You are about to read through what I deem the top 60 tracks of 2011. Yes, 60. For some reason, lists need to fit within the confines of the top 100, top 50, top 40, Top 20, or Top 10. Any other number seems arbitrary. I had the same uncertainty with the number 60. When I first assembled my list it consisted of 87 songs. I had a decision to make: force 13 more songs onto the list and create another monolith like I did last year (it was a lot of work by the way), or attempt to whittle the list down to 50. I went with the latter, but when finished, I found I still had 67 songs. I struggled and struggled and eventually had it to the number we have now: 60. At this point, I couldn’t remove one more song. None of these songs could be tossed aside, each holding a special meaning, memory, or melody that helped me through another year.
60. “Poor Lenore”
Edgar Allan Poe could totally sue Wavves for copyright infringement.
59. “Ric Flair”
Ric Flair rants about his cars, fame, and women on this song, proving that rappers have been stealing his shtick for years (Flair was defending the belt long before Kanye and Jay-Z were “Defending the Throne”).
58. “Questions For the Angels”
Despite his old age, Paul Simon still writes songs that are poignant as ever. “Questions for the Angels” tells the story of a homeless “pilgrim” in New York City, and with each verse, Simon raises questions for not only the angels, but the listeners themselves.
57. “Book of Revelations”
With the album “Portamento” The Drums were able to erase their squeaky clean image, lyrics leaving the sunny beach behind, melodies abandoning the happy-go-lucky whistling made for Lexus commercials. On “Book of Revelations,” singer Jonathan Pierce provides the perfect pick-up line for the end of the world: “And I believe that when we die, we die / So let me love you tonight.” Here’s to a rapturous Rapture in 2012.
56. “Laru Beya”
Aurelio’s album “Laru Beya” is probably the only album out in 2011 trying to keep a musical style from extinction. Aurelio grew up on the Honduran coast, raised in Garifuna tradition, a mixture of African and Honduran culture. Think of the song “Laru Beya” as a Northern Spotted Owl; enjoy it while you still can.
55. “Long Way Down”
I’ve made my love for Alela Diane no secret. There is no other female voice out there today that can soothe my mind, expose my soul, and melt away my melancholy the way that Alela can. Sure, it’s “A Long Way Down”, but Alela’s voice sure softens the blow.
54. “An Argument with Myself”
“An Argument with Myself” is Jens Lekman’s attempt at being the James Joyce of the music world (although I’m pretty sure Leopold Bloom never took issue with backpackers).
53. “Bronx Sniper”
Peanut butter and jelly. Hot wings and blue cheese. Cake and ice cream. At some point in history, people looked at these combinations and were wary of the results. The same can be said upon hearing that Nick Thorburn (Islands/Unicorns), Ryan Kattner (Man Man), and Joe Plummer (Modest Mouse) joined forces for the side-project Mister Heavenly. Contrary to expectations, the mixture of Thorburn’s soft, serene voice and Kattner’s gravelly hooting and hollering results in pure bliss.
52. Thao & Mirah
I took a lot of heat earlier this year for dogging tUnE-yArDs release “WHOKILL.” Many misread and felt I despised the album when in fact, I found the music adventurous and fun. Unfortunately, Merrill Garbus’s horrid lyrics ruined this joy-ride like eating a rotten hotdog before getting on a roller coaster. Thao & Mirah’s song “Eleven” is Merrill’s best offering in 2011, a song she co-wrote with the duo (she also produced their album). With Thao & Mirah reigning in her lyrics (or not allowing her access to the lyrics), the douche-chills disappear and that fun-filled excursion returns (no hotdogs involved).
51. Nacho Picasso
I have to admit, this song is probably really bad, but the comic book nerd in me can’t get enough of it. Nacho Picasso’s lyrics ramble through the Marvel Universe roster like he’s flipping through a Marvel Heroes Encyclopedia. Despite its simplicity, Picasso’s twist on the characters keeps a smile on my face from start to finish. How can you not giggle at lines like “Your girl’s professor X, she’s good from the head up”? And you’ll not find a better hook in 2011 than “Smokin’ readin’ comic books, Smokin’ readin’ comic books.”
50. “I Party All the Time”
Gang of Four
It’s nice to see these old dudes are still partying in 2011 (although they do have to be in bed nine).
49. “Poor in Love”
With “Poor in Love,” Dan Bejar offers up an anti-thesis to Jay-Z’s “99 Problems.”
I was horrible in high school Spanish, but fortunately, one of the few words I still remember is “mala.” It makes it easy to sing along to Davila 666’s “Mala.” Usually in my car, it sounds something like this, “Hoo-ka-pic-a-pic-a-lic-a-dic-a-dic-a-lic-a-noche, MALA!”
So yeah, this is a song about looking up women’s skirts – but it’s so much more. It’s a song about stepping outside your boundaries, exploring the world (and yourself), and learning to become a man.
46. “I Need Seed”
Thee Oh Sees
Let me get this straight: the dirt ingests seeds in order to throw-up grass and trees? So all this time I’ve loved the feeling of having dirt-vomit between my toes? How delightful!
45. “Light Emerges”
Beginning with a melody reminiscent of the soundtrack to “True Romance,” Akron/Family build “Light Emerges” upon a plethora of nature imagery, all building toward the moment the light emerges at the 1:45 mark. From there, it’s four minutes of cheerful illumination.
44. “Reconte-Moi Histoire”
I’m in the minority when I say I’m not a fan of M83’s 2011 release “Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming.” When an album is around 75-minutes long and consisting of 22-songs that sound similar, I get pretty bored quick. But one song that jumped out to me was “Reconte-Moi Histoire,” so unique and different from anything else on the album that it commands your attention. While it reminds me of the sample-heavy songs on The Book’s 2010 release, it also brings forth the emotional swells that I adored on M83’s long forgotten “Dead Cities, Red Seas, & Lost Ghosts.” Plus, who doesn’t love a song about frogs that induce hallucinations?
43. “Goodbye Bread”
For anyone who has been on a diet that allows a “cheat day” on the weekend, Ty Segall’s “Goodbye Bread” is a reminder of the added stomach pain of Monday arriving once again.
42. “Jet Luggage”
Roc Marciano (featuring The Alchemist & Oh No)
90s gangsta rap was cool and all, but I’m pretty sure this is what it should have sounded like.
41. “Holy, Holy”
I haven’t a heard a guitar sound this dissonant and magnificent at the same time since Sonic Youth’s “Dirty.” Singer/guitarist Jen Wasner better watch out; after his divorce earlier this year, Thurston Moore is back out on the prowl.
40. “Shave My Pussy”
This song will make you laugh; this song will make you cry (in that order).
39. “Family Tree”
Ancestry.com should totally buy the rights to this song.
Here’s a surf-rock song that will have you wishing you had your very own “Miranda” to sing to.
37. “Morning Comes”
After a rough day, there is no better song than “Morning Comes” to turn things around. Like a personal therapist, the lyrics tell you that “things will get much better,” and the constant strumming of the high-E string remind you that you just have to keep on plucking along.
Future of the Left
Yes, Destroywhitchurch.com is a real website, aimed at saving a school from a district reorganization in South Wales. I’m not quite sure where Future of the Left stand on the issue, but if I can read Andy Falkous’s penchant for sarcasm and wry wit, I’d say that he’s sickened by the parents’ ambitions to avoid integration. Whatever the case, this examination of the Wales education system in three dramatic parts is hilarious from start to finish: whether it be the Alice and Chain’s-esque “Oh no!” in part one, the freak-out against parents “armed with jam” in part two, or the Slint-esque finish with Falkous instructing Craig on how to search out the website with his “fat fingers.”
35. “Fuck Her Tears”
Times New Viking
In 2011, not only did Times New Viking sing the anthem “Fuck Her Tears,” they also said a big “fuck you” to their past reliance on lo-fi production. The result: their most endearing song yet (yes, I just described a song called “Fuck Her Tears” as endearing).
34. “Wilhelms Scream”
On “Wilhelms Scream” James Blake’s soulful voice sings of giving up on love, dreams, and simply falling into a drift of isolation. Oh, and it has a cold, sparse atmosphere to boot.
33. “Ice Cream”
Battles (featuring Matias Aguayo)
In 2011 we learned that without Tyondai Braxton, Battles are not nearly as engaging. On the song “Ice Cream,” Matias Aguayo helps fill the void, resulting in a song that is both unpredictable and energetic.
While the kings of falsetto and bass beats let us down in 2011 (shame on you TV On the Radio!), Jai Paul’s first single “BTSTU” helped ease the pain. His falsetto off-sets the opening lyrics “Don’t fuck with me,” an alarming combination that is just the tip of the iceberg that is “BTSTU.” If the first song released by Paul is any sign of what’s to come, 2012 could be his year.
31. “Video Games”
Lana Del Rey
I know this is supposed to be a sad song about the loss of chivalry, the pain of being unappreciated, and the unrealistic, romanticized expectations that culture has placed upon relationships; but I just like the idea of having a girlfriend who enjoys playing video games (perfume and sun dresses are so over rated).