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


SHERLOCKS DAUGHTER
Reprise


DOWNLOAD: Reprise

I had every intention of kicking out something rocky and dark and loud today, but I’ve had a headache since breakfast, so I’ve been quietly humming along all morning to this dream-poppy number from Brooklyn-based Aussies, Sherlocks Daughter. I first discovered these guys last month when I saw bandmembers Tim Maybury and Tanya Horo on the cover of the Village Voice in a real estate feature. Based on that bit of notoriety, I don’t know what convinced me to check them out, but I’m glad I did ‘cuz I love this kinda stuff. I find it very relaxing to be enveloped by waves of feedback-drenched shoegazey guitars, moderately self-important electronica and a softly swirling nondescript female vocal. They’ve caught the ears of the downtown music intelligentsia since even Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore is a fan…which, now that I think of it, sorta makes sense since Tanya’s voice is a lot like a softer version of Kim Gordon’s. Sonic Youth producer John Agnello is apparently twiddling the knobs on their debut album, due out later this Spring. In the meantime, head over to their MySpace Page to hear a few more tracks.

Song of the Day

DEMANDER
Math


DOWNLOAD: Math

Demander calls themselves a three-piece irregular rock band.

Sivan Harlap and Dave Kurutz met behind the snack bar at Villa Park High School in 1994. Karen Kanan Corrêa met Sivan and the two played in The Hissyfits back in 2001. Sivan actually spent the first few months of their acquaintance trying to get Karen kicked out of the group because I guess not everyone likes viola in a rock band, but Karen eventually switched to bass and the two became fast friends. Over the next two years they performed with The Killers, Gary Go, Holly Golightly and many others, but since 2004 they’ve been playing together under the name Demander. Dave and Karen met completely by chance in New York many years after the previous events, somewhere near 2008. Through some cosmic melding of the minds, the three of them now make bright sexy-time adventure pop for jogging, dancing, drinking or making out. And next Tuesday they’re set to drop their second album. It’s called Future Brite. Recorded in NYC, the album was produced by Jim Keller (Co-founder of 80’s band Tommy Tutone and writer of 867-5309) and was mixed by John Agnello (Dinosaur Jr, Sonic Youth, Hold Steady). Guest musicians include Franz Nicolay of The Hold Steady, Native American Music Award winner Martha Redbone, and members of World/Inferno Friendship Society and Anti-Social Music. During the recording process, there was apparently some singing done in a vocal booth that smelled like sheep perfume and a whole lot of clapping. You can enjoy more of Demander on their MySpace Page and further fun can be had by watching the fun-fun-fun video for ‘Math’