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Blog // Sounds
December 27, 2011

My Favourite 25 Songs Of 2011

I’m going to wade into murky waters here, by offering up my 25 favourite songs of 2011. Are these the best songs of 2011? Maybe, maybe not. OK, probably not. Truth is I’m not normally a big fan of “best-of” lists. And, listing best songs, as opposed to best albums, always makes it harder to […]

I’m going to wade into murky waters here, by offering up my 25 favourite songs of 2011. Are these the best songs of 2011? Maybe, maybe not.

OK, probably not.

Truth is I’m not normally a big fan of “best-of” lists. And, listing best songs, as opposed to best albums, always makes it harder to include jazz and other less mainstream genres, for example.

However, I’ve been asked to recomend new music a lot in recent years and haven’t always done a good job. So for your listening pleasure (and occasional derision), here’s twenty five songs that caught my ear in 2011.

25. Van Hunt – What Were You Hoping For

Every year I hear songs that try to pull off what Van Hunt so effortlessly does here, the minimal arrangement, contrasting grooves in guitar and beats, the lofi vocal sound, the mashup of radio bits in the background. But, unlike other similar songs, What Were You Hoping For never collapses under it’s own cleverness.

24. Andy Stott – Dark Details

I don’t listen to much electronica these days. But, this dark patient track, drenched as it is in complex reverb really caught my ear and stood out. Give it time and it will suck you in.

23. Future Islands – Balance

Some songs just get on first hearing. That’s how I felt about this tune. I adore how this song manages to feel fresh and retro at the same time.

22. Lykke Li – Get Some remix by Beck

The original version of this song was pretty good – Lykke Li is a solid vocalist. But, this remix by Beck is something else; one of the coolest grooves of the year.

21. Dierks Bentley – Am I The Only One

Sure, it’s a simple one dimensional song. But, it gets the job done so well. Sometimes a song works because it perfectly expresses a moment in your life and, for me, this song did that a number of times this year!

20. Dum Dum Girls – Bedroom Eyes

There was a huge buzz around this band a while back and it’s not hard to see why. Effortlessly catchy vocals and a great sound.

19. Bad Meets Evil – Lighters ft. Bruno Mars

The whole world probably heard my yawn when I first heard this song. But, only few seconds in it becomes clear that Eminem is throwing down one of the best raps in years. Yes, it’s a formula, but this time it’s transcendent.

18. Lacuna Coil – “Trip The Darkness”

Sometimes I’m just a sucker for melodic vocals and punchy riffs. There’s plenty of both in this song, with the promise of more to come on their new album!

7. Sarah Jarosz – Run Away

Some performances conjure a whole panorama in a turn of a phrase. Jarosz has this gift and Run Away is perhaps her most rich and cinematic track.

16. The Black Keys – Lonely Boy

I was a later comer to the buzz around The Black Keys. Regardless, this is a killer song with a great vibe.

15. Maya Azucena – Cry Love

Given the way the western world is going, it’s not surprising there are more socially conscious songs being written. Cry Love is one of the most beautiful, a vivid tune that pays tribute to a great soul tradition.

14. Within Temptation – Faster

Yeah I know. It’s another melodic rock tune with a female lead singer. What can I say, it’s a great performance and a really solid song (with some interesting Chris Issak overtones). Well, that’s my excuse anyway.

13. Tom Waits – “Bad As Me”

Tom Waits is my all time favourite singer and songwriter. The only thing that really bears commenting it that this track is one of the best songs he’s written in years.

12. Bon Iver – Calgary

There’s always such a rich atmosphere to Bon Iver’s work and here they have what seems to me to be one of their best tunes. Enchanting stuff, with just enough edge to keep it interesting all the way through.

11. Arch Enemy – Yesterday Is Dead And Gone

It’s not hard to see why this band has a fanatical following. What’s that line about a fist in a velvet glove. Whatever it is, this my favourite metal song of the year.

10. Adele – Rolling In The Deep

It would be unforgivably contrarian not to include the song that will probably top most journalist’s lists for 2011. After all, it is an amazing song.

9. Rodney Atkins – Take A Back Road

I love the way country music can take simple, everyday emotions and spin them out into singable tunes. Besides, you’ve got to love a song that includes the lyric, “put a little gravel in my travel!”

8. Evanescence – What You Want

This song just works for me on every level. Although my tolerance for the whole goth/emo thing is pretty low, Evanescence often win me over, as they did here.

7. Lana Del Rey – Video Games

A lot of commentators got carried away with the “next great voice” stuff describing this song. That’s a shame, because it obscures how evocative and captivating the whole arrangement is. Captivating stuff.

6. Ryan Adams – Lucky Now

Ryan Adams is the best songwriter of my generation and his latest album, including this song is just further proof of that.

5. Jumpstart – These Kids Wear Crowns

I instantly fell in love with this catchy, feel-good song. If you are a regular reader of this blog you probably saw my pictures of TKWC when they were in Singapore in May. Great band, great song.

4. St Vincent – Surgeon

Downbeat, moody, inventive, sure. It’s also a memorable, original and surprising song from what is fast becoming one of my favourite acts.

3. Fleet Foxes – “Helplessness Blues”

Bleak and brutally open, this song tore my heart open the first time I heard it. Awesome work.

2. Yuck – Get Away

Sure, I like Yuck because the evoke the music I loved back in the 90s. But, that’s kind of besides the point. This kind of songrwiting and performance stands on it’s own merits and not just as some kind of homage. Brilliant stuff.

1. Esperanza Spalding & Gretchen Parlato – Useless Landscape

Did I conspire, against all odds, to squeeze a jazz song into number one slot, even though it is actually a cover. OK, I’m guilty as charged. But, this is such a brilliant performance from Esperanza Spalding who is already established as the bright young thing of the jazz world and Gretchen Parlato who has what many people consider to be the vocal jazz album of the year.

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