Radioscooter: The Best of 2010 (The Singles)









As with last year, I did a 20 track CD length version for those of you still listening to music via spinning aluminum oxide and lasers, and an extended MP3 Playlist (marked accordingly on the list) which rounds up a cozy 28 tracks.

1. “Everlasting Light”
Artist: The Black Keys
Notes: I know this was overplayed this year, but it warrants inclusion for the backup vocals alone.

2. “Down by the Water”
Artist: The Decemberists
Notes: I am stoked that the Decemberists went back to the pop song format at least for one album.  Yes, it’s supposed to sound like “The One I Love”. Peter Buck produced it and plays on it. And that’s Gillian Welch singing backup. “The More You Know…”

3. “Boyfriend”
Artist: Best Coast
Notes: I have an entire folder full of retro/pastiche bands from just the last couple years. Thank you Mark Ronson.  It seems like this year the R&B homages (Sharon Jones, Isobel Campbell et al) were eclipsed by the umpteen Brian Wilson and T-Rex high-fives. This Best Coast track brings a little Mindless Summer to the list.

4. “Fistful of Mercy”
Artist: Fistful of Mercy
Notes: Lots of Ubergroups this year.  Fistful of Mercy is Dhani Harrison, Ben Harper and Joseph Arthur. This officially has my vote for Best Beatles Offspring track. Sorry Julian.

5.“Bitter Pill”
Artist: Mt. Desolation
Notes:  This mega-uber-band gets turns from members of Keane, Noah & the Whale, Mumford & Sons, the Killers, the Long Winters etc.

6. “Live There”
Artist: The Lonely Forest
Notes: Another beautiful EP and another thing we can thank Deathcab For Cutie for.

7. “Rill Rill” * (MP3 Playlist Bonus Track)
Artist: Sleigh Bells
Notes: Yeah I’m a sucker for a groove-based throwback sounding pop song. I wasn’t as jazzed about this whole album as everyone else seemed to be. But this is a fun song with some great production stuff going on. Plus as a Pittsburgher, I love the title.

8. “Lisbon” * (MP3 Playlist Bonus Track)
Artist: The Walkmen
Notes: Horns, Bells and Mandolins are the must-have extra instrumentation on  scads of albums in the past few years. Personally, I blame Wilco. Or again, Mark Ronson. Sure, they sound great right now, but in 10 years the Glockenspiel is going to seem “So 2009.”

9. “Femme Fatale” * (MP3 Playlist Bonus Track)
Artist: Aloe Blacc
Notes: I usually try to include a couple more covers on the set, but this year there wasn’t enough room. This one surprised the heck out of me in a delightful way. Worth it for the superb guitar alone.

10. “We Used To Wait”
Artist: The Arcade Fire
Notes: Nyde, I tried, I really did. I had another A.F. track all set to go. But I couldn’t break away from this one.

11. “Beat the Devil’s Tattoo” * (MP3 Playlist Bonus Track)
Artist: Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
Notes: Give it a minute or so. It builds nicely. Crunchy, dpsych-garage-rock with a dark groove.

12. “Angel Dance” * (MP3 Playlist Bonus Track)
Artist: Robert Plant
Notes: Another surprisingly great solo album from Bob.


13. “Foot Shooter”
Artist: Frightened Rabbit
Notes: No Best of the Year compilation from me would be complete without at least one Brogue Band.

14. “Marmalade” * (MP3 Playlist Bonus Track)
Artist: Sea of Bees
Notes: Great, lush pop track from a great, lush pop album.

15. “When I’m Small”(MP3 Playlist Bonus Track)
Artist: Phantogram
Notes: Infectious sampled groove riff with a cool, ethereal haunting guitar and vocal track.

16. “Heaven and Earth”
Artist: Blitzen Trapper
Notes: One of the most beautiful tracks of the year.

17. “Lovesick”
Artist: Lindstrøm & Christabelle
Notes: I wasn’t going to include any dance/ heavy synth/groove/pop tracks on the list . This one kept rubbing my leg until I couldn’t ignore it anymore. Plus it allowed me to have one pretentious Norwegian letter in my set. Now, I just have to get some bands with æ and å in their names.

18. “Own Stunts”
Artist: Breathe Owl Breathe
Notes: This one is a sleeper that I’m surprised didn’t make more best-of lists. I think it’s one of the sweetest lyrical tracks of the year. Of all the Fleet Foxes/Bon Iver clones this year, not all of them should have bothered. B.O.B. is one of the exceptions.

19. “Up In The Dark”
Artist: The New Pornographers
Notes: One of my favorite dashboard hand-drummers this year.

20. “Don’t Do It”
Artist: Sharon Van Etten
Notes: For those of us that were waiting for that magical, haunting mashup of old-school Sara MacLachlan and Brandi Carlile – here’s the reward for all our cards and letters. Song of the year? possibly.

21. “Old Fangs” * (MP3 Playlist Bonus Track)
Artist: Black Mountain
Notes: I needed another band wth “Black” in their name. Or I needed another garage/psych band to restart the set list. Take your pick.

22. “Boy Lilikoi”
Artist: Jónsi
Notes: Jónsi is the lead singer of Icelandic band Sigur Rós. And kind of a male version of Bjork. Except with more feathers. Imagine a bunch of big, cinematic, orchestrated pop songs that all somehow tie together in some sort of Rekjavikian fairytale and still remain crazy hook-laden and catchy as hell. I’m not sure how this song stays so ‘sing-alongy’ when I really have no idea what he is singing at any given moment. Hot Tip – put on the Neverending Story DVD, turn down the volume and put on this album.

23. “Fixed”
Artist: Stars
Notes: Bit of a jump from 2007’s “Take Me To The Riot”.  Synth 90’s Brit Pop throwback sound.

24. “Sdp”
Artist: The Kissaway Trail
Notes: Biggest, longest epic track on the set. Great album. Bells, big arrangements, anthemic Arcade Fire style sound, especially with the time sig. change after the first verse. Well done you Danish nuts.

25. “The First Time”
Artist: Doll & The Kicks
Notes: My vote for Best New Band of the Year. When I try to get other people into this band, I fail miserably with my descriptions “It’s like 4 Non Blondes meets Concrete Blonde with Nicole Atkins’ rhythm section…” Tara said it sounded like Gwen Stefani. Yikes. All I can say is give this song a shot. She’s one of those performers who is more captivating live than on record (at least from the YouTube videos) but this track captures some of that power.

26. “Bloodbuzz Ohio”
Artist: The National
Notes: I wasn’t fully on the National  bandwagon with the last album. I LIKED it . I didn’t LIKE, like it. This album is more fully formed.

27. “Kaleidoscope”
Artist: James
Notes: Well, nobody talked about this album at all. I didn’t even know it had been released until I was following some random James links. I loved this band in the 90’s and when I heard about it, I feared this reunion would be bad. But it’s superb. A powerful, destructively simple song. Tim Booth remains a tremendously overlooked singer.

28. “Goodbye Sweet Dreams”
Artist: Roky Erickson with Okkervil River
Notes: I said it before – there’s a place in rock heaven for Okkervil River to have  so compassionately made some sense out of one of the most brilliant, disturbed minds in music. This track could bring anyone that knows Roky’s story to tears.

Don’t Call It A Comeback: The 20 Best Songs Of 2007

If I had to assign a lame soundbite title to 2007 musically, it would have to be “The Triumphant Return Of The Pop Rock Song” And by that I’m not referring to the newest Justin Timberlake dance ditty, but rather the well-crafted, under-5-minutes, thoughtful, evocative, hummable, rock type of alt-pop song. You know, like Radiohead used to write before they went all Radiohead and stuff. This movement has been gaining ground for a while and this year it really hit its stride.

This was again another year when it was agonizing to cut many worthy tracks. If I pussed out and did a top 100, maybe I could include them all. But I create these lists to be compiled and played on a single CD. So some big pants decisions had to be made, to quote my friend Nyde. Yes, best Springsteen album since Nebraska. Yes, Icky Thump. But I gotta call ’em as I see ’em. [Also: see the post about Songs Vs. Albums] I suspect by this summer the inclusion of the Kate Nash track (Foundations) will feel about as insightful as the year I thought I was the first and last person who would ever play Chumbawamba’s Tub-Thumpin. But ebb and flow, variety and dynamics and representing the lesser-known artists and so on…
The line between “rock” and “alt-rock” has never been thinner. These songs deserve more than to just be heard on Target commercials and CMJ CD Samplers. if these are “alternative” rock songs, then it’s only alternative to the drivel that most mainstream FM stations are fond of playing. These are all pop rock songs in my book.
And my book is: “Illusions:Tales Of A Reluctant Messiah” By Richard Bach, so you know – it’s all about the kick-ass Rock & Roll!
So then:

(In the order in which they appear on the Radioscooter Best Of 2007 CD. No ranking implied)

border=”0″ alt=”” />
1. Interpol – The Heinrich Maneuver / Our Love To Admire
Note to bands: Ensure your inclusion on year-end wrap-ups with at least one track with a bombastic intro. Fairly typical Interpol restating the modern breakup song with gusto. Some well-placed retro sounds including a blatant lift of the Echo & The Bunnymen orchestra synth stab from The Killing Moon.

2. Nicole Atkins – Party’s Over / Neptune City
A beautiful song from simply one of the absolute top 3 albums of 2007. Lush, retro while not seeming derivative, swirling opus to the Jersey shore.

3. Jesse Malin – Don’t Let Them Take You Down / Glitter In The Gutter
This was a tough call. Jesse’s sitting in the space that Bruce should have occupied but this year I tried to veer away from the absolute mainstream to introduce some newer, as yet non-icon status talents.

4. Brandi Carlile – The Story / The Story
It took a while (years) for me to give Brandi Carlile a chance for a stupid reason that I’m somehow eager to share with you. I kept hearing her name and thought she was an American Idol finalist. Turns out she’s um, not. When she finally gets to her belt zone in this song, you are right there with her for every bad mile.

5. The Arcade Fire – No Cars Go / Neon Bible
Sometimes a really great album doesn’t want to be cut up into bite size morsels. Happily, this isn’t the case with Neon Bible. This one was one of my favorite driving tunes.

6. Tegan & Sara – Call It Off / The Con
The most overlooked album of the year and my number one pick. Nearly a perfect pop album from the tortured queens of young love. Pick any track. Nothing but net.

7. The Shins – Phantom Limb / Wincing The Night Away
Yes okay, this track came out originally on an ep in 2006. But the actual album came out in 2007 and that’s how I’m looking at it. An achingly dear track that instantly makes you remember some dreamy, warm (and perhaps gooey) experience from your youth.

8. Feist – I Feel It All / The Reminder
(Play/Download/Lyrics/Band Website)
It was hard to resist putting the other Feist song on this list. You know – the “1,2,3,4…” one from the iPod iTouch commercials. But after selling my iTouch in complete frustration 6 days after owning it and retreating to the upgrade of the iPod 80GB “classic” I decided I didn’t need any more reminders of that misspent week.

9. Winterpills – Broken Arm / The Light Divides
If you took early Simon & Garfunkel and added some Mamas & Papas to a Pixies-esque rhythm section…you’d get like a darker, rockin’ version of the Weepies. Or – you’d get this Winterpills track.

10. Swati – 2 O’Clock In The Morning / Small Gods
Apparently, I loves me some angst-ridden female songwriters. Move over Cat Power, the bus is filling up. Nice desperation-drenched, red-eyed track.

11. Rogue Wave – Lake Michigan / Asleep At Heaven’s Gate
Borrowing an opening drum part from Kate Bush, this song delivers a lush, shins-like melodic journey through some late August Californian afternoon…in Michigan.

12. The New Pornographers – My Rights Vs. Yours / Challengers
Another contender for my album of the year pick. As a sideband project – they sound tighter and fresher than most of the member’s day-job bands.

13. Portatastic – Sour Shores / Be Still Please
Here’s the one that gets me kicked off the bus. Yes, a blatant 2006 track with no possible excuses other than I just plain missed it last year and had to include it this time. Sue me.

14. The National – Brainy / Boxer
These guys have become the critic’s darlings and while I still don’t see it as an album of the year shoe-in, there are some great tracks. Like this one.

15. Loney, Dear – I Am John / Loney Noir
This year was like part 2 of the Ikea Invasion and this sweet soulful Swede is one of the best of them. Indie folk from the heart.

16. Kate Nash – Foundations / Foundations
I hate anti-relationship, bravado/bitch novelty songs, so they don’t make the cut unless they can hold their own as a solid tune, which is rare. This one does. Just when you think you’ve figured out where this song is going to go, she kicks in a brilliant chorus which reflects genuine emotional vulnerability in a way most pop divas would never choose to go.

17. Okkervil River – Our Life Is Not A Movie Or Maybe / The Stage Names
Like the Shins or The Killers or The Arcade Fire before them, these guys break down some conventions to deliver an amazingly fresh take on the same tired old chords as everyone else starts with. Probably the single of the year on my list.

18. Against Me! – Borne On The FM Waves Of The Heart / New Wave
Like a bat out of hell, this track will have you reliving those classic 70’s boy/girl call & response songs. Turn this one up and sing along with your significant other by the dashboard light.

19. Stars – Take Me To The Riot / In Our Bedroom After The War
Boy this list has a lot of retro pastiche songs on it…Think of them as “homages.” This one is no exception. Shades of Nowhere Girl, but in a good, less droningly annoying way.

20. Chantal Kreviazuk – All I Can Do / Ghost Stories
While scores of other piano playing indie chanteuses get heralded as the next Sara MacLachlan/Tori Amos/Elton John, Kreviazuk continues to quietly steal their thunder by being all that and a phenomenal songwriting bag of chips as well. Sadly, this studio track pales to her live version of this great love song.