16. The xx -- Islands
The debut album from England's the xx continued to dominate alt radio in 2010, thanks largely to the record's second single, which was actually re-released in the states mid-year. Islands works as a perfect little snapshot of all the reasons the xx achieved Next Big Thing status the minute their seductive sound -- some have referred to it as "post-coital" -- began bleeding from the earbuds and speakers of various in-the-know Londoners. The fact that at the time of the record's release not one member of the band was of legal drinking age in the United States just added to the odd mystery of the xx -- as in, how the hell are these kids making such luxuriously sexy music? The best part about them? They let that music do the talking. They're certainly not a gorgeous or fashionable band by any stretch of the imagination, but oh when you put on that record and let it envelop you -- the result is simply intoxicating.
15. Middle Class Rut -- New Low
The rise of Middle Class Rut is an honest-to-God grass roots success story and as a band they prove that there's still room in the popular music landscape for the straightforward post-grunge sound, provided it's done well -- and these guys do it extraordinarily well. Like the Black Keys or the White Stripes, it's astonishing the amount of music -- to say nothing of raw energy -- that can come from two people, in this case Zack Lopez and Sean Stockham, and just a few basic instruments. Middle Class Rut's debut LP, No Name No Color, is a flat-out monstrous record -- like being hit in the side of the head with a brick. But sprinkled somewhat casually amongst all that bite are moments of almost Western Gothic flair, and that's where New Low falls; it has a kind of mythic Last Chance Saloon vibe to it, and it's honestly one of the catchiest and most memorable songs of the year.
14. Sia -- My Love
It's one of life's great conundrums: The Twilight books are fucking awful. The Twilight movies are equally bad. Yet, strangely, the Twilight movie soundtracks are consistently terrific. It's as if the unholy creatures who engineered this pop cultural choke-hold decided to throw just one bone to those who have actual taste. The soundtrack to Eclipse featured new music from Metric, Muse, UNKLE, Florence + the Machine and Band of Horses, just to name a few artists. But it was Sia's stunning My Love, released to adult-alt radio seemingly as an afterthought, that truly stood out. In addition to it being, at long last, a worthwhile follow-up to Breathe Me -- one of the most achingly passionate songs of the last decade -- it was the kind of thing that touched something divine deep inside you, someplace unsullied by cynicism and the knowledge of the occasionally ugly realities involved in surrendering yourself to another soul. It was an unabashedly beautiful love song, and it made you want to believe in the feeling that could inspire such grace.
Listening Post: The 25 Best Singles of 2010: 17. John Legend and the Roots -- I Can't Write Left-Handed, 18. Blonde Redhead -- Not Getting There, 19. The National -- Bloodbuzz Ohio
Listening Post: The 25 Best Singles of 2010: 20. Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti -- Round and Round, 21. P!nk -- Raise Your Glass, 22. Drive-By Truckers -- This Fucking Job
Listening Post: The 25 Best Singles of 2010: 23. Best Coast -- Boyfriend, 24. Anberlin -- Impossible, 25. Fences -- Girls with Accents
Tomorrow: 13, 12 & 11