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Top seven boy-girl duets of 2010

In a year defined by collaborations -- is there anyone Bruno Mars did not sing with? -- here are the most interesting records of 2010 that featured the partnering of male and female vocals. Indie rock performers especially recalled golden eras of boy-girl duets, the work of Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazelwood, Ian and Sylvia, and, dare we say it, Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes.

In a year defined by collaborations -- is there anyone Bruno Mars did not sing with? -- here are the most interesting records of 2010 that featured the partnering of male and female vocals. Indie rock performers especially recalled golden eras of boy-girl duets, the work of Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazelwood, Ian and Sylvia, and, dare we say it, Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes.

Here's a seven-song playlist of the year's finer efforts.

7. Beck and Bat For Lashes, "Let's Get Lost" A track from the "The Twilight Saga: Eclipse" soundtrack, it has an odd common ground with the Medley-Warnes hit "(I've Had the) Time of My Life." Obviously, it's from a film, but it also has a here-and-now sexiness, a throaty beckoning in the opening verse that leads to a mortised union of two voices. The dramatic arcs in both song are rather similar as well.

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6. She & Him, "Me and You"
M. Ward and Zooey Deschanel were cute and cuddly the first time around, and on their second album, "Vol. 2," Deschanel has come into her own, defining this duo as light, warm and breezy. "Home," which glides from gauzy to spry, demonstrated they are capable of producing fully realized recordings; "Me and You" is a piece of gorgeous country-rock.

5. Peter Wolf & Shelby Lynne, "Tragedy"
On the lead-off track to Wolf's impressive "Midnight Souvenirs," the former J. Geils Band frontman takes Lynne on a Stones-meet-Stax romp through a romantic break-up. Controlled anguish at its finest.

4. Codeine Velvet Club, "Hollywood"
The sort of record Phil Spector was trying to make in the 1990s with Starsailor, Jon Lawlor of the Fratellis and Lou Hickey roll against a wall of sound complete with the rolling drums, droning baritone sax and a chorus that leaps at the listener and rolls out the welcome mat. Simply masterful.

3. Fran Healy & Neko Case, "Sing Me to Sleep"
A peppy tune from Travis' chief songwriter-singer starts with a Roy Orbison-esque warmth that Case picks up on and fleshes out. There's just enough reverb on her voice to give the song a comfy bedtime feel.

2. Jenny & Johnny, "New Yorker Cartoon"
Jenny Lewis (Rilo Kiley) and Johnathan Rice have created one of the year's best albums in "I'm Having Fun Now," a collection of well-crafted, clever songs that owe debts to '70s SoCal canyon sounds, but which never get overwhelmed by those influences. "New Yorker Cartoon," jointly sung by the two with Johnny on top, has an air of effortless whimsy that is particularly appealing.

1. Isobell Campbell & Mark Lanegan, "Time of the Season"
Listing producer-songwriter-singer Lee Hazelwood as an influence became a bit of hipster lip service over the last dozen years or so. Campbell & Lanegan's "Hawk" is a superb realization of the Hazelwood touch. The flexibility of Mark Lanegan's voice -- he offers a brooding baritone on "Come Undone" -- is rooted in Hazelwood, with Campbell floating around him like an angel. "Time of the Season," though, is pure Hazelwood, from the acoustic guitar to the strings to the buoyant pace.

 

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