Over the next 10 days, I’ll be counting down my 100 favorite songs of 2011, and posting them here along with a link to a corresponding Spotify Playlist where you should be able to listen to MOST of the tracks. I don’t claim to be a musicologist, and I know my descriptions aren’t the most thoughtful. Still, for those of you who are interested in my tastes, I thought you’d appreciate this:
100. Poor Eliza – Chris Bathgate
From the album “Salt Year”
Chris Bathgate first came to my attention in 2008 with the song Serpentine. What always draws me into a song is the voice I think. Chris Bathgate has a deeply soulful yet muted voice. However, in this particular track, its this hand plucked riff paired with deeply powerful simple, mournful lyrics. “It Is What It Is What It Is” That description doesn’t really do it credit. The instrumentation is alive with fiddle and you can feel Bathgate’s deepest thoughts with each strum of his guitar.
99. Wait For Me – Motopony
from the album “Motopony”
Opening with what may be the most unique percussion line of the year, this gradually building ballad is an outlier on Motopony’s self titled debut. Its much quieter and less showy than tracks like “Seer” but it has a potent sweetness of the love song to the girl who hasn’t yet come. “I Learn The Depths of Love and Have, but never given how to wait.”
98. Second Chance – Peter Bjorn And John
from the album “Gimme Some”
Whisleable non lyrical hooks, addictive hand claps, cow bells, sure there’s a certain level of pandering to their hipster base that happens on the new Peter Bjorn and John album, but it doesn’t matter, because this song just makes you want to move your hips. This song reminds me of the best of bands like “Fountains Of Wayne” and reminds me why we dug this band in the first place. They’re becoming less of “That band that had that cute song with the whistling” and more of a band that threatens to be around for a while.
97. Swallowing The Decibels – Yeasayer
from the EP “End Blood”
Dark, layered with beeps and bloops and random sounds. It sounds like the musical equivelant of worms eat a dead animal,but in the best possible way. Textured would be an understatement for a band who continue to surprise me for the sounds they make come out of their synthesizers. Then at about the 2:20 mark, some Kraftwerk-lite synths come in with a sudden clarity of sound. An adventure.
96. Joseph’s Head – The Paradise Motel
from the album “I Still Hear Your Voice At Night”
The fact that the first 30 seconds of this sounds like a cross between Edward Sharp and the Magnetic Zeros and the mid 2000’s band Caribou is not likely to mean much to many other people. We continue with the trend of sing along lyric-free choruses. I think what sells this song for me again is the slow build and the vocals from Merida Sussex and that gorgeous Hammond organ that is playing in the background juxtiposed against a steady building drum line and horns. I cannot believe this band has been around for 17 years and I’m only coming around to them now.
95. Gravity Loves You – Kelly Hunt
from the album “Gravity Loves You”
Sometimes a song just need a good bluesy soulful singer to sell it. That’s kind of how I feel about this one. Kelly Hunt is not a singer I was previously aware of before I heard this song, but if I weren’t married, I would love to be the subject of this song.
I adore Kathleen Edwards. Her voice, her songwriting, her lyrics. Its been a while since we’ve had a new CD from her, and if this is any indicaiton her January 2012 release will be worth waiting for. Grungy distorted guitars matched with her inheirantly sunny yet experienced voice. Hers is a sound that inspires optimism tempered by practicality.
For many people, The Civil Wars were THE folk discovery of 2011. I haven’t yet drunk the Kool-Aid on it yet, but I have to conceed, they sell their sound with incredibly powerful vocals and committed instrumentation. This slow backtempo track is perfect for a country drive.
92. Cannons – Youth Lagoon
from the album “A Year Of Hibernation”
There’s nothing inheirantly unique about this song or this band. I instantly sense a sort of My Morning Jacket vibe with the highly distorted ‘singing-from-the-bottom-of-a-well’ sound we here on this track. But the distorted keyboard work and the voccals are both pleasant enough to keep my attention for most of its 3:48 running time.
91. Baby Can I Crawl Back To You – Gurf Morlix
from the album “Blaze Foley’s 113 Wet Dream”
Unapologetic Americana folk music here. There’s no way to desribe it other than that. It is also from the album which gets my vote for most unique Album title of 2011: Blaze Foley’s 113th Wet Dream