top 21 songs and albums of 2011

Who doesn’t love a good list?

It’s one of my favourite times of year, reading year-end round ups and finding out what, and more importantly why, certain songs have made the list. I think this list is fairly predictable this year, and most of you will already have these songs, so I’m not going to upload them. If you can’t find them in a simple Google Blog search, you’re doing it wrong.*

Also, this is my first of the “year end song lists” – still to come; Top 5 local artists of the year and Top 5 album letdowns of the year. Honourable mention must go out to Foster the People (Helena Beats), Radiohead (Good Morning Mr. Magpie) and Low (Especially Me), who didn’t make the cut.

Now, without further ado… My Top 21 songs of 2011.

21. Young Galaxy (Shapeshifting) – We Have Everything

First, the video for this song is one of my favourite of the year. This was really the year of animation in music videos. More on that later. This song will get you to tap your foot, and wonder why these Vancouver indie rockers haven’t taken the rest of the world by storm.

20. Adele (21) – Someone Like You

She’s on nearly every list this year, isn’t she? I heard a few on her songs so much when I was England last December, I was certain it came out in 2010. Nope. This song reminds me of the summer and long bike rides. And in case you missed it, SNL did a funny skit about this song.

19. The Rural Alberta Advantage (Departing) – Barnes’ Yard

I went back and forth of choosing a favourite song from this album. I almost picked Tornado ’87, but the lyrics in Barnes’ Yard coupled with the upbeat tempo of this song won me over. Favourite part of the song is around 1.50 “Your parents they say there’s beautiful things in this whole place. Your parents they say there’s beautiful things in this whole place. Now your parents say there’s nothing for us in this old place. Don’t leave me to stay and dream of how you’re going…” Click over here to hear a lovely acoustic version of the song.

17. We Are Augustines (Rise Ye Sunken Ships) – Book of James

I first heard about this band on KEXP and I just caught the end of their name, and thought they were that alternative band, Augustana my brother used to play, and was perplexed as to why KEXP were playing them.. Finally I heard their full name, and all was well. They kind of remind me of a rocker version of The National. Favourite lyric, “And here lies my green eyes, rolled back in my head, but they’re alive…”

16. Blind Pilot (We Are the Tide) – We Are The Tide

I was completely unaware of this band, and then all of a sudden they were all over the radio. I would describe them as a west coast Beirut meets The Head and the Heart. This was the first song I heard from them, and remains me favourite. Not only because of the handclaps. Well, that’s certainly a large part. Mainly, it’s just a get uplifting tune.

15. M83 (Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming) – Midnight City

This is one of those tunes that just gets lodged in your brain and you either love it or hate it. The beat wins me over more than the lyrics here. I’m a sucker for synth, what can I say. Favourite part of the song is just after 3 minutes in when there is a great saxophone break.

14. Tom Waits (Bad As Me) – Hell Broke Luce

There are always artists that you just never get around to listening to until late in the game. It happens. Sometimes it comes as a shock to others though (really? omg, how you you not have listened to…). Up until this past spring I’d never really listened to Tom Waits. I’d heard of him, but never really knew where to start. So after a recommendation to start with Franks Wild Years, I dove into his discography. After the introduction to his work, I was quite excited to listen to Bad As Me, which was released this fall. Hell Broke Luce was the stand out for me.

13. Dum Dum Girls (Only in Dreams) – Coming Down

This song had me from the first “Woah, oh, woah.” I love the lyrics, and the music is quite soothing. My favourite lyrics are, “If you want to tell me something, you had better make it strong” and “You abuse the ones you love you, you abuse the ones who won’t. If you ever had a real heart, I don’t think you’d know where to start…” It reminds me of The Replacements Bastards of Young. And any song that can do that is tops in my book.

12. Beirut (The Rip Tide) – Santa Fe

Honestly, Zach Condon could sing my grocery list and it’d probably make this list. I just love his voice. I will admit, I’m partial to the live version of this song over the one that appeared on the album, which you can listen to over here. My favourite part of this song is near the end when he sings, “This day undone, the kind that breaks under. All day at once, for me for you. But I’m just too young…” Put me in a car, in the summer with the radio turned up.

11. PJ Harvey (Let England Shake) – The Words That Maketh Murder

This is a clear standout on the album for me. The chorus is the definition of an earworm. I don’t even need to listen to the song as I’m typing this to remind me of my favourite parts, I think that speaks volumes.

10. Handsome Furs (Sound Kapital) – Repatriated

The first I listened to this record I loved it, then that faded quickly, and when I revisited it in the summer I realized there were great little gems within the record that just needed some room to grow. I was really disappointed I miss seeing them when they played Vancouver. Favourite part of the song is around 3.40 “I’ve seen the future and it’s coming in low…”

9. Cave Singers (No Witch) – Black Leaf

I went to see the Fleet Foxes this past April and Cave Singers were the opening bad. They blew me away (and honestly put on a better show than the Fleexes). I’d never listened to any of their music before, so it was great to hear everything live for the first time. They have great stage presence. Favourite part of the song is around the 1 minute mark, “My mind wakes me up every night…”

8. Wilco (The Whole Love) – Dawned On Me

This song had me from the first verse, “…I been lost, I been found. I been taken by the sound of my own voice. Voices in my head…” Saddest upbeat song of the year. Includes whistling, too.

7. Radical Face (Family Roots) – Ghost Towns

Can Ben Cooper and Zach Condon do a duet? I think that would be a handclap explosion and would satisfy my music needs for at least a year. Radical Face has always been about the lyrics for me, I find the music to be very similar in most of the songs, but that doesn’t necessarily bother me, which is why I keep going back to it. Favourite parts of the song are just before the 1 minute mark, “I see the world from the world from rusted trains, and always know I won’t be back because all my life is wrapped up in today…” and around the 2 minute mark “It ain’t the truth we chase, no it’s the promise of a better place. And all this time I’ve been chasing down a lie, and I know it for what it is, but it beats the alternatives, so I’ll take the lie…” Nomadic anthem or something.

6. Fleet Foxes (Helplessness Blues) – Grown Ocean

They may not have blown me away with their live performance, but this record was one of my most played this year. I went back and forth when trying to figure out a favourite song on the album and even though this is the last song on the record it still had me hitting repeat, not wanting the record to end. Favourite parts of the song are at 1.45 “In that dream moving slow through the morning time…” and 2.35 “All these voices I’ll have someday have turned off them. And I will see you someday when I’ve woken, I’ll be so happy just to have spoken, I’ll have so much to tell you about…” I read a great article in Uncut where Robin went through the tracklist, giving insight on each song and I wish I could find it online, but he said this song had to do with friendship and that’s always how I heard it.

5. Timber Timbre (Creep On, Creepin’ On) – Woman

This song grips you from the opening bars and then the piano drags you further into the spin. I love the video, and my favourite lyric is “Do you forgot what you try to remember, and do you remember what try to forget?”

4. Crystal Stilts (In Love with Oblivion)– Through the Floor

Shoegazy earworm if I ever heard one this year! I love the low-fi pop sound (similar to The Black Keys) but a bit darker.

3. Of Monsters and Men (My Head is an Animal) – King & Lionheart 

Who doesn’t love a bit of Icelandic folk music? Actually, before this band I wasn’t really a fan of many things that were coming out of Iceland (sorry!). The first song I heard was “Little Talks” and I eagerly awaited the full album. Not since Arcade Fire’s Funeral have I been this excited about a debut album. Favourite lyric, “And in the sea that’s painted black, creatures lurk below the deck, but you’re a king and I’m lionheart. And as the world comes to an end, I’ll be here to hold your hand, as you’re my king and I’m your lionheart. A lionheart.”

2. Black Keys (El Camino) – Lonely Boy

Best video of the year? So simple, yet so addictive. At first listen I must have pressed the repeat button at least 10 times. “I got a love that keeps me waiting…” There are definite other gems on this record, but I’ve still played this one the most. Kick it!

1. Papercuts (Fading Parade) – Do What You Will

Papercuts are one of those bands I’ve somehow become very protective over. I’ve introduced them to a few people who haven’t taken to them, and that’s honestly bummed me out a bit. So be gentle…

*if you really can’t find a particular song send me an e-mail



Filed under list it, music

6 responses to “top 21 songs and albums of 2011

  1. What a delightful list! We will share a lot of similarities when my list eventually sorts itself out in my head, although there are certainly some bands (We Are Augustines is a prime example) of whom I have never heard. This is always a good thing though, as discovery is an important part of the process.

    I appreciate you pinpointing what makes the song special for you. I like these glimpses into people’s head.

  2. Well thanks to you, Of Monsters and Men would make my top 10 as well (though Little Talks is my favourite song on the album). I disagree that the M83 song is love or hate though. I enjoy it quite a bit, but don’t think it deserves all the number 1 song of the year slots it seems to be enjoying. It’s great, just not great-great. Actually 15 is a good placing for it. And I’m happy you’re getting into Tom Waits!

  3. Would you believe that Papercuts’ “Do What You Will” started playing on iTunes shuffle just as I scrolled down to the number one slot on your list? What immaculate timing. And I do adore that song, I do!

    Six Weeks is probably my favourite Of Monsters and Men track. Great album, that one – it’s not particularly as Icelandic as I was expecting it to sound, but terrific stuff all the same. I believe you were responsible for pointing me in their direction, actually. A thank you is in order! I am loving these guys :)

    We Are Augustines is the only thing I haven’t heard off this list, so some Googling is in order. Fabulous choices, by the way! Can’t wait to sit down and get my own top albums sorted out in my head over Christmas.

    Oh and Midnight City is amazing, but I find myself growing more partial to Steve McQueen.

  4. OK, I’ve heard of three of these artists, most notably Adele, whom I really enjoy listening to. Three out of 21 is not bad, eh? Considering how different our musical leanings are!

  5. Barb: There are a lot of similarities in the listing this year, but always different ranking, which is nice to see.

    Writing about each song is what makes it a list to me. :)

    John: If you need anything else, you know where I can be reached! I was surprised to see the M83 song so high up too. I’ve been enjoying his stuff – think he’d be great to see live.

    BAP: Ha! That’s hilarious.

    Glad to hear you’ve been enjoying Of Monsters and Men, that was perhaps my greatest find of the year. Six Weeks is great tune as well.

    Can’t wait to read your list!

    WC: I don’t think that’s bad at all! Next year, we’ll aim for 4. ;)

  6. Pingback: Heartbeats and Thermals and Lag, Oh My! | Couch Campus

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