The Songs of the Year 2011

The other day, a friend pointed out that this past year the usual high output of songs that got put up on The List was decidedly less than past years, to which I replied, yes…the necessity to work from time to time had certainly put a crimp in my ability to give away my usual amount of free music, but what did get tossed up was of such high quality as they more than made up for the diminished quantity. And with that in mind, here are the best of the best…the Songs of the Year…

#1. LOW ROAR
Give Up


DOWNLOAD: Give Up

Ryan Karazija didn’t just come up with the best song this past year, but I’ll be damned if he didn’t also have the best album, too. I could have put any one of the twelve tracks from the album on the annual list…they are all that good…and it’s only a coincidence that ‘Give Up’ is the first track on the album. I’ve already yelled at you guys enough to BUY THIS RECORD, but if you haven’t, do it now! And mark your calenders kids, cuz Ryan’s gonna be taking a flight from Iceland over to New York to play a gig at Piano’s January 19 and MilkBoy in Philly on January 22nd.

#2. CAMERAS
Polarise


DOWNLOAD: Polarise

If not for Low Roar, Cameras would have certainly been sitting on the top of the heap this year. I’ve played ‘Polarise’ so often, I’m pretty sure even Camille is getting sick of it! Nothing like a wall of hard-to-understand, harmonic, atmospheric, shoegazey melodies to win my heart.

#3. WE WERE PROMISED JETPACKS
Act On Impulse


DOWNLOAD: Act On Impulse

We all should have a dose of sweaty, angst-ridden rock to wake us up from time to time. They’re almost unheard of over here, but these four Scottish lads are burning up the clubs in Great Britain. Powerful, lotsa fun and yes…very sweaty!

#4. BIRD CALL
The Ballad Of New York


DOWNLOAD: The Ballad Of New York
I swear Chiara Angelicola may have been plucked out of a Jazz Club from the 50’s and transported to the Here & Now to remind us what real music is like. She’s got a voice that can drop so low it will rattle your bones…and then outta nowhere she’ll crack a high note that will give you goosebumps. The Ballad Of New York is going to be on her next album, but in the meantime she’s got a lot more sitting over at iTunes just waiting for you to enjoy.

#5. CASS McCOMBS
The Same Thing


DOWNLOAD: The Same Thing

There’s just something so comfortably reassuring about the way Cass McCombs sings. From the very first time I heard ‘The Same Thing’ I was won over. The melody, the slightly syncopated vocal style, the sad/lazy way it made me feel…it all works.

#6. WYE OAK
Civilian


DOWNLOAD: Civilian

Another strong contender for my favorite album this year was Civilian by the Baltimore duo, Wye Oak. It’s a noisy mashup filled with masterful guitar work, shoegazey distortion, wonderful storytelling and Jenn Wasner’s languid voice holding it all together. It’s another record that you should seriously consider buying!

#7. GABRIELLE AIMEE
Have You Ever


DOWNLOAD: Have You Ever

We’ve been friends for quite a while and I even shot her album cover earlier this year, but when Gabrielle Aimée sent me ‘Have You Ever’ I was knocked out. I had never heard her slide into such a bluesy place and be so damned sexy on a song before, and the vibrato from the Farfisa-like organ transported me back in time.

#8. K+NIKKU
The Search


DOWNLOAD: The Search

Kate Tucker has been a staple on The List from the moment we first heard her with the Sons of Sweden and since then we’ve followed her from Seattle to Ohio to New York and now to Nashville, so when she recorded an EP with Nic Danielson as K+Nikku we were on board. I’ve been goofin’ on her…calling her Katemau5…because of the slightly electronic edge to the EP, but she knows I love her…

#9. THE PACK A.D.
Sirens


DOWNLOAD: Sirens

The Pack A.D. is Becky Black & Maya Miller and they’re a hard-hitting garage duo outta Vancouver B.C. that has released four albums of stripped-down, pissed-off, dirty punk rock…and they’re bloody great! ‘Sirens’ is off of their latest release, Unpersons.

#10. SHERLOCK’S DAUGHTER
Reprise


DOWNLOAD: Reprise

Going from the grungy goodness of The Pack A.D. to Sherlock’s Daughter shoegazing their way through ‘Reprise’ might be a bit jarring, but I’ve had their EP near the top of my iTunes folder all year and there was no chance it wasn’t making it on this list. Call it nonsensical aural wallpaper if you must, but Tanya Horo’s voice always has a calming effect on me…like a neural tranquilizer…I can feel any tension I’m feeling fall away as soon as she whispers in my ear…

#11. THE BOOZE
Hit Me Where It Hurts


DOWNLOAD: Hit Me Where It Hurts

We’ve come to the end, but I’ve turned it up to “11” and hearing Chaz Tolliver channel Mick Jagger one more time seems like a perfect way to close out this years Best Of List. The Booze play boogie-rock that can’t help but make you think of the early Stones and The Kinks, and Tolliver seems to have mastered the fine art of Jagger-esque posing…in a good way!

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Song of the Day

SHARON VAN ETTEN
Serpents


DOWNLOAD: Serpents

Sharon Van Etten has a new album coming out next year and to get us all jazzed up, she’s giving away ‘Serpents’, a rambunctious sizzler that has me picturing her swirling out of control, her arms flaying, totally enraptured by the song. Her plaintive vocal stays locked in the same mid-register throughout…a buzzing, pleading drone…set alongside a howling slide guitar, the constant beat of a snare drum and layer upon layer of trebly guitars. The new record, Tramp, is due out in February on the indie power label Jagjaguwar Records, and she’s playing with some serious folks…the Dessner twins, Aaron and Bryce of the National, Matt Barrick of The Walkmen and Jenn Wasner from Wye Oak on backup vocals. Go check out Sharon on her website

***EDIT: Just thought I would add this, even though it’s a month later…a wonderful piece on Sharon in the Sunday NYTimes Magazine

Song of the Day


WYE OAK
Civilian


DOWNLOAD: Civilian

I have no meaningful excuse as for why I haven’t put anything from the latest Wye Oak album, Civilian, up on The List since it was released earlier this year, except my usual, “I’ve been lazy and neglecting my duties as your free pipeline to new music”…but I will try to rectify that today. I had been listening to a couple of early mixes from the album since late last year, but it wasn’t until this past weekend that I ponied up the cash to buy the record, and my God it’s good! Last on The List with ‘Take It In’ back in June of 2009, Jenn Wasner and Andy Stack have crafted a seductive lamentation of angst, apprehension, rebirth and redemption.On the title track, Wasner’s voice is carried steadily along by a chugging, locomotive-like beat that without warning turns into a wall of Neil Young-like reverb and noise that hits you like a punch on the face.

“I still keep my baby teeth
in the bedside table
with my jewelry…”

I don’t know why, but that lyric gives me chills.

And the other nine songs on the album are just as lush and tight and smartly written. Don’t let me go spending your hard earned cash for you, but if you like this song, then the album is a must-buy…head on over to the iTunes Store now! For you New Yorkers, Wye Oak is opening for The National on Thursday December 15th during their week-long stand at The Beacon and you can follow them on their website.

Finally, here’s a bonus video of them doing an acoustic version of ‘Civilian’ on NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert Series

Song of the Day

wyeoak

WYE OAK
Take It In


DOWNLOAD: Take It In

Jenn Wasner of the Baltimore-based duo Wye Oak spins a beautifully bittersweet tale as she whispers, moans and floats through this song, surrounded by a clanging caucaphony of guitars and drums and the pulsing heartbeat of an incessant bassline. “We are both the same…..Unwell…”…since I seem to have the picked up a case of the Swine Flu, this just sort of hit home today! ‘The Knot’ drops on July 21st and is a stunning follow-up to their first album, If Children. Give ’em a look over on MySpace