I’m gonna take the approach that Pretty Much Amazing took when they were crafting their “Best Songs of 2011” list by taking the first 80 and alphabetizing them, then putting the TOP 20 in another post. Since there are SO many good songs, there really isn’t really any good way to rank them in a good way.
Here they are, 80 of my favorite songs of the year!
- A.D.H.D. – Kendrick Lamar
- Africastle – Battles
- All Alone – Toro Y Moi
- Amor Fati – Washed Out
- An Argument with Myself – Jens Lekman
- Another Girl – Jacques Greene
- As Bright As Your Night Light – Nerves Junior
- As Young As Yesterday – Korallreven
- Baby’s Arms – Kurt Vile
- Balance – Future Islands
- Bataille – The Men
- Black Night – The Dodos
- Bobby in Phoenix – Gorillaz
- Body Work/Fuck My Brains Out – The-Dream
- Bronx Sniper – Mister Heavenly
- Burned Out – The Field
- Coming Down – Dum Dum Girls
- Common Burn – Mazzy Star
- Contraption/Soul Desert – Thee Oh Sees
- Countdown – Beyoncé
- County Line – Cass McCombs
- Crystalline – Bjork
- Damage – Handsome Furs
- Decimate Everything – Born Gold
- Die – Girls
- Einmal in der Woche Schreien – Siriusmo
- End of Days – Light Asylum
- Especially Me – Low
- Far Nearer – Jamie XX
- For Love I Come – Thundercat
- Free Press and Curl – Shabazz Palaces
- Hanging On – Active Child
- Hits Me Like A Rock – CSS
- Hours – Tycho
- How Deep Is Your Love? – The Rapture
- I Don’t Want Love – The Antlers
- I Follow Rivers – Lykke Li
- I Wanna Meet Dave Grohl – Wavves
- I Wanted to Tell Her (ft. Nancy Whang and the Juan Maclean) – Holy Ghost!
- Invisible – Wild Beasts
- Kaputt – Destroyer
- Kelly – When Saints Go Machine
- Lonely Boy – The Black Keys
- Michael Jackson – Das Racist
- Money on the Floor (Ft. 2 Chainz, 8Ball & MJG) – Big K.R.I.T.
- Montana – Youth Lagoon
- Montezuma – Fleet Foxes
- New Brigade – Iceage
- New Work – jj
- No Future/No Past – Cloud Nothings
- No Real Reason – White Denim
- Novacane – Frank Ocean
- Oblivion – Grimes
- Origins – Tennis
- The Other Shoe – Fucked Up
- Out Getting Ribs – Zoo Kid/King Krule
- Pencil Pimp – Sepalcure
- Perth – Bon Iver
- Pinky’s Dream (ft. Karen O) – David Lynch
- Pretty Poly – Teebs
- Psychic Driving – Soft Metals
- Replica – Oneohtrix Point Never
- Ritual Union – Little Dragon
- Santa Fe – Beirut
- Shit-Hawk in the Snow – Moonface
- Silky Eyes – Puro Instinct
- Sons of Stone – The People’s Temple
- Take Care (ft. Rihanna & Gil-Scott Heron) – Drake
- Te Amo – Atlas Sound
- Top Bunk – Gauntlet Hair
- True Loves – Hooray for Earth
- Two-Way Mirror – Crystal Antlers
- We Have Everything – Young Galaxy
- Wildfire – SBTRKT
- The Wilhelm Scream – James Blake
- The Words That Maketh Murder – PJ Harvey
- Yonkers – Tyler the Creator
- You Carried Us (Share With Me the Sun) – Portugal. the Man
- You Make the Sun Fry – Ty Segall
- YR LOVE – Holy Other
20. It’s Real – Real Estate
This song came out at literally the most perfect time: the arc of mid-July, when summer is just rounding the corner into thinking about priorities again like school, working and other obligations that make you stressed. Almost like an anthem to take it easy, this song eased my tensions as I drove down the streets of my town without a care in the world: windows open, sunglasses on and singing along with the catchy chorus. Feels good, man.
19. Glass Jar – Gang Gang Dance
This song was my first real introduction to Gang Gang Dance and it was quite a doozy: the woozy synths kicking off the song, strange voices entering in and out of the song and other ethereal noises bubbling out of the earphones as the song grew and shape shifted. I really had no clue on what was going to happen, but then the percussion and vocals came in and I was going with the groove. This song is one of the best buildup songs I’ve heard in a long time and it really finished with a great groove that I can really dig. Everyone loves a good groove.
18. Too Much MIDI (Please Forgive Me) – Ford & Lopatin
This song has a tendency to conjure up some sort of alternate reality of myself that must have been created on the dancefloors of the 80’s that loves cheesy synth effects, hair-metal guitar riffs and that romantic-comedy swag that a John Hughes movie would have. I mean, I already love those things, but this alternate version of me dances around to those things. Actually no. This is me. I love this song.
17. Polish Girl – Neon Indian
Where Ford & Lopatin brought the retro, Alan Palomo of Neon Indian brought the future. This song allowed me to freely use words like “shimmer” and “glisten” when describing music, which I really enjoy as well as my friends. After showing this song to a few of my friends here, I found out that they listen to it constantly and tend to dance around when I’m not there. The futuristic feel with an 80’s dust on it really makes it win in my book, as well as my friends. Nice job, Neon Indian.
16. I’m God (Instrumental) – Clams Casino
Hip hip instrumental wizard Clams Casino has been reaping massive amounts of praise this year from about everything he’s done: an instrumental mixtape, an EP, an endless amount of instrumentals for up and coming rap stars like A$AP Rocky and some excellent remixes. So far this guy has not made a poor move yet. This song my favorite of his creations, utilizing an Imogen Heap sample and simple but effective drum beats. This song is a super chill out jam that you just sit around to. Doesn’t even feel like it’s supposed to have rapping in front of it.
15. Bizness – Tune-Yards
This was possibly my most raved song of the first half of the year, sending it to all of my friends via facebook chat and telling them about it after school, shoving my earbuds in their ears and forcing them to listen to it. This song, heck, album was also the most unique experience I listened to this year. Gabrus’ supreme ability with the loop pedal along with the unorthodox arrangements and bombastic vocal lines make this album stand out among all else this year.
14. H e r e, i n H e a v e n 2 – Elite Gymnastics
This was the latest song to enter the Top 20 bracket for me this year and I’m really glad I found it before this year ended. After hearing all the hype about Elite Gymnastics I decided to check out their RUIN 1+2 EP to see what all the fuss was about. The first two songs to really make a significant mark on my musical brain was “Here, In Heaven 1+2” the first of which featured an extremely energetic drum track, a signature touch from EG along with heavily effected vocals. The second, the one that is ranked here was stripped of the drum beat and in place of it was a darker, more minimal percussion layer along with eerie vocal effects. The vocal line itself was pitch shifted to be higher and more spaced out, creating a cavernous effect within the song instead of the high energy banger that the first one was.
13. Street Halo – Burial
It’s Burial. He created my second favorite album of the 00’s, Untrue and has yet to disappoint me musically. His signature style, dark, rainy, strands of r&b vocals woven into the backgrounds of the songs, as if you’re sitting on a bench and someone is listening to a popular r&b song behind you and you can hear little snippets of it through the sound of the beating raindrops. This song, is more industrial than the other two on the EP and features a SICK bass beat midway through the song that carries it to victory, along with building tension with anxious filters blasting the synths to shreds. This song is one Burial’s finest and you should definitely pick up this EP, along with a new album he’s dropping next year.
12. Pharaohs & Pyramids – Cut Copy
Cut/Copy’s newest album, Zonoscope, like a lot of other songs and albums from this year, couldn’t have come out at a better time. It came out early in the year, when the ground was still covered in ice and spirits were down because of the lack of vitamin D. Then this album came along with it’s bouncy textures that practically radiated sunshine. It was truly the “feels good man” album of that time period and I really thought if it were played at the snow, the snow would melt because of those hot, hot beats. Pharaohs and Pyramids held the hottest of beats, reminding me of 80’s greats like New Order and Depeche Mode, which is a very good thing to live up to.
11. Get Away – Yuck
Described as “Kids born in the 90’s making music from the 90’s,” Yuck destroyed 2011 with their self-titled debut, especially the first track on the album, “Get Away.” This track burned with teenage intensity and made the rebellious youth come out of all of us. Sounding like the founders of fuzzy guitars and teen angst, Dinosaur Jr. and Sonic Youth, these youngsters (wait, they’re all older than I am) wrecked the game with this incredibly catchy track. Good show, Yuck. Hope to hear more of you in the near future.
10. Attaboy – Stuart Duncan, Chris Thile, Edgar Meyer, Yo-Yo Ma
This album is my #1 of the year and I’m pretty sure it surprised a lot of readers. I can understand that, since I’ve only made one post other than that on this blog about this album and no other blogs reviewed or even talked about this album. This lack of coverage was a fatal mistake on their part. The first song on the album, “Attaboy” is a fantastic fusion of many different styles of traditional fiddle style songs along with some chamber-infused orchestral motives laced within to make it accessible to both the fiddle lover like myself as well as the classical fans. Not to mention that the melodies are extremely catchy and you’ll most likely be humming them later in the day. Also, these musicians are KINGS. The amount of musicality that each of these musicians hold is baffling and it would be a serious crime not to include them all in this list. Even if you don’t primarily listen to instrumental folk or classical music, give this a listen and brace yourself for the surge of positive energy that is this song.
9. Strange Mercy – St. Vincent
St. Vincent’s third album is pretty much flawless in every way and has some killer tracks that were once in this list. I swapped out at least five times with other songs on the album (Cruel, Cheerleader, Surgeon, Northern Lights and Dilettante) and ultimately decided on the title track, “Strange Mercy.” This track is dark like many other songs on this list, but with holds something much more wicked, almost treacherous within the folds of the song. It starts off with an off-kilter drum beat and Annie Clark’s porcelain vocals, slowly adding in some guitar strums and hints at a slow buildup. The chorus builds and builds, only to leave the melody hanging there, almost as if Annie was distracted by something inside of her subconscious. The song represses any strange feelings and goes into a sterile keyboard line, as if Annie was shrugging off this sense of darkness within her. Eventually the song breaks down and gets abrasive with jagged guitars and Knife-like synth textures in the background. This song was the most dynamic out of a very dynamic album which I definitely think you should get immediately.
8. You Know What I Mean – Cults
Going fully retro here with doo-wop girl group pop tendencies, Cults land another winner on my “Best of…” list by creating a song that fully evokes the days of drive-in movies, jukeboxes and high school bullies in Varsity jackets preying on kids like Jimmy Dean. Starting off like a relaxing ballad that you would hear at a 50’s formal, the vocals sweetly croon, there are snaps on the beats and the guitars go along merrily. Just as listeners start to get into their little niche of comfort within the song, the song explodes into an outburst of spirit, giving me chills the first time I heard it. The lyrics “Yeah you know what I mean” have not gotten across clearer in my mind and I don’t think they’ll ever be outdone.
7. The Morning – The Weeknd
I’ll be honest: I don’t really pay much attention to lyrics. That’s usually why there are a lot of electronic songs with great textures and layers within them in the Top 20. But with The Weeknd, you HAVE to listen to the lyrics. You would be missing the entire message if you didn’t listen to them and just listened to the vocal melody, which sounds like a pretty average r&b melody, with the drum break for the chorus and something something about girls… But I listened to the lyrics and was instantly sucked into the very dark, demented world of The Weeknd. The vocals are as sweet as sugar and the lyrics are darker than the underworld itself. They paint a vivid picture of neglect, deceit, drugs, sex and money all circulating the character the singer, Abel Tesfaye, plays. All of the FREE mixtape is fantastic and it was riding high at the #1 spot for most of the year, so you should definitely get this.
6. All Die Young – Smith Westerns
Like in my description of the album, this song strikes a deep, emotional chord in my mind dealing with youth and rebellion. Hanging with friends at the end of high school at night at a friend’s house, chilling out and thinking about our respective futures. “All Die Young” isn’t the best name for a teenage anthem, but it works anyways. Actually no. “All Die Young” could stand for the youthful spirit that is within us all and is lost when we reach a certain age. That means that this song entered my life at a perfect time, my senior year of high school going into a college where none of my friends are attending. Like a fountain of delicious youth, this song bubbles up from my teenage soul reminding me to stay youthful and to never forget the kid in you.
5. Video Games – Lana Del Rey
Lana Del Rey’s “Video Games” is prime example of how music blogs function and how quickly things can catch fire across the internet. The first time I saw this song featured was on one of my favorite music blogs Gorilla vs. Bear where they just gave the video, and the cover of the split single that was going to come out later. I decided to listen to it and was instantly sucked into the harps, strings and of course Del Rey’s smoky, seductive voice. About a month later, Pitchfork BNM’d it and the internet blew this song and Del Rey up with publicity, making it one of the hottest songs and new artists of the year on many blogs and magazines, including my own. Del Rey has been compared to a “gangsta Nancy Sinatra” and I couldn’t agree more. Watch her drop her full-length debut next year and burn the music industry down with her swagger.
4. Alsatian Darn – Panda Bear
Again I say this: Panda Bear’s Tomboy was one of the most underrated albums of the year. People were really expecting something along the lines of his sublime Person Pitch album, but when in reality that would be almost impossible to recreate. This album is chock full of amazing songs “Alsatian Darn” is the one that lasted the longest on the list alongside “Afterburner”, “Last Night at the Jetty” and “Tomboy.” “Alsatian Darn” was the song that won it for me, due to the impossibly contagious groove that it creates with a constant bass drum beat in the background, then sound spilling all around it, creating a kind of kaleidoscopic effect. The way that all of the elements in the song come together at the end is fantastic, with Lennox’s impeccable harmonies and the sound exploding all around your ears. It’s truly an immersive experience.
3. Lofticries – Purity Ring
I was hooked the first time I heard Purity Ring’s skewed future pop, fit with squelching synths, sci-fi related lyrics and pitch-bent vocals backing up the melody. If someone were to ask me what the sound of the future could be like, this is what I would give them. I really have heard nothing like it before. In all reality, it only reinforces my want to be some kind of robot cyborg type thing. I don’t know, I just want to see things like the Jamie Woon “Lady Luck” video. If I were to put a genre on this music, it would be one of my favorite words when it comes to describing songs: BRAINMELT.
2. BTSTU – Jai Paul
Another one of my favorite songs that Drake sampled is actually my #2 song of the year. How about that. The reason I love this song so much is because it foils itself brilliantly. Paul’s vocals are a glassy falsetto and the beat is a minimal bass beat and snare for the most part. Pretty simple, right? Wrong. This song then busts out into aggressive synth breakdowns, the drums get harder and there are mad laser sound effects. Also, Paul isn’t singing about something nice like his love life or his ridiculous album cover up there, he’s singing “Don’t fuck with me, don’t fuck with me… you’re worse than my mother.” That’s some heavy stuff right there. A little past the midway point, the song is full-swing blast mode, with heavy bass and that signature synth cannon going off. The fact that the song is so dynamic in changing from calm and collected to busting-at-the-seams freak out mode on a dime is what impresses me the most. I seriously can’t wait to hear more from Jai Paul next year.
1. Midnight City – M83
The song that deserves to be #1 on everybody’s “Best of 2011” list is this one right here. Midnight City is my most listened to song of the year and presently the most listened to song on my iTunes right now. This song is the perfected combination of almost everything I look for in a good song. Let’s start out with the actual content of the song: it’s extremely catchy, simple, features a banging synth line that hooks people in without fail every time and an utterly flawless addition of a saxophone solo. When I heard this song for the first time I couldn’t help but smile when I heard that last part, because it fit with the song so perfectly. Usually sax solos in pop songs sound pretentious and almost forced, but with this one it seems like the song would be lacking so much without it. Everything equals out within, which is what matters.
Next, let’s move onto the nostalgia factor. That is, how much the song reminds me of past experiences in a good light. This rating is off the charts. After I heard it, it instantly transported me back to being a kid again, without a worry in the world, playing my Super Nintendo in the family room or going out to play with the neighbors at sunset. Songs that have the power to instantly take you somewhere in your past are hard to come by, but when you find them it truly is a treasure.
The last category this song passes with flying colors in is the future scenario beautifier. This deals with when you’re listening to a certain song that makes whatever you’re doing at the moment feel like you’re completing the most gratifying task in the entire world or that whatever you’re doing is beautiful and epic in scale. But in reality, you’re actually just wrapping a present, driving your car to go pick up your sister or walking to class. Either way, you feel like a badass, it feels like you’re in an electronic kingdom of beauty and everything is perfect.
THAT is why this song deserves to be #1 across the world. It’s truly a zeitgeist of a song and one to remember forever.