13. M.I.A. -- Born Free
Blistering. Incendiary. Exhilarating. Absolutely fucking ferocious. Pick your descriptor, M.I.A.'s Born Free was all that and more. It was a sonic riot. It was a call to arms. You really could imagine it being broadcast from the falling capital of a country in a state of violent revolution -- and for the briefest moment it made you think that M.I.A. just might not be entirely full of shit when she claims she's a Tamil Tiger.
12. Kanye West (featuring Bon Iver and Gil Scott-Heron) -- Lost in the World
Maybe the most impressive endorsement of Kanye West is this: His 2010 album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, is so good it actually makes his megalomaniacal dickishness worth putting up with. Despite the fact that the rollout of the record was on par with the heralding of the Christ child, the end result more than lived up to the hype. Sure, the bombastic and mind-blowingly entertaining Monster is getting most of the airplay, but it's the track that was immediately made available to alt radio, Lost in the World, that's a work of imaginative near-genius. Using Bon Iver's auto-tuned acapella track Woods as a foundation, Kanye honestly made musical worlds collide, and the result is something truly special. Sure he's a tool, but he's an undeniably talented tool -- and his Fantasy is probably the best full-length album of the year.
11. Ben Folds & Nick Hornby -- From Above
Speaking of brilliant collaborations, this one seemed like such a no-brainer that the first time you heard the fruits of it you wondered why somebody didn't think of it sooner. Pairing the Rundgren-esque sensitivities of Ben Folds's music with the cheeky lyrics of British novelist Nick Hornby just felt so -- natural. The first single from their album Lonely Avenue proved it in spades. From Above is one of the saddest songs of the year, set to an almost willfully deceptive uptempo beat. It traffics in oversized, T.S. Eliot coffee spoon-style themes: missed opportunities, nagging feelings of regret, vague dissatisfaction, but most importantly, the fear that casts the longest shadow in the heart of anyone who's ever been in love -- the idea that maybe you're not with the person you're supposed to be with and that that one true soulmate is still out there somewhere. It's all told from the perspective, Wings of Desire-style, of detached beings that apparently aren't so detached that they can't take an interest in our all-too-human interactions. It's one of those songs that pulls off the rare feat of making you smile while it breaks your heart into a million pieces. Which, I guess, is exactly what love does.
Listening Post: The 25 Best Singles of 2010: 14. Sia -- My Love, 15. Middle Class Rut -- New Low, 16. The xx -- Islands
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: 10,9 & 8