10. “Shake It Out” – Florence + The Machine
“Dog Days Are Over” set the bar high for Florence Welch & she’s impressively close to reaching it with “Shake It Out.” Coming even more into her own since her debut album, she goes to a darker place with this track & it works (have you seen the video?!). Plus, she gets away with throwing cliches like bows at an indie rap show. This lady is Mariah Carey for smart, emotional kids that like to dance. Just let it happen, guys, everybody needs an anthem once in awhile.
9. “Coeur d’Alene” – The Head And The Heart
In an effort not to lose all of my past, future & hypothetical cred (or did it already disappear with the #10 pick?) I’m going to attribute this one to a perfect storm of sentimentality in three parts.
Part One: I saw The Head And The Heart live before I’d heard their music & here’s the thing: when these kids play, they actually look like they’re enjoying themselves, as though they might be . . . happy . . . and guess what!? They’re from SEATTLE.
Part Two: Once I hear lyrics, they are difficult for me to ignore & the structure of most songs by this group offers little other distraction. While I wasn’t terribly impressed by the following string of words from a writing standpoint, “Oh the songs people will sing for home, & for the ones that have been gone for too long, oh the things people will do for the ones that they love,” I took it & wedged it between the tiny cracks in my heart & it’s stayed there. 2011 was a rough one. A few wonderful humans were lost this year & it already feels like it’s been too long. I spent most of 2011 living in Seattle & well . . . let’s just say that the sweet folks of The Head And The Heart do a much better job being from Seattle & looking happy.
Part Three: The song title is a place in Idaho. Need I say more?
8. “I Don’t Want Love” – The Antlers
Lyrically, this one surpasses the first two by lengths. I want to convince it to let me unwrap its pretty sheen, lie next to it & watch its milky whiteness unravel. I want to wait there in hopes that maybe I’ll get lucky & I’ll get to see the raw, wide-open chest wound I know is there.
7. “Thorn Castles” – Gardens & Villa
If The Proclaimers channeled Youth Lagoon’s “17,” this is what would happen. Magic.
6. “Michicant” – Bon Iver
Having Justin Vernon’s voice in my ears is sort of like being able to breathe. & while I can’t always make out the man’s words, I trust that they’re just right & I’ll keep understanding them little by little or at least making up my own version of what they say. This, for me, is one of the great joys of listening to Bon Iver. “Michicant” gives me just enough to hang on to & the promise of more to discover. It provides a framework from which I can create my own abstraction, only to re-create it again & again the more lines I am able to distinguish. I could just look up the lyrics, but in an age where limitless information is available at the swipe of a fingertip, I’ll hold this one close & take it as it comes.
5. “The Rip Tide” – Beirut
Thank you, Zac Condon, for bringing Beirut back to its own straight & narrow (the trajectory I prefer, anyway). I liked March of the Zapotec/Holland because I like you (& who would refuse a double EP of marching bands & dance beats?), but I’m glad we’re back to reality & moving in a pleasing direction again. & thank you also for veering off of that path just a little with this song. A sliding ballad filled with pretty keys, some string-ed instruments & horns horns horns. Sweet, simple & so so sad.
4. “You Can Count On Me” – Panda Bear
I’m a sucker for opening tracks . . . especially the kind that I hear for the first time while driving . . . particularly those that could be played at a house show or in a monastery & not sound out of place in either venue. When the montage of life scenes plays before my eyes just before I die, I hope this kicks on somewhere near the beginning of the accompanying score.
3. “The Shrine / An Argument” – Fleet Foxes
I’ll take my catharsis with a side of apples please.
2. “Walking Far From Home” – Iron & Wine
Sam Beam’s ability to blend pastoral images & wisdom with our contemporary reality is always pleasantly alarming to me & this track is perhaps the finest example to date. It seems to be a culmination of everything that is & has been, not just in regards to Iron & Wine’s ever-expanding discography, but to human history. Every single line of this song is necessary & perfect. & half or more of them include not-so-subtle religious allusions, which, by some miracle, enhance the track instead of making me hate it. Another reason to love this song is its production quality. “Walking Far From Home” is the opening track on the album & when I first listened to it, I thought my turntable needed a new needle. It’s imbued with a built-in vinyl sound, that holds well even in the digital recording (I should still probably invest in a new needle . . .). If I can’t have the sparseness of the The Creek Drank The Cradle, I’ll take a few waxy crackles.
1. “Cannons” – Youth Lagoon
There is something precious about work produced by your contemporaries in the place you’re from. & I admit that there is no way out of subjectivity in this case, but despite Trevor Powers’ being a hometown boy, this song has it. To attempt further articulation here would be foolish of me, so I’ll leave it at this: when I hear “Cannons” in the years to come, ten years from now, fifty years from now, it will bring me straight back to 2011 & the memory of all of the mind-shattering events & moments of richness that made this year what it was. & that, for me, is the quality that should determine which song occupies the number one space on this list.
runners up (no order):
“Rich Doors” – NewVillager
“Midnight City” – M83
“Daydreaming” – Dark Dark Dark
“Surfer King” – A.A. Bondy
“How Can You Swallow So Much Sleep” – Bombay Bicycle Club
“You Know What I Mean” – Cults
“High Priestess” – Active Child
“Bizness” – Tune-Yards
“Chapel Song” – We Are Augustines
“Twins” – Gem Club