125 Amazing Songs of 2011 (125-101)

The year 2011 brought us so many distinct, unique and sometimes challenging sounds to process.  While our musical pallets seem to be getting better with, so does the overall songs we listen to. With technology becoming more prominent in the musical world, we now hear beautifully composed songs rather than unfocused manipulations of electronic sounds (Nicolas Jaar, Andy Stott, John Maus).  Also, with the ever increasing amount of popular social media sites, we saw dozens of artists, through hard work and persistence, rise to the top of their game (Lil’ B, A$AP, Big K.R.I.T).  And in an age of insanely critical music listeners  that demandi fresh sounds, we saw a lot of “old timers” come back with some of their strongest, hippest and most accessible material to date (Wilco, Bright Eyes, Tom Waits). These days, there is always a possibility for anyone to hear your music and because of that we were blessed with one of the most respectable and talented years in music…well, at least sense I’ve been actively involved in music.  Music isn’t about record sales anymore.  It’s not just about radio play or winning Grammy’s. You don’t just need a “hit” (although it helps) to make it…what you need, is to stand out and provide our music listening audience something unique to listen to.  The list below are songs I feel embody this spirit. So, here you have it…my top 125 songs of 2011 and the songs that will carry a new artistic breath into 2012.  In the end, I just hope you find something you like.  Enjoy.

THE LIST:

125. Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. – “Nothing But Our Love”

My favorite Dale Earnhardt. Jr. Jr. song changed consistently over the year.  I started off LOVING “Vocal Chords” where I played it every week on my radio show and then I moved onto “Simple Girl”, which are both exceptional songs…but after repeated listens they became somewhat tiresome.  At the end of the day I’m stuck on “Nothing But Our Love”, a song that never seems to get old.

124. Korallreven feat. Victoria Bergsman – “As Young As Yesterday”

At some point, spacey electronic blushes matched with soaring angelic voices all begins to sound the same – but Korallreven’s song “As Young As Yesterday” reminds us what is so attractive about this style of music…it makes us feel young.

123.  William Elliott Whitmore – “Don’t Need It”

When “Field Songs” came out last July I was surprised to find out this Iowa native had been making music sense 1999….”How have I never listened this guy before?” The album unfolds like a great camp fire story. In his songs you can taste the dirt of the land and feel the sweat from his brow, but no song as ever made me want to get up and go work in the field more than “Don’t Need It”.  Check out this great live version of the song…

122.  Neon Indian – “Polish Girl”

I have to say, I originally passed off the chill-wave entrepreneurs new album Era Extraña as a ‘Sophmore Slump’ album and never thought they would see any of my year end lists…but when I recently landed in San Francisco and my best friend picked me up from the airport, “Polish Girl” came on Sirus XM radio and at that moment with the windows down and this song blasting, nothing made me more happy to be alive and back in sunny California.

121. Mazzy Star – “Lay Myself Down”

All I have to say is…Welcome Back Mazzy Star.

120. Twin Sister – “Bad Street”

There is not one moment in this song where it sounds like a pervious part.  The underlying synths, bass lines and guitar licks build and fold and unravel in one of the most fun songs of the year.  The video is a pure delight as well where it finds Andrea Estella’s (lead singer) and her band mates at her house for a little family gathering that looks more fun than the house parties I go to, that’s for sure.

119. The Weeknd – “What You Need”

The Rookie Of The Year award undoubtably goes to The Weeknd – a group who has released two steller mix tapes and even found their way on the new Drake album Take Care for the song “Crew Love”.  If you haven’t heard The Weekend yet, you definitely will in 2012.  If you don’t, you’re not hanging with the right people. The Montreal R&B duo blends blunted Hip-Hop beats, sexy lyrics and druggy vocals to create a sound that is perfect for late night seduction.  On “What You Need”, a song from their first mix tape House Of Ballons, The Weeknd showcase their gratifying flirtatious style.

118. Wye Oak – “Holy Holy”

This Baltimore duo blends alternative rock, dream pop, indie and noise so perfectly that after first listening to their album “Civilian” for the first time I was forced to press play again to make sure what I was listening to was real.  “Holy Holy”, Wye Oaks lead single, illustrates their ability to throw numerous alternative sounds into a blender, mix it up and pour you a refreshing glass of Rock & Roll Smoothie…mmmm boy, does it taste good.

117. Azealia Banks – “212”

There’s not woman rappers and men rappers anymore, there’s just RAPPERS and Azealia Banks proves this on her debut song “212”.  Expect to hear more from this monstrous talent soon.

116. John Maus – “Hey Moon”

 In a recent “year end list” written by Tycho (a S.F. based electronic producer/DJ) called “THE MOST REFRESHING ALBUMS OF 2011” he included John Maus’ album We Must Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves.  When listening to John Maus’ latest release, refreshing is really the best way to describe his music.  It sounds and even feels like taking a deep plunge into the Pacific ocean.  I’m sure after more spins of his songs and album I’ll wish I could redo my list and place his music higher up. As for now…

115. EMA – “California”

Want to know what it feels like for a hipster to be hung over on a hazy California day…just listen to EMA’s break through song, California, and you’ll get an inkling of what it feels like.  Expect big things to come from this post punk queen.

114. Poolside – “Harvest Moon”

If you’re looking for a song that will get your mom into electronic music, look no further than Poolsides cover of Neil Youngs classic, “Harvest Moon”.  Not only does the song pay homage to the original version but it gives just the right amount of modern flourishes that it feels as if the song was written today.  Good work boys!

113.  Tom Waits – “Face To The Highway”

 Tom Waits is back and he’s as good as ever.  On Tom Waits’ 20th, that’s right, 20th studio album we find one of the weirdest and most unique figures ever in Rock & Roll making one of the most accessible records of his career.  When talking to other fans about their favorite Waits song on Bad As Me everyone seems to have a different track that connects with them.  I guess that’s the brilliance of the album…all great songs, but when put together you have an INCREDIBLE album.  “Face To The Highway” makes me feel like I’m floating through Waits’ poetry book, thus getting my vote.

112. Coldplay – “Paradise”

Say what you want about Coldplay…but come on, this song is SO good.  This is pop music at its finest. Admit it, you love it!

111. PJ Harvey – “Written On The Forehead” 

“When I first heard ‘Written on the Forehead’ and its opening in a Middle-Eastern war setting and ending with a reggae-riff, I thought of black and white photographs I had taken in hot, dusty conflict zones.

Mixing them with the scenes of quiet desperation of England and that parallel movement came later in post-production.

Call it random, maybe it is, but usually the pictures themselves suggest what works together, the music has a lot to say in the choice too and a sympathy between them develops. It ended up as a way to show how different are all our lives, Us and Them. And a reminder, that despite all our differences we are all still vulnerable with human emotions.

Shooting pictures makes you observe in a detached way, whether in the West Bank, Gaza, Mogadishu or Waterloo Station in London.

Afterwards you try to make sense of them. What they mean will be personal to everyone. The opening with PJ Harvey’s lyrics spoken in Arabic was shot in a pub on the Portobello Road.” – Seamus Murphy (The Filmaker of the short below)

110. Tycho – “Hours”

Scott Hansen is a busy busy man.  When he’s not making dreamy electronic music he’s mastering his skills as a graphic designer and an artist (if you ever want to get lost in his stuff check out his blog http://blog.iso50.com/) . I’ve been following Tycho for sometime now, collecting his art, reading his blog and delving deep into his music.  The beautiful thing about Tycho is that his music fits nearly every moment.  If you put it on when it’s cold out side, you can feel the warmth beneath you and if you put it on when it’s hot outside you can feel a cool breeze brush over you.  “Hours” is just one of many Tycho songs that let you drift from sunrises into sunsets.

109. Jay Z & Kanye West feat. Otis Redding – “Otis”

Growing up in a household where soul records where constantly on, you could say I’m a little bias towards songs, especially Hip-Hop songs, that infuse soul samples.  This may be the reason I’ve felt somewhat disconnected from Hip-Hop lately (or maybe it just hasn’t been that good).  But upon hearing “Otis” by the two Kings of Rap I felt REFRESHED, something I haven’t felt in a long time from Hip-Hop.  Plus the Spike Jonze directed video is A+.

108. Cut Copy – “Need You Now”

Over the last couple of years Cut Copy has more or less become a household name in The United States.  They’ve gotten there by blending music you can dance to with music you can simply listen to.  If you wanna just lay back with the headphones on and drift away to their skillful synthy sound you can, but if you want to get out of your chair and dance around your room naked…you can do that too. “Need You Now” exposes Cut Copy’s ability to make electronic music for everyone.

107. The Band Of Heathens – “Medicine Man”

The opening track to their other wise disappointing album Top Hat Crown & the Clapmaster’s Son, gets me moving every time.  These Austin Texas natives truly embrace the word “band”.  With 3 different vocalist all taking lead through out the album you really get the feeling that these boys work together to make music.  On “Medicine Man” we have Gordy Quist (my favorite vocalist in the band) taking lead while the rest of the band lays down deep bass lines, ripping guitar solos and shimmering piano chords, making it a song that in my humble opinion will stand the test of time.

106. Kyle Hall – Ghosten 

What is it with Detroit DJ’s?  They’re just the best out there.  Kyle Hall is one talented kid…and when I say kid I literally mean KID.  He’s 18 years old.  His music breathes a sense of maturity and ease that you don’t find with other kids…which is why I put him on my prodigy list. Grab a pair of headphones and just listen to this electronic masterpiece.

105. YACHT – “Dystopia (The Earth Is On Fire)” 

When those opening lyrics start the song “the earth, the earth, the earth is on fire / we don’t have no daughter / let the mother-fucker burn” right before those synths kick in…you just know that this song is about to be dope as hell.  When the apocalypse comes in 2012 we should all remember to dance our final dance to this song.

104. Kendrick Lamar – “A.D.H.D.”

These are the songs parents pray their kids don’t listen to…

“F-ck that
8 doobies to the face
F-ck that
12 bottles in the case
Nigga, f-ck that
2 pills and a half, wait
Nigga, f-ck that
Got a high tolerance
When your age don’t exist”

LOVE IT!!!


103. Tedeschi Trucks Band – “Bound For Glory”

This is some of the best music I’ve ever heard, period.  Susan’s gospel voice matched with Trucks’ ripping guitar makes me want to get in my car and drive back to Colorado and be with the people who “get” this kind of music…as for now, I’ll just have to keep it to myself and hope some of my hipster friends catch on sooner than later.  I doubt they will…

102. The Head & The Heart – “Down In The Valley”

Watch out Mumford and Sons…there’s a new act in town, THE HEAD & THE HEART.  Not only is this music timeless, but their story is about as American as it gets.  The record was originally made in 2009, a time when the band distributed their self titled album by hand on the streets, by sending it every Seattle radiostation imaginable, by selling it at local record stores and by selling it at their ever increasingly attended concerts.  Low and behold, they sold 10,000 records using this DIY model and today you can find The Head & The Heart’s delicious vocal harmonies on tour with My Morning Jacket, Iron & Wine, Dr. Dog, The Walkmen, The Decemberist, blah blah blah…but they would have never gotten to where they are today with out “Down In The Vally, the bands best song, hands down.

101. Adele – “Rolling In The Deep”

I’m sure you will see this song on many publications Top 10 lists and I will never argue its placement.  “Rolling In The Deep” is an amazing song. Personally, after hearing it thousands of unwarranted times through out the year, this song has moved to the end of the list.  Still though, one of the greatest pop songs of our time…

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The List:
125. 
Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. – “Nothing But Love”
124. Korellreven – “As Young as Yesterday”

123. William Elliott Whitmore “Don’t Need It’
122. Neon Indian – “Polish Girl”
121. Mazzy Star – “Lay Myself Down”
120. Twin Sister – “Bad Street”
119. The Weeknd – “What You Need”
118. Wye Oak – “Holy Holy”
117. Azealia Banks – “212”
116. John Maus – “Hey Moon”
115. EMA – “California”
114. Poolside – “Harvest Moon”
113.Tom Waits “Face The Highway”
112.Coldplay – “Paradise”
111. PJ Harvey – “Written On The Forehead”
110. Tycho – “Hours”
109. Jay-Z & Kanye West – “Otis”
108. Cut Copy – “Need You Now”
107. Band Of Heathens – “Medicine Man”
106. Kyle Hall – “Ghosten”
105. YACHT – “Dystopia”
104. Kendrick Lamar – “A.D.H.D”
103. Tedeschi Trucks Band – “Bound For Glory”
102. The Head & The Heart – “Down In The Valley”
101. Adele – “Rolling In The Deep”