The Best Songs I’ve Heard From 2011

Disclaimer: there are lots of songs from this year that I haven’t heard – I’ve been spending the year hard at work becoming obsessed with Best Coast, The Jesus & Mary Chain and Sonic Youth (and, err, doing my degree/working). But, of the songs I have heard, these have been my favourites.


1.    Circulation – Thurston Moore – Demolished Thoughts

You wouldn’t believe that this man was responsible for this song and Daydream Nation – both genius, but as divergent as you can get without venturing into reggae or dubstep territory. Quite simply, it’s beautifully constructed – menacing, atmospheric, and absolutely wonderful.

2.    Piledriver Waltz – Alex Turner – Submarine OST

Although I’ve often been a detractor of The Arctic Monkeys, I believe Alex Turner has finally come good with the Submarine soundtrack, and nowhere more so than on this lushly orchestrated number.  The lyrics are clunky, but “I heard an unhappy ending/It sort of sounds like you leaving” tugs at my overemotional little indie heartstrings and fits the film perfectly. Oddly hypnotic – a bit like the film, really.

3.    Weekend – Smith Westerns – Dye It Blonde

Click play and it’s all nice and- WOAH, WHERE DID THAT RIFF™ COME FROM?! A million guitar-toting indie bands would kill Cullen Omori and his skinny, floppy-haired posse for that. The ‘ooh woo ooh’ echo of the chorus is pure male Best Coast, and on that alone deserves its top 10 place. That Riff™ elevates it to third. (Oh, and the fact that it’s gorgeous as a whole. But mainly That Riff™.)

4.    Get Away – Yuck – Yuck

Speaking of skinny, floppy-haired, guitar-toting indie bands with great choruses… I saw them described somewhere as a “shoegazey Sonic Youth”, which is a perfect encapsulation of their sound. Fuzzy as hell, squealing stop-start guitars all over the place and a perfect sing-a-long, sweet-without-being-cheesy chorus – lovely.

I Want You – Summer Camp – Welcome To Condale

‘I Want You’ is my [Welcome To Condale] highlight; its lyrics are aggressively stalker-ish and simultaneously wistful (“If I could I’d kiss your lips so hard your entire face would bruise”), whilst [lead singer Elizabeth] Sankey’s soaring vocals clash with the throbbing bassline in the best way possible. If nightclubs ever start playing good dance music, this will be a playlist stalwart. [from my review of Welcome To Condale]


6.    Video Games – Lana Del Rey – Born To Die [not released until 2012]

It doesn’t matter if her image/lips/nose/back story are real, because her voice certainly is. If the rest of her debut album is as luscious as this, Born To Die is going to be topping a lot of ‘Best albums of 2012’ lists. Enough of the ‘Hollywood sadcore’ bollocks, the only genre this needs to fit into is ‘great’.

7.    Sophia – Laura Marling – A Creature I Don’t Know

Begins in the same twee manner as most of her songs, but there’s something darker about her vocals… It grows in confidence, eventually turning into an upbeat, KT-Tunstall-if-she-was-good number with a swooning chorus of “Sooooooooophiiiiiiiiiiiiiaaaaaaaa, I’m wou-ou-ou-ou-ounded by duuuuuust” (it sounds better than it transcribes, trust me). The most accomplished song to date by Britain’s best female solo artist – yeah, Adele, you read that right; now sod off.


8.    Blind Faith – Chase & Status – No More Idols

Club songs are notoriously shite. You might be able to grind to beats dirtier than That Toilet In Trainspotting™, but if you can think of them as anything other than glamorised fart noises with a hysterically bereaved woman wailing nonsense over the top, you’re not me. However, occasionally one comes along which you can dance to and listen to without wanting to curl up in a corner, sobbing and clinging to your copy of Dog Man Star for moral support. This is one such song. It’s joyful, sounds comfortingly timeless and is fackin’ catchy – if only more club songs were successfully in this vein.

9.    Chair – Big Deal – Lights Out

The latest hyped addition to the boy/girl duos list (and the second to feature on this list) have only been in existence for a year, but already they’ve released their first album and are destined to be cult darlings of the acoustic scene. This little ditty charts the well-worn difficulties of having romantic inclinations towards a friend, but it’s utterly charming and the switch from acoustic to electric guitar in the chorus is surprisingly effective.


10.  Machu Picchu – The Strokes – Angles

So, Angles wasn’t as good as Is This It (is anything?), but this is pretty much the catchiest song they’ve ever recorded. Yes, I do think it’s catchier than ‘Last Nite’ or ‘Hard To Explain’. Only just… but just about.

Honorary mention: Punching In A Dream – The Naked and Famous – Passive Me, Aggressive You

I thought this was released this year, but it’s apparently been knocking around since last year… mind you, no-one had heard of it then, so it kind of counts, right? Another one that should be a club classic. It’s also proof that there’s something in New Zealand other than sheep and kiwis. Hell, judging by the electronic noises, it sounds like they may even have electricity over there! An enlightening thought for us all.

Honorary mentions go to: Lotus Flower – Radiohead, White Elephant – Ladytron, Pumped-Up Kicks – Foster The People, Shoelaces – The Submarines, The City – Patrick Wolf.

Late afterthoughts (i.e. songs I didn’t hear until I’d published this): Perth – Bon Iver, Ice Cream – Battles ft Matias Aguayo, Marathon – Tennis, 212 – Azealia Banks, Lonely Boy – The Black Keys, Sadness Is A Blessing – Lykke Li, My Country – tUnE-yArDs, Abducted – Cults.


3 responses

  1. Honorary mention? Punching in a Dream is by far the best song on that list. Closely followed by The Strokes which I can’t even believe I’m saying as I’ve always hated them with a passion. Both songs feature on the latest FIFA soundtrack which is fast becoming my favourite way to discover good music. Whoever compiles them has super taste. The fabulous O.N.E. by Yeasayer was on last years. And Odessa by Caribou too. Also, despite sounding like a million other songs, I quite liked Chair. The rest of the songs on your list I thought were fairly ho hum (although Lana Del Rey does have a stunning voice), but cheers for posting them. I like to keep abreast of the modern stuff even though I’m not too keen on most of what I hear these days. I’d love a new genre to appear. The closest we’ve gotten to one in the twenty odd years since grunge was Nu:Metal and that was shite.

    1. The only reason it’s an honorary mention as opposed to being on the list (would probably be 7th) is because it was technically released in 2010 instead of 2011, but I thought it was too good to leave off entirely. If I’d been including 2010 songs I’d have Best Coast somewhere near the top – their debut album is fantastic, lo-fi surf pop.
      It’s a ludicrously subjective list to make – album lists are somewhat easier than song lists because there are fewer albums than songs, but I haven’t listened to enough albums/really good ones to make that list, really. I’m not sure 2012 will be the year of a new genre, the two artists I know on BBC’s ‘Sound of 2012’ list are nothing new (Azealia Banks and Skrillex – the latter makes me want to do the Van Gogh ear gesture, with both ears). But maybe the rest of the list are reinventing music with a dustbin lid and a xylophone.

      1. As soon as I posted I wondered that that might be the reason. As for albums? Has there been any good albums recently? That’s my major problem with modern music. There’s some great tunes about, but when I investigate bands further, the rest of their stuff is always crap compared to that one tune I liked in the first place. Everyone seems to be a one hit wonder these days. I might find the odd band who has three or four good songs at a stretch on one album, but a whole good album is very rare. Leviathan by Mastodon was the last album I thought had no duff tracks on it and that’s seven years old now (bloody hell, time flies when you have fuck all to do) but I doubt you’d like it as its metal. I would like to recommend Don’t Look Back by Kylesa though, just to see what you think. They’re supposed to be metal but I don’t think this particular song sounds very metal and, as one of the comments on youtube said, it has a 90’s alternative feel to it. Unfortunately though, they fall into the aforementioned category of every other song of theirs I’ve heard is pants.

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