“Nothing Like You” by Frightened Rabbit was my top song obsession, photo by ipickmynose
2010 has been the oddest of my life, full of contradictions: the most amazing and most boring times; the most lovelorn and most disinterested; the most outgoing and most antisocial. It’ll take years to see what it all means and where it will lead, but I have to say it was pretty good. But these contradictions led to a vast and odd array of music getting caught in my head, twisting and turning around in there and begging to be heard again and again.
As I’m sure I’ve said before, I don’t pick song obsessions. Well, I don’t pick them consciously. Something in the song and in my brain mesh in an addictive way and an ear worm is born.
Without any further delay, here’s the list of songs I was most obsessed with in 2010.
Frightened Rabbit – Nothing Like You (mp3) (buy)
Pair an immediately catchy song with some fantastic lyrics about turning over a new leaf in love—the song starts with “This is a song// And you’re not in it”—and you have a winner. I’ve listened to it at least 142 times this year and I still love it.
Mumford & Sons – Little Lion Man (mp3) (buy)
This was a band I initially wrote off, but have come around to them since seeing them live a while ago. Pair that new-found love of the band with their newish album Sigh No More, which I think presents their music in a much better light than their previous EPs and I was obsessed with the entire album, listening to it probably a hundred plus times over the year. But the song that stuck out more than other was this one (and to a lesser extent “Roll Away Your Stone”). I’m not sure why; perhaps it’s the catchy and f-bomb dropping chorus that seals the deal.
Kanye West – Power (mp3) (buy)
A simple riff with some straight-beat clapping seems like it might be the basis for some fairly harmless hip hop track, but is anything but that. This is unstoppable, incorrigible, unbreakable, and incalculably addictive. Not even some sub-par rhymes or annoying faux-singing can trip up what must be one of the best hip hop productions in recent memory.
Jonsi – Hengilas (mp3) (buy)
There have been a few times I felt like I was on crazy pills and this song proved to be an immediate antidote. The last time I wrote about this song, I compared it to some of Aaron Copland’s finer work and I think that is still an apt comparison. Few have used open, slow-moving chords to create such beautiful music since that famed composer, but Jonsi has created a song here with beauty one can get lost in.
Carissa’s Weird – Die (mp3) (buy)
For this one, I’ll have to go back to what I said before: “Itâ€™s difficult to describe what makes this song so obsession-worthy but itâ€™s a song that Iâ€™ve listened to dozens of times in the last few months… Maybe itâ€™s the layers of instruments and vocals. Maybe itâ€™s the hypnotic way the instruments loop that draws me in. Maybe itâ€™s the slow breakdown. Who knows why, but I know what: itâ€™s good.”
The Rural Alberta Advantage – Barnesyard (mp3) (from Daytrotter session)
I’d had this Daytrotter session for a while and listened to it plenty of times, but for some reason this spring (October-November, in the Southern Hemisphere) it hit me anew and I couldn’t get enough of this earnest and urgent song. (By the way, the studio version of this song will be released as “Barnes’ Yard” on the RAA’s forthcoming album Departed out on March 1.)
Guided by Voices – Game of Pricks (mp3) (buy)
Somehow I’d missed this song for years until I saw/ heard Owen Pallett’s charming violin-based cover. That lead me to listen to the original and boy was I hooked. No wonder it’s an absolutely classic indie rock tune. It’s seemingly the archetypal song of perhaps the most archetypal indie rock band.
Florence and the Machine – Dog Days are Over (mp3) (buy)
I had no idea about this band when I started playing around the idea of a Stomp-Clap mix (which eventually Heather took off with and did really well), but a friend suggested this song and I’m glad she did. A magnificent voice backed with compelling and interesting orchestration. A winner from the first listen.
Paul Jacobsen – Six O’Clock News (mp3) (unreleased, band website)
What a heartbreaking stunner of a song…and it’s only a demo! This cover of Kathleen Edwards perfectly matches the tone and emotion of the music to those of the lyrics. Also of special note are the high and lonesome harmonies which really add some emotional gravity to the singing.
Adele – Hometown Glory (mp3) (buy)
This is how you know that I didn’t plan this list: because no idiot would purposefully have the same song on his list two years in a row. And, furthermore, if I was going to plan a song to repeat, it wouldn’t be a pop song. But my head wrapped itself around this gorgeous song. My obsession can neatly be summed up by an anecdote: at some point during Natalie’s and my epic roadtrip in South Africa, this song came on in a mix and she said “I was hoping this song would come on.” And I replied “Me too.”
Diana Ross and the Supremes – Reflections (mp3) (buy)
I was at Firemen’s Arms, a historic and smokey bar in downtown Cape Town for my weekly trivia night. I’d grumbled for months about the horrible quality of the music they played. While in the bathroom, this song came on and, though I didn’t remember what song it was I knew two things: 1) that it was the unmistakable voice of Diana Ross and 2) I had to hear this song again (and again). Later that night I found the track and started the second of many, many listens.
We Were Promised Jetpacks – It’s Thunder and It’s Lightening (mp3) (buy)
As I said previoiusly: “Deep inside of me somewhere thereâ€™s still a bit of High School Adrian, still listening to Seam and Sebadohâ€™s Bakesale, still a bit angry and still with plenty of angst. That part of me loves this song, from the first guitar notes to the Scottish brogued vocals to the build up and strong, huge guitars and fast strumming to the way the song winds down with an almost whimper. The secret is, the rest of me loves it too. ”
Paul Simon – Graceland (mp3) (buy)
After hearing Tallest Man on Earth’s cover I found myself listening to the original again for the first time in a while. And I soon found myself walking down the narrow, winding, hilly streets of Green Point, Cape Town crooning that amazing verse “Losing love is a window into your heart// Everybody sees you’re blown apart” oblivious of everything around me.
The Tallest Man on Earth – King of Spain (mp3) (buy)
The Tallest Man on Earth release an album this and of course I was obsessed with it, mostly equally, but this song stuck out. It’s insistent, driving and oddly uplifting.
Horse Feathers – Cascades (mp3) (buy)
The hallmarks of all good Horse Feathers songs—beautiful orchestration, plaintive and breathy vocals, a dynamic build—are stamped all over this song. I loved this song on the 7″ and again when it came out on Thistled Spring
Loney, Dear – Ignorant Boy, Beautiful Girl (mp3) (buy)
Two days after arriving back from South Africa I was in my friend’s car and he asked me “Do you know Loney, Dear?” I did–I’d seen them open for Andrew Bird years ago and had heard a few of their songs. I wasn’t exactly a fan, I said. “Well I gotta play you this one song. I think you’ll like it.” And I did. As much as I didn’t want to (the beginning sounds a bit like college acapella), I really did.
And there it is.
If you’re wondering how I came up with this list, it was at least in part influenced by how many times I listened to a song, how much I was obsessed with the song initially and how much I was obsessed with it over time.