Making my annual top 10 Madison songs list takes me back to the days when I made mix tapes at Christmastime for friends. MP3s may not be the same, but assembling this list was as much fun. That's because these 10 tracks are just as inspiring as any long-lost 1980s cassette compilation.
So, Madison, here's my 2010 mix tape for you.
Count these tracks down as you read my list of the city's 10 best albums of 2010, and then check out my pick for the best Madison music video of the year, "Teach Me How to Bucky," by the precocious, smug and endearing Zooniversity.
1. Icarus Himself: "Digging Holes." From the indie-infused Mexico EP. The sad, sweeping horns are only part of its beauty.
2. The Rascal Theorist: "New Frequency." Not just a rare Madison soul song, but a great one.
3. Harmonious Wail: "Lagavulin Bay." Chris Wagoner's violin and Maggie Delaney-Potthoff's voice bring peace and pathos to this folky meditation.
4. DEF CREW: "Act Like U Never Feel the Rain." Set to a chord progression akin to "Let It Be," this Madison hip-hop group pitches emotional resistance.
5. Null Device: "Blow My Mind." It's reminiscent of the great electronic rock songs of Garbage.
6. MC Starr: "Corner Store." The 93.1 FM JAMZ DJ raps about forgetting stuff at the corner store with good humor and smooth beats.
7. The Projection People: "Spacefast." Madison went prog this year. Here's four minutes of the best of it.
8. John Statz: "Ghost Towns." Recession-informed roots-rock from a traveling musician who knows a ghost town when he sees one.
9. The Dirty Shirts: "Open Road." The most beautiful meandering lap steel I've ever heard in a Madison song.
10. Those Poor Bastards: "Glory Amen." This gothic country song might leave you afraid to go to church on Sunday.