Monday, December 19, 2011

25 Best Songs of 2011

2011. Great year for music. These were my favs.

Best of 2011 Mixtape available on iTunes with Ping

25) "Civilian" -- Wye Oak
A last minute addition to my list, Celia recommended this band last week and I'm in love. Eerie lyrics, "I keep my baby teeth in a bedside table with my jewelry," and folky instrumentation make this one to be noticed.

24) "Video Games" -- Lana Del Rey
One of the most contended and disputed artists of the year, Lana Del Rey has garnered attention from both sides. The hipster community is up in arms over her undeniably manufactured Hollywood image, and while she seems a strange face for indie rock, this song is undeniably haunting and beautiful.

23) "Michael Jackson" -- Das Racist
This hilarious stream of consciousness verse and infectious beat made this song one of our most blasted in the dressing room at Papermill. Best enjoyed while shake weighting at intermission. #truth

22) "Stay Young, Go Dancing" -- Death Cab for Cutie
The release of this song coincided with my arrival to Seattle, the hometown of Death Cab, and whenever played is always surrounded with good memories.

21) "We Will All Be Changed" -- Seryn
I'm obsessed with the rich and creative vocal arrangement/harmonies on this track.

20) "The Honest Truth" -- Typhoon
There's supposedly an astonishing 17 musicians and singers performing "The Honest Truth" on Typhoon's album. Unsurprisingly, the end result is a spirited, boldfaced, communal sound. Loved it upon first listen and not sick of it 50 times later.

19) "Tree By The River" -- Iron & Wine
Iron and Wine's "Kiss Each Other Clean" was the first great album of the year. Often times artists evolve and lose what made us love them in the first place but Iron & Wine is the perfect example of how to expand your sound without losing your voice.

18) "Don't Stop" -- The Dodos
"No Color" is probably my favorite of The Dodos's recent albums. Their musicianship is unparalleled and nimble guitar playing, particularly on this cut, is pretty much mind blowing.

17) "You Know What I Mean" -- Cults
I love the 60's girl group throw back sound of The Cults hip new release. This is the song featured during Courtney Reed's infamous popsicle eating scene on my 4th of July Blog.

16) "Sometimes It Happens" -- Wilco
A bonus track off of their newest release, this song deftly explores the ebb and flow of friendships and relationships. Listening to this song this fall, I found myself getting kind of sad about the friends I've lost contact with.

15) "Wonderful (The Way I Feel)" -- My Morning Jacket
A heartfelt ballad that is a refreshing detour from My Morning Jacket's rock blasting sound. "Wonderful" is truly gorgeous.

14) "Time Spent In Los Angeles" -- Dawes
For the most part I quite enjoyed my time spent in Los Angeles, though I have to say Dawes perfectly captures "that special kind of sadness" that anyone who's spent time on the West Coast has felt. . . Sitting in your apartment alone. . . Waiting for your agents to call. . . Stuck in traffic on the 405. Yup. Folk lyric writing at its finest.

13) "Mamma Knows Best" -- Jessie J
Anyone who knows me knows I have a special weakness for Jessie J. I've followed this girl for 3 years on her quest to make it big in the music industry and despite a lot of criticism for the incredibly accessible pop music, I'm sorry, but there is no denying that she has one of the most spectacular voices in the music world. This track marked her American television debut when she appeared on SNL. Sexy, soulful and screemin', she made the world damn sure that Jessie J was not just another manufactured pop star.

12) "Sleep Forever" -- Portugal. The Man
Although its name implies some light listening, this Alaskan group's single is as rousing as any song this year.

11) "Made In America (feat. Frank Ocean)" -- Jay-Z & Kanye West

Probably the best rap album of the year belonged to the industry's two heaviest hitters. The album contained some surprisingly poignant turns. It was refreshing to see that this track also had a hook infectiously sung by newcomer, Frank Ocean (see. "Novacane"). At the end of the day don't we ALL want to know if our efforts are making ripples? That we've made it in America? #deepstuff #yo

10) "Fade and Then Return" -- William Fitzsimmons
I search for new music in many places--culture blogs, music magazines, record stores. Yeah, this is not the case when it comes to William Fitzsimmons's stunning tune. Earlier this year I was pointed towards an online NSFW art(sy) video series (see. Black Spark Films) in which this song was used as background music. Yep. I may have Shazamed a porn to find out the artist's name. Glad I did.

9) "Super Bass" -- Nicki Minaj
Probably my favorite pop tune of the year. I adore Nicki Minaj's schizophrenic rap personality and infectiously naughty hooks. It should also be noted that I could recite this entire song verbatim months before those two little girls on Ellen could. They've got me beat on "cute" though.

8) "Down In the Valley" -- The Head and the Heart
I discovered this band in the local section of a record store in Seattle. Confident and melodic, "Down in the Valley" really is folk-pop at its best. Look for these guys to become a standard among new American artists.

7) "We Are Young (feat. Janelle Monáe)" -- fun.

I heard this song the day it was released and was sure it would become the official indie theme song for my NEWSIES cast. Of course, GLEE used it a few weeks later and I lost ALL street cred for having found such a great tune. While it's sad that most people know the GLEE cast version rather than the fiercely sung fun. & Janelle one, I applaud them on breaking through with such a mega-hit.

6) "We Don't Eat" -- James Vincent McMorrow
The most heart-achingly beautiful song of the year came as a recommendation from my dear friend, Angela. Ireland hasn't put out a singer/songwriter this vocally arresting since Damien Rice.

5) "This Is Why We Fight" -- The Decemberists
A true anthem for the underdog! It seems no co-incidence that "This Is Why We Fight" was released in a year that brought such powerful memes and movements such as The Egpytian Riots, THE HUNGER GAMES, Occupy Wall Street and um....NEWSIES :P If you're not inspired to take up a cause after this tuner, you're probably not paying attention.

4) "Losers" -- The Belle Brigade
I'm realizing that many of the songs in my top 10 are anthems of sorts. Well this is no departure. "Losers" is a powerful melodic tuner about rejecting the social norms placed on our backs. It's impossible not to bob your head to it. I also love that it's a brother and sister duo. They've got such an intense blend that it's hard to tell where one voice stops and the other begins.

3) "Gangsta" -- tUnE-yArDs
By far my favorite new artist of the year is Merril Garbus (AKA tUnE-yArDs). I wouldn't be surprised if she tops more "album of the year" lists than any other singer this December. She is kooky, creative, original and a hell of a singer. tUnE-yArDs is a smorgasbord of sounds stacked and looped on top of each other. Her voice sits somewhere strangely between Tom Waits and Mariah Carey and everywhere in between. This song seems a great pick for her best track, but nearly every song on her album is wacky perfection.

2) "Holocene" -- Bon Iver

When Bon Iver announced his first major release, I was a mixed bag of nervous excitement and anticipation. His previous indie release, "For Emma, Forever Ago" is, in my opinion, one of the best albums of this decade so expectations were naturally pretty high. Thankfully, he has delivered a collection of songs so mesmerizing that they've met not only critical acclaim, but commercial success (see. Grammy nominations, 2011). While nothing on the album can quite surpass the beauty of "Re: Stacks" from his first album, "Holocene" with its lyrical depth, brilliant orchestrations, and ear-pleasing vocals is pretty darn close.

1) "Helplessness Blues" -- Fleet Foxes
Once in a great while a song will stop you dead in your tracks and force you to examine your life and your role on this earth. For me, "Helplessness Blues" was that song. An instant classic, this song became the yardstick to which I measured every other song this year. At five minutes, this song does what music is meant to do--make you feel and experience an idea in a way that could not be expressed in any other medium. Perfection.

Honorable Mentions: "Midnight City" -- M83, "Mine Is Yours" -- Cold War Kids, "King of Diamonds" -- Motopony, "Vomit" -- GIRLS, "One and Only" -- Adele, "Countdown" -- Beyoncé, "Novacane" -- Frank Ocean


Erika said...

Thank you, Andrew, for being my primary exposure to new music for the last couple years. Happy Holidays!

Caitlin :) said...

Thanks for introducing some of these artists to me! I loved them all! You have a great taste in music :)