21. CARIBOU / "ODESSA" - If you actually listen to the lyrics, "Odessa" is about a woman escaping an abusive relationship. The story is backed by a chicken-disco whirligig of noise and yet told with absolute subtlety. It's a rich sound, and quite different from anything else I've heard this year.
22. FLYING LOTUS / "...AND THE WORLD LAUGHS WITH YOU" - This is a song deserving of a serious subwoofer. The richly textured sounds of the universe layered with a cameo appearance by Radiohead's Thom Yorke, whose voice is always a welcome addition to the electronic fray.
23. MARK RONSON AND THE BUSINESS INTL. / "RECORD COLLECTION" - There's a lot to love about Mark Ronson's most recent incarnation as The Business Intl., and "Record Collection" sums it up nicely. It's an expert mash-up of genres and decades into a singular pop sound. You get Duran Duran's Simon le Bon co-starring with Grime artist Wiley on a track with a sentiment that's as simplistic as it is big, he "only wants to be in your record collection." That's it.
24. KANYE WEST / "CHRISTIAN DIOR DENIM FLOW" - No, this was not an album release. Additionally, the youtube version is wrong, you really need to just go get it. This track, which features Kid Cudi, Pusha T., John Legend, Lloyd Banks, and Ryan Leslie was actually a free download on one of Kanye's G.O.O.D. Fridays in October. It's an odd sort of mournful paean to high fashion materialism that touts the success of its lyricists as it laments their disconnect with where they came from. It starts off strong, with an uptempo backbeat, but slowly grinds itself down to and absolute halt. It's impressive, and seems to actually capture a wearing down of the individual from the initial highs of fame to a jaded absence. Download it here.
25. MASSIVE ATTACK ft. HOPE SANDOVAL/ "PARADISE CIRCUS" - Alright, so the actual video for this involves a fair amount of actual pornographic material, so we've swapped if for this fan-made version featuring footage from The Fall. If you want to, you can see that video here. As for the song itself, it's a dark beauty.
26. UFFIE FT. MATTIE SAFER / "ILLUSION OF LOVE" - Yes, "ADD SUV" was on my guilty pleasures list, and for all practical purposes "Illusion of Love" probably belongs there too. It's a ridiculous, trite song punctuated by Uffie's pre-Ke$ha, oddly manipulated half-rap. I love it though. Absolutely love it. What makes it for me, I think, are the verses relayed by Mattie Safer. It's the syntax. The way he delivers it transforms it into some sort of late 80's gay club anthem, a throwback to Army of Lovers spun over a musical loop that builds and gyrates.
27. WILD NOTHING / "CHINATOWN" - There may be a sadness here, like a tarnished childhood sadness, but ultimately this song just makes things like summer.
28. ARIEL PINK'S HAUNTED GRAFFITI / "ROUND AND ROUND" - Ariel Pink does not always make me a happy camper. I remember stumbling onto their album Worn Copy in my college radio days and being made physically nauseous by the array of sonics in "Bloody! (Bagonia's)". There's a distant, wavering quality to the noise that just seems to confuse my ears and send jumbled signals to my brain. I got sucked into "Round and Round" however, if only because I was desperately trying to figure out what song the beat reminded me of (first I thought it was "Love My Way", then I realized it was Marianne Faithfull's "Broken English"). It's mellow, a nice bastardized jukebox number. Pitchfork chose it as their number 1 song for 2010. I think that's pushing it a little...
29. KELIS / "4TH OF JULY (FIREWORKS)" - Kelis sort of killed it with her album Fleshtone. Seriously. Her divorce from Nas may have been the best thing for her artistically. She's not even trying to make freaked-out pseudo hip hop anymore, she is now the dance commander. Unfortunately, her transition still didn't seem to register for those still embracing her as a "Milkshake" novelty. The album is big, Eurotrashy fun, and so is "4th of July".
30. ROBYN / "DANCING ON MY OWN" - I really shouldn't have to explain anything Robyn does to you. Honestly, if you need that explanation you're living in denial or doing a great disservice to yourself. Probably both. For the ignorant amongst us, however, here's what you need to know: "Dancing on My Own" is the sort of pop song that resonates with everyone. It's an anthem and a new classic, as emotional as it is tough.
31. BEST COAST / "GOODBYE" - Best Coast takes the 60's girl-group wall of sound and distorts it with a dirty grunge guitar and an above-it-all cool. "Goodbye" catches the retro in the chorus, the modern twist throughout. The balance is energetic and just a little bit ironic.
32. HOT CHIP / "ONE LIFE STAND" - "One Life Stand" builds and builds until it becomes an unstoppable mechanism. Piece by piece, steel drums by keyboards by secondary vocals by drum machines, go go go.
33. ZOLA JESUS / "NIGHT" - Zola Jesus is a 21-year old following in the footsteps of Fever Ray. "Night" is a deliciously dark march towards the gaping mouth of Hell.
34. CRYSTAL CASTLES FT. ROBERT SMITH / "NOT IN LOVE" - I don't know how it happened, but somehow after releasing the muted album version of "Not in Love", the track was retooled with The Cure's Robert Smith brought on to sing lead vocals. It's brilliant, the perfect hybrid between the two sounds, a collaboration that brings the best of each to the table and loses nothing.
35. DRAKE FT. ALICIA KEYS / "FIREWORKS" - Alright, I have an important announcement to make: I was really wrong about Drake. I misjudged him. That wasn't fair. His album, Thank Me Later is really good and he's much better than those radio singles. Who knew? Drake's rhymes are surprisingly smart, his sound remarkably polished. I chose "Fireworks" for this list (though "Fancy" came really close) because it represents a cut that I would usually shy away from, but here really dig: the slow R&B relationship number.
36. TEENGIRL FANTASY / "CHEATERS" - So, this year I was smart and knew this list was coming. I've been compiling standout tracks in a playlist for months. Anything that qualified, anything I liked from 2010. This one kept slipping in and out. It was there, then it wasn't, then it was in a secondary list, then I felt like its inclusion would make me feel like I was cribbing off All Songs Considered or Pitchfork, then I was like no, there's just something about it. On the one hand, I'm not sure there's anything so special about "Cheaters". It's a really simple house beat with some soul on top...no big deal. On the other, I keep coming back to it where others have failed. Honestly, I'm not sure what makes "Cheaters" different. It just is.
37. SCISSOR SISTERS / "WHOLE NEW WAY" - I was thinking the other day and I think this is a really great song for a drag act. If I ever had to put on a drag king performance, this would be in my arsenal. It's loping and sleazy, a smarmy, fun, disco/glam song that could only come from the Scissor Sisters.
38. JANELLE MONAE / "DANCE OR DIE" - Yes, instead of "Cold War". Why? Because it's the jam.
39. KYLIE MINOGUE / "APHRODITE" - I love Kylie Minogue. I just do. In every other country in the world, Kylie Minogue is massive. In America, people seem to think she came around with "Can't Get You Out of My Head". Kylie is bubblegum. She's a survivor from the 80's who understands that, if you do it right, there's absolutely nothing wrong with pure pop. Kylie does it right, she doesn't have to change. Aphrodite was an album with zero ballads. Why? Because Kylie knows that what you're looking for when you go to her is a happiness, not for her to wax serious or whine. "Aphrodite" the song is great fun, a blast of positivity with space for hand clapping rhythms.
40. CEO / "COME WITH ME" - I don't know where he's going, but it sounds like it might be a pretty good time. We should probably go with him.