So here is the first part of my top twenty songs of 2011. As an introduction, these songs are chosen purely because I liked them and listened to them a lot – nothing more, nothing less. Anyone who reads this blog knows I’m terribly out of step with fashion so you’ll find no Bon Iver, St Vincent or any of that guff here. Sorry, it’s not to be contrary but because that music doesn’t move me. Whatever, here’s the first ten:
20: Run The World (Girls) - Beyoncé
I have long been a fan of any pop song that goes crazy with drums and Lose my breathe was one of my favourite Destiny's Child songs for that very reason. I'm all for any militantly pro-female song and with the snare drum scatter attack of Run the World, I find this song irresistible. I still think Beyonce should have sung "who'll run this muthafucker? GIRLS!" but that's quibbling - a great song.
19: Please Take - Wire
Any song off the excellent Red Barked Tree album could have made this list but this one just sticks in your head. It moves languidly but with purpose and if you're not singing "Fuck off out of my face" by the second chorus, you just don't like music.
18: I'll Hit You Back - Jane's Addiction
I hesitate to write Jane's Addiction as the artist because on one level it doesn't actually sound like them. Perry's vocals seem to have a case of the auto-tuned removing the rough undercurrent that makes him so unique while Navarro tunes out his usual proto-metal snarl for something much more tame. However, every time this song comes on, I find it an irresistible pop confection and start singing along. It's not classic Jane's but it is a good song.
17: Curl of the Burl - Mastodon
Somehow sounding like Trés Hombres era ZZ Top siphoned through Black Sabbath with Queens of the Stone Age-esque swing, Mastodon moves away from their crazy ass mini-rock operas to more straight forward pop. A lot of fans hate The Hunter for this very reason but they’re missing out – the poppier Mastodon is infinitely more fun and their lyrics are just as weird as ever. Haters are going to hate but say what you will, Burl makes me want to dance and seems like a natural evolution in their sound to me.
16: Rumor has it - Adele
This song single handedly converted me to the cult of Adele. Its power might have been diluted somewhat by being violated by those Glee miscreants but I still think this is a great song. Somewhere between its blues-gospel hand clap compulsion and a guitar line that which wouldn't be out of place on a Tom Waits record, Adele's voice rankles and seduces. To be honest, we could do a lot worse than mainstream music embracing the white girl soul revival of Winehouse, Duffy and Adele and this is an exemplar of that genre at its best.
15: In the End – Anthrax
Whatever you feel about classic metal, Anthrax tick all the boxes in this little gem. It’s rare in this age to hear music these days so metal yet so sincere, it’s as if they wrote this song in 1986 and only got around to releasing it this year. Filled with a lot of chug, drum fills and a solo filled break down with guitars that squeal in that way that screams “MAIDEN!”, Anthrax provide us with a late era metal classic.
14: Supercollider - Radiohead
Spoiler alert: The King of Limbs is not even remotely close to making my top 10 albums of the year which seems almost heretical at any other time (a top ten list not featuring Radiohead? WHAAAAT?!) but ahem, it really wasn't very good. I much preferred the EP which came soon after and the slow, electronic glide of Supercollider is hypnotic and diverting. Best of all, Thom Yorke's voice is divine, an instrument of such purity and grace this song highlights just how special it is. I still think this could have been the centrepiece of a rethought Limbs and made it a better album.
13: Especially Me - Low
There is much to adore on Low's C'mon record but there is something simultaneously graceful, haunting and sincere about this song that makes it undeniably moving. Part caring, part accusatory, the song's deeper meaning is carried by understated strings and a winding riff that is instantly memorable. Sure it's got that terrible line about cake and is heavy on the drama but it is somehow perfect in every way.
12: No Church in the Wild (featuring Frank Ocean) - Jay Z and Kanye West
For me, The Throne was a bit of a dud, it just sounded like a couple of rich arseholes singing about how much better their lives are than yours. I guess that's pretty common in hip hop but there was something so unrepentantly decadent about it that it verged on obscene. However, both Otis and No Church in the Wild provided some biting respite from it all by just being awesome. No Church in the Wild is a dark rumination on the dark side of the hip hop life and Jay Z and Kanye have never sounded so committed or fluid than on this track. Kanye has the edge but that's because he's letting his freak flag fly a little bit higher than Jay's.
11: Shook Down – Yuck
Yuck are unrepentant 90’s American indie rock classicists honing the best of that decade with little care for originality while undertaking the task with a bevy of good tunes. Shook Down sounds like a long lost Lemonheads classic and while it isn’t going to displace Evan Dando’s best work, it reminds us of the pure joy of that country-indie-pop sound he exemplified. Packed with the requisite dreamy lyrics and J Mascis guitar toned solo, it’s the aural equivalent of your favourite comfort food.
Part 2 soon...