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
5. Toro y Moi – Freaking Out
Chazwick Bundick rose above the chillwave this year with his full length release of ‘Underneath the Pine’ early this year. Just when I thought that my chillwave was dying, Toro y Moi gave me an extra life with Freaking Out. Bundick’s voice has gotten better with each of releases and song ‘All Alone’ competes as one of my favorites tracks by him. I am excited to see what direction he takes us next.
4. Alabama Shakes – Alabama Shakes
The Shakes exploded on the scene, causing me to tread water as I drowned in their sea of soul. The attention this band has received not only comes from this EP, but also their live shows. I am thrilled and honored to allow the Alabama Shakes to knock me out with their fist full of funk tonight at Radio Radio.
3. Dirty Gold – ROAR
Who would of thought a group of high school kids from San Diego could build the EP that served as my summer anthem? The kids from Dirty Gold have left me thinking that anything is possible, regardless of age. These indie prodigies have caused me to put on my shades and look deeply in to the bright careers the have ahead of them. I am thrilled to see what they bring to be in the future. My guess is that once the ‘California Sunrise’ sets on 2011, they will rise and provide a new project with a brighter polish.
2. Dum Dum Girls – He Gets Me High
Readers of Thought on Tracks understand that I have a weak heart for this San Pedro quartet of female distortion. 2011 was quite the year for the Dum Dum Girls as this served as the appetizer to their excellent full-length ‘Only in Dreams’. While appetizers are petite and initial, ‘He Gets Me High’ fills my belly with a four song entrée. The Smiths cover of “There Is A Light That Never Goes Out” is my favorite cover song of this year and serves as a reminder that sometimes remakes can compete with originals. I take my hat off to the Dum Dum Girls for having an absolutely spectacular year, especially for me.
1. Beach Fossils – What A Pleasure
Surprise, surprise a Brooklyn based band takes the crown in my world of EP’s in 2011. This hardly feels like an EP sitting at sitting at eight tracks. They build off their 2010 self-titled LP, and to me even sound better. Beach Fossils coast during this EP using beautiful melodic guitars to allow listeners to ride their wave. The song “Calyer” has received airplay on Sirius XMU and has been floating in my head ever since. Beach Fossils team up with Wild Nothing on ‘Out In the Way’, which seals the deal for me. I am expecting more from Beach Fossils in 2012. My nautical eye tells me these Beach Fossils will not wither, but gain value with time.
Written by Brett McGrath
Labor Day Weekend is upon us, signifying the end of all things summer. State Fairs, music festivals, fireworks, lake house boat cruises can all now be seen from the rear view. At Thought on Tracks, we are not ready to let go. In our stubbornness we have decided to share an album that we believe ranks among the summer’s best. Blogosphere tested, Thought on Tracks welcomed, Enter: Dirty Gold.
West coast shaking, heart breaking, San Diego representing tweens Dirty Gold have taken the idea of a summer theme to heart and executed with waves crashing behind my ears. I thought I only had room for the Smith Westerns on the Tiger Bear tour, I’m thrilled my musical capacity proves me wrong.
Dirty Gold’s debut ROAR EP was released in April and they have ridden that wave into the summer months. While the title ‘California Sunrise’ might seem like an obvious, simplistic, and maybe even loosely thought out name, the result tugs at your board shorts. The sound is their take on 1960s surf vibes mixed with modern day pop hooks. Listen to “Sea Hare.” I can imagine Bruno Mars salivating, wishing he could own this song and upstage these kids. Their simple, smooth identity is what draws me to Dirty Gold. Complexity is the last thing I want on my mind while chilling on the beach. So drink a beverage this weekend and blast this album as we all say sayonara to the sweet sounds of summer.
Stream and buy ROAR HERE.
Written by Brett McGrath.