Top 50 Songs of 2010 :: 10-6 [They're sorry they couldn't change]
10. Crystal Castles - "Not In Love" [Ft. Robert Smith]
Crystal Castles, mostly known for their ripping electoclash, found a slice of pop brilliance in 2010 with an assist from Robert Smith. "Not In Love" was rooted in a simple chorus of industrial synths and Smith's lithe, rye vocal modulating the title lyric. It was a cover of a Platinum Blonde original, but that robbed none of the top-shelf pop in the chorus, a 1980s tune recast somewhat anxiously as one of the best hooks of the year.
9. The Jezabels - "Mace Spray"
The Jezabels were the darlings of all the bands we saw this year. Their Kate Bush-tinged pop was best framed on "Mace Spray," a song that lyrically addresses the need for self-defense in an increasingly pessimistic age. The piano chords are spacious and the vocals from singer Hayley Mary eventually take the elevator to the top in the chorus, where the arrangement crashes around her voice, sounding equal parts vulnerable and threatening. With one of the best singles of 2010, the Jezabels already marked themselves as one of the best young bands to watch in the next 12 months.
8. GROUPLOVE - "Colours"
Over the summer we saw the two singers from GROUPLOVE kiss each other on the mouth. This wasn't necessarily scandalous, and our voyeurism was joined by the other fifty or so people in Los Angeles' Troubadour. It was a moment of raw emotion of exactly the kind that the band describes in "Colours," a song rooted in a simple acoustic guitar progression that ends sailing and screaming over a fractured landscape. The band insists on "leaving the ground to find some space," before assuring us, "it really ain't that bad." The final movement is a tautological edict, "We call it ... life!" GROUPLOVE was uniquely positioned to describe this great, common human experience, screaming, shouting and floating above it.
7. Spoon - "Got Nuffin"
There was no more menacing combination of drums and guitar in indie rock in 2010 than on Spoon's "Got Nuffin." It defines the very need for down stroke guitars, before spiraling off and finding a few demanding piano chords to go with all the purpose of Britt Daniel's structure of guitar, bass and drums. The lyrics describe a moment of hope in an era of hopelessness. "I've got nothing to lose but darkness and shadows," Daniel reminds us as, we assume, he spends all this time losing only to find the freedom from constraint as the necessary descendant. It isn't a grand social gesture, some weak marching orders against the backdrop of a broken American life, just the private commentary of one man who sees his way out of the tunnel.
6. First Rate People - "Girls Night"
"Girls Night" was the one song of 2010 that seemed to unflaggingly cross boundaries, unifying disparate people behind a single bouncy keyboard progression. The vocals, the male-female back-and-forth kind, circle each other flirtatiously, throwing looks across the room and daring the other to come over. Their overlap is part of the charm, weaving in between one another, roping us closer and closer to First Rate People, a fantastically promising group from Toronto. No one else brought R&B to indie rock this year; no one else made something this irrefutably catchy. No one else is building these kind of would-be-hits for a mixtape you haven't made yet. This song is the hope that these two voices will cross the room and talk to each other, the hope that this is great and the hope that you will tell someone about it.