The 50 Best Songs of 2011: 10-1


(All week we’re counting down the top songs of 2011.  For previous entries on the list, click here.  We hope you enjoy the music.)

10. Youth Lagoon – “Montana”

We were early champions of the music of Youth Lagoon, and our love of Trevor Powers bedroom-pop project has only grown over the course of 2011.  Each song on debut full-length The Year of Hibernation has its own merits, but the sweeping grandeur of “Montana” stands above them all.  That closing crescendo is enough to give even the most hardened listener goosebumps; if you’re not convinced from a single listen, check out the song’s video, our #1 video of the year.  -LVL

9. Tyler, the Creator – “Yonkers”/“Sandwitches”

Prior to February 16, 2011, OFWGKTA were virtually unheard of, outside of Pitchfork loyalists and hip hop blog trolls. However, after Tyler and Hodgy’s explosive performance of “Sandwitches” on Jimmy Fallon and the “Yonkers” video dropping on Youtube, OFWGKTA climbed the pop-culture ranks in record time. The hype behind GOBLIN, the first official OFWGKTA release, flooded behind the abrasive brilliance of these two songs. While the album failed to deliver on the promise of “Yonkers” and “Sandwitches,” these songs still pack more energy and creativity than any other hip hop release this year. -PTL

8. EMA – “Marked”

Much of  Erika M. Anderson’s solo debut Past Life Martyred Saints might be too emotionally raw for the casual listener, but the record’s power is undeniable: I challenge anyone to listen to the entire album and come away feeling neutral. “Marked” is the album’s centerpiece and, as such, is a pure emotional roller coaster, running the gamut from pain to longing to melancholy to, ultimately, hope. The opening strains will test you, but fight through to the end. You will be rewarded. -LVL

7. Chris Thile & Michael Daves – “Cry, Cry Darling”

In a year of hearty experimentalism and genre-shattering releases, it’s important to stay grounded. Chris Thile (of Punch Brothers, Nickel Creek) and Michael Daves are our gravity in this heady time. This year’s stellar Sleep With One Eye Open is a conversation between old friends, the mandolin and the acoustic guitar. The second track “Cry, Cry Darling” packs buoyant pessimism and desperate hyperbole into three short minutes, while giving plenty of time for show-stopping dual solos. -PTL

6. Balam Acab – “Oh Why”

Despite popular music’s focus on lyricism, unadulterated sound retains the power to convey feeling without a single word being uttered.  20-year-old Alec Koone’s music as Balam Acab is a reminder of this simple fact: although there are clearly words spoken on “Oh, Why,” their meaning (and even their identity) is essentially irrelevant.  The song needs no help from the English language to transmit its sentiment.  It is a reminder that music is a language all its own.  -LVL

5. Frank Ocean – “Thinking About You”/“Swim Good”

On the surface, Frank Ocean couldn’t be any more different from his OFWGKTA cohorts, but he is certainly the most likely to enjoy super-stardom. His debut full-length nostalgia, Ultra is a landmark in the R&B resurgence for its candid nature and original use of recycled content. “Swim Good” has Ocean gunning for the sea in his finest black suit and a Lincoln Town Car in order to free himself from the trappings of his past. “Thinking About You” is a R&B tour de force, showcasing Ocean’s raw falsetto in this unstoppable, forlorn ballad. Remember this name, and remember where you got it. -PTL

4. Fucked Up – “The Other Shoe”/“Queen Of Hearts”

In this age of pervasive internet snark, doing the unfashionable requires some degree of courage.  With that in mind, it’s hard to think of anything more unfashionable 78-minute punk opera about love and terrorism in Britain.  That’s what we got from Fucked Up this year, and, in addition to producing one of the most ambitious records of the year, the band gave us a handful of truly memorable songs.  As with many of the entries on this list, there was some editorial disagreement over the best choice, although there was no disagreement about where that choice should fall on the list.  So, we give you two tracks from David Comes To Life, the moving prelude “Queen Of Hearts: and the lyrically ominous “The Other Shoe.”  Self-indulgence never kicked so much ass.  -LVL

3. The Weeknd – “What You Need”/“Initiation”

We’ve written a lot of good things about The Weeknd, and we’ll be writing a lot more next week.  But for now, if you’ve yet to be initiated, you’ll just have to trust us: this is what you need.  -LVL

2.James Blake – “The Wilhelm Scream”/“Enough Thunder”

James Blake’s meteoric rise has provoked something of a backlash over the last few months; a a consequence, his excellent EP Enough Thunder fell on deaf ears.  Taken along with his debut LP, the EP reveals Blake’s enormous range: he traffics comfortably in bass-heavy electronics and concert hall piano.  The two songs listed here stand as a perfect encapsulation of that range: the ominous loops of “The Wilhelm Scream” represent Blake at his icy best, while “Enough Thunder” (which this site broke in May) warps the listener in the warmth of Blake’s 88 keys and his singular voice.  The cynics swarm around success like mosquitos on a hot summer day, but when it comes to Blake, it’s hard to blame them: the man has talent coursing through his veins.

1. M83 – Midnight City

When deciding on last year’s number one song, our staff engaged in a debate over the merits of two Kanye West tracks, “Runaway” and “Power.”  Although “Runaway” seems destined for more lasting cultural impact, we ultimately chose “Power” out of a belief that any song worth of a grandiose title like “Song of the Year” ought itself to be shot through with grandiosity. This claim to grandiosity is one that can be made by virtually every song on M83’s 2011 masterpiece Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, but none of its 20 tracks can claim loftier aspirations than lead single “Midnight City.”  From its brash opening synth strains to its audacious sax solo coda, the song lights your mind and body on fire.  “Midnight City” is like aural invincibility serum; it will make you believe that you can reach the stars, that you can fly, that you can do the impossible.  Now that’s what we expect from a Song of the Year.  -LVL


The Final List:

50. Antlers – “I Don’t Want Love”

49. Destroyer – “Kaputt”

48. White Denim – “No Real Reason”

47. Kurt Vile – “The Creature”

46. I Break Horses – “Winter Beats”

45. Burial – “Street Halo”

44. John Maus – “Hey Moon”

43. The Men – “Bataille”

42. Cults – “Abducted”

41. Liturgy – “Generation”

40. Clams Casino – “I’m God (Instrumental)”

39. Mike G – “Forest Green”

38. Ford & Lopatin – “Too Much MIDI (Please Forgive Me)”

37. The War On Drugs – “Come To The City”

36. Pusha T feat. Tyler, the Creator – “Trouble On My Mind”

35. E-40 feat. B-Legit – “Drugs”

33. Wilco – “One Sunday Morning”

32. Oneohtrix Point Never – “Replica”

31. Radiohead – “Lotus Flower”

30. Drake – “Marvin’s Room”

29. Bon Iver – “Calgary”

28. Mellowhype – “F666 The Police”

27. Pure X – “Dry Ice”

26. Decemberists – “Calamity Song”

25. Ty Segall – “Goodbye Bread”

24. Adele – “Someone Like You”

23. Tom Waits – “Chicago”

22. David Bazan – “Wolves At The Door”

21. Atlas Sound – “Terra Incognita”

20. Shabazz Palaces feat. THEESatisfaction – “Swerve…the reaping of all that is worthwhile (Noir not withstanding)”

19. Gang Gang Dance – “Adult Goth”

18. St. Vincent – “Strange Mercy”

17. A$AP Rocky – “Purple Swag: Chapter 2″ (feat. Spaceghostpurrp & ASAP Nast)/“Trilla” (feat. ASAP Twelvy & ASAP NAST)

16. Wild Beasts – “Plaything”

15. Mr. Muthafuckin’ eXquire feat. Despot, Das Racist, Danny Brown, & El-P – “Huzzah! (Remix)”

14. Battles feat. Matias Aguayo – “Ice Cream”

13. Girls – “Vomit”

12. Fleet Foxes – “Helplessness Blues”

11. Gil Scott Heron & Jaime xx – “My Cloud”

10. Youth Lagoon – “Montana”

9. Tyler, the Creator – “Yonkers”/”Sandwitches”

8. EMA – “Marked”

7. Chris Thile & Michael Daves – “Cry, Cry Darling”

6. Balam Acab – “Oh, Why”

5. Frank Ocean – “Thinking About You”/”Swim Good”

4. Fucked Up – “Queen Of Hearts”/”The Other Shoe”

3. The Weeknd – “What You Need”/”Initiation”

2. James Blake – “The Wilhelm Scream”/”Enough Thunder”

1. M83 – “Midnight City”

Be sure to check in next  week for our Best 50 Albums of 2011 countdown.

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