Jamey Johnson, "Lonely at the Top": Ouch.
Merle Haggard, "I've Seen It": Double ouch.
Patty Griffin, "Move On Up": Help me, Jesus. Please.
Best Coast, "Boyfriend": The bare-souled lyrics of Crazy For You's standout single read more like a hush-hush diary entry than a pop song. Its blend of lo-fi garage pop and breezy surf-rock help make this track downright infectious. It's the song in which front woman Bethany Cosentino steps into the role of the consumate edgy, insecure, hopeless-romantic single girl, speaking for droves of ladies who can relate to lyrics like "I wish he was my boyfriend/ The other girl is not like me/ She's prettier and skinnier/ She has a college degree/ I dropped out when I was 17/ If only I could get her out of the picture/ Then he would know how much I want him."
Arcade Fire, "The Suburbs": Considering 2004's Funeral remains one of my favorite records of all time, Arcade Fire has since had a lot to live up to in my eyes - and in my opinion, until this year's The Suburbs, they hadn't. The album's title track carries a certain maturity that implies the band members' shift in mood since Funeral, including front man Win Butler's endearingly honest expression of his desire to start a family. As he sings about a "suburban world," I inevitably visualize him back in his old suburban sprawl Woodlands stomping grounds. And cringe.
Scott Lucas & the Married Men, "What Fools Allow": From the debut EP of the Local H front man's side-project, George Lassos the Moon, this subtle sleeper gem has become one of my favorite tracks of the year because it celebrates Lucas as a musical chameleon. He's unpeeled layers previously masked by the Local H distortion pedal, baring a stripped, tender side of his songwriting and incidentally, himself as well.
Buxton, "Oh My Boy": It's not out in recorded form yet, but it blew me away when they debuted it mid-year - enough so that I declared a desire for it to be played at my funeral.
LCD Soundsystem, "Pow Pow": This is pretty much guaranteed to result in my dancing like a fool. It's just too much fun.
Something Fierce, "Where Ya Goin' Man?": From its chunky, palm-muted beginning through its ending refrain, this song is pure punk bliss. This came out at the end of January, on a 7" backed with an equally fine cover of Party Owls' "Spray Coat" - and really showcases why Something Fierce ought to be loved around the world.
John Seaborn Gray: Sage Francis' Li(f)e, aside from being undervalued by critics, also contained one of the best songs of the year: "Three Sheets to the Wind," the best example of garage rock-rap I've heard since Mudhoney and Sir Mix-A-Lot teamed up on the Judgment Night soundtrack. Frightened Rabbit's "Nothing Like You" is both lyrically and musically catchy and was one of the highlights of their stellar live show. Crime In Stereo's "Republica" was probably the punk-rock anthem of the year.
Gorillaz, "Cloud of Unknowing": The best track for me on the Gorillaz's Plastic Beach didn't have members of the Clash or Lou Reed on it. Live, this song was amazing with Bobby Womack's mournful voice filling Toyota Center to the brim. "Like setting suns at the rodeo/ Trying to find someone you'll never know."
Kings Of Leon: "The End": I started and ended my day regularly with this songs for months. "I ain't got a home/ I'll forever roam /I ain't got a home" resonated with me as I got wave of bad news after bad news. Not professionally, but personally. People were getting engaged, growing up, having kids. Odd times.
Murder By Death, "Foxglove": "A girl came in the night/ She brought me a fever" goes the song, and so did every night of 2010. I discovered this through song from a very dear, new friend in my life. The future is unwritten.
Jef With One F:
Bar none, the best song I heard this year was The Brown Dog Affair's "Fangs." Technically, The Brown Dog Affair isn't a band so much as an annoyingly unfinished Web series centered around two deranged epic failures of musicians, but each episode was accompanied by a new song. Yes, "Fangs" is just a parody track mocking the Twilight craze, but it's also incredibly catchy, fun, and the only thing keeping me from putting the F150 in neutral on an incline and letting it back over my head after the Wife With One F drags me to Twihard With a Vengeance next year.
Something else stellar was the title track of Michael Lee's nostalgia metal album Hold on Till Heaven. It's the perfect combination of cheesy riffs and instrumental excellence that is just completely impossible not to lose control while listening to.
The best thing nationally, though? Cee Lo Green's "Fuck You." That's a catchy-ass tune, me buckos. Incidentally, if I hear one more scared sack call that song "Forget You" I'm gonna gouge out their eyes and skullforget them.
Cage the Elephant, "Shake Me Down": Maybe it's because we're just now hearing it, but the first single off Cage the Elephant's forthcoming album is fantastic. It's not the direction we expected the band to take, but we're pleasantly surprised and equally excited to hear the new album, which comes out early next month.
Cee Lo Green, Fuck You": Like it or not, you can relate to this song. Everyone can. And what's better than a jab at an ex that ends with a victorious "fuck you"? Nothing, that's what.
Eminem, "No Love": Recovery, as a whole, was a bit too scattered to make our list of best albums, but it had its gems. One of which was the Detroit rapper's collaboration with Lil Wayne, in which he draws a stark contrast between a rapper who writes nothing down (Wayne) and one who writes everything down (Em).
The whole song (and album, for that matter) is a verbal assault, and even with the somewhat hokey sample of Haddaway's "What is Love," the final product is solid. "Love the Way You Lie" would have made it on this list if it weren't for the line, "Now you get to watch her leave out the window/ Guess that's why they call it window pane." Seriously, Em? C'mon.
Shea Serrano: Eek. I don't know. There were a lot of effin' songs this year, too many to whittle down to the best three. Asking me to pick out the three best is like asking me to picking out the three worst Texans losses. Goddamn Texans.
Brittanie Shey: As if I listened to any modern music this year.
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Williiam Michael Smith:
Danny Barnes, "Road"
Gene Watson, "The Taste of the Truth"
Mike Stinson, "Got No One To Drink With Anymore"