The best of 2011- this is a list.
12.31.2011
Matthew Bates in Music, Music, Slacker Radio, lists

A self-styled contrarian, I've waited until Jan 01 to post my "best of 2011" list.

What follows is a completely arbitrary and subjective list of the 25 best songs from 2011, according only to me.

If i were to recap the state of- and developments within- contemporary music and radio, that would be another post altogether. Rather than do that, I'll share this post from Fred Wilson. I think the first few paragraphs are both tremendously illuminating and indicative of the listening habits of a contemporary music consumer.

I'll also throw this article in for good measure; I think that the implications of this- from a music marketing perspective- could be terrifying. I fear we will see more of this- in a more calculated approach- in 2012. I wonder who the unlucky Rick Santorum artist will be.

25) Serenades- Come Home

This is a Shout Out Louds side project, featuring the dude that looks like Jason Schwartzman. It is appropriate to lead off this list because it is the best Christmas song I've heard in many years.

24) Dutch Uncles- The Ink

I hate this video, but I am a notorious sucker for angular, disjointed indie rock- or anything that sounds vaguely like the Talking Heads or XTC.

23) Scattered Trees- Four Days Straight

This could be a Spoon B-side. And since we didn't have so much as a Spoon A-side this year...

22) Cloud Control- There's Nothing In The Water We Can't Fight

 

Like Local Natives, except I like them.

21) Cuckoo Chaos- Just Ride It

I'm feeling guilty- this is the only local San Diego band that made the list this year. It's not that the local scene is suffering- I suspect 2012 will be huge year for SD bands- It's just that I was less engaged with local music this year. That said, these gents put on a tremendous live show, and are poised to DBT this year.

20) Tycho- Dive

I refuse to use the term "chillwave". How about "bliss-core"? "Winter-core"?

19 a)Nas- Nasty

Our Underground Hip-Hop programmer on Slacker Radio is always talking to me about "boom bap rap". He gets really excited about anything contemporary that features the sound, and it's clearly starting to rub off on me. 

19 b)The Hilltop Hoods- I Love It

Same thing as above- the boom bap. This track features an assist by Sia.

18) Katie Herzig- Free My Mind (RAC Remix)

RAC was everywhere this year. This is one of several songs that I would not have discovered or engaged with if not for it's remix. Most importantly, it reminds me of one of my favorite bands of all time- Dubstar.

17) Dirty Vegas- Little White Doves

I saw Dirty Vegas live this year- on a weeknight, at a dive bar, in front of an enthusiastic crowd of 40 or so. It's clear that they are more interested in being The Killers than they are being a House Music collective. With that in mind, they've written several incredible pop songs on their latest record, and this song consistently performs in the top 10th percentile of the listener popularity metrics across multiple genres on Slacker Radio. The fact that this song was not a mainstream pop hit speaks volumes about traditional media's methodology in terms of "picking songs".

16) Nada Surf- When I Was Young

It builds, and it builds, and it pays off. Just like all great Nada Surf songs. The new album is due out in 2012, and it's called "The Stars are Indifferent to Astronomy". Radical.

15) Fucked Up- The Other Shoe

There's a good reason that this is a consensus pick amongst the media and taste makers. My only fear is that there is no possible way that Fucked Up could top their epic concept album "David Comes to Life". It's kind of like the thinking man's "American Idiot".

14) Kendrick Lamar- A.D.H.D.

I heard this song for the first time shortly after I had a tremendously depressing encounter with a kid that I grew up with. If not for that, I may have never internalized the profundity of these lyrics.

13) Destroyer- Chinatown

It's been my experience that every song called "Chinatown" is awesome.

12) Little Dragon- Ritual Union

Another completely justified consensus pick.

11) Strange Talk- Climbing Walls

This song is/was absolutely perfect for a commercial sync. That explains the video, which looks like an Old Navy commercial performed by J Crew catalog models.

10) Vetiver- Wonder Why

I'm a sucker for anything jangly; anything that sounds like a vintage Flying Nun release.

9) The Rifles- Tangled Up In Love

I am also a notorious Anglophile, musically speaking. This reminds me of the first time i heard "Babies" by Pulp.

8) Real Estate- It's Real

When she's not on tour with Mates of State, my friend Jen Scaffidi still knows exactly how to call me out

7) Roscoe Dash- I Do

So, in the last half of this track, It's clear that K'LA is going to be a big deal in 2012. That's a starmaking verse. Beyond that- I think this song is a perfect flashy, heavily produced hip hop track. 

6) Ha Ha Tonka- Usual Suspects

When all is said and done, I am still a kid from rural Nevada that won 4-H championships, did junior rodeo, and broke horses. Rootsy stuff like this will always appeal to me. Especially when they are so adept at harmonies. I saw these gentlemen out on tour this year with Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin- their live show is something to behold.

5) The Fruit Bats- You're Too Weird

They own their 70's pop sensibilities by recreating a perfect 80's pop video. Respek.

5) Elephant Rifle- Thursday The 12th

So- full disclosure. This is my little brother's latest band. And it's by far my favorite band he's ever been in. I'm very, very proud of him. All of the dudes in this band are incredible, and their live show is as rad and confrontational as I had hoped it would be. Beyond that, I couldn't possibly be objective, so check out what theAV Club had to say about them:

A far younger band that worships at the sticky alter of The Jesus Lizard is Reno’s Elephant Rifle. Listening to the outfit’s new four-song EP, Teenage Lover, feels like jacking off with a jackhammer; amid strangled guitars and amputated rhythms, the group unleashes all manner of demons, psychic and sonic. But it’s done with an underdog abandon and sordid sense of humor—not to mention a proudly acknowledged debt to the eerie, GSL Records sound of the late ’90s and early ’00s—that distances Elephant Rifle from mere AmRep revivalism. They grow ’em sick and strange in Reno. 

Goddamn right they do.

4) Wye Oak- Holy Holy

Another perfect winter record. This fills the spot held by Land Of Talk last year.

3) Black Lips- Modern Art

Because fundamentally, I want my rock and roll to be the soundtrack to motorcycles, whiskey, and fist fights.

2) The Drums- How It Ended

The Drums' 2011 release- Portomento- is far and away the record that I spent the most time with this year as a whole. There's nothing terribly sophisticated going on here, but its the way that they carefully aggregate so many sounds and influences that makes this a perfect pop album. Really perfect.

1) Touché Amoré- ~ (Tilde)

JUST LOOK AT THIS:

 

This is what made me fall in love with punk rock. Buying records, identifying with the message politically or emotionally, then going to see the band live and singing my lungs out and discovering a community of like-minded kids. The fact that this video was filmed in 2011, in Berlin, only a month after the album was released, speaks volumes about the connection that people have with this band.

Seeing Touché Amoré at the Che Cafe in San Diego this year, I was reminded of seeing At The Drive In on the In/Casino/Out tour. Different message and ethos, but same energy, same confrontational spirit. 

In a way, the fact that this is my favorite record of the year is a nostalgia play. This is the record I was desperately searching for in 1998. The fact that it still resonates in a major way in 2011 tells me that these dudes are on to something. When I first saw Rise Against in 1999, or Modest Mouse in 1997, or At The Drive In in 1999- I was able to predict that these bands would go on to "mainstream" success and critical acclaim. With that in mind, I wouldn't be surprised if Touché Amoré is consistently impacting a much larger audience by the end of 2012. 

Buy the new Touché Amoré record. It's called "Parting the Sea Between Brightness and Me". It's the most urgent and honest record I've heard in years.

HONORABLE MENTION:

Captured Tracks put out more good records and reissues than anyone else this year. They've created the kind of culture around their label that makes you want to drop out of your life and go join them in some sort of intentional community- like K Records in the late 80's or something.

With that in mind, they are releasing this in 2012, and it's already made next year's list for me:

Mac DeMarco- Baby's Wearin Blue Jeans

 

 

Article originally appeared on Mat Diablo - Matt Diablo - Matthew Bates (http://mattdiablo.com/).
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