The Softsynth 2010 playlist

Daunting is the idea of having to single out singles.

a) What do singles even mean in 2010? The digital age, the era of the pre-release leak, the lack of any physical “release” for all intents and purposes, the absence of any television presence where videos are played in any meaningful way – all have lead to a music world where a so-called “single” means no more than any other stand-out track on an album.

b) If breaking down the best albums in a particular genre is as daunting as it was in 2010, the idea of having to attack the mountain of meaningful electronic songs and somehow rank them in a consequential way is beyond the mental capacity of this blogger.

That said, each year there rises an honour roll of sorts, in absolutely no particular order at all, no “first”, no “last” . just those songs (yes, usually singles, but not always) that were constantly on the Softsynth playlist this year; those songs that resonated and rose above the conclave, the 30 “best” electronic songs of 2010.

Two quick notes: we’re taking the tweet approach; this is a rather random list that requires minimal comment, not a strict 140 characters, but pretty close. Second, we know there are a handful of selections of odd-seeming pedigree on the list. Requires reminding – this blog is about electronic music in all its forms, from mainstream to electronic, from synthpop to industrial, and even occasionally when relevant, to hiphop. So noted.

  • The Golden Filter – White Nights: Released late in the year as a xmas song, this Psychic V.T. cover was lovelier and more melodically interesting than anything on their still-solid album released this year.
  • Christina Aguilera – Birds of Prey: You’d never guess this was Ms. Aguilera, in fact it bears no resemblance to anything else on this huge misfire of an album. In further fact it’s pure Ladytron, who wrote, produced and performed the song with barely recognizable guest vocal by Xtina, and it’s terrific.
  • Method Cell – Your Weakness: The best song on an album full of “best songs”; hard to pick just one from this wonderful collection, but if we had to = this.
  • Arcade Fire – Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains): We’ve already written this breathtaking song up, so suffice it to say – still awesome.
  • Sunday Girl – Stop Hey: So excited to see an album from her. This is a heavenly aparatif.
  • Kanye West – Runaway – The first hip-hop excursion on Softsynth as far as we can recall but it just belongs on this list. From the scintillating drum machine effect on the 2nd and 4th beats of the chorus, to the plinked synth notes throughout it’s as pure and delightful a synthesizer-driven song as was released this year.
  • Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – New Babies, New Toys: Uncharacteristically aggressive song on this sadly uneven, disappointing comeback album, and it rocks out the way the band used to once upon a time.
  • Huski – Girl.Kill.Smile – Great teaser for the upcoming Strangelove.
  • Marina and the Diamonds – Shampain: Could have picked any number of wonderful songs from Marina’s debut album, but this one had the most punch and kick.
  • tenek – Blinded by You: Great sophomore album, incredible pulsating track.
  • Miss FD – Enter the Void: Is it pop? How prevalent is the industrial influence on a track like this? She’s carving out her own niche, and this is best of an already solid lot.
  • Ashbury Heights – Crescendo: Shame about the breakdown. This driving, relentless song is brilliant.
  • Alice in Videoland – Something New: Frenetic electro-pop with a showstopping vocal.
  • Ego Likeness – The Devils In The Chemicals: powerful, driving guitars, and poignant lyrics, with drum programming that sits perfectly in the middle of the noise.
  • Robyn – Dancing on My Own: The year’s best dance track.
  • How to Destroy Angels – The Space in Between: Moody, spooky, and perfect. Trent Reznor keeps the ball rolling, picking up further steam as it rolls ever downward…
  • Edge of Dawn – Lucid Dreams: A lovely guest vocal from Hungry Lucy’s Christa Belle is the cherry on the top of this rollicking darkwave wonder.
  • LCD Soundsystem – Dance Yrself Clean: The break at 3:09 is the best and most powerful single moment in electronic music in 2010.
  • System Syn – Here’s to You: The perfect “fuck you” song. Never done better.
  • Chew Lips – Karen: The least electronic song on Unicorn, is also their best melody. They could do little wrong this year and this was a high point.
  • Bunny Lake – Army of Lovers: It’s long and disjointed and so much fun.
  • Diorama – Cubed: Claustrophobic and wonderfully evocative song from Diorama’s best-to-date album of the same name.
  • Blind Faith and Envy – In a Crash: Sad and lonely song which is also pretty as all hell; the high point from their uneven EP Into the Calm.
  • Psy’Aviah featuring Ayria – Into the Game; Relentless, never lets up and the best driving beat of the year.
  • Goldfrapp – Alive: Xanadu-era Olivia Newton John updated (ever so slightly) for a modern age, and done flawlessly. The weird-ass video only strengthened our opinion of this terrific song.
  • De/Vision – Ready to Die: So much less orderly and controlled than their usual material it’s downright sloppy-sounding and it works beautifully, complete with grunts and “uh huh’s”.
  • The Girl & the Robot – Howling Winter: Not even an album track, but a b-side to the “Whole/Flowers” single, wonderful lyric and fun dips and soars that make it rise above the year’s more standard fare.
  • Ambra Red – We Real Cool: One of the stranger albums our genre produced this year, also one of the purest, with this plodder the cream of a pretty hearty crop.
  • Flux – Claws and Teeth: Note-perfect synthpop and an encouraging improvement over solid debut album, Safe + Sound.
  • Tikkle Me – Butterflies in My Tummy: More than just cute (though it sure is that), it’s one of the cleverest melodies constructed this year.

Of course this just scratches the surface but it shows the great diversity in the genre this year and a great touch of flavour for the year that was. Make a playlist of the above 30 and you’ll never go bored…

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4 Responses to “The Softsynth 2010 playlist”

  1. Great list!

    I highly recommend you to check this band The Hundred in the Hands.

    Pigeons: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zAfEvvnzlwQ
    Commotion (live): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TrThfQVKu-I
    Young Aren’t Young (live): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lqmpoaE1M5A
    Undressed in Dresden (Jaques Renault remix): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JvnHvaEEPfk (excellent remix)

  2. I forgot two songs:
    Sleepwalking: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D7Nds7C5BN8 (a really gorgeous song! it’s on the same level as Sprawl II by AF)

    Tom Tom: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EhB4mXI19QI

  3. Other great electronic songs of 2010:

    Delphic – Red Lights

    Ladytron – Ace of Hz

    Crystal Castles – Celestica

    Underworld – Scribble

    The Chemical Brothers – Swoon

    Royksopp – The Drug

    Massive Attack – Atlas Air

    I Blame Coco – Quicker

    Schiller with Nadia Ali – Try

    Daft Punk – Derezzed

    Hurts – Wonderful Life

    Groove Armada – I Won’t Kneel

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