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


CAMERAS
June


DOWNLOAD: June

It’s been about 8 months since I gave you guys a taste of Cameras when I offered up ‘Polarise’ from their self-titled EP, but last week they finally released their first album, In Your Room, and I’ve had it locked on ‘repeat’ all day. I simply can’t get enough of Eleanor Dunlop’s beautiful, mystically dreamy voice and the way she can take the lyrics and swirl & spin them into her own shimmering, gossamer instrument. I dare you to decypher what she is singing on the first go-round, but once you figure it out you will melt…

I traded my heart
For a new one
I stole I stole I stole
Away away away…

If you know me at all, you know I’m a sucker for exactly this type of lush, layered, shoegazey Pop, but I’ve been jonesing for this record from the moment I first heard ‘Polarise’, and these guys really delivered! I strongly advise a trip to the iTunes Store to pick this one up and then head over to facebook and ‘Like’ Cameras.

And as a bonus, here’s the video for ‘June’

Song Of The Day

CAMERAS
Polarise


DOWNLOAD: Polarise

There are songs that can draw me in simply because of a visceral mood they create…songs where the lyrics and music blend so perfectly that reality gets momentarily turned off and I’m suddenly carried away by an aural wave of emotion…songs like this. I first heard ‘Polarise’ on Alt Nation and was immediately transported into a Cocteau Twins/Slowdive/Lush/My Bloody Valentine/Jesus & Mary Chain universe of dark, melancholy keyboard melodies, swirling atmospheric guitar runs, and an almost cinematic sense of dire importance. At the 40 second mark when that tinkling guitar sneaks up on Eleanor Dunlop’s hypnotic vocal, it actually raised the hairs on my neck.

Cameras are from Sydney, Australia and besides singing, Dunlop also handles the keyboards, while Fraser Harvey plays guitar & bass and Ben Mason is on drums. You really gotta check these guys out on MySpace or on their Facebook Page and you can get the Cameras EP on iTunes