December 31, 2011

Best 2011: Top Songs

We do like a recap, don't we? This list is hard to do as it changes constantly. Here is one last attempt. I should note I learned about many of these songs, which are not all singles, from you. Some of the sound quality on the streams is a bit meh (#apols, as one tweets).

1 Florrie I Took A Little Something UK SONG OF THE YEAR #1
The unusually long intro (about 75 seconds) heralds the arrival of a great pop diva and the first truly magic Xenomania track in two years. A few reasons: 1) The amazing aural hook sounds like my cell phone text alert. 2) The lyric "I'm dreaming that you're crawling into bed" kills me every time.

2. Friendly Fires Hurting UK SONG OF THE YEAR #2
A bit of pain is rewarding. I fear the pop kids may have missed this gem because they decided Fires were for drunk dancing boys, like the lead singer, Ed. But Hurting is actually a song to dance to while your pants are slowly falling off. Favorite moment: 3:55, when he whispers hurting this way, hurting this way...

and the rest:

Rihanna We Found Love UK/BARBADOS

This all comes down to the hook, "We found love in a hopeless place." Gorgeous.

Sky Ferreira 99 Tears USA
As I said earlier this week, the bridge (2:30) is epic. The impressive vocals/lyrics have an emotional heft that extends beyond the song's "I want to make that bitch boy cry" message. "Do you wanna know how it feels to be me? / When your heart's on the floor and your dream's all gone." Preach, child!

Darren Hayes Talk Talk Talk AUS/UK
Of the many solid tracks from "Darryl Hanes" this year, I choose this superb return single. Lovers in a state of flux, talking it out, not walking out. The strings at the end of the album version seal the deal, but fans should note there is an "attic" version of this song that recasts it as a hushed ballad. Amazing...

Stream it here (embed disabled)

The Goodes feat Judie Tzuke Solid Shoulders UK
If you are prone to high drama, walking around with massive strings orchestrating your every move, then this song is a tonic - or a catalyst - for you. Released with The Goodes (but all Judie on vocals), it pulses, bangs, dips and swoons... one of those urgent, string-laden epics that could collapse under its own weight, but never does. Needless to say, the topic is love. A bit of a spoiler: the "don't leave me hanging" ending is a moment of genius.

Uh Huh Her Another Case USA
The surprise track from the American duo is the SEX. Rock'n'roll on a highwire. Sometimes you hear a song and think "this is me" - and no one would ever guess. I like that.

Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds Everybody's On The Run UK
I mentioned in another post that this track's swooning, melancholy orchestral bridge makes it his finest song since 1995. Listen for it from 3:55 to 4:30. Mad beauty from an unexpected source.

Lana Del Rey Video Games UK
Lean in for a big kiss. No other song in 2011 came so out of the ether and captivated people on first listen. Nothing comes close in that regard. Video Games will be lippy Lana's blessing and curse, it is so utterly perfect.

Florence + The Machine All This And Heaven Too UK
From a heavy, heavy record, this is probably not the tune people expected I'd choose. It could easily have been empowerment anthem Shake It Off or the album opener Only If For A Night. But I love the emphasis is on the lyric here. Linguistics never sounded so celestial.

Adele Set Fire To The Rain UK
Another album with a cache of potential songs to put on this list. I chose Set Fire because I played it the most, simple as that. That swooping vocal near the end does it every time.

Jamie Woon Shoulda UK
For me, the most melancholy song of 2011. I associate strongly with a particular moment. Enough said.

Gotye Save Me AUS
In my own lush brain, this was the longest running #1 hit of the year. The lyric is so uplifting. "And you gave me love | When I could not love myself | And you made me turn | From the way I saw myself."

Emeli Sande Daddy UK
She brought back a sound we'd forgot we loved. This is a triphoppian epic with blazing strings. The kind of music that sounds great in your ears on a cold, grey city day or deep in the night. I hope she'll be all over my 2012 lists.

Beth Ditto I Wrote The Book USA
A danceable classic, but Beth always takes it a beat beyond fierce. She's not that simple. Her lyrics are among the best this year: "Heartbreak and then some | Tell me, where is a friend when you need one? | Before you take a second look | Remember I know every trick in the book."

Jessica 6 See The Light USA
Sweaty night music that builds over five minutes in a frenzied orgasm of sound. Jessica 6 and Nomi Ruiz are the wicked cool heart of New York.

Will Young Jealousy UK
Hands down, Will's most accomplished, artistic single. It represents the album perfectly in not only how elegant it is, but how his vocal restraint gives way to the tension on the song. This is a seriously slow burn and the album version is the keeper, you should know. Flawless.

Alpines Cocoon UK
Bjork did not deliver the kind of edgy, widescreen Utopia I wanted, but this pretty (and totally unknown) London duo did. It's also the Video Of The Year.

Play it here (embed disabled)

Clare Maguire I Surrender UK
O Clare. The album failed, but that doesn't take away from its quality. I shockingly never wrote about this song, which was, for a long time, the crown on my list for 2011. It's like the best of Fleetwood Mac reconstituted for today's popstrels. That it wasn't released as a single is a pop injustice. "Be mine. It's a physical thing."

Kathryn Calder Turn A Light On USA
I heard this one drizzly day on NPR and crushed hard. It starts out sweet but goes godamned celestial by the end. Glorious.

What did I miss?


Some songs that made it to this list and were cut and added and cut at various times: 1 Marina and The Diamonds Radioactive, 2 Sophie Ellis Bextor Synchronized, 3 Patrick Wolf Together, 4 Friendly Fires Live Those Days Tonight, 5 Beyonce's Schoolin' Life, 6 Lady Gaga's The Edge Of Glory, 7 Penguin Prison Don't Fuck With My Money, 8 Darren Hayes Bloodstained Heart, 9 Yasmin Finish Line (Freemasons Mix) and 10 Foster The People I Would Do Anything For You and the plus one, Will Young's Come On.

Click here to see more of my favorite songs from the first two quarters of the year. Where was I in Q3?


countpopula said...

I like your choices a lot. I echo most and add from my list:

Scritti Politti--A Day Late and a Dollar Short
Sound of Arrows--Wonders
Coldplay feat. Rihanna--Princess of China
Jens Lekman--An Argument With Myself
Monarchy--I Won't Let Go
Young Galaxy--We Have Everything

From Florence, I personally liked Spectrum and Seven Devils. And the Lana del Rey album is highly anticipated.

Howard said...

Happy New Year, my friend!

xolondon said...

Thanks Jason!

And Howard, you have a fantastic 2012 too, sir...

zen~ said...

Some excellent choices (but did I expect anything less?). As for me, Lana Del Ray all the way! Total seduction.

Lana Del Ray - Video Games
Lana Del Ray - Blue Jeans
Austra - Lose It (why weren't they massive?)
Beth Ditto - I Wrote The Book
Jamie Woon - Night Air (smooth)
Will Young - Jealousy
Little Boots - Shake
Radioactive - Marina & The Diamonds
Florence & The Machine - What The Water Gave Me
Patrick Wolf - Together
Class Actress - Weekend
Saint Saviour - Red Sun & Army Dreamers (best cover version of the year, after James Blake...)
Bryan Ferry - Shameless