Songs 2011

The list. 20 songs that enhanced my life. Different from last year, here we have mostly short thoughts rather than stories and anecdotes. A playlist of the past 365 days. My soundtrack of 2011.

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20 • Beirut • Goshen

We begin with a glorious piano and Zach Condon’s long-lost voice singing about loss and a price paid.  Then trumpets and drums and the familiar Beirut-sounding orchestra come to life. It’s an illusion where darkness seems to be light.

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19 • Destroyer • Poor In Love

To know that someone ruminates like me. A proper dose of cynicism. Abundantly optimistic with a dash of sarcasm.   Composing luminescence. What we have here is a modern-day David Bowie.

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18 • Twin Shadow • Changes

Forget flew right by me last year. So a major discovery in 2011. This masterfully produced gem, off an album due next year is quite spectacular. And Twin Shadow always make me think of The Smiths, so I can’t resist.

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17 • St. Vincent • Champagne Year

Annie Clark cuts and soars. She plays her electric guitar and obliterates me. Composes rock anthems. Then softens like in this. Comes up with “I’ll make a living telling people what they want to hear. It’s not a killing, but it’s enough to keep the cobwebs clear”. I can’t not be on board. That’s me.

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16 • Wye Oak • Civilian

This is cheating. A romance with this raging masterpiece started late last year. Back then it was loved. Now I am in awe of it. Off a staggering album released this year, it hijacks my itunes again and again.

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15 • Lindsey Buckingham • Seeds We Sow

Almost 35 years late, I finally fall deeply in love with Fleetwood Mac. You know that feeling when anything Stevie Nicks or Christine McVie sing seems to be the truth? Then this. Lindsay Buckingham still has that power over me and proves it might never be too late for life.

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14 • Lykke Li • Sadness Is A Blessing

Obligatory Swedish kitsch. Pop like no other. What is in that Scandinavian air? The music video for this should have been the trailer for Melancholia.

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13 • Cut Copy • Need You Now

A tug and a pull. Deranged solitary beings in need of solace and an infectious build. At 4:43 it becomes a dance party of one.

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12 • Zola Jesus • Collapse

A slow cry masked by saturated fog and ash. It should be heard and felt. From the bottom of the earth, a raw and dark bellow. It leaves me numb. Zola Jesus appears on this list once more.

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11 • James Blake • A Case Of You

I don’t know what more I could ask for. James Blake captured my heart before. Here he covers the greatest Joni Mitchell song. Repaints a masterpiece and casts a three-minute spell.

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10 • PJ Harvey • On Battleship Hill

The most acclaimed album of the year is complicated. Uneasily, I play Let England Shake in repeat. And endure it and it sinks in and Polly Jean’s story penetrates. The reward slowly uncovered. This is eerie and blue. And when the piano creeps in at 2:17 everything subsides. It’s beauteous.

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9 • The Rapture • How Deep Is Your Love?

A lesson in how to create the perfect hit. Ask a question and simultaneously pummel with multiple exclamation marks.

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8 • Alexander • Truth

These are the sounds I wish I could create in my living room all alone. Fortunately, Alexander Ebert did exactly that. In a year with no new material from Edward Sharpe, I’m thankful for this gospel.

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7 • tUnE-yArDs • Bizness

Merrill Garbus is a marvel. She creates the most twisted and original magic. A whirlwind, a phantasmagorical roller coaster. This is the future of sound.

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6 • Fleet Foxes • Helplessness Blues

Two songs in one. At times I think this desperately calls for a beat. But then the wondrous harmonies radiate. Make me wish these were the 70s. And the lyric “If I had an orchard, I’d work till I’m sore” allows me to dream.

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5 • Niki & The Dove • Gentle Roar (Mylo Remix)

From Sweden (but of course) Niki & The Dove are the most exciting new reverberation this year. Rarely do I clock remixes in my life. But this re-work of a Knife-esque tune is hands down the favorite. The mumble-jumble of sound at 3:41 is a craze. So I need to book a flight to Stockholm ASAP.

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4 • M83 (feat. Zola Jesus) • Intro

The epic soundtrack to that road-trip script I’ve been meaning to write. Anthony Gonzalez and Zola Jesus devise flashing images, fleeting moments, great highs, lowest of lows. In double time, fast forwarded and then rewound to a sweet slow motion. A choir of voices elevates it all and everything around becomes bigger than life.

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3 • Austra • Lose It

Pop-opera. Popera. Katie Stelmais of Toronto reinvents the wheel. With her classically trained voice she generates an anthem. At 3:13 a turn into a darker territory. A haunting path that begs for abandoned dancing and repetition.

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2 • Lana Del Rey • Video Games

Fixation. Obsession. Call it what you will. It’s current and honest. It’s the smoky voice and the anomaly that is LDR. And I don’t mind if she’s a puppet in a well-oiled machine. It’s a perfectly constructed ballad. It’s the questions asked and the answers not given. It’s simple and so very good. It’s one of my most played tracks this year.  And this is incredible too.

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1 • Bon Iver • Perth

Euphoria at Massey Hall on December 7. Without a doubt, the best opening of a live show I’ve ever experienced. This song. A guitar, like a ray of light, creates the drone note from 0:08 throughout glorious twists and turns and the layers added. I should have chosen Holocene. But couldn’t after that concert. Justin Vernon delivers a sophomore album that took me a while to fall in love with, but when I did, it became the soundtrack of a year gone by. And so I glaze over 2011. It was not magnificent. Yet, that moment. Where chills crept down my spine. Goosebumps throughout my body. I realized I was listening to my favorite song of the year. “Still alive for you” he sings. While I look ahead to a better horizon.

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6 thoughts on “Songs 2011

  1. I’ve really enjoyed your list the last couple of years. We have very similar tastes, but I’ve also discovered some great new things from here. One of my favorite moments of the year was seeing zola jesus sing “collapse” in a very small club. Thanks for your fine ear and writing. Jim – Chapel Hill NC

  2. Like last year list, which I still remember, I’m sure this list will stay in my mind for the next month at least.
    the photos are amazing,is there a chance for info about who are the photographers?

  3. it was not magnificent was a great thing to say on the bon iver review….way witty lol…a great list and am checking out niki & the dove right now as I love the knife 🙂

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