Sunday, January 8, 2012

24 Songs for the New Year, Coutesy of the Old Year (2011's Best Songs)

Dear Kristin,
I have some songs for you.*  You will not be surprised.  With few exceptions, these have all been loved on by me and the blog throughout the year.  But now they are in one place!  And numbered!  Are they in order?  Kind of.  In an effort to go from most expected to almost surprising, they're in order from firsts to last.  The first five are my top five.  The first ten are my top ten.  In these five group chunks, all songs are created equal.  (I do have a list on Spotify of of 102 almosts, near Top 25ers, that promises an odd one or two.)

1.  Bon Iver - Holocene;  Best during winter/spring thaw.  This one made me cry on a recent transatlantic flight.  An indulgent, private cry.  (Note: Airplanes and airports often make me cry.)

2.  Cass McCombs - County Line; Fall, when everything is falling.  I've been listening to this since I was 16. So much impossible wanting and not wanting, so much home.

3.  Girls - Honey Bunny; Summer, of the barbequing, making friends with strangers, doin' a skippy jig on the sidewalk variety. THAT'S A CROP TOP HE'S WEARING.  

4.   Lana Del Ray - Video Games; Spring into summer, the first time you've sweat in months.  For better or for worse, this is my most listened to song of the year.  It's languid and big, consistently paced, features a harp, and boasts about three times the play-count of any other song on my little computer's iTunes.  Which is not a surprise, as I listened to it for eight straight hours one afternoon. It shimmers.

5.  Robyn - Call Your Girlfriend;  A song for all seasons.  It's got the winter longing, the fall falls apart, the summer sweaty dance party.  And yet, "Here is the thing, sometimes, there are moments...I feel like Robyn fucking HATES dancing.  Right? I get it, she is supposed to like it, like really be 'into' it, but maybe she also really fucking HATES it."  - Kristin L.

She did such a good job!  So much dance and whoop!  I still dream about that backwards roll.

6. Cut Copy - Need You Now; My dance: big hands, big arms, lots of beckoning and running in place.  An 80s-ish romp I will listen to and love when I'm eighty.  Can you imagine how happy I'll be at eighty when this surprises me as I try on skirt-suits and big hats in some department store dressing room?

7.  Florence and the Machine - Shake It Out; Dance: a song for hair flips and swings. As I've documented.  As you've seen with your own eyes.

8.  Patrick Wolf - The City; Dance: arm flail and spins!  It's our song, except we don't kiss.  Hell, we barely even hug.

9.  M83 - Midnight City; Damn near everyone's song of the year. (Thanks for the long-ago tip, Jane).  Dance:  Only you know what's right for you and Midnight C.

10.  Austra - Lose It; Dance:  Become witch and wave limbs/stoop/crouch/hop like a bunny.  Follow Katie Stalmanis's lead in this pre-Austra, though totally Austra, video.

We knew her when.

11.  Jay - Z & Kanye West - Niggas in Paris; Sometimes I daydream about dating Kanye.  We fight a lot.  This is the song I'm listening to most right now.

12.  Adele (Jamie XX) - Rolling in the Deep;  We've all wept to Adele.  Now you are permitted to clap to her.

13.  Metronomy - The Look; jaunty and not afraid to synthisize.  Reminds me of the color blue.  Tropical blue.  And they're from Brighton, England!  Which is where I live!  But they don't seem to play here much anymore!  So, it's a wash.

14.  St. Vincent - Cruel; this girl's got a hell of a face, no?  And a hell of a voice.  Pipes, even.  She's also good at telling a vaguely discernible story that's vaguely 50s sweet and vaguely dead end scary. 

15.  James Blake - Wilhelm Scream; also slightly nightmarish, but pre-nightmare, the fantasy in the pre-dream, almost nightmare.  A pleasant purgatory. 

This is what James Blake looks like.  A handsome man.

16.  Destroyer - Blue Eye; Warning: the phrase "oh, baby" is repeated often. 
Lyrics sample: Your first love's New Order, Mother Nature's Son, King Of The Everglades: Population 1, I write poetry for myself.  I write poetry for myself.

17.  Ghostpoet - Liiines; I mean, writers and their writer troubles?  Plif.  Am I right?
Lyrics: I keep on scribbling/ In the spare room I'm living in/ Body's here but I'm living in/ Why do I keep wasting time?/I keep on writing, writing/ But them folk ain't biting, biting.

18.  Yuck - The Wall; the 90s music I never listened to in the 90s.  Because I was too busy wearing jean shorts that hit the knee and singing along to Meatloaf The Great.  The following are almost the song's only lyrics.  And yet, even as a lyrics girl, I do not hate it.
Lyrics:  Tryna make it through the wall/ Tryna make it through the wall/ You can see me if you're tall/You can see me if you're tall.

19.  Alabama Shakes - Hold On;  Things just got real.  Classic, but necessary--we recognize the sound, but it's fresh, hasn't been done before.  Not quite.  I want them to have an LP.

20.  Bright Eyes - Shell Games;  A return to form.  Sharper than his recent folksy dabblings, less pouty than his first albums (though I used to love him for his pain), and more interesting than his most accessible stuff (which was gloriously, heartwarmingly accessible).  I've liked all his phases, but this one I love.  Our Punch Something Day song!

21.  Youth Lagoon - 17His first LP and quietly splendid. It moves. Magical, great low-fi debut.  This time last year, the legend goes, he was working at Urban Outfitters.  He's just a kid!

22.  Ryan Adams - Lucky Now; Another return to form (this song in particular, as opposed to the CD as a whole).  I'll always be a little in love with my ex-boyfriend Ryan Adams.  But at least I call him my ex now, yes? 

23.  Wilco - One Sunday Morning; And another return to form (song and CD).  Thank the heavens.

24.  Josh T. Pearson - Woman, When I've Raised Hell, You're Gonna Know It; Good lord this is country sad.

 A hurt man.

Oddly, this list is not entirely reflective of the my most loved CDs of the year, the ones I'll be listening to next year and five years from now.  This was the year of the single, the spectacular song on the good record.  The album suffered.  It wasn't so bad, but it wasn't so great.  I'll do a very quick top ten in the coming days, all of which you should be able to explore on Spotify.  There may be some surprises there, too.  I surprised myself this year. 

J. Benny

P.S.  If Jay Z & Kanye's Otis video were wrapped up with the song itself, if it could somehow flash before my eyes every time the song played, it would have made my top ten.  This video is a delight:

I'm so damn charmed by these two.  This is up there with Honey Bunny as the funnest, most fun.

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