A MoreThanAFeeling Top 30 of 2011: Songs
Last week I unveiled my favourite albums of 2011. I was going to come up with a list of only 20 songs for my top picks of 2011, but couldn’t narrow it down so I decided to do a Top 25 of 2011. Well, that didn’t come together as nicely as I had planned, so I had to add another 5 tunes to make it a Top 30 of 2011. I’m glad I stopped there, as there was so much good music this year, I could have easily made this a Top 50. But would anyone really care? Anyway…
Without further adieu: **as always, click on the song title for link to song/video!**
Top 20 Top 25 Top 30 Songs of 2011
30. Foster the People – Helena Beat – There’s no question these guys had a huge year thanks to Pumped Up Kicks, but due to the fact the track got absolutely ruined by radio, this track was about as fresh and satisfying as a follow-up single could be. I still dig it. Great falsetto, Mr. Foster.
28. Bon Iver - Calgary – “Not Holocene?!” Nope. Justin Vernon (aka Bon Iver) seems to rip your heart out with the cacophony of depressive imagery and tone like none other, and Calgary is the prime example. Weep.
27. My Morning Jacket - Outta My System – Life is simple, but mistakes that are seemingly avoidable are often made. ”They told me not to smoke drugs but I didn’t listen.” Jim James weaves a few stories of getting everything out of his system, accompanied by a pulsing beat, piano, and chiming pedal steel guitar. Muy bueno!
26. Grouplove - Tongue Tied – As if they’re first single Colours wasn’t damn catchy enough, Tongue Tied pretty much takes the cake. This ultra-catchy indie pop gem is as contagious as swine flu, and all the more infectious. It’s nearly impossible not to dance while listening. The video is pretty psychedelic, as well.
25. The Sheepdogs - I Don’t Know – Don’t adjust that dial, it is still 2011—you just thought you were in the ’70s when The Sheepdogs hit your ears. I Don’t Know was music to my ears the first time I heard it as I proceeded to learn the tune, teach it to my students, and play it live.
24. Tallest Man On Earth – Weather of a Killing Kind – Kristian Matsson is Tallest Man On Earth, and he is a Swedish folk pioneer, as heard on Weather of a Killing Kind. Bob Dylan mimic? Perhaps. But a damn good songwriter, just like his predecessor.
23. Imaginary Cities – Ride This Out – One of the most original sounds of the year is the duo that is Imaginary Cities, particularly singer Marti Sarbit, and specifically this song. I couldn’t decide which IC song to include on this list as their album Temporary Resident is solid, but I feel Ride This Out has such a unique sound that it had to be the representative. If you dig this track, you’ll likely dig the whole album.
22. The Belle Game – Sleep to Grow – A somber affair, but powerful and beautiful all at the same time. This Vancouver-based group released an EP of the same name this year and impressed me with each turn. Love the horns in the outro, too. And this is just the beginning for the Belle Game.
21. Okkervil River – Wake and Be Fine – My first impression of Okkervil River was this track, and it didn’t take long for me to fall in love with this song, and proceed to listen to more. The track Rider was a close second, but the intensity of the verses in this tune are unrivaled. Splendid.
20. 41st and Home – Modern Medicine – “All your drugs won’t save us.” A terribly interesting song by another band out of Vancouver. The lyrics are climactic and wise, but contrasted with innocence. The music is just plain neat. Look for great things from these guys in the near future.
19. We Are Augustines – Headlong Into the Abyss – The first listen to this track caught me off-guard. I think it was the combination of singer Billy McCarthy’s distiguishable voice and his choice of lyrics. After reading that much of the album’s lyric material was based on two family suicides related to mental illness and substance abuse, it all made sense. These words weren’t observations, they were experiences.
18. Feist – Graveyards – Just when I knock you down with that last gloomy tune, I kick you while you’re down and pile the dirt on. This track isn’t a radio single [yet] and wasn’t my favourite from the beginning, but it has grown on me and haunted my dreams. Turn all your lights off when you listen. You’ll hear the haunting beauty. Promise.
17. The Antlers - Every Night My Teeth Are Falling Out – Another band new to me in 2011, but not new to the scene. This track is rather obscure and takes a few listens, but it stays in my head—particularly the image of me continually losing my teeth: “You and I, divorced but not devout, every night my teeth are falling out.” Another eerie tune, sorry.
16. Joel Plaskett – Jimmie’s Still Jimmie – ”Silence is golden unless of course you’re lonely / If jealousy is ugly then I’m looking pretty homely.” This whole song is filled with amazing one liners. And is catchy as heck. Heck ya! How can you not love Joel Plaskett?
15. The Decemberists – Don’t Carry It All – I could have chosen just about any song on The King Is Dead, but this is the track that encouraged my purchase of said album. I quite like it, and so might you.
14. PS I Love You – Facelove – I’m surprised how much I enjoy this song. Not so much the video, but the song. Only about 30 seconds of vocals, but about a minute and 30 seconds of really cool, intense guitar riffs. I think the simple fact that this is a duo making all this noise pretty much seals the deal.
13. Austra – Lose It – Katie Stelmanis’ vocals are something else. And if it’s indeed true that Austra is her middle name, the band is justified in being named after her. This is the year of phenomenal female vocalists, and Austra is leading the pack. [I promised myself I wouldn't use the word 'haunting' again; but that's precisely what Lose It is]
12. Dan Mangan – Rows of Houses – I have heard from others that this is the best song Dan Mangan has composed as of yet. Whether that’s a popular opinion or not is beside the point. Dan continues to blow minds with each new direction he pursues, this being obvious proof that it’s working.
11. Vandervelde – More Than You Can Feel – Although initially repetitive lyrically, this song got my attention with the first listen. I dug the guitar tones, the melody, the retro vibe and whatever that instrument is that comes in at 1:13. Neat riffs, too.
10. The Belle Brigade – Losers – Arguably the best song on the self-titled debut album for the Belle Brigade, the song lyrically tackles what most of us feel on the regular. The vocal harmonies are fantastic and the epic build-ups get me every time.
9. Manchester Orchestra – Simple Math – Another song that had me at first listen. The atmosphere found on this track is equatable to drinking a 2-6 of whiskey, slamming back a few painkillers and expecting to wake up in the morning. The brooding angst in the song prevails with lines like “I want to rip your lips off in my mouth”. Epic angst.
8. Lia Ices – Love is Won – This song was a Starbucks/iTunes ‘Pick of the Week’ back in early 2011 and it had me at hello. Lia’s vocals are smooth yet icy, and I can’t help but sing a poor falsetto to her “Oo oo oo’s” which cap off each tantalizing chorus. I think I’ve raved about this song for much of the year, and have dubbed it the “Mellow Jam” of 2011 on a number of occasions.
7. We Are the City – Happy New Year – The trio that is We Are The City wrote and recorded their High School EP in late 2010 and released it to the masses in February 2011. After hearing Happy New Year, I knew the song would be on this list, even though there was 10 more months of music to be released. I wasn’t terribly worried.
6. Library Voices – The Prime Minister’s Daughter – As these fellas and gal from the other belle province [Saskatchewan] have already topped my list for favourite album of 2011, I don’t have much more to say than I love this song and you should listen to it. How can you not enjoy a tune that calls out a government regarding its funding of the CBC?
5. The Dears – Omega Dog – Another mildly spooky, gloomy track that’s uniqueness intrigued me from the get-go. The Montréal-based indie rock project The Dears have been around for some 12 years or so, but I just got into their music recently. I may have to delve into their discography and search for another Omega Dog.
4. Brett Dennen – Queen of the Westside – As much as I adore Sydney (I’ll Come Running), the first single from Dennen’s outstanding Loverboy, this track is so different from anything else on the record and anything else I heard all year. The funk organ, groovy guitars and pitchy falsetto kill me every time.
3. Sidney York – Dick & Jane – I knew that this song was going to be a hit the second time I heard it. The first time I was too focused on watching the fun music video and wondering to myself, “Who is this Sidney York and how many takes did this video shoot take?” This is my “Whistling Tune of 2011″, and might even be the “Ukulele Jam of 2011″ as well.
2. Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues – Let it be known that I don’t love every single thing that Fleet Foxes does. I just really, REALLY love this song. The title track has vocals cascading like a gentle yet poignant hymn, acoustic guitars strumming frantically but in tempo, and lyrics that hold depth of wisdom surely beyond singer Robin Pecknold’s 25 years of existence. If Fleet Foxes packed it in and called it a career, I’d be okay with it because I don’t think they will ever put out anything better than this song. But that’s just me..
1. The Strokes – Under Cover of Darkness – Although not as lyrically deep as the #2 song on this list, I can’t help but smile when I hear Under Cover of Darkness. Not only smile, but sing and dance and pretend I’m the egocentric Julian Casablancas. I won’t say this is the “best” song the Strokes have ever written, but it is easily my favourite. I was hoping for a little more of this attitude and depth of songwriting on the rest of Angles, but came off a little disappointed with the rest of the album. It just doesn’t possess the youthful energy and fantastic melodies, riffs and solos that this single owns. Word on the street is the Strokes have another album coming out in 2012. I can’t help but wonder if they’ll top my list 2 years in a row… Probably not.
MINOR [MAJOR] ADDENDUM: in the honourary position of Best Forgotten Track of 2011 But Is So Good That It Requires An Addendum is:
Rural Alberta Advantage – Stamp — I can’t believe this snuck past my list. The fact that Foster The People is on my list and not RRA is rather disturbing. The frantic drumming and passionate tale of love lost is so good it cannot be passed up. Have a listen to this tune, please. And then do yourself one better and check out the entire album Departing, by this terrific Canadian band.