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
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.
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.
“I know what the senator wants/what the senator wants is a blow job” was easily, (hands down, no argument) the most quoted lyric this year in every print/online review of any record. Before I even heard the fucking song, I knew this lyric so goddamn well. That’s just not fair to Malkmus, to me. The man has written some razor sharp lines in the past, and his dirtiest line becomes the most oft quoted segment of his long career?! Hell, even the outtake of “Same Way of Saying” has some more clever lines that that, and he was fucking STONED (probably).
Modern Art/Black Lips/Arabia Mountain
Fun song to be sure, but there’s something about “Family Tree” that keeps my toes tapping. “Modern Art” has a classic riff, but that’s part of the fun of the Black Lips — as good as they are, sometimes it’s more fun to hear the stuff that’s clearly ripped from something else. It may be the one fun thing about “200 Million Thousand.” But that harmonica part in “Family Tree” is simultaneously one of the most fun things about that album, and one of the most annoying. Black Lips just roll that way.
Jesus Fever/Kurt Vile/Smoke Ring For My Halo
Yes, yes, yes! It’s not only the most fun song on that album, but just how incredibly windy it is. It’s acoustic-prog-pop in a fucking can, and Kurt Vile blew my mind on this. Even better? Waiting for it live. (If you’re as lucky as me, that is). Vile is good on the record, but having the full Violators backing him up makes it all the sweeter, and rougher, and all the tougher than what’s on the record. Even then, it holds as one of the smoothest moments on record in the past year.
Thunder On The Mountain/Wanda Jackson/The Party Ain’t Over
I didn’t get the chance to hear the full thing, but I did hear her cover of “Shakin’ All Over.” A standard to be sure, full of Jack White-isms, but plenty of Wanda’s attitude outshining all of Jack’s touches. Is the whole record worth it the same way that “Van Leer Rose” was worth it? Hope so.
Make Some Noise/the Beastie Boys/Hot Sauce Committee Part Two
The record made my top 5 this year, and I refuse to believe that even “Make Some Noise” was the best track. As fun as it is, there are some terrific vintage B-Boy moments on “Hot Sauce,” and I will say that “Lee Majors Come Again” is probably the best fucking song I’ve heard in the past 9 years (that last song probably being “Walk Idiot Walk” by the Hives, “Tick Tick Boom” being a close second). Still, glad the Beastie Boys made the list, but there’s some real hardcore shit to be found on “Hot Sauce Committee Pt. 2.”
Unrelated note: The Walkmen. I know they haven’t released anything since “Lisbon” two years ago, but I just discovered an old burned copy of “Everybody Who Pretended to Like Me Is Gone” at the bottom of a box at my house, and I forgot just how much I fucking loved that record back in high school. And since losing that disc, I haven’t found myself attached to the Walkman as I should be, as if my appreciation for the band lived and died with that disc being in my immediate presence. Hidden gem of of 2000’s decade? Sort of feels that way.