Another year and another 7,000 new songs to listen to. After much analysis, here is my list of the 25 songs released in 2011 that were dominating my iPhone, my iTunes, my Spotify, my Turnable.fm lists, etc. Some great obscure new acts, some huge hits and a lot of in-between. Links below to hear the tracks individually on YouTube. Enjoy!
1. College “A Real Hero (feat. Electric Youth)” – YouTube
From “The Drive” soundtrack, this infectious gem of 80’s synth-pop revivalism is loaded with super cheesy lyrics (“you’re a real hero, a real human being”) but a production style that recalls early Soft Cell or Human League. The rest of the soundtrack is just as good but this track shines through.
2. Mitzi “Morning Light” – YouTube
Thanks to Garth Trinidad for playing this late one night on KCRW while I was driving home. I know nothing about this band but love this organic disco groove and cute boy/girl vocals.
3. Com Truise “Ether Drift” – YouTube
Just when you thought electronic music has been decimated by dubstep, along comes this melodic IDM track that recalls the melancholy work of Boards Of Canada or Casino Vs. Japan. A delightful instrumental jam, perfect for headphones.
4. Theophilus London “I Stand Alone” – YouTube
“The journey starts beneath the stars…” If you have opened a magazine or turned on your computer this year, you’ve heard about this emerging artist. Believe the hype and get this record.
5. Shugo Tokumaru “Rum Hee” – YouTube
This Japanese, twee track has it all: bells, acoustic guitars, pop sensibilities, repeating “doo doos.” Nothing has been this perfect for an iPod ad since Feist.
6. Paul Simon “So Beautiful Or So What” – YouTube
Every once in a while, these old-timers come along and teach us a thing or two about great tunes (see David Byrne and Brian Eno’s “Strange Overtone”) – put this on and then delete your Vampire Weekend tracks. Never been so excited to hear a gumbo recipe.
7. Acrylics “Molly’s Vertigo” – YouTube
A delightful slice of psychedelic AM radio indie pop from one of my favorite un-sung labels, Friendly Fire Recordings. Classy and smooth.
8. The Weeknd “House Of Balloons – Glass Table Girls” – YouTube
You don’t need me to tell you about this new artist but I gotta be honest, I have never heard R&B with such gothic tendencies – this might be the single most unique blending of music from 2011. And yes, that is a Siouxsie sample. All their music is available here for free download at their website.
9. Metronomy “She Wants” – YouTube
Simply a terrific, smooth indie jam with flanged out bass and Cure-ish tendencies. ‘Nuff said.
10. Yuck “Get Away” – YouTube
Remember Superchunk, Versus, Archers Of Loaf, Seam, Sebadoh, etc.? So do Yuck and they serve up a great piece of 90’s indie rock nostalgia.
11. Washed Out “Amor Fati” – YouTube
12. Gotye “Somebody That I Used To Know (featuring Kimbra)” – YouTube
Sting hasn’t put out anything worth listening to in decades (we can all argue over whether anything after Soul Cages was worth our time but I digress…) – so Gotye can fill in the void. Excellent track with a marimba melody that will never leave your head.
13. Wugazi “Shame On Blue” – YouTube
Let me be clear, I hate mashups. When I first heard “bootlegs” like The Strokes & Christina Aguilera I thought “huh…that’s funny but why would anyone want to listen to this?” Well, this merging of Fugazi with The Wu Tang Clan works – something about hearing ODB with Guy Picciotto actually feels natural – like if The Judgement Night soundtrack was still listenable. You can download the entire record here.
14. La Vida Boheme “El Zar” – YouTube
Venezualuan post-punk revivalist indie rock – no idea how I got this but to whoever sent it to me “thanks!” Beginning makes you feel like you are about to hear YYY’s “Maps” in a whole new light but it ends up sounding more like The Killers than I’d care to admit.
15. Me’Shell Ndegéocello “Dirty World” – YouTube
Sultry, sexy, dark, dirty. Perfect.
16. The Separate “Close to Me with Mark Lanegan (The Cure Cover)”
An orchestral covers album. This is the stand-out track. For some reason, I can’t find any info or links on it.
17. James Blake “The Willhelm Scream” – YouTube
Call it what you want (most people call it dubstep) but this track is soulful and unique, reminds me more of Plaid or Jamie Lidell.
18. SBTRKT “Hold On” – YouTube
Dear Music Industry – More Of Stuff Like This Please!
19. AM & Shawn Lee “Somebody Like You” – YouTube
I really dig AM so was eager to check out this collaboration with Shawn Lee. Shawn Lee, incidentally, is not a snowboarder. That’s Shawn White. Thought that would also be an amazing collaboration.
20. Jamie Woon “Lady Luck” – YouTube
More soulful electronic music – guess that was a trend this year and on this list.
21. Ford & Lopatin “Emergency Room” – YouTube
One of the guys from Tigercity works with another fella to make this fine synth pop blend.
22. Dirty Vegas “Little White Doves” – YouTube
Ok, I admit that when this CD showed up I ignored it. Having never been a fan of this Mitsubishi-branded act, I was totally blown away by this track. This is what New Order’s last album should have sounded like.
23. The Antlers “Every Night My Teeth Are Falling Out” – YouTube
This feels like post-apocalyptic indie rock – so bleek and yet hummable, memorable and loveable. Plus, that drummer is one handsome fella.
24. Lana Del Rey “Video Games” – YouTube
As contrived and controversial as it is, I cannot hide the fact that I love this song.
25. Britney Spears “Til The World Ends” – YouTube
The ultimate guilty pleasure, I cannot deny that I really dug this track. Amazing was contemporary production can do. Team Britney!