Welcome to Day 2 of Listmas, and my countdown week of the Best Songs of 2011. Yesterday was a lot of fun and naturally as the week progresses I expect that to continue to increase. One fun fact I’ll reveal to you in regards to my composition of this list is that I highly doubt you’ll be able to guess any of my Top 3 songs, which will be revealed on Friday. Feel free to guess in the comments section, but those final 3 are in some ways curveballs of the most interesting sort. There will likely be complaints. We’ll see how it all shakes out though. There’s still a couple days left before we get to that point. For today, there’s another interesting set of songs, and I’d actually say there’s nearly a theme to these 10. Save for a couple more left field choices, a handful of these songs were moderately successful and popular in 2011. That is to say, I heard a few of them on the radio, some even more than once. Do with that what you will. Click past the jump to read the list, my thoughts on each individual song, and stream or download all of them too. Oh, and here’s the link to yesterday’s 10 songs in case you missed them:
The Top 50 Songs of 2011: #50-41
40. Beastie Boys – Make Some Noise
It took them long enough, but the Beastie Boys finally returned in 2011, and they did so with their typical aplomb and goofy humor in spite of AdRock’s cancer. “Make Some Noise” was their comeback song, and it very much condensed what makes the trio great and proved that they were by no means has-beens. The video, complete with about 100 celebrity cameos, is fantastic as well. Too bad the rest of “Hot Sauce Committee, Part 2” wasn’t nearly as amazing.
39. Wild Beasts – Bed of Nails
Wild Beasts’ “Smother” is one incredibly sexy album, and I mean that both sonically and lyrically. One of the most interesting aspects of it comes via “Bed of Nails”, a track that ostensibly marks a balance between the dominant and submissive Jekyll and Hyde the record attempts to pit against one another. The song is about two fucked up people that when they get together become this whole other monster entirely. One that’s equal parts destruction and passion. It makes for an extremely compelling and genuinely brilliant song.
38. The Antlers – Every Night My Teeth Are Falling Out (mp3)
We’ve all had those dreams, whether you feel like you’re falling through the air or having sex with whatever your twisted mind can come up with. There’s about a few dozen studies about another common phenomenon, which is having your teeth fall out. That one counts as a nightmare for just about everbody, and The Antlers use that to their advantage, The frenetic pace of the song and Pete Silberman’s panicked vocal performance suddenly throw the album “Burst Apart” into the utter chaos the title describes. It’s a rare, thrilling moment of anxiety seething through a record that had otherwise kept it together until that point.
37. The Rapture – How Deep Is Your Love?
After they took a few years off, most everybody wanted to root for The Rapture to succeed. The dance rock fad had passed, but if anybody could revive it, the dudes that made “House of Jealous Lovers” could. “How Deep Is Your Love?” was like a down payment on that return to glory, whetting appettites for the full length “In the Grace of Your Love”. Sadly, nothing else on that album quite reached the peak that single did, but hot damn if it isn’t still an exciting dance floor cut.
36. Handsome Furs – What About Us (mp3)
Handsome Furs are a band that just keeps getting better and better with time. Over the course of their three albums they’ve improved their songcraft immensely, and “What About Us” is a grand testament to that. It’s arguably the most danceable thing the duo have ever created, and perhaps the sexiest as well. It does a fantastic job of merging the 80s synths of New Order and the beats of LCD Soundsystem to suck you in and a head smacking hook of a chorus to leave you dizzy going out.
35. Gotye – Somebody I Used to Know (ft. Kimbra)
If this one feels a little out of left field, that’s because it is. Gotye is not well known in the U.S., nor has his latest record “Making Mirrors” been given a physical release here. You can find it on iTunes, and that’s about it. That has not stopped him from making huge waves internationally, almost entirely on the back of “Somebody I Used to Know”. It’s one of the most heartbreaking pieces of music you’ll hear this year, and it shows off the impressive power of Wally De Backer’s voice. The video for the song has pulled in close to 20 MILLION views as of this writing and earned praise from pop stars and tastemakers alike. Get on Gotye now, because 2012 is going to be huge for him.
34. Braids – Lemonade (mp3)
Listening to “Lemonade”, the opening track to Braids’ debut album “Native Speaker”, you’re almost instantly reminded of Animal Collective. Bubbling electronics, some light twinkling keyboards, and a little bit of tribal drumming. Trippy and a bit psychedelic though it may be, what really anchors the song down are the vocals of Raphaelle Standell-Preston, which surge and soar exactly when they need to while alternately surprising with the occasional swear word. Over the course of nearly 7 minutes, “Lemonade” spins its wheels and plays around before eventually reaching a point of insistence where you feel like the train is coming off the tracks. It’s the best sort of chaos to be exposed to.
33. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – Heart in Your Heartbreak
Personally, I thought the Pains of Being Pure at Heart were going to be a “one-and-done” band, suffering the sting of rejection with their sophmore effort and never fully bouncing back. I’m happy to say I was wrong, and “Belong” was just as strong as their debut. One of the best and most addictive things about it came via “Heart in Your Heartbreak”, a song that essentially showed off how much the band has learned since their last album. Basically they’ve gotten better at what they do, crafting cleaner, crisper, more perfect 90s-esque rock songs than ever before. Here’s a band that knows the formula that works for them, and have made significant strides to try and give all the necessary elements room to continue to expand along with them.
32. Toro y Moi – Still Sound (mp3)
Much of Toro y Moi’s second record “Underneath the Pine” is comprised of formless, drifting melodies that offer little individual distinction but hit you in a very subtle and rather delightful way. There are a few points where it seems to wake up from a stupor, suddenly cranking out a strong pop song. “Still Sound” is the best of that bunch, and perhaps the best Toro y Moi song to date. The driving beat combines with heartfelt emotion as the melody squirms around like it’s trying to avoid being boxed in. It’s a restlessness that feels wholly natural in spite of itself.
31. Lykke Li – I Follow Rivers
Lykke Li’s sophmore record “Wounded Rhymes” has plenty of charms to it, not the least of which are the songs that explore the idea of women taking control of their sexuality. On “I Follow Rivers”, she sings about strong devotion to one’s partner, but does so without coming off as needy. It’s also a smart lesson about how even the strongest of people sometimes need to follow others. Li tackles it all with her achingly powerful voice and a hook-driven chorus that makes you want to follow her instead of vice versa.
TOMORROW: Top 50 Songs of 2011: #30-21!