so happy, so foolishly happily. In 2003, scarcely a writer, scarcely a critic, scarcely an adult, I dreamed that maybe one day Arcade Fire's Neil-Young-meets-New Order [sound] could climb the pop billboard. Tonight, they were nominated for the Grammys' best album of the year. They played the O2 Arena. They're making arpeggiated synth-pop, and Régine is still singing, devoted and free.
  7. Surfer Blood - "Swim" [buy]
    The first of these songs to have male lead vocals, and do they ever sound like boys. From February: I have not yet written about this song, "Swim". I have been too busy repelling invaders and repairing avalanche-flattened sunglasses. I have been too busy in the corner of my fort, high in the Laurentian mountains, where I rest sweaty in my snowsuit and write a log of my adventures. The log is based on an elaborate metaphor: I am not a man with a snow fort; I am a surfer with a longterm career-path and two marvelous shiny revolvers.
  8. Eternal Summers - "Bully in Disguise" [buy]
    Eternal Summers' Silver is one of the very best albums of 2010, a record of damned blueberry pop songs, messy and fast. So many great ones - "Able To", "Safe at Home", "Dye" - but the one that's won me deepest is the one that's most unalike. "Bully in Disguise" is an epic ask, a slow ascendancy, the Velvet Underground & 90s lo-fi & today's garagey ba-ba-bas. Love lost, lost found, going on.
  9. Fantasia - "The Thrill is Gone ft. Cee-Lo" [buy]
    While the memesphere somersaults for Cee-lo's other song, I'm letting this one swing around the wooden frames of my apartment. The production's classic, hot, with uncowed drums; Cee-lo raps (his rapping always > his singing); and Fantasia sings with every confidence (later, this slipped). It's one of those rare songs where the verse is stronger than the chorus, gold-knuckled. With one glance over her shoulder, a knock-out.
  10. PS I Love You - "Starfield" [buy]
    PS I Love You's debut LP, Meet Me At The Muster Station, is awesome & bristling, yet this first shaggy single is still my favourite. Paul Saulnier channels the Pixies, McLusky, "Louie Louie", brandishing a song that's catchy and elastic, romantic and stupid, a string of "#$&%" with a starry sky at the end. And, like all classic works of songcraft, it's got a line about having sex on the back of a "flying space lion".
  11. The-Dream - "Yamaha" [buy]
    If you could do this, you would. You would have to. Terius falls in love, listens to (some more) Prince, writes a song comparing his girl to a motorcycle. Ok. The crucial bit is this: Terius is better at this than almost everyone.
  12. Tonetta - "My Bro" [buy]
    Tonetta's back-story can overshadow his music: middle-aged Toronto weirdo, part Lou Reed and part Roy Orbison, making music for 25 years before he is discovered on YouTube, parading in suits, masks, ladies' dresses. But I only heard the story later, when I had already been beguiled by his extraordinary songs - by the gentle soft pop + the ones which are darkly fucked up. That's when I spilled, saucer-eyed, into the Tonetta fanclub underground. He makes so much music - he needs archivists. Anyhow, "My Bro" is menacing, catching, darkly sensational. I wrote the dream of it here.
  13. Basia Bulat - "The Shore" [buy]
    For this, Basia brings only her autoharp. She carries it alone. & this song, too, feels like something to carry alone, cradled. You do not sing "The Shore" in chorus with your friends, arms on shoulders. You bring it with you when you pace in boots through the sand, pass through the poplars, walk the cracked sidewalk slabs, snowdrifts rising. She sings of love, and storms, and of safe harbour; and you can hear the lighthouses skimming, somewhere out there, sending glances across the bay; and looking for you.
  14. Caribou - "Found Out" [buy]
    My favourite albums of 2010 were Spoon's Transference, Eternal Summers' Silver, Land of Talk's Cloak & Cipher, Arcade Fire's The Suburbs, PS I Love You's Meet You at the Muster Station and Caribou's Swim, but that last one's the record which feels like new music. Icy jingle, bruised throb, music that's gentle and club-ready, sharpened to a golden knife edge.
  15. Sharon Van Etten - "Love More" [buy]
    A song of harmonium, tambourine, voice. Plain and gorgeous. I called it steamy - but not steamy like parked cars, closed bedrooms, breath on cold glass. It lacks the loneliness of ones and twos. I meant steamy like a hothouse, summertime and spring, greens softly curling.
  16. Blue Hawaii - "Blue Gowns" [buy]
    A sneering, nervy, luscious pop song from the Montrealers' debut. A song like fresh almonds. I wrote a story about "Blue Gowns" and the days after a relationship ends. It begins with curdled milk.
  17. White Hinterland - "Icarus" [buy]
    She told me how she decided to learn to sing better. She showed me her gold rings and Shawn Creeden's dark beats. Now Casey Dienel stands here in all her new skin, holding the microphone like it's a black lotus. She left the jazz and folksong in New England. She threw her sheet-music into the Atlantic Ocean. Now she draws her songs out of loops of lifted voice, the floors of scuttled Pacific ships; she sings fewer words, more clearly.

  18. Loscil with Dan Bejar (Destroyer) - "The Making of Grief Point" [buy]
    Loscil's collaboration with Bejar (which is inverted, as "Grief Point", on Destroyer's Archer on the Beach 12") is haunting, vivid, like a film by Apichatpong Weerasethakul, a book by W G Sebald. Scott Morgan's beats swim, flourish, recede; and Bejar speaks. It seems a straight telling, an email read aloud, but also it is not; the context is discarded, the object obscured. It's a profound portrait of making art - yet also more than this, not just conceptual, sonically beautiful. Bejar says, "I have lost interest in music. / It is horrible. / I should only make things I understand, I should only make things I know how to construct, however imperfect."

  19. Little Scream - "The Heron and the Fox" [buy]
    I spilled a lot of words, introducing you to Little Scream. She is from Montreal. Her songs are not always so simple & soft as this. Next year, when The Golden Record is properly released, I'll write about another one. But "The Heron and the Fox" is perfect in its rude splendour. We measure distances in miles of highway. It doesn't matter how the bird flies, or how the fox runs. We are men and women, locked in cars and buildings and jobs and lives, parked at truckstops, and we cannot slip through the forests, swim through the lakes. We are far away, sometimes, and we cannot take the shorter route. Sometimes the shorter route is closed.
  20. Beach House - "Zebra" [buy]
    Victoria Legrand gives even looks. She sings her metaphors as if they're landmarks on a map: the fact of them is more important than the awe. "Zebra"'s great strength is its guitar-line, the chords that rise and dip in unexpected grace. Each change is premature, unimagined, perfect. I have not yet learned it by heart.
  21. James Blake - "I Only Know (What I Know Now)" [buy]
    Human and ghostly; ok so - half-haunted. James Blake's vocals-heavy debut LP is perhaps my most-anticipated album of 2011, but I don't need him to be singing. I like him like this, evoking Burial, Nicolas Jaar, Talk Talk, Sleeping States. Electronic music that feels no more electronic than my best friend's face, staring back at me from a screen.
  22. The Good Ones - "Sara" [buy]
    A lovely song, a love song, from Rwanda. Sara, look here. Look this way. I call you Sara.
  23. Camilo Diaz Pino - "Scott Pilgrim (Plumtree) - 16-bit cover" [source]
    Hard for me to figure out why I love this so much, a chiptunes cover of a song from the late 90s. I guess I just love the hook, the weird panning, the timbre of these 8 bits and those 8 bits, packed-in together. It forgets every detail, forgets the clutched hopes and back-story. Chugging nostalgic and unburdened, fragile and bittersweet.
  24. Peter Nalitch - "Gitar" [website]
    Peter Nalitch seems an unlikely champion for the strong & steely-eyed nation of Russia. But that shows what I know. Buoyed by "Gitar", a viral video hit, Nalitch represented his country at this year's Eurovision Song Contest. (He was singing another, sappier song.) "Gitar" is part lo-fi pop, part yearning serenade, part post-Borat joke. What makes it so special, what lifts it so high on my list, is the way these three genres are confused. As in the video, it's never clear which is on the ascendant. Nalitch's heart is his own.
  25. Big Boi - "Hustle Blood ft. Jamie Foxx" [buy]
    Big Boi released the best hip-hop album of 2010, but upbeat singles like "Shutterbugg" and "Shine Blockas" didn't do for me what "Hustle Blood" does. Together with Jamie and producer Lil Jon he builds an emotional world that's large, subtle, complicated - this is love-song, sad song, brag song, my-dad's-an-absentee-hustler song. It's lusty and melancholy at the same time, incorrigible and just barely regretful. Plus & obviously, Big Boi's a terrific rapper - listen to the way he spits the simplest lines, "Give it up, give back, hands up / hand cuff with the wrist back / back up."
  26. Young Galaxy - "Peripheral Visionaries" [Shapeshifting is due next year / website]
    Young Galaxy's new songs, produced by Studio's Dan Lissvik, are lithe, shimmering, ashen. "Peripheral Visionaries", with its high-flown lyrics and open groove, is a little Fleetwood Mac ft Paulo Coelho, or Ariel Pink ft Nicholas Mosley. It's a mystic duet, beautiful & strange. She did not know what it meant, to dream of the end of a garden.
  27. Titus Andronicus - "A More Perfect Union" [buy]
    Two years ago, Dan described a Titus Andronicus song as a slow dance with the wolfman, four aspirin, a shooting star and a swimming pool. That works for "A More Perfect Union", only it's a riot not a slow-dance, six aspirin instead of four, and the whole constellation's got guns. Arcade Fire wrote an album about the suburbs but Titus Andronicus recorded one too; The Monitor is less universal but more anthemic, precise and furious and gloriously still living.
  28. Kate McGarrigle - "Proserpina (live)" [video/buy other things]
    This lullaby was Kate McGarrigle's last song. It was never properly recorded, just here in this concert at Royal Albert Hall. She sings to her daughter and grandson, so long stranded across an ocean. She still has her voice of wildflower and thorn. It's a song about coming home.
  29. Kanye West - "Power" [buy]
    Not even West's mediocre rhymes can slow this manowar track, the most tightly spooled of anything on (deep breath) My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Hay has been made of the King Crimson sample, but the advancing drums are just as important, the way Kanye simply does not stop rapping, verses like lines of legionaries.
  30. The Lightning Bug Situation - "This Body" [buy]
    Murmur, hidden drums, tiny bells. Perhaps it's Bon Iver who has popularised this kind of folk music, but Brian Miller's songs are differently flickering and less abstract. A story like this is almost direct - yet still partial, dreaming. It began with his recollection of the dogs, at the park, running raggedly past. They had not even looked at him. This was not so strange; they were running. But the ghost had this odd sense, this shadowing or premonition, that animals never looked at him.
  31. Kurt Vile - "I Know I Got Religion" [buy]
    "Everyday when I feel blue / I write a strummer for you." I don't know if Kurt's "you" is Jesus, a friend, or lost souls like me. I know that he's written something beautiful and rough. He grasps with a straining heart, he drives all night. (thank you, kelly)
  32. Unknown Mortal Orchestra -"Ffunny Ffrends" [buy]
    Unknown Mortal Orchestra are one of 2010's best new things. But somehow I've never written about them here, only on Twitter - ceding authority, I guess, to Catbirdseat. They've loosed just a handful of songs, one 7" and a sweet drag mixtape. They're from Portland and they've never played a gig. Whereas Wu Lyf use mystery to isolate themselves, cordoned-off, I feel like Unknown Mortal Orchestra's anonymity is friendly, universalising. Maybe it's the kids in the apartment across the hall. (It doesn't surprise me that they've inspired brilliant little fan videos.) "Ffunny Ffrends" is a sour distorted clomp, pop with lemon edge, lo-fi buzzness with every kind of hook, for raincoats, umbrellas, or a suitcase full of diplomatic cables.
  33. Gyptian -"Hold Yuh" [buy]
    A ping-ping ting. "Hold You" is so simple, pop music reduced to a series of curves: rudimentary, almost childish piano loop; a coolly shuddering snare; Gyptian's gentle delivery of a not-so-innocent chorus. Yet this dance-hall earworm (and mega hit) isn't some factory-farmed single - it's one of the indie-est things on this list (and, more importantly, magnificent.)
  34. Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra - "I Built Myself A Metal Bird" [buy]
    When I first wrote about this song (NSFW), I accompanied it with photographs of an elephant being taken apart. It was a true event, recorded. This was, I think, pertinent. This is a song about bombs. At a certain point you say, "Enough". A river freezes. A bough breaks. A black cat dreams of the night it will be skinned. But devastation will not relent. Or as Efrim puts it, "Dance motherfucker."
  35. Erykah Badu - "Gone Baby, Don't Be Long" [buy]
    Astral funk.
  36. Vampire Weekend - "I Think Ur a Contra" [buy]
    You could tell me there is still snow on the mountaintop. You could say the birds were all jays. I'd rest there softly, and I'd listen, and I'd be sheltered. But I think maybe I think maybe I think I maybe I too would be lying, love.
  37. Radio Radio - "9 Piece Luggage Set" [buy]
    Now it was May and blazing hot in St-Hippolyte and Ghislain still couldn't listen to tunes. As soon as school finished, he'd get a job stocking shelves at the SAQ. For now, he loped glumly around town, counting bars in his head, rapping under his breath. On Saturday afternoon, while everyone else was reclining in the A/C, watching Iron Man II at the cineplex, Ghislain went down to the river. He sweated in the sun. The grass was packed flat. Ghislain practiced his break-dancing moves and cottonwood-seed blew on by.
  38. My People Sleeping - "Take Anything" [buy]
    A song of luminous interwoven choruses, answer and call, from one of Montreal's best (and prematurely finished) indie rock bands. I could rattle off some shit about stepping through mirrors and the steam of a kettle, but all I really want to say is: you wonder if all it takes is choice to make something easier. You decide ok, and then it is; you shed your skin like you're just taking off a shirt. Maybe if you step through the mirror, you can hold your face right up against the steam.
  39. Standard Fare - "Philadelphia" [buy]
    This is why I still love indie pop. Dan told the tale: Emma Kupa tests a melon. A slight depression, with sweet smelling skin. Cuts clean and slices, drops of melon juice on the cutting board, the counter, the knife. Emma Kupa sings like a proud young bird, chews the rind and watches the traffic, the city is suddenly full of cars.
  40. Bertrand Belin - "La chaleur" [MySpace]
    A stranger duet than it seems: a game of poker where your hands are Tarot cards. Understated but very slightly off, Ethan Iverson & Satie & Lambchop, but French, deeply French. It's a song of thaw, crooked victories, undefeated spring. Courage / Avançons / Un jour arrivera / où nous arriverons. (mille mercis to my friend Alex)
  41. Land of Talk - "Quarry Hymns" [buy]
    From an extraordinary LP, an album of caches, cloakings, this song of angle and crest, loud want. A track about picking things up and leaving them. There are 26 trails behind me, grey trails like single threads; each trail leads to a person and a pair of hands. These threads are thin enough to break, but I have not broken them. I haul them. I feel them behind me, passing through fields, forests, shallows. One of you lives in a skyscraper now, one by a crack in the earth.
  42. Owen Pallett - "Lewis Takes Off His Shirt" [buy]
    Owen Pallett, formerly Final Fantasy, is a master & a safe-cracker and although Heartland is not an album of stand-alone singles, "Lewis" stands like a lone adventurer, a rogue in finery. It's a song that revolts against its own writer: "No I won't!" shouts Lewis. And of course he says it amid this manifold sound - overlapping horns, coursing synths, climbing strings, lifted hooves. Lewis stares steely at a point in the sky.
  43. Drake - "Shut It Down ft. the-Dream" (mixtape edit) [buy other version]
    One of my favourite production jobs of this year - woozy, elegiac, slowing and speeding, stopping altogether. This conjures the album I wish Drake had made; with the-Dream as his hype-man, two crass druids. Also: "ice-cream conversations".

  44. Laura Marling - "Alpha Shallows" [buy]
    Folk music with looming strings, hammered dulcimer, lyrics like torn paintings. Marling lays mazes. "They said we would only be paid when it rained. That didn't seem so bad. Just different. We all wanted difference. So on clear days we'd be poor; on rainy days, we'd be rich. I didn't think it'd matter. I worked in my room. I squinted at the sun. I watched the streets fill with people, praying for storms. I wrote you letters. I wrote, I hope we all drown."
  45. Grimes - "Devon" [buy]
    Mirrors, oil-fires, glaciers, sinking ships, dream processions. And remembering, suddenly, that someone is gone.
  46. Spoon - "Is Love Forever?" [buy]
    Spoon's Transference is the best album of 2010, but it's not an easy knot. An album of crunch and yip, filled with a deep sadness; yet the sadness is camouflaged, sublimated, transferred. Transference rarely sounds sad. "Is Love Forever?" = two minutes of reverberating rock'n'roll, forceful and clear-eyed. You have to listen closer, carefuller: the drums' constant collapse, the riffs' grotesque repetition, the way Britt Daniel keeps asking himself Is love forever?, lost and looped, and the way he is (every single time) cut off.
  47. Girls - "Carolina" [buy]
    Slow to start, like a Sunday. But at 2:06, you get yr first sense of where this is going. It's going wide. New and vintage, blushing delirious, bluzzzy pop with a druggy haze. For a long while it sounds like Elbow, of all people; but then the jukebox cracks open, Phil Spector crawls out w Elvis Costello, and there's lava fucking everywhere. D'doo-wrong-wrong.
  48. Wolf Parade -"Semi-Precious Stone" [buy on iTunes]
    Expo 86 is great. This is even greater. Wolf Parade singing jumbled prophecies, rocking out, their faces lit up.
  49. Belle & Sebastian - "I Didn't See It Coming" [buy]
    In the moment the car sails off the cliff, E has a great idea. It is such a great idea that is it at once the culmination of his career as an artist, and of his relationship with M. M is presently standing on the middle seat, hooting out of the sun-roof. First, E lights himself on fire. Next, as flames lick his sleeves, he skips the CD player to the track "Dancing Queen". Finally, with the ocean rocks hurtling toward the windshield (& M still hooting), he freezes time. He freezes it right before a downbeat. There is fire everywhere, and water, and a high-hat ridging the universe. He is plunging with his lover toward the end, and yet not.

  50. Connan Mockasin - "It's Choade My Dear" [buy]
    Like a slow jam for martians, tentacles carressing pustules, scarlet red and mint green. A Pink Floyd album rotates in another room, atop an off-balance record player. Vapours waft. The evening tastes of midnight, ice chips and tin.
  51. Snailhouse - "Living the Dream" [buy]
    Drowsy and ideal, reverbed and classic, wisdom for doomed & winning insomniacs. Such a terrific arrangement of girls and steel guitar, shuffle and stop. In my dream of Snailhouse as house band, Keith Richards, Garry Shandling and John Ashbery are all in the crowd.
  52. The New Pornographers - "Crash Years" [buy]
    The New Pornographers still doing what they do so well, turning their polished black cannons to the sea & going pop, pop, pop. Epic, hooky, with surprises around every corner - whistles, wheezes, prowling guitar. Neko Case commanding her bandmates to the edge of the battlements.
  53. Tindersticks - "Peanuts ft. Mary Margaret O'Hara" [buy]
    The breeze swept through my shirt like a woman's breath. This thought made me raise my face, made me look at you, and you laughed. Something in the salty air made you laugh. When it got dark we strolled through the sand to the boardwalk, trailing chutes. There were old men with ice-cream cones and little girls with toffee-apples. There were sections of shadow and sections of light. There were peanuts, roasted & salted & sugar-glazed & plain. The paper bags were perfect. We bought the sweet kind and they were still warm.
  54. This Is The Kit - "Waterproof" [buy]
    Ambivalence, worry, dream, with low trumpet, woodwinds, Kate's level voice. I wrote a story about waking, remembering, the unkindness of coincidence. Her eyes opened on the pillow and she thought of him in Victoria, at the very end of the world, in a flat filled with plants.
  55. The Morning Benders - "Excuses" [buy]
    "A dime?!" Charlie said. He looked back across the boardwalk. All the other Tunnels of Love were just a nickel.
  56. Maison Neuve - "Under Skies of Fire" [MySpace]
    Andrew found that when he cupped his hand and then hit his right ear, hard, he could see colours. He showed L. She gave him such a look. "I know I know but try," he said. She stared at him for a long moment. She had hair as golden as witchhazel. She cupped her hand and hit her left ear, hard. "Huh," she said. They sat side by side, socking themselves, in splendour.
  57. Valley Maker - "The First" [buy]
    A song of beginnings, the first track in Austin Crane's album about Genesis. But Valley Maker's story ex nihilo does not evoke cosmic dust, electron fizz, even the slow crawl of algae into orchards. Instead his call & answer speaks to apartments half-lit, faces half-lit, entrances and exits of a different kind. A singer-songwriter with creatures uncoiling at his feet.
  58. Wildbirds & Peacedrums - "Fight for Me" [buy]
    An extraordinary duo with such a singular sound, like wild birds and peace-drums. Here Mariam Wallentin and her husband Andreas Werliin are assisted by the Schola Cantorum Reykjavik Chamber Choir, and it's my favourite thing W&P has ever done - the bruised dance of those thundering drums, reflecting chorale, Wallentin's dry, wild voice.
  59. Steve Mason -"All Come Down" [buy]
    One of my favourite things about the Beta Band was the way that now and then they reminded me of Phil Collins. Most of this was Steve Mason's doing, with his Collinsian blend of wistfulness and bravado. On "All Come Down" he shows these same qualities, singing like a rising nobody, a humble champion. But whereas the Beta Band were shambolic, "alternative", here everything is perfect, gauzy, pristine. Soft rock and melancholy.
  60. Austra - "Beat and the Pulse" [buy]
    Marvellous new work by Toronto's Katie Stelmanis. The singer's conjurations are guarded by the titular beat and pulse - dark arpeggios, distant high-hats, a buried organ.
  61. Pat Jordache - "Radio" [buy]
    In May, I made up a story about Patrick Jordache, a man who does not exist. Patrick was was a mechanic; Patrick was a carpenter; Patrick was a virtuoso engineer. He spent the month of May turning furniture into radios. He hid tuning dials in freezer cabinets, slid antennas under seat cushions, smoothed speaker grilles to the underside of coffee-tables. He leaves the house and returns six months later, in the rain. He goes into the basement, he opens the fuse-box. He turned on the breaker, sent electricity into the system. The breaker was a radio. The stairwell was a radio. The doorbell was a radio. The marital bed was a radio. Everything was a radio, jubilantly howling. The whole house rang and spoke. It seemed to say, YOU WIN. Pat Jordache is a band, led by P Gregoire, and Future Songs is their triumphant debut.
  62. Soulja Boy - "Pretty Boy Swag (remix) ft. Gucci Mane" [buy]
    Love "Pretty Boy Swag"'s smug revision of ringtone-rap cliché - its (endlessly ringtone-able) hook is so slow-mo it's hardly moving. Gucci adds a certain degree of squandered smarts, but this is still just a cocksure boast with the barest skeleton of a production. And great.
  63. Matthew Friedberger - "Keep Me In The Dark" [buy]
    Matt's solo version of this Fiery Furnaces ballad, messed and melancholy. Listen to those drums. Dan wrote three stories about "Keep Me In The Dark". This one concerns, a brown Impala, a note that says, "ice ain't a meal".
  64. Maps & Atlases - "Pigeon" [buy]
    An electric guitar miniature, vibraphone, some simple questions. Larry Twin's first draft was his best draft. The first draft of the first thing he ever wrote. He was 22 when he wrote it, straight out of college. His whole apartment was packed up, ready to move back to Denton. Only his desk was left, and a pad of paper. He thought, Oh what the hell, I'll start being a writer right now. It took him fifteen minutes, the short story. "Pretty good," he thought. He went out for a beer with Lula. When he moved back to Denton he started tinkering with the story. He changed the sequence, the ending, the main character's gender. Then he changed the title. That first draft was lost. Eleven years later, he had never written anything as good. He knew this. For eleven years, he had published dregs, remnants. He had chased something he'd already forgotten. He had never been as close as on that first night. Larry Twin wished he had brought it to the bar; showed it to Lula. He wished he had showed it to everyone. He wished it had stayed.
  65. Pill Wonder - "Restless" [buy]
    Tape loop, VHS blur, nostalgia & all those things; but also steel drums, shopping mall radio, that pop song you can't quite sing. It falls away so fast, slips like ice in a hot hand. All you'll remember is the rhythm.
  66. The Vaccines - "If You Wanna" [website]
    A song of utter foolhardiness. The singer knows he is being foolhardy - not just fancy-free, reckless, but hardy as a fool. He knows he is singing a love-song to a lover who has not been loyal; he knows he is giving his catchiest chorus to someone who doesn't deserve it. But he doesn't mind. He just wants to get back to that place, running through the dry bright sunlight, with small fast plans, toward kisses with bumping teeth. His band-mates, the Vaccines, they are like: whatever. They are like: whatever, man. They are like: just tell us when we can start playing. They've got hooks ready, riffs stored up; they've got a tambourine beat they'll throw onto anything that moves. C'mon, they say, let's just become famous already.
  67. The National - "Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks" [buy]
    Fruit do not know a single thing about love and longing, about loneliness; they do not know busy concert-halls and warm streets at night; they do not know mystifying conversations and opaque texts, waiting and wondering, and biking as hard as you can. Fruit do not know anything about searching another person's eyes. They know nothing about calling someone's name. Sometimes I am a single, perfect, burnished purple plum.
  68. Zola Jesus - "Lightsick" [buy]
    It's only the piano that keeps this from becoming maudlin - played failingly, stammeringly, losing the battle as Nika Roza tries to win the war.
  69. Willow Smith - "Whip My Hair" [whip it]
    You'd have to be crazy to deny Willow Smith's bizarro triumph a spot in the year's best songs - it's a demented hook, inescapable after yr first exposure. But what really made me love "Whip My Hair", what transformed it from pure corporate pop to a sort of outsider idée fixe, was John Seroff's straight-up brilliant analysis on the Singles Jukebox (worth reading in full): It's a rare moment where we hear Willow string together more than a few unedited syllables; her vocals have been cut piecework from dozens of different takes then frankensteined into a skeleton and you can clearly hear the sudden clips like sharp inhales after every verse ... But just here, at the peak of the song, right around 2:10, the whipped cream and firework recede ever so slightly and Willow is briefly allowed center stage. She steps up to the challenge ... [with] the best take they could get from her: "Don't matter if it's long/short/do it do it/with your hair/your hair/your haaaaaaaair" and here she holds the note as the various elements of the song rise up around her and this is her diva moment now, the moment where any professional singer, any grown woman would hop up an octave or at least belt out a harmony but all that Willow can do (and remember, this is her best take; this is the most they can ask from her), all Willow can do is let out a sad little keen, a whispering lost thing that wavers and crumples. And then she is gone, swallowed up by the tide of beats and her own mechanical voice quoting Devo and evoking Salt and Pepa and she does not know these bands but she has said the words into a machine that spat her out again and now her voice, her REAL voice in the climax of her first song is drowning under the weight of her infinitely echoing false voice and this song that is hers is absolutely not hers at all. It's that half-scream, the best that she could do, that is the reveal; the look behind the curtain. !!!
  70. Parlovr - "Hell, Heaven" [buy]
    Alex from Parlovr wrote to to tell me what "Hell, Heaven" is about. It is about when he was a teenager living in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and he fell in love with a girl who lived on a military base. Her father was a helicopter pilot. When Osama Bin Laden threatened to blow up Alex's school, the principal declared a holiday. This is a true story, I think. These years later, Alex lives in Montreal. He drinks beers at Casa del Popolo and coffees at Café Olimpico. There is no sand, no gleaming bone-white city. There are boulevards garlanded by falling leaves, and places to lock your bike, and girls who say Bonsoir. Alex says Bonsoir back. It means Good evening, and Alex cannot help, now and then, from imagining a hidden bomb.
  71. Sufjan Stevens - "I Walked" [buy]
    Sufjan is still his own worst enemy, direly excessive, but even at five minutes, "I Walked" feels edged, charged, precise. With groans, bumps, scattering synths, it's seething soul music, a song of deep confusion.
  72. The Octagon - "Easton" [buy]
    Brambled, messy and sincere. I can say words like 'nirvana' and 'constantines'; I can say names like 'Lou Barlow' and 'Eric's Trip'. But I doubt any of these words & names were uttered as Zachary Mexico, Will Glass and a bassist called the Bunny recorded this lacquered disc of furious heart. They were too busy clutching & pitching & caring, caring keenly, sloppily; and playing hooks.
  73. Javiera Mena - "Acá Entera" [buy]
    From Chile, sequenced synth-pop, like fireworks in daylight.
  74. Ariel Pink - "Round and Round" [buy]
    I've never been sold on Ariel Pink's hollow Eighties pastiche, but "Round and Round" crystallizes as a consummate blend of blurry nostalgia anthem and gentle joke. Love the gang vocals, the just-sharp "Sentimental / heartbreaking / everything is my fault", and the phone-call interlude, like something excerpted from an early Weezer LP.
  75. Josephine Foster and the Victor Herrero Band - "Los Cuatro Muleros" [buy]
    Dan wrote, like a poet & genius, My husband, he is a great man. He drinks and he kisses me when he is drunk, and his cheeks are flush and warm. His hands are big and strong, and he laughs so his teeth show beneath his moustache. He will sing as he cooks, and we often cook together, with the help of our sons. The government is mean, but my husband does not get upset, he lifts his eyes up and thanks the Lord for his job and his family. He smokes too much, I do not like his breath when he smokes.
  76. Frog Eyes - "Flower in a Glove" [buy]
    A song from the edge of apocalypse, when everything can still be saved. Nine minutes long and I gobble it down. "I swept your flax bang / I swept into the currents of the river." Frog Eyes are a drowning, rapturous, from which we'll survive. (Dan wrote about this.)
  77. Khaira Arby - "Khaira" [buy]
    Dan and I both saw Khaira Arby at Pop Montreal, and it was one of the best performances we saw this year. A Malian singer with a valley of a voice, a band with exquisite unrestrained chops. An even bigger surprise was that Timbuktu Tarab, her album, is not an anemic imitation - it's great. This track's my highlight, just crackling with energy - shined and urgent, flying.
  78. Jai Paul - "BTSTU" [MySpace]
    Cooing electro cut-up that's a little Tune-Yards and a little Hudson Mohawke, but a lot good, and it's got one whoop and one "oy!" and saxophones doing the things that saxophones are really good at - not cheeseball ironic solos, or latin horn stabs, but oil-paint colour, surer than any samples. The debut's due on 4AD next year. (thank you, Ami)
  79. Warpaint - "Undertow" (single edit) [buy]
    A song of seduction, of taking; the grimmest sort of serenade. What's the matter? You hurt yourself? An old-fashioned indie-rock sound, bassline playing tricks with the light.
  80. Iron & Wine - "Walking Far From Home" [buy]
    Sam Beam vaulting, actually vaulting, over nettles and steel traps, and gesturing to the sky, and making soft stuff that's a little mean too, thank god, and not pansy hushy dishwasher. I love the rending doo-wop, the clumsy squelching, the aspiration to more than before. (thanks, alexis!)
  81. Tennis - "Marathon" [buy]
    From a wife-&-husband duo, a summer song which somehow escapes from being too beachy, too calypso, and is instead wildflower valley, full July, thistle and shade, bursting with glee but not sunbleached; just right.
  82. Cee-Lo Green - "Fuck You" [buy]
    The year's biggest youtube hit, virulent and glad (&, alas, deceptively unclassic).
  83. RatTail - "Green Guitar" [buy]
    This three-piece band is from Toronto. Their debut is due next year. Dan did it good. Your breath like grassy breeze, your stare like taut string. The clouds lap like sky waves against the back of your head, bursting behind your hair. Suddenly, like blowing out a match, you disappear. But only your body; your clothes, your rings, your gold tooth remain. I will put it all in a small bag, take it home, and leave it by the front door. In case you ever return.
  84. the1shanti - "I ♥ Olivia Munn" [website]
    This is not an ode to Munn - the1shanti only mentions her in the hook, nervously. It's instead a show of bravado, skills, of rhyme & dance & tip-of-tongue. No flattery, just backflips; the tang of novelty-rap, sure, but the1shanti evokes the mincemeat chaw of MF Doom, even MIA's elastic flow. When he tells the story of the Bean, his little clone, it's as if he knows he's getting distracted, knows he's digressing, yet it doesn't matter. He's having too much fun. He'll wriggle through the seaweed, gather nonsense. He'll make her fall for him.
  85. Fulton Lights - "Staring Out The Window" [MySpace/buy at iTunes]
    Fulton Lights' song of a million launchings and crisscrossings, motors revving on dreams. "Staring out the window," it begins, "I'm thinking about my days," but the banality is up-ended, shown to be banal, at least next to the song's riotous chug and booming horns. A man sits in the passenger seat, head leaning on the window, trading talk of tomorrows; but in his heart is the meteoric Next next next next next next, like the snick of white lines under tires.
  86. Ô Paon - "Sainte Patronne de Rien Pantoute" [buy]
    Ô Paon is Geneviève Castrée. This song is wandering and specific, each line unfurling like a path through a wood. Godspeed's Thierry Amar stands behind the controls, helping capture something dark and forceful, a lovely mournful bassline, a forging-on. Castrée's looped vocals fill the distance, like an army's birdcall signals through the trees.
  87. Nana Grizol - "Cynicism" [buy]
    Nana Grizol didn't want us posting this song. Dan wrote a story of childhood grace, and the album was released that day, but Nana Grizol wrote and said, "No, you're only allowed to post something else." And this is a little like making the most extraordinary crown, inset with emerald and azure, and locking it in a chest, and hoping that everyone will know to buy a key. So here's your instruction: You should buy a key. You should buy Ruth. This is a very beautiful small song, about believing.
  88. Katy B - "Katy on a Mission" [MySpace]
    London's new club queen, singing straight lines over a wobbling thump. It's Katy's tale of a night painted ruby, and the montage is exact & familiar: "When we erupt in to the room / And hear the sub go boom / A feeling easy to resume / This right here I swear will end too soon / So I sink in to the tune." If you are struggling to love it, here is a hint, you dear nincompoop: try dancing.
  89. Glasser - "Apply" [buy]
    Cameron Mesirow made this album with Apple's GarageBand software, which I believe calls for this emoticon: O_O. Because I have made music in GarageBand, hell I have used "Apply"'s same drum sample, and let me tell you, no one was signing me to True Panther Sounds, no one was putting me in their best of 2010. No one was going O_O or even o_o. "Apply" will plow you down with torrential synths, yipping vox, the sound of a fine artist a-comin'.
  90. Fabolous - "You Be Killin' Em" [buy]
    A song that's instantly, disarmingly appealing, like the theme to a TV show; and so I get my hackles up, bored by an easy gleam. Yet the neat, even rhymes, the short-long beat, the high-hat like an inhalation of breath - it proceeds, darkening, never more likable than in that first second. Tougher than it seems. And a love song! As Fabolous puts it, "Nice." (kudos, kelly)
  91. Sam Amidon - "Way Go Lily" [buy]
    Sam builds a whole world, asking one question. In spite of all its orchestration, it's a folksong still hidden, a story not quite said. Once again, I'm dreaming of losts and founds. Beth Orton guests. (thanks for bringing it back, tyler)
  92. Foals - "Spanish Sahara" [buy]
    A geode. Foals know the bands who preceded them - Blur, Radiohead, Doves, Bloc Party. There's no naiveté to "Spanish Sahara", just unshrinking love. (cheers milo)
  93. Elton John and Leon Russell - "When Love Is Dying" [buy]
    Finally, a torch song. It's got it all: piano, back-up singers, slow drums, and that chorus, like an arrow set on a bow-string. Sung by two men who could order a glass of water and make it sound iconic. And made with Bernie Taupin, the man who wrote "Daniel" and "Tiny Dancer". You can try to dismiss it, but you will fail; this one's for the aching-, breaking-hearted. Dan told the story much better than me.
  94. Twin Sister - "All Around and Away We Go" [buy]
    Strobing pop song, with Twin Sister's characteristic coo and flick, a strangely predatory bassline, and a melody that dwindles, recurs, dissolves. A disco ball pushed into a candy oven.
  95. Waka Flocka Flame - "Hard in da Paint" [buy]
    Waka Flocka makes a silly, snarling song: spends half his time braggin' burly, the other half just repeating his own name or making handgun sounds with his mouth. But his name sounds awesome, shouted (especially the amazing eponymous verse at 3:08). And he's really good at making handgun sounds with his mouth. And this is all such a taut banging nonsense that my vague desire for um subtlety is just blasted, buried, left six feet under. A little Busta Rhymes, a little Sonny Corleone.
  96. Sade - "Soldier of Love" [buy]
    Sade's "Soldier of Love" is eerie, almost sinister - more kindred to Portishead's "Machine Gun" or Tricky's "Overcome" than to the burnt honey of Lover's Rock. Besides the martial snare, the desert-baked guitar licks, there's that gunmetal bassline chug - heartstrings made of steel. (again, thanks kelly)
  97. Lykke Li - "Get Some" [website]
    Aside from a great line about a shotgun, "Get Some" has some of the direst lyrics of any indie song this year. But that ends up almost irrelevant, swallowed up in a killer hook and a thundering avalanche of drums.
  98. Killer Mike - "Ready Set Go ft. T.I." [buy]
    No ID's beat, deep as the Mariana trench. He walked into jewellery stores, grabbed fistfuls of rings. He took angelfood cakes out of the Loblaws freezer. He stole cars and records. He walked up to a woman waiting for the bus, said, "Give me your phone." She looked at his amulet, glinting like an ember. She swallowed. "Why are you doing this?" she asked. Michael delicately lifted the cellphone from her hand. He said just, "Magic."
  99. Delicate Steve - "Butterfly" [buy]
    Full of warm zing and soft skitter, like the cute small stuff of Penguin Cafe Orchestra or an amphetamined Maher Shalal Hash Baz. But when the big buzz arrives in the last half, Ratatat-packed, it feels more like a wrecking ball, gently pushing some edifice over. (thanks bryan!)
  100. The Tallest Man on Earth - "Burden of Tomorrow" [buy]
    Kristian Matsson, singing like a demigod, singing like, well, Bob Dylan, about his exploits and adventures - fording rivers, melting glaciers, leaping buildings. "I drink my water when it rains", he claims, "and live by chance among the lightning strikes." They're beautiful lies, impossible ones, but the beautiful & impossible does sometimes feel true, in those doubled spotlights of your lover's eyes.

And that's 2010's century of songs, as honestly as I can tell it. 100 is simply the cut-off; the year had mountains-more tunes, plus the myriad I didn't hear. Said the Gramophone spent the year writing about as many as it could, and old songs too, treasures kept in boxes. If you're new to the site, please come again (or subscribe). We update almost every weekday, penning tales about the songs we love.

Thanks for reading, sorry for the broken links, support the artists, share & share alike - and happy holidaze.

Posted by Sean at 1:25 AM | Comments (67)

December 10, 2010

Fared Well


Ernest Djedje - "Zadie Bobo"

"Play the best song you know," they said, into the phone. "Okay, but after that we hang up." "Okay, okay." "I love you," they said, it was the morning where they were, the sun cold outside their bedroom window, the pillow warm. Slowly, clicking, fumbling, placing the phone. Mini-Elvis bobblehead waited, perched on the windowsill. The flat and fanning horns came in, and suddenly the phone had all the power in the world.

Moussa Doumbia - "Unité"

Oranges around the world, salt from here to there, oil under the sand, diamonds impossible, the mountains to see it all. Curvature, bodies and earth.

[Buy through Juno Records]

(image: directions to Cory's Cave)

Posted by Dan at 12:49 PM | Comments (3)

December 9, 2010


Snowy trees

Sean Nicholas Savage - "Snowflake". "Chill out! Ha hahaha. No seriously, folks, the thing about blizzards is that you can't fuck with them. Right? Am I right? There's no arguing. Winter's not gonna go, 'Shit, sorry, I'll get outta your way.' Winter's gonna do what winter wants. So instead of fighting it, you do what you do with every omnipotent mob. You get with them. You get in as deep as you can. Dig a hole, jump in. If you get with winter, winter'll be cool with you, y'know? [laughs] Love it, live it, just don't expect too much. It's like a lover. Yeah. Just don't expect too much."

The Zolas - "Snow". A song about making-out in the snow. A song that ruins the Zolas' Canadian cred. Because let's face it: kissing in the snow is nothing extraordinary. It's what you have to do, for one third of the year. The only reason to make a song about it is if you've got the plans for an excellent song, a nervy pop-rocker with barbs and jangle, something good for the opening to your teen movie, the one about the days when you had never kissed before, either in the snow or anywhere. A song like this. Good!

[Both these songs are from The Line of Best Fit's terrific free Christmas comp, Ho Ho Ho Canada, which also has music by Basia Bulat, Woodpigeon, Leif Vollebekk, Baby Eagle and many more. / Sean Nick Savage on MySpace / The Zolas on MySpace]



Derrick Belcham's new video for the Luyas' "Tiny Head".

A wonderful rare song by Nancy Adams, called "Somebody's in my Orchard".

End of year unfurling, with two of my favourites so far - kids with glorious taste and endless curiosity: Skatterbrain's best of 2010 and Gorilla vs Bear's Best Songs of 2010.

Don't wear yourself out! StG's best of year coming very soon.

(photo source)

Posted by Sean at 11:45 AM | Comments (2)

December 7, 2010



Group Doueh - "Beatte Harab"

Markeh and Nevi want a child. Two men cannot conceive a child. Nor can they adopt. Markeh and Nevi live in a small town, they fear death if their neighbours were to discover that they are not like the other men their age who live together. Roommate is a word with two meanings in the local language; it means "co-lodger" as normal, but it also means "co-builder", as in a kind of teammate. Markeh and Nevi still used "roommate", but meant it really as "teammate". And they wanted a child. Markeh traveled to a doctor far out of town, and pretended to be a husband lacking potency to impregnate his wife. "Is there anything...else I can do?" The doctor had a leering look, he had an air of tired violence. Too many patients asking too many miracles. "Get your friend to bed your wife. Turn out the lights, she may not know the difference." Confused and upset, Markeh arrived home to find Nevi gone, a note: singing. He went to Valeth, the green hill, where Nevi would sing some nights. When he sung he sounded possessed, as if God himself were passing through him, as if all the ghosts of all the dead were passing through him. When he sang he seemed to bring things into being that were not there before, notes that do not exist in pretty songs. He sang, near screaming, for nearly an hour. Markeh loved him and watched him and sighed. [Buy]

Adriano Celentano - "Prisencolinensinaiciusol"



Posted by Dan at 1:57 AM | Comments (3)

December 6, 2010


Clara Bow

Harmony Trowbridge - "Forgotten Star". A gorgeous, just gorgeous little love song, with doo-wop and malletted toms, but I wonder if it's something else, too. Hidden in these kindnesses, a certain fragile wrong. Maybe next time I'll end it with lying in your arms, Harmony sings, but lying has two meanings. Maybe next time you'll end it with happening on my heart. [MySpace/buy exclusively here]

Connie Francis - "Don't Ever Leave Me". But there are no questions in this. Connie Francis and her girls want utter certainty: "Don't ever leave me." "Don't ever let me go." Let's be honest: these demands are kinda scary. Also, Connie's vague threat that if we ever part, her heart is gonna break in two. Parting is inevitable, Connie. It's what the telephone is for, or pen and ink. It's what lovers will have to do, sometimes, if their love is going to last. And so with all these high stakes, in this monster of a song, I love the appearance of a tinny piano solo at 1 min 50, rinky-tinking away, dancing around Connie's promises like the piano-player knows this stuff won't last, knows the certitude will fade, knows that in the morning, it'll all have gone to hell. [buy]

(photo is of Clara Bow / source)

Posted by Sean at 12:11 AM | Comments (7)

December 3, 2010

Atlas Sound Part 2


Atlas Sound - "Mona Lisa"

With the afternoon sparkling through the leaves, dashed upon the light walls, the two were curled up in the cutest possible position: trying to read the same book at the same time. Impractical, yes, but fucking cute. Platonic does not just mean without sex, it really refers to the transcendent, above the material. "Are you done?" she reads fast, she doesn't hear the words in her head like he does.

Atlas Sound - "Drums & Pissing"

At night, they argue over dinner. "Are you saying you wouldn't love me if I were Hispanic?" "Not at all. Of course I would." "But you're saying you'd have to think about it." "I'm saying intake of you as a person would have to be rebooted, you know?" "Why?" "Because, unfortunately, we live in a society that cultural heritage is a factor in the consumption of a person's personality." "Just 'cause we live in that world doesn't mean you have to play by those rules. I don't see it as a factor at all." "I'm not saying it would change anything, I'm just, yes I am, of course it would change things..--" "See? This is what I'm saying. You're basically racist." "Whoa. Come on." The waiter comes over, hispanic, "Is everything okay?"

Atlas Sound - "How to Pass the Time"

As they drift off to sleep, their minds go in different ways. She imagines the cold sunday mornings, at church with her family, where she would go afterward and count the collection in a bare white room. Her father wears a tie with stain on it; the stain is bugging her. Meanwhile, he's on a plane, with no windows but also no wind, over some African-looking landscape, where the patterns in the grass make faces and frowns and animal shapes. He's holding a small container of berries, not eating them but squishing them between his fingers. He looks curiously at the stains on his fingers.

[Bedroom Databank Vol. 3]
[Bedroom Databank Vol. 4]

(image source: this insanity)

Posted by Dan at 4:37 PM | Comments (0)

December 2, 2010


Man with mask in trees

Killer Mike - "Ready Set Go ft. T.I.". At his grandma's house, Michael found an amulet. It was deep violet, the colour at the end of sunset. "Look," he said. His father and aunts were in the kitchen, talking about the obituary. "Yes," aunt Egwene said, "that's grandma's amulet. When you are wearing it, you can steal anything." "It gives you powers?" Michael asked. "No. It just lets you. It makes it okay. Put it back on her dresser please." But Michael did not put it back. Aunt Egwene was always bossing him around, and bossing his father around, so Michael went back into his grandma's pot-pourri bedroom and stuffed the amulet into his pocket. It clinked seriously. Then he took a macaroon from the living-room and sloughed off out the front door.

That summer, Michael wore the amulet and he stole things. He walked into jewellery stores, grabbed fistfuls of rings. He took angelfood cakes out of the Loblaws freezer. He stole cars and records. He walked up to a woman waiting for the bus, said, "Give me your phone." She looked at his amulet, glinting like an ember. She swallowed. "Why are you doing this?" she asked. Michael delicately lifted the cellphone from her hand. He said just, "Magic." [get T.I.'s Fuck a Mixtape]

Julian Lynch - "Just Enough". "I promise I will be a great friend to you, even when the grasses get high, even when the waters rise, even when the apple-trees fall and crush your horses. You have done me a service I can never repay, except with kindness, when all other kindnesses fade away." [buy / thanks kelly!]


Snailhouse and Elfin Saddle play at Casa del Popolo tonight. I will see you there, ringing my bells.

Elsewhere: This amazing letter from Efrim (Godspeed You! Black Emperor) to Plan B magazine's Andrzej Lukowski paints a kind of mythic portrait of Montreal ca 2000, in shades of steam-train roar. Beautiful and inspiring. Hope there are many good people being knocked down at ATP this weekend.

(photo source unknown - sorry!)

Posted by Sean at 11:45 AM | Comments (1)