December 12, 2011

Best of 2011: The Songs

50. Yelle - "Safari Disco Club"
49. Body Language - "Social Studies"
48. Bleached - "Searching Through The Past"
47. Craft Spells - "After The Moment"
46. Future Islands - "Crish (Javelin Remixxx)"

45. Nurses - "Trying To Reach You"
44. Cheerleader - "Dreamer"
43. Radiation City - "The Color of Industry"
42. Lower Dens - "Deer Knives"

41. Ganglians - "Sleep"
40. Cut Copy - "Alisa"

39. Blouse - "Shadow"

38. FIDLAR - "Wake Bake Skate"
37. Eleanor Friedberger - "My Mistakes"
36. St. Vincent - "Cruel"

35. Tune-Yards - "Gangsta"

34. Future Islands - "Before The Bridge"
33. Bare Wires - "Don't Ever Change"
32. Michael Kiwanuka - "Tell Me A Tale"

31. Bill Callahan - "Drover"

30. Chromatics - "Kill For Love"

29. The Alabama Shakes - "You Ain't Alone"
28. Braids - "Peach Wedding"

27. Dum Dum Girls - "Coming Down"
26. Neon Indian - "Polish Girl"
25. Ducktails - "Hamilton Road"
24. Youth Lagoon - "Montana"
23. Crystal Stils - "Dark Eyes"

22. The Heavenly States Feat. Britt Daniel - "Berlin Wall"

21. Twin Sister - "Stop"

20. Glass Candy - "Warm In The Winter"

19. Idiot Glee - "Trouble At The Dancehall"
18. Generationals - "Ten-Twenty-Ten"
17. Woods - "Pushing Onlys"

16. Fleet Foxes - "Helplessness Blues"

Black Lips - "Bone Marrow"

This is the track were Mark Ronson's production really peaks through, mixing up The Black Lips' standard instrumentation with a sparse handclap and bass drum beat and choruses spiked with theremin. The swelling build of energy, from the guitars to the percussion, vault "Bone Marrow" and its killer vocal melodies out rocket-like straight into the listener's pop jugular.

Ty Segall - "Goodbye Bread"
We know the shred-happy Segall can crank out heaps of fuzz and noise, so it's a welcome surprise to hear a track as intimate and artfully low-key as "Goodbye Bread." Segall has a nice crunchy solo here, but it's the loose swinging strums of guitar and his delicate touches of falsetto that really command attention here, begging for repeated listens.

Yuck - "Shook Down"

"You could be my destiny" is an embarrassingly cheesy adolescent one-liner, and Yuck not only pull it off in "Shook Down," they also somehow have me singing along. I'm not sure if it's the beautifully layered guitars or that strong 90s influence, but the band has a way of taking you back to that angsty teenage period of life where every romantic moment and choice feels like its the most important event in the world. It's simple music, but it's also entirely charming.

Stone Darling - "All I Wanna Do"
This is the song that sold me on Stone Darling. I knew after just three listens that I wanted to release a record by this band on Analog Edition. It's an another simple track, but it burns bright: the strums of guitar, insistent build of drums, and the hushed layers of honey-glazed and reverb-drenched harmony burst with color, especially during the song's stunning polyphonic outro.

Summer Camp - "Better Off Without You"

In Summer Camp's effort to channel their favorite John Hughes-filtered 80s moments with their own homemade brand of pop music, they've come up with quite a few gems—I'm thinking of "Jake Ryan," "Ghost Train" and "Round The Moon"—but none are perhaps as immediately appealing and satisfying as "Better Off Without You." It's a straightforward and almost traditional pop track with everything building towards that big chorus, and singer Elizabeth Sankey absolutely nails it.

Eternal Summers - "Pure Affection"
"I want to give you my pure affection, but can you grant me higher connection?" sings Nicole Hirschmann over a heavy yet loose and drifting dose of percussive groove and rhythm guitar. The contrast between that hammer of a snare and Hirschmann's stoned guitar play create a wonderfully dreamy and lingering state, as if lost in a field of sunflowers, wandering in and out of patches of sunlight.

Bleached - "You Take Time"
The Clavin sisters channel the greats with "You Take Time," the B-side off their Carter 7". With shots of big gain-slathered guitars, a "Fox On The Run"-recalling vocal melody, and a playful set of lyrics ("You take time to go nowhere, you take time to sit and stare"), the song sticks like a chewed up piece of bubblegum to the bottom of a shoe.

The Shivers - "I Want You Back"
The two synth-heavy tracks on The Shivers' More LP—"Used To Be" and "I Want You Back"—are surprising entrances into the keys and guitar-centered singer-songwriter world of Keith Zarriello and Jo Schornikow, but they're also much welcome additions. "I Want You Back" in particular is the real star single, matching Zarriello's energetic attempt at forgiveness with an uptempo pop arsenal of bright analog synths, a rolling bass line, and snaps of snare.

Bandana Splits - "Sometimes"
With help on production duties from Apollo Sunshine's Sam Cohen and songwriting credit to Steve Salett of The Poison Tree, the light-hearted doo-wop inspired trio The Bandana Splits churn out the modern day equivalent of an oldie but goodie in "Sometimes"—an irresistibly upbeat harmony and tambourine-smothered treat that reaches for the stars and returns with fistfuls of sparkling soul.

Jonathan Wilson - "Can We Really Party Today?"
After years of rumors, Jonathan Wilson's elusive record Gentle Spirit finally got picked up and released in 2011 and "Can We Really Party Today?" is the star of the show: what starts out as a sparse introspective acoustic ditty builds into something else entirely at 4:52, where a rush of organ, handclaps, and a thumping bass crash over the unsuspecting listener in a wave of euphoria. It's the kind of musical moment that hits your right in the gut, and may even raise a few hairs—it's that good.

Allah-Las - "Catamaran"
Last week, Everybody Taste named the Allah-Las' Catamaran 7" the best vinyl single of the year, so yes, of course, "Catamaran" is also one of our favorite tracks of the year. With help from Nick Waterhouse on production and recording, the Allah-Las do a pitch-perfect job of recreating the spooky, late-night, surf-guitar fueled vibe of early Los Angeles rock and roll. Dark, gritty, grooving, and hip-twisting, this track recalls another time and era once lost, and now found again.

Mikal Cronin - "Again and Again"

Mikal Cronin's self-titled LP is the best debut I heard in 2011, and while it's much more of an album than a collection of singles, I can't seem to get enough of "Again and Again." The uptempo acoustic-centered number reflects Cronin's British Invasion influences like The Kinks and Troggs as well as his own distinctive sound, evident via his talent for self-harmonizing and layering guitars, in this case, propelling the momentum of the acoustic with a few rhythmic and soloing electrics in the back of the mix.

Shannon and The Clams - "The Cult Song"
Oakland's Shannon & The Clams have churned out a bona fide classic in "The Cult Song," a track about a cult follower who's calling it quits. It's a cartoonishly playful treat filled with creepily deep and raspy voices that chant everything from "one of us, one of us" to "abracadabra" and "ooga booga baby." Shannon Shaw plays the defector as she sings over an uptempo muted guitar, "Sick of the dancing, sick of your chanting" and later "Sick of the kool-aid, I don't wanna be in your cult no more." If you're not laughing, singing-along, and dancing to this wholly unique bird, then you aren't paying attention.

Winks - "Slap Me Choke Me Cum On You"
Let's forget semantics for a second and talk music. It's a simple song: there's a drum machine, a rawly-played nearly clean-toned electric, and vocals—that's it. But that chorus—that combination of words and melody—create a seriously addictive musical phrase. This is the best sing-along of 2011. Now the lyrics, yes, they are incredibly vulgar, but they're also fantastically funny thanks to the Winks' very dark sense of humor. Your initial response may be, "This is disgusting." But soon, The Winks' music will brain wash you, and you'll find yourself alone in the car singing about slapping, choking, and cumming on a complete stranger. I promise you, it will happen.

Cass McCombs - "County Line"

I was ready to call "County Line" the best song of 2011 back in February. It's now December and still nothing has come close to the transcendent beauty of this dark and moody ballad. From the languid touches of electric piano and the barely discernible hum of organ to Cass's voice—oh man, that smokey crooning hush of a falsetto and its corresponding "whoa, whoa, whoas"—"County Line" proves to be a truly great moment for this recluse: one where his intricate and heady songwriting converges with an unforgatabble melodic phrase to form a truly accessibile and timeless work of pop music. It's a 70s AM soft-rock number colored with heartache and set in a world of late nights and early mornings, darkened highways, and empty bars. Lines like "I can smell the Columbine" suggest a real bleakness, but when the song switches over to that chorus, the mood completely changes—and what Cass dishes out is genuinely bewitching.

Cass McCombs


  1. fun tunes as favorite description (on yuck)

    "the band has a way of taking you back to that angsty teenage period of life where every romantic moment and choice feels like its the most important event in the world."

    --I remember this period of life all to well.


    CP of HD

  2. Thanks Chris!

    On a separate note, I meant to put Dawes' "A Little Bit of Everything" on this list, but totally forgot. Whoops. Will make up for it in the Best Albums list.

  3. I love best songs of the year list. So far I got through the top 10 and it has a classic oldies feel, yet new at the same time. I have this bookmarked to come back to. Thanks for making the list! I made a top 10 songs of the year list too if you want to check it out.

  4. Great list, I passed it on to many friends and we are sharing our favorite new discoveries back and forth via spotify.

    Keep up the great work, you are now at the top of my blog list favorites!

  5. Awesome list, I especially like that Nurses track. Music blogs like this help spread some great ear tunes and inspire people like me to start their own blogs. Right On!