Every year, I look back at previous years’ lists and without fail I’ll see a song that I had at #63 that, over time, has definitely wiggled its way into the top 20 for that year. There are often top-15 songs that have fallen completely off my radar. These things happen. It’s an emotional, subjective, impulsive and inexact science. With the birth of our now-11-month-old daughter Asher in February, our month-long move from Norfolk to Portland in December, and a hundred little things in between, the blog has obviously grown fallow. I’ve listened to less music (or, at least, had less time to discover new music) this year than any previous year of this blog. I listened to my favorite songs and albums a LOT. The other stuff, notsomuch. Instead of 80+ tracks, I’m just going to give you 25 of my favorites. It’ll be shorter, sweeter, and hopefully you’ll find some gems of your own along the way. Hope you enjoy…
[Listen to the whole thing on a Spotify playlist here]
**added 1/16: Gotye – Somebody I Used to Know – This was my fifth-most listened to track of 2011, but somehow never ended up in my ‘Best of’ playlist that I compile over the course of the year. And then I forgot about it yesterday. The list is the list, so I’m not going to kick anyone out, but I thought I’d mention it. If you just found out about Gotye this year, you can read two pieces I did on him back in 2007 [here and here]**
25. The Civil Wars – Poison & Wine
24. Theophilus London – Why Even Try (RAC remix)
23. The Forms – Steady Hand
22. Jamie Woon – Waterfront [listen]
21. Kavinsky & Lovefoxxx – Night Call
20. NewVillager – Lighthouse
19. The Lonely Forest – Turn Off This Song and Go Outside
18. Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. – Morning Thought
17. Mute Math – Cavalries
16. Son Lux – All the Right Things
15. Gillian Welch – The Way It Will Be
14. Wye Oak – Civilian
13. David Bazan – Virginia
12. M83 – Midnight City
11. The Hood Internet – Without Kimmi (Usher vs. Twin Sister) [listen]
10. Keegan DeWitt Thunder Clatter | there’s a giddiness about this song and I quite enjoy. It smacks of bright raindrops on rooftops, of children spinning hands-held around a fire. The guitar was giggling; the leaves were rustling; it was written in the fall…
9. Penguin Prison Don’t Fuck With My Money | it seems every year, I go gaga for a Prince wannabe (Fyfe Dangerfield and The-Dream in 2010, Sam Sparro in 2008) and PP is this year’s entrant. It’s simple, really. Just take some emphatic synth, a booty-wiggling beat, some uber-exuberant vocals, and a ridiculously catchy chorus and you’ve got $$$. And don’t fuck with it!
8. Phantogram Don’t Move | every little thing clicks in this song, even the click itself at the end of every measure. Random samples come together in harmony. Electrofuzz can be a little annoying and in-your-face these days, but this is decidedly restrained and refined, plus it’ll make your toes want to tap in defiance of the song’s title.
7. James Vincent McMorrow We Don’t Eat | despite all the hype James Blake received this year, I prefer the raspy bare soul of this scraggly-bearded Irishman. A single piano note resounds throughout, lending context to the growth around it. [listen]
6. Miracle Fortress Everything Works | i do not fault (and rather enjoy) Miracle Fortress’ usual dreamy harmonized, beach boys-meets-the-clientele fair, but this is decidedly more straight-forward. With a beat, an arpeggiation, a hand-clap, and an overt channeling of Talking Heads, magic can happen. [listen]
5. Bon Iver Holocene | descriptions for Justin Vernon’s frigid falsetto folk have long since passed the point of hyperbole. He’s revealed before that he writes some songs mad-libs style, plugging in words for no other reason than because they sound good. Sometimes the multi-tracked whisp-like vocals unravel just enough to render the lyrics unintelligible anyway. But sometimes, there’s a line, or a word, or a breath, that cuts through the fog, through my skin, through my heart. And I realize the rest just doesn’t matter.
4. Scattered Trees Bury the Floors | Nate Eiesland has sung eloquently about grandparents passing before. I don’t know exactly what he’s speaking about here, but all I can think about is my own grandmother. I imagine the pace-like tambourine to be her footsteps alongside mine. I can’t help but be moved by the melodically droning organ, the gravelly crescendo of harmonies, and “the stars, the stars, and the light on your face, replace the words on a page, to remind me, to remind me of…” [listen]
3. Beyonce 1+1 | before she debuted this song on Idol, Beyonce introduced it as “her favorite song” and I’ve got to admit that it’s mine too (of hers, anyway). Co-written by The-Dream (figures), it’s simply an incredibly moving expression of emotion from one of the signature voices of our generation. This is “I Will Always Love You” with some serious gravitas. Kevin Costner would have had no shot with this lioness.
2. Bombay Bicycle Club Shuffle | “once you get the feeling, it wants you back for more…” this song put ants in my pants and made me do the boogie dance (all the way to france?). The recurring piano sample, the babbling bass and dancing vocals, the swirling insistence of it all literally propel me towards euphoria. [listen]
1. Fleet Foxes Helplessness Blues | from the first furtive strum to final sigh of the guitar, this song spins gold from the plain straws of our common existence and laying claim to a place amongst its tiny recesses. Even in my heart, I could never have as accurately expressed the doubt and wonder at my future as this song so easily and beautifully does. [listen]
*view my lists for 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, and 2006.