Unruly guitars and rowdy drums contrast well with graceful synths and front man Quinn Walker’s David Byrne–ish whine.
Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings
“100 Days, 100 Nights”
Buttery soul goodness featuring vocal power-house Sharon Jones and the band that made Amy Winehouse sound like Etta James not Des’ree.
“I Felt Stupid”
Defies the melancholy, ocean-at-sunset surf-pop cliché, instead going for bouncy, elated, heat-of-the-day euphoria.
A Place to Bury Strangers
“To Fix the Gash in Your Head”
Wall-of-sound psych-punk perfection that delivers a sense of impending danger; bad shit happens in a good way when this record’s on.
The Jordan Catalano of synth-pop songs, it’s melancholic, very pretty, and deliciously unformed.
“Chrome’s on It”
This avant-garde dance-track layers chant and sung vocals over gauzy electro noise and an assortment of chimes, whoops, and thumps; it’s willfully disoriented, but it works.
If all of the Ronettes’ ex-boyfriends formed a rival band, this is how it would sound: damaged, rebellious, and steeped in the heartbreak-healing power of rockabilly-tinged surf punk.
“Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell”
Gleefully stupid one-phrase rap track that’s also a subversive commentary on mind-numbing mall culture.
The Pains of Being Pure at Heart
“Young Adult Friction”
Indie-pop anthem with a maniacally joyful chorus; this is the song you put on the jukebox when you’ve decided to stay for one more round.
Hercules and Love Affair
Classic disco beats, both celebratory and sad, meet the unmistakable, warbling ache of Antony Hegarty’s voice.
Fans have long insisted these guys were making the most emotive music of their generation, but their brilliance was often obscured by alienating complexity. This song may sway the unconverted.
No. 9 Yeasayer
Earthy acoustic guitar, piano, and harp merge with aggressive drums and spacey atmospherics to create a nihilistic folk-rock jam that soundtracks to a weirdly enjoyable dark night of the soul.
“Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa”
They forged their Calypso-meets-Graceland sound at Columbia, but front man Ezra Koenig has roots in the grimy Brooklyn underground.
“Where Do You Run to”
Wherever he ran to, let him never come back! Wry but not bitter, VG’s signature tune is a balance of coolheaded punk rock with plaintive three-part harmonies.
Gang Gang Dance
The apex of GGD’s considerable incantatory powers. The trio uses synthetic noise, mystical vocals, and tribal rhythms to create something warm, wild, and definitively alive.
TV on the Radio
A Platonic embodiment of about 400 different genres. The untamed groan of an electro bass line merges with soul horns, rapturous gospel harmonies, and fey but ridiculously sexy vocals to create a chaotic but elegant sonic package.
“All My Friends”
The perfect song for every emotion on the spectrum: Ecstatic piano and guitar squeals inspire abandon on the dance floor, then wise lyrics console you as you try to put your life back together the next morning.
While still in college, this prodigious duo wrote a bunch of songs about the fantasy of rock stardom that turned them into rock stars; the shameless, arrested joy of this electro-pop–meets–King Crimson anthem demonstrates how that happened.
At once innovative and classic. GB weaves euphoric harmony with tremulous multi-instrumental production that’s remarkably intricate but never obscures the primal pop melody at the song’s core: “I told you I would stay / Would you always / Maybe sometimes / Make it easy / Take your time.”
“Stillness Is the Move”
A long-awaited convergence of David Longstreth’s two primary identities: hyperintellectual knob-twiddling composer and free-form pop hippie. The guy also knows how to pick a singer: Amber Coffman’s sweet but forceful vocal gives the song a wistful gravitas.