Best Music of 2010

I've shifted the iTunes shuffle from the Christmas-music playlist over to the top-rated songs of the year playlist because, well, it's the time of year when anybody with any pretension of writing about pop culture does some sort of Top N list to wrap up the year. And, since I've got "pop culture" right up there in the masthead, that means I should do one as well.

The following list is all the five-star rated songs that iTunes has a "2010" date for, with a bunch of remastered Rolling Stones tracks deleted, because really, while "Sweet Virginia" is a fantastic song, it's not remotely a 2010 song. These are in alphabetical order by song title, just because:

  • "Boxer," The Gaslight Anthem
  • "Champaign, Illinois," Old 97'S
  • "Christchurch Woman [Explicit]," Justin Townes Earle
  • "The Diamond Church Street Choir," The Gaslight Anthem
  • "Do You Love Me," Guster
  • "Fed Up," AM Taxi
  • "Folk Bloodbath," Josh Ritter
  • "Fuck You [Explicit]," Cee Lo Green
  • "Harlem River Blues," Justin Townes Earle
  • "Hurricane J," The Hold Steady
  • "King Of Anything," Sara Bareilles
  • "Laredo," Band Of Horses
  • "Learned to Surf," Superchunk
  • "Little Lion Man," Mumford & Sons
  • "One More Night in Brooklyn," Justin Townes Earle
  • "Satisfied," Cee Lo Green
  • "Soft In The Center," The Hold Steady
  • "This Too Shall Pass," Ok Go
  • "Tightrope (Feat. Big Boi)," Janelle Monáe
  • "The Weekenders," The Hold Steady

As you can see, it's the usual mix of alternative-ish bands you probably haven't heard of and adult alternative stuff, with a handful of R&B songs that snuck in just for variety.

To answer a couple of obvious questions before they're asked, yes, I have the Arcade Fire album that everybody went nuts for. It's a very good record, but none of the songs struck me as really blindingly brilliant by itself. They've got several in the four-star list, but no five-star tracks.

Also, the list of stuff I bought this year isn't as comprehensive as it has been in some past years. I didn't even bother doing a best-of-2009 list last year, because I bought so little music. My purchasing edged back up toward historical average levels this year, but there are a lot of things that slipped through the cracks. I have a bunch of 2010 albums I've been meaning to buy, but they got pushed aside for Christmas, and will end up being bought over the weekend.

The format above makes it a little hard to tally, but if you're trying to keep score, the top five-star-song producers this year were Justin Townes Earle and the Hold Steady, with three apiece. Cee-Lo Green and Gaslight Anthem got two each. Those pretty much stake out the boundaries of my musical tastes, really.

If you put a gun to my head and made me pick a single album out of those, I'd probably go with the Cee-Lo Green, which is really an outstanding record. Justin Townes Earle would come next, I think.

So, anyway, there's my list of the best music of 2010. In case you have, for some odd reason, chosen me as your ultimate arbiter of musical taste, and have been waiting for guidance on what to spend your holiday gift certificates buying.

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I didn't buy a lot of music this year either, mainly due to the existence Spotify, which meant that I listened to a whole bunch of obscure albums that I would never buy and can't remember anything about. Nevertheless, here are the top three albums that I did buy:

1. Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse - Dark Night of the Soul
2. Admiral Radley - I Heart California
3. The Acorn - No Ghost

I got the OK, Go album for Xmas, but I haven't listened to it enough to decide how much I like it yet.

Hehe thanks for the heads up on the Champaign, Il song. Never heard of it and I'm from there. :)

While everyone can always think of songs that should be added to a Top Ten list, this is the first time I've ever seen one I don't think a song should be removed from. Well done. (I think all I would change is move it to 11 songs and add the title song from Mumford and Sons Sigh No More, which is amazing.)

Did you hear the new National album? That's probably my favorite of the year, with Janelle Monáe and Sharon Jones albums fighting for second. The Roots' "How I Got Over" was probably my favorite song, with Los Campesinos' "The Sea Is a Good Place to Think About the Future" getting a lot of iPod play as well.