Top Songs of 2011.

OK, as usual the criteria is simple.  It has to be – consider the source.  The song had to be released in 2011 and I had to like it enough to pay money for it.  I was going to do the traditional Top 10, but the first cut included over 30 songs, so let’s see if I can narrow it down just a bit…

Not content to release one of the biggest Alt-Rock albums of 2010, the Akron, Ohio based Black Keys come in under the year-end wire with El Camino.  “Lonely Boy” is the first single and will catch your attention quickly.  At the same time sounding vintage and new, it’s a high speed rock n’ roll dance tune that will get you moving and singing along.

First let me say that I love how divisive Coldplay have become.  The band that the critics and the hipsters love to hate.  Well, I have a new acronym for you , “FUILCP”… Have we become so cynical that a band that has become successful for recording well crafted pop that makes you smile and you can sing along to on the radio is a bad thing?  Sure they’re treacly, but so is pumpkin pie – and I love pumpkin pie!  On to the songs!  The first two singles off of the new album Mylo Xyloto are a contrast in styles for sure.  ETiaW is classic Coldplay.  Starting out with a bouncy (yes I said “bouncy”) synth part that is more than vaguely reminiscent of the Eighties, it then proceeds to flow into a guitar sound that would make Big Country proud.  I have no real idea what the song is about, but damn if I can get it out of my head.  “Paradise”, on the other hand, is rather atypical of a Coldplay song.  It wouldn’t completely sound out of place on a Justin Timberlake album, production wise.  Chris Martin’s singing of  “Para, Para, Paradise” in the chorus makes me laugh and think of Rhianna.

Death Cab’s lead man, Ben Gibbard’s introduction of this song on Storytellers goes something like this – “being that I’m a happily married man now, I figure I can put a love song on the album.”  He and his wife separated soon after.  Ironic, huh?  That notwithstanding, “Stay Young, Go Dancing” is a lovely, wistful love song.

OK, time to gush… I love, love, love, love this girl.  I discovered her first album earlier this year and have tried to listen to everything I can find and expose as many others to her and her wonderful song-craft. Think if Kate Bush, Anne Lennox, and Tim Burton had a love child.  Yeah, I know!  “What The Water Gave Me” is a gothic, melodramatic torch song, or something like that.  You just have to hear that voice and you’ll know.

Dave Grohl is doing his level best to keep guitar based rock music alive.  I’d say he’s done a great job with this year’s Wasting Light.  The album is chock full of great songs, but my hands down favorite is “Walk”. Listen to the lyrics.  If you know me, you should be able to piece it together. It’s also got one of the coolest Foo Fighters’ videos ever!

I wasn’t real familiar with Kasabian before I heard this song, but they get my “The Next Oasis” award.  There will always be a place in my heart and my cochlea for snarling Brit rock.  The Album is Velociraptor, because “Raptors are the glammest of all dinosaurs”. ‘Nuff said?  “Days Are Forgotten” is a stomping, swinging rock song full of cheeky attitude.  It’s best played with the windows down and the volume up!

A number of others have already declared Adele’s ubiquitous hit the song of the year.  It has even been nominated for the Song of the Year Grammy.  It’s a gut wrenching tale of lost love, for sure.  The Linkin Park cover, recorded live, adds just a bit of Chester Bennington’s trademark anger to the song.  I highly recommend adding both to your post breakup playlist.  One for sad, the other for mad as hell!

These two go together because I saw them both open for the Foo Fighters.  Social D has gone from an early Southern California punk rock band to a more mainstream rock sound over the years.  “California (Hustle and Flow)” finds them dropping a bit of soul into the mix. Mike Ness sings “Well I was born, babe, with nothing to lose, But the black man taught me how to sing the blues…”  That tells you everything.
The Joy Formidable create a special sound. Call it noise-pop, if you will.  The trio hails from Wales and fronted by the diminutive Ritzy Bryan.  Swirling, layered and noisy guitars only serve the enhance her sweet alto voice and the melodic structure of the song.

Here we have a trio of bands that made their marks originally in the 1990s and have come roaring back in the second decade of the 21st century.  Blink 182’s ode to the worries of adulthood is a slamming piece of pop-punk that’ll get you pogoing for sure.  (Dated myself there a bit, huh).  Jane’s Addiction’s “Irresistible Force” is a love song about the symbiosis between Creationism and the Big Bang Theory. Seriously. Perry Farrell said so.  “Sunset in July” is as an infectious and bouncy Summer dance hit as there was this year, on Alt-Rock radio anyway.

OK, this is where I go off of the mainstream reservation on you.  Here are a trio of bands who’ve become the critics darlings, but probably have eluded most everyone’s radar.  Wild Flag is a Portland, Oregon/Washington, D.C. based all woman band consisting of ex-members of the bands Sleater-Kinney, Helium and The Minder. U.S. Royalty is out of Washington D.C. and the young lads of the Smith Westerns hail from Chicago.  “Romance” is a pulsing rocker with a great win guitar attack.  “Monte Carlo” sounds like Rumors era Fleetwood Mac with a gentle fiddle melody.  “Weekend” is a Strokes like nugget that will get you itching for some open asphalt.

There’s something about this song that makes me feel like morning.   It has kind of a hazy energy that’s pretty irresistible.  The video is a game of musical chairs with models, pretty clever.

Great Big Rock Songs!  That’s Seether’s speciality.  So here, they crank it back a notch and release an almost sensitive love song.  Almost.

The RHCP are back in a big way this year.  Flea brings the Funk on this track, with a Bootsy approved groove.  Lyrically it’s fairly typical Chili Peppers, not sure WTH Anthony is singing about, but it works.

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