This list seems a bit silly and…irrelevant, maybe? I don’t know. I say this because I could have done about 134 different variations of this list and, as I went by the old Planet Sound (RIP! xxxx) rule that I could only include tracks from bands who aren’t going to be featured in our Albums Of The Year list, this by no means a set-in-stone, official twenty-best-songs-of-the-year. It’s just a bunch of fantastic tracks that represent a lot of the music that we like and try to cover on the site. So just enjoy it, dammit.
So for now just wait until the albums list is published this weekend before you bitch at me and tell me how wrong I am etc etc…
20. Tellison – My Wife’s Grave Is In Paris
No surprise that the man who cites both Pedro The Lion and The Weakerthans as major influences would eventually write a song as quietly devastating as this. After all that comes before it on the album, it’s akin to someone trying to rip your heart from your chest while repeatedly punching you in the gut. “I wish I’d never met you, and it’s not because I’m broken and it’s not ’cause I feel bad. I think if you’d not met me you would not be so sad” is repeated and built-upon until the whole thing soars skywards. After all the little metaphors and lyrical disguises that appear throughout the record, suddenly having it all laid out so openly and matter-of-fact is a stroke of genius. If it wasn’t so damn heartbreaking you would probably be stood up and applauding them for it.
19. PAWS – Pony
Such a brilliant band I had to squeeze them in somewhere. Noisy, scuzzy indie rock that always sounds head-rushingly brilliant. This track is no exception. Go and investigate and they’ll become your new favourite band, promise.
18. Slowdim – Wishing Well
An unsigned band from Boston, Slowdim make fuzzy, heart-on-sleeve pop songs and while you could blind-pick any song from their debut EP released earlier this year it’s Wishing Well, with it’s soaring guitar lines and wintery vibes that stays in the head the longest. Wonderful stuff.
17. PS I Love You – Facelove
“Initial buzz-track Facelove, still sounds as life-affirmingly brilliant as it did when it first appeared last year; it’s guitar-solo finale still managing to send you to your knees in full-on 80′s Air Guitar style”
16. Katie Malco – Florence Nightingales House
“Album closer Florence Nightingales House is the first time the bleakness of the lyrics is matched by the music itself. A slow, mournful lament that relies only on the purity of Katies voice and her solo guitar. It’s a refreshing change from the folky flourishes of the earlier proceedings and is the records stand-out track. It ends with Katie repeatedly pleading “You’ll only let me down, so come on and let me down” and the results are genuinely moving.”
15. The Decemberists – June Hymn
I just….I can try and….but…..I mean…. *bursts into tears* Just play the song.
14. The National – Exile Vilify
The band behind GoldFlakePaint’s Album Of The Year in 2010 may have had a relatively quiet year but that didn’t stop them releasing a couple of new tracks, one of which – Exile Vilify – was a quietly devastating piano song that was as strong as anything on High Violet. Majestic just doesn’t do this band justice.
13. Julio Bashmore – Battle For Middle You
Bristol-based DJ/Producer who we first discovered thanks to our good friends over at Crack magazine. He got everyone, including the mighty Pitchfork, foaming at the mouth with the release of this sublime chunk of modern-day house music.
12. Tall Ships – Hit The Floor
In which the Brighton-via-Cornwall trio turn from a progressive math-rock band into fully fledged disco divas. The incessant guitar riff, driving drums and their most confident vocal to-date make’s it a great stop-gap between EP’s and next years full-length album. See them live and try and not dance around like a loon to this song, we dare ya.
11. Rival Schools – Wring It Out
Many folks thought the release of Walter Schreifels solo album signalled the end for Rival Schools but back they came with a brilliant new album chock-full of riffs and soaring rock chorus’. Wring It Out, the albums opening track, ticked every box available. Turn it up loud, dust of the old air guitar and have the time of your life.
10. Jamie XX & Gil Scot Herron – NY Is Killing Me
One of those moments where you genuinely dont know if it’s going to go horribly wrong or it’s going to a masterpiece. Jamie XX‘s take on Gil Scott Heron‘s 2010 I’m New Here album was , for the most part, edging towards the latter with this track a particular a stand-out. A completely new take on the original version of the song, there is a wonderful build that takes in a bouncing bass and all kinds of weird and wonderful nuances. Mesmerising from start to finish and a fitting tribute to the now-departed GSH.
9. The Rapture – How Deep Is Your Love
The band’s first song since 2008 had many people worried about whether they could still deliver the euphoric indie-slash-dance vibes of the earlier work. We need not have worried. Built around a looping piano riff and a sublime vocal take, How Deep Is Your Love was mesmerising from start to finish, a song that builds and builds into one of the anthems of 2011.
8. Wilco – One Sunday Morning
Twelve full minutes of Jeff Tweedy being utterly brilliant. Pretty much just one verse-style repeated over and over for the full duration. It somehow only manages to get better and better rather than boring. Jeff Tweedy I love you. There I said it.
7. Factory Floor (R E A L L O V E) – Optimo Remix
I honestly can’t say what it is about the music that Factory Floor make that appeals to me so much. It’s dance music with an edge; sometimes creepy, sometimes euphoric but always utterly infectious and bewildering. This track was already sublime before the good folks at Optimo gave it a little re-working and turned in to an absolute beast of a track. Factory Floor release their debut album next year, it will be immense.
6. Iron & Wine – Your Fake Name Is Good Enough For Me
“The albums closing track Your Fake Name Is Good Enough For Me begins in much the same vein as the aforemetioned trio of songs with a playful sax solo leading into an urgent vocal delivery reminiscent of The Shepherds Dog’s House By The Sea. Just as the song is heading into full blown jazz terrority it checks itself and a solitary electric guitar takes over proceedings before it’s joined by drums and Sam Beams most confident vocal to-date. From there the songs builds and builds with Sams repeated vocal lines rising up against thudding drums and some frantic guitar work. Make no mistake about it, this is Iron & Wine ‘rocking out’ – and its utterly brilliant. It may only be January but it’s the song of the year so far by a country mile.” GFP Review
5. Gang Gang Dance – Glass Jar
“It’s everything time…”
When you start the opening track to your album with those three spoken words, then what follows better have pack enough punch to back it up. Glass Jar takes in a few minutes of spooky electronica noise until a short drum beat introduces a lovely bit of synth into proceedings and takes over for another couple of minutes before well, everything drops in and the song explodes into life with twinkling keyboards, huge drums and singer Liz Bougatsos’s distinctive wail. It’s everything time indeed.
4. Grouplove – Colours
When I first heard this track from American four-piece Grouplove, I must admit to getting a little bit carried away. Endlessly playing it on repeating and shoving it down the throat of anyone I could get to listen to me. While that initial-enthusiasm has, thankfully for all involved, calmed down a little but it still sounds utterly huge and remains the most perfect pop song of 2011.
3. Yuck – Get Away
Yuck have the honour of being the only live band I’ve ever walked out on (a mixture of tiredness, headache and boredom for the record) and I must admit to finding their album patchy at best. However, far and away the years best chorus – coupled with the fact that they keep it hidden until halfway through the song – makes them a more-than-worthy inclusion and just about justify’s the hype.
2. Lykke Li – I Follow Rivers
Her debut LP Youth Novels was a marvelous slice of skewed Scandinavian pop and it’s follow-up Wounded Rhymes was even better. This, the initial first taster from it, was the albums strongest point and still sounds completely brilliant. Her swooning vocals, the strange and repetitive tribal drum beat…everything here is perfectly balanced, perfectly constructed and well, yeah, pretty much perfect.
1. Let’s Buy Happiness – Six Wolves
Six Wolves is so far and away my favourite song of 2011 that I wasn’t even going to bother doing a Top 20 list at all. Math-y guitar lines creep through the verses, gently weaving in and out of Sarah Hall’s wonderous lead vocal before the joyous chorus erupts, the guitars turn into waves of shimmery post-rock noise and the UK’s best new band is born. Everything they’ve released so far sounds perfect, but this one ever-so-slightly more perfect than the rest.
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By Tom Johnson