10. tUnE-yArDs – Bizness
By far the most experimental track on this list, “Bizness” shines as track that melds afro-pop, folk and funk all in one. Utilizing schizophrenic vocal loops and fluttering guitar, tUnE-yArDs yearns for a former lover to return while working through the pain.
9. The Black Keys – Little Black Submarines
Just when you thought The Black Keys had abandoned their bruising blues rock roots, “Little Black Submarines” details a lost connection (literally). The track teases with an acoustic opening before turning into a crushing garage sound masterpiece a la “I Got Mine”.
8. Of Monsters and Men – Little Talks
We all know I’m a sucker for guy/girl call and response records (see Edward Sharpe, Positive K and Aaliyah/Timbaland). Icelandic outfit Of Monsters and Men put their own spin on the old adage and have an endearing quality that makes it near impossible to avoid a smile. “Little Talks” makes a dying romance sound like a gypsy themed party.
7. White Denim – Street Joy
“Street Joy” is a particularly refreshing slow jam with a classic rock feel. Lead singer James Petralli’s pained vocals paint a narrative of wanting someone back so much that he’s willing to “string myself up onto your front door”. Intense.
6. The Throne – Ni***s In Paris
Say what you will about the subject matter, you can’t ignore how infectious the production and hook are. Jay & Yeezy drop clever lines aplenty on this banger. Now does it make sense to close out an arena tour by performing this track 11 (!) times in a row? Thats debatable.
5. M83 – Midnight City
Just because the rest of the U.S. population is catching up to the glory that is “Midnight City” due to a bra ad, doesn’t mean the synth anthem should be discounted. M83 made a electro pop gem that shines with layered vocals, surprising sax and thumping drum that should be enjoyed by all.
4. Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues
Is there a more jubilant opening than the piano keys of the title track from Fleet Foxes’ sophomore album (okay, maybe the aforementioned “Battery Kinzie”)? This track would be the first on my hiking playlist, if such a thing existed. The lyrics are somewhat ambiguous, but I take them as the narrator is out to set his own path, not one that has been determined for him.
3. Bon Iver – Holocene
While “Towers” was the track from Bon Iver I listened to most in 2011, “Holocene” was the masterpiece I couldn’t ignore. Justin Vernon’s majestic vocals mixed with subtle guitar strings echo a tale of being a small part of a historic, beautiful world. “I can see for miles, miles, miles….”
2. The Rapture – How Deep is Your Love
As soon as the forceful piano keys struck on “How Deep Is Your Love”, it was clear the return of The Rapture shouldn’t be taken lightly. They may only release a new album every 5 years, but the Rapture are masters of the disco/electronic market. “How Deep Is Your Love” combines cowbell, thumping bass, a surprise sax and Luke Jenner’s tender howl into a dancefloor anthem.
1. Gotye – Somebody That I Used To Know ft Kimbra
From the hypnotic beat to the honest, easy to relate to theme, “Somebody That I Used To Know” was an instant hit in my eyes. Gotye’s passionate narrative combined with Kimbra cooing vocals made for a story everyone has been through, but never sounded so good.