Making summer mix CDs and playlists always gets me thinking about the first half of the year. As far as music goes in 2010, we've been pretty lucky; at least more lucky than with 2009. So here's my ten favorite singles of the first half of the year. Now go make your own mix.
 "Soldier of Love" by Sade
It's pretty much a lock now that if Sade decides to make and release music that it will be worth your time, even if a decade of trends and gimmicks have filtered through pop radio in the interim.
 "The High Road" by Broken Bells
I've always liked Danger Mouse's production tone, and his affinity for vintage keyboards and late 60's Pop meshes well with James Mercer's songwriting. I also like that Mercer has (a) emerged as a very distinct vocalist, and (b) that his songs are gloomy and broken-hearted on this set. The notion that the man behind a decade of sweet indie-pop songs might be slightly misanthropic is exciting to me, and "The High Road" is particularly melancholy and seething.
 "I'll Stand By Her" by Marvelous Darlings
OK, I admit it. I sometimes wish every band sounded like this - a perfect blend of snotty punk of the Replacements/Buzzcocks school and the power pop of the first three Cheap Trick albums. Fucked Up guitarist Ben Cook comes up with one the best of these kind of nuggets here, and since we've lost The Exploding Hearts and Jay Reatard, we can definitely use it.
 "Dancing on My Own" by Robyn
Even more than Sade, Robyn has become reliable. You can count on her to make interesting music. From a Pop perspective, she might be the closest thing to vintage-80's Prince we have today. I love the gender-confused chorus on this track.
 "Crown on the Ground" by Sleigh Bells
Yes, this came out last fall, but its album just came out, so I'm counting it. Besides a song this heavy-handed can dominate for a whole year if it wants. It's obnoxiously loud in all the best ways, sexy and sweet, but bullies your senses with piercing riffs. As much fun as the album is, this is still the duo's highlight so far.
 "Tighten Up" by The Black Keys
Like the album it's on, at first I really liked this song, but the more I listen to it, the more it becomes a serious kind of love. There is an effortlessness to the Keys this time out, and I love the soulful ease of all the songs on the new disc; the beats are especially tasty in a simple way. Oh, and my Dad thinks this song sounds like Bob Marley, but he's kind of crazy.
 "The Mighty Sparrow" by Ted Leo & The Pharmacists
Ted Leo has become one of my favorite artists because he's consistently awesome on record and even more so on stage. So when he comes out with songs like this, which will work perfectly in his live show, they usually end up with high play counts on my iPod. I truly believe this is one of his 5 best songs.
 "Drunk Girls" by LCD Soundsystem
Sometimes, James Murphy's David Bowie obsession gets to be a bit much ("All I Want" is a little too "Heroes" this time out), but when he mines Bowie's often overlooked Lodger sound, then I'm OK with it. The only song on the new LCD that sounds like a single happens to bear a welcome passing resemblance to Bowie singles like "DJ" and "Boys Keep Swinging", while also believing in waking up together.
 "Tightrope" by Janelle Monae (feat. Big Boi)
For a split second I thought I might be over the song. Nope. Still a masterpiece of Post-Funk Modern Pop. She might be crazy, but Monae's still making the music we all thought Prince or Andre 3000 would be making right around now. I'm waiting for the world to catch up.
 "Shutterbugg" by Big Boi (feat. Cutty)
What is internet-speak for the opposite of "epic fail"? Is it "Big Boi FTW"? If it is, then that's what I want to type here. This song so completely wins these past six months that it makes the rest of the music world look lazy (I'm wondering when the last time Dr. Dre sniffed a track this good was), while also putting my faith back in the Outkast machine. "Shutterbugg" packs the funk of "So Fresh, So Clean", the catchiness of "Ms. Jackson", and the jaw-dropping rewind-that highlight-reel feel of "B.O.B.". Andre 3000 loses purely from not doing anything, let alone something this great. If you hear this song coming this summer, it'll be me, bumping it loud as fuck in my car with the windows down. All. Summer. Long.