Whittling down the best songs of the year is much tougher than the albums list. Anyone can release a great song, but a fluid, cohesive album is much harder to find. Over the next few posts, I’ll breakdown my top tracks of the year (followed by a two disc mixtape).
As Laura correctly informed me, this list was a little on the “downer” side (what can I say? sometimes slow songs have the best narratives), so these songs all fall under a few attributes:
A) A song I listened to most this year. Even if I’m sick of it now
B) A song that was particularly well written
C) A song that you couldn’t escape because the production was so great
40. Givers – Up Up Up
“Up Up Up” shines with afro pop elements with a slice of calypso before breaking into a head nodding finale. The thumping drum and thrashing guitar that close the record could easily satisfy a variety of crowds and has earned raves on the festival circuit.
39. Iron & Wine – Walking Far From Home
Much of Kiss Each Other Clean has religious overtones, but “Walking Far From Home” might be the most intriguing. In what seems like a stream of consciousness flow, Sam Beam outlines what could either be interpreted as a man on his way to the afterlife or an observation of a post apocalyptic event. The vocal effects give a particularly ethereal hue to the emotional track.
38. U.S. Royalty – Equestrian
Local Natives. Fleet Foxes. Bon Iver. We all know I enjoy layered harmonies and “Equestrian” falls right in that category.
37. Alex Winston – Sister Wife
Alex Winston had quite the string of singles and covers in 2011 that makes next year ripe for a major breakthrough. “Sister Wife” showcased her storytelling and pop capabilities with a subject not often heard in popular song, polygamy. The hook was probably caught in my head for 10 months straight and the Star Slinger remix isn’t too shabby either.
36. Beastie Boys – Make Some Noise
From the hum of the bass to the give and go flow of the gents of Beastie Boys, “Make Some Noise” was a classic and a perfect summertime anthem. The star studded video was one of the more memorable music videos of 2011 as well.
35. Jessica Lea Mayfield – Our Hearts Are Wrong
Jessica Lea Mayfield had my favorite track of 2008 with slow burner “Kiss Me Again”. On her latest charming ode, Mayfield doesn’t pine for easy love, but maturely ends a relationship that wasn’t meant to succeed. The hushed vocals give the track a reluctant feel while the garage guitar acts as the antagonist in this break-up tale.
34. Foster the People – Houdini
The only thing I’ve shouted more than “ball so hard” in 2011 was “focus on your abilities”. You could insert any of the hits Marc Foster crafted this year in this position, but I couldn’t justify four FTP joints in such a short list.
33. Foo Fighters – Arlandria
Whether you like Dave Grohl or not, you have to admit the man can cook up some of the catchiest hooks without toeing into cheesy modern rock territory. “Arlandria” ingeniously uses an old childhood saying to justifies striking out on his own path no matter the expectations.
32. Childish Gambino – Freaks and Geeks
“Alright Gambino is a mastermind..” goes the first line of what would be the year of Childish Gambino for me (and anyone around me). “Freaks and Geeks” was a tidal wave of punchlines that admittedly got better each of the 1000x I listened to it this year. With a flow like Weezy and clever pop references and jokes, how could you not love it? My choice line is “Swag out tha a**, I’m the man, f*** chico/Took the G out ya waffle, all you got left is your ego”.
31. Phantogram – Don’t Move
Phantogram certainly knows their way around glitchy, electronic samples. “Don’t Move” was and continues to be an addiction highlighting Sarah Barthel’s muted vocals over an airy electro beat mixed with off the wall sample.