The Top 20 Songs Of 2011

Long-winded generic text about how it’s been a good year for music, Australian music in particular. Disclaimer that all lists such as this are inherently subjective and should be treated as opinion rather than fact. Media whore invite to please share this list with as many people as possible and/or to leave you opinion in the comments. Comparison to previous years. Snide joke at Pitchfork’s expense. Legal disclaimer that all the streams here are meant to promote artists and will be removed upon request. Okay, that should just about cover it. On with the list.


English pseudo-folk outfit Noah And The Whale’s album ‘Last Night On Earth’ received a criminally low amount of attention this year. I’m honestly not the band’s biggest fan, and can recognise that some of their music can be cliched and plain, but this record really was a triumph and deserves a lot more acclaim than it has received. This track is the unmistakable standout; four minutes of sing-along bliss that can’t help but make you smile.


Another album that I believe should have been more talked about is Elbow’s ‘Build A Rocket Boys’. This track, which gives the album its name, is an example of how subtle and beautiful Elbow’s music can be, and how you don’t need euphoric choruses and grandiose instrumentation to hold the audience’s undivided attention. They demonstrated this perfectly at Splendour In The Grass, playing one of the best festival sets I have ever had the privilege of witnessing.


Melbourne’s The Good China may have only released one song this year, but what a song it is. I first heard this track played live at Polyester Records last year, but was disappointed to find that at the time it had not been released. Thankfully the band have rectified this, and the result is a frantic, joyous, and interesting song that is probably just about the best thing that the band have recorded to date.


Another Melbourne band, The Kritzlers were a late discovery for me this year, however their debut album ‘Cochlear Kill’ has still really stuck with me. It’s not the most accessible or easy to listen to record of the year, but there is just so much depth and ambiguity to it that it makes for an enthralling listening experience. This opening number is my personal pick of the bunch, full of floating flute lines and washed out vocals. It’s a joy to listen to.


Fanfarlo only really released a couple of songs this year, both tastes of their upcoming sophomore album, however this song in particular has really grown on me throughout the year. At first there’s not a whole lot to this track, and it initially seemed slightly disappointing after some of the incredible music we heard on the band’s debut album, ‘Reservoir’. Once I listened to it a few times however I started to notice all its little subtleties, and listening to that orchestral chorus has become something of a religious experience.


Until Triple J got their teeth into them, Brisbane band Founds were one of my real discoveries of the year, and this track in particular has worn out my repeat button on iTunes. Founds play music so unique that it feels like a crime to compare them to anyone else, but there really is a bit of Sigur Rós being channeled here, and that can only be a good thing. This is gorgeous, exhilarating music that is both very intimate and inescapably powerful. Look for these guys to explode in popularity next year.


The quintessential summer jam, this track from American indie pop group Givers has propelled them to international success, including an upcoming Australian tour. That’s not to say that they only have one good song at the moment, but rather that this song in particular perfectly captures everything that is so great about them: youthful, energetic, bombastic, and, above all else, fun. 


While I am still a bit unsure as to how I feel about ‘Hello Sadness’ as a whole, this one track really does it for me, in a way reminiscent of much of the older music of Los Campesinos!. Lyrically is is outstanding, demonstrating yet again Gareth’s unparalleled ability to speak directly to young people in a language they understand. This may not be the most nuanced song, but it can be surprisingly touching, and all the trademark Los Campesinos! flourishes are here to be enjoyed.


It’s been an incredible year for Jinja Safari, seeing them release their faux-debut album as well as gradually leak a series of new songs onto the internet for free download. This track was one of those released for free, and not only was it the best of the lot but in my opinion it’s also easily the best song Jinja Safari have put to record so far. Of course it was a fan favourite from their live shows long before the band recorded it, but to their credit they have captured the track perfectly in studio form.


This year saw Georgia Fair finally release their long-awaited debut album, and it didn’t disappoint. Surprisingly however this, my favourite track on the record, is actually a song we’ve been hearing for over a year. The guys reworked the track significantly on the record, turning what was a bit of a jam into a fully fledged song, and this fleshed-out version really is very powerful and very enjoyable.


Zimbabwean artist Tinashé was easily my best and most unexpected new discovery of the year, even if that is solely on the basis of this one song. I stumbled across him playing this track on Youtube, using only his stunning voice and an instrument that I had never heard of called a mbira. It’s just an incredibly beautiful rendition; an utterly breathtaking song. Admittedly I don’t know all that much about the man or his music, but apparently his studio material is a bit more ‘Western’, so I think I’ll stick with the mbira version of the song for now.


A lot of people seem to think Beirut’s new album ‘The Rip Tide’ was a disappointment, but for me quite the opposite was true. I mean sure, it’s definitely the most accessible and the most pop-y that Zach Condon’s music has ever been, but that’s a direction that he’s been hinting at for ages, and I really do think that it is a natural progression for his music. And besides, it’s still an unmistakable Beirut record, as illustrated by this track, a gorgeous piano ballad about the nervousness of preparing for a show.


Another under-appreciated gem from the year was DeVotchKa’s album ‘100 Lovers’, which perfectly blends a whole range of music styles, from gypsy to folk to pop into a coherent and very enjoyable record. My favourite track on the record is this, a brilliant song that juxtaposes a frantic, tribal backing rhythm against Nick Urata’s velvety vocals. It’s a furious song in it’s own way, but it’s also somewhat relaxing and cathartic. Like DeVotchKa as a whole, there’s a little something for everyone here.


Not much more needs to be said about this track. It’s probably a good thing that it was released so late in the year, because I’m yet to get sick of it being played to death by everyone and their dog. There’s a good reason everyone is loving it so much though: it’s just such a likable, instantly enjoyable and insanely catchy song that it surely is impossible not to love it. And of course that cheesy saxophone section is just fantastic.


I wasn’t the biggest fan of Wilco going into this year, but they immediately won me over with this track, the first single from their excellent album ‘The Whole Love’. It’s a riot of a track, somehow both gritty and polished; both garage rock and pop. It strikes a perfect balance between so many elements of music that I didn’t even know was possible, and does so with a real sense of class and musical skill behind the whole thing.


Yet another brand new discovery from 2011, I was so excited when I first heard this song that I immediately went onto Lord Huron’s website and ordered a vinyl of the EP it’s taken from, as well as a poster. That is how much I like it. It captures a sense of adventure that can only really be equated to Jinja Safari’s music, and, just like the Australian band, the visual images accompanying the band’s songs are in some cases just as important as the songs themselves. This is music to escape the world with; music to lose yourself in. 


This one may be a bit of a surprise. Of course there was always going to be a Bon Iver track in here, but I think this particular number has gone a bit ignored among the bigger songs of Bon Iver’s stunning self-titled record. Personally however this song hit me as the standout of the record from the moment I listened to it the whole way through, and that was before talking to anyone else about the album or reading anything about it, so it was definitely the most honest time to form an opinion. It’s such a beautiful, restrained, nostalgic song. In an album full of amazing tracks, this is the pick of the bunch for me.


Bombay Bicycle Club are a funny little band. They began as a bit of a garage rock outfit, before going full circle on their second album to a straight-up folk band. On their third album, ‘A Different Kind Of Fix’, they really found their feet however, with a sound that can’t easily be categorised and draws on elements from everything they had done up to that point. This is best exemplified by this single, a song that sneaks up on you and doesn’t let go with that pulsating backing riff and scat-singing chorus. This is the type of song that Bombay Bicycle Club were always capable of recording, and it’s fantastic to see them live up to their potential.


If you had told me at the start of the year that a song featuring a two minute flute solo, a definite soft jazz vibe, and the lyrics “Harmless little negress, you’ve got to say yes to another excess” would be one of my favourite tracks of the year then I would have told you that that’s fucking awesome. And I would have been right. This song is pretty much perfection. It’s so unique, defying all the musical trends of the year to be so very cool despite having an obvious disdain for the concept of cool. This is an enchanting, mesmerising song, and I can imagine myself listening to it repeatedly for many years to come.


This won’t come as any surprise to a regular reader of this site. The National are my favourite band, and it is only fitting that, despite having a very quiet year, they will top at least one of my end of year lists. This choice is about more than just being a National fanboy however, because this song is incredible, and is easily my most-played track of the year. Don’t let the fact that it was written for a video game put you off: it’s an emotional, powerful, dark, atmospheric song, just like the best of The National’s music. This song is pure magic.

2 Responses to “The Top 20 Songs Of 2011”

  1. great list. glad destroyer and wilco made the top 10!!!

  2. Some good entries on here. Though I would have certainly included at least one of Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds songs on the list. I take it you’re not a fan?

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