Top 200 Tracks of 2010 – The Top Twenty

20. The Hold Steady – Hurricane J

Craig Finn, while less belligerent, is still plenty drunk and emotional and frank on Heaven Is Whenever, and the group delivers one of their poppiest efforts thus far.  “Hurricane J” is a plea to a lost soul he may be care a little too much about, spoken plainly and perfectly alongside a perfect tropical storm metaphor.  We’ve all known someone like the person Finn describes, and we’ve all said the exact same things.

19. Nicki Minaj featuring will.i.am – Check It Out

The Black Eyed Peas make my skin crawl, but there’s no denying will.i.am’s charismatic production skills.  Here, a Buggles sample gets transformed into a 21st-century infectious party loop.  The highlight, of course, is Minaj – just wait for the “da-dun-dun” verse and you’ll see why she was one of 2010’s hottest new stars.  The girl has immense rapping talent, which she should have utilized more on her debut album.

18. Toadies – Dead Boy

The Texas group’s reworking of their 1997 scrapped album was long overdue, but worth the wait for Toadies fans. “Dead Boy,” originally titled “Dead Boy Boogie,” may be tweaked for modern times, but it still sounds like good ol’ 90’s era Toadies.  The extra aged rasp of Todd Lewis’ vocals, however, give the old tune a fresh angry feel, sounding more raw and purposed than any old demo could.

17. Drake – Shut It Down (featuring The-Dream)

The-Dream brings his sex-soaked persona (which he delivers without fail on Love King) to Drake’s sophomore effort Thank Me Later. While the album is mostly standard brag-and-reflect introspective rap from Drake, this jam is clearly influenced by the guest collaborator.  How’s a lovely female gonna resist the plethora of compliments this track delivers?  My vote for Sex Jam 2010 – don’t believe me?  Keep listening to the outro, when “shut it down” becomes “I’m trying to lay you down.”  The ladies can’t resist that crooning whisper.

16. Sleigh Bells – Run the Heart

Just when we think they’ve slowed down the bumping bass on Treats, it returns louder than ever on “Run the Heart.”  Not to mention Alexis Krauss’ vocals are calm and eerie compared to the rest of the album; even amongst the chaos, she keeps cool.  One of the more creepy songs on this otherwise total-party album.

15. Dominique Young Unique – Blaster

One of the hottest (and I do mean hottest….this girl is absolutely gorgeous) rap acts to emerge from Tampa, Dominique’s is unique indeed, giving the female rapper of today some much-needed raw street cred. At only 18 years old, her flow is making veterans stammer, as is perfectly shown on “Blaster” and the rest of her stellar Domination Mixtape.

14. Star Slinger – Minted

The UK’s Star Slinger is nothing short of a workaholic, releasing new tracks on his SoundCloud page in a Kanye/G.O.O.D. Friday fashion.  His first full collection Volume 1 is a blast of chops and samples from a progressive dance perspective, and “Minted” is the banging highlight, a great starting piece for those becoming acquainted with the new up-and-comer.

13. Thrift Store Cowboys – Nothing

Subdued, reserved, and determined, TSC is quietly garnering praise from national music publications while we all fawn over bullshit like Joanna Newsom.  “Nothing” is straightforward and emotional, delivered by Daniel Fluitt with a honest croon frank and beautiful.  The song slowly builds to a final chorus so powerful you’ll find yourself scratching your head in confusion why these guys aren’t winning Grammys yet.

12. Local Natives – Airplanes

Big up to Kim Griffith.  Girl, I love this band. Love this album.  Thank you for introducing me to the awesome that is LA’s Local Natives.  Since I went with Kimmy on a trip to Oklahoma City last spring, this has been the one track that has stood out above the rest.  The chorus is one you don’t sing along with if you’re not belting it out at the top of your lungs. Fact.

11. The National – Bloodbuzz Ohio

The National have once again commanded the indie rock world with a powerful, poignant collection of songs, “Bloodbuzz Ohio” leading the pack.  The sonic melody is instantly accessible, even without a clear hook.  But that’s this band’s charm – they use their music as something that grows and grows and never fades, even if you’ve heard it a million times.

10. ceo – Come With Me

The Tough Alliance’s Eric Berglund went solo this year, incorporating the electro-pop he is known for alongside beautiful orchestral accompaniments.  The result is the splendid White Magic, and “Come With Me” is the best track on it.

9. Gauntlet Hair – I Was Thinking

Lafayette, Colorado’s Gauntlet Hair have stepped out with a funky mix of echoes, delays, and bumping R&B in 2010.  “I Was Thinking,” the 7-inch released from Forest Family (Gorilla Vs. Bear’s record label) was the first listen of the duo for many, including yours truly.  And I’m still spinning it.

8. The Radio Dept. – Heaven’s On Fire

“I think we should destroy the bogus capitalist process that is destroying youth culture.”  Strong words start this effervescent jangly electro-pop brilliance from the Radio Dept., who after years are finally getting the attention they deserve.

7. Deftones – Rocket Skates

Don’t call it a comeback – Deftones have wowed the masses with a stellar new album.  “Rocket Skates” is the massive first single that brings the band back to the fold, and they really didn’t change much.  Everything is still there – the weird rhythms, the screeching, halting lyrics, the deafening riffs.  So why does it sound so fresh?

6. Robyn – Hang With Me

The finest, sweetest, catchiest tune about having a friend with benefits….like, ever.  Robyn is great as utilizing her dance pop for the greater good, delivering on-point, clever messages to those grooving and swaying, and “Hang With Me” is a wittily phrased piece of Euro-pop goodness.

5. One Wolf – Backyard

Daniel Markham, or at least his music, has been in a better mood this year.  The beautiful gloom of the first One Wolf album is answered in contrast with sharp optimism on the follow-up.  The songwriting is sharper, too – “Backyard” is a Deadsy-tinged country tune, with just a hint of pop songcraft, no doubt in the style of R.E.M.

4. The-Dream – Love King

The title track to The-Dream’s latest effort gets all the swagger out of the way so for the rest of the disc we can experience the joys of a 21st-century Prince (even more so than Prince himself).  But man, that swagger is delivered better than anything else on this incredible album.

3. Wavves – Post Acid

Nathan Williams is smoking a different kind of pot I guess.  He sounds like the type of stoner who cleans the house on a good buzz, rather than one who eats Pringles and plays XBox.  Whether that’s true or not is a different story; he certainly sounded like the latter on previous efforts.  But Williams returned this summer with a new sense of purpose and, frankly, better music.  And “Post Acid” is surf-punk awesomeness that’s hard to argue with.

2. Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti – Round and Round

That loopy bass line leads us along for a good long while.  Fittingly, like a carousel. Not that I’m complaining – it’s a great line, especially fitted alongside the “merry-go-round-we-go” vocal harmony.  But this song shines once the chorus shows up, determined: “hold on, I’m calling…..and we’ll dazzle them all.”

1. Big Boi – Shutterbug

There is no other guy from Outkast, but of course, we already knew that.  Now the rest of the world does.  “Shutterbug,” the Scott Storch-produced stroke of Southern rap-funk brilliance, has overtaken my world, and I don’t think I will ever stop listening to it.

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