Year-Ender: My Top 10 Retro Songs

Looking back to the year that has been, I realize that 2010 has been generous to me. By far, it’s my most musically exploratory year, with all the .mp3, .aac and .wav files, CDs, concerts and gigs. I immersed myself in the music of the late 70s and 80s, which I’m not biologically a part of. Nevertheless, the music lives on in me, leaving a mark on my entire consciousness and the music I make. Hence, this year-ender post is dedicated to ten of the best retro songs I encountered in 2010.

It’s the end of another decade and time keeps moving, but let’s treat music as we would wine: as the years go by, it just keeps getting better. Cheers to music past, and future. So long 2010, hello 2011.

10 | Regret – New Order

The first thing that caught my ear was the guitar riff. It was tastefully bittersweet. Layered on Gillian’s thickening synth pad with the bass notes hitting the upper frets, the song takes off and you along with it quickly. With the sound of Joy Division in mind, you’ll have to wonder and awe at the contrast in their sound.

9 | Dreaming – Blondie

Before Paramore and No Doubt, there was Blondie. Before Hayley and Gwen, there was Debbie Harry. The audacity of the drumming, guitars and Debbie’s vocals all light up the stage in colors bright and shining. The 80s was just around the corner.

8 | Too Shy – KajaGooGoo

About the video, I noticed three things: the muscle shirts, the hair do, and the futuristic-looking drum set (why can’t we have drum sets like that today?). The entire video actually counts as a relic of the period: the decoration, colors and the dance floor. The smoke, too. As for the recording, I’ll have to admit the quality of how the song was crafted and its production value. Very cleanly made, such that the sound is crisp and clear. Oh, and the chorus hasn’t quite worn off my memory yet.

7 | Space Age Love Song – A Flock of Seagulls

The atmospherics provided by Michael’s pads and Paul’s delays make for great effect. The lyrics are sparse and repetitive and I suppose minimalism is intended. The first time I saw what the band looked like, I was wondering if they had based their band name on their front man’s hair, or the other way around–a seagull seemed to be on his head. Nevertheless, they remain one of my all-time favorite synth rock bands.

6 | I Don’t Want Your Love – Duran Duran

New romantics Duran Duran nail this song with a dynamic drum beat (which has turned into a classic) and a powerful chorus. Their flashy music video is perhaps a manifestation of the glitz, glamor and fame they were enjoying during the time. Am I the only one who thinks that Simon Le Bon looks like Tom Cruise at certain shots and angles here?

5 | Don’t Get Me Wrong – The Pretenders

I appreciate videos that complement a song with a narrative. Here, I find Chrissie Hynde’s participation and acting adorable. Watching her being chased around in a convertible (a red one at that), and then dramatically walking the bridge at 2:51 melts my heart. Pay attention to the song, too. “Don’t get me wrong/if I come and go like fashion/I might be great tomorrow/but hopeless yesterday” proves to be witty bits of poetry, and the bass playing stacatto quarter notes adds irresistible appeal.

4 | Dazzle – Siouxsie & the Banshees

Keeping in mind that Siouxsie & the Banshees are a post-punk/goth band, this song came as a pleasant surprise. The strings caught me off-guard and so did the rest of the song. The surrealism and mysticism of Susan’s lyrics shine through with the reverb of her vocals, tom-based drumming, and fuzzed bass. Her glittery outfit, make-up and dance add nostalgic and artistic value in the music video. The world should’ve paid more attention to these guys.

3 | Gold – Spandau Ballet

In my early teen years, I disliked the 80s for the reverb-infused drums and vocals but the influx of musical experience changed my perception and preference. Now, the characteristics I mentioned are some of the things I like about it. Tony Hadley’s potent voice is the main driving force of the song with its full effect coming at the chorus, whose lyrics are empowering and melody is contagious. This is also the first instance that I’ve encountered a saxophone solo with delay effects.

2 | Transmission – Joy Division

“Dance, dance, dance, dance, dance to the radio.” There’s something about the aura exuded by this band and their music that tantalizes me. Ian Curtis’ spastic dance on stage along with his baritone vocals, the guitar-like execution of bass lines, enveloping percussions and guitar riffs take the listener to another dimension. Transmission is just one of my myriad Joy Division favorites. I got a Love will Tear Us Apart shirt as my first-ever band shirt. How cool is that? I wish I were transported to a Manchester pub in 1979 for a night to see them play a gig.

1 | The Robots – Kraftwerk

When I was much younger, I saw Michael Jackson’s Thriller and was naturally frightened by it. Years later, when his works were being honored in This is It, I realized that it was a bold artistic endeavor. I thought it was pretty out-of-the-box. But then I saw this. My definition of out-of-this-world changed forever. It was unlike anything I had seen before. I used to know Kraftwerk as an electronic group (and an influence of Coldplay) but that was it. I didn’t know they’d act like robots for a video, with the lack of special and visual effects back in the day. In the end, Kraftwerk are to be saluted. Their internalization and integration of art forms is one of a kind. Their portrayal of computers taking over humanity is a rather precise foreshadowing of the 21st century.

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