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The Essential Listening Of 2011 Up To Now

It has been one hell of a year so far for music. We’ve seen bands live up to impossible expectations such as James Blake, Bon Iver, Foster The People, and Fleet Foxes, bands capitalise on hype with some really strong releases such as Grouplove and Dirty Gold, and other bands appear out of nowhere with an insanely catchy single or album that has won over everyone, such as YesYou and Various Cruelties. More than anything though, we’ve been given a teaser of what is to come in the second half of the year, with albums due from Wilco, Beirut, Big Scary, Boy And Bear, and Bombay Bicycle Club as well as many, many others.

I’ve never been a big fan of these halfway-through-the-year lists, but it’s been such a diverse and fast-moving few months for music that I felt it might be a good idea to just sit back for a while and decide on the songs from the first half of 2011 that I would classify as truly essential listening. Some of these are just great individual tracks, while others are indicative of a fantastic overall album. Either way though, I believe these are just some of the artists that have done exciting things so far this year and that everyone should be listening to. Here goes.

Battles – Ice Cream

While personally ‘Gloss Drop’ was a bit of a disappointment, this track is an absolute winner with the slow and chaotic buildup leading into that instantly recognizable Battles sound.

Beirut – Goshen

Beirut’s new album is due out later in the year, but we’ve already heard two tracks from it, this and East Harlem. While Goshen may have been the B-side when the single was released, to me it is a much better song in studio form and I’m very glad that it will be included on the album. This is a song too good to remain an obscure B-side.

Big Scary – Mix Tape

This is the first taste from Big Scary’s upcoming debut full-length album (in the traditional sense), and it is a fantastic track that demonstrates all the best elements (ha!) of this Melbourne duo.

Bombay Bicycle Club – Shuffle

Bombay Bicycle Club constantly reinvent their sound, and for their upcoming third studio album it looks as if this trend will continue judging by this, its first single. It’s a poppy and boppy song and if the rest of the album lives up to this it is going to be one hell of a release.

Bon Iver – Beth/Rest

The most divisive track on Bon Iver’s sublime self-titled album is also one of the best. You already either love or hate this song, so there’s not much point in saying much else. But suffice to say that for me, the whole album is leading up to this magical song that makes an uncool music style sound very cool indeed.

Boy And Bear – Feeding Line

This is the first single from Boy And Bear’s debut album which is due out later this year, and it’s already received a ton of radio coverage and a great response at lives shows. ‘Moonfire’ is easily one of my most anticipated Australian releases.

Destroyer – Kaputt

One of the first albums I heard this year is also one of my favourite albums of 2011 so far. Destroyer’s ‘Kaputt’ is everything music can and should be, and this, the title track, exemplifies just how good Dan Bejar is on this record.

Dirty Gold – California Sunrise

While this song has been floating around for a year, it was only officially released this year as a part of Dirty Gold’s debut EP ‘Roar’. It’s a fantastically strong offering, but this delightful track is still the pick of the bunch.

Foster The People – Miss You

Foster The People’s debut album ‘Torches’ was predictably amazing, with countless guaranteed radio hits and virtually no filler. It is a masterpiece, and this track is my favourite song off it that we hadn’t already heard in studio form. Bring on their Splendour set.

Founds – Holograms

Of all the random music that has dropped into my inbox this year, this has been my absolute favourite. It’s a divine, ethereal number that grows to an unforgettable conclusion from a Brisbane sextet who are going to be very big.

Givers – Up Up Up

I had no idea who Givers were a couple of months ago, but their debut album ‘In Light’ has been in very heavy rotation since then, and I find myself desperately hoping that these guys make it down to Australia as soon as possible, maybe even to bring their upbeat music to a summer festival.

Grouplove – Itchin’ On A Photograph

Grouplove were one of my favourite discoveries of 2010, and the band have continued going strong this year, with the release of this fantastic new single. Their debut album is due later in the year, and is definitely one of look forward to.

The Hazelman Brothers – Milk

Another very nice inbox discovery, this track from The Hazelman Brothers tells a touching story in a very powerful way and with beautiful vocals.

The Jezabels – Hurt Me (Acoustic)

While The Jezabels are yet to release any new material this year, this acoustic version of Hurt Me, which they played for Off Guard Gigs, is different enough from the studio version and awesome enough in its own right to deserve a spot on this list.

Jinja Safari – Head In A Blender

Jinja Safari have been slowly releasing songs from their upcoming EP, and this is my favourite of the lot so far.

Modest Mouse – Lampshades On Fire

Modest Mouse played a few new songs at Sasquatch, and this was one of them. Enough said.

Noah And The Whale – L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N.

It has taken me a criminally long time to get onto these guys, but in the leadup to their Australian tour and Splendour set I have well and truly fallen in love with this UK band. This song from their 2011 album ‘Last Night On Earth’ is among their most accessible, but it’s also among their best.

Radical Face – Welcome Home

I’ve been meaning to post this song for ages but never got around to it, so I guess this will have to do. I actually discovered it from a television ad (possibly the least cool way ever to discover music), but since then I’ve listened to a lot of the other music of American artist Radical Face, and it’s all great. This track was first released ages ago but was remastered in a recent EP, so it still counts.

Seeker Lover Keeper – Even Though I’m A Woman

Given the songwriting talent behind Australian supergroup Seeker Lover Keeper I was expecting a little more from their debut album to be honest. But regardless, this song is stunning, and is easily one of my most played songs of the last couple of months.

The National – Exile Vilify

Nothing more needs to be said about this standalone song from The National. It is perfection in music form.

The Submarines – Ivaloo

This is a song that I love from a band I didn’t think was capable of writing music I love. I always thought The Submarines were fun but nothing special, however this song shows just how good their music can be when they try something a bit different.

Various Cruelties – Neon Truth

I couldn’t be more excited about this London band, and I had never heard of them at the end of last year. They play retro-styled music with tons of energy, and have already opened for bands such as Mumford And Sons. They are onto something very good.

Wilco – I Might

I must admit I’m not the biggest Wilco fan- their good albums can be close to perfect, but they’re just too inconsistent in releases for my liking. But this latest song is the best track I’ve heard from them, and that’s really saying something. It strikes a perfect balance between sounding gritty and sounding poppy, and there is simply nothing negative I can find to say about it.

Woodkid – Iron

This is a dark and brooding number from Woodkid, who previously had made music videos for artists such as Katy Perry. His first foray into making his own music has been a huge success, and he has already built up quite the fanbase considering he has only released the one EP.

YesYou – Half Of It

And finally, an awesome new Australian band. Since being featured on this site (and no doubt as a direct result of), these guys have gone on to receive plenty of radio airplay and a ton of online hype. Apparently a debut album is in the works, and if this single is any indication then it’s going to be fantastic.

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3 Responses to “The Essential Listening Of 2011 Up To Now”

  1. Some excellent choices. New discoveries to add to iTunes!

  2. I am going to have to take the time to listen to all of these songs! I have heard a few, and started listening to some others and so far GREAT!
    I have bookmarked your blog!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Threeplay from Down Under « Infinite Shuffle - November 8, 2011

    […] through various blogs I had bookmarked and came across one that is run by a person in Australia. At And Pluck Your Strings, I found a “Best of 2011 So Far” post from July, so I figured I’d check it […]

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