I felt out of touch with music in 2010: a tricky proposition, as I was filing columns on it three times a month. But the shape of it felt, and still feels, indistinct. I could hear interesting things but no longer felt confident in attaching them to wider ideas or putting names to trends – and was still enough of a creature of the UK music press to think those things mattered. Here’s what survives for me.

THESE NEW PURITANS – “We Want War”: A rare thing by 2010, almost extinct now – the big statement artrock single. These New Puritans were scrappy post-punkers who suddenly reinvented themselves with an extraordinary new sound – part 17th century chamber music, part dancehall, telling a story of the old unquiet ghosts of England. YES.

ARCADE FIRE – “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)”: Another enjoyable surprise of 2010 – a band I’d entirely written off suddenly deciding to make a “Heart Of Glass” new wave disco banger about feeling caught between the city and the suburbs, a subject which gnawed at me as a fairly recent arrival in Zone 6. The band are not built for groove in the traditional sense, and their gleeful clunkiness here is infectious. YES.

THE-DREAM – “Yamaha”: One of the few acts on this list I wrote about professionally – The-Dream eventually DMed me with an “I just want to talk” message about a decade-previous lukewarm review of the LP after this one. Weirdness aside, the guy had a moment of extreme heat and this is one of two all-timer songs from this era (the other, the untouchable “Fancy”, was scheduled for my Uncool50 but it was never actually a single). The-Dream’s Prince worship is gloriously evident here. YES.

GIRL UNIT – “Wut”: What was I actually listening to in 2009-10? A lot of it was this UK bass/dubstep-adjacent dance music, thick with low-end texture, centred on the Night Slugs label and the “Purple” scene of Bristol-based artists. The exact tracks I was deeply into have been lost to time, memory and hard drive catastrophes – I should do some excavation. “Wut” was always the scene’s most famous tune though, a succession of splintered climaxes. YES.

MY CHEMICAL ROMANCE – “Na Na Na (Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na)”: AKA The One With Grant Morrison In The Video, appropriately as this is MCR at their most comic book, a collection of hot phrases that would pop on the page strung together over glammy hard rock. There’s even a Batman cameo! NO.

ALICIA KEYS – “Try Sleeping With A Broken Heart”: There’s a lot of early 10s pop doing what this does – a singer contemplating her situation over a single big drum loop – and quite a bit of it has found its way into this longlist. At the time it was the big-hair and shoulder-pads chorus I really fell for, though. Still great but a bit clumsy compared to some later iterations. NO.

MANIC STREET PREACHERS – “Postcards From A Young Man”: Has the comforting meat-and-potatoes stomp of Morrissey in his solo prime, except listening to James Dean Bradfield take stock of his (or Nicky Wire’s) youth is a lot more palatable than hearing Spiked-era Moz talk about anything – and a more honest self-reflection, too. NO.

DIDDY DIRTY MONEY ft SKYLAR GREY – “Coming Home”: Speaking of self-reflection, Diddy’s Last Train To Paris LP as part of his Dirty Money project was a hugely unexpected turn to quality in a career known for ostentation. Not that “Coming Home” isn’t ostentatious – it’s a vast, chest-beating, closing-credits epic which smuggles in some honestly touching sentiment, Diddy looking in the mirror and realising it’s time to grow up a bit. (Did he? No idea). YES.

JAMIE WOON – “Night Air”: Woon’s nocturnal meander is clammy and sickly, but still really gets the crepuscular vibe of being out by yourself in the dark and cold. NO.

YUNG HUMMA ft FLYNT FLOSSY – “Lemme Smang It”: “I like to mix it up. I like to do stuff.” Sadly leaving this one off the shortlist as it would simply be unfair on all other jams in the poll and would only create feelings of inadequacy as those performers try to keep pace with the Turqoise Jeep. NO.

MARCOS CABRAL & SHUX – “A Lifetime Groove”: Can it be… the long-ass dance track? It can! A shining jewel of the late 00s/early 10s Balearic revival (though let’s face it, there’s always a Balearic revival going on somewhere), turning an old New Edition song into a deeply relaxed poolside epic. YES.

KATY B – “Katy On A Mission”: If “Night Air” is the feeling of emerging at 3AM onto crisp, chilly, empty streets, “Katy On A Mission” is the feeling of pushing through the fuggy heat of bodies in the club, feeling and hearing sound muffled by walls and people. YES.

Onto 2011, with my music writing side hustle coming to a natural end, and fewer tracks on this longlist than any time since 2005. (But there are some real greats)

PJ HARVEY – “The Words That Maketh Murder”: I’d long since reached the point where I figured I’d never really enjoy another PJ Harvey record and then suddenly she came back with my favourite album of the year, and of her career, and this quietly savage song about war and the impotence of the international order. YES.

AZEALIA BANKS ft LAZY JAY – “212”: Those moments when a song came out and it seemed like everyone was talking about it were rare in the 2010s, and when they did happen they often felt stage-managed by some massive artist machinery. But this was one of them, from nowhere to everywhere – the beat (thanks Lazy Jay!), the sweater, the swearing, the everything. YES.

NICKI MINAJ – “Starships”: Lot of big room EDM pop around – Nicki Minaj seemed to stake her career on it, and won: “Starships”‘ is a lowest common denominator hands in the air stomp, but it has a determination to be absolutely fucking huge that a lot of even major singles lack. NO.

NICOLA ROBERTS – “Lucky Day”: The last truly great Girls Aloud related song, maybe the last great Xenomania-affiliate track, too – taking Nicola Roberts’ shrillness and turning it into a vibe of desperate optimism, quivering on the edge of mania. YES.

NADIA OH – “Kate Middleton”: Call it by its name – “Taking Over The Dancefloor” indeed. Probably the crassest pop record of the 21st century, so in your face it makes “Starships” sound like The Hissing Of Summer Lawns. Enormously divisive among critics, some of whom abhorred its apparent endorsement of the parasitic royals, some of whom just found a robot choir going “W-WE SWAGGINGTON” a sign of pop’s end times. Obviously it’s a YES.

PACHANGA BOYS – “Time”: May be the final entry in the long-ass dance track sweepstakes, and the longest ass one of all (unless you’re counting “Little Drummer Boy”). Future releases have extended the exquisitely mournful sweep of “Time” beyond even these 15 minutes. YES.

Halfway through in years, over halfway through in tracks – but 2012 is another huge year coming up.