Music Hack Day Coming To NYC

Check it out!  Music Hack Day, described by its organizers as "a full weekend of hacking in which participants will conceptualize, create and present their projects," is coming to the biggest of apples February 12-13.  Not sure yet if I'm going to go - while I think these sorts of things are very cool, they often end up making me feel guilty that I don't use my web developer skills to do any cool side projects.  Usually after working a full day of web development, it's kind of the last thing I want to do for fun.  Still, this looks like it will be very cool.


Playlist: Some of My Favorite Songs from 2010

Another year has passed, another year has come.  2010 is dead!  Long live 2011!  Etc.  But before we dive whole-heartedly into what will no doubt be an amazing new year filled with jetpacks, moon colonies, robot butlers, and ESP, I thought I'd take a moment to look back on the year that passed, and share with you some of my favorite songs released that year.  Not all of these are from albums that I would wholeheartedly recommend (if you're looking for "best albums of 2010" lists, there are plenty of them out there), and not all of them are even the best songs on their respective albums, but they all had something special that made them memorable for me (and I even resisted the urge to include any of my own songs, but I can't promise to do that next year).  Enjoy!

  1. Menomena - "Oh Pretty Boy, You're Such A Big Boy"
    From the album Mines, which is one of my favorites of 2010.  Turns out it'll be their last album featuring keyboard player (and singer, and various other instrument-player) Brent Knopf, who left the band last week to focus on his other band Ramona Falls.  This is a great song about love and loss, but mostly loss - I really dig the stark vibe on this one.  See also:  the dark, brooding "Five Little Rooms."
  2. Arcade Fire - "Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)"
    From the album The Suburbs, which I thought was OK and had some real standouts, but could have used a good editor.  I usually don't like RĂ©gine's songs as much as Win's, but this is such a great song that I can look past her voice (besides, the production does a great job covering up her vocal...inconsistenties, for lack of a nicer term).  Any musician who's ever written the obligatory song about songwriting will no doubt be excited to see a huge band still writing those kinds of songs (sample line:  "They heard me singing and they told me to stop/Quit those pretentious things and just punch the clock").  This is one of the only songs I've ever seen performed on SNL that I thought actually sounded good - usually their sound setup can turn even the best bands into shitty lounge acts.
  3. Deerhunter - "He Would Have Laughed"
    I had a really hard time picking a track off of Halcyon Digest to feature, so I went with a 7-and-a-half minute psych-folk-ish ballad, naturally.  I really like the lush ballad "Helicopter," and the vintage pop rock vibe of "Don't Cry," as well as the fantastic "Basement Scene," which features a tease of the Everly Brothers' "All I Have To Do Is Dream."  But instead I went with this one, because I think it's really beautiful in its simplicity.  And it features the great line "I lived on a farm, yeah/I never lived on a farm."
  4. Sufjan Stevens - "I Walked"
    I also had a hard time picking a track off of Sufjan's latest album The Age of Adz.  This album showed that Stevens is just as adept a composer in the electronic realm as he is in the world of analog instruments.  Impressive...very impressive.
  5. Kanye West - "Runaway"
    This is definitely not my favorite song on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.  "Gorgeous" has better rhymes, "Monster" has (among other amazing things) that amazing verse by Nicki Minaj, "Lost In The World" made Bon Iver palatable.  But I think "Runaway" does the best job of representing West himself - it borrows from other sources but is uniquely personal.  It goes on way after its point is made, but somehow you don't really mind because it's so damn entertaining.  It's over-the-top boastful and self-deprecating at the same time, often in the same breath.  And it features the awesome line "I sent this bitch a picture of my dick," which puts it high in the running for song of the year.
  6. Liars - "No Barrier Fun"
    The Liars' Sisterworld is a challenging album, but it offers many rewards to the patient listener.  I featured this song because I already featured the excellent song "Scarecrows on a Killer Slant" on a previous playlist.
  7. MGMT - "Someone's Missing"
    Previously featured here, this song off of Congratulations takes its time getting where it's going, then spends a little time there doing not much of anything at all.  And I think that's awesome.  A short, sweet little build-up from drug haze to dance pop, I consider this song a nice palette cleanser.  See also: album opener "It's Working" - there's been a lot of psychedelic surf rock released this year, but this is one of my favorite takes on the genre.
  8. Plants And Animals - "American Idol"
    I wasn't too taken with their album La La Land, but this song really stuck out for me as an example of how good this band can be.  Those horns are so good!  So good, in fact, that I featured this song on a previous playlist.
  9. Pop Winds - "Fools"
    Not surprisingly (to me), my brother first introduced me to this Canadian psych-pop group, by means of their latest album The Turquoise.  These guys are definitely under the radar at the moment, but I wouldn't expect that to last too long.  I should note that although I absolutely love this song, that weird water noise is kind of distracting and definitely annoying.  But if you can get past that, there's a lot to like here - I think my favorite thing might be the lyrics, which consist solely of the line "I am overwhelmed and I am on a ship of fools/Why do I feel so good?"  I often feel exactly that way.
  10. The Dead Weather - "The Difference Between Us"
    I've featured this one before, too, because it's so damn good.  The synths add a lot to this track off of Sea of Cowards.  I also love the way the music for the chorus kicks in each time just behind the vocals, like the instruments are following the lead of the words.
  11. The National - "Bloodbuzz Ohio"
    I've been a National fan for a long time, and I don't think any of their albums are as good as Alligator, but this track off of High Violet comes pretty damn close.  Great lyrics, great music, great delivery.  See also, the slow, beautiful "Runaway."
  12. The Walkmen - "Stranded"
    I'm usually a little iffy about The Walkmen, but I enjoyed Lisbon more than I expected to, especially this gorgeous little number which not only lifts parts of the melody from "Silent Night" but is also in 3/4, which you really don't get that much of these days.
  13. Titus Androniucs - "Richard II"
    Another song I've featured previously on this blog [Editor's note: at least I'm consistent!], this is one of my favorites off of their truly excellent Civil War-themed album The Monitor.  Features the fantastic line "But there's only one dream that I keep close/And it's the one of my hand at your throat."
  14. Vampire Weekend - "White Sky"
    Previously featured almost 1 year ago on this blog, this song off of Contra is so ridiculously fun and cheery that I can't help but smile every time I hear it.  It's even better with headphones, the synthy hi-hat sounds from the intro bounce from ear to ear during the intro, which is very cool.  I also adore the drum syncopation in the chorus.  And I hope you will, too.
  15. Wolf Parade - "Pobody's Nerfect"
    I was really expecting a lot from their latest album Expo '86, and I didn't get it.  I guess Spencer Krug kind of blew his wad on Sunset Rubdown's excellent 2009 album DragonslayerStill, this song has a nice straight-ahead hard-rocking feel to it that's not often present in his work (at least in the intro, the intensity drops after that), and the chorus is catchy as hell.
  16. Yeasayer - "O.N.E."
    I really wanted to include "Ambling Alp" on this playlist, possibly the best song ever written about Joe Louis.  But for one thing, I've featured it before, and for another thing, they actually released it ahead of the album in 2009. So instead I'll feature another one of my favorite songs off of Odd Blood, which features the awesome line "Here right as I am, it's hard having fun/It's much easier said than it's done."  Which is very true.
  17. Girl Talk - "Oh No"
    I wanted to put All Day on this playlist in its entirety, but that seemed excessive.  I like almost everything about this album - the fact that the samples have much more room to breathe than on any of his previous albums, the fact that he released it for free (in FLAC, even!), the fact that he samples Spacehog, and the fact that the songs are all really great.  This song features the word "bitch" more than it needs to, but I suppose you can blame that on the source material.
  18. The Thermals - "I Don't Believe You"
    I wasn't quite as enamored of Personal Life as I have been of previous Thermals albums, but there are still a lot of nice moments on this album, even if they've slowed down a bit this time around.  I just love the "ah-oh-ah-oh" descending runs in this song, they're really catchy.  Plus, the title pretty much sums up my view of politicians for the last 12 years or so.
Honorable Mention:  Hot Chip - "I Feel Better"
While I enjoyed much of One Life Stand, it didn't really stick with me at all.  This song gets an honorable mention only because of it's absolutely incredibly ridiculous video.

What were your favorite songs of 2010?  Please tell me in the comments.