The 2011 year in review continues with the top 50 songs. Over the next 5 days I will be revealing my top 50 songs of this year 10 at a time. In making this list I only followed one real rule; one song per artist. When I started making it, I had over 200 songs in contention and in a painstaking process (actually it was kind of enjoyable revisiting all the songs) whittled it down to the 50 you will see over the next few days. Now without further ado, here are numbers 50-41.
50. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart - Heart In Your Heartbreak (Belong)
A relentlessly upbeat and catchy song that instantly transports me back to high school and the days of listening to pop punk while driving around the abyss of suburban America. This song is pure, unbridled fun and should be a feature at your next dance party.
49. Surfer Blood - I'm Not Ready (Tarot Classics [EP])
As is the case with most Surfer Blood songs, "I'm Not Ready" is built around a ridiculously catchy guitar riff, which carries the song forward. Pitts' lyrics take aim at all of the "fakeness" going on, never exhibited better than in the chorus: "So you found someone new to lap your shit up for a while? Honestly, sooner or later they will find out what you're made of."
48. J. Cole - Lost Ones (Cole World: The Sideline Story)
J Cole's unflinching account of an argument between a man and woman facing the prospect of an abortion is heavy on the emotion and doesn't shy away with lines like "I ain't to proud to tell you that I cry sometimes about it". Cole tells the story from both sides with the first verse told by the male and the second told by a female. On the third verse, Cole chimes in with an outsider's view on the subject. Its refreshing to hear a mainstream rapper take on a weighty topic like abortion instead of bragging about money, clothes and hoes all the time.
47. Death Cab For Cutie - You Are a Tourist (Codes and Keys)
Codes and Keys is a solid follow up to the dud Narrow Stairs and this brilliant offering is the centerpiece. The story of escapism is driven by a whimsical guitar riff and backed by an equally playful drumbeat. Lyrics like "if you feel just like a tourist in the city you were born in, it's time to go," will resonate with those lost souls in their early twenties still living at home and wondering what to do with their life; a situation I was all too familiar with.
46. Kendrick Lamar - Fuck Your Ethnicity (Section. 80)
A lot of people are tipping Kendrick Lamar as the savior of hip-hop and with efforts like Section. 80, it doesn't seem all that farfetched. "Fuck Your Ethnicity" is the perfect thesis statement for his Black Hippy movement that begs the question "what the fuck is you fighting for? Ain't nobody gonna win that war."
45. Cymbals Eat Guitars - Definite Darkness (Lenses Alien)
Overall, I was disappointed with CEG's follow up to the excellent Why There Are Mountains. The Staten Island rockers set impossibly high standards with their self-released debut and it was always going to be difficult to match the achievement. With that said, "Definite Darkness" is a shining ray of light on an otherwise dull album and a reminder of the brilliance this band is capable of producing. Enjoy this brilliant live performance for WFUV.
44. Atmosphere - Became (The Family Sign)
Atmosphere's lyrical content has shifted so greatly over the course of his career that he's almost unrecognizable from his early "Fuck You Lucy" days. On his newest album, Slug focuses on the trials and tribulations of being a good husband and father. However, on the third track he takes a break from waxing poetic about family life, to tell the allegorical story of a couple camping in the woods and the events that take place. Every time I listen, I'm gripped by the metaphor and I'm amazed by the vivid picture Slug is able to paint.
43. Ezra Furman & The Harpoons - Don't Turn Your Back on Love (Mysterious Power)
Ezra Furman is one of the most underrated songwriters working right now and the new album with his band, The Harpoons, furthers his claim to be recognized among the elite. On this acoustic ballad, Furman explores the parallels between love and our great country with mentions of "America, The Beautiful", roaming buffalo and manifest destiny. Click the link on top for a download.
42. Bright Eyes - Shell Games (The People's Key)
Conor Oberst is comfortably one of the most prolific and talented songwriters of our time. With each new album, he explores new territory without losing sight of what makes his music so brilliant. "Shell Games" is a perfect example as he opens the song with a sparse piano arrangement that suddenly explodes after the first chorus. The explosion features a heavy guitar riff that is soon joined by a synth-riff reminiscent of late 80s new wave like New Order and The Cure.
41. Dawes - Fire Away (Nothing Is Wrong)
Dawes are just good, ol'-fashioned, rock n' fucking roll. They're not breaking down any boundaries or exploring any new territory, they are just playing rock music the way it's supposed to be played. And they're no slouches either as rock legends like Robbie Robertson (The Band) and Jackson Browne have both collaborated with the band in live performances. There is no better example than "Fire Away" with a bridge that is nothing short of breathtaking.
Thanks for reading and listening. Check back tomorrow for numbers 40-31.