Annual semi-data-driven favorite songs list

Posted by Rob Walker on January 2, 2011
Posted Under: Music

Once again: It’s a new year, so it’s time to take a semi-data-driven look back at my 10 favorite songs of the year just ended. (I have previously conducted this empirical/subjective exercise for 2007, 2008, and 2009. )

Here’s the top ten. Number-crunching follows.

[table id=5 /]

As always: I start out by seeing which songs I played most often, per iTunes data. And I cross-match that with my one-out-of-five-stars ratings, and tweak accordingly.

There’s no question that “Liquor Pang” and “Heart of Steel,” in addition to dominating the most-played count, were my top two of 2010. My third-most-played song, “Lever Pulled Down,” by Sam Phillips, got 19 listens, yet my subjective cross-check bumped it out of the top 10. It’s good, but … Well anyway, the only other song I bumped was “Baby Don’t Go,” by Dum Dum Girls. (Also “good, but…”) I made room for “Snowden’s Jig” and “Fuck You” — the latter being the most questionable call. I really loved it the first time I heard it, but despite the lowish play count, I’ve heard it probably too much since via other non-quantified sources, and I have doubts about whether I’ll continue to enjoy it. Maybe if I wait five years.

Anyway the rest of  the list pretty much tracks out.

Some random notes:

  • Looks like I added about 1,300 songs to my iTunes in 2010, about 350 of which were actually released in 2010. Last year I did a breakdown where I integrated non-current releases with current releases, but this year I don’t have time.
  • I do also use Pandora, but not really in a way that results in hearing a lot of current music there. I bring it up because that’s one of a number of examples of ways I might hear music that’s left out of this exercise.
  • I came upon “Blue Gowns” by way of Hype Machine, which I’d never really played with until last year. It was probably the only thing I heard via Hype Machine I that I think I would otherwise have missed.
  • “Daydream” is something I heard via Popcop.
  • The Corin Tucker Band album is great through-and-through. The Galactic album is also full of great stuff, and if you’re writing them off as a lame-o “jam band,” it’s your loss. I have zero interest in “jam band” music, but that’s not what this record is, at all.
  • I feel bad that nothing from the Los Lobos record made the top ten; it’s also very good all the way through. Similar feelings about Girl Talk’s new one.
  • A very late entry this year that might have made the cut under different circumstances is the most recent Mexican Institute of Sound EP; I only bought it a few weeks ago, but at least two songs (“Territorio” and “Educación”) are clearly five-star-worthy.
  • One more in the sort of honorable mention category: “Repetition As Culture Force,” by Sherbe, which I heard via Disquiet. Recommended.

As last year, I thought it would be interesting to use Normalisr to see which artists I spent the most time listening to in 2010. (Normalisr pulls listening data from LastFM.) The results:

[table id=6 /]


  • I’m glad I went through with this phase of the exercise again, as it reinforced my general feeling about the Los Lobos, Girl Talk, and Corin Tucker records noted above.
  • No surprise that Elvis C. wins once more.
  • I hope Cousin Lymon is happy to see the Kinks put in a stronger showing.
  • Speaking of Cousin Lymon, I think he’s the reason for the Moritz von Oswald Trio listening. Thanks for that, C.L.
Further diversion may be found at MKTG Tumblr, and the Consumed Facebook page.

Reader Comments

Nice to see the Chocolate Drops on your list!

Written By Susan on January 3rd, 2011 @ 10:38 pm

Thanks for the nod, mr. bro jangles. I stand by the Moritz von Oswald Trio. I think it’s a great album, one that will stand the test of time. I would have to say Last American Hero by James Ferraro is also at the top of my best of list for 2010, even though the original cassette came out in 2008. The reissue was 2010 anyway. And Rush Hour’s reissue of Virgo’s album is up there as well. Just about anything by Jamal Moss. And say what you will, but Zola Jesus’ Valusia and Stridulum ep’s received lotsa play around here. Madam Lymon even got with the spirit on those ones. Rare, indeed.

Written By cousin lymon on January 4th, 2011 @ 1:22 am

Von Oswald Trio was a great tip, C.L. Will check out the others; thx as always.

Written By Rob Walker on January 4th, 2011 @ 7:19 am


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