There is one more critical topic to address when discussing the best in music from 2011 – songs. In a world where most people download singles now from iTunes, Amazon and other resources, strong singles become even more significant since too many people do not possess the patience to listen to an entire album. This is both unfortunate and pathetic but since that seems to be the case with most listeners great songs become even more important for an artist to generate any revenue.
A disclaimer about this list! I consider a song to be one created for the year when it appears on an official album or EP release in 2011. This will explain the inclusion of a song I have heard live since 2010 or even before that in one instance on this list. The Musings has established the rules, I abide by them.
Here are my picks for Best Songs of 2011. For those of you wondering how I could continuously say Elbow is the greatest band in the world yet not vote build a rocket boys! my Album of the Year or the October Los Angeles show at the Greek Theater Concert of the Year … well, I think I will make those people happy now. 😉 Once again, we start with #10:
10. The Father Figures – “Typical Bible Beating Hypocrites” – One of the earliest songs from this stellar Valley post-punk band, the single received the proper studio treatment for the Lesson Number One release, making it possible for the band to deliver this song with maximum damage potential. Check out Tom Reardon’s bass line on the track, absolutely spectacular.
9. The Joy Formidable – “The Everchanging Spectrum of a Lie” – The lead track from the band’s spectacular full-length debut The Big Roar, my pick for Album of the Year, starts out gently with a subtle bass and drum line that builds into a sprawling cascade of guitars, then settles into Ritzy Bryan’s beautiful vocal delivery. This song is a tremendous display of what this band is capable of, possessing sheer power layered over spectacular pop hooks.
8. Fleet Foxes – “Grown Ocean” – This track closes out the spectacular sophomore full-length effort from the band with the best vocal harmonies on the planet right now. “Grown Ocean” features a more up-tempo beat than the majority of the band’s work. I love the contrast in styles, particularly since none of what makes the Fleet Foxes special is absent. The instrumentation of this track is absolutely gorgeous and Robin Pecknold delivers another incredible job behind the mic.
7. We Were Promised Jetpacks – “Circles and Squares” – For the second straight full-length album WWPJ opens a disc in incendiary style! “Circles and Squares” opens ferociously with that wall of sound they create so well using a brutal two-guitar attack, a thunderous bass and a drum roll that pummel the senses. What I love about this track, typical with many WWPJ songs is how the instrumentation settled down once the vocals enter the equation.
6. Elbow – “Lippy Kids” – The first of TWO entries from the greatest band in the world. “Lippy Kids” may be the most subtle track Elbow has ever created, yet the understated power in this song makes it one of the more amazing creations in the career of this five-piece. The repetitive piano work meshes perfectly with the delicate crooning from rock music’s best vocalist Guy Garvey. The studio version is impeccable, the live version of this song is simply overwhelming. One of the best moments from the Los Angeles show in October 2011.
5. TV on the Radio – “Repetition” – The last three TVOTR albums all featured one track that was truly epic, standing alone from the rest of the disc. On Return to Cookie Mountain the song was “Wolf Like Me”, Dear Science it was “Halfway Home”. “Repetition” features the TV on the Radio formula played to perfection; Tunde Adebimpe’s passionate cry on the vocals + the ultra-tight musicianship from the rest of the band + a frenetic rock beat mixed with classic funk = an amazing track. The title of the song is perfect because when I first bought the album I played this song over and over and over …
4. The Get Up Kids – “Tithe” – I picked up good friend Bobby Lerma from The Father Figures for a delicious lunch at El Bravo one day and played him the opening track from the new Get Up Kids album These Four Walls. He had the same reaction as me; “Who is this?!” You have to understand something, I dislike this band, at least their old music. I feel they are a typical representation of that rancid era of emo music from the nineties that makes me cringe in disgust to this day. This song is nothing like past Get Up Kids material. The beginning of this song is incredibly intense, the rest is pure punk rock with an indie rock edge to it, a pop song on steroids. Incredible track. They opened with this song at The Clubhouse last year and it was awesome watching all the sissy emo kids looking at each other with that “I want to hear music from Something to Write Home About!” look. I loved it.
3. Foo Fighters – “Bridge Burning” – Any other year “Tithe” would have walked away with the title for best opening to a song for the year. Unfortunately The Get Up Kids picked the year The Foo Fighters decided to rock out hard for the first time in years. The first 45 seconds of “Bridge Burning”, the opening track to Wasting Light, are so brutal, so intense, so incendiary, you would almost think Dave Grohl was back in legendary D.C. punk rock band Scream pounding on the skins. I love when punk rock is used as a foundation to create a great rock sound and that is what has happened here. This is the kind of track a UFC fighter should come out to just before he kicks someone’s ass.
2. Source Victoria – “Nobody Knows But Me” – Source Victoria frontman Brendan Murphy wrote some incredible music for Slow Luck. While other tracks on that great album may possess more complex song structures, the brilliant dream pop/Britpop/shoegaze sound of “Nobody Knows But Me” recalls the best moments of classic bands such as Catherine Wheel and Swervedriver. The most rocking song on Slow Luck also possesses a heavy offering of hooks, creating a beautiful pop song. Stupendous!
1. Elbow – “Neat Little Rows” – build a rocket boys!, the fifth full-length album from Elbow was the opportunity for the band to make the album they wanted to after the success of The Seldom Seen Kid, rather than making the album they had to. Therefore, the album was more subtle and subdued than past efforts. It was still absolutely brilliant but there were not a lot of pop songs on the record.
Except for track #4. “Neat Little Rows” is as close to being the perfect pop song as anything I have ever listened to. The mid-tempo melodic beat propelled along by a precise rhythm section, a beautiful hook on the piano and Guy Garvey’s phenomenal vocal delivery create the best song on a great album and the runaway winner for my favorite song of the year. Yes, nothing came close to this track and it remains as fresh and vital nearly twelve months after its initial release. That bass line and drum beat are absolutely mesmerizing!
Yes, the greatest band in the world has two songs in my Top Ten and “Open Arms” was very close to making it three. “Lippy Kids” was unveiled to the world as a Boxing Day present from the band in 2010 while “Neat Little Rows” was the first official single from build a rocket boys! My understanding is the lads are already preparing to start work on album number six sometime this year. Oh my …