My method for putting the list together went like this – first I got hold of as many new releases as I could from about ten websites – generally mp3 blogs and singles reviews sites. Then I graded them from 1-10, and deleted anything under a ’6′. Later I came back and graded the 8s 9s and 10s into new folders by percentage points. Then there was another stage where I put the songs into an exact order, and finally I listened to the list in order a few times and shuffled the songs about. If this is tedious to read then you can imagine what it was like to do – a time-consuming technique which took up a year’s commutes and left me with folders full of around 3000 mp3s (plus 1500+ that were deleted) and notebooks full of now meaningless lists of tracks and numbers. It also left me with a list of 250+ ranked tracks, mainly due to the 87% folder having over 120 tracks in it.
200 Tinie Tempah – Wonderman ft. Ellie Goulding (Jacob Plant remix)
199 Alina Simone – You Fade Away
198 Elephant – Actors
197 IFEEL STUDIO – Watching Stars Over The Rubicon Beltway
196 Cloud Control – This Is What I Said
195 High Contrast – Fearful Symmetry
194 Blackwater Jukebox – That Voodoo Shit
193 Korallreven – As Young As Yesterday
192 The Kills – Pots and Pans
191 Kunt and the Gang – Amy (it’s a terrible shamey)
190 Blawan – Peaches
189 The Men – Night Landing
188 Xander Harris – BloodremixXHVocoder
187 Steve Reich / Kronos Quartet – 9/11/01
186 Thomas Tantrum – Sleep
185 Toddla T & Roots Manuva – Watch Me Dance
184 Estelle ft Rick Ross – Break My Heart
183 Other Lives – For 12
182 Mondkopf – The Song of Shadows
181 Peaking Lights – All The Sun That Shines
180 Lethal Bizzle ft. Grime Allstars – Pow 2011
179 Timariwen– Tenere Taqqim Tossam (Four Tet Remix)
178 Lumpen Nobleman – Scaling the Yablonois
177 K-X-P – 18 Hours (Of Love) – An Optimo (Espacio) mix
176 Katy B – Witches Brew
175 Future Islands – Balance
174 Kode9 – Time Patrol Dub
173 Jay-Z & Kanye West – Otis
172 PBN– Fitteh Moo
171 Kurt Vile – Jesus Fever
170 Vagina Vangi – Locked Forever
169 Lapalux – Time Spike Jamz
168 Ghosting Season – Far End Of The Graveyard
167 Holy Ghost! – Some Children
166 The Oh Sees – Carrion Crawler
165 Cloud Nothings – No Future / No Past
164 Time Wharp – Cuspcake (LORD BOYD Remix)
163 Crookers / Savage Skulls – Bust ‘Em Up
162 Ding Dong – badman forward badman pull up (the bug remix)
161 The Caretaker – The sublime is disappointingly elusive
160 The Count & Sinden – Future
159 Vagina Vangi – Goatghosts
158 Destroyer – Suicide Demo for Kara Walker
157 K-X-P – 18 Hours (Of Love)
156 Regina – Jos et sä soita
155 Peter Bjorn and John – Second Chance
154 The Rapture – How Deep Is Your Love?
153 Seahawks – Tramadol Beach
152 Beyoncé – Love on Top
151 Twin Sister – Bad Street
150 Boris – Spoon
149 Future of the Left – Polymers Are Forever
148 Ghostpoet – Liiines
147 The Advisory Circle – Now Ends The Beginning
146 How to Dress Well – suicide dream 2 (elite gymnastics baptism)
145 Lil Wayne – 6 Foot 7 Foot (feat. Cory Gunz)
144 Wye Oak – Holy Holy
143 Forest Fire – The News
142 The Joy Formidable – Whirring
141 The Chain – Lostwithiel
140 Liz Green – Displacement Song
139 M83 – Intro (ft Zola Jesus)
138 Chains Of Love – Breaking My Heart
137 Feist – How Come You Never Go There?
136 현아 – Bubble Pop!
135 Jonti – Twirligig
134 Skrillex – First of the Year (Equinox)
133 Jay-Z & Kanye West – Murder to Excellence
132 The North – RISE (extended demo)
131 Mogwai – White Noise
130 Washed Out – Soft
129 The Advisory Circle – Beyond The Wychelm
128 Mr. Muthafuckin’ Exquire – Huzzah! (Remix feat. Despot, Das Racist, Danny Brown & El-P)
127 Orbital – Never
126 Steve Hauschildt – Already Replaced
125 Todd Terje – Snooze 4 Love
124 Holy Ghost! – I Wanted To Tell Her
123 Joris J – Stand Alone Complex
122 Oh Land – Sun of a Gun
121 Ray & the Prisms – Astrograph
120 I Break Horses – Hearts
119 Iceage – IIIIIIII
118 Death Grips – Guillotine
117 65daysofstatic – Come To Me (ft Robert Smith)
116 Real Estate – Green Aisles
115 Oneohtrix Point Never – Sleep Dealer
114 Phantogram – Don’t Move
113 The Chemical Brothers – Escape Wavefold
112 Metronomy – The Look
111 Renaissance Man – What Do You Do When You Do What You Do (Vocal Version)
110 Celia – D D Down
109 Tom Waits – Hell Broke Luce
108 Dauwd – What’s There?
107 Russian Circles – Mladek
106 Kingdom – Stalker Ha
105 Entrepreneurs – Fuck Tactics (Feat. FOE & Ghostpoet)
104 DJ Shadow ft African Boy – I’m Excited
103 rRoxymore – Lonelyritournelle
102 Cygnet Wings – Lark
101 Kingdom – Take Me (ft Naomi Allen)
--------------------------------------------- Top 100 ----------------------------------------------
#100 Laura J Martin – Spy (The Simonsound Remix)
Very talented young Liverpudlian flutes & loops artiste remixed by retro space synth act The Simonsound. I love the drum samples.
#99 Katy B – Lights On (Ft Miss Dynamite)
If 2011 was the year when pop met dubstep, then Katy B’s ‘On A Mission’ was the album that made the phenomenon seem like the most natural thing in the world. “Lights On” is at heart just a decent pop song about enjoying clubbing so much that you don’t want to stop dancing even when they’re closing up, but the beats, the production and the guest rap from Miss Dynamite come from an altogether different world.
#98 Spank Rock – Nasty (feat. Big Freedia)
Spank Rock’s 2011 album “Everything Is Boring and Everyone Is a Fucking Liar” generally seemed to get panned for being pervy, coarse and weird, which is a bit like criticizing a table for being made of wood and having four legs. Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly. This track is, yes, nasty.
#97 Breton – Edward the Confessor
(A late replacement here for Vampilia, who I’ve suddenly decided I can’t stand)
This is one of those tracks that just seems to arrive on the internet with no context whatsoever – just a video and a few unhelpfully surreal press releases. There’s a rumour that this is Tom Vek working under a pseudonym. Anyway, it’s pretty decent, that’s the important thing.
#96 Peaking Lights – Tiger Eyes (Laid Back)
The description on last.fm says “floating electronic pulses, controlled feedback, tape loops, organ, synth, guitar, and vocal harmonies layered into waves of four track noise pop goodness.” But what does it for me is the bassline. What a bassline!
#95 London Elektricity – The Plan That Cannot Fail
Simple D&B track, with euphoric early-90s house piano. Sometime the simplest ingredients are what you need.
#94 New Build – Finding Reasons
Hot Chip / LCD Soundsystem side project, a bit like both, but with elements of 80s indie electro.
#93 Metronomy – The Bay
Repetitive disco-pop song about Torquay. I wasn’t really into it until I heard it at a party. That’s where it should be heard. Best use of slap-bass all year. The extended version is even better – it just cuts to the chase and then stays there for as long as you want it to, which is quite a long time.
#92 濱崎あゆみ – BRILLANTE
Mainstream Japanese pop music – even my wife has heard of her, and she’s hardly a J-pop fangirl. Ayumi piles on the melodrama and overproduction and instead of it being cheesy and soulless it ends up being as epic as she presumable meant it to be. Just seen the video for the first time and, well, it’s very very gay.
#91 Lady Gaga – Judas
THE big hit of the year. Well, in my house it was, at least. Easily my favourite thing she’s ever done, the techno breakdown is the best bit.
#90 The Advisory Circle – The Patchwork Explains
If this were a list of albums, The Advisory Circle’s “As The Crow Flies” would be right up there near the top. I’ve always loved the creepy, burbling synth sounds of 1970s public information films and documentaries, and it’s great to hear them being reclaimed and used for something strange, dark and witchy. Unfortunately there’s no one real standout track, though, so take this as a sample rather than a highlight.
#89 The Cabin Fever – Untimely Loss
The only track by someone I actually know on this list, a song my friend Dan wrote and recorded about Trish from Broadcast, who died early in 2011.
#88 The Antlers – Parentheses
The people at Drowned In Sound are crazy about this group. This track is here on the strength of a single riff. It’s a very good riff and is repeated a lot.
#87 Lana Del Ray – Video Games
Witty, insightful and convincing, a pitch-perfect satire on submissive women with asshole boyfriends which takes all the tropes of fashion and lifestyle journalism and plays them with utter conviction – and everyone seems to love it.
#86 Chris Brown – Look at me now (feat. Busta Rhymes & Lil Wayne)
A bit conflicted over this one. On one hand it’s Chris Brown boasting to Rihanna that he’s got lots of money now, a couple of years after he beat her up. Which is obviously not very nice. On the other hand it’s one of the strongest rap tracks of the year, and contain’s Busta Rhymes best performance for the best part of a decade. Which is obviously brilliant. The truth is that some of the greatest music of the last century has been produced by some morally fairly reprehensible people, and whatever crap Busta Rhymes lends himself to it’s always worth a listen.
#85 The War on Drugs – Baby Missiles
So there’s this band that sound exactly like mid-seventies Springsteen and they’ve written this song and somehow it’s amazing. Don’t ask me how this happened.
#84 Ritualz (†‡†) – Ghetto Ass Witch Ft. Gvcci Hvcci (Vagina Vangi Remix)
Easily the most annoying song title / band name combo to write in 2011. Anyway, witch house, will it coalesce into a single sound? If so it could sound something like this. Please.
#83 La Femme – Sur la planche
Jagged, angular, fast-paced French indie-pop song all about surfing.
#82 Raffertie – Visual Acuity
Just his usual filthy genre-blending IDM, a highlight of 2011 for those who happen to like that sort of thing.
#81 Raiden – Barbican
From Beton Arme, a D&B concept album about Britain’s brutalist architecture. That might sound unbelievably, ludicrously pretentious to lots of people, but just judge it on the results. I’m not sure who this is for, or who if anyone will buy it, but I can safely say the world is a richer place just for its existence.
#80 Rainbo Video – Ultraviolet
There is pretty much no information whatsoever available on this band, so I’ll just quote the 20jazzfunkgreats entry that led me to this in the first place –
“Ultraviolet takes that disconcertingly (and contradictory) modernist baroque that Steve Reich popularised and harnesses it to a almost pastoral melody that suggests not golden fields and ancient trees, but nebula and gas giants and impossible distances and the aeons old gravitational dance of galaxies. It is the sound of giddy excitement at fantastic detail. An orgy of data driving the rapidity of the notes; a clear drone binding in place the looping and falling of the rest of the track.” http://www.20jazzfunkgreats.co.uk/wordpress/2011/07/the-space-shuttle-nievete/
#79 Julianna Barwick – Prizewinning
An astonishing voice, looped and layered until it sounds like a Cathedral full of hymn-singing ghosts. It’s the kind of thing that people describe as “ethereal” and “transcendent” which seems like grasping at words for something fundamentally wordless.
#78 Zomby – Digital Rain
Perfectly named – cascades of casiotone raindrops from this year’s most compelling electronic minimalist.
#77 Eleanor Friedberger – My Mistakes
Her from the Fiery Furnaces. I wouldn’t usually say that I liked something because it’s “catchy” but this seems a good place to start.
#76 Belong – Keep Still
Sad, choral ambient, beautifully descending to a terrible place, like the realisation of some unpleasant truth.
#75 The Horrors – Still Life
In which The Horrors say “fuck it, why not turn into Simple Minds” and play it straight enough that it works.
#74 Rizzle Kicks – Down With The Trumpets
The kids are alright.
#73 Thurston Moore – Circulation
2011:Thurston Moore breaks up Sonic Youth after 30 years, breaks up with Kim Gordon, then releases this muffled acoustic baroque pop delight.
#72 Azari & III – Manic
From Toronto, two Detroit-style techno engineers and two camp black soul singers with a dark, funky track about manic depression… somehow this is completely successful in every way.
#71 Moon Wiring Club – Kindly Cavort
I don’t really know anything about this except that it’s really, really weird and makes me feel very odd indeed. There’s a facetious and unhelpful biography here – http://www.blankworkshop.co.uk/page7.htm – did I mention how much I like weird music and facetious and unhelpful biographies? Sinister.
#70 Nicola Roberts – Beat of My Drum
Pop star releases commercial pop song, critics praise it, the public entirely fail to buy it, then half a year later it’s in all the best-of lists. Including this one. Sorry, I could try to be different, but I do actually like it. Better without the terrible video of course.
#69 Teebs – Cook, Clean, Pay the Rent (New House Version)
Floating, dreamy, airborne hammond-organ space instrumental
#68 The Antlers – No Widows
I was a bit suspicious of anything being touted as the “saviour of indie music” this year. Indie doesn’t need saving, it needs putting out of its misery at this stage. But who cares what other people say? This song won me over completely.
#67 Pale Sketcher – Wash It All Away (King Midas Sound Remix)
Apparently Pale Sketcher is Jesu and King Midas Sound is The Bug. I hope that clears things up. This takes something dark and sad and adds HARD to the mix, with terrific results.
#66 Jazzsteppa And Foreign Beggars – Raising The Bar (Stray Remix)
This is exactly like a dark and dirty D&B remix of something off Squarepusher’s ‘Go Plastic’ album – so not really breaking new ground, but smashing up old ground pretty effectively.
#65 Buraka Som Sistema – Hangover (Bababa)
BabababababababababababababababaBABA NyehnyehnyehnyehnyehnyehnyehnyehnyehnyehnyehnyehnyehnyehnyehNYEHNYEH DoodoodoodoodoodoodoodoodoodoodooDOODOO BabaBABA BababababaBABA
#64 Factory Floor – Two Different Ways (Original)
Hypnotic, spiralling krautrock techno, like Neu! set free on FL Studio.
#63 Solar Bears – Twin Stars
Swooshy sci-fi electronica from Ireland with creepy scattered drums.
#62 Body Language – Social Studies
A simply lovely little indie-electro-pop song from the summer which somehow slipped under the radar of even the music blogs. There must be millions out there who’d love this.
#61 The Oh Sees – The Dream
Heavy, propulsive garage punk. The pitchfork review of their album says “Dwyer’s guitar playing is best described in terms usually reserved for feral cats”. That’s about right.
#60 Toddla T – Streets So Warm feat. Wayne Marshall & Skream
This year’s best politically-minded 8-bit dancehall reggae track. I’m not entirely sure what it’s about though – has the government covertly installed under-floor heated roads? The public must be told.
#59 Mutated Forms – Doubts
Reckless, dirty, out-of-control D&B from Estonia.
#58 Iceage – Broken Bone
Frenetic indie-punk from Copenhagen, where traditional indie-punk handcrafting skills have been handed down to a new generation. Their album ‘New Brigade’ is great from start to finish – if this is your kind of thing then I’d seriously advise you to give it a listen.
#57 Redlight – Source 16
#56 Washed Out – You and I
Not one of the more popular tracks from Washed Out’s ‘Within and Without’, and not exactly one of the best either, but I kept coming back to it for the vocals from Caroline Polachek of Chairlift – they are really something very special. They don’t start until 3.20. Until just now I thought she sung “I forget all of your favourite tenses” but it’s really “I forget all of your vain pretenses” which is not quite as special.
#55 Makoto – Bubbles
Euphoric amen-breaky effervescent goodness.
#54 Friends – I’m His Girl
Right-on gender politics + sexiness + funky bassline. I challenge anyone to listen to this and not love it.
#53 Solar Bears – Cub (Keep Shelley In Athens Mix)
No song this year seemed to be without a Keep Shelley In Athens remix, but as good as they are they seemed to peak with this dark soft rock / house dream / nightmare from last January. There are lots of very familiar things here, but this may be the first time they’ve all been jumbled up in this wonderful way.
#52 tUnE-yArDs – Powa
This is probably not the best way to get anyone into tUnE-yArDs, but it’s the song that finally got me hooked. An exercise in simplicity and waiting, it shows exactly what she’s capable of.
#51 Vortex Rikers – Collapsed
Dark ambient grave wave post-dubstep witch house from Germany. Apparently. Moody, clangy programmed atmospherics.
#50 Bill Ryder-Jones – A Leave Taking
The guy from The Coral with a simple but breathtaking piano and strings piece. The video is equally beautiful, but very NSFW.
#49 Mord Fustang – Lick The Rainbow
Dubby commercial electro. Every time I listen to it, it goes something like this – “Why did I pick this?” “Hm, it’s not very good, is it?” “Oh, this bit’s ok” “Hold on, bit rubbish again” “Yeah, bit better again” “OH! THAT’S WHY!” (NB – His other tracks all sound EXACTLY the same, don’t bother investigating)
#48 Eddy Current Suppression Ring – Walking in Unison
From Australia, garage punk krautrock. Why didn’t anyone think of this before? Ten minutes isn’t enough.
#47 きゃりーぱみゅぱみゅ – PONPONPON
There’s no point in even trying to write about this. Just watch the video. Watch it now.
#46 Toddla T – Take It Back (Dillon Francis Remix)
Toddla T and Shola Ama get a moombahton remix. Best after it kicks in, as these things usually are.
#45 The Caretaker – All you are going to want to do is get back there
“You were the caretaker here, Mr. Grady.”
“No sir, you are the caretaker. You’ve always been the caretaker. I ought to know: I’ve always been here.”
#44 Röyksopp – Shores of Easy
I’d completely forgotten about Röyksopp. Maybe you had too. Well, apparently they’re still around and still as good as ever. Technically this hasn’t been released yet – I expect it to be in next year’s lists.
#43 Patrick Wolf – The City
Incandescent, joyful pop song.
#42 AlunaGeorge – You Know You Like It
Unsigned sultry R&B singer Aluna Francis and electro producer George Reid. God, this is brilliant. Why is it only at number 42? Should’ve put it higher.
#41 A Winged Victory for the Sullen – Steep Hills of Vicodin Tears
According to the AV Club “one of the top 10 all-time worst names we’ve encountered“. Yeah, it’s not a great name, but it’s not really important when the music is as exquisite as this.
#40 Siriusmo – Einmal in der Woche schreien
What is this? Weird German electro, very odd and very fun.
#39 ▼▲▼vagina vangi – Of Chaos And Hell
Russian Hardcore New Romantic Witch House. This could be massive. Doesn’t really kick in until about three minutes in, so be patient, I promise it’s worth it.
#38 Katy B – Katy on a Mission
Yes, yes, I know it was out in 2010, but the album was released in 2011, so it’s here. Another evocation of a great night out, and the best of a brace of great singles.
#37 Blanck Mass – Land Disasters
The best wall of noise since Surgeon’s remix of Mogwai Fear Satan. In the distant future all music will sound like this.
#36 Ghostpoet – Survive It
Though my view is a long distance one, 2011 seemed like a pretty depressing time for some people in the UK. Ghostpoet is one of only a few to work with this mood so far, and easily the best I’ve heard.
#35 Thundercat – For Love I Come
Bob James style 1970s Jazz-Funk, but sounding fresh and new.
#34 Florrie – Begging Me
What’s going on with pop music? In a logical world this would’ve been number one all summer, instead it’s an independent release listened to by a handful of music bloggers. 2011 is weird.
#33 Boys Noize & Erol Alkan ft Jarvis Cocker – Avalanche (Terminal Velocity)
Slow-building, propulsive, mechanical electro, with Jarvis’s best vocal for the best part of a decade. Another one that seemed to slip out un-noticed.
#32 Death Grips – I Want It I Need It (Death Heated)
Californian experimental hip-hop group with this year’s best use of a great sample. One of those “why didn’t anyone think of doing that before?” moments.
#31 Wolfgang Gartner – Cognitive Dissonance
Just a very high quality electro-house track, bafflingly not included on his album this year.
#30 Timber Timbre – Black Water
Dusty, smokey, swampy, Deep-South-Americana, although apparently they are a folk band from Canada. Love that little rising middle-eight.
#29 Misanthrop – Latitude
Relentlessly dark high-BPM German drum & bass. Good stuff.
#28 Washed Out – Before
What is she saying? It used to sound like “ahee” to me, but people seem to think it’s “Paris” spoken with a French accent.
#27 The Greg Foat Group – Yeah You Are
THERE’S NOTHING WRONG WITH ADMITTING YOU LIKE PSYCHEDELIC JAZZ
#26 I Break Horses – Load Your Eyes
Difficult to pick one track off an excellent album, but this one sums up what’s special about this band pretty well.
#25 Patrick Wolf – Together
Yep, more Patrick Wolf.
Lupercalia didn’t receive great reviews – a pop LP about the joys of domesticity was never going to. Perhaps in a few years people will pick it up again and recognise it for what it is – some the best pop music of the year.
I played this to the wife and she didn’t like it. Which made me :(
The video is a bit odd, not really in a good way either. What are the taxidermied foxes doing there?
#24 Buggsy & Joker – Music (4am)
Slipped out on Joker’s twitter in June, seemingly un-noticed. Better than anything on his album.
#23 The Stepkids – Shadows On Behalf
Melodic, soulful psych-rock, somewhere between ’67 and ’68. Guitar music this year seems much better when it’s looking backwards. That can’t be a particularly healthy sign.
#22 London Elektricity – Invisible Worlds (featuring Elsa Esmeralda)
Fairly good drum & bass album ‘Yikes’ ends with this epic climax. It seems like if you’re making good music in a non-new genre you’ll be completely ignored if and when you produce something incredible. Not that the album was a flop, but there’s a lot of people out there who should’ve heard this but didn’t. I’d like to hear him try a whole album along these lines.
#21 Bill Wells & Aidan Moffat – The Copper Top
Sombre, graceful song about mortality. With some artists you worry that they’ll run out of steam before they hit 30, but with Aiden getting older seems to just give him a greater level of insight.
#20 Ga’an – Arms They Speak
Magma-like drone-prog, hypnotic drums and organs, very promising stuff.
#19 Azealia Banks – 212
Every month or so a music video by a previously unknown artist goes viral. Sometimes it’s mainly about the visuals, and the song itself is fairly incidental. Some inspire brief fevered debate and are then quickly forgotten. Some are just enough of a novelty to get noticed, due to being strange or offensive. It’s quite telling that nobody seems to have accused Azealia Banks of the last of these despite the incredible rudeness of the song. Even after a few months of watching this video it still seems fresh and exciting – the birth of a brilliant raw talent. She’s got a lot of expectations to live up to.
#18 Feed Me – Strange Behaviour
Melancholy commercial-sounding dubstep. It’s so hard to put this singer, these words, these sounds, these beats together and make it work so well. This really shouldn’t work. Why does it work?
#17 Dillon Francis & Diplo feat. Maluca – Que Que
The “moombahton banger.” I’m still not sure what the defining characteristics of moombahton are. There seems to be a single production technique (take reggaeton records and slow them down a house BPM, then add extra production), but the results are all very different. This song (especially with the video) is fairly disorientating.
#16 Lindstrøm – De Javu
Bubbling, whirling, stuttering death-disco. If I had a club I’d play this last thing every night.
#15 The Caretaker – Camaraderie at arms length
Is it fair to credit this to The Caretaker? Is this from 2011 or 1925? Not sure on either count. Certainly he’s done some outstanding curation and production here. Absolutely magical.
#14 High Contrast – The First Note Is Silent (feat Tiesto & Underworld)
Do these three things go together? Yes, apparently they do. It’s the little backwards string sample at the end of the chorus that gets me. How can something so strange still sound so commercial? I was sure this was going to be a massive hit, then it limped into the charts in the mid 50s. Poor show, Britain.
#13 Reso – War Machine
Heavy, complex, intense drumstep. Not really cool enough to win any prizes, but nothing beats listening to this when you’re cycling around Beijing.
#12 Michael Kiwanuka – Tell Me a Tale
Very hard to believe this is from 2011 – the kind of soulful, lovingly orchestrated performance you never seem to hear these days. In a sense it feels wrong to just look backwards, but when there’s a song and a voice like this involved I don’t care…. and what a voice!
#11 Ga’an – Servant Eye
More drone-prog. Found this at the Altered Zones blog where it’s available for free download – they say
“Ga’an strikes us immediately with its immense, visceral energy, its totalizing vision and sound. For a “prog” record, however, it reveals a strong minimalist ethic, and very little in the way of virtuosity or unnecessary fanfare. Like the operatic prog-rockers Magma, Ga’an know how to be ambitious without falling back on the self-indulgence of the elongated instrumental solo. Instead of distracting digressions or dead-ends, they channel their energy into dynamics, levels, and texture. In standout passages “I of Infinite Forms Pt. II” and “Vultures of the Horn,” it takes only the most nuanced of key changes— like the sly introduction of a keyboard line over some stumbling drums— to shift the sound from a haunting death march to a wash of spaced-out textures. In this, Ga’an are similar to Isis, using subtle shifts in dynamics to pummeling and entrancing effect.”
Love the drumming on this one!
#10 Feed Me – Pink Lady
Nasty electro-dubstep with a magnificently contorted bassline. There’s been a lot of silly talk this year about “brostep,” much of which seems to be of the “I don’t like this music because [people I don't like] listen to it” – always a pretty suspicious argument. I’d rather listen to Skrillex than James Blake, sorry if that offends anyone.
#9 Clock Opera – Lesson No. 7
What’s this, a proper indie rock band in the top ten? And with a singer whose voice I don’t really like? Surely some mistake!
#8 DJ Fresh – Louder (ft. Sian Evans) (Flux Pavillion And Doctor P Remix)
A remix of the first ever drum & bass number one (just ok, and not really drum & bass for the most part) rips it up and starts again. No more to say about this really, just watch the video.
#7 Washed Out – Eyes Be Closed
It’s strange listening to such a summer song in the depths of winter, but you can always just dream about next year.
#6 Future Islands – Before the Bridge
At first it was hard to take Samuel Herring’s voice seriously. I still suspect he’s a character from The Mighty Boosh. But this song transcends its ridiculousness – they take it so seriously that I can’t help but belive them. I suspect that as the 2012 goes by I’ll get more and more into this band.
#5 Nero – Angst
1867 – Mussorgsky writes ‘Night On Bald Mountain’
1886 – Rimsky-Korsakov arranges a new “fantasy for orchestra” version
1940 – Stokowski creates a new arrangement based on Rimsky-Korsakov’s which becomes well-known after it features in the Disney film ‘Fantasia’.
1977 – David Shire makes a disco version for the film ‘Saturday Night Fever’ – ‘Night on Disco Mountain’
2007 – French electro duo Justice sample ‘Night on Disco Mountain’ for a track called ‘Stress’
2011 – Stadium dubstep act Nero remix ‘Stress’, retitle it ‘Angst’ and hide it away on the bonus disc on their number one album. It’s the nastiest, darkest, heaviest dubstep track of the year. Chilling. Magnificent.
#4 Food Pyramid – E-Harmony
This was recorded in 2009, but only released at the time on an extremely obscure limited edition cassette. 2011 saw it given the proper CD release it deserves. Shimmering, psychadelic krautrock – builds and builds and builds and builds….
#3 Kelpe – Same New Era
Every sound here twists an stutters in perfect chaos. No matter how many times I listen to it, the moment two minutes into this track when it all kicks in still has some strange magical power.
#2 John Maus – Believer
Speaking of magical powers, what strange wizardry has John Maus happened upon here? There’s noting organic about this song, but it feels utterly alive. Placed near the end of “We Must Become The Pitiless Censors Of Ourselves, it’s the moment when a patchy album somehow explodes into messy perfection. Ecstatic.
#1 Toro y Moi – Still Sound
So, finally we reach number one, and it’s a personal choice, as perhaps it had to be. In February 2011 my son was born, one week late. He was over four kilos, and my wife is quite petite, so we were quite worried about the birth. Just before delivery we had a huge scare when the baby’s heart started slowing down as he couldn’t get enough oxygen, and an emergency caesarean had to be performed. And then everything suddenly went from panic to joy – both the baby and my wife were absolutely fine. The next few days I took the local bus backwards and forwards between the house and the hospital, and listened to Toro Y Moi’s “Underneath The Pine”. It was the one part of the day I had nothing else to do, so I’d just close my eyes and feel happy. Outside a barren winter had finished and a blanket of fresh snow lay on the ground. The sky was clear and blue.
Listening later in the year I had to admit the album was a little patchy. Large parts of the second half are little more than unfocused jazzy noodling. But this song will always remind me of those days. If it didn’t have these connections then I suspect it would still be up here in the top ten.
This is all also to be found at http://haonowshaokao.com/tag/2011-tracks/ - with youtube videos and all that.