7. Gorillaz -- Stylo
Almost a full ten years after their debut, Damon Albarn's exhilaratingly indescribable cartoon band project just keeps going strong -- and they've never sounded more inspired than on the first single from 2010's damn fine Plastic Beach album, Stylo. Adding the almost otherworldly flow of Mos Def and the powerhouse voice of the great Bobby Womack to Albarn's characteristically laconic drone, the song sounds like the work of an old school Brooklyn DJ, maybe circa 1980 or so, who happened to be on mushrooms. It's a slickly evocative track, and it just oozes cool with every beat.
6. Vampire Weekend -- Giving Up the Gun
Music critics from every corner of the landscape spent at least part of this year looking for inventive ways to say that Vampire Weekend had overcome not just the dreaded sophomore slump but the burden of all the hype that had been heaped -- justifiably -- on their debut album. The band's Contra record wasn't just as good as their first; it was actually quite a bit better. Rather than trying to branch out, reinvent themselves or fix something that wasn't broken, Vampire Weekend doubled down on the qualities that made them the subject of intense idol worship by many and aloof dismissal by a few. Giving Up the Gun sounds like exactly what it is: four Ivy League guys remaking Paul Simon's Graceland-era sound, updated and syncopated, for the hipster generation. And while that seems like it should be an insult, it's anything but.
5. The Black Keys -- Tighten Up
One listen to the sixth album from the Black Keys and you immediately ask yourself two questions: 1) How the fuck do two guys get such a massive sound? and 2) why haven't they been the biggest band on the planet for the past nine years? Tighten Up is their second collaboration with Danger Mouse, and the name of the song couldn't be more appropriate; DM's production feels like a gravitational singularity in space that compresses every note and beat played by Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney into a kind of pinpoint, making their already unyielding sound really draw blood. It's bluesy, it's funky, and it's the song that finally -- and much deservedly -- broke the Black Keys wide open.
Listening Post: The 25 Best Singles of 2010: 8. Arcade Fire -- Ready To Start, 9. The Heavy -- How You Like Me Now, 10. Tame Impala -- Lucidity
Listening Post: The 25 Best Singles of 2010: 11. Ben Folds & Nick Hornby -- From Above, 12. Kanye West (Featuring Bon Iver and Gil Scott-Heron) -- Lost in the World, 13. M.I.A. -- Born Free
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: 4, 3 & 2