125 Amazing Songs Of 2011 (#50 – #26)

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.

THE LIST:

#50. Cults – “Abducted”

I originally had “Go Outside”, 2011’s feel good indie song, on my top 10 list…but soon realized that it was made and released in 2010…silly rules! But that’s not say their album isn’t chalked full of other great songs like “Abducted”.   In fact, I am sure you’ll  see this shimmering pop song on many critics year end lists to begin with…and for good reason.  “Abducted” is a song that will stand the test of time.  It sounds like it could have been made in 1970, but somehow it belongs right here in 2011.

#49. Jai Paul – “BTSTU”

After hearing this song for the first time I knew it wouldn’t be long before it caught on.  Sure enough, a month or so later Drake was using it as a sample and we all know that if Drake likes something, it’s obviously good.

#48. The Decemberist – “All Arise!”

When I first heard that The Decemberist were going to make a striped down “country” album, you could say that I was comfortably nervous.  But upon repeated listens of The King Is Dead I was no longer hesitant of their new found country sound, in fact I embraced it, I loved it, I was enthralled with it.  “All Arise!” is the pinnacle of the album where we hear influences from The Band, The Beatles and numerous bluegrass greats all melded together for one of the best country rockers of the year.

#47. Teams Vs. Star Slinger – “Say Please”

It feels like a lot of modern glitched-out, dubby electronic music is missing one thing: SOUL. But that is defiantly not the case for either producer Teams or Star Slinger – so when I heard that the two were teaming up to make an album, I definitely had my ears tuned.  The 6 song album is great, but “Say Please” is clearly the standout.  With infectious whistles and delightful soulful female vocals carrying you down trip hop lane, “Say Please” is one of the best sun drenched jams of the year.

#46. WU LYF – “Concrete Gold”

The WU LYF’s back story is one of my favorites, simply because they did the exact opposite of what a band supposed to do when trying to “make it”.  The Manchester 4 some built their reputation not by doing interviews and playing tons of show, but instead by doing the contrary, which in turn created a demanding mystique around them.  Finally, by the time they decided to go on a tour, they had sold out nearly every venue they signed up for.  And once you hear songs like “Concrete Gold”, you get why there is such a high demand for WU LYF’s music…it’s pure gold.

#45. TV On The Radio – “Will Do”

The older TV On The Radio gets, the better their music seems to get.  Now this is not to down play their earlier work, all of which I love, but man the music on 9 Types of Light really illustrates how far this band has come.  On “Will Do” they are mixing their industrial rock and roll brilliance with some of their strongest lyrical content, this time using love as their theme.  I propose TVOTR write more love songs…because if they sound half as good as this, we’ll be doing just fine.

#44. Timber Timbre – “Black Water”

The woozy “Black Water” is the perfect summer tune for a late afternoon cocktail on your back porch as you unwind into the sunset, remembering that life really ins’t all that bad after all. Sometimes, all you need is a good song like this “Black Water” to get back on track.

#43. The Antlers – “Parentheses”

When I first heard The Antlers newest album “Burst Apart” I didn’t think there was going to be much to top it for the rest of the year.  Over the year it remained my go-to-album in those “oh shit, I can’t figure out what to play” moments.  And no matter how many times I listen to it, upon each and every listen I still get chills when I hear the haunting “Parentheses”…the same epic chills I get when I hear “Lucky” by Radiohead and “Dondante” by My Morning Jacket.

#42. Toro Y Moi – “Still Sound”

This is one of those bass lines that will ALWAYS get you moving, no matter what year, what time of the day or what your mood.  Toro Y Moi made one of the most interesting “dance” records of the year with Underneath The Pine, a record filled with reverb drenched vocals, starry eyed key boards, psychedelic flourishes and some serious GROOVES.  “Still Sound” shows off Toro Y Moi’s undeniable skills.

#41. Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit – “Alabama Pines”

Straight up, Jason Isbell is one of the most underated singers and song writers of our time.  What makes a good song writer? Well one undeniable quality of “greatness” is to be able to sing songs that uncontrollably brings us back to a place or a feeling where we always want to be (Wagon Wheel, For What It’s Worth, Angel From Montgomery).  Jason Isbell’s “Alabama Pines” will bring you somewhere, even if you’ve never been there before…just allow yourself to dream.

#40. M83 – “Midnight City

“Midnight City” is the defining song for the French band M83.  Anthony Gonzales, the mastermind behind of M83, has truly evolved as a musician and songwriter in the bands 10 year career – going from droned out space music, into synthy shoegaze, into romantic retro, into…well…what ever the hell it is today…Describing  M83 in 2011 isn’t  so simple – personally, it sounds like a pulverizing beat heavy culmination of everything Anthony Gonzales has learned over the years and “Midnight City” is the product.

#39.  Radiohead – “Separator”

I’ll have to admit, it took me a while to get into the new Radiohead album “The King Of Limbs”.  At first the album jaunts you, then it cracks you, then it calms you, then it nerves you, then it enhances you and then finally after “Separator” closes out the record, it magically invites you back in for another listen.

#38. Iron & Wine – “Walking Far From Home”

Sam Beam was once known for his stripped down acoustic folk songs. Today he is lyrical master mind that combines elements of existential beat poetry, free form jazz, classic folk and modern rock to make some seriously spiritual music.  This man has a heavenly spirit and through angelic songs like “Walking Far From Home” you feel like you can touch the sky.  Also, check out this incredible fan made video below.

#37. Death Cab For Cutie – “You Are A Tourist”

Today, for whatever reason, people feel shamed when they admit that they like Death Cab For Cutie.  They’re like Coldplay in that regard.  I don’t get it…I really don’t.  Death Cab has grown from “just another sensitive indie band”, and into one of the most complete bands around and “You Are A Tourist” reminds you that these guys really are great at what they do.

#36. Elbow – “Dear Friends”

When I first heard “Dear Friends”, I cried and thought, “this is one of the most beautiful things I have ever heard”.

#35. Deer Tick – “The Bump”

Deer Tick came out in 2011 and proclaimed that they don’t want to grow up.  These 30 something year old boys were putting on shows that made you want to “fuck some shit up”. In fact they did a stint of shows where they covered all Nirvana songs…a project they called Deervana…that also made you, more or less, want to fuck shit up.  Their first single is a carless tune that just rumbles and tumbles along until  by the end you find yourself singing along with band “We’re Full Grown Men!! But We Act Like Kids!!”

#34. Active Child – “Hanging On”

Before you listen to “Hanging On” just know that Pat Grossi’s (Active Child) was an ex-choir boy and the person playing the harp in the song.  It really helps you get caught up in his masterful voice and his radient instrumentation.   But while his story feels precious, songs like “Hanging On” are enormous, towering over you and consuming you.

#33. Wilco – “One Sunday Morning (A Song For Jane Smileys Boyfriend)”

Wilco’s new album “The Whole Love” felt like a statement from Wilco that told the world  “we’re never who you think we are”.  While many of the songs on the album  straight up shock and surprise you (Art Of Almost, Born Alone, Capitol City)  “One Sunday Morning” is a song that implies that Wilco have been rolling right along the whole time.

#32. The Cave Singers – “Swim Club”

I always described the Cave Singers as “really really good campfire music”.  But I don’t know if I can say that about their new album, No Witch, which has been beefed up slightly. By adding in lots of fun new instruments and providing little things like back up singers, songs like “Swim Club” will take you away from the campfire and into an open field where you can dance under the stars.

#31. Low – “Especially Me”

Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker have that same guy/girl chemistry that Emmy Lou Harris and Gram Parsons had.  When they hit it, nothing has ever sounded more rewarding.  I have to admit, Low is a difficult band to get into…I guess I say that just because their music is ‘slow’, but after hearing songs like “Especially Me” it will only help new listeners appreciate one of the best groups on market.  They also have an amazing music video for this song out…but it’s a radio edit and it cuts out this insanely beautiful string section in the middle of the song.  So here’s the full version!

#30. Big K.R.I.T. feat. Ludacris & Bun B – “Country Shit (Remix)”

What do you get when you put the OG of Southern Hip Hop (Bun B), The King of Southern Rap (Luda) and the most promising new comer The South has since T.I.? You get the most Southern Fried Hip Hop anthem we’ve heard since “Rosa Parks”, putting “Country Shit” up there with other Rap Classics!

#29. Jamie Woon – “Lady Luck”

Jamie Woon more or less went unnoticed in the United States in 2011, which more or less baffles me seeing as how his music derives from some of America’s best: Justin Timberlake, Usher, D’Angelo and also Britons best: Amy Winehouse, James Blake, Adele .  Maybe it’s his “throw is all in one pot” approach that makes it hard to connect to? Regardless, his sound will catch on soon and “Lady Luck” will most likely be the song that will lead people there.

#28. Alexander – “Truth”

Did you think that guy from Edward Sharpe’s name WAS Edward Sharpe, yeah, well so did I.  I guess his real name is Alexander Ebert and earlier this year he released his first ever solo album entitled Alexander. Earlier in his life Alex was heavily influenced by Hip-Hop and originally intended to be a rapper, but somewhere down the line lost track of those visions.  But on “Truth” we see Alexander take a lyrical Hip-Hop approach and back it with the jangely folky pop sound that made The Magnetic Zero’s so famous.

#27. Beyonce – “Countdown”

“Countdown” was song that was created by a ton of people, everyone from The-Dream, to members of Boyz II Men, Grammy award winning mixoligest Serban Ghenea, pop song writer guru Ester Dean and Knowles herself who handled all the production.  And what happens when you have a lot of talented people coming together for a single song…well, you have a song that has a lot of things going on.  Knowles said, “I wanted to do something refreshing and different, so I mixed genres and drew inspiration from touring, traveling, watching rock bands, and attending festivals… I was like a mad scientist, putting lots of different songs together..” and she couldn’t have gotten better results.  Countdown is a song that fuses funk, 70’s and 90’s R&B, Dance Hall and Hip-Hop to create one of Beyonce’s most unique songs of her career.  Also, check out the controversial video for “Countdown” that incorporates a dance, Rosas danst Rosas created by Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, that never got any mention or approval from Beyonce.

#26. Kurt Vile – “Jesus Fever”

Kurt Vile is a rocker that gives you the feeling that he’s going to be playing with “legend status” a couple years down the road.  He’s got this dreary psychedelic sound that feels unprecedented,  but with “Jesus Fever” we see Vile go a lighter route.  It feels sunny and care free. It’s the perfect song to roll the windows down to and turn the music up on those long stretches of endless road.