An Otto-Tune Mixtape: The Best of 2010 (So Far)

Nearly half the year is behind us so Otto-Tune looks back and creates a playlist of the tracks you need to hear going forward.

The calendar is finally reading "June" so we're almost half way through 2010. Between all the labor that goes into spring semester and finals week,  no one should be faulted for being a bit out of the loop when it comes to the year's music releases. Unfortunately, if you fit into this description, it means you've been missing what is shaping up to be the best year of album releases in the music blog era ( assured there's more to come). 

To help combat that, the Otto-Tune blog is here with a playlist made of solely 2010 first-half releases. It's twelve tracks from twelve different albums/artists/outlets in order to maximize exposure. So no songs of an album that's "eh" (looking at you MGMT, Crystal Castles, Vampire Weekend... I could go on) and no multiple songs off a single album (even if this wrinkle means cutting some strong tracks like "All I Want" from LCD Soundsystem or an Otto-Tune favorite like "Mouthful of Diamonds" from Phantogram).

Since some of these songs are so catchy that the artists don't allow them to be purchased alone on iTunes, there's no iMix of this playlist. Check out the links for a listen, check out the Hype Machine to possibly string some of these together.


The List / (*Not in ranking order)

1. "Dance Yrself Clean" - LCD Soundsystem

It's risky to place any nine minute (8:56 technically) song on a playlist or mixtape, but these have become commonplace for James Murphy and co. "Dance Yrself Clean" is the latest in his dance-rock epics and it won't disappoint. Be careful what volume you start the song at, but know you'll have plenty of time to adjust when you find yourself replaying the track again and again.

2. "Next Girl" - The Black Keys

The song initially got its attention for the video featuring a singing dinosaur puppet frolicking poolside with some appropriately attired females, however you can listen to it with eyes closed and still remember it. The Black Keys are one of a few groups bringing back heavy, more traditional rock in light of all the electronica-dance oriented released in recent years. "Next Girl" is a perfect example with its heavy bass and drum lead and whaling lyrics throughout.

3. "Good Intentions Paving Company" - Joanna Newsom

Newsom's album may be the most divise release of the year thus far. Her experimental folk sound, unique vocals and non-traditional approach to song writing have some calling her genius and others dismissing it as straight rubbish. This track is a good representation of the album as a whole. Upon first listen you get caught up in catchy melodies and a repetitive piano line. Upon second listen you catch some lyrics that make you question Newsom's intentions and something new continues to hit you everytime after.

4. "Sleep Paralysist" - Neon Indian

Neon Indian's "Psychic Chasms" (along with the Mountain Goats' "The Life of the World to Come") is an album that was overlooked when recapping '09. I wish it came out in early '10 because it'd be one of the top releases up to this point of the year. Luckily, the band was roped into a campaign for Mountain Dew and released a new track within the year. It's representitive of their master work with electronic tambres that will have you dancing while simultaneously thinking back to those '80s science videos you watched in middle school

5. "Parasites" - The Soft Pack

I wonder how many folks stumbled upon this band and track through Chuck Klosterman's Twitter. The band's first LP since changing their name from The Muslims is straight up rock. There is a driving bass line, repititve guitar riffs the cut through the groove and edgy vocals right out of 90s alt-garage. Their album probably benefits from the same principle as The Black Keys - traditional rock can stand out when everyone else is trying to find the newest sound.

6. "Private Eyes" - The Bird & The Bee 

Yes, I kept  a lot of big names off this playlist (The National, Broken Social Scene, Spoon, New Pornographers - sorry to ruin what's ahead a bit) because they released albums that were a bit too familiar for me. With that, how then can you justify keeping a fairly loyal Hall & Oates cover in the final list? Listen and you won't argue. Hall & Oates' sound is experiencing some weird renaissance in the current music climate and there's no better way to have it introduced to you then through the high quality electronic musicianship of The Bird & The Bee.

7. "Everybody Wants To Rule The World" - Ted Leo & The Pharmacists

Look, "The Brutalist Bricks" is one of my favorite albums of the year or Ted Leo wouldn't spring up. Check out the "The Might Sparrow" for some vintage rocking melody, high-pitched high-message vocally led Leo. That said, two covers make the best tracks of the year so far because The Onion asked Ted Leo to participate in their covers project and magic came out.  (Another Chuck Klosterman's Twitter seal of approval, retweeted this time). 

8. "As Far As I Can See" - Phantogram

This is one of two "C'mon, anyone who ever read any piece by you could've predicted this" picks. The surprise here is this song instead of "Mouthful of Diamonds" but Otto-Tune was on that track since mid-2009. "As Far As I Can See" is the most purely Phantogram out of their tracks newly released on "Eyelid Movies" - great emphatic beat, high airy vocals and some inexplicable power to make any listener dance.

9. "Crown on the Ground" - Sleigh Bells

Second of the two no-brainers: the most buzzed band thus far and the track that put them on the map. I'm not sure if all of "Treats" will hold up over time and be a consistently enjoyable listen. "Crown on the Ground" however comes closest to capturing the real reason this band is relevant - the raw energy they exhibit whenever they perform (even infront of maybe 70 kids in Syracuse, N.Y.).

10. "Something Good Can Work" - Two-Door Cinema Club

Last song to make the cut, slightly edging out "Wide Eyes" by Local Natives.  Two-Door Cinema Club gets the nod because they make it OK to love what's really at its core... pop music. This song can be on the radio and you wouldn't blink, yet they got pegged for the coveted opener spot on Phoenix's post- "Wolfganag Amadeus Phoenix" US Tour.  The guitar riff is catchy, the vocals erge you to sing-a-long (and this list needs some European flair).

11. "Dance or Die" - Janelle Monae 

I know Sleigh Bells is getting a lot of press, but should Janelle Monae being the one getting dubbed as the most innovative new album? Monae's got an album of funk, dance and R&B that tosses around sci-fi imagery and has features from folks like Big Boi and Saul Williams (the latter on this track). Her sound is getting compared to everyone from George Clinton to Prince. In the end its closest comparison may be to her boy Diddy because.. well, she's just making hits.

12. "Promises" - The Morning Benders

Lasty, here is my favorite track of my favorite album of the year thus far (narrowly edging Monae and LCD Soundsystem at the moment). "Big Echo" is just so incredibly easy to listen to and at times you'll find yourself getting in lost back and forth between the music and lyrics all in a single track. The vocal stylings are what do it for me the most but there is something to be said for how intricately layered and subdued all of the music is on the album as well. It didn't hurt that my first impressions of it were words of praise from Ra Ra Riot either. 

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