top 50 tracks of 2011

Happy New Year!

Here we have my favorite tracks of the year. They are not ranked and some are tracks from my favorite albums previously listed. And some of these tracks are from artists I couldn’t escape this year. It shines light on my obsession with music: I am willing to follow the over-hyped press of bands I hate just to be sure I know enough to hate them. Those tend to be the bands I obsess the most over, which is a very surreal realization. Enjoy!

1. More Than Muscle/Luke Temple/Don’t Act Like You Don’t Care

2. Yonkers/Tyler, The Creator/Goblin

Ever since I saw the video for this, like the rest of the world I couldn’t get Tyler off my mind. With 34 million views [just on youtube] and counting, this video is spineless. The racking of Tyler and the clean black and white helps clear our mind visually so we won’t be on sensory overload. His lyrics shift shapes while his expressions and delivery sell it. This video plays in my head every time I hear the song. I think you can agree.

3. Spooky Jookie/Man Man/Life Fantastic

4. Middle Of The Cake/Das Racist/Relax

5. Senator/Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks/Mirror Traffic

The toxin’s American made. What an incredible opening line, not to mention the chorus [I know what the senator wants/what the senator wants is a blow job]. Malkmus can’t seem to get America off his mind. I think he did us proud.

6. San Francisco/WATERS/Out In The Light

7. Cave Song/WU LYF/Go Tell Fire To The Mountain

7. Cruel/St. Vincent/Strange Mercy

While this album didn’t sell me, this song did. Cruel has the Annie Clark shredding touch. Annie has it all: a beautiful voice and face. Her song writing is elegant and creepy. The image she has managed to craft of herself is unforgettable. Actor still remains my favorite. But this track will find its way into loads of mix tapes.

8. Doorstep/tUnE-yArDs/w h o k i l l

9. Beth/Rest /Bon Iver/Bon Iver

This song seemed to be everyone’s biggest complaint about Bon Iver. But since I first heard it, it was my favorite. We all agree that it’s hard to chose a favorite on here. Beth/Rest is unlike anything Vernon has ever made. [Who knows? Maybe we’ll see some synth heavy Bon Iver records in the future?] This album is powerful and this closing track seems to tie it up for me, perfectly.

10. Modern Art/Black Lips/Arabia Mountain

11. Don’t Move/Phantogram/Nightlife

12. Cake/Federal Funding/Showroom Of Compassion

Cake might be one of the first bands I’ve ever loved. [Right next to Led Zeppelin.] I saw the last of three sold out shows at DC’s 930 club and got to sing along to every song. And I wasn’t crazy about this record when I first heard it. It was John McCrea in the flesh [and maybe the ominous capitol building in the distance] that made me fall in love with this whole record.

13. New Beat/Toro Y Moi/Underneath The Pine

14. Operation/Yuck/Yuck

15. Machu Picchu/The Strokes/Angles

Here is where my geeky audio production side emerges. I love The Strokes. Angles has some glittering production on it. Machu Picchu has panning and guitar production work unlike any other. It can stand alone for me. But it doesn’t have to. As an album opener, it shall stay on a list of great opening tracks with that slide, hit and unforgettable line I’m Putting Your Patience To The Test. While Casablancas was teasing us, making us wait four years for this album, he knew [as he always does] that it would be worth the wait.

16. Book of Revelation/The Drums/Portamento

Due to the fact that this song has great hooks [and that my roommate would play it on repeat till the end of the earth if no one stopped her] I found the true ‘track’. A song everyone is bound to love and you’ll find yourself singing it everywhere.

17. Bumper/Cults/Cults

One of the bands I loathe finds itself on this list. I saw Cults open for Best Coast [quite a bill, I know] in a tiny room in Georgetown University’s campus center. There were enough drunk underclassmen talking through every performance to make me sick. [I became livid and wasn’t consoled when Bethany Cosentino, admittedly drunk herself, didn’t give a care.] Cults are shown everywhere as the weird boy-girl/brother-sister duo. [They actually used to date and went to The New School in Manhattan together: how they met. They used to have no online presence, but then all of a sudden they were everywhere: hence the obsession.] When I saw them there must’ve been five or so other long dark haired sibling-like-bandmates backing them up. Ever since I’ve never been able to buy it. Until this song became charming enough for me to not realize I was singing along to it.

18. Run Right Back/The Black Keys/El Camino

19. Drinking Problem/Surfer Blood/Tarot Classics EP

20. Nerve Damage!/Unknown Mortal Orchestra/Unknown Mortal Orchestra

Unknown Mortal Orchestra opened for Toro Y Moi, the second time I saw Chaz, at DC’s Black Cat. I was so excited at the thought of hearing this song [perhaps my favorite track of the year, despite this very list’s non-ranking nature] live. Nevertheless, they opened with it. My only complaint is that it’s too short. Clocking in at 2:14 it tricks us into psychedelia for the first 20 seconds. But then they remind us punk is alive with a Captain Beefheart sound-a-like and a charming 2 minute overly simple riff.

21. Jesus Fever/Kurt Vile/Smoke Ring For My Halo

22. Eyes Be Closed/Washed Out/Within And Without

I won’t loathe Ernest Greene like I do Cults. His World Cafe Live episode helped turn me around. I spent time back-listening to his previous releases, that I think show more fun and wash out way better than Within And Without, only to find myself disappointed in this record. But not disappointed enough to find myself enjoying Eyes Be Closed on the radio the other day, realizing that a track can sometimes out-weigh an album.

23. Standing O/Wilco/The Whole Love

No matter what, this song always puts me [you] in a good mood.

24. Thunder On The Mountain/Wanda Jackson/The Party Ain’t Over

A Bob Dylan cover, yes. Wanda Jackson is 74 years young. And her friend and producer [and slick guitarist, like we haven’t heard him since De Stijl] Jack White turned this one on its head. With a horn section to boot! [The other key to my heart, first being White himself.] This song is just part of an incredibly loud, rocking record that was too overlooked this year.

25. Radio/Raphael Saadiq/Stone Rollin’

26. Daydreaming/Middle Brother/Middle Brother

Some people can’t get past the whine [or shall I say wine] in John McCauley’s voice. I can’t get enough of it. The twang he brings to this folk-super-group [him+Taylor Goldsmith of Dawes and Matt Vasquez of Delta Spirit] is my favorite part of it. And I’m so glad I remembered this track because I fell in love with McCauley all over again.

27. The Bump/Deer Tick/Divine Providence

But I fell out of love when he could barely hold a song together. Never have I seen a performer as loaded as John McCauley leading Deer Tick at DC’s 930 Club. A friend passed on to me that he bragged about a heroin binge during another live show. His lyrics and storytelling in his records lead you to believe he might not make the long haul. So does the shared lead vocals on most of Divine Providence [foreshadowing? I hope not.] I just hope he can hold it together because I can’t get enough croon.

28. Cool Vapors/Jacuzzi Boys/Glazin’

29. In My Head/Dum Dum Girls/Only In Dreams

30. (You’re So Square) Baby, I Don’t Care/Cee Lo Green/Rave On Buddy Holly

The other sweet sleeper hit from Rave On Buddy Holly comes from, gasp, Kid Rock. This song is a carnival made for everyone. I think it was this record that finally let me love the art of the cover. Buddy Holly’s songs stand up everywhere and they’ll just get better with every reinvention.

31. Don’t Sit Down ‘Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair/Arctic Monkeys/Suck It And See

Pure rock. What a riff.

32. Let England Shake/PJ Harvey/Let England Shake

Winner of England’s Mercury Prize, the title track of this record is unsettling. In a good way. The gruesome lyrics and autoharp, xylophone, mellotron, Rhodes, piano and – well, add your imagination and stir – create a sound literally unlike any other. She is masterful in her body of work. This whole record flaunts it, for all to see. Just in case we forgot.

33. How Come You Never Go There/Feist/Metals

34. Make Some Noise/the Beastie Boys/Hot Sauce Committee Part Two

Another incredible opening line back on the mic is the anti-depressa. I said it once and I’ll say it again. This record let me discover the Beastie Boys’ back catalog and I can’t go a day without them now.

35. Can’t You Tell/Vetiver/Errant Charm

36. Holding On To Black Metal/My Morning Jacket/Circuital

37. DNA/The Kills/Blood Pressures

38. Second Friend/Megafaun/Megafaun

39. Posters/Youth Lagoon/The Year Of Hibernation

Surprised at this youngster’s success, straight out of the weirdness that is Boise, ID. What else are you going to do? You live in Idaho. You’re going to make music in your bedroom, until Fat Possum finds you, gets your record everywhere and sends you out to see the world. While his music really does all sound the same, its charming. And charm never goes overlooked here.

40. Diamond Way/JEFF The Brotherhood/We Are The Champions

41. Santa Fe/Beirut/The Rip Tide

42. Several Shades Of Why/J Mascis/Several Shades Of Why

This real life guitar hero delivers on this acoustic solo album. This album almost makes me cry on some tracks. It’s just a glance into the brain that gave us Dinosaur Jr. I’m so glad that J will share this side of us with him. It makes the picture more complete.

43. Me And Lazarus/Iron & Wine/Kiss Each Other Clean

44. Ice Cream/Battles/Gloss Drop

45. What A Pleasure/Beach Fossils/Beach Fossils

Nothing this band does can live up to the forgettable self titled debut from last year. It is forgettable. But not to me. I love this band. And as far as I’m concerned the only wrong they do is not enough touring.

46. Top Bunk/Gauntlet Hair/Gauntlet Hair

47. Weekend/Class Actress/Rapprocher

48. Up Up Up/Givers/In Light

49. Die/Girls/Father, Son, Holy Ghost

50. It’s Him!/White Denim/D

This psych-jam that White Denim calls an album has surprises around every corner. The single Street Joy manages to sound like nothing else on this album, but it makes it even more delightful. All of these songs speak for themselves, and their musicianship. I can’t wait for more.