125 Amazing Songs of 2011 (#75 – #56)

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.

#75. Trampled By Turtles – “Where Is My Mind (Pixies Cover)”

When Trampled By Turtles came out for their encore at a recent show in San Francisco, they delighted the audience with a euphoric cover of The Pixes classic “Where Is My Mind”.  All I could think about when hearing the song was “man, they need to professionally record this shit”.  As soon as I got home from the show I looked it up, and low and behold, THEY HAVE.  Here you have it, not only a wonderful cover of one of the greatest songs ever written, but a fine new addition to the already impressive Trampled By Turtles catalog.

#74. The Felice Brothers – “Ponzi”

The Felice Brothers got their start by playing in the subways of New York City. Originally, The Felice Brothers were solely identified as a folk rock band where they were common vistors of places like The Mountain Stage and The Newport Folk Festival.  But in 2011 The Felice Brothers expanded their horizons and delved into more of an electronic and dancehall sound.  Most of the album is…meh…but “Ponzi”, the lead single from their 7th studio album is an indication of what these boys are capable of.

#73. Real Estate – “It’s Real”

Real Estates minimalist surf pop approach allows their listeners to drift in and out of beautiful spacey worlds upon each listen.  While it seems most surf pop acts sing songs about sunny and happy days in the present, Real Estate take a different approach and sing songs that lack urgency and refer to life in retrospect.  “It’s Real”, the highlight off their new LP “Days”, makes you feel something more complex and intricate, even its simplest moments.

#72. Bibio – “Anything New”

Stephen Wilikenson, better know as Bibio, studied “sonic arts” while at University in the UK.  During his time there he created music that would be described as ambient more than anything.  Today he has evolved into one of the most interesting and intelligent electronic producers making music.  “Anything New” is filled with fun dance beats, delicious horn samples and shimmering keys making this song sound like something Kanye West would use.

#71. Ty Segal – “Goodbye Bread”

The San Francisco garage rock scene is taking off right now and Ty Segall is one of the forefathers of the rising movement. “Goodbye Bread”, the opening track from his latest LP, lets you float in and out of a late night fuzzy Frisco world where lo-fi guitars rule and over production drools.

#70. The Cloud Nothings – “No Future / No Past

When the song “No Future / No Past” starts off it sounds as if Kurt Cobain has transplanted his herion induced voice into Dylan Baldi’s soul.  But by the time  the voice builds by the end of the song it feels as if a tormented Devil has taken over.

#69. Mayer Hawthorne – “No Strings”

Thank the lord for Mayer Hawthorne!  This Detroit native has been been a lover of timeless soul music his whole life, but now a days he’s not just listening to it, he’s creating it.  With just the right amount of romance and the right amount of light hearted comedy, Mayer Hawthorns “No Strings”, a song about gettin’ straight to business, will be one for the ages.

#68. Rihanna feat. Calvin Harris – “We Found Love”

While listening to Rihanna’s “We Found Love” I was reminded what great pop music could sound like.  After listening to it I was tempted to turn off my iPod and start listening to the radio again, but was quickly reminded that nothing else out there comes close to the delightful bliss that lies inside “We Found Love”.

#67. Lykee Li – “I Follow Rivers”

The second single from Lykee Li’s album Wounded Rhymes, “I Follow Rivers” (produced by pop master mind Björn Yttling), was one of the first songs to come out in 2011.  Even though this year has put out an enduring amount of great music, “I Follow Rivers” has continually stayed in rotation on most of my playlist through out 2011.  If the song isn’t enough…watch the chilling video directed by Tarik Saleh below.

#66. Washed Out – “Eyes Be Closed”

Of all the Chillwavers out there, no one can match the completeness of Washed Out.  Earnest Greene wasn’t meant to be a musician, in fact he only turned to music when he couldn’t find a job as a liberian after finishing school.  Once his music got discovered by bloggers on his myspace page, Washed Out turned into the, grandfather if you will, of Chillwave.  Because this music wasn’t necessarily meant to be, it gives it a feeling of ease and “Eyes Wide Closed” is a track that will let you coast into a dynamic world of summer daze that seems to last for-ev-er.

#65. Lucinda Williams – “Convince Me”

While going through a break up of sorts earlier this year, “Convince Me” by the folk rock queen Lucinda Williams, resinated with me heavily.  It’s because of artists like Lucinda Williams and songs like “Convince Me” that help me understand a female psyche.

#64. Blitzen Trapper – “Fletcher”

Blitzen Trapper was one of those bands that once I saw live I really started to like better.  Their songs felt as if the bizarreness of Zappa, the country tinged rock sense of Creedence and the folk perfection of Dylan had a little baby and then made Blitzen Trapper who then made “Fletcher”.  Enough of the meaningless comparisons…this song is plain and simply, good.

#63. The Smith Westerns – “All Die Young”

The Smith Westerns write lyrics that will hopefully find their way into the “Senior Quotes” page of High School yearbooks…hopefully if kids are hip enough, they’ll choose “All Die Young”, one of the years best most timeless Rock & Roll tunes.

“All die young

Love is lovely when you are young”

#62. Youth Lagoon – “Afternoon”

Trevor Powers, aka Youth Lagoon, is just another bedroom musician who has broken out of his home recording studio and into the limelight. Most of Youth Lagoon’s songs feel like your waking up from beautiful nap in the middle of sunny flowered meadow.  “Afternoon”, the highlight from his depbut LP “The Year Of Hibernation”, is the nap we all wish could wake up fom everyday.

#61. Cymbals Eat Guitars – “Definite Darkness”

Cymbals Eat Guitars derived their name from a Lou Reed quote when he was asked to describe The Velvet Underground sound…”well it sounds something like cymbals eating guitars”.   Today, the band combines elements of slow core and punk, and derives influences from bands such as Spiritualized, Modest Mouse and Pavement to create some of the best indie music around.  Check out “Definite Darkness”, the bands highlight from their sophmore release “Lenses Alien”.

#60. Lil’ Wayne feat. Cory Gunz – “6 foot 7 foot”

If you’ve never “gotten” Lil’ Wayne and the hype around the cough syrup drinkin’ alien, just listen to the poignant lyrical content of “6 foot 7 foot”…if you still don’t get it, there’s no hope.

#59. Paul Simon – “The Afterlife”

During Paul Simon’s earlier days he was able to connect with his young audience by singing songs about their poetic youth, their future aspirations and jovial adventures.  Today, Paul is obviously a lot older, and now sings songs with a sage like mentality. “The Afterlife” is a song that combines Simon’s incredible musical talent and his life long experiences for one hell of a song.

#58. The Black Keys – “Gold On The Ceiling”

It’s safe to say that The Black Keys are no longer just a blues duo from Akron Ohio.  Today they operate more as a full fledged 4 piece Rock & Roll band out of Nashville.  Songs from their new album are huge, but nothing reminds me more of the biggest bluesy rock band of all time, The Rolling Stones, quite like “Gold On The Ceiling”.  Watch out world…here come The Keys.

#57. Gillian Welch – “Hard Times”

We had to wait 8 years for a new Gillian Welch album, but the wait was well worth it.  Her songs have this incredible timeless magic inside of them.  “Hard Times” sounds as if it’s sung from a 1940’s farm house front porch but yet it somehow fits perfectly in the troubled times of 2011.  Today, “Hard Times” are something more than a couple of us can relate to.

#56. Sepalcure – “Pencil Pimp”

The song starts with a dizzying incoherent vocal sample and melds into a driving thumping house beat.  The song carries you for 6 + minutes taking you on minor detours the whole way but never straying too far off the path, making “Pencil Pimp” one of the best dance tracks of the year.

#55. Fucked Up – “The Other Shoe”

That infectious guitar riff.  Those effective indie female vocals.  That ruffeled and battered lead singers voice.  The lyrics.  The catchy chorus. The sing a long one liners through out the song. That scream…the list goes on and on of what makes “The Other Show” so monstrous.  With the many powers combined, “The Other Shoe” is one of the most towering Rock and Roll songs of the year.

#54. Millionyoung – “On-On”

If you follow the “music blog world” it seems like chillwave is more or less following you around everywhere click but for whatever reason Millionyoung doesn’t seem to be rolling with the pack.  Their debut album, “Replicants”, was filled with numerous pleasant surprises but none beats “On-On”, which was one of the summers finest jams.

#53. Curren$y – “This Is The Life”

Curren$y, a New Orleans native, is not only one of the hardest working rappers in the game (he’s on pace for around 2 albums a year), he is also one of the most blunted red eyed rappers around too.  While most rappers who release material weekly seem to saturate themselves with mediocrity (Lil B), Curren$y doesn’t seem to miss a step, ever.  “This Is The Life” is Curren$y simply showing off how much good (key word good) material he really has.  Man…I wish I could be this productive being consistently ripped out of my gourd.

#52. Bjork – “Crystalline”

Leave it to Bjork to make music no one has ever conceived before.  “Crystalline” is a masterpiece of sounds, electronic beats and vocal range. In the end, it is a song really only Bjork could have made…but I guess that goes for pretty much all of her songs.  The astonishing Michel Gondry video doesn’t hurt in appreciating the magic that is “Crystalline”.

#51. James Blake – “The Wilhelm Scream”

Last year when James Blake covered Fiests’ “Limit To Your Love” and we heard him sing for the first time, all I wanted from the sensitive Brit was for him to sing more.  Sure enough in 2011, the first single from James Blakes debut self titled LP, “The Wilhelm Scream” we hear more of James Blakes beautiful croon.  When he repetivily sings “Im falling, I’m falling, I’m falling”, you yourself feel as if you’re falling with him.

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75. Trampled By Turtles – “Where Is My Mind” (Pixes Cover)
74. The Felice Brothers – “Ponzi”
73. Real Estate – “It’s Real”
72. Bibio – “Anything New”
71. Ty Segal – “Goodbye Bread”
70. Cloud Nothings – “No Future / No Past”
69.Mayer Hawthorne – “No Strings”
68. Rihanna – “We Found Love”
67. Lykee Li – “I Follow Rivers”
66. Washed Out – “Eyes Be Closed”
65. Lucinda Williams – “Convince Me”
64. Blitzen Trapper – “Fletcher”
63. The Smith Westerns – “All Die Young”
62. Youth Lagoon – “Afternoon”
61. Cymbals Eat Guitars – Definite Darkness”
60. Lil Wayne feat Cory Gunz – “6 Foot 7 Foot”
59. Paul Simon – “The Afterlife”
58. The Black Keys – “Gold On The Ceiling”
57. Gillian Welch – “Hard Times”
56. Sepalcure – “Pencil Pimp”
55. Fucked Up – “The Other Shoe”
54. Millionyoung – “On-On”
53. Curren$y – “This Is The Life”
52. Bjork – “Crystalline”
51. James Blake – “The Wilhelm Scream”