Thursday, December 22, 2011

2011 Review: Top 50 Songs (20-11)

And we're down to the home stretch with the top 50 songs of 2011. Be sure to take a look back at the previous 30 songs and come back tomorrow for the top 10! Enjoy!

20. Man Man - Bangkok Necktie (Life Fantastic)
The newest album from the bizarro Philadelphia rock outfit is by far their most focused and complete work. Honus Honus and co. returned after 3 years without an album and with Mike Mogis at the helm, he was able to harness their insanity into tracks like the excellent "Bangkok Necktie". Honus Honus, real name Ryan Kattner, pours out the dark contents of his mind with lines like "I lay my penis in your navel, do you want me now? It beats your ear into my chest to hear the hollow sound." But despite the disturbing content, it's so catchy you can't help but sing along.

19. Wise Blood - Darlin' You're Sweet (These Wings [EP])
The FADER did an article earler this year about Chris Laufman, a.k.a Wise Blood being the most improved act of 2011. While they mostly discussed his live show, his newest EP also reflects his new found focus. Highlight track, "Darlin' You're Sweet" features an indie rock/hip hop/soul beat with Laufman crooning lines like "if you want to take my name, then you'll have to fun it by me." If his songwriting keeps improving at this rate, I can't wait for his next release!

18. tUnE - yArDs - Bizness (W H O K I L L)

Merrill Garbus' brainchild, tUnE-yArDs, is built around vocal and drum samples recorded on the fly. The songs then build on those original samples with funky bass lines, saxophones and a host of other instruments. The end product exudes pure energy as Garbus' angelic voice turns to a primordial holler. Experimental genius!

17. Cults - Abducted (Cults)

Cults is a guy-girl duo, who play whimsical rock n roll that crosses 50s doo-wop with the more upbeat surfer rock like Dick Dale and the Del-Tones. The best part is the way they use, the male and female vocals to tell the different sides of their tales of love and heartbreak. "Abducted" is their pièce de résistance, that uses the metaphor of kidnap to discuss a girls heart being stolen away by a man. The different pieces all fall perfectly into place on this track and makes abduction seem like a grand ol' time.

16. WU LYF - Spitting Blood (Go Tell Fire to the Mountain)
The Manchester outfit play a brand of self proclaimed "heavy pop", that uses vast soundscapes of guitar and synthesizer soaked in reverb. The result is a beautifully layered backdrop that stands in stark contrast to the unintelligible holler of lead singer Ellery Roberts. Its this juxtaposition, along with the mystery surrounding them, that makes the band so intriguing and it has a lot of people excited about what's to come in the future.

15. Drake - Dreams Money Can Buy (Dreams Money Can Buy - Single)
Up until this year, I wanted nothing to do with Drake. I thought he was a hack who was just another pretty face pretending to be an actual artist. With the release of Take Care, I've completely changed my opinion. Sure he's rich, famous, gorgeous and can have any girl he wants and that's all well and good but he really just wants respect as a serious musician. None of this was more obvious then on the pre-album track "Dreams Money Can Buy" where he explores the paradox with lines like "Tryna fill these shoes, n****a so far these are empty, I take 'em off in the house cause the throw carpets are Fendi."

14. Middle Brother - Blue Eyes (Middle Brother)
The folk "supergroup" comprised of singer/songwriters Matt Vasquez (Delta Spirit), John McCauley (Deer Tick) and Taylor Goldsmith (Dawes) released their brilliant debut album earlier this year. The album is a showcase of collaboration and demonstrates the individual talents of each member. The Vasquez penned "Blue Eyes" is an upbeat, country-tinged number about a "good girl who wears black bras"that features some brilliant lead work from Goldsmith.

13. Dirty Beaches - Lord Knows Best (Badlands)
Alex Zhang Hungtai's (a.k.a Dirty Beaches) new album is inspired greatly by film, especially those of Wong Kar-Wai, David Lynch and Terence Malick, who's 1973 film provided the name for Dirty Beaches' debut album. The cinematic influence is apparent throughout his work and with the use of his samples he creates a nostalgic landscape for the listener to travel through. The piano sample on "Lord Knows Best" accompanied by his longing voice transform the world into a smoky bar from the 1950s.

12. The National - Twenty Miles to NH Part 2 (If A Lot Of Bands Play In The Woods...)
The Philistines Jr. used their connections to enlist a whole host of indie rock giants, including The National, to record covers and remixes of their most recent album. On this quirky track about cats, the piano and horns are the stars of the show and emit pure emotion with Matt Berninger's soothing baritone bringing the song to life.

11. Future Islands - Before the Bridge (On The Water)
Sam Herring, lead singer of the Baltimore synthpop group Future Islands, is quite possibly the most forlorn and lovesick frontman working. He takes all of that pain and loneliness and pours it into each and every song. Musically, Future Islands is the perfect complement to Herring's despairing lyrics. The synth driven beats are in equal measures bright and desperate, like a beach in the winter.

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