Monday, December 6, 2010

100 Songs for 2010: 96-100

This holiday season, you'll hear a lot of people tell you it's better to give than to receive.  And, when it comes to gifts, I can see both sides of the argument.  I mean, it's pretty awesome to get some cool stuff.

When it comes to end of the year song compilations, though, I can assure you ... I'm way more excited about this than any of you.  If you'll allow me:

You guys you guys you guys it's here it's here it's here oh man it's here it's my 100 Songs for 2010 I know it's a lot of songs but you'll like them at least some of them please listen I promise you'll like it I promise there are so many good songs you guys there was so much good music this year and I worked so hard putting the list together and please just listen to it I know you'll like it I know you will oh boy oh boy oh boy.

Ahem.  Moving on ...

This year, for the first time, my 100 Songs collection is available for immediate download in one handy ZIP file.  Click the image above, or just click right here.  If you don't have time to download six hundred megabytes of music right now, but you'd like to read forty-plus pages of my thoughts on the year in pop culture, you can download my 2010 Listening Guide separately by clicking here.

Furthermore, if you haven't already, you can download re-mastered version of 100 Songs for 2008 and 100 Songs for 2009 by clicking on the links in this sentence.

As we have done every year, if you'd like to receive the 100 Songs by mail, please send your current address to aaron [dot] bergstrom [at] gmail [dot] com and specify whether you would like one MP3 CD or six audio CDs (songs are long this year).

Now that all the formalities are out of the way, we can get to the blogging at hand.  This year, we're counting down the Top 100 five songs at a time, hoping to reach Number One on Christmas Day, just like Jesus would have done, had there been MP3 blogs in his time.  I'd like to make this blog an interactive annotated version of the 100 Songs collection and Listening Guide you've already downloaded (and, if not, do it now).  Every day, we'll have:

- Streaming and downloadable versions of the Top 100 songs
- Music videos (surprisingly, they still make those)
- Links to other bands, articles, reviews, and any additional trivial minutiae mentioned in the Listening Guide
- A "See Also" section for every Top 100 song, featuring other songs you might like (with the usual streaming or downloading options)

So let's get started:

Kurt Vonnegut’s Bluebeard is about an artist who gets so good at realism that eventually he just snaps.  His ability to reproduce anything in the world almost exactly leads him to a career of the most conceptual, abstract modern art, pictures of nothing and paints that decompose after years in galleries.  You hear the same thing about jazz musicians occasionally, too.  The most experimental artists were the ones who started out as technical masters.  It seems that eventually you get bored with your own incredible precision.

In 2008, MGMT wrote three of the biggest, sharpest pop hooks of the decade (“Time to Pretend,” “Kids,” and “Electric Feel”).  2010’s Congratulations … has no hooks at all.  Maybe a couple very small ones.  There is not one radio-friendly minute of music on it.  It’s warm, 1960s Zombies-influenced pop music, but it doesn’t contain even the possibility of a hit.

So there are two possibilities, then.  Either MGMT tried to write another “Kids” and just failed, or they reached that point where writing hit songs became tedious, and they struck out in the most abstract direction they knew.

I think it’s too early to know for sure which way MGMT’s career will go,* but I love the concept of the band that got sick of writing hits.  That’ a storyline I’ll keep following.

* Though it’s interesting to note that MGMT’s “big hits” record and MGMT’s “no hits” record both got matching 6.8s from Pitchfork.  Nice to know that, whatever you do, you can expect a pleasantly lukewarm reaction to it.


MGMT - "Destrokk"
MGMT - "I Found a Whistle"

Like most of the Sincerely Yours catalog, jj seems devoted to recreating the moments both before and after a dream.  Woozy, warm, inviting, disconnected, muted, incoherent, disorganized, a free-association collage of images and sounds, comfortable and disorienting.  That’s jj, and their surreal live show is all of those things, too, only moreso.


The Tough Alliance -  "Lucky"
Air France - "June Evenings"


98) Black Keys - "Tighten Up"

Originally, the best thing about this song was the homemade-looking music video the band put up on YouTube, featuring a dancing plastic dinosaur puppet named Frank the Funaksaurus. 

Months later, when the song became a popular radio single, the band decided to release another, “Official,” video.  Which seemed unnecessary to me, given the genius of the first one.  I was ready to be disappointed.  But … honestly, the second video is pretty great, too.  It’s funny and it’s got little kids fighting and the band hitting each other with drums and stuff … I guess I approve.  BUT YOU DIDN’T HAVE TO THROW FRANK UNDER THE BUS LIKE THAT, BLACK KEYS!!!

EDIT: Holy crap, FRANK IS BACK! I had no idea! (Thanks to Luke in the comments.)


Black Keys - "I Got Mine"
Black Keys - "Next Girl"


97) Frightened Rabbit - "Nothing Like You"

Somehow both anthemic and depressing at the same time, like a really bummed-out U2.*

While recording 2010’s The Winter of Mixed Drinks, lead singer Scott Hutchison offered this quote: “The theme I'm going for is pushing yourself out to the edge of things and being alone, feeling lost and not knowing where you are, which is how I've felt recently. It's not all fun and games, but hopefully it'll just be less obviously personal and brutal than the last record. Less oppressive.”

Less oppressive?  Sellouts!

* And yes, I understand that Irish and Scottish accents are different things.


Frightened Rabbit - "The Twist"
Frightened Rabbit - "Skip the Youth"


96)  Vampire Weekend - "Giving Up the Gun"

Contra came out January 12, 2010, but it seems like this record has been out for about ten years now, doesn’t it?  Is that just me?  I know “Holiday” is in every commercial on TV right now, but honestly, VW already sound like they belong to a different time.

“Giving Up the Gun” seemed to be the consensus best song on Contra, and it’s easy to see why.  While some Vampire Weekend song seems like sketches of ideas,* “Giving Up the Gun” is their most fully-realized idea yet.  More than anything else they’ve done,** it sounds like they put in as much time and energy as was necessary to get it exactly right.

* And this is true even for some of their best songs.

** And I have no idea whether this is actually true.




    Are now writing the daily 5 song count down dick joke jambaroo?

    /also would steal the all caps Big Daddy Drew writing style if I were nice and motivated enough to write an interesting music for my friends.

  2. R.I.P. FRANK

    /Pours a four loko out for Frank

  3. Frank + the Keys' Next Girl = YouTube win.

  4. Edited to reflect the awesomeness of Frank's return. Thanks.

  5. Strong start man. Looking forward to this. I hated the new MGMT, but liked your reasoning for why it sucked. Now kindly convince them to go back to doing what I like.

    "Tighten Up" was WAY too low, but you're young; you'll learn.

    I hadn't heard the jj song, liked it though. Anything by Frightened Rabbit seems to be up my alley. And yeah, Contra came out in 2010. That's so last year.

  6. only 5 songs in and i've already previously downloaded 2 of them. off to a good start, aaron.