10. The Roots ft. Big K.R.I.T. – “Make My”
I catch a lot of grief for my lack of hip-hop coverage on this blog. It’s not that I don’t appreciate the genre, I just don’t think I listen enough to justify writing. I won’t bother attempting to explain why “Make My” is a significant contribution to the genre. All I can say is that this is the best damn hip-hop song I have heard in quite some time. In fact, undun, is also on my short list for top albums of the year. So there.
9. The Strokes – “Machu Piccu”
The Strokes’ long-awaited, fourth full-length release, Angles, received mixed reviews from the indie scene at large. Particularly a pesky Chicago blog that I often find myself annoyed and disagreeable with. For years, crictics bitched and moaned about the fact that The Strokes were really just Julian Casablancas. So the boys finally put an album out that represented a team effort and everyone shrugs? I don’t get it. Though Angles failed to make my Top 10 albums of the year, “Machu Piccu” was the track that I found myself returning to most often. Play it loud. It’s better that way.
8. Real Estate – “Out of Tune”
Real Estates’ fall release Days has been slapped with a near universal stamp of approval. Though those types of mass agreement tend to send me running for cover. I have to say, I agree with the masses. This fall release is perfect for a long drive. Though Days tends to mesh together into a single thought for me, I’m particularly drawn to “Out of Tune”. The track is a sleepy, slow roll that requires no deep thinking. It’s just great music, and you know it from the first note.
7. White Denim – “Street Joy”
Austin, TX’s White Denim satisfied my desire for the type of guitar driven jams that I feel the indie scene is lacking with their 2011 release D. The band fits a more traditional rock band formula that falls neatly within my comfort zone. Ironically, “Street Joy” is the one track from the release that doesn’t fit that model. Here, the boys employ a simple recurring acoustic guitar over an ethereal synth line. The song plays like a dream, and what a sweet dream it is.
6. Surfer Blood – “Drinking Problem”
Surfer Blood’s Tarot Classics was another EP that narrowly missed my Top 5 list. For me, “Drinking Problem” was the strongest song on the release. The subject matter was relatable for me. John Paul Pitts sings of not giving a shit about the problems that arise from his substance dependent friends and their various vices, saying “At least I know who my friends are.” Amen brother.
5. Fleet Foxes – “Lorelai”
I missed out on Pitchfork Festival in Chicago this year. Instead, I spent the bulk of the weekend camped out in front of my computer, watching via the interwebs. I can honestly say that Fleet Foxes’ headlining performance was one of my favorite concerts of the year. Chills ran down my spine as Robin Pecknold conquered the Chicago indie scene with staggering renditions of songs from their 2011 release Helplessness Blues. Though my initial enthrallment with the album faded throughout the year, my love for “Lorelai” never left.
4. The Beach Boys – “Heroes and Villains”
The first time I heard this particular version of “Heroes and Villains” was in the opening scene of 2009’s Fantastic Mr. Fox. Those of you that understand the love I feel deep down in my loins for this movie, know that an immediate musical bond was made. The song reappeared on the long anticipated release of The Beach Boys’ original Smile recordings this year. The album is a treat, and this track is a masterpiece.
3. Dirty Gold – “California Sunrise”
Very few songs have the ability to transplant a listener directly into beach front vacation mode. “California Sunrise” is certainly one of those songs. San Diego teens Dirty Gold’s debut ROAR just barely missed my list of Best EP’s from 2011. I don’t think I’ve ever played this song for a group without someone chiming in to ask, “Who the hell are these guys?”
2. Paul Simon – “Rewrite”
I like to consider myself a writer above all else. Good or bad is debatable, but when someone asks what I do, my response is inevitably: I write. I think that’s why I found this Paul Simon track so endearing. Complex, repeating tribal rhythms underscore flawless songwriting on this one. Here, Simon leads his listener on a meditative journey through the mind of an aging writer who has never found a draft he didn’t wish to change. Like the best poems, every one of “Rewrite”‘s words serves a purpose.
1. tUnE-yArDs – “Powa”
What to say about Merrill Garbus? She’s a tough cookie to put into words. To use a cop out, you really have to hear it. I would recommend you start with “Powa”, arguably her most accessible track. Garbus’ unfathomably wide vocal range is on full display, allowing the listener to nearly forget that she is singing, quite graphically, about a woman’s most primal sexual desires. Watch below:
Written by Rob Peoni
10. Craft Spells – “After the Moment“
Catchy. Pop. Music. It’s a song that truly understands and encompasses that perfect night with someone else. We’ve all been there, and we all can listen to this jam and remember the past moments, live the present ones, and hope for more to come.
9. Twin Sister – “Bad Street“
A song with some serious vibe and sex appeal. Not to mention a funky beat. “Feel it with you, in you feel it. Feel it with you, feel it in you. I want it bad!” Really, enough said, this song brings some funk, pop, and a great voice all together perfectly.
8. Smith Westerns – “All Die Young”
Probably cliché to say, but when I hear this song I get some serious Beatles vibe going on. From the wailing guitar to the boisterous chorus, it’s a big project from a young band. And they pull it off.
7. The Antlers – “I Don’t Want Love“
My initial favorite off this album was “Every Night My Teeth Are Falling Out”, but as the year went on, this song stuck out more and more. The falsetto vocals bring so much feeling, and heartbreak, that for me, this song hits me right where it counts. Add in the haunting wail at the end, and this fits in right behind” Two” as my second favorite Antlers song.
6. Cults – “You Know What I Mean“
Two people. A girl singing like it’s 1965. A guy playing guitar. And perhaps the best chorus of 2011. Feel that drum beat and say it, “Cause I am afraid of the light, yeah you know what I mean.”
5. Bon Iver – “Beth / Rest“
Simply put, this song makes me want to cry. It reminds me of listening to 1980’s songs on the radio on Sunday nights courtesy of my Mom while growing up. From the lyrics, to the guitar solo, it’s my favorite track off Bon Iver’s self -titled masterpiece.
4. Friends – “Friend Crush”
A newcomer to the scene in 2011, this song struck me the first time I heard it. I couldn’t get it out of my head, and I don’t think I ever want to. It says everything about wanting to feel connected to someone else.
3. Real Estate – “Out of Tune”
I know this song was released in 2010. I don’t care, because I didn’t hear it then. It’s my favorite song off an unbelievable album. An album about getting lost in life in the suburbs, this song is its anthem.
2. Holy Ghost – “Jam for Jerry“
This is an ironic song for me. While it’s a tribute to their late drummer Jerry Fuchs, it’s the song of 2011 that brings me the most happiness whenever I hear it. As soon as those first words come out, “You set the tempo, set the pace”, a smile hits my face and life is good again.
1. M83 – “Midnight City“
Well Anthony, the city is indeed my church. And this is the song of the year. Why? Well, you only need to listen to it to understand:
Written by Greg Dahman