Top 50 Songs of 2010 :: 5-2 [Now we're screaming, "Sing the chorus again"]
5. Tokyo Police Club - "Breakneck Speed"
It was a comparatively laid back song from a frenetic band that dominated the spring and summer of 2010. For a record that began with ambient beeps, Tokyo Police Club's Champ had its first single sitting tight in the three hole waiting to stumble out with shabby guitars and slurring lyrics exploding into a sea of hi-fi guitars. These dynamic shifts proved to be the genius of "Breakneck Speed," especially with its driving metaphor, motif and lyric, "It's good to be back/good to be back," opening at the 1.12 mark and defining the emotional character of a band releasing their first record since 2007. It was one of those fist-swinging, life-affirming, shout-along moments, "It's good to be back". You couldn't sing it loud enough.
4. Beach House - "Norway"
"Norway" made you a little seasick if you listened to it closely enough. The tonal quality of the keyboards warped up and down in pitch only slightly, but it was more than enough for the listener to feel a mild disquiet, take a deep breath and try to focus on the horizon. This was the sound of unsettling. However, Beach House on "Norway", like the rest of Teen Dream, was comfortable in their treatment of troubling themes because the melodies behind these cold medicine keyboards were simple, beautiful pop. Even "Norway," for its challenging verses, is breathless, pulsing and remarkably singable in the chorus. This does not even account for the bridge - and surely, no one wrote better bridges in 2010 than Beach House - and the way it frames the final chorus, a sea of twirling vocals lifting Victoria Legrand up as she moans into the storm. It was enough to just breath it in.
3. The National - "Bloodbuzz Ohio"
The drums announced their return, and in the case of "Bloodbuzz Ohio," the drums did not equivocate the return of the Kings of Indie Rock in 2010, The National. Like a fighter running combinations, the band open "Bloodbuzz" with rapid fire percussion before laying over a steady piano progression, finding in this combination a strange and less stable cousin to "Fake Empire." Berninger fires his lazy wisdom in his head-spinning trip back to the band's roots in Ohio, reflecting both on his impermanence there, "Ohio don't remember me," and the current economic status quo, "The floors are falling out from everybody I know." But there is surprise affection in this return as Berninger muses with regret, "I never thought about love when I thought about home." The power of this nostos carried the National through a tour de force album, a return in its own right to the frustrated brilliance of Alligator, proving that which was left in the dark, behind and forgotten, is not just fuel for reflection, but what moves us onward.
2. Arcade Fire - "We Used To Wait"
One of the most moving songs of the year was about standing still. Win Butler and Arcade Fire crafted the fantastically tense, "We Used To Wait" to address exactly this disjoint. Butler too, along with many of his contemporaries, stares into his personal history with a mixture of fascination and horror. It is his delicacy in handling the source material that sets both song and record apart. Bulter's curiosity is evident, though not particularly judgemental, as he sifts through seemingly bland vignettes of his youth, like the romantic sloth of postal delivery. There aren't easy answers here, suburbia cast equally as terrifying and beautiful. In fact, Butler's complex and divided feelings about his own upbringing, the ability to find richness in superficial American experience, are the soul of The Suburbs and the emotional core of "We Used To Wait." The record's unsettling cover art revealed the key. We are poised behind a car in the driveway of the subdivided neighborhood of Butler's youth. The only glimpse of ourselves will be in the rear view mirror as we move forward (and backward) to explore what is in front of us and what is left inside.