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Surfer Blood, “Floating Vibes”

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Florida guys combine a Beach Boys-style surf tune with Nineties alt-rock riffs. Why didn't anyone think of this before?

Video: Breaking: Surfer Blood

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38

Spoon, “The Mystery Zone”

2010's most mesmerizing guitar groove — a dark, dubby burner with lyrics about basement gigs and lost love.

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37

Lloyd Banks feat. Juelz Santana, “Beamer, Benz, or Bentley”

Two New York badasses team up over the year's rawest beat to celebrate paying way too much in car insurance.

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36

Drake feat. Nicki Minaj, “Up All Night”

One of the year's great driving songs, with Minaj "doing doughnuts in a six-speed."

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33

Wavves, “Post Acid”

The San Diego trio turn in a sweetly psychedelic punk nugget: part Buzzcocks, part acid-damaged beach rock.

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31

Gil Scott-Heron, “I’m New Here”

The long-lost Seventies rap pioneer rasps his way through an acoustic version of a Smog ballad. He turns indie-rock melancholy into the darkest, deepest country blues.

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29

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, “The Trip to Pirate’s Cove”

A classic Petty road story, outfitted with black-ice organ and sneering guitar.

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28

Band of Horses, “Laredo”

A country-rock ballad about needing to get away, built around shimmering guitars that go on for miles.

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26

Robyn, “Dancing on My Own”

The Swedish diva spots her beloved with another girl — then turns her sadness into sparkling pop, perfect for solo freakouts.

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22

Rick Ross feat. Styles P, “B.M.F. (Blowin’ Money Fast)”

Ross flows like the Barry White of white powder on this lush drug-lord fantasia.

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18

Jenny and Johnny, “Scissor Runner”

Power pop finds its own George Burns and Gracie Allen. Her best borscht-belt joke? "I'll forgive you/If I outlive you."

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6

Mavis Staples, “You Are Not Alone”

A modern hymn, written by Wilco's Jeff Tweedy and sung with maternal assurance by the voice that once told you to "Respect Yourself."

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3

Sade, “Soldier of Love”

Nobody knows where Sade disappears to for years at a time between hits, but "Soldier of Love" proves she knows how to make a hell of a re-entrance. She sings about emotional devastation over a beat that mixes quiet-storm synths with acid-damaged riffs straight out of TV on the Radio's playbook. It's as close as she's ever come to blowing her cool.

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2

Cee Lo Green, “F**k You”

The title alone would have guaranteed hundreds of thousands of Web clicks. But Cee Lo didn't just say "Fuck you" — he said it with humor and serious panache. Despite the bummed-out lyrics, the Motown-style beat is DayGlo-bright, and Cee Lo's lovelorn lament doubles as an anthem for lean times: "If I was richer/I'd still be with ya/Ha, now ain't that some shit?"

Video: Cee Lo's Official "Fuck You" Video

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1

Kanye West feat. Pusha T, “Runaway”

It takes a special kind of dark, twisted genius to raise the white flag of surrender while raising a middle finger. Kanye West is that genius. "Runaway" is Kanye's musical response to the Taylor Swift affair, but it's much more than that: a nine-minute meditation on romantic failure and public infamy. Kanye creates a huge, eerie beat out of thunderous drums and plinking piano, and he turns the phrase "Let's have a toast for the douchebags" into a refrain nearly as catchy as "She loves you — yeah, yeah, yeah." In 2010, no other song was so crazily epic or jaw-droppingly gorgeous — not on the radio, not anywhere. Now, everyone raise your glasses.

Gallery: Kanye West's Career Highs — and Lows

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