Saturday, December 31, 2011

Top 25 Songs of 2011

Although I felt the year was a little weak on the album side, there was an enormous number of great songs in 2011. In short order, I came up with about 50 candidates for song of the year. From there, I shrunk the list to 37. So, I have 12 songs, in no particular order, I'm placing in an honorable mention category at the bottom of my top 25. As usual, I didn't allow for artists to have more than one slot. It is, after all, an awfully short list. On with the countdown...

25. "Fly Baby, Fly"

The High Llamas
from 'Talahomi Way'

Sean O'Hagan is a genius, and I think his previous two albums were among his best in a long and impressive career. This one doesn't quite live up to that standard, but it was still exciting to get something new from a band that we only hear from every few years.

24. "Need You Now"

Cut Copy
from 'Zonoscope'

This Aussie electropop outfit has been around for years, but this was the first song I heard that really hypnotized me. Do I sense a little bit of OMD's 'Dazzle Ships' here?

23. "Through the Floor"

Crystal Stilts
from 'In Love With Oblivion'

"Shake the Shackles" is the best song on this album, but it was an earlier single that made my list last year. You have to hand it to Slumberland Records. They have a great ear for talent.

22. "Under Cover of Darkness"

The Strokes
from 'Angles'

No, they didn't make the album we all hoped for, but the fellas did show they could still create a catchy song.

21. "I Might"

from 'The Whole Love'

Some of you may not agree, but see No. 20.

20. "Ffunny Ffriends"

Unknown Mortal Orchestra
from 'Unknown Mortal Orchestra'

I know almost nothing about this band, but I would almost swear this auspicious debut is part of the lo-fi Elephant 6 collective. Nice find by the Fat Possum label.

19. "Stay Useless"

Cloud Nothings
from 'Attack on Memory'

Dylan Baldi is just a kid, but he's already got two well-received albums under his belt and a third one on the way next month. This first song from it is just sick. What did you do when you were a teen?

18. "Midnight City"

from "Hurry Up, We're Dreaming"

Frenchman Anthony Gonzalez has an unlikely hit on his hands. I could have done without this song being featured on a Victoria's Secret commercial. Don't you just hate when your channel surfing and a song you like shows up in an ad?

17. "Maracas"

Mates of State
from 'Mountaintops'

I'm late to the party that is Mates of State, but I'm making up for lost time. The husband-and-wife team makes my list for the second consecutive year, and it was a very tough call between this song and "Palomino."

16. "Should Be Gone"

The Feelies
from 'Here Before'

You would never know the post-punk band went 20 years between records. It's tough to say there is a standout song, but 'Here Before' is a true contender for the best album of 2011.

15. "Light Blue Afternoon"

Robyn Hitchcock
from 'Tromsø, Kaptein'

Hitchcock's love for Norway is well documented, but he took it a step further by releasing this album on a little-known Norwegian label. I went the extra mile and ordered the physical CD from across the pond. In hindsight, I would have just downloaded this song and the other gem, "Dismal City."

14. "Another Country"

Big Country
from "Another Country" single

My favorite band from my youth reunites without the late Stuart Adamson and returns to the sound that made them famous nearly 30 years ago. I never would have believed the addition of the Alarm's Mike Peters would work, but it has. I can't wait for the full-length album in 2012.

13. "Simpletons"

The Bats
from 'Free All the Monsters'

I have never owned an album by the Bats, but I took the time to listen to this song a few months ago because Robert Scott from the Clean is on the roster, and I have a soft spot for that New Zealand band. I quickly realized I have quite a bit of catching up to do.

12. "Checkout Time"

Nick Lowe
from 'The Old Magic'

I have been a Lowe fan all of my life. Well, not when I was three. This song (and the entire album) continues a nearly flawless streak that began with 'The Impossible Bird' nearly 20 years ago.

11. "Love Is Found"

from 'The Ultimate Collection'

When I'm president of the entire music industry, I'll have one rule. No new songs on best-of packages. Still, this one is way sexy.

10. "Up on the North Shore"

The Sea and Cake
from 'The Moonlight Butterfly'

Like the Sea and Cake of yesteryear, this is one is pure lounge. I can't tell you how many times I have ended my day to the elegant 'Moonlight Butterfly.'

9. "Sad Song"

The Cars
from 'Move Like This'

What an unlikely reunion and pure old-school... right down to the hand claps. Much of the album sounds like a followup to to the classic 'Heartbeat City.' This was the lone single.

8. "Hide Your Colors"

The Jayhawks
from 'Mockingbird Time'

Any song from the first half of this record could have made this list, but I went with the one with the most lush orchestration. Beautiful. It's great to hear Gary Louris and Mark Olson together again.

7. "Honey Bunny"

from 'Father, Son Holy Ghost'

I seem to be in the minority that their first album was better, but there were still plenty of bright spots, and this piece of pop was the brightest.

6. "Whirring"

The Joy Formidable
from 'The Big Roar'

Those with their ear to the ground know this song has been around since 2009, but it was re-released on 'The Big Roar,' this year's best debut album. It was so good that the Welsh trio got a major-label deal. Let's hope that's not the death knell. Appearing on the latest 'Twilight' soundtrack didn't help me with my uneasy feeling.

5. "Picture Sleeve"

The dB's
from the "Picture Sleeve" single

Back in the spring, this single was a 7" Record Store Day exclusive, and I snatched it up first thing that morning. It's great to hear the jangle-pop pioneers back together again. There will be a full-length album, 'Falling Off the Sky,' in 2012. Can't wait.

4. "Bad Feeling"

Veronica Falls
from 'Veronica Falls'

Yet another appearance by a band from the Slumberland stable. Throughout 2010, due to a couple of stellar singles, there was quite a blogosphere build up for the full-length debut. We were rewarded with some of the best boy-girl harmonies on the indie scene.

3. "Romance"

Wild Flag
from 'Wild Flag'

Carrie Brownstein of Sleater-Kinney fame is not fooling around with her new band. These gals are just about the hardest group you'll find on this list.

2. "My Mistakes"

Eleanor Friedberger
from 'Last Summer'

I hated the Fiery Furnaces so much that I'm not even sure how one half of that duo got a chance to be heard by me, but it was a happy accident, to be sure. No, I won't give Fiery Furnaces another chance, but I will look forward to future releases from this gal.

1. "Woods"

The Rosebuds
from 'Loud Planes Fly Low'

Six months ago I said this was the best song I had heard in 2011. I haven't budged on this point. We all wondered how divorce would change the duo. They definately got things sorted out on the professional level.

Honorable Mentions
"The World (Is Going Up in Flames)" by Charles Bradley
"Screws Get Loose" by Those Darlins
"Booty City" by Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears
"New Beat" by Toro Y Moi
"The Afterlife" by Paul Simon
"Modern Art" by Black Lips
"Get a Grip" by Spectrals
"Eve" by Reigning Sound
"If Not I'll Just Die" by Lambchop
"Already in Love" by Exene Cervenka
"Arrow-Pierced-Egg-Man" by Mike Watt
"Tigers" by Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks

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