Friday, 24 December 2010

Listasaurus: The Top 20 Songs of 2010: 05-01

Oh wow. Here we go. It's Christmas Eve and snow is falling neck breaking amounts of sludge are everywhere. As I walk the streets of this humdrum town I can see families huddled around computer screens. What are they looking at? What can unite all these people like this? Oh cot damn. It's my twitter feed and they are all waiting for a tweet to say that this blog post is up. Happy holidays.

05 Rihanna - 'Only Girl (In The World)'

" my prisoner for the night."

I'd say the same thing about Gaga but I'm really thankful Rihanna is around. You know by now that pop stars of her magnitude are unavoidable in everyday life. Regardless of your age, gender or anything else you will be hearing songs by artists like Rihanna on approximately a thrice daily basis. In the launderette, in the bakery, on the car radio on the way to work, from the annoying girl singing in the office. Rihanna and Gaga, though, are different to the rest. Why? Well, I find them both genuinely interesting for one. I find a vast majority of their music really very listenable for two. Perhaps you could say that this has more to do with the people behind the scenes than the actual artists themselves and perhaps you could be right. I'll tell you one thing about that though, I don't really care either way.

'Only Girl (In The World)' initially sounded like a bit of a cash in on this recent R&B/dance crossover trend. Originally, I heard it two or three times and dismissed it as a bit of a dissapointment and got on with my life. However, as the days and weeks rolled on and I kept hearing the song through my own choosing or otherwise, I started to dig it more and more with each listen. As always with Rihanna, the song is shot through with a high voltage sexiness but its a sexiness that is edged with some yearning and some real innocence. It's like reading the diary of the hottest girl at school and finding out that she's got it bad for some kid that couldn't give a shit about her. Something like that anyway. Either way, it's fantastic.

04 Freddie Gibbs - 'National Anthem (Fuck The World)'

"All my shit still be bumpin'..."

Aside from the song at #02 in this list, this is my most played rap song of the year and it takes few listens to work out why. Gibbs really works with LA Riots' beat here so much so that you really cannot imagine them as divided entities. The way in which he slows down to a thug crawl for that chorus and shifts up to a blinding Twista speed for his verses really is spellbinding. As is often the way, Gibbs has really been through a lot in his short life but it's moments like this that make you thankful he came out the other side.

Freddie Gibbs has a lot of material out there. He's a mixtape fiend and filtering this slew of content down to its rawest and purest form can be difficult. I mean, where to start? Well, the easy answer to that is to start with "National Anthem...," because this isn't just Freddie Gibbs' best track, it's one of the best rap tracks of the year. Perhaps more importantly, it marks Gibbs out as a true contender and one to watch very closely come 2011 and beyond.

03 Laura Marling - 'Goodbye England (Covered in Snow)'

"True love is frail and willing to break..."

I posted about Laura Marling earlier in the year when 'I Speak Because I Can' was first released. Back then, I was reeling at how good that album was and how amazing it is that Marling is 20 years old or whatever. Since then I've listened to ISBIC and more specifically 'Goodbye England...' many, many times and with each listen I've realised how irrelevant it is what age Laura Marling is. This is a song that just sounds completely classic. It could've been released at any time over the past fifty years, it really doesn't matter.

Marling has written a song that reads as well as it sounds. It could be read to you as a poem and you'd have nothing to say other than to praise its beauty. You've probably never read a sentence that includes both Freddie Gibbs and Laura Marling before but much like that guy at #04, it's songs like this that mark Marling out as a different breed to her competitors.

There's nothing I like more than being surprised and at no point in the past did I think Laura Marling had a song this good in her. It's simply beautiful and I have my hand on my heart when I say this placing is in no way influenced by it being Christmas nor snow falling in and around this country that Laura and I were born in.

02 Kanye West - 'Monster'

"The best living or dead hands down, huh?"

Who on earth saw this coming? C'mon, hands up. Naw, me neither. When Kanye launched back into the world with his weekly G.O.O.D Friday series no one really knew what to expect. What I didn't foresee was the actual content of these free, weekly released, songs. Firstly, the vast majority of them were pure fire and secondly, the guests Kanye roped in weren't just session musicians or anything, it was stellar major players of (mainly) the rap game. I'm talking Jay-Z, Lupe, Common, Mos Def, Pusha T here. Some of these GF tracks (albeit reworked versions) were later used for 'My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy' and 'Monster' was one of these. It's just too undeniable to be left as anything else.

It's a difficult track to describe to someone without them listening to it as you do. The basics are that it features Rick Ross, Kanye, Jay-Z, Nicki Minaj and Bon Iver (!). Other than that, the shit's plain ridiculous. Kanye quite typically came up with an entirely untypical beat that jumps all over the place and the rest is down to the respective artists and their verses. Ross is on damage control and only gets a couple of bars (how he is best used) and Kanye's swagger is set on ultra high. Jay-Z's verse I don't actually like very much at all but abide for one reason - it sets up Nicki Minaj to stomp through and rip everyone's balls off. Nicki's verse is my musical moment of the year. It's all crazy voices chasing a beat that just doesn't know where its going to go next. She sounds like Godzilla wearing skyscrapers for stilettos. Her verse forms part of a song that is quite simply, if you'll excuse my language, a motherfuckin' monster.

01 The Walkmen - 'Angela Surf City'

"You took the high road..."

I've hinted at how much I adore this song at several separate occasions this year. This adoration was cemented when I got to witness it performed live last month and it did not dissapoint in any way. This one, dear reader, soars.

The Walkmen never get their dues. They do the rounds, tour incessantly and for an indie band in 2010, are pretty prolific too. Even then, I don't feel they get half the press they deserve. For me, they should be spoke about as loftily as The National are. Now I'm aware that The National aren't exactly U2 but even so, there's a big difference in between being in that band and being a member of The Walkmen. Album sales, gig revenues, merchandise. It all counts in a pretty important way. The reasons why I dig this band so much are right there, a mile high, for all to see in 'Angela Surf City'.

To get the obvious out of the way first, they're incredible musicians and if you can't hear that in this song then you're either an idiot or deaf. The most obvious example of their musicianship is the drumming. Always incessant yet strictly melodic, Matt Barrick could just be the best drummer around. It's clear that rest of The Walkmen know this and Barrick often finds himself at centre stage. 'Angela Surf City' kicks off with him rolling out a typical drum beat, for example.

The Walkmen's finest and most famous hour was a song called 'The Rat' which was released in 2004 to raptourous acclaim. Since then, it's often been a case of "yeah they're alright but they'll never top 'The Rat'..." and if the band we're honest up until the release of 'Lisbon' then they might've just agreed. 'Angela Surf City' changes all of that. It shows that 'The Rat' wasn't just a one off. It shows that its possible to go from sounding almost bored in an opening verse to launching into a chorus that's as unstoppable as a runaway train. It shows that you can really achieve something amazing in three minutes and nineteen seconds.

So, that's it. List over. Hope you all enjoyed reading, a spotify playlist of the complete list can be found here*. Have a good christmas and I hope next year is better than this year for all of you.

*some songs aren't on spotify. They've been substituted in a 'next best' sorta way apart from Jeezy and Arcade Fire who are just plain difficult and not on there at all.

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