After almost 200 songs, we've finally made it to the top 10 of the past 10 years.
(Click here for the whole list.)
Just to heighten the suspense, I'll add another two songs to this post every weekday morning this week, concluding on Friday.
Next week, I'll analyze what made this decade of music what it is. [UPDATE: Here you go.]
10. Gnarls Barkley - Crazy
A song so great it shows up twice in this list! (See #91.)
9. Sufjan Stevens - Chicago
Summer Anne, ranking this the 10th best song of the decade, says:
[I]f I ever made a church, my kind of church, we would worship outside, and this song would be our "Amazing Grace."
8. Of Montreal - Wraith Pinned to the Mist and Other Games
Let's have bizarre celebrations!
7. Dresden Dolls - Coin-Operated Boy
This is an ingeniously constructed song. It starts out all jaunty and full of innuendo for a few verses. The singer, Amanda Palmer, then takes the song deeper into her psyche by describing the songwriting process itself: "This bridge was written to make you feel smitten-er / With my sad picture of girl getting bitter-er...." The shift in the lyrics and music here (flowing arpeggios instead of percussive chords) seems to tell us we've left the physical world and entered her stream of consciousness. The bridge culminates with an obsessively repeated "I want it --," then "I want you --," then "I want a --," while the whole band mimics the repetitive, jerky movements of a wind-up toy (a lyrical and musical transition back to the verse). When Palmer finally finishes the sentence with the same words and melody that started the song ("...coin-operated boy"), her delivery has lost its previous childlike quality. She sounds weary from the one-sided relationship. At the end, the band winds down like a toy running out of batteries. Not only does Palmer's voice slow down along with everything else, but she sounds unexpectedly meek, as though it were dawning on her that she doesn't quite believe everything she's been singing.
6. St. Vincent - Paris Is Burning
Here's a living-room performance without all that production:
5. The Postal Service - The District Sleeps Alone Tonight
I remember sitting in a cafe a few years ago, hearing this chorus for the first time -- "You seem so out of context / In this gaudy apartment complex" -- and thinking, "Hm, that's a pretty clever hook." Since then, I've probably listened to this song hundreds of times, and it still sounds startlingly new.
4. Franz Ferdinand - Take Me Out
The rock anthem of the decade.
3. Imogen Heap - Hide and Seek
Here's Imogen Heap's description of how this song came to be:
“My favorite computer blew up on me. ... But I didn't want to leave the studio without having done anything that day. I saw the [DigiTech Vocalist Workstation] on a shelf and just plugged it into my little 4-track MiniDisc with my mic and my keyboard and pressed Record. The first thing that I sang was those first few lines, ‘Where are we? What the hell is going on?’ I set the vocalist to a four-note polyphony, so even if I play 10 notes on the keyboard, it will only choose four of them. It's quite nicely surprising when it comes back with a strange combination. When it gets really high in the second chorus, that's a result of it choosing higher rather than low notes, so I ended up going even higher to compensate, above the chord. I recorded it in, like, four-and-a-half minutes, and it ended up on the album in exactly the structure of how it came out of me then. I love it because it doesn't feel like my song. It just came out of nowhere, and I'm not questioning that one at all.”The result sounds like a 21st-century version of a Renaissance madrigal.
Have you ever thought to yourself: if God is watching me and has to choose the single greatest 5 minutes of my life, what would they be? For Imogen Heap, the answer just might be those 5 minutes when she was creating this:
2. The Arcade Fire - No Cars Go
The songwriting might be embarrassingly simple, but this is some of the most exciting music to come along in recent memory.
Between the click of the light and the start of the dream...
1. Regina Spektor - Fidelity
Spontaneous but refined, sincere but quirky, simple but complex. I submit that no song more beautifully encapsulates the spirit of this decade of music.