"Woke Up New" by the Mountain Goats - I am less likely this year than any in recent history to like this song, or the album it comes from. It is, after all, a messy break-up album. And yet, this song makes it all the way passed my defenses. Perhaps the perfect "morning after a break-up" song, when John Darnielle starts with his plaintive "What will I do? What will I do? Without you?" stretching his falsetto to the point of breaking, it gets me right in that place I don't ever want to feel outside of music.
"Lloyd, I'm Ready To Be Heartbroken" by Camera Obscura - Because Belle and Sebastian doesn't release enough albums to sate everyone, Camera Obscura exists to take up the slack--and this year, release a song better than anything off The Life Pursuit or Dear Catastrophe Waitress. Jaunty, wistful, unabashedly twee, with just the right amount of organ, "Lloyd, I'm Ready to Be Heartbroken" feels like nothing less than a lovely spring day.
"Mothers, Sisters, Daughters, and Wives" by Voxtrot - If you wondered where the rock went, look right over here. It doesn't exactly skimp on depth and musicality, but, mostly, this song cares about nothing more than rocking the fuck out. And that's all that really matters, unless you happen to be some kinda pretentious shit. And that wouldn't be any of my readers, right?
"Crazy" by Gnarls Barkley - The "Hey Ya" of this year just happens to, surprise surprise, also remain a really great song and one of the most virulent earworms EVAR! I also listened to it a solid three times more than the second place song. Culturally, the song of the year, if not mine personally.
"The Crane Wife 3" by The Decemberists - The Decemberists, to their credit, begin their major label career by fucking with us. If you care about what the songs are about, you may be dismayed to find that The Crane Wife, as an album, is as linear as 21 Grams. But if you care about the music, well then, you're in luck, because The Decemberists got that right, at least. The first song is, unfortunately, the high point of the album, but that's only because it sets the bar too damn high for anything else to clear.
"Stuck Between Stations" by The Hold Steady - 2006 was the year that the rest of y'all found out about the Hold Steady. 2006 was also the year that people found out about the Hold Steady, burnt out, and are now saying, "Well, I liked Lifter Puller, but I don't really approve of this new direction that Craig Finn went out on." Ignore them. Turn on the world's best lit rock bar band, and just enjoy the music. Listen up. You just might learn something, too.
"Returning to the Fold" by The Thermals - If I wasn't limiting myself to one song per artist, there would be a couple of other songs off of The Body, The Blood, The Machine on this list. Post-Punk Revival at its best, that album would almost definitely be the album of the year, if I were to make a list, just based on the sheer joy I get listening to it. There isn't a bad song on the entire list, and there are at least three awesome ones. This one wins out, just barely. But I can't quite figure out why. Maybe it's the line, "I can't believe I got so far with a head so empty." But maybe not.
"Postcards from Italy" by Beirut - Yeah. I know. Surprised me too. I picked this album up on a whim, slightly confused as to why a band by the name of Beirut was playing Eastern European Orkester music, didn't listen to it for awhile, and then wound up hearing this song by mistake. And it turns out to be really good. Haunting, like what Jeff Mangum would write if he went on vacation to Poland.
"LDN" by Lily Allen - I feel kind of sorry for Lady Sovereign. She had less than a month on the scene as Everybody's Favorite English Girl, and then Lily Allen came around with the same tough girl image, coupled with lyrics we could actually understand. Poor Sovereign. It doesn't hurt that Allen looks rather like Kelly Macdonald, from Trainspotting. "LDN," a happy-sounding song about biking around London and looking closer to see that everything is shit and people are awful...well, it gets me in that special place.
"Wet and Rusting" by Menomena - An honorary place on this random ten, this is the preview track for Menomena's second album, set to come out in February (which you can already get leaked versions of online). If this album doesn't turn Menomena into the biggest thing since Radiohead, there is no justice in the world. This album is fucking fantastic, and "Wet and Rusting" is the best of the lot. Universal Donor, upon hearing the album, remarked that it was too good to listen through in one sitting. Despite being a fundamentally crazy thing to say, this is more or less true. It is draining in the best possible way, just to listen to this one song, taking in the myriad interweaving layers, the shifting piano, sax, and the voices, sounding for all the world like "It's raining, it's pouring, the old man is snoring" sung as a lullaby from Satan. The best song of the year, and possibly, of next year as well.