Posted on December 30th, 2011 in Music,Year End

Top 30 Songs of 2011


#30 (tie). Kanye West & Jay Z – That’s My Bitch


The world (and Kanye, and Aziz) loves ‘Niggas In Paris‘. I get it, it gets to the heart of the $LOL$ Rich Nigga attitude that Kanye and Jay Z were going for; but ‘That’s My Bitch‘ has Kanye’s perfectionist million-dollar production, a ridiculously catchy synth riff and classic Kanye lyrics (“seen by actors, ball players and drug dealers / and some lesbians that never loved niggas”).



#30 (tie). Kate Bush – 50 Words For Snow


With hints of Bowie and Laurie Anderson, Kate Bush made a record that is more wintery than winter. The 50 words make a Kate Bush amount of sense, but that’s the lark—like Haruki Murakami, she makes the weird normal and the normal weird. ‘50 Words For Snow‘ is…kafkaesque?



#30 (tie). Tyler, The Creator – Tron Cat


Tyler’s radical post-racial (and post-societal) hiphop expands on the culture-changing modus operandi of late-80s N.W.A. It’s challenging as hell, even for a desensitized postmodern culture, but that’s exactly what socially relevant music should be. ‘Tron Cat‘ references wetbacks, rape and Hitler; and Tyler himself might be satan. Good luck with that.



#29. Mogwai – San Pedro


It’s easy to forget that post-rock didn’t always get wet for crescendos and Friday Night Lights soundtracks. Mogwai started this game, and even though ‘Mogwai Fear Satan‘ is gone fishin’, they can still occasionally go down to Pound Town. Post-rock.



#28. Hype Williams – William Shotgun Sprayer


Hype Williams is eerie and elusive, and his music comes from a Psilocybin-soaked, Oxycodonian world with no space/time continuum. This song soundtracks death and birth, and it probably plays somewhere in the background as life is lived as well.



#27. Young Prisms – Sugar


Young Prisms exist on that post-My Bloody Valentine plane that every spacey band since 1991 has been unable to escape from. But there’s a certain postmodernism on this song—a repetitive, naturalistic laconicism—that builds off of MBV into slightly uncharted territory.



#26. Tom Vek – On A Plate


It’s been six years since Tom’s last album, but he is as snide and cool—and detached—as ever. This record is kind of heavy, but it also isn’t. The synth is a tigress and the album is perfectly titled: Leisure Seizure.



#25. Wilco – One Sunday Morning (Song For Jane Smiley’s Boyfriend)


Apparently we have Jane Smiley’s boyfriend to thank for twelve minutes of Jeff Tweedy waxing religion atop an elegiac mist of acoustic guitar and wandering bass. ‘One Sunday Morning‘ is not too long, or too short, or too self-serious. It’s kind of perfect. Wilco is in vintage form here.



#24. The Decemberists – This Is Why We Fight


The Decemberists can be eye-rollingly haughty at times, so the sincerity of this record was a pleasant surprise. ‘This Is Why We Fight‘ is a legitimate anthem, and Colin Meloy manages to keep the pretense low (though the outro might beg you to disagree).



#23. Bright Eyes – Jejune Stars


I am still not willing to give Conor the neo-Bob Dylan label, but he does seem to be maturing well. The People’s Key is his best album yet—even if Denny Brewer’s hippie soliloquies can be a bit off-putting—and ‘Jejune Stars‘ is effortless and heavy and fantastic. Spiritual.



#22. Bill Callahan – America!


Bill’s linguistic command is superb, and the snide wordplay in this song is just phenomenal: (“All the lucky suckle teat / Others chaw pig knuckle meat / Ain’t enough teat, ain’t enough teat, ain’t enough to eat”).



#21. Das Racist – Michael Jackson


Hip Hop has been undergoing a post-racial rebirth (see Tyler, The Creator) over the past few years, and dudes like Das Racist are one of its prime reasons. On ‘Michael Jackson‘, Heems and Kool A.D. ditch their freestylish flow to show off the Good Times and ironic pop hooks that come so naturally to them.



#20. Kreayshawn – Gucci Gucci


Gucci Gucci‘ is arguably the most vapid musical expression of postmodernism western society has come up with; regardless, it’s fan-fucking-tastic. And it says exactly what it needs to say about our culture. Don’t let scholars—or anyone else—convince you that this song has no merit. It does; it’s important; it’s wonderful.



#19. The Soft Moon – Repetition


The Chernobyl Nightmare World that The Soft Moon reside in is absolutely terrifying. Somehow they took the influences of Suicide, Throbbing Gristle, et al., and made them scarier and more poppy at the same time. ‘Repetition‘ repeats. A lot. It is a seriously insane piece of music. And yet it’s so beautiful.



#18. John Maus – Head For The Country


Head For The Country‘ is a lovely song by an Ariel Pink disciple who probably watched John Hughes films instead of Stan Brakhage shorts. The 80s have been done to death over the past decade, but Maus found a way to reinvigorate them with arthouse intentions.



#17. J Mascis – Is It Done


Hearing J Mascis’ voice on top of acoustic guitars is unsettling; his voice sounds frail—even fragile(?)—but these songs are haunting and beautiful, and surprise Mascis solos come out of nowhere. (And they somehow fit in perfectly.)



#16. Wye Oak – Civilian


My God,” is the only thing to say about this song. Transcendent, maybe. Or intense. Somehow it has a (nonexistent?) time and place connected to it, like a withering wind that wears down as time marches on.



#15. Dirty Beaches – Lord Knows Best


Lord Knows Best‘ marries Suicide and Elvis perfectly and beautifully. It is stirring and wistful like a little boy drowning in a pond; it would fit in a Jim Jarmusch film; and for some reason I hope that Macaulay Culkin has heard it.



#14. Hooves – No Use For Dying
My BFFs wrote a song about getting old and being a loser dj at a bar while the world passes you by. The album isn’t finished yet, so here is a YouTube version. The video is bleak (so is getting old).



#13. Starfucker – Mystery Cloud


Sadly, I only discovered this year that Starfucker is the brainchild of Joshua Hodges (he also created one of my favorite albums of the past decade—Sexton Blake’s Plays The Hits!). ‘Mystery Cloud‘ shows off Hodges’ velvety smooth voice with a backdrop of spacey fireworks that sound a lot like love.



#12. WU LYF – We Bros.


The hollowed-out mixture of Explosions In The Sky and Modest Mouse on WU LYF’s “we-recorded-this-in-a-church” debut is both glimmering and grim; an augury of death and an anthem of rejoice.



#11. Handsome Furs – What About Us


The adorable couple that is Handsome Furs got all cute on us and wrote an album while they traveled through third world countries, using synth instead of guitar (it’s inspired by Eastern European electronic/industrial and includes found sound). If you’re thinking that sounds a lot like Mates Of State or something, don’t worry, this is dark as shit—like, Jean-Claude Van Damme Movie dark.



#10. PJ Harvey – In The Dark Places


On a concept album about World War I, ‘In The Dark Places‘ is possibly the most depressing of all. With tales of death and crosses and guns, Polly Jean brings us through the killing fields and into the hellward minds of men.



#9. Salem – I’m Still In The Night


These unlikable douchebags have given a soundtrack to the aimless, egoless members of Generation Y. The soul-crushing purposelessness of this song paints a stark—but honest—picture of suburban sprawl (or American Pragmatism, or both).



#8. Fucked Up – Under My Nose


Fucked Up is ushering in the new breed of punk (complex, overdubbed, no less vigorous). ‘Under My Nose‘ brings Siamese Dream to mind with its melodically-driven guitar tracks. Listening to beautiful punk is weird, but, it’s where we’ve come and it’s all been worth it.



#7. Moonface – Return To The Violence Of The Ocean Floor


Another part of the Wolf Parade family tree (this one belongs to Spencer Krug and his synth); for some reason this album—and this song in particular—always reminds me of the scene in The Royal Tenenbaums where Richie and Royal are walking arm in arm at the graveyard and Royal asks, “Why did you choke out there that day, Baumer?”



#6. Tom Waits – Bad As Me


A carnival of raspy folk devils and drunken vagrants soundtracked by a New Awlins speakeasy has become a familiar song structure for Tom Waits. His bag of tricks is well-worn, but his are tricks worth using. He’s Tom Fuckin’ Waits.



#5. Starscream – Galeforce


Galeforce‘ starts out sluggish, slow and lost but finishes with a soul-raping Titanic crescendo that can never be turned loud enough. Rockets and bombs (and hailstorms) are less climactic.



#4. The Hood Internet – Go Hahahaha (Das Racist vs. Cults)


The Dudes With The Worst Name Ever have made some absolute shit (the consequence of being such prolific producers and remixers), but this unbelievable mix transcends both originals (Das Racist’s ‘Hahahaha Jk?‘ and Cults’ ‘Go Outside‘). I cannot imagine a more flawless mashup.



#3. Gang Gang Dance – MindKilla


The consequence of shamanism and indie electronica; spiritual leaders and (drugs?). Gang Gang Dance. Orgasmic sensory overload. ‘MindKilla‘ transcends nationalistic and cultural boundaries and connects to a global consciousness. It sounds like a Burning Man diary entry, but it’s true.



#2. Kurt Vile – Society Is My Friend


Kvile is so mellow and cooler-than-you’ll-ever-be (those beautiful locks!); it’s like rolling up the detachment of JMC with Thurston and soundtracking it with Dylan songs. Society is my friend, but I wish Kurt Vile was.



#1. The War On Drugs – Baby Missiles


A song about gay sex that channels Bruce and Dylan (Brucewave) with postmodern nonchalance is not something I ever thought I would need. It’s the best song of the year. 2011.

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