Welcome to my annual Tracks of the Year column!
If you would like to read some thoughts I had about the passing musical year in Hebrew, you are welcome to click here:
This year I will start with the straightforward list of my favorite tracks of 2011 followed by short (as short as I can make it…) commentary.
For much better commentary (it better be, as this guy is actually paid to write it), I highly recommend reading The New Yorker’s Sasha Frere-Jones’s series of musical summaries of 2011:
This year, for the first time, my entire collection of Tracks of the Year (well, the part of it that is licensed by Spotify) is available via a Spotify playlist!:
As Frere-Jones writes, 2011 was a lukewarm musical year. No major breakthroughs (Some call post-dubstep a major musical development. I don’t see it as a musical revolution and I believe that it is a fad that will eventually disappear or get assimilated like the nu-rave fad did in the mid-naughties. One James Blake a revolution does not make) but, on the other hand, not a disastrous year, either. There were quite a few good songs, interesting new sounds, old timers proving they still have it, and to sum it up – the best tracks of 2011 were a not-too-shabby soundtrack for my life and, I hope, yours.
The top 40 consists of acts from theUK (22.5), theUS (10.5 – Blame the half on The Kills),Australia(3) and one from each: Austria, Sweden and Finland.
1) Viva Brother – The Darling Buds of May
2) The Belligerents – Such a Crime
3) Hook & The Twin – We’re so Light
4) Various Cruelties – Chemicals
5) Ghostpoet – Survive it
6) SULK – Back in Bloom
7) Kasabian – Re-Wired
8) DeepSeaArcade– Girls
9) Miles Kane – Come Closer
10) The Vaccines – Nørgaard
11) Cat’s Eyes – Face in the Crowd
12) Metronomy – The Bay / Corinne
13) Kaiser Chiefs – Man on Mars
14) PJ Harvey – The Words that Maketh Murder
15) Lana Del Rey – Video Games
16) The Vaccines – Wetsuit
17) Wild Beasts – Reach a Bit Further
18) Radiohead – Little by Little
19) BombayBicycle Club – Lights Out, Words Gone
20) LCMDF (Le Corps Mince de Françoise) – Future Me
21) Jon Fratelli – Rhythm Doesn’t Make You a Dancer
22) Kurt Vile – Runner Ups
23) The Kills – Baby Says
24) Ljusår – Ljusår
25) Bass Drum of Death – Young Pros
26) DeckchairOrange– Stay
27) The Music – Ghost Hands
28) Rival Sons – Pressure and Time
29) Stripmall Architecture – Ownsome
30) MONA – Teenager
31) Florence+ The Machine – What the Water Gave Me
32) Cold War Kids – Louder than Ever
33) LittleBarrie– How Come
34) Foster the People – Pumped up Kicks
35) Poppy and the Jezebels – Sign in, Dream on, Drop out
36) Ty Segall – You Make the Sun Fry
37) Unknown Mortal Orchestra – How Can U Love Me
38) Emeli Sandé – Heaven
39) The Vines – Candy Flipping Girl
40) Willy Moon – I Wanna be Your Man
In a Word:
1- Viva Brother – The Darling Buds of May: The rock critics who hate Viva Brother obviously have something against perfectly crafted rock anthems. I happen to like those.
2- The Belligerents – Such a Crime: The real crime is that you can’t get this song on Spotify yet. And that Israel doesn’t even have Spotify.
3- Hook & The Twin – We’re so Light: I would never have heard this beautiful psychedelic rhythmic chant if it wasn’t for DJ Caroline Beavon from Q Radio’s excellent “New to Q” show and Kerrang! Radio.
5- Ghostpoet – Survive it: I’m very happy for his success this year. What I am puzzled about is that most other rankers preferred his other singles: “Cash and Carry me Home” and “Liiines”. To me, “Survive it” is, by far, his best track and the best R&B song of 2011.
6- SULK – Back in Bloom: There used to be a very talented British group that produced great madchester-type songs called The Ruling Class who sounded like a modern day Stone Roses. This year I found this madchester-type song by a band who sounds like a modern day Stone Roses. Coincidence? No. SULK are simply the new name The Ruling Class goes by these days. They are wonderful and criminally underrated.
9- Miles Kane – Come Closer and 11- Cat’s Eyes – Face in the Crowd:
I wasn’t a Miles Kane fan, and now that I finally found a song of his that is a real indie anthem I love, he seems to be less cool. Oh well, SMH. Faris Badwan, however, is still the NME’s darling, and should get more credit for this retro-suspence-thriller piece.
10- The Vaccines – Nørgaard and 16- The Vaccines – Wetsuit I thought they were all hype at first, and since the media created a fake Vaccines vs. Brother (later Viva Brother) feud, I kind of ignored them. Their singles towards the end of the year where a cut above the things I heard from them before and they ended up producing my “classic Rock n’ Roll anthem of the year” since the disappointing Strange Boys single failed to be it.
12- Metronomy – The Bay / Corinne: Metronomy released my album of the year “The English Riviera”, so I took the liberty of ranking the best single off the album, The Bay, as well as the best non-single, Corinne. The vocals, music and lyrics in this album all combine to give you the feeling of changing geographic scenery without really being able to escape your inner self. Superficial sweetness reveals deeper estrangement. Hearing this album during my last visit to London made that trip feel more special.
13 – Kaiser Chiefs – Man on Mars: Long time readers (yes, all three of you) will know by now that these lists are skewed unfairly towards songs I have seen played live (See also 33- Little Barrie – How Come). In Kaiser Chief’s case, if you only read the papers (every day, we like who we like we hate who we hate etc. etc. etc.), you’d think that they were finished. However, seeing them perform live, especially with the new “The Future is Medieval” songs which sounded great on stage, is a reminder that this is one of the best live bands in the world and that it is far too early to eulogize their musical career.
14- PJ Harvey – The Words that Maketh Murder: It took me a couple of listens to realize that behind the fun poppy song, are deep, disturbing lyrics. I saw this song in a different light after that. It’s now hard for me to think of it as just a piece of pop culture. It seems as if anti-war voices all over the world are getting weaker and weaker and that my generation, once growing up dreaming of a peaceful world, now continue to be sent to die for politician’s interests as if nothing changed. Polly Jean Harvey called her album “Let England Shake”. I hope the whole world shakes and that humane values regain some weight in the eyes of our leaders.
15- Lana Del Rey – Video Games: The most polarizing song of 2011. Lips or no lips, PR stunt or not, commercial or indie, this is simply a beautiful love song. How many of those do we get to hear nowadays? My only complaint is that I had to listen to it 10 times a day at some point…
18- Radiohead – Little by Little: I think Radiohead are an important, original band with some excellent songs and a lot of pretentious overrated shite. The way everything they do is revered in some circles appalls me. Given that, I am surprised that by the time they release perhaps their best track since Kid A’s “Idioteque”, no one else likes it as much as I do. Oh well.
19- Bombay Bicycle Club – Lights Out, Words Gone: It’s a beautiful song, but let’s be honest: It wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the album version’s long, almost a cappella coda, featuring the lovely Lucy Rose on backing vocals.
20- LCMDF (Le Corps Mince de Françoise) – Future Me : Third year in a row for the poppy energetic Finnish sisters in my top 20.
21- Jon Fratelli – Rhythm Doesn’t Make You a Dancer: What a knack this guy has for writing sweeping indie-pop anthems.
22- Kurt Vile – Runner Ups: I first thought of Kurt Vile with his acoustic songs and clever name as one of the numerous American nu-folk carbon copies of Bright Eyes, Devendra Banhart, etc. This enchanted blues tune shows that he has something extra.
24- Ljusår – Ljusår: If radio stations and music magazines had the same power they had 20 years ago, Ljusår (Swedish for “light year”) could have been the new A-ha.
26- Deckchair Orange – Stay: Should I be THIS surprised that such a nice indie pop song comes fromAustria? I mean this country did give us Mozart, for God’s sake…
28- Rival Sons – Pressure and Time: Every now and then a new band comes along, trying to claim the current crown of classic rock. This usually fails, but it gives Led Zeppelin fans something to get excited and/or argue about. Wolfmother built a whole career off of this phenomenon. Allow me to introduce 2011’s Wolfmother: Rival Sons!
29- Stripmall Architecture – Ownsome: A lovely song that builds up into the deepest lyrical cry for help. This list, like every “best of” list, is totally subjective, and this song moved me because it reminded me of many people I know who also have “the illusion of success”. If you happen to listen to this song, please stay until the end.
30- MONA – Teenager: They may be over-hyped American indie merchants, but this song is a fresh cri de coeur comparable to Suede’s “So Young”.
35- Poppy and the Jezebels – Sign in, Dream on, Drop out: OK, I’m cheating a little bit here. This song actually never came out as a single and is only available as a YouTube acoustic rendition. However, it is beautiful and cheerful and I hope P&TJ finally make it big in 2012: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LKkOCVrBfrY
Thanks for reading! I’d love to get your comments, even a word to let me know you were here 🙂