Our run-down of the year in music continues this week and through the rest of the year. For a look at what we've run so far, check out links to our top music videos, the year in photos, our favorite Pitchfork.tv features, the best of Pitchfork news, and the Worst Album Covers in 2010. Here's what we have coming up this week:
Monday: Top 100 tracks, #100-51
Tuesday: Top 100 tracks, #50-1
Wednesday: Albums, Honorable Mention: 20 great records that didn't make our Top 50
Thursday: Top 50 Albums of 2010, #50-21
Friday: Top 50 Albums of 2010, #20-1
December 20: Guest List: Best of 2010
December 27: The Year in News
January 3: Regular coverage resumes.
To hear the tracks, be sure to check out our Spotify playlist.
Thanks for reading and have a great holiday!
100. These New Puritans
"We Want War"
Few recent British rock bands seem to have much grasp of the islands'musical history prior to the 1960s, so These New Puritans' fascination with 17th century choral music would be refreshing even if it didn't pay off artistically. But it does, and while the music may owe a structural debt to classical forms, the results could hardly sound more futuristic.
Over seven and a half minutes, "We Want War" experiences countless mood swings, with swells of chopped-up, haunted voices playing perfectly against martial drumming, darkly arranged orchestration, and Jack Barnett's signature mumble. Here, These New Puritans distinguish themselves among the most restless UK indie acts, proving they have the vision and talent to make their most ambitious ideas connect at a gut level. --Tom Ewing
"The Gaudy Side of Town"
Gayngs already do a song called "The Last Prom on Earth", so the gaudiness here probably refers to something other than salmon tuxes and pink corsages. This is after-prom music, anyway, with Gayngs frontman Ryan Olson mixing ambrosial crooning and tony sax to create a palpable Barry White vibe, with just a hint of danger. Bon Iver's Justin Vernon stamps his approval by offering some surprisingly sultry backing vocals. And what should be a sleazy key party blossoms into something slinky and breathlessly affectionate. --Zach Kelly
98. Male Bonding
"Year's Not Long"
"Year's Not Long" is about as close to a mission statement as Male Bonding can get. It first appeared as the grungier half of a split 7" with Eat Skull last year, but found new life in 2010 as the opening swing from the London trio's Sub Pop debut, Nothing Hurts. Though they gave the song's sonics a shower and shave, its bleeding, blistering pace commanded attention. The trio absolutely bullrides its way through this thing, like it's the only song they can (or care to) play. When frontman John Arthur Webb stops strangling his guitar three quarters of the way through, it's not to catch his breath. Instead, he wails the song's title over a high-rise crescendo that, when it finally breaks, sends the whole thing out with one, last, fuzzy crash. In eight seconds. --David Bevan
"Don't Change for Me"
The trend in UK bass music last year was the razor-sharp, juttingly melodic 'purple' craze spearheaded by artists like Joker, Guido, and Gemmy. This year, many producers took the opposite tack, embracing cold, metallic textures, IDM-indebted rhythmic structures, and negative space that at times felt almost antagonistic. The arrhythmic splatter of juke music was deployed on singles from Addison Groove and the Night Slugs camp, while techno-leaning producer Untold's "Fly Girls" brought dry, whip-cracked beats to the club floor. But it was David Kennedy, co-founder of UK label Hessle Audio, who pushed the sound to an extreme with this gorgeous closing track to the self-titled EP he released under his Ramadanman guise. What starts with tense cymbal hits patiently unfurls into something more silvery, with patches of skittering 'ardcore-indebted rhythms and spectral vocal samples. --Larry Fitzmaurice
The reunited Dipset crew hasn't changed much, so you already know what to expect; while Cam'ron manages a quick double-time flow to draw attention briefly to his rapping, this track's verses don't break a lot of stylistic ground. The track is exceptional, though, for its anthemic production, which announces the triumphant return of New York's own brand of eccentric regional rap. MPC wizard Araabmuzik's screaming, twisted spinwheel beat is the sound of holes being torn in the stratosphere, fueling a comeback that both sustains the reunited crew's buzz while testifying to their continued relevance. --David Drake
95. Ty Segall
The purest strains of rock'n'roll have always seemed to stem from what neurobiologists often refer to as "the lizard brain," the primitive parts of the mind that control basic functions such as breathing, eating, and reproducing. "Girlfriend", by SF garage-rocker Ty Segall, is a perfect model, eschewing higher-order function and complex cognition in favor of focused primal urge. The song's mixture of power chords, bam-thwack drums, and lyrics about a girl is so time-honored it's eligible for Social Security, but when it's done well, it still gets the heart racing. And usually, doing it well means sticking to the basics, a rule Segall closely follows; the only decoration is a thrilling one-finger, one-note piano solo, bringing a noisy clatter to a fight-or-flight crescendo. --Rob Mitchum
Kelis' makeover from skewed R&B starlet to Fembot Fatale wasn't tough to predict. If you heard her guest spot on last year's Basement Jaxx opener "Scars", you got a taste of the robot princess that would emerge from the darkness of a year spent divorcing her husband, Nas, while pregnant with the couple's child, Knight. The David Guetta-helmed "Acapella" is explicitly about her newborn son, before whom her "whole life was a cappella." Kelis expresses this sentiment with almost operatic vigor, and her heartbreaking candor breathes life into the cyborg character she's adopted for her latest album, Flesh Tone. And while Lady Gaga's dancefloor-aimed influence is clear, the way Kelis blends human warmth with the icy chill of Guetta's electro-pulsing production places her closer to Robyn's end of the android-pop constellation. --Tyler Grisham
93. Freddie Gibbs
"National Anthem (Fuck the World)"
Anyone wading through the sea of mixtapes and leaked tracks by Freddie Gibbs in the past year or two can find the perfect summary of his career to date on "National Anthem (Fuck the World)". He recalls his drug-dealing past, his signing and departure from Interscope, and the return to his native Gary, Ind., all delivered in a cadence that can accelerate into a blizzard of words or slow down to a more measured take in the space of a couple bars. Credit is due to LA Riots' steely beat and string-laden samples, but it's Gibbs' burning desire to put his past behind him and seek atonement for his treatment at the hands of the major-label system that hits hardest. --Nick Neyland
92. Matthew Dear
"You Put a Smell on Me"
If you read something weird and leering into the title of "You Put a Smell on Me", you'd be absolutely correct. But on an album in which Matthew Dear found a new center between his work as a banging techno DJ/producer and a brooding pop songmaker, "You Put a Smell" was a sultry paean to lewdness and lust that seemed to come from a haunting, effectively inhuman, distance. Synthesizer arpeggios corkscrew out of it in a manner similar to Dear's beloved club guise Audion, but the drums lay back and slink-- all the better to make room for his low, louche voice as he tries to lure his target home. --Andy Battaglia
"Scarecrows on a Killer Slant"
Liars' Sisterworld was loudly touted as the trio's "L.A. album," but at its center was "Scarecrows on a Killer Slant", a track that feels like a redemptive half-step back to the witchy rural New Jersey setting of They Were Wrong, So We Drowned. The hollowed-out guitar grind and astringent drum march provide a raggedy schemata over which Angus Andrew spins almost every vocal trick he's ever tried, from chant-along screams to subtly twisted falsetto to sinister backing harmonies. This is Liars finding a suitably grubby meeting place for their conjoined fascinations with brash pop and strung-out noise, ultimately reaching that spot where they sound like they're sticking a knife in your back and smiling sweetly while they do it. --Nick Neyland