Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Top 20 Singles of 2011

It's that time of year again when we music-loving bloggers offer up our favorites of the year and open ourselves up to praise, ridicule and/or the obligatory "I can't believe x ranked higher than y" or "How could you forget [horrible noises] by [over-glorified über-indie hipster band of the moment]" comments. Have at it, monkeys.

Earlier this week, I posted my Top 20 Albums list, so now it's time to take a look at my favorite singles of the year.

Rules are there ain't no rules. OK, there actually are a few:
1) All singles must have been released in 2011. (This may get bent.)
2) No artist can be represented more than once.
3) No Bon Iver! Because really, come on. UGH.

And away we go...

20. Rope
Foo Fighters (from Wasting Light)
I've never really been a giant Foo fan, despite being a pretty big fan of Dave Grohl's. He just seems like an awesome dude. He also has an endless supply of melodic rock songs (like this one), even if I don't always pay attention to them. It's kind of weird that they're such a huge band that's always cranking out hits and filling stadiums, yet their post-'90s catalog is a total blur to me. The last single of theirs prior to "Rope" that I can actually remember is "Best of You," which is like six years old already. I guess I'll be saying, "Hey, I really liked that song 'Rope'" four albums from now.

19. Palomino
Mates of State (from Mountaintops)
I think my old roommate kept telling me to check this group out and I never got around to it until this year. I didn't really see the big deal. I mean, they make some enjoyable, sing-a-long tunes, but it's nothing earth-shattering. Maybe my expectations were too high after all that hounding? Who knows. I do dig this song a lot, though. It reminds me of a lost New Pornographers track.

18. Call Your Girlfriend
Robyn (from Body Talk)
It's gotta be tricky business to write a song about a guy leaving his girlfriend for another woman from that other woman's perspective without making her come off as the villain. But Robyn manages to do just that in this song about a boyfriend thief who's nice enough to give her man some tips on breaking up gracefully. And hey, you can dance to it! Right out the door.

17. Cruel
St. Vincent (from Strange Mercy)
All the super cool kids were buzzing about St. Vincent's new album this year, while I didn't even know what a St. Vincent was or that it even had albums before. I soon found out that St. Vincent was actually Annie Clark—yet another solo artist performing under a band-like moniker (this is the hip thing now, I guess)—formerly of The Polyphonic Spree, a band I do know. (Five indie points for me!) I gave Annie's album a whirl but gave up due to weirdness. However, I did come out of it with this little gem of a single, which is also featured in one of the best/weirdest/coolest/creepiest videos of the year.

16. Still Life
The Horrors (from Skying)
I mentioned in my Best Albums post that once The Horrors dropped the whole "we're a roving gang of big-haired morticians" act, they started to make really good music. Actually, they still kind of look like big-haired morticians, but at least they've dropped the lame Treehouse of Horror credits-style pseudonyms.

15. Mine Smell Like Honey
R.E.M. (from Collapse Into Now)
I have to admit that I stopped caring about R.E.M. right after they released Monster, which I thought was terrible and viewed as the beginning of the end of their reign as the college rock gods. And I was kind of right, because the band's popularity began to wane here in the U.S. (for everyone except Beth Coffey) around that time. Aside from a couple of really good songs here and there ("Imitation of Life," "Leaving New York"), most of their output was forgettable until 2008's Accelerate. And just when R.E.M. became a band I could fully get behind again with this year's Collapse Into Now, they broke up. Pffft.

14. Helplessness Blues
Fleet Foxes (from Helplessness Blues)
OK, so I used to dislike Fleet Foxes. I thought they were boring. Their latest album, and especially this beautiful song, helped me change my mind. Don't go getting any ideas that a similar breakthrough will occur with Bon Iver.

13. No One Listens to the Band Anymore
The Damnwells (from No One Listens to the Band Anymore)
Er, I think this was a single. It's kind of hard to determine since this album was self-released and funded through fan pledges. I hope it is, because the song is super-catchy and deserves to be listed here. Google has led me to believe that it is a single, and Google has rarely steered me wrong in the past. The Googles know all!!

12. Longing to Belong
Eddie Vedder (from Ukulele Songs)
It's Eddie Vedder. Strumming a ukulele. Longing to belong to ME. Why wouldn't it be on my list??

11. Techno Fan
The Wombats (from This Modern Glitch)
I've pledged my adoration for this band many times on my blog. Their music is just so much fun and they're so delightfully British. I always learn new slang terms from their songs. Like in this one, "I didn't spend 20 sheets to not cut a shape." That sounds so much better than, "I didn't pay a $20 cover to not dance."

10. Lucky Now
Ryan Adams (from Ashes & Fire)
Ahhhh, Ryan Adams. He sure does have some purty songs in his purty mouth. The day I'm not a sucker for them is a day I don't want to see.

9. Shook Down
Yuck (from Yuck)
It's like Teenage Fanclub and The Lemonheads had a shiny little baby. More importantly, it's like I'm in my early 20s again, back in college and blissfully unaware that my degree is worth shit. Oh, '90s. How I miss you.

8. Rolling in the Deep
Adele (from 21)
Technically, this song was released as a single in November 2010. But who cares about two little months? It didn't really become a monster hit until this year. And despite being everywhere at once, I've amazingly never gotten sick of it.

7. Under Cover of Darkness
The Strokes (from Angles)
Confession: I was something of a Strokes-hater for a while. I think it had something to do with all of those "The" bands hitting at once and being praised for bringing back garage rock, which I don't think ever really went away. Anyway, I started to soften toward The Strokes around the time that Julian Casablancas did his brilliant cover of the SNL holiday classic, "I Wish It Was Christmas Today" and then showed up in the hilarious digital short, "Boombox." I managed to catch the band at PJ20, and to my surprise, I really liked them. Since then, I've been enjoying their old stuff with fresh ears and playing the hell out of this song, which is actually a ray of light shining out of a somewhat mediocre album.

6. Better Off Without You
Summer Camp (from Welcome to Condale)
Summer Camp is to the '80s what Yuck is to the '90s: an amazing amalgamation of everything musically awesome about the decade. The whole album is great fun, but this single is a stroke of genius. It's as if Debbie Harry joined the Go-Go's and this new band (The Go-Blondies?) recorded the theme song for Footloose 2: Boogaloo in Paradise.

5. Lonely Boy
The Black Keys (from El Camino)
I think I originally had this song at #4 but then I played it too much and docked it a point due to overexposure. It's not the song's fault; it's mine. Although, it is kind of The Black Keys' fault for making its video impossible to stop watching.

4. Blue Eyes
Middle Brother (from Middle Brother)
This was another song that I wasn't sure had actually been released as a single, but Rolling Stone claimed it had. Now, I don't trust RS as much as I trust The Googles, but I'm just gonna take their word for it because this happens to be my favorite track from the Middle Brother album. And it might have one of my favorite lines ever: "I've been looking for some time/In a world full of numbers for my prime." Hey, what's more romantic than math references? (Speaking of, I'd let Matt Vasquez plug his solution into my equation, if you know what I mean.)

3. Suck It and See
Arctic Monkeys (from Suck It and See)
Who would have ever thought that a song with such a dirty-sounding title would be one of the best sad-but-sweet love songs of the year? Well, it is, thanks to Alex Turner, who continues to prove himself as one of his generation's most talented songwriters. "Your kiss, it could put creases in the rain?" What does that even mean? Who knows? Who cares? It's gorgeous!

2. Vomit
Girls (from Father, Son, Holy Ghost)
Certain songs you just need to listen to in a darkened room. Or at the very least with your eyes closed. This is one of those songs. It may be THE song. (Hence, it's not really the best song to put on, say, a driving-to-Florida mix.) This indie epic begins with somber guitar strumming, ends in a full-on gospel explosion and rocks the fuzz out in between. The whole song is fantastic, but the closing two minute or so segment—when the organ comes in and the backup singer really starts wailing—is an experience.

1. The Edge of Glory
Lady Gaga (from Born This Way)
Laugh if you want, but after I heard this song for the first time, I played it like 10 more times. It felt like Gaga had just thrown me in her DeLorean and gunned it to 88. (Of course, I was sitting on Clarence Clemons' lap the whole time, but I didn't mind.) And hate on Gaga all you want but not only does she write some of the catchiest pop songs you'll ever hear, but she also introduced a whole new generation to the Big Man before he left us. If she prompted even one clueless kid to discover the beauty of "Jungleland," she deserves some kind of award.

Honorable mentions: "Midnight City," M83; "If You Wanna," The Vaccines; "I Don't Want Love," The Antlers; "You're Too Weird," Fruit Bats; "Helena Beat," Foster the People


Anonymous said...

Love, love, love this list & your blog.

Agreed with the following choices, big time: Adele, The Black Keys (El Camino is a gem), The Strokes, Fleet Foxes, Foo Fighters, St. Vincent and maybe Gaga too. Great picks overall.

Scope said...

Wow, am I out of touch. Well, if I cannot make a intelligent comment (which, granted, is rare), I might as well aim for the funny.

No Bon Iver and no Bon Jovi, either? Ban the "Bon"

Brahm (alfred lives here) said...

Great choices! Love the Edge of Glory, is the best track over a daring if inconsistent album (avoid the remix album, I bought it so no one else has to...).

And yes love Adele as per my list, and love the songs by REM (miss them already) and Foo Fighters (always fab).

No Bon Iver.... no Bon Iver... yeehaw!

Heff said...

Ok, I've only heard the Grohl and GaGa, so Grohl it IS.

Billy said...

Bottom line: I could nit-pick little differences of opinion here and there, but what's the point? Your list is a damn fine sampling of the best of 2011, and between this list and your albums list, you've already exhausted my entire month of credit at eMusic, so damn you.

Good list, though.

DWMD65 said...

Great post. I just did mine and we have some similarities.

Happy New Year

Barbara Bruederlin said...

It's a good list, just the right amount of hipster love mixed in with the weird stuff.

Alice said...

ok FINE. i'll experience some of this "new music" you speak of :) thanks for the links!


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