There is an inherent amount of added difficulty choosing the top tracks of the year. With album picks, the choices get narrowed down quickly once you take out any filler tracks and/or sub-par material. However, tracks are short and there are different metrics when looking for a great one. I’ve found that most all of my favorite tracks are ones that I disregarded altogether at first. These are the ones that, after several listens, come back to your mind and get stuck there like a virus. The only cure? More listens.
As cheesy as that may sound, it’s true. We’ve all had a song stuck in our heads before, but the truly great ones get embedded, begging for another listen.
Thus bringing me here. My favorite tracks of last year. Some of them came easy, others were hidden away in my iPod, deserving more attention. As with my top albums of 2011, I try to have a little variation, and to avoid picking the albums’ top single. There is no order to the list, simply a compilation of great songs. Enjoy.
Reptar – “Rainbounce”
Reptar was a new discovery for me this year. I can thank turntable.fm for leading me to this great track. A cross between dance, light punk, and pop, “Rainbounce” is an extremely catchy tune with multiple variations in both tone and style. During their recording phase, Reptar received help and input from indie producer Ben Allen whose history includes work with Gnarls Barkley, Animal Collective, and Matt & Kim. These sounds are most apparent in this song through the use of dense synthesizer loops and changing tempos.
The Strokes – “Taken for a Fool”
The Strokes attempted a come back in 2011 with the appearance in several major music festivals and a full length album release. I won’t delve too deep in my opinion of their new album, but let’s just say that there’s several reasons it didn’t make it into my top album list. All negativity aside, their new album, Angles, did have some great tracks sprinkled within the muck. “Taken for a Fool” is one of those tracks. This is one of few new songs that actually reminds me of the Strokes. The equation is tried and true: simple drum loop, high pitched repetitive guitars, and the one and only Julian Casablancas showing off his deep, infectious voice. “Taken for a Fool” captures all the elements as if they had wrote it back in Is This It? times.
Cut Copy – “Need You Now”
2011 was Cut Copy’s year to show the world they aren’t a one trick pony. After capturing the dance world with In Ghost Colours, the band set out to record an album that adds more depth to their original sound by lengthening songs and straying away from excessive bumping bass. One of my favorite aspects of “Need You Now” is Cut Copy’s ability to build the sound into several climaxes eventually ending on a note that will send chills down your back.
Washed Out – “Armor Fati”
“Amor Fati” captures everything about ambient and uplifting music that I look for. Distant, indecipherable lyrics roar throughout the background while tinny hi-hats, elegant keyboards, and complementing bass lines fill the foreground.
Yuck – “Operation”
As a grunge fan, Yuck speaks a language I can understand. Through their use of gritty, stripped down guitar riffs and borderline whiny, distorted lyrics, Yuck is the complete package. “Operation” executes these elements perfectly. Evolving a harmonious dirty guitar lick into a heavy chorus complete with distorted vocals keep me continuously coming back to this song.
tUnE-yArDs – “My Country”
There’s plenty of tUnE-yArDs love on this blog, and I won’t be the one to end the streak. As with a lot of artists featured on this list, I had several options to go with. “Powa”, “Bizness”, and “Gangsta” could all be here, but “My Country” is truly my favorite. The specific moment this song captures my attention is about halfway through the track, after the line: “The thing about living a lie, is just wondering when they’ll find out”. During that lyric the instruments go silent, afterwards… they come crashing back in with help from a beaming synth chord that reigns throughout the rest of the song.
Youth Lagoon – “July”
Again, a lot of songs off of Youth Lagoon’s self-titled debut could have easily made this list. I chose “July” because it displays the bands ability to excel in evolving a slow, depressing, near-silent intro into an enlightening, booming crescendo to which the song ends on.
Neon Indian – “Polish Girl”
“Polish Girl” is Neon Indian at his best. The intro is full of his signature ‘crashing wave’, electronic noise, complete with one of the catchiest keyboard lines of the year. As with most Neon Indian material, it’s hard to differentiate each instrument track because of his skill to overlap, interweave, and mix all sorts of varying sounds into something that works very well.
YACHT – “Dystopia (The Earth is on Fire)”
YACHT captures a nagging intensity throughout “Dystopia” with the use of a constant offbeat and inviting keyboard line. They utilize slightly auto-tuned vocals to bend their sound towards a more mainstream hit that works well with their dance-friendly vibe. The song may be a little repetitive and a little too catchy, but even after hearing this song countless times, I still love it as much as the first time I heard it.
My Morning Jacket – “Circuital”
As the title track of My Morning Jacket’s latest album, Circuital holds on to everything I love about the band. The winded intro starts the song off on a slow and morose note. However, once the second guitar chimes in and the drums roar to life, the song transforms into a warm, head-bobbing anthem.
Destroyer – “Kaputt”
“Kaputt” is a fantastic mix of sounds and genres coming together to create a warm, yet ghostly blend of smooth jazz and alternative. Though the most recognizable instrument, the saxophones aren’t overused here. They blend in to the shifting chords and accent the echoing guitar without attracting too much attention. Just like the music video below, “Kaputt” is smooth, sexy, and weird, all at once.
Panda Bear – “Last Night at the Jetty”
Panda Bear’s new album, Tomboy, harnesses his phenomenal ability to harmonize his own voice and use them more as instruments of sound rather than pushing lyrics. Often times it’s hard to notice when a background track is or isn’t his voice. “Last Night at the Jetty” works the same way. At times the song seems simple; there isn’t always a lot going on. But other times, such as the bridge, he combines several vocal tracks into one, creating a deep, multi-dimensional effect.
Explosions in the Sky – “Postcard from 1952”
The Austin-native quartet nailed it again. After six full length albums, you’d expect this instrumental-only progressive rock group to be played out with no new tricks. Although their toolbox really hasn’t changed much since their first album, Explosions in the Sky still manage to create music that takes you through a range of emotions. “Postcard from 1952” is the epitome of this trait. Starting with lonesome intertwining guitars, the song slowly evolves into a powerful anthem as guitars get more distorted and drums hit harder and harder.
Like it? Hate it? Let us know what you think by leaving a comment.