Facebook R&B crooner Mario has been relatively quiet on the music front for…
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25. 'Alligator,' Tegan and Sara
This Canadian indie-pop sister act has figured out a winning formula: Use the nasality of their twinned voices for good, not evil. On 'Allligator,' they take this feature and put it to a mid-tempo beat to spread the notion that alligator tears are something that actually exist.
24. 'I and Love and You,' The Avett Brothers
The title track from their major-label debut doesn't beat around the bush: It's all about how hard it is to say,"'I love you." It crescendos around the idea of Brooklyn being a refuge of sorts, which might not be such a novel idea, but these Southern boys more than pull it off.
23. 'Relator,' Pete Yorn & Scarlett Johansson
Forget that Tom Waits tribute record: ScarJo is more than just an actress crossover attempt gone awry. Her duet with veteran singer-songwriter Yorn is a suave Serge Gainsbourg/Brigitte Bardot-inspired break-up song that has Yorn and Johansson's vocals cooperating quite nicely over a groovy confessional narrative.
22. 'Heads Will Roll,' Yeah Yeah Yeahs
The idea of Karen O singing "off with the heads" while ditching the heavy guitar riffs in favor of a more electro-dance groove seems like a risky move. But it works brilliantly and suggests that if she and her mates ever wanted to try to pull off electronica full-time, we'd be all ears.
21. 'My Girls,' Animal Collective
The 'Merriweather Post Pavilion' album showed a softer, more romantic side of the Collective, and 'My Girls' stands out as one of the most warped yet loving songs of 2009. When Panda Bear sings that material things don't mean anything and he just wants an adobe house for his wife and daughters, you just can't resist feeling something. Unless you're a robot or made out of stone. Cold, cold stone.
20. 'Cosmic Love,' Florence and the Machine
Bursting out onto the scene in 2009 with a swelling voice, Florence Welch quickly entranced us like Fiona Apple used to. 'Cosmic Love' is unapologetically grandiose in its orchestration and builds her voice up over layers with each passing minute, getting loud but not abrasive.
19. 'Islands,' The xx
'Islands' demonstrates that these Londoners avoided the modern-day cliché of recording their album after repeatedly listening to the Gang of Four. The xx are subtle with both their guitars and vocals, doing the boy/girl duet thing well -- this tune in particular works on a dark and seedy night as it does on a Sunday morning.
18. 'Black Hearted Love,' PJ Harvey and John Parish
In a move that returns Polly Jean to the more dirgy guitars of her '90s work (and to her longtime producer John Parish), 'Black Hearted Love' is classic Harvey: dark and twisted yet with a killer guitar hook that pairs well with her wailing on about taking us to a place where her black-hearted love exists. At this point, we'll go anytime, anywhere with her.
17. 'Kinda Like a Big Deal,' Clipse Feat. Kanye West
Whether or not the new Clipse record comes out this year remains to be seen. But at least we got 'Kinda Like a Big Deal,' and it's as hard-knocking as we've come to expect from the Virginia Beach, Va., duo. It's also contains a Kanye appearance that people don't hate -- and above all, that's worth celebrating.
16. 'Young Hearts Spark Fire,' Japandroids
A cursory glance would suggest Japandroids are a mess, but 'Young Hearts Spark Fire' is the Vancouver duo's most cohesive barrage of noise. There's something raw and emotive about this track: As much as it sounds depressing, there's a breath of hope that rings out in a way that can only be described as "droidstyle."
15. 'Baptized by Fire,' Spinnerette
Being christened by a burning sensation doesn't really sound optimal, but 'Baptized by Fire' moves through fast, driving synth lines that end up taking a backseat to Brody Dalle's vocals, where she talks about devils and sounds like a modern-day Siouxsie Sioux.
14. 'Ladies,' Lee Fields and the Expressions
After four decades as a journeyman soul slinger, Fields is finally getting the respect he deserves -- and he has done so by recording a fitting ode to the feminine gender. 'Ladies' sounds as retro and funky as when Fields always has, from back when it wasn't retro, and we're glad someone finally brought back the notion of ladies looking fine in the summertime this year. Feels like it's been forever.
13. 'The Mountain,' Heartless Bastards
Frontwoman Erika Wennerstrom's voice can be hit or miss as it hovers in the lower ranges, but on the title track of the Cincinnati group's third album, she balances it out with a hard-rocking, heavy guitar blues jam that stretches over five minutes. More so, 'The Mountain' is a simple reminder that classic rock guitar wails will never go out of style.
12. 'Help I'm Alive,' Metric
Emily Haines' vocal style is perfect for anything dance related, and her Toronto-based band has essentially crafted a near-perfect dance song. 'Help I'm Alive' shifts through tempos, builds on layers of guitars and keys, and has a signature repetitive line in "My heart is beating like a hammer." Really, that's all you need.
11. 'You Belong With Me,' Taylor Swift
Although it's hard to imagine that Swift is the "other girl" and not the object of some boy's attention, here she taps into those days of high school like no one else did this year, crafting a song of lament that every alt-girl probably has identified with at some point in her life.
10. 'Scarlet Fields,' The Horrors
These Brits are awesome because they clearly listened to a ton of Jesus and Mary Chain, and there's nothing remotely wrong with that. 'Scarlet Fields' is a bass-driven rocker that blurs New Wave and shoegaze, and is the perfect antidote to anything involving sunshine.
9. 'French Navy,' Camera Obscura
Glasgow's finest combo captures it perfectly here: a hooky, '60s Motown-inspired song, complete with a grand string section and Tracyanne Campbell's throwback, airy singing of her confessionals, which reveal her as a bit of a control freak. In a good way, of course.
8. 'Two Weeks,' Grizzly Bear
People love this Brooklyn band for many reasons, but above all because they've become masters at vocal harmony -- and 'Two Weeks' demonstrates that fully. The song is simple but not simplistic psychedelia, with Ed Droste's and Daniel Rossen's voices creating this high/low effect that swirls around a basic piano riff and stuttering guitar line. It's haunting -- but not at all scary.
7. 'Paparazzi,' Lady Gaga
It's a love ditty for the celebrity-obsessed, and it defines the rapidly expanding career of one Lady Gaga. She assured us it was OK to 'Just Dance' and continually reinvented her 'Poker Face,' but this sinister-sweet paen to the pop culture romance is Gaga's high concept summed up with harmonies.
6. 'Little Bird,' Eels
Taken from the forthcoming record 'End Times,' 'Little Bird' is Mark Oliver "E" Everett's best ballad in years. Melancholy doesn't get any better than comparing love lost to a tiny bird flitting around a porch. The instrumentation is sparse and sad, and the lyrics are punctuated with a well-timed 'Goddamn' throughout, making this a lovely exercise in the morose.
5. '1901,' Phoenix
This is the year this French act will remember for one thing: They finally broke into the big time, thanks in part to '1901,' a song that marks getting up for last call as an anthemic process. And it should be: Phoenix tap into those last-minute, last-hour feelings of desperation in a way that's chic instead of anxiety-ridden.
4. 'Empire State of Mind,' Jay-Z
New York icon? Check. Song about New York, riffing on another New York icon? Check check. Fellow New Yorker Alicia Keys helping out? Sure, why not. All these things make up Jay-Z's killer single, which serves as one of the best odes to the city that never sleeps in a long time.
3. 'Fables,' The Dodos
Sounding like a long-lost Beatles track, 'Fables' showed us that the Dodos weren't just two dudes from San Francisco content to bang around instruments as loud and fast as possible; they also have a pop sentimentality that reflects not only a knowledge of the '60s but an elemental yet mature approach to writing a love song.
2. 'This Tornado Loves You,' Neko Case
Anything involving one of popular music's best voices comparing herself to a destructive meteorological force would surely get our attention. Case channels that fireball energy through an uptempo, winding country-rock tune that raises her swoon factor several notches from where it once was.
1. 'Standing on the Shore,' Empire of the Sun
Former Sleepy Jackson frontman Luke Steele's Australian electropop duo takes an ethereal '80s inspiration to a higher plane on the title track to what he's described as a "spiritual road movie." But don't just take our word on how 'Standing on the Shore' has a transforming effect on those who hear it: Jay-Z came across the song on an episode of HBO's 'Entourage' and insisted that Steele appear on his 'Blueprint 3' album.