It’s time for The Wounded Jukebox to introduce the Best Songs of 2011 (So Far). Eventually, our whole staff will be sharing the songs that captured their hearts and minds, but I’ll be starting things off with my favorite 15. I’m not going to lie, it’s a weird list, full of songs that I would have never thought could top everything else I’ve heard this year. With some amazing submissions from our inbox, and big names like Fleet Foxes, Death Cab For Cutie and Bon Iver all releasing brand new records, it’s been a truly dynamic 6 months. Let’s see what 2011 had to offer so far.
15. Purity Ring – “Lofticries”
Corin Roddick and Meghan James are the New York duo behind the splinter cell Purity Ring. Their “Lofticries” bends and balls reality up during the span of it, taking me on a ride through a worm hole each time.
14. Radiohead – “Give Up the Ghost”
There’s three versions of Thom Yorke in “Give Up the Ghost”, off The King of Limbs. The meek version that begs you not to “hurt me”, the droning siren that floats above it all, and the one that steps up to the microphone. I love how all three seem to fill up the imaginary stage in my mind. I can just picture the Yorkes swaying and going completely mental in a beautiful way. That’s what this song sounds like: ecstatically breaking.
13. Wild Beasts – “Reach A Bit Further”
Wild Beasts – Reach A Bit Further by Makinfluence
It’s about searching for resolution, but there’s a journey in the constant pace of the guitar work and percussion. And by the end, it escalates and then drifts off, like the final destination is in sight, but it still forebodes.
12. Raphael Saadiq – “Go To Hell”
Because I really love the strings and the hope. Stone Rollin is an amazing soul record.
11. Anna Calvi – “Suzanne and I”
Suzanne & I by Anna Calvi
WHEN WILL SHE MAKE A JAMES BOND THEME SONG?!!?? *sigh* For now, I’ll just have to be content with Calvi’s miraculous debut, Anna Calvi. The whole record is a splendor within a gleaming cavern, but “Suzanne and I” is a bold stand out because of the absolutely unforgiving pounding bass drum coupled with Anna’s fantastic guitar craft. Her voice is something come from a 40-year old gypsy woman, but she’s got all the energy and fire of a seductress. Potent combination, and monumental track.
10. Theophilus London – “Flying Overseas (ft. Devonte Hynes and Solange Knowles)”
It throbs at first, then it fluorescently drips. The lyrics describe a chance meeting between two people, but every shade of the color that surrounds it is the brightest it possibly could be. Theophilus London is one of best names in Alt. Hip-Hop today. Period.
9. Abigail Washburn – “Bright Morning Stars”
I know this is a retelling of some ancient Scottish prayer, because there’s no way anyone in this day and age could write such a hymn. But if anyone could, and sing it in a way that literally brought tears to my eyes the first time I heard it, Abigail Washburn could. You really need to give her City of Refuge a listen.
8. Principe Valiente – “In My Arms”
PRINCIPE VALIENTE “In My Arms” by Hidden-Treasure-Music
Apparently it’s Goth, not the Glam-Rock I’m tempted to call it. But if it really is Goth, then it’s the most outrageous kind I’ve ever heard. The furious pace of the guitar work and the hammering of the percussion illustrates Fernando Honorato’s voice into either a scene of rapid construction or wicked and sadistic destruction. But to me, it’s simply a song to exit this world to. Come ooooooon space ladder.
7. Saint Saviour – “Reasons”
This slow cooking song by Becky Jones makes my short list of favorites. If her “Fallen Trees” made me look up, her “Reasons” makes me remember. Her voice is undeniably fantastic, and when she finally unleashes it in the third minute of the track, it’s to breathless result. It’s a “should’ve sent a poet” kind of moment, every time.
6. Anna Calvi – “Desire”
Every inch/second/note of “Desire” makes me wish for an empty house; to romp and yell and stomp within. The second single from her eponymous album grips you by the heart and whirls you around in joy inducing circles.
5. Austra – “The Beast”
Austra – The Beast by pipedreamin
Am I revealing my vast penchant and vulnerability for talented women yet? A piano and a voice: that’s all it takes to bring me low. “The Beast” is the last track off of Austra’s Feel It Break. It starts off playful, but with only a key change, it turns into a morose and lonely tale. Katie Stelmanis trained her voice for opera, joining the Canadian Children’s Opera at age 10, and then the Canadian Opera Company when she was old enough. But here, we see her slip into another realm of genre altogether. She’s struggling with a sense of humanity, in a theater of fiction.
4. Milo Greene – “1957”
Milo Greene – 1957 by buzzbands
“1957” is so lush and full of harmonies it makes me feel a little guilty. Like I’m indulging my sweet tooth over and over somehow. The voices from ALL FIVE members Milo Greene are so seamlessly joined, it just seems too good/too…too. But for the most part, I’m over that guilt, choosing instead to join them whenever I can.
3. Robin Pecknold – “Derwentwater Stones”
Robin Pecknold – Derwentwater Stones by Folk Radio UK
The lead singer for the Fleet Foxes released a set of 3 songs free to fans back in April of this year. They were his solo work, sometimes as White Antelope, but in this case as just Robin Pecknold. I say “just” like it’s a simple enough thing, but anyone who can write lyrics and guitar chords like those featured on “Derwentwater Stones”, is no mere individual. Rather, he’s more of a collective spirit on this song, channeling the essence of every great folk song and songwriter’s errant feelings.
2. tUnE-yArDs – “Bizness”
Tune-Yards – Bizness by snipelondon
Words can’t describe, so dance moves and body gestures will have to. Hands and feet that have turned into tambourines and raining/flickering fingers followed by a tribal shuffle and hip checks. Smiles throughout.
1. Jai Paul – “BTSTU”
Jai Paul – BTSTU by katieanthony
Bass, saxophone, falsetto and plenty of wob wob. This version of “BTSTU” sounds like Jerry spinning around to give Tom the finger and throw a big “ufck off” in his face. Jai Paul is a British songwriter and record producer that released this track as a demo back in 2007, but this year saw the edit officially released by XL Recordings. Long listed as one of the Sounds of 2011 by the BBC, in no small part to this song, Paul fits 10 tons of pop and funk into a three and a half minute lambasting. There’s a deceptive sensitivity within the words, but it’s betrayed and assimilated quickly by a sinister kind of undercurrent. I can’t justify why this, personally, is my #1 song…so I won’t. It just is.
Throughout the month of June, you can expect the lists of all the members of The Wounded Jukebox to manifest. Our writers and contributors are well known for their diverse and eclectic tastes, so get ready for a great variety of songs you love, and some you’ve never heard of. We’re already so excited by this year’s music, and you can be sure we’ll do our best to bring you best for the rest of the year!
Thank you for reading!