Friday, December 30, 2011

Best of 2011: Wilco - "Black Moon"

The strongest arrangements since Yankee Foxtrot reside on The Whole Love. I'm always a sucker for subtle finger-picking and string accompaniments, which makes "Black Moon" one of my favorite songs of the year.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Best of 2011: The War on Drugs - "I Was There"

Slave Ambient often borders a little too closely on sleepy, adult contemporary pop, but the lush, cool melodies of "I Was There" prop it above most of the other songs included to make it one of the best tracks of the year.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Best of 2011: James Blake - "The Wilhelm Scream"

David Byrne said it best: "The robotic repetition of the few words that he uses starts to build up and it becomes this emotional incantation. Maybe I'm completely reading into it, but it's really amazing that it's not just electronics-- there's actually heart in there somewhere."

Friday, December 23, 2011

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Best of 2011: Shabazz Palaces - "Are You... Can You... Were You? (Felt)"

This one is tough. "Swerve..." is such a great song but it gets all the love so I'm going with "Are You... Can You... Were You? (Felt)" as Shabazz's top track. The chill groove is so slick, and should we expect less from the part of the trip responsible for "Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat)"? Both of these songs by Shabazz Palaces would be included if I extended the list out a few songs.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Best of 2011: WU LYF - "Cave Song"

WU LYF intend to inspire on an epic scale; the sort of sweeping compositions that hearken to Explosions in the Sky. The key difference: whereas Explosions is all instrumental, WU frontman, Ellery Roberts, sings with one of the most distinguishing guttural growls you'll ever hear. Somehow the blend works perfectly. "Cave Song" is the highlight, a relentlessly momentous, up-tempo rock anthem.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Best of 2011: Unknown Mortal Orchestra - "Nerve Damage!"

I've been waiting all my life for someone to embrace Peter Frampton's talking guitar. And I'll most likely continue to wait, but at least Unknown Mortal Orchestra start "Nerve Damage!" with a sweet introduction. The guitars, the weird mix of falsetto and baritone vocals and the surfy/psychedelic vibes make this a 2011 favorite of mine.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Best of 2011: St. Vincent - "Northern Lights"

Over the past few years there hasn't been a more exciting guitarist than Annie Clark. When you hear her wonky guitar licks and solos you envy her skill-level, when you hear the use of all her pedal and digital effects you gasp at her originality, and when you hear her expertly complex yet catchy compositions you realize there isn't a better pure guitarist and songwriter working today. The new record, Strange Mercy has exceeded all the already high expectations she set for herself, and is without a doubt her best collection of material to date. There isn't a dull track to speak of so it's hard to pick a favorite. I'm going with "Northern Lights," a momentous song with abrasive, mechanical guitar chaos and a production style that would fit right in with TV on the Radio's best work.

Another great song as an example of how sick her guitar skills are (skip to 1:38 if you don't wanna wait): "Surgeon"

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Best of 2011: Cass McCombs - "County Line"

"County Line" is just good old-fashioned singer/songwriter heartbreak, and it's a top 5 track of the year.

I feel so blind
I can't make out
The passing road signs

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Best of 2011: Caveman - "Decide"

Saw these guys open for Yuck back in April at the Bowery Ballroom, prompting me to search for a download as soon as I got home. The strongest track they played I recognized immediately, "Decide" has a Grizzly Bear feel, complete with reverb guitar and falsetto harmonies. The album as a whole is a bit uneven but there weren't many tracks I played more than this one in 2011.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Best of 2011: The Pains of Being Pure at Heart - "Heart in Your Heartbreak"

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart further 90's influenced indie rock's surge with their new record. Traces of Smashing Pumpkins and My Bloody Valentine can be heard throughout, but the best song here sounds like an homage to early Belle and Sebastian. "Heart in Your Heartbreak" is too damn catchy to leave off a best tracks of 2011 list.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Best of 2011: Destroyer - "Blue Eyes"

Who doesn't love the smooth sounds of Kenny G? I know I don't. But somehow Destroyer implements those completely unhip smooth jazz sounds of the 80's into one of the best records of the year. "Kaputt" has the great video but the strongest track is "Blue Eyes," with its bluesy female back-up singer and it's jazzy sax, shit don't get much sexier than this.

"I thumb through the books on your shelves."

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Best of 2011: Fucked Up - "The Other Shoe"

Fucked Up is making some of the most melodic, forward-thinking punk rock I've ever heard. On "The Other Shoe", by fusing the angelic voice of Sandy Miranda with the guttural scream of Damian Abraham they somehow harmoniously unite the opposing worlds of pop and hardcore. The instrumentation steps beyond the distorted, three-power-chord progression it begins with, adding arpeggio guitar licks and volume effects, while the rhythm section continues to build the song to its mid-song climax. A top 5 track of the year for me; it's great to hear good hard rock still being created.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Best of 2011: Cities Aviv - "Coastin'"

Echoes of all your favorite 90's hip-hop in Cities Aviv, but this isn't derivative by any stretch. A sample of Shirley Bassey's "Easy to Be Hard" sets you up and a 4/4 beat pulls you in. Remember when rappers rapped about things? Cities does. "Don't call it a comeback, just call it a grand entrance."

Monday, December 5, 2011

Best of 2011: Beach Fossils - "Face It"

Absolutely gorgeous bass and clean-tone guitar melodies, perfectly blended male/female harmonies -- even without the presence of solid percussion, "Face It" is a top track of the year.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Best of 2011: Yuck - "Shook Down"

Yuck dances around all your favorite 90's indie rock melodies while avoiding outright plagiarism. Sure, it's not the most original of material but they embrace the sound so wholeheartedly you can't help but be affected. They sway between soft ballads and noisy guitar distortion, both of which they do so well. It's so hard for me to pick a favorite but I'm going to go with "Shook Down", the song with their strongest melodies and harmonies.

The official video is too strange for the song, but check it out here if you want (NSFW penis/titty/vagina shots).

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Best of 2011: Bon Iver - "Minnesota, WI"

Congrats to Bon Iver for their song of the year Grammy nomination with "Holocene." The best song on the album though is Minnesaot, WI by a wide margin.