Top 20, lets go.
20. TV On The Radio – Second Song
Nine Types of Light was an album that required multiple listens before I was a was ready to cosign. It was much lighter fare than their previous work but engaging nonetheless. “Second Song” (which ironically was track 1) was the one cut that I was on board with from the start. The infectious hook, horns and Tunde’s layered vocal mask the fact this song is about overcoming drug addiction.
19. Mayer Hawthorne – A Long Time
You can partially attribute this to the “homer” in me, but how can I ignore a Detroit song as slick as Mayer Hawthorne’s “A Long Time”. This jazzy Motown inspired cut drops some history and encourages that the D will return to its “former glory”.
18. The Throne – New Day
“Me and the RZA connect”. While much of Watch the Throne is full of bravado, black cards and boat loads of money, “New Day” was a refreshing change of pace. Mr. Carter and Mr. West poetically advise their unborn children on past transgressions and ways of the world.
17. Fleet Foxes – Battery Kinzie
The pomp and triumph exuded by the thundering drum and piano of “Battery Kinzie” could be an allegory to Fleet Foxes reign in music in 2011. When faced with the thought of a sophomore slump, the bearded bunch surpassed any expectations as one of the best acts of the year. Either that or the storyteller is embattled as he tries to win back a love he shouldn’t have lost. You choose.
16. Rihanna – We Found Love
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I can appreciate a great pop song when it comes around. Most of the hit songs released in 2011 have a Euro-dance tinge, but Rihanna reeled in legit producer Calvin Harris for a banging dance anthem that I’m addicted to. The hook (“We found love in a hopeless place”) and lyrics are quite simple, but quite catchy. Besides, love doesn’t always need to be complicated, right?
15. Lykke Li – Silent my Song
From the eerie piano keys and haunting percussion to Li’s smoky layered vocals, “Silent My Song” has an arresting quality that is quite powerful. The lyrics I interpret as a pained break-up are extra hurtful as it was Li’s only lover. “And when you seek pain like its a pleasure/Like a work of art/When I’m your painting I’m your treasure/Purest of them all/And call it love or call it murder/Kill me quietly/Close the door and take it further/Where no man has been”.
14. The Joy Formidable – Whirring
The paced vocals and driving drum/guitar of “Whirring” describe a scene where the narrator can’t quite express their feelings. So much so that the Welsh trio accurately builds up the instrumentals almost to the point of eruption. Seeing this live at Music Midtown was a sight to be seen.
13. Cults – Abducted
The way Madeline Follin lures listeners in with enchanting murmurs about being “abducted”, it seems like she is doing the kidnapping. The burst of percussion and humming guitar jars the entire track and aligns with the theme of shock and surprise.
12. Cut Copy – Need You Now
Cut Copy didn’t waste any time grabbing listeners’ attention on the triumphant opening track from Zonoscope. “Need You Now” builds like a New Order alternative dance record and erupts into a full on dance frenzy from there.
11. My Morning Jacket – Wonderful (The Way I Feel)
Between the expertly crafted southern and psychedelic rock from Circuital is “Wonderful”. Jim James’ acoustic ode to deceased friend is more of a celebrated tribute than a sad passing. The pedal steel guitar is a particularly nice touch.