Favorite Songs of 2011: I’ve Been There Before

Dec 15, 2011 by



I’ve been picking my favorite songs of the year, and burning them to a compilation, since 2003.  2011’s list, to me, sounds a lot like what I assemble every year.  Mostly rock, with a little dance and electronic music, add the obligatory punk song, and oops I did it again.  I’ve made a nearly identical annual collection.  I’d love to have more diverse picks each year, but I suppose I just fall into the path of least resistance.  Kind of like handing your four year-old an ipad so you can take a road trip.  Yeah, I’ve been there before too.

What follows are the absolute best 23 songs of 2011 (or the number of tracks I could fit on an 80 minute disc):

  1. “Georgia” by Yuck – Let’s start this mix with a blast of 1990’s indie rock, Velocity Girl style.  Turn the guitars up to a crunching “11”, combine it with some sugary vocals, and you’ve got my favorite song of the year.
  2. “New Beat” by Toro y Moi – Something about the disco drum claps and funky keyboard brings me back to roller skating to dance tunes of my youth, a la “Physical” by ONJ.
  3. “Back In My Baby’s Arms” by Kurt Vile – This album and song crept up on me this year and ended up being my favorite record of the year.   While the beautifully lazy vocals are great, what I really love about this song is the finger picking guitar with gentle swirl of repeating noise in the background.
  4. “Ungirthed” by Purity Ring – There’s a lot I like about this song, especially the innocent girl vocals on the break (“the air is familiar …”), rolls of decelerating drum machine snares, and twitchy production.  I’m looking forward to more from this group in 2012.
  5. “17” by Youth Lagoon – The alliteration in the lyric “the day that you do is the day that you die’ hooked me on this one, along with the fact that the second half gets about as rollicking as mopey lo-fi bedroom pop can.
  6. “End of the Night” by Smith Westerns – Usually the end of the night is when things are winding down, but this song follows no such rule.  The unbridled joy of 1970’s classic rock lives strong in this song, particularly with the soaring vocals of the chorus.
  7. “Goodbye Bread” by Ty Segall – The San Francisco garage rocker hits a great mellow vibe with his leadoff track from his fantastic album with the same name (with hilariously awesome cover art as well).  Much like the Smith Westerns track, this one drips of classic rock but more from the George Harrison vein.
  8. “FFunny FFriends” by Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Recipients of the MGMT pop award for this year.  This catchy tune’s distorted guitars and difficult to decipher lyrics are solid gold.
  9. “BTSTU” by Jai Paul – If Prince was still making good music, I totally think he’d churn out something brilliant and fucked up like this track.
  10. “Countdown’ by Beyonce – From the outset, this Roberta Flack-referencing dance track absolutely bounces.  The 10 to 1 countdown is a little cutesy, but that’s a minor gripe for an otherwise great song.
  11. “Alex” by Girls – This is a terrific tune, but the guitars, especially the lead, make this one of my favorite tracks of the year.  That lazy, whining guitar that comes in at 1:47 is pure honey.  The rest of this album is tremendous too.
  12. “Bad Blood” by Crooked Fingers – I love how this song starts with an Archers of Loaf-worthy guitar noodle but quickly goes on to be classic Crooked Fingers.
  13. “Give Me My Month” by James Blake – This song is shorter, simpler and prettier than the rest of James Blake’s eponymous debut.  The rest of the record is essentially headphone music.  It’ll blow your mind!  Seriously.
  14. “Fuck Her Tears” by Times New Viking – You’d expect a song so titled to be a misogynist’s lament, not a romping pop track sung by a woman.  These Ohio rockers are at their best on tracks like this one, where they’re in and out in about two minutes.
  15. “Call it What You Want” by Foster the People – My wife and I picked out CD’s before our eighth anniversary dinner.  I picked out the Thurston Moore’s “Demolished Thoughts” and she got the Foster the People album.  Thurston’s good, but it took me two listens to each to realize she won that round.
  16. “You’re Blessed” by Iceage – I don’t buy a lot of punk and it makes me enjoy that which I pick up all the more.  Again, like TNV these guys are done in two minutes and it leaves me wanting more.
  17. “Pay Me” by Tom WaitsTom Waits has always been brilliant at creating the saltiest of characters in his songs, and this depressing ballad is no exception.  “It’s nobody’s business but mine when I’m low.”  Indeed.
  18. “Civilian” by Wye Oak – This track just rocks.  It’s also the third time in four years that this band has one of my favorite songs on the year.  Here’s hoping 2012 makes them 4 for 5.
  19. “Killa” by tUnE-yArDs – Merrill Garbus of tUnE-yArDs has shown she is a “new king of woman”, to say the least.  Starting this one out with a funky African guitar and devolving into layered vocals and rampant percussion, it’s easy to start shaking to this one.  My daughters agree and have had many a dance party to this album.
  20. “Something Came Over Me” by Wild Flag – Most rock super groups are utter crap.  Thankfully, Wild Flag’s debut is much better than the sum of its parts (Sleater Kinney, Minders, Helium, etc).
  21. “Bochicha” by Dom – This one actually came out in 2010, but was re-released and fully discovered by me this year, so I’m lopping it onto this mix.  The song comes from the ep “Sun Bronzed Greek Gods,” and they released another great, albeit slightly inferior ep, this year (“Family of Love”).
  22. “Never Saw the Point” by Cults – Phil Spector might have produced this one from prison.  Or maybe it just has a sweet oldies feel to it.
  23. “Wait” by M83 – “Epic” is an overused word but that’s really what I thought of this M83 album after a couple of listens, especially this track.  I liked the Pink Floyd undertones and strings, but wall of echoing howls at the end really caught my ear.

Click here to play the songs through our Grooveshark playlist!

Thanks to Kyle T. Webster for the artwork.


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  1. Marcus

    Lots of good stuff going on here. I still need to give it a few more spins, but that Jai Paul track sent me to the interwebs immediately. And as I do my best to live a Beyonce-free life, I was actually digging that track as well (that odd countdown’s a classic boyz II men sample). Oh, and a huge thanks for skipping all things Adele. I know, I know. As far as endearing character traits go, being both anti-Beyonce and -Adele doesn’t get a whole lot of mileage these days, but, gotta say, I make do.

  2. Hey Marcus,
    Glad you dig it! You should think about contributing… I’m sure you’ve got something to say…

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