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My 2010 Mix CD. You Remember Those, Don’t You?

December 28, 2010

Totally revealing my age here, folks–I made many a mixtape in my younger days and then even more mix CDs after that technology emerged. These days, I love a good iTunes shuffle as much as the next guy, but it’s still good every once in a while to geek out and throw together a nicely sequenced 80-minute mix. My goals are always to start strong with some tracks heavy on immediacy, then sustain the momentum through the middle third while allowing for some ebbs and flows, and then close out with some emotional wallops that hopefully leave listeners feeling good about where the experience has taken them. 

With that in mind, here’s a mix called “Where Green Rivers Flow” that showcases much of my favorite new music of 2010. The title comes from the John Grant song “Marz,” and the song sequence is intentional. The tracks marked with an asterisk * were slightly edited for length to bring the total run time under 80 minutes.

What were your favorite songs/artists/albums of the year? Let’s hear about them in the comments section!

“Where Green Rivers Flow” — A 2010 Mix CD   

1. Cee Lo Green – “Fuck You”

Getting things started is Cee Lo’s mega-hit burst of old school soul with some hilarious, decidedly modern prurience in the lyrics. I can’t listen to this song without smiling, and in a way the song’s lyrical aggression feels even more subversive as its cultural ubiquity grows.  

2. Fitz and the Tantrums – “Dear Mr. President”

I expected that my favorite political soul song of the year would come from the John Legend & the Roots album, but this Fitz track feels more urgent than anything from Wake Up (still a fine record in its own right). The entire Fitz & the Tantrums record Pickin’ Up the Pieces is a catchy, well-executed blast of soul revivalism.  

3. Aeroplane – “We Can’t Fly” (radio edit)

This is the only track I own by Aeroplane and I don’t know anything about them. I do know—and this is enough for me—that “We Can’t Fly” is delicious, shimmery, summery, and fun as all get out. Also check out Delorean’s 2010 album Subiza.

4. Lindstrom and Christabelle – “Baby Can’t Stop” (radio edit)

I love Lindstrom and was pretty pumped when this record came out. Unfortunately, I found most of the songs on the album to be just too damn long (and not in a good way like Lindstrom’s 30-minute epic “Where You Go I Go Too.”) For those who don’t want their slightly repetitive funk-and-nouveau-disco tracks to run upwards of seven minutes, this radio edit is just the ticket, clocking in at under four minutes.   

5. Big Boi – “Turns Me On”

This track is pretty understated compared to the Sir Lucious album’s bigger, more in-your-face sides, but for me, its impossibly slinky, sexy coolness lifts “Turns Me On” above its more obvious counterparts. Love the organ work in background.

6. Curren$y – “Skybourne”

As I wrote in my October review, this is probably my favorite track on one of my favorite albums of the year. The slick smooth-jazz groove is just pretty (really no other word for it), and Curren$y and Big K.R.I.T. are innovative, engaging lyricists.  

7. Mark Ronson & the Business Intl – “Hey Boy”

On paper, there’s no way this should work—a busy beat, weird 80s/sci-fi synth sounds, a verse of rap, and sung vocals from a very British-sounding sophisticate. But Mark Ronson brings it all together (including rapper Theophilus London and the angelic Rose Elinor Dougall on the aforementioned vocals) and turns these unlikely ingredients into a lovely pop song. That chorus just won’t quit.

8. Robyn – “Dancing on My Own”

We love Robyn here at TBTS. For this mix, it was a tough choice between this track and “Love Kills” from Body Talk Part 2, but this track does feel a bit more iconic and perfectly representative of that thing, whatever you want to call it, that Robyn does better than anybody. Also check out MNDR’s E.P.E. (especially the song “C.L.U.B.”) and Sia’s We Are Born.

9. Rose Elinor Dougall – “Find Me Out”

As I wrote in November, I love the grace and grit that come through so clearly in Rose Elinor Dougall’s music. This sad, mournful song is just gorgeous.  

10. School of Seven Bells – “Joviann”

This one builds nicely on the soaring coda of “Find Me Out.” Ah, those ringing guitars!

11. Retribution Gospel Choir – “Hide it Away”

I’ve loved Low and Alan Sparhawk for at least fifteen years, and I love hearing him bring the extra volume in RGC. A bracing intro, a stratospheric chorus, and even a guitar solo of sorts. Rawk!

12. Band of Horses – “NW Apt.”*

This album didn’t grab me at all when it first came out, but a few tracks have really caught my ear at the end of the year. This track is a simple, pure delight—all pounding snares and chugging guitars that take BoH away from its epic indie-country vibe and toward a nice, surprising power-pop sound. And of course, Ben Bridwell still has one of “those voices” that can just melt you.    

13. Sambassadeur – “I Can Try”

Damn, those Swedes know their way around the wistful, urbane, indie-pop thing. I ended up liking this Sambassadeur record more than the higher-profile Radio Dept.’s 2010 album Clinging to a Scheme. Both are recommended.

14. The National – “Sorrow”

Like the Big Boi and School of Seven Bells tracks on this mix, the National’s “Sorrow” is satisfying in part because of its “smallness” and simplicity compared to some of the bigger, noisier tracks on its album. A lovely little song that represents pretty much everything I love about the National.

15. Kanye West – “All of the Lights (interlude)”

Transitioning from the National to Kanye West only works because of this sad, pretty piece of incidental music.

16. Kanye West – “All of the Lights”

Sometimes you just gotta say, “Screw the subtlety,” and go with the biggest, baddest, most overblown and overstuffed track you can find for your mix CD. Especially when you’re trying to represent the biggest, baddest album of the year. Like I wrote a couple of weeks ago, though, I love the juxtaposition between this track’s fucking ridiculous musical hugeness and the uncomfortable specificity and concreteness of the lyrics’ focus on everyday struggles.  

17. PVT – “Window”

Weird and primal track that, for me, far exceeds the pan-cultural thing Animal Collective tried to do on their over-hyped 2009 album. The best part about PVT is that there’s no boxing them in with sub-genre labels. I wouldn’t even know where to start.  

18. Phantogram – “Futuristic Casket”*

Another proposition that sounds dicey on paper—the atmospherics of the “shoegaze” genre combined with beats worthy of chart-topping hip hop. But in Phantogram’s hands, it becomes the formula for a sound that just oozes allure, coolness, and sex appeal. Damn hard to pick just one track to represent the album Eyelid Movies, one of my favorites of the year.

19. John Grant – “Marz”

I just heard this song and album for the first time a couple of weeks ago, and I’m in love with Grant as a songwriter. Midlake, Grant’s well-suited backing band for this record (God, the strings and flute at the end of “Marz” are stunning!), also put out a fine album in 2010 called The Courage of Others.

20. Citay – “Mirror Kisses”

Tempting to go with one of Citay’s huge, sprawling epics bursting at the seams with about a dozen never-boring guitar solos, but this slow, quiet, haunting, atmospheric track is impossible to pass up. That “emotional wallop” vibe I try to end mix CDs with? “Mirror Kisses” is a shining example.   

21. Tom Jones – “Did Trouble Me”

Perhaps the most personally significant new song of the year for me. I’m a lucky SOB.

Speaking of which, thanks to my fellow TBTS cohorts for another year of great stuff. It’s a privilege to be a small part of this enterprise.

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