2011 has been a pretty blah year musically, but I somehow managed to scrape together a couple of lists for you. First up, the 20 songs that I loved most in 2011. Including a country song, a Rihanna song, and Eurovision.
Yes, you can take my cool person card away now.
20. The Band Perry “If I Die Young”
Rarely does new country music catch my ear. Also, I hate Lauren Alaina. But hearing her sing this on American Idol made me search it out, so powerful was my reaction to the song. It’s a poignant track of the death of a young person matched with clever songwriting and a sweet bluegrass melody. These three siblings are ones to watch.
19. David Cook “Circadian”
It’s by far the most adventurous song on Cook’s second album. If this is the direction he’s going to, I can’t wait to see what happens next.
18. PJ Harvey “Let England Shake”
I love Polly Jean with the fire of a million suns. This song, the title track from her 2011 Mercury Prize winning album, is all sweet little girl vocals, Casio keyboard chords, and autoharp, but it works so beautifully together you can’t help but love every moment of it.
17. Austra “Beat and The Pulse”
I am a bit in love with this band at the moment, with its cool take on new wave that is almost clinical. “Beat and the Pulse” sounds like Duran Duran filtered through Kraftwerk, with a splash of Kate Bush just for good measure. Stunning.
16. Rihanna “We Found Love”
Every year Rihanna comes out with a new album. Every year I tell myself that she’s nothing, a mere pop music factory with little talent and autotune. Then I hear the first single and all my resolve crumbles. “We Found Love” especially hits deep, as some one who has suffered through troubled, abusive relationships. We found love in a hopeless place indeed.
15. Poli Genova “Na Inat”
God damn you, Eurovision, for making me love a song from some young Bulgarian rocker chick that I cannot understand as it’s in Bulgarian but remains permanently stuck on repeat in my head. Damn you, damn you, damn you. I’m still pissed off this song and the Turkish entry weren’t advanced to the final, and the Moldovan song was. Argh!
14. The Horrors “Still Life”
I am always amazed how songs sink into your life. While listening to albums this week, I bought a couple more on the advice of some Twitter peeps, and the Horrors were among them. This bold meeting of My Bloody Valentine with Echo and the Bunnymen is mind blowingly good. Even the video looks like something out of Loveless era.
13. Radiohead “Lotus Flower”
12. Jay-Z and Kanye West “Otis”
I just love this song, in spite of the braggadocio and nonsense about private jets. But then again, all it takes is a little Otis to make me forget you’re acting like a prick.
11. Lady Gaga “Yoü and I”
Say what you will about Lady Gaga, the girl can create moments. Leaps and bounds ahead of the rest of her 2011 album, this song was an instant classic the minute Haley Reinhart opened her mouth to sing it on Idol and Gaga followed with a performance of it the following week. Beautiful piano, screamtastic chorus, just… so incredible. Everyone needs to get off their hipster high horses and embrace the Gaga.
10. Lonely Island featuring Michael Bolton “Jack Sparrow”
The surprising thing about Lonely Island is that for a comedy act, they make pretty good music. This song, mocking the OTT love songs poor Michael Bolton has sung through out his career, deserves this spot for two reasons. One, it really is an incredibly crafted song with great raps from Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer, and Jorma Taccone. Two, Michael Bolton sings the line ” This whole town’s a pussy waiting to get fucked”. Every time I hear it, I begin to howl. See, in order to become cool, dear sir, you had to get away from the “Time, Love, And Tenderness” bullshit and be freaking hilarious. Now back to the good part.
9. Florence and the Machine “Shake It Out”
I love this ginger-haired minx with the expressive voice and Kate Bush aspirations. It was my love for Florence Welch that lead me to reevaluate the “Wuthering Heights” songstress. This song, with its gospel organ, and Welch’s incredible voice, soars above almost everything else 2011 had to offer.
8. Bon Iver “Calgary”
Justin Vernon’s catharsis of a band released their second album in 2011, and the lead off single was named for my hometown. The droning keyboards matched with Vernon’s wistful falsetto create a sense of icy isolation, much like Calgary in -40C weather. Simply lovely.
7. Foo Fighters “These Days”
Even when a Foo Fighter’s album disappoints me, at least on song will still make me love them. “These Days” does that for me on Wasting Light. Part introspective Dave Grohl with the sweet intro, part kick ass Grohl with the chorus, and a perfect recreation of the Pixie trope. Hard to fault a band that thinks that the Pixies are the best songwriting model to have.
6. The Decemberists “Don’t Carry It All”
I rebelled against this album. When everyone calls it the best R.E.M. album of the year when R.E.M. releases an album, I get my back up. The truth is, the Decemberists indeed our R.E.M. R.E.M. this year. This incredible track, though, evokes more Tom Petty circa “You Don’t Know How It Feels”, which is probably why it’s my favourite song on what turned out to be a pretty incredible album. I really have to let go of my hate for these bands.
5. R.E.M. “We All Go Back To Where We Belong”
Then R.E.M. decided to announce they were splitting up in September, I cried for about a month, then this song was released, and damn it, if you’re gonna say goodbye to thirty plus years of music, what a way to go out. I still cry every once in a while. My entire life has been devoted to this band. They are my soundtrack. Au revoir, mes amis. You were worth the effort.
4. Fucked Up “The Other Shoe”
They are quickly becoming one of my favourite bands. The Toronto hardcore collective with the sweartastic name that cause radio programmers grief produced a near masterpiece of an album in 2011, and a surprisingly catchy single in “The Other Shoe”. If all hardcore was this much fun to listen to, maybe I’d listen to more of it.And I have a bit of a crush on Damian. Smart, articulate guys always make me want to bake cookies and buy them coffee.
3. Foster the People “Pumped Up Kicks”
A danceable hipsterish song? Impossible! Except it is. Foster the People’s brilliant début single is precisely that. Defying the rules of modern music, the band incorporates a heavy, repetitive bass line and electronica keyboards on a modern rock song. Match it with the really, really, REALLY dark lyrics about gun violence among teens, you have one very interesting hit single.
2. Adele “Rolling In The Deep”
It’s… well, it’s… you see, Adele… ah, screw it. Just listen.
1. Wilco “Art of Almost”
I’ve spent the last decade being both in love and absolutely enraged with Jeff Tweedy. This track, which opens their gorgeous and brilliant 2011 album The Whole Love, brings me the Wilco I love best- the adventurous, fearless band that produced Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. I get it spades here, as “Art of Almost” mixes the sonic dissonance of Kraftwerk with the down beat melodies of their early 2000s albums, and you have one whirlwind of sonic pleasure and pain crashing in on you. Thank you, Jeff Tweedy, for coming back.