Friday, December 31, 2010

Rock the Waffle House: Choice Cuts Vol. 9

1. "Fair Game" -- The Like

There's a lot to like about The Like. Yes, they're the daughters of industry vets (including group founders Elizabeth "Z" Berg, the daughter of a former Geffen exec, and Tennessee Thomas, the daughter of Elvis Costello's drummer. But these women can craft some seriously catchy pop -- and "Fair Game" is irresistible.

2. You! Me! Dancing! -- Los Campesinos!

This feel-good Los Campesinos! track is actually three years old. But I just discovered it this year, and got instantly hooked. I dare you to listen to this track without tapping your toes. (The video's pretty cool too; the song doesn't actually begin until more than a minute in, but it's well worth a watch.)

3. Lose It (In The End) -- Mark Ronson feat. Ghostface Killah

Fresh off Mark Ronson's third album, "Record Collection," this jam's short but powerful, a great use of Phantom Planet's Alex Greenwald juxtaposed with Wu Tang's Ghostface Killah.

4. "Sun Hands" -- Local Natives

Silver Lake's own (by way of Orange County) Local Natives was featured on several of Franklin Avenue's playlists this year, as the group's debut CD, "Gorilla Manor," was a fave. "Sun Hands," which features the group's harmonies leading up to a powerful climax, was one of my faves.

5. "The High Road" -- Broken Bells

Broken Bells -- the duo consisting of uber producer Danger Mouse and The Shins vocalist James Mercer -- came on the scene big this year, starting with their lead-off single, "The High Road." Their self-titled CD, released in March, remains a favorite of 2010. Danger Mouse -- real name: Brian Burton -- reps the second producer on our Choice Cuts end-of-year collection, along with Mark Ronson. (His partnership with Cee-Lo, Gnarls Barkley, was also a Choice Cuts favorite.)

6. "Symphonies" -- Dan Black feat. Kid Cudi

Dan Black's "Symphonies" was a minor hit this year in its original version, but I'm partial to this reworked version featuring Kid Cudi. It's been quite a year for both artists: Kid Cudi received three 2010 Grammy nominations and starred in HBO's "How to Make it in America," while Dan Black's debut album "UN" was released this year. Black's video for "Symphonies" (above) also scored multiple MTV Video Music Award nominations.

7. "Not in Love" -- Crystal Castles feat. Robert Smith

This is a very late addition to the end-of-year mix -- but I can't get this song, or the vocals by the Cure's Robert Smith, out of my head. It's a cover of a 1980s song by Platinum Blond, updated by Crystal Castles -- with the genius addition of Smith's vocals. Better than anything The Cure has put out since the early 1990s.

8. "Little Secrets" -- Passion Pit

First off, you gotta love the fact that Passion Pit -- formed in 2007 -- took their name (allegedly) from Variety's slanguage dictionary. (Variety used the term in the past to refer to drive-in theaters). I enjoyed Passion Pit's CD for much of 2009, actually, but this song snuck onto my January 2010 mix. It's such a catchy, delicious slice of electro pop (I also love the use of PS22 chorus for the "higher and higher" riff).

9. "Heard It on the Radio" -- The Bird and the Bee

Back in May, we took our first major road trip since the birth of Blogger Baby 2.0. During the drive north to San Francisco, we probably listened to the Bird and the Bee's "Interpreting the Masters Volume 1: A Tribute to Hall and Oates" four or five times. It was the perfect, breezy soundtrack for our drive up the 5. "Heard It On the Radio" stood out to me, perhaps because the original Hall & Oates song isn't as overplayed as some of the others that Bird and the Bee (Inara George and Greg Kurstin) covered.

10. "Shyness" -- Thieves Like Us

Gotta love a band that takes its name from a classic New Order track. Thieves Like Us, which boasts members from both the U.S. and Sweden (but is based in Paris), came up with this solid pop song.

11. "Boy" -- Ra Ra Riot

Off Ra Ra Riot's second album, "The Orchard," the track "Boy" was a standout. Fast-paced with some great guitar work, this song will quickly get you moving.

12. "The Drumming Song" -- Florence and the Machine

This was Florence and the Machine's year, and while the hit song was clearly "Dog Days Are Over," I was partial to the power (and the drums, natch) of "The Drumming Song."

13. "As We Enter" (Tinie Tempah Remix) -- Nas and Damian "Jr. Gong" Marley

One of the more interesting releases this year came from hip-hop vet Nas and reggae star Damian "Jr. Gong" Marley. Their collaboration, "Distant Relatives," was an interesting mix of hip-hop, reggae and African beats. I actually put several songs on my playlists throughout 2010, and their track "Strong Will Continue" was another contender for the end-of-year Choice Cuts mix. But the lead-off track to "Distant Relatives," the short jam "As We Enter," contains that irresistible sample from Mulatu Astatke. The mix I include is slightly different from the video version (above).

14. "Young Blood" -- The Naked and Famous

OK, so yeah, there's a definite Passion Pit vibe here. I clearly dig that kind of sound. But no matter. I like this song.

15. "Islands" -- The XX
Smoothest grooves of the year came from The XX, including their hit "Islands." London-based The xx's debut CD was actually released in late 2009, but their CD hit it big here across the pond in 2010. The xx also won this year's prestigious Mercury Prize.

16. "Skinny Genes" -- Eliza Doolittle

British singer-songwriter Eliza Doolittle (real name: Eliza Sophie Caird) burst on the scene this year with her self-titled debut. Pop ditty "Skinny Genes" went on to become a big hit in the U.K.

17. "Dear God 2.0" -- The Roots (feat. Jim James and Monsters of Folk)

The Roots are a reminder that, through some hard work, you can have it all. Being the house band for Jimmy Fallon's "Late Night" has given the live hip-hop crew more exposure than ever -- and yet The Roots still had time to release the critically acclaimed CD "How I Got Over." The group even perfomed at Jon Stewart's Rally to Restore Sanity. It's good to be the Roots. Here, they collaborate with Monsters of Folk's Jim James for a new spin on that group's "Dear God."

18. "Tighten Up" - Black Keys

I didn't think I could like this Black Keys track any more... and then I saw the video and fell in love with it all over again.

19. "Lumiere (The xx Intro Remix)" -- Blue Scholars

This Seattle-based hip-hop duo, consisting of Geologic (George Quibuyen) and Sabzi (Saba Mohajerjasbi), has made it big in the Pacific Northwest thanks in part to their socially conscious lyrics and cool beats. "Lumiere" works thanks in part to that great sample from the xx as well as the catchy lyrics, such as Blogger Kid's favorite line, "Locked in thought/like a Filipino/watchin' boxing." The clip above was created by Oakland photographer John Coyne, who liked "Lumiere" enough to produce his own video.

20. "Soldier On (Big City Love Affair Remix)" -- The Temper Trap

The Temper Trap's original tracks are great, but they also led themselves to some stellar remixes. Here's one, "Soldier On," which I think really benefits from the addition of a marching drum-style backbeat.

21. "Modern Drift" -- Efterklang

Maybe I had a thing for drums this year? Dutch band Efterklang shares a quiet force with "Modern Drift," the first track off their third studio album, "Magic Chairs."

22. "Bed Intruder Song" -- Antoine Dodson and the Gregory Brothers

Wellll.... you can't really put together a 2010 mix without some sort of catchy Gregory Brothers autotune song. "Bed Intruder Song" was in my head, and I'm sure yours, for what seemed like months.

And that's it! Happy New Year, everybody.