- By john mataraza
- On December 16th, 2011
- In Music
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There was a lot of great music this year and thanks to my friends over at Spotify, I was able to spend even more time discovering stuff I might have sadly otherwise missed. This may read a bit like some sort of indy’s greatest hits of the year, but well, they are good songs and I’m not just gonna throw a bunch of esoteric B sides just to seem like I’m more in the know. Here’s a sampling of what you should have taken a listen to in the past year. This list is not in any sort of rank order, that’s really too much work and although lists are good old fashion fun, I don’t even know if I’ve really got that specific of an opinion to do that.
Here’s a link to the playlist via Spotify if you don’t feel like clicking on every damn video but know that some of these videos are quite excellent.
1. YOUTH LAGOON: Afternoon – Apparently this is some kid that made an album over his college Christmas break or something ridiculous of this nature. Good for him. It’s got a bit of a dreamy feel to it and I like the how it builds and gets louder but never gets angry.
2. THE ANTLERS: Every Night My Teeth Are Falling Out: One of those songs that you feel like you’ve heard before – before you actually hear it. Also, have you noticed how many bands these days are named after animals or animal parts? OK might be just The Antlers that qualify under “animal parts”
3. REAL ESTATE: It’s Real – No, not the masters of male repressed weepy angst Sunny Day Real Estate, it’s just Real Estate who, ironically, are much more sunny. This is such a nice little song, love the jangly guitar and the video – who doesn’t love a dog video. Plus I think I had those glasses the singer had in 1989 so I could see the board in math class and the bass player may have sold me an oriental rug last week.
4. KURT VILE: Jesus Fever: Hey what better time to catch a little Jesus Fever than right before Christmas right? Right. Anyway, love the odd chord changes in this one and it doesn’t have a whole defined and separate sounding refrain which I like on occasion. Besides, Kurt’s from Philly and reminds me a little of the late great Kenneth Keith Kallenbach.
5. OTHER LIVES: Tamer Animals: Haunting sound, that piano rattles around in your skull for a while after you hear it. Love when it kicks in a little
6. NEON INDIAN: Polish Girl – A few years ago I got the first Neon Indian album in part to annoy myself because I figured I could not possibly like something so electric. But damn it all, I started liking it and this second record is no different. Bastard writes some catchy songs:
7. DALE EARNHARDT JR. JR: Simple Girl – Hey who doesn’t love a little whistling right? Simple girl simple song simply good.
8. M83: Midnight City – Well as far as I’m concerned this is the best song of the year. Love the synths and mostly the crazy 1980’s / INXS style sax solo at the end. So good to hear the sax make an appearance in a pop song after about 25 years. Plus the video has this cool X-Men thing happening.
9. WASHED OUT: Amor Fati – I guess im finding myself listening to a lot of electronica here. Where’s the Fleet Foxes? Why all this computer generated stuff? Why is there a guy in tightie whities in this video? WHY!
10. FEIST: How Come You Never Go There – Feist manages to summon the spirits of Stevie Nicks, Tori Amos, and Crystal Gayle all in one video. Also, this girl can sing.
11. EMPIRE OF THE SUN: Walking On The Sun – Great song, should be turned up loud, but Bevis and Butthead would have a field day with this video:
12. BEIRUT: Sante Fe: This is such a great song and the video – ah the video. I cant tell if it’s sad, disturbing, traumatizing or hilarious. I think I’m landing on hilarious. Got to love a dog that eats pizza. Great stuff here
13. PHANTOGRAM – Mouthful of Diamonds: OK I may have lied, it’s possible THIS is the best song of 2011. I love every part of this song, the low synth, the verse, the refrain, the bridge, her voice, the lyrics the way the song kicks back up after the refrain, the sort of sad desperate tone of the whole thing, and of course that crazy high pitch “caw” sound that keeps playing. Brilliance.
14. UNKNOWN MORTAL ORCHESTRA – Ffunny Ffrends: Yeah so is 4 minutes of low-fi messed up insanity. I don’t know if there are really any words here but, well, it’s pretty catchy.
15. THE BIRD AND THE BEE – Sara Smile: Ok, ok, ok, this didnt come out in 2011 but I started listening to it in 2011 so I’m counting it (this happens on this this list at least one more time). Anyway, I think Hall & Oates is insanely underrated as a legit pop/soul duo (yes, I’m serious). The Bird & The Bee decided to do a whole record of H&O covers and it is outstanding. Inara has a great voice and whole thing sounds great.
16. LCD SOUNDSYSTEM – I Can Change: Also, yes, 2010. I know. Somehow I missed the boat on the whole LCD soundsystem thing while they were still a band. There was a ton of hype around their fairwell show at MSG this year, I didn’t get it. Well, I do now. Sorry I missed them. If you don’t like this song and turn it way the hell up, there is something wrong with your brain.
17. BEST COAST: Our Deal: So this song is also not a 2011 release but the video for this is. I think I like it despite not being sure what I think of Drew Barrymore making this into a little west side story thing but who cares, it let’s me shoe horn in a Best Coast song and so I say yes to this video.
18. HOLY GHOST – Wait & See: Great groove to this one and the video is almost the best ever. The boys from Holy Ghost actually cast their dads in their place as they make their way through their cool hipster lives in NYC. One of the best ideas ever. See the story here.
19. YACHT – Dystopia: Couldn’t much get into the rest of the record but this song is a jam. Plus people just cant stop talking about that roof being on fire can they?
20. THE ROSEBUDS – Come Visit Me: Fell in love with this record this year. One of the better records I’ve heard in terms of listening straight through from cover to cover, great songwriting, very original, flows well together.
21. CULTS – Go Outside: I love me some Cults. Part of this lo-fi retro movement thing that seems to be going on, you cant tell if this song was penned in 2011 or 1961. Is that Ronnie Spector or a 20 something year old kid singing? Also, who doesn’t love a little xylophone in their rock and roll? It’s summertime fun. Missed them TWICE in Boston and am not happy about it.
22. DUM DUM GIRLS: Bedroom Eyes: Hey while we are pretending its the early 60’s how about this little ditty from the Dum Dum Girls. It might be for girls. I don’t care. I like it too.
23. BON IVER – Holocene: I could probably put their whole record on here but this one sticks out a little more for me. I hear this guy and I can’t believe how good it is, it’s pretty much prefect music for me, uplifting no but its beautiful in it’s own simple introspective way. Thought the visual here was a perfect accompaniment for a cinematic auditory experience. Besides, I used to wander around and explore the outdoors like the kid in this video when I was younger, looks like he’s having fun.
24. TWIN SISTER – Bad Street: Sometime I hear songs like this and I have no idea why I like them. But I do. Plus I like this video which is essentially a bunch of regular nice looking folks having a birthday party in their backyard which is so different from the glossy, city, clubbing, overproduced, and too cool for school visual representation I expected.
25. DEATH CAB FOR CUTIE – Codes And Keys: This wasn’t my favorite DCFC record but I thought it was pretty solid nonetheless. I like the piano and the odd drumming and that creepy strings overlay. Very non conventional sound to this one and that has to count for something.
26. THE DECEMBERISTS – January Hymn: This is one of those songs I heard the first time and instantly loved it. Heard him play it live up here and he did such a great job with it that is stuck with me right away. A little bittersweet winter anthem, and I like that combination of concepts.
27. RADIOHEAD – Seperator: Radiohead released this record in 2011 in a way only they could – essentially in secret. Turns out to be a pretty great album. While there are a bunch of songs on this (see ‘give up the ghost’) that I thought qualify right up there with some of the great Radiohead songs of the past, this one is super listenable and similar to how I judge most of my music, you can drive to it.
28. FOO FIGHTERS – These Days: I remember walking past the record store while I was in college and seeing that ray gun poster from the Foo’s first record thinking ‘hey that nirvana drummer actually made a record’ – It’s still hard for me to believe how talented this goddamn guy is. In a sea of great songs from the foo fighters over the years this is right up there as yet another completely unabashed crank it up to 11 anthems that make you want to scream the lyrics and play air guitar or air drums. I love the construction of the bridge/refrain as well, it’s a little different and a little more complex than you expect it to be, the chord changes and such. Then just when Dave lulls you down he grinds right back into it. I missed them in Boston this year and I regret it. Loved this B&W version of the tune with the nod to a famous Ed Sullivan appearance. I dare you not to yell “easy for you to say” when the refrain starts.
29. STEPHEN MALKMUS AND THE JICKS – No One Is (As I Are Be): This is a good one from our old Pavement friend, simple but I love songs like this. They don’t need a ton of effect to be great. Minus 1 for using bourgeoisie in the middle of a great song but I’m giving him a pass.
30. TENNIS – Origins: Technically this record isn’t coming out until 2012 but I’ve heard this song here a few times and its super catchy so I’m going to add it here. I’ve been on and off with Tennis but this record has the fingerprints of Patrick Carney from the Black Keys and you can hear it in this track – slightly more rough, lo-fi, and edgy.
31. JOY FORMIDABLE: Whirring: You can’t listen to this and not wish you could plug in an electric guitar to a wall of amplifiers powered by plutonium. This song kicks major ass.
32. ELBOW: The Birds: I challenge anybody to find a better voice in rock. Saw Guy and company in a tiny rock club in Boston this year (The Paradise) and they were brilliant.
33. THE BLACK KEYS – Sister: So technically The Black Keys aren’t letting people stream this record but here seems to be a link (at least at the time of this publishing) that will get you to a great track from their new record: http://hypetrak.com/2011/11/the-black-keys-sister/