2010 was an interesting year for music. I didn’t buy as many albums as last year’s 40-50, but I still found a lot of enjoyable stuff from a variety of styles. I joined the staff of IndieVisionMusic.com reviewing albums, and I get to have my top albums list posted on there sometime in the coming days. For now, though, here’s a little teaser with my 10 favorite songs of the year:
10. Johnny Cash – “Ain’t No Grave“
There ain’t no grave can hold my body down!
Recorded not long before Cash’s death, this song is an old man’s quiet confidence in his eternal future. Cash’s usual picking is surrounded by a variety of foreboding features, from a low ringing piano note to a tolling bell, and the percussion’s heavy rhythm evokes a defiant dragging away of death’s useless chains. Ain’t no grave can hold my body down, indeed!
9. Flatfoot 56 – “Shiny Eyes“
In times of hell, in times of sun, you journeyed with me, my precious one / Far stretched the road I found you on. We walked together arm in arm.
This may be the first ballad this Chicago Oi! punk band has ever written, and boy is it a pretty one. It’s a simple acoustic love song that celebrates the life of a giving and selfless woman. We’re used to hearing the mandolin charging madly with the bagpipes, but the stringed instrument joins an accordion here, showing a surprisingly nice and softer side.
8. Lakes – “Oh Lovely”
We could just dance, we could just sing / We’ve got this beautiful day / We’ve got it all, dear / We’ve got this, you and me
This is a blissful love song: nothing more, nothing less. A Peppy plunking piano, a tangy tambourine – even the guitar riff seems to be smiling as the song explores the simple beauty of spending time with your lover and the freedom of sharing life together.
7. Showbread – “You’re Like A Taxi“ (actual music video)
When I die, whatever you might say, don’t say I’m gone / Gone is not the word for someone who finally found his way back home
A quintessential example of Showbread’s newest style, this track starts with some horns and builds mostly on dreamy synths as Josh’s calm voice quietly relishes in Jesus’ victory over Death, saying Death is no longer a frightful prison but just a taxi to another world.
6. Arcade Fire – “We Used to Wait“
It seems strange / How we used to wait for letters to arrive… Now our lives are changing fast / Hope that something pure can last
Crafting a false sense of urgency from the opening brisk piano chords, Arcade Fire subtly reflects on the consequences of our instant-gratification culture. The loss of patience is explored through forgotten traditions like letter writing, but the repetition of the title’s heavy four words says it all: We used to wait. (Go here for an interactive version of what’s shown in the video linked above.)
5. Bradley Hathaway – “The World Is Screaming“
A little girl touched in places she should never be / A little boy left to live alone in the streets / A wife that doesn’t know how to be faithful / A husband that can’t seem to keep his cool / And the world is screaming
Mostly known for his melancholy poems, here Bradley perfectly executes an epic tale of a world crying out in suffering… and a savior who comes to redeem it. It slowly builds from a steady guitar chord to a wafting violin and pounding percussion and soaring vocals. If you’ve been starving for a driving anthem in the vein of mewithoutYou’s “Torches Together” or “In A Sweater Poorly Knit,” this is the song you’ve been waiting for.
4. House of Heroes – “Love Is For The Middle Class“ (actual lyrics video)
Oh, I wouldn’t mind it if we nickel and we dime it / Just to be together in the end / Maybe just a little ’til we make it to the middle / And they’re takin’ half of every cent
Yeah, it’s a catchy jam dripping with these boys’ classic harmonies, but it’s also a fantastically poignant exploration of the tension in wanting to spend a life with someone without worrying about financial stability but feeling like you need such stability to realistically secure such a life. If all I gave was love, would you give up on me? Contemplating the agonies of young adulthood has never been so fun!
3. Children 18:3 – “Cover Your Eyes“ (actual music video)
She said RUN but I’m not running!
This deliriously fast song packs all the brilliance of Children 18:3 into two minutes and ten seconds, from David and Lee Marie’s trademark brother-sister vocal tradeoff to Seth’s mad drumming to the courageous lyrics about standing your ground in the face of disaster.
2. Timbre – “I Will Go Plant Little Flowers“ (track #7)
Watching the frail stems put forth their brand new leaves / I find a love for them in their honest weakness / And maybe you feel the same for me too.
The music is a delightful dance of strings, harp, percussion, and more, and the lyrics use the slow but steady growth of ‘little flowers’ as a metaphor for ourselves, fragile but slowly strengthening (under the care of our Gardener, if you will). You can almost see the shoots springing up from the ground as easily as you can hear the smile in her voice. This song bubbles forth with joy each and every time I hear it.
1. Timbre – “The Wind May Be Beautiful“ (track #2)
But pain can be beautiful, my dear / Roots that are deep do not fear winter / And spring has more joy when you’ve felt / The remnants of cold sorrows melt
These are my favorite lyrics of anything that came out this year. Timbre uses the wind as a metaphor for wanting to escape from the difficulties of life – it may seem beautiful and enticing, but sometimes you have to be still and endure the harsh experiences of life to grow stronger and overcome. Roots that are deep do not fear winter. This poetry is sung over a wonderful collection of instruments and voices. While the previously mentioned track fills me with joy, this one fills me with inspiration, hope, and peace. Be still for these eight minutes and be strengthened. You won’t regret it.
Coming Soon….. My Favorite 20 Albums of 2010….