1. LCD Soundsystem – “All My Friends”
A group that garnered as much fanboy, blog-fueled praise as they did true critical acclaim, LCD Soundsystem truly proved their worth with their sophomore effort Sound of Silver. Though the album had a few dark spots, one thing was clear to nearly everyone who heard the album: “All My Friends” is one of the most affecting and gorgeous pieces of music in the last decade and unquestionably the best song of the year. Its rat-a-tat keyboards and seemingly endless crescendo, this track feels like the embodiment of everything joyous and beautiful. By the time James Murphy first cries “That’s how it starts” you’re already hooked and along for the ride.
2. M.I.A. – “Paper Planes”
The censors still don’t know what they’re missing. After M.I.A’s deliciously smirky first line “I fly like paper, get high like planes,” for the rest of the song she’s just dropping rhymes both playground- and terrorist-chic like, well, bombs. But the effects are what make the deceptively simple lyrics: long, just-a-touch late finger snaps paired with gunshots and the crisp slam of a cash register drawer for the chorus.
3. Rich Boy – “Throw Some D’s”
A triumphantly gorgeous summer-time track, nothing is better to listen to than “Throw Some D’s” with your windows down, seat back and rims spinning. Rich Boy drops incredible pop-culture references (“Gator skin seats call me Dundee”) while staying immediately gangster (“Rich Boy selling crack”). And with a chorus that can’t be touched by any hip-hop release this year, “Throw Some D’s” is an instant classic.
4. Animal Collective “Fireworks”
Helicopter drumbeats, yelps that sound like struggling dogs late at night and a chorus that’s really not a chorus at all. The song is just about that affecting too. Cap it off with the climax line of “You’re the only one I see sometimes,” mirrored by feather-light keyboard plinks that lead back into the yelps that send the track toward something as moving as a funeral or a wedding. It’s the happiest, loosest somber track of the year.
5. Rihanna ft. Jay-Z – “Umbrella (Remix)”
2007’s catchiest song about eternal friendship gobbled up the charts the first half of summer, and terrorized the shadiest to the slickest clubs long after that. But even with ella-ella-eh-eh haunting your hangovers, it’s hard to deny the near perfection of The-Dream’s pop cashcow, originally promised to Mary J. Blige and Britney Spears: Simple vocals with just enough Autotune, cruising over a staggered loop of Apple GarageBand drum machine. The track is better with the Jay-Z intro (“Let it rain / I hydroplane in the bank”), but on the original when Rihanna’s sweet little bridge cooing “You can run into my arms” crescendos into double-vocal, hi-hat madness? Cha-ching.
6. Panda Bear – “Bros”
So it jangles along for about seven minutes. Get over it. You’re entranced and you love it. Then the IndyCar interjections give way to Lennox’s slippery words and giggle-cries that sneak up on you like a floating cat. Before you know it, you’re bobbing your head around and tapping your leg with anything you can get your hands on. It came out of nowhere. Just like Lennox.