After a long weekend I’m back with the first half of my last 2011 wrap-up: Music. I dilly dallied on this one because I knew it would be tough. I’m much more up-to-date with music (mostly) but I listen to so damn much of it that I knew just figuring out what I listened to in 2011 would be a chore. As before, the contents of this list aren’t necessarily the music that came out in 2011, but the music I first heard and listened to in 2011. And as always, what follows is simply what I like, for whatever reason. Artistic merit or no.
25. Parachute – “Forever and Always”
I’m picking this song on narrative strength alone (not that I don’t really like the song otherwise). It’s so simple, and yet so devastating. I love the subtle lyrical variations on the chorus and how the song ends a capella.
24. Geographer – “Kites”
Falsetto male vocals over 8-bit chiptune with simplified percussion? Uh, get of my brain Geographer.
23. The Submarines – “Birds”
So sweet and airy. This was the perfect song for Spring.
22. Phantogram – “Mouthful of Diamonds”
This song is in no way new. And I’ve actually had it for well over a year but just never gave it a fair shake, or maybe it didn’t sit with me before. Not sure, but I love it now. And apparently so does every chick on Match.com. Sushi, travelling, and Phantogram. Every chick. Thanks, Noah. Tell your friend I think she’s super cute.
21. Kavinsky – “Wayfarer”
FACT: Listening to Kavinsky while you work will increase productivity 13-17%. FACT: Listening to “Wayfarer” will make you feel like you’re about to enter the Game Grid inside Tron. (If Kavinsky sounds familiar to you, it’s probably because his awesome jam “Nightcall” was featured prominently in Drive.)
20. Saves the Day – “O”
I tend to like one or two songs from any Saves the Day album, but Daybreak was a welcome surprise. A really solid album that sees Chris Conley maturing in both content and musicality. A standout track from a solid album (but what’s up with the 4-songs-in-1 opener?).
19. Matt and Kim – “Block After Block”
Confession: I can no longer listen to this song since Jason told me that the lead singer sounds like “Weird Al” Yankovic. But it spent almost all of 2011 on my playlist, surviving numerous cuts, so it earned a spot on the list. How can you say “no” to a song with equal parts chimes and dog barks?
18. Bad Meets Evil – “Lighters”
Despite the cloying Bruno Mars chorus (I guess Skylar Grey, Dido, Imogen Heap, etc were all busy?) I have to include this song for the strength of Eminem’s verse alone. It’s like verbal gymnastics. And again, chip tune beat. It’s also cool to hear Royce give props to Eminem. Oddly sweet, upbeat song.
17. Kevin Devine – “Carnival”
Pretty old song that I didn’t actually hear until early this year. It’s both haunting and catchy, which is an odd mix, and it has some great imagery (“see i tamed a lion once i stole his roar/ stripped his pride away but he found more/ so now he’s out to take what’s his and shove my future in my face/ and scare me back in my place”).
16. Deftones – “Sextape”
An ethereal, dreamy, slow-burn track about… uh, well sex, I suppose. But also possibly an acid trip or death. They’re kind of all the same thing when it comes to rock music.
15. Panic! at the Disco – “Memories”
Look, I don’t like admitting that I like Panic! at the Disco, but I do. Once you’ve gotten over the teeny-bopper, Hot Topic bullshit, they lay down pretty competent pop songs. In fact, I had a hard time picking my favorite track from this album.
14. Yatch – “Dystopia”
I go back and forth on this song, but any time I listen for more than a few seconds I remember how much I like it. The yo-yoing synth and crisp, repeated lyrics are practically hypnotizing. Unfortunately the rest of the album was a mess.
13. Matt Skiba – “I Can’t Believe You”
The Alkaline Trio front man puts out a very electronic, very serene F You track. Tune in for the delightfully autotuned vocals but stay for the lyrics. “Felt you in my bones/ You spread like a fracture” might be going in my Lyrics Hall of Fame.
12. Mae – “Sleep Well”
I wasn’t crazy about Mae’s final EP, but I’ll be listening to this song for a long, long time. It is beautiful. The perfect lullaby. It made the jump to my highly selective “Sleepy Time Playlist” where only the most beautiful, relaxing songs may live.
11. The Strokes – “Cover of Darkness”
I recently had TWO friends say in a conversation that they hated guitar solos. I could just sit and stare in disbelief, like shit had literally just dribbled out of their mouths. Still don’t understand. I wish the solo in this song was about 15 minutes longer than it’s overly brief 30 seconds. This song is every member of The Strokes doing what they do best. The album that followed? Notsomuch.
10. Holy Ghost – “Do It Again”
This song has white-boy swagger like no one’s business. At one point you almost think he’s going to say “with top down, screamin’ out, money ain’t a thang” and I’m not so sure the lyric in this song isn’t an homage to that. This song literally could have dropped in 1989 and I love that.
9. Patrick Stump – “Spotlight (Oh Nostalgia)”
Patrick Stump put out two versions of this song on YouTube and let his fans vote for which would go on the album. The other went on an EP (this one, coincidentally). Pretty cool. Stump is insanely talented, and I might lose cred for including him on this list, but F it. Check out his one-man-band live version of Spotlight. Good artist. Good pop album. Awesome voice.
8. Madeon – “Pop Culture”
Hey 17 year-old French kid, can you please put out an insanely catchy mash-up of every song I like? Thanks. Seriously, how can a 17 year-old have an ear for samples like this? I don’t care what you think about DJs and mash-up artists, this kid is legit. You can even watch him pound out all his samples in real-time. How bad-ass is Madeon? He’ll be at Coachella this year.
7. Breathe Carolina – “Black Out”
The first time you hear this song you wonder if it’s OK to like it. “Is this too poppy? Is this for 12 year olds?” The answers are yes and yes. Then you’ll listen again. And again. And again. This song is dance awesomeness and produced to the nines. Every solid night of drinking should start with this song. Just do yourself a favor and never, ever, ever look at the band. I have warned you.
6. The Limousines – “Very Busy People”
The rightful heirs to the MGMT Hipster throne, The Limousines are probably even better songwriters and as a bonus you don’t have to listen to their songs 50 times a night in every single bar in LA. Another entry for my Lyrics Hall of Fame: “I’ve got an iPod like a pirate ship/ I’ll sail the seas with 50,000 songs I’ve never heard.” And crazy bonus points for the Donnie Darko reference. Nice work guys.
5. M83 – “Midnight City”
You knew it was going to be on here. I guess 2011 was the year when everyone found out about M83. About damn time. From the squeaky synth opening to the vague “night life” lyrics, I’ve been all over this song since the day it leaked. Like any good hipster, I’m a little perturbed to see my baby hit the limelight, but I’m a good sport, and it’s good to see such an awesome, alternative song get the recognition it deserves.
4. Kids of 88 – “Just a Little Bit”
If you’ve yet to pick up on my love of heavy electronic dance pop, then you need to get your ears checked. I don’t know how two 20 year-olds making music in a bedroom in New Zealand can be this savvy, this confident, this… good, but it’s all right there in one of my favorite tracks of the year.
3. Studio Killers – “Ode to the Bouncer”
Entertainment Weekly has this little sidebar they do from time-to-time: if you like X, you’ll like Y. One week they said “If you like The Gorillaz, check out the Studio Killers’ ‘Ode to the Bouncer.'” I ripped out the page and got downloading. Subscription to EW renewed for life. Talk about an earworm. I think I listened to this song 10 times in a row and had it in my head for the next month. Did the world need another fake cartoon band after The Gorillaz? Apparently, yes. Their other track is almost as good.
2. fun. – “We Are Young ft. Janelle Monáe”
The pounding drums, the droning synth, the sing-a-long chorus. Holy Hell, even Glee can’t ruin this song for me. This song is so awesome that even the addition of Janelle Monáe can’t really kick it up a notch (but I’m glad they tried). Nate Ruess does the only thing he knows how to do and sings his balls off. The opening to that second verse (“Now I know that I’m not/ All that you got”)? Perfection.
1. Martin Solveig – “Hello”
Awesome long form video? Check. Female pop vocals? Check (courtesy of Dragonette). French club-banger? Check. Check. Check. This is just one stand-out track from an album full of great songs. Solveig more than capably makes the jump from DJ to artist, and the result is an unusually poppy dance take on the standard techno release you see from most DJs. When this track hits the air, even I have to hit the dance floor. And there are sequels to the awesome video.
Comments are open. Feel free to tell me what a hipster/genius/dumbass I am.
Part 2 coming soon! The crap!