We music critics haven't had much to froth over for the past few years. The charts across most genres have been decidedly barren of worthy sounds, thanks to the never-ending influx of auto-tuned fluff. Sure, there are always a handful of really great songs in any calendar year, but there was a whiff of change in the air in 2011 that promised an expansion of our aural horizons. To say that artists such as Florence and the Machine, Bon Iver and The Civil Wars brought back songs for songs' sake is an understatement; the writing this year was poignant and highly-listenable. Even radio staples such as Maroon 5's collab with Christina Aguilera ("Moves Like Jagger") had moments of undeniable pleasure, and everyone's favorite misguided hip-hopper Kanye West proved once again that maybe he's just brilliantly misunderstood. But the clearest trend in 2011 was the continued tendency toward intricacy and pastiche; artists had no problem throwing a spate of harp, piano. organ, horns, and synths in with their layered vocal harmonies (the details of which can go unnoticed without close listening).
So, grab your ear buds (or better yet, noise-reducing headphones), and get ready for a ride through the year's best songs:
Lafayette, Lousiana's answer to indie rock - a gal, some beards, and an unexpected poptimistic twist. "I choose light," indeed.
5. "The River" by Elbow
Choosing the best from the Brit quintet's latest, Build A Rocket Boys, was nearly impossible, but hearing Guy Garvey sing this one live reduced me to a quivering puddle. Brilliant.
Best of the rest:
11. "Moves Like Jagger" by Maroon 5 feat. Christina Aguilera
12. "I Want You Back" (Jackson 5 cover) by The Civil Wars
13. "Cruel and Beautiful World" by Group Love
14. "Lorelei" by Fleet Foxes
15. "Nu Revolution" by Les Nubians
16. "Surfer's Hymn" by Panda Bear
17. "We Have Everything" by Young Galaxy
18. "Lucky Now" by Ryan Adams
19. "You Make Me Feel" by Cobra Starship
20. "In Our World" by Yellowbirds
21. "Only If For A Night" by Florence & the Machine
22. "Mutual Core" by Bjork
23. "Chelsea Hotel" by Meshell Ndegocello
24. "Towers" by Bon Iver
25. "Codex" by Radiohed
26. "Confetti" by Cold Cave
27. "Skinny Genes" By Eliza Dolittle
28. "Hurts Like Heaven" by Coldplay
29. "Love Out of Lust" by Lykke Li
30. "All of the Lights" by Kanye West feat. Rihanna and Kid Cudi (EXPLICIT)
What were your favorites this year?