Thursday, December 15, 2011

The top 20 songs of 2011 Part 2: 10-1

10: Polymers are forever - Future of the Left
This song could be about anything but I think it's mostly about how great the word polymers sounds when Andy Falkous sings it. FOTL have long peddled in the obtuse where words seem less to be about a narrative but how they sound and the intent behind them. While it starts off as a stilted grind, the song collapses into a blissed out outro featuring the mantra:

Old stones collected in plastic bags on a bloody isle
Then placed in rows on the ocean floor, your friends Polymers

Whatever that means is far beyond my comprehension but it really doesn't matter because this song is all shades of awesome.

9: The Undiscovered First - Feist
Feist's Metals album is an intense rush of joy, sorrow and heartbreak where her voice finally delivers on its promise with some real sting and pain in her delivery. Reading the lyrics to The Undiscovered First, you'd think it's about finding some new facet of love but the delivery is pure pain. It appears the undiscovered first is an until now undiscovered new low in a relationship which drives the somewhat disturbed undercurrent of the song. The song positively explodes mid way through with a chain gang thump and a guitar so woozy with distortion and rage, that it is bleeds pure emotion.

8: Pumped up kicks - Foster the people
Easily the best song about hipster genocide this year, this was an inescapable pop monster built around a bass line which is as addictive as crack. It's an easy song to fall in love with because it is undeniable - that's it - undeniable. Whether you're a three year old girl or a eighty seven year old dude in a coma, you like this song. It is undeniable - nothing more needs to be said except there is whistling and that's ok. (I've since heard this was released in 2010 - I'm a moron but can't be arsed re-writing the list so suck it up pedants).

7: The Wilheim Scream - James Blake
The strangest thing about this song is how conventional the lyrics are. Love and confusion embodied by the notion that the protagonist is falling again into another bad situation. I say this conventionality is strange because everything else about this song is far from conventional. Working on a less is more aesthetic, the music is more of a suggestion than substance while notes and sounds hang in the air like a slow motion film of a child being thrown into the air. Blake's voice rises and falls like Antony's cyborg brother but nothing else sounds as close to a broken heart than this.

6: Exile Vilify - The National
I think I've listened to this song more than any other this year just by virtue of it being one of my girlfriend's favourite songs of 2011. Thank the Buddha it's such a beautiful song that I never tire of because I've heard it about a 1000 times. Released as a single to coincide with the console game Portal 2, it is an excellent song that it stands tall next to the highs of 2010's High Violet and doesn't feel like b-grade material tossed for a quick buck (which a song for an xbox game sounds like the definition of). The National are probably the best band in the US at the moment and while this may be a questionable soundtrack for a game where you defy physics with a portal gun, there is no doubting the feeling or quality of this gorgeous tune.

5: The Magnifying Glass - The Joy Formidable
There are songs that move you, songs that make you think and then there are songs that make you just want to smash shit up. This is a blink and you'll miss it maniacal monster that riffs on your primal impulses and unleashes a visceral high. Forget the analysis and just embrace the rock.

4: Hell broke Luce - Tom Waits
Whatever Tom Waits has been drinking and smoking over the past few years has been incredibly beneficial because Bad as me is his best album since Mule Variations. If he's been smoking anything it's righteous indignation and it's never as furious or as funny than on Hell broke Luce, a primal growl of a song railing against the banality and human cost of war. An unholy clatter of drums, sideways guitars and Waits' ringside bark, this is the sound of a great artist inspired, angry and hungry for change.

3: Romance - Wild Flag
Romance is not about some people getting gooey before a shag but the romance between a listener and the music they love. Fortunately, given the subject matter, Wild Flag have managed to create a perfect song which is easy to adore in so many ways. Carrie Brownstein breaks out as the sidewoman role in Sleater Kinney to become a fully fledged rock Goddess ready to kick your head in with great tunes while the rest of the band rides the soulful groove with aplomb. Awesomeness follows...

2: Human Error - We Were Promised Jetpacks
Pathos is sometimes a hard thing to capture in music but somehow this song drips with it. The giddy rush of the guitars somehow ripples with the confusion and denial that comes with the mistakes we make and even on reflection, we just fail in the same way over and over again. The key line here repeated over and over "I'm not sure I've been here before" when it feels like a fait accompli. As the verse states:

If I was a writer, I'd write my opinions
And save them for later
Just to see how wrong I could be

The song just barrels along and as such there is no need for solos, apologies or foresight, the drama unfolds like life - quickly and without compromise.

1: Future Starts Slow - The Kills
Effortlessly cool and instantly memorable with a riff that will haunt your dreams, The Kills reach the cumulative sum of all their work in this one track. For so long there seemed to be a little bit of style over substance to their albums but Future Starts Slow has a swagger, menace and gravity that is bracing. The song itself mines the treacherous territory of co-dependent relationships and whether it's a lover, a friend or a bandmate, you can't live with or without them. Alison Mosshart and Jamie Hince's vocals intertwine in a sinuous and sensual way and fuck me, that guitar line is the best of the year.


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