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The Top 100 Tracks of 2011

By ; December 13, 2011 at 12:00 AM 

Check out One Thirty BPM’s top songs of 2011 in this Spotify playlist.


40.

Yuck

“Get Away”

[Fat Possum]

”Get Away” opens Yuck’s self-titled debut record and within seconds you’ve got a pretty good idea of what you’re in for as the catchy guitar riff draws you in, and the rest of the track gets even better. “Get Away” is one of six singles released from the twelve track album and it’s easy to understand why as it’s everything a good indie rock single needs to be, with a soundscape lying somewhere between Dinosaur Jr.’s “Freak Scene,” Pavement and golden era Teenage Fanclub.

Yuck channels the late ‘80s/early ‘90s indie rock sound extremely well, making it seem fresh again and in a different musical climate “Get Away” would’ve been a favourite on college radio and in the ‘80s it would’ve sat comfortably among now-classics by The Replacements, Hüsker Dü and of course the aforementioned Dinosaur Jr. ”Get Away” may be derivative, but when you’re writing songs as good as this one it doesn’t really matter – just turn the volume up and get ready to forget your troubles for three and a half minutes.

Johan Alm


39.

Big K.R.I.T.

“Dreamin’”

[Self-released]

Few people in the industry have worked as hard in 2011 as Atlanta, GA. rapper Big K.R.I.T.. Two mixtapes, a record contract with Def Jam, numerous collaborations and two tours. Quantity is one thing, but the quality of the work is another, and Big K.R.I.T. is nearly unmatched in his story telling and production. To see a man so devoted and so prosperous at his work is truly a marvel, and the track “Dreamin’” from Return of 4eva is a tale of that experience. “Don’t be alarmed if you don’t make it, that’s just part of the game,” K.R.I.T. says about a warning he was once given, followed later by “it’s safe to say dreams come true.” Even the simple but effective drum beat is a marvel to behold, the perfect canvas for K.R.I.T.’s anecdotes on his family and motivation as a songwriter. It’s boastful in a pleasing manor, but K.R.I.T. is nothing but humble on both Return of 4eva and Last King 2. As far as earnest and inspired hip hop tracks are concerned, I can say with an honest conscious that “Dreamin’” is the best of the best, a testament to the artist and the genre.

Erik Burg


38.

Thee Oh Sees

“The Dream”

[In The Red]

The best rock & roll songs dispense with all notions of musicality and take on the form of pure visceral, mindless, bodiless energy. “The Dream” does this pretty well. In fact, most of Carrion Crawler/The Dream does it. But “The Dream” is the peak at the center of its ten blasts of garage rock freak out. Anyone who stumbles across “The Dream” will immediately spot where the track sheds its skin. The moment comes after a lengthy rhythmic, duel-drummer, guitar chugging middle section. As the bass returns Brigid Dawson starts shrieking her head off, John Dwyer begins violently disassembling his guitar, and the song jumps to hyperspace.

Will Ryan


37.

Wild Flag

“Romance”

[Merge]

Wild Flag’s “Romance” opens up their first album with a chance to show off everything that the group does well. From the opening mirrored guitar and keyboard lead, to Carrie Brownstein’s commanding and distinct vocal idiosyncrasies, to the stop-on background singing from the rest of the group, to the infectiously light lyrics — it’s a song that won’t even take you the duration of it to realize where you stand on Wild Flag. The song also features one perfect moment, where Brownstein deviates from the plotted melody to shout “you” in the second chorus’ “we’ve got our eyes straight on you.” It’s a rockstar move that implies a leg kick, a windmill, or a punk jump. Don’t worry. See them live and you’ll get all of these.

Philip Cosores


36.

TV On The Radio

”Will Do”

[Interscope]

It’s hard to argue that any band had a worse year in 2011. Well, maybe disappointing is the better word to use. I can still remember media and fans completely losing their minds over how great TV On The Radio’s performance at SXSW was last year, and with the release of the album’s first single “Will Do,” Nine Types of Light was quickly becoming the most hyped album of the year. And then it was released to rather lukewarm approval, and the band’s bassist Gerard Smith died of lung cancer. But for all the highs and lows the band has gone through this year, “Will Do” remains one of the best tracks of the year. I think it’s the best love song of the year, even in its lyrical repetition. As lead singer Tunde Adebimpe sings “any time will do,” the band nails just exactly what it feels like to lose someone you love. The tension in the instruments, the stress in Adebimpe’s voice, there’s a certain unknowing on the track, and it’s that disbelief and sadness that makes “Will Do” so emotionally impressive. Nine Types of Light was ultimately underwhelming, but “Will Do” absolutely stands tall as an amazing song.

Erik Burg


35.

Jay-Z and Kanye West

“Otis”

[Roc-A-Fella / Def Jam / Roc Nation]

One of the most impressive things about “Otis” is the fact that the instrumental is entirely composed of a sample from Otis Redding’s classic “Try a Little Tenderness” sans additional accoutrement. Not that sample-only instrumentals are anything new (at least in underground hip- hop), but this kind of minimalism is the ultimate juxtaposition against Watch the Throne’s ideological maximalism. It’s the most soulful and braggadocio-laden track of the year, and it was also the weirdest thing on mainstream radio — turn on the FM dial for a second to hear Kanye and Jay’s competition, and most of the hip-hop is either Europop influenced or entirely too drum machine-dependent. “Otis” was something fresh, different — something that made you excited for the future of the genre. But at the same time, considering how coolly intimidating Ye & Jay are in the verses, I doubt anyone in mainstream hip-hop would even attempt to cop their style anytime soon.

Arika Dean


34.

Wild Beasts

“Reach A Bit Further”

[Domino]

Wild Beasts are renowned for being fantastic singers (even if their voices are quite strange), but they are not known for harmonizing. Rather, Hayden Thorpe and Tom Fleming prefer to trade off lines and intertwine their vocals. They have never done this more spectacularly than on Smother’s “Reach A Bit Further.” Built over the top of an idiosyncratically Wild Beasts rhythm we find out partners trading off lines about meeting a beautiful woman and declaring their love for her, yearning for her and trying to persuade her to take the leap and commit herself to the love that is between them. The song’s chorus of “Tear jerker, shadow lurker, wonder worker, reach a bit further” is one of the most strikingly evocative of the year, only made more so by Thorpe’s theatrical and graceful delivery. The song is relatively simple by Wild Beast’s standards – a few tinkling bells and a fantastic guitar line from Benny Little are all that’s needed to maintain the sensual atmosphere – but this is one of their most memorable to date.

Rob Hakimian


33.

Real Estate

“Green Aisles”

[Domino]

Not to belittle the their musical talent, but part of the reason the guys of Real Estate are so likeable is that they seem so damn chill. It seems like it’d be a lot of fun to just kick back and smoke a couple Js with these Jersey natives, maybe enjoy a little barbecue too. And this chillness — this “dudeness,” if you will — carries over into the band’s music, especially on slow burners like “Green Aisles.” With Matt Mondanile’s guitar tuned to Ducktails levels of haziness, Martin Courtney paints a picture of suburban complacency that seems specific to my home state’s homogenous highways: “The phone lines, the streetlights, led me to you,” he recalls. “All those wasted miles, all those aimless drives through green aisles,” he continues, and the titular metaphor should be clear to anyone who’s racked up miles on the Jersey Turnpike. Because for all the cosmopolitan virtues of travel, there’s something irreplaceably comforting about the familiarities of home, and it’s certainly “not so unwise” to remember them fondly. As I said, these guys seem chill; I’ll bet that between “all those wasted miles,” they have a bunch of terrific stories to tell.

Josh Becker


32.

Kate Bush

“Misty”

[Fish People]

50 Words for Snow’s longest cut, the 13-and-a-half-minute “Misty,” is notorious for its lyrical depiction of a lecherous, yet warmly affectionate, snowman. After building him – “roll his body / give him eyes / make him smile for me / give him life” – Kate Bush’s narrator is repaid by way of a surreal, sexual encounter later that night. Their love is tragically short-lived, as the winter wonderland spirit deliquesces, leaving behind “dead leaves, bits of twisted branches and frozen garden” on her pillow. Don’t worry; the strange subject matter is tactfully understated, unlike the rape scene in the atrocious 1997 horror comedy film Jack Frost. Bush’s gentle coos are bellied by her patient keys, presenting themselves like a modernized, extended take on Chopin’s Preludes. Jonathan Tunick’s orchestral arrangements briefly crop up as interludes, while Steve Gadd’s light drumming and cymbal splashes color the song’s tail end. It’s a terrific show, but thanks to added reinforcement from the official claymation clip of the song, we’ll always remember it as that one about Kate Bush sexing up a snowman.

Michael Tkach


31.

Wilco

“Art of Almost”

[dBpm]

I’ve been told that hearing “Art of Almost” for the first time is somewhat of a modern day answer to hearing “When the Levee Breaks” for the first time. Sure, with each album, Wilco is begged to go back to their experimental days, and sometimes, they do. With “Art of Almost”, it’s an almost head-first foray into an expansive, gargantuan prog epic that makes “Spiders (Kidsmoke)” and “Bull Black Nova” seem amateur. “Almost” is carried by Glenn Kotche’s thunderous drumming in the first half of the song, adding weight to Jeff Tweedy’s meaningless lyrics, before giving way to the wildly explosive second half performance from Nels Cline. Opinions on Wilco are overwhelmingly divided these days, but “Art of Almost” is a reminder they can still put out songs that blow all of our minds.

Ryan Nichols

[100-76] [75-51] [50-41] [40-31] [30-21] [20-11] [10-01]


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