125 Amazing Songs Of 2011 (100 – 76)

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 demand 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.

#100 – #76

THE LIST:

100. Thurston Moore – “Benediction”

Thurston Moore (of Sonic Youth) recently teamed up with Beck to make the late night lovers album of the year.  If you’ve never been in love…you might not like this song that much.  If you have, I can’t see how you can’t like it.  This song goes out to all the lovers out there.

99. Tennis – “Origins”

Ever since I found out that my friend James was going to be the sound engenieer and the touring drummer for this band called Tennis, based out of Denver, I’ve been following them pretty closely.  Not only is Tennis’ story great – a couple sells their possessions, buys a boat, sails the seas and writes music while on their journey thus formulating Tennis – but their music is also…well…adorable.  Their debut album Cape Dory was that perfect Sunday morning album you and your significant other would put on while you scrambled up some eggs.  It’s not too girly, it’s not too sensitive, it’s just right.  Well as of late, Tennis is back in the studio and this time they’ve enlisted Patrick Carney (The Black Keys) to produce their album and the results are fantastic! Here’s their first single for their forthcoming 2012 album entitled “Origins”.

98. Middle Brother – “Blue Eyes”

So what happens when you combine 3 of America’s best Rock and Roll bands (Dawes, Deer Tick & Delta Spirit) into 1 super group, well you get one of the most refreshing Americana songs of the year – “Blue Eyes”.  Just like Monsters Of Folk, I hope this isn’t the last we hear from this mini super group.

97. DJ Shadow feat Little Dragon – “Scale It Back”

The sample heavy Bay Area DJ is back with his best release in years.  In 2006 Shadow departed from his dark and eerie soundscapes and delved into the popular Northern California “hyphy” movement that was originated by fellow Bay Area artists E-40 & Keak The Sneak.  The album had mixed results, but in the end I don’t recall anyone really who thought it was something special.  But in 2011 Shadow returns doing what he does best, blending a little bit of all the music he loves. The song “Scale It Back” featuring Little Dragon is by far the best of the lot.

96. Shabazz Palaces –  “Swerve… The Reeping Of All That Is Worthwhile Noir Not Withstanding

The closing track on Shabazz Palaces debut full length LP Black Up gets my head nodding every time.  It’s got a slight dub wobble, some classic female R&B vocals, beat drops and lyrics that will get you consistently yelling “ohhhhhh” in the middle of the song…what more do you want?

95. St. Vincent – “Surgeon”

Call me a sucker for gorgeous women who have amazing vocals and rip it on the guitar, but Annie Clark’s project St. Vincent is nothing less than spectacular. At times, it’s some of the coolest music I’ve ever heard.  Man, I wish I could have seen her live while on this tour, I’m sure it would have allowed me to fall in love with the album more than I already do.  Take a second and watch her perform “Surgeon” live from the 4AD studios…it’s fuckin’ pretty rad.

94.The Civil Wars – “Barton Hallow”

I previously proclaimed that The Weeknd deserved the “Rookie Of The Year” award, but if it didn’t go to them, The Civil Wars would have undoubtably taken that honor.  I haven’t seen chemistry like this sense Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings.  Check out their chilling performance of “Barton Hallow” on Jools Holland below and tell me you don’t feel something special.

93.  The Sheepdogs – “I Don’t Know”

What is it about Canadians making the best American Rock and Roll music?  I propose we just open our borders and call it one big country. After following The Sheepdogs throughout the summer as they were trying to win that Rolling Stone contest that would put them on the cover and get them a gig at Bonnaroo, I kind of fell in love with their Credence esque Rock & Roll sound that got me consistently tellin’ old farts,  “see guys, good music still DOES exist”.

92. Peter Wolf Crier – “Settling It Off”

Peter Wolf Crier sound like they have a spirit inside of them that is trying to get out.  It’s almost as if they are forced to make the music that they may.  I love their sound – it feels raw and the music crashes all over the place yet at the same time feels polished and refined.  “Settling It Off” is the band at their best.

91. Nacho Picasso – “NumbNuts”

Of all the amazing rappers to surface this year, I see the most promising future from Nacho Picasso.  His lyrics are as aggressive as Danny Brown, they’re as drug induced A$AP Rocky, as poignet Lil’ Wayne and as comical as Lil’ B.  But what separates Nacho from the rest of the pack is his ability to to float in and out of beats seamlessly.  “NumbNuts” sees Nacho delve into the “chopped and screwed” sound, but on the rest of his mix tape, For The Glory, you’ll hear him flow over dozens of different styles.

90. Atlas Sound – “Te Amo”

I didn’t really ‘get’ Bradford Cox until I saw him perform, and ever sense then I’ve been an avid fan of both his projects – Deerhunter (his full band) & even more so his solo adventure Atlas Sound.  Remember when listening to “Te Amo”, a highlight from his sultry album Parallax, that this is 1 person, looping everything. It’s simply gorgeous…beat this Keller Williams.

89. James Vincent McMorrow – “If I Had A Boat”

It’s impossible to listen to James Vincent McMorrow and not compare him to Justin Vernon (Bon Iver).  But even if the two artist sound similar, I say “WHO CARES”.  It’s beautiful music -it’s poetic, it’s painfully honest and the music just soars right through you.  Check out James performing the song “If I Had A Boat” live in a Church…really the only place I feel like he should perform.

88. White Denim – “Street Joy”

White Denim is a 4 piece rock group out of Austin Texas who have been self releasing their music for a couple of years now and finally in 2011 they’ve broken through the doors.  “Street Joy” is a sensual love ballad that climbs through your veins and into your soul.  Be prepared to hit ‘repeat’ after initial listening.

87. Peaking Lights – “All The Sun That Shines”

Do you want to know what it feels like to float into the clouds…with out taking acid?  Well, just find some good speakers and a nice comfy couch to lay down on and throw on “All The Sun That Shines” and wha-la! You’ll be floating.

86. Tity Boi aka 2 Chainz feat. Bun B & Big K.R.I.T. – “Pimps”

When that smoothed out guitar starts off the track and then those horns build into the song you already feel blunted at Tity Boi, Bun B and Big K.R.I.T.  It’s hard not to smile when listening to this song, especially during Big K.R.I.T.’s verse, which is why I find myself always come back to this song.  And at the end of the day, that’s what makes a good song isn’t it?  A song you want to listen to over and over again.

85. Unknown Mortal Orchestra – “ffuny ffriends”

The best way to describe Unknown Mortal Orchestras debut song “ffuny ffriends” is hypnotic.  With a repetitive drum beat circling around the lead singers unisexual voice you don’t really know where your place is in the song.  You are conflicted with this feeling of the unknown, like you’re constantly searching for something, which in the end is something we can all relate to.

84. The Pallers – “The Kiss”

“The Kiss” slowly unfolds, almost unnoticeably right infront of you.  As you slowly drift into a musical oblivion during the intro, a steady thumping beat kicks in and begins to create a sound the Stockholm band describes as “dance music for the lazy, the blazers, and for the slightly depressed”.  The description is dead on, unless you find yourself dancing by the 4:00 mark, then I wouldn’t necessarily call you “lazy”.

83. Holy Ghost feat. Michael McDonald – “Some Children”

The best thing about DFA releases is that they never seem be held down by just 1 genere.  Now, I’m not talking about the whole label, I’m talking about each song released through DFA – each song incorporates a unique blend of numerous styles of dance music, everything from Disco to Hip-Hop.  “Some Children” features Mike McDonalds (Grizzly Bear) low end voice over Holy Ghost’s infectious disco groove and all of it is accompanied by a children’s choir.  You never want the song to stop and it sounds like the people involved in the song don’t either…at  the end of the song you hear some laughing and someone say “it was just starting to get fun”…yes it was, yes it was.

82. Miguel  – “Sure Thing”

I guess I may be stretching the rules a little bit by putting this song in the Best Of 2011 category.  I guess it was officially made in 2010, but it never got released and really heard until January of 2011. Regardless, this is straight baby makin’ music. It blends crunked out beats, neo-soul influences and remarkably great lyrics, making it Miguel’s first #1 single and I’m sure  not his last.

81. The Low Anthem – “Ghost Woman Blues”

The Low Anthem all met while studying at Brown University and soon joined an all wood bat baseball team called the Providence Greys.  Soon they put down their bats and started making music together, and are we sure glad they did.  I call their music “sophisticated folk” – it’s deep, it’s thought provoking and it’s smart.  But nothing captivates me quite like the opening track “Ghost Woman Blues which was taken from their 4th studio album entitled Smart Flesh, an album recorded in an abandoned pizza sauce factory in Rhode Island.

80. Sleep Over – “Romantic Streams”

I know, I know, there is an overwhelming amount of ‘chill-wave’ out there…but it’s so good isn’t it? What I love so much about this style of music is its nostalgia – the videos that accompany the music and the style it encourages brings us all back to “better days”. “Romantic Streams”, Sleep Overs stand out track, puts me right back in the passenger seat of my high school best friends car, right after we sneak out on a weekday to go hang out with who ever our girl friends were for that week.

79. Sapphire Slows – “Spin Lights Over You”

The get the optimal listening experience out of this song, put on your finest pair ofheadphones, make sure it’s around 2:30 in the morning, uut on a warm hoodie and nice comfy pair of sneakers and go walking through the empty city streets.

78. The War On Drugs – “Baby Missiles”

I just love this Philidelphia scene emerging – with bands like Dr. Dog and Kurt Vile already in the lead, I believe that The War On Drugs are really the band to watch.  I’m surprised we haven’t heard The Boss come out and endorse these American troubadours.  “Baby Missles”, taken from their album Slave Ambient, is big (epic if you will), it twirls and snakes through your body giving you more and more goose bumps upon every listen…and then, when that harmonica kicks in at the end of the song, it solidifies that these boys get what it takes to make truly great music.

77. Gang Gang Dance – “Glass Jar”

In this 11 minute long slow builder that opens Gang Gang Dances most accomplished album yet, Eye Contact, you find yourself sitting on the edge of your seat waiting for the the beat to come in, for it to drop, for something to happen that makes this long wait all worth it…and then the beat does in and not only do you realize that it was all worth it but you actually kind of liked the wait to begin with.  The video below is quite spellbinding as well.

76. The Alabama Shakes – “You Aint Alone”

If Adele really aint your thang and you juuust can’t connect with Florance Welch, but you’re looking for that next great female vocalist, look no further than The Alabama Shakes, fronted by one of the most exciting female vocalist I’ve heard in a long long time, Brittany Howard.  Man, I’m jealous of everyone who’s been seeing these guys play in small clubs over the last year…you wont see that in 2012 – if they keep this up, they’ll be the future headliners of Americas biggest musical festivals.

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100. Thurston Moore – “Benediction”
99. Tennis – “Orgins”
98. Middle Brother – “Blue Eyes”
97. DJ Shadow feat. Little Dragon – “Scale It Back”
96. Shabazz Palaces – “Swerve” 
95. St. Vincent – “Surgeon” 
94. The Civil Wars – Barton Hallow
93. The Sheepdogs – “I Don’t Know”
92. Peter Wolf Crier – “Settling It Off”
91. Nacho Picasso – “NumbNuts”
90. Atlas Sound – “Te Amo”
89. James Vincent McMarrow – “If I Had A Boat”
88. White Denim –  “Street Joy”
87. Peaking Lights – “All The Sun That Shines”
86. Tity Boi feat Big K.R.I.T. & Bun B – “Pimps”
85. Unknown Mortal Orchestra –  “ffuny ffriends”
84. The Pallers – “The Kiss”
83. Holy Ghost – “Some Friends”
82. Migul – “Sure Thing”
81. The Low Anthem – “Ghost Woman Blues”
80. Sleep Over – “Romantic Streams”
79. Sapphire Slows – “Spin Lights Over You”
78. The War On Drugs – “Baby Missiles”
77. Gang Gang Dance – “Glass Jar”
76. The Alabama Shakes – “You Aint Alone”