The 50 Best Songs of 2011: 30-21


(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.)

30. Drake – “Marvins Room”

I regularly hate on Drake, perhaps justified, perhaps not. I must give the softest rapper alive some due credit for “Marvins Room,” the lead single off this year’s divisive Take Care. A song dripping blue sadness and production taken directly from808s and Heartbreak, “Marvins Room” is the first time I’m able to say that this kid has real talent. Somehow, Drake manages to make the shameful action of drunk dialing into a desired form of self-destruction. -PTL

29. Bon Iver – “Calgary”

In some ways, Justin Vernon has become the biggest story of 2011 in indie music.  Whether it’s his flirtation with adult contemporary, his “selling out” for a whiskey ad, or his contempt for the Grammys, some larger cultural narrative has spent the greater part of the year overshadowing the man’s music.  This is a shame, of course, because one would be hard-pressed to find a more beautiful song-cycle released this year.  Lead single “Calgary” managed to capture everything that was new about Bon Iver (that full band sound, that move toward the electric) without sacrificing Vernon’s preternatural grasp of musical intimacy.  So do yourself a favor: whenever you hear another discussion or Justin Vernon’s role in American culture, put on “Calgary,” and remind yourself why everyone started talking about him in the first place.  -LVL

28. Mellowhype – “F666 The Police”

MellowHype are at times overwhelmingly amateur, and F666 Police isn’t really any different. But MellowHype (Hodgy Beats and producer Left Brain) uses the amateur sound of this track, and this year’s Blackenedwhite rerelease as a whole, to their benefit. A significantly bloodier take on the age-old tale of drug dealer versus the boys in blue, “F666 Police” thrives on juvenile energy and sophomoric humor. And Left Brain redeems his rapping skills after his atrocious verse on “Swag Me Out.” -PTL

27. Pure X – “Dry Ice”

Pure X’s full-length debut Pleasure landed at number 2 on our best psychedelic albums of the year, and, like most great psychedelic bands, their album deserves to be heard in full.  Pleasure‘s greatness lies in its ability to set and maintain an impenetrable calm over the course of its ten songs.  Choosing one song from the album, therefore, seems like something of a fool’s errand.  Nonetheless, of the tracks on the album, “Dry Ice” stands alone for its mood-altering properties. Tune in.  Turn on.  Phase out.  -LVL

26. Decemberists – “Calamity Song”

It’s a challenge to pick one favorite track from The King is Dead, a superb record on which the Decemberists ditched their recent rock opera pretensions and (more or less) went country. Anchored on a driving acoustic guitar hook, the single “Calamity Song” stands out for its lyrics, even by the lofty standards of frontman Colin Meloy. Good luck finding another catchy country song that features a dowager empress, a Panamanian child, Andalusian tribes, and (as we noted back in January) alludes to Infinite Jest. -KLM

25. Ty Segall – “Goodbye Bread”

Remember “rock songs?”  Yeah, I know it’s hard.  They are those songs with just guitar, bass, and drums.  There are usually a few verses and a catchy hook in the chorus.  Here’s a good example if you’re having trouble.

24. Adele – “Someone Like You”

“Someone Like You” is hands-down the most personal, honest and relatable international smash hit in recent history. In this blow-out, tearful ballad, Adele sings frankly to her former flame, while exposing the seeming life-long  hurt he impressed upon her. Dwelling on his words with extreme precision, Adele manages to simultaneously lick her wounds and rip them wide open. While the song is expertly written, Adele’s vocal chops are what take this song to the next level. -PTL

23. Tom Waits – “Chicago”

“Maybe things will be better in Chicago,” I assured myself as I moved out to the Windy City this summer. I still can’t answer that question, but Tom Wait’s album opener captures the tension that engulfs an uncertain move. While this song is clearly about the Great Migration at the turn of the century, the sentiment is applicable to all nomads. -PTL

22. David Bazan – “Wolves At The Door”

The lead track off this year’s hit-or-miss Strange Negotiations serves as a phenomenal thesis statement, boiling all of Bazan’s thoughts on the economic downturn and his relentless confusion into three venomous verses. Think of it as a poison soaked love letter to the Tea Party. “You’re a Goddamn fool, and I love you.” -PTL

21. Atlas Sound – “Terra Incognita”

The only debate over Bradford Cox greatness revolves around which of his projects is greater: his primary band Deerhunter, or his solo creative outlet Atlas Sound.  In the past Deerhunter has been the easy answer, as the cold, insular vibe given off by most Atlas Sound songs made the project seem somewhat unapproachable.  But with a dash of grandeur and a pinch of improved production, Cox may have put his solo project in the lead with his 2011 album Parallax.  “Terra Incognita,” the lead single from the album and the song which begins its dramatic conclusion, is an excellent starting point. -LVL

 Be sure to check in throughout the week for the rest of our Best 50 Songs of 2011 coountdown.

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