I realized last year that my best-off lists tended to conflate. And in the end, I was just picking my favorite songs off my favorite albums. I’m trying to avoid that this year (although it’s kinda unavoidable like how your favorite actors tend to be in your favorite movies.) As such, I think this again led to a more honest list of WD 2011 songs of the year. At the same time, my new found honesty helped to alleviate last year’s unconcious prohibition on recognizing more than one song from an artist (two multiple recipients in 2011). ( N.B. I think it’s clear that every year I do this I’ll preface it with some sort of apology for the previos year’s list coupled with an assurance that “I really did a better job this year.” However, can you imagine me writing “I really mailed it in this year and wasn’t nearly as discerning as I had been in years past.” ……. I think I just wrote next year’s preface.)
Numbered list of various other prefatory matters of waning relevance:
1. I will say given the year-end stuff (Grammy noms, Rolling Stone, Spin, NME, Blender, Paste, Pitchfork) I’ve read so far, my tastes can be described as “eclectically-modulated mainstream.” This is more than a little depressing.
2. A note on length: A lot of these song have an excess of it. So my normal 16 was reduced to 15 (Vomit by Girls being the castaway if you’re interested) in my hopes for one complete CD (which would be provided upon request to you fine downloaders free of charge (as opposed to the modest sum I’m charging the drones up here on 30)).
3. A note on the rankings: I’m confident on the heirarchy of the top 6, maybe 7. After that I kinda ordered them in a way befitting a “great tracks of 2011” mix CD, since that is the goal.
4. A note on DBT: The best two DBT songs this year were both covers (When I Ran Off and Left Her and Everybody Needs Love). Either of these would be good for the top 15, but I’m instituting a no covers policy for the songs of the year. Given that, I thought it weird to include what I think was the third best song DBT released this year, Used to be a Cop. So the result is a top 15 with no DBT even though I believe (as I made pretty clear in the albums of the year) they did some of their very best work this year.
OK, the list:
15. One Sunday Morning (song for Jane Smiley’s Boyfriend) by Wilco – I think this is prolly the best song of year. And it may be my favorite. However, at 12 minutes, I can’t fully get behind it and elect it as such. But it does make a great “songs of 2011” album closer. Here’s what Rolling Stone said about it “It’s the Midwestern post-rock version of the scene in Field of Dreams where Kevin Costner says, “Dad? You wanna have a catch?”” I don’t really even know what that means. But it does make me feel hopeful and lonely at the same time.
14. Sleep Forever by Portugal. The Man – I’m obsessed with album closers. This one is particularly magical but also distinct when compared to the rest of the killer stuff on one of my favorite albums of the year. I called it a lullaby and that’s what it is. Wayne Coyne prolly plays it to his furniture before he goes to sleep (assuming he does).
13. Ni**as in Paris by Kanye and Jay-Z – I don’t understand what’s so censorable about Ninjas in Paris?
Jackson, Tyson, Jordan….Game 6
12. Midnight City by M83 – Closing scene of the biopic of my life, John Hughes/Less Than Zero/Late 80s cut:
Close-up of a Aaron’s hand holding a straw, thumb bending it in half and releasing it, pensively. The shot pulls out to see his forearm extending from the sleeves of a white linen Italian sport coat pushed up to his elbow next to an empty tumbler of melting ice. He’s shirtless under the coat in matching linen pants and bare feet, staring out into the ocean from the deck of a Malibu beach house at dusk. All he hears are waves crashing. Cut to the darkened hallway of a highschool, lockers lining both sides. Sounds of connecting punches followed by exasperated heaves. The camera tracks down hallways searching for the source. It finds Ford hunched over, nose bloodied (N.B. always with the facial wounds for you), assailed by two relentless youths. “This will teach you to open your mouth.” Ford’s eyes plead for mercy, but none is shown. An attacker reaches back for a coup de grace, and his face is suddenly and graphically smashed into an adjacent locker. Bones crunch. Blood gushes. His partner looks at him in disbelief. He turns to look for the source and his face is met with a fist. With both attackers writhing in pain, out of the shadows steps Travis, a black clad vigilante. “Get the fuck outta here, little man.” Cut to a shot of an empty football field surrounded by night, but fully illuminated. Mike and I stand on each sideline, I’m in blue jeans and a crisp letter jacket. Mike’s wearing black work boots, shredded jeans, red flannel shirt, beat-up leather jacket, and fingerless gloves. We eye each other then begin to walk. The shot cuts between us as we move toward each other. We meet at mid-field. Our hands reach out as if to shake. At the moment they touch, Midnight City begins. The credits roll over the hand shake. Then the camera zooms out to reveal Mike’s grungy drug addled pack behind him and my clean cut athlete/cheerleader pack behind me. Fade to black.
11. Under Cover of Darkness by The Strokes–There are no second acts in a American lives. F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote that. Rock bands don’t really get second acts either. T. Matt Smith wrote that. But this is still The Strokes, damnit.
10. Outta My System by My Morning Jacket – This tribute to growing up was the song of the for quite some time and it almost single-handedly kept Circuital in the AOTY year mix long enough for MMJ’s ultimate triumph. I never tired of listen to this song. The opening base-line always brought a smile.
Chalk it up to youth / but young age I ain’t dissin’
9. No Church in the Wild by Kanye and Jay-Z (The song is below. The link to the left is an analysis of the lyrics to this song I found, to be honest with you, fascinating. I don’t know what the video is, besides awesome.)
8. Holocene by Bon Iver – It’s prolly this song, its ambiguous lyrics and stunning beauty that single-handedly forecasted my regret over not appreciating Bon Iver as I should.
And at once I knew I was not magnificent
7. Helplessness Blues by Fleet Foxes – This gorgeous rip tide of folk-awesome prolly would have been song of the year but for the weird tempo changing coda at the end. I’m not sure its purpose other than weighing and otherwise spectacular song.
5. Truth by Alexander – The whistle. I can’t escape you.
The truth is that I never shook my shadow
Every day it’s trying to trick me into doing battle
Calling out ‘faker’ only get me rattled
Wanna pull me back behind the fence with the cattle
4. Second Song by TV on the Radio – I didn’t say
much anything about this song in its terse and cryptic WD. That’s because I didn’t know what to say about it. I still don’t. Tunde Adebimpe has an amazing and agile voice. It’s better utilized on a number of TVOTR’s songs. But here, it’s my favorite. It meshes perfectly with the killer down beat and cuts through the understated but exquisite guitar rift, then hits the falsetto…wow.
While you define your heartless time / I’ll defend my love forever
3. Don’t Carry It All by The Decemberists – This is as close as the WD songs of the year comes to an anthem (OK, maybe Florence.) And it’s not all that close, but the campfire sing-a-long/soundtrack to a drug abuse recovery montage quality of this song ensured that I never skipped it as it popped up on various CD/mixes. But there’s also a good strong message in it that’s not the least bit ironic. Sucker for the harmonica flavored Tom petty-ness.
2. Circuital by My Morning Jacket – Excuse me while I wax poetic about my love for rock-n-roll. This song encapsulates it all.
1. Rolling in the Deep by Adele– I said it. You were all thinking it. This is the song of
the year by a mile. Don’t fuck with this song. I don’t care if every radio station in America played it the entire year, simultaneously. It’s good enough to overcome ubiquity. Don’t ever let anyone make fun of you for loving it. Wear it. When the backup singers hit and you scream that shit out, don’t look over your shoulder. Don’t be embarrassed. Belt it with pride, because this song kicks my ass and it kicks your ass.
See you all in a couple of weeks. Have a Merry Christmas. Enjoy.