Best of 2011 in Sound

ImageDecember is always my favourite month for music trolling—this is when all the music blogs come out with their best-of lists, and every year I pick up the things I missed and reflect on a few sounds that fell away from my memory. And every year I tell myself I’ll make my own.

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Hi, February.

I’ve just gotten a whole new whack of music, but before we bring in the new I want to honour the oldies and the goodies—the best sounds, in track form, to hit my ear drums in 2011. I have them up in a Dropbox folder, so whoever wants, please shoot me a message or a comment!

Disclaimer: Not all songs were released in 2011—these are the ones I personally caught onto in the last year.

Here we go:

The Roots feat. Monsters of Folk – Dear God 2.0 (Feat. Monsters of Folk) – I remember distinctly the first time I heard this song, biking back from High Park along the Lakeshore, and thinking this was way too familiar for a first listen. And it was, with the sample from 2009’s Monsters of Folk album. Loved it then, loved it more now.

Junip – In Every Direction – Props to Rob, one of the regulars at the pub I used to work at (though he’d probably resent being called so) for passing along this band. I hear it and visualize some intrepid jungle brush adventures, muffled through a few tropospheres of tree leaves. It’s also a good album for a long commute.

Grouplove – Colours – I saw these guys with Carly when they opened for Foster the People back in April. And I probably should have left after their set. Even though it’s just some goofy fun lysergicy roadtrippin’ music, they’ve still got way more substance than two-hit trend-hoppers who have really bad dance moves.

Rhianna feat. Calvin Harris – We Found Love – If I’m admitting this, then I guess this is the year to end my music snobbery… Rhianna is a babe (though since the Chris Brown collabo, I’m a little scared she’s going the Whitney route..), and I will fist pump till my biceps are done everytime I hear this jam. Kinda like the common man’s M.I.A.

PJ Harvey – The Words that Maketh Murder – I’ve been terrified of PJ Harvey for years, intimidated by how much I should listen to her and just not getting any of her material… until now. This entire album is spectacular and powerful and passionate and I’m only picking this song because the self-confines of Top 25 lists are terribly limiting. 

The Dears – Omega Dog – So. Much. Funk. This makes me want to drink beers and hang out at cool underground funk/soul bars (do they exist?) and feel some groove thing/thang.

St. Vincent – Surgeon – First St. Vincent I’ve liked, and like this album. Pretty sexycatchy for something so electronic.

Unknown Mortal Orchestra – One of the two impressive psych-y rock bands I came across this year, alongside Tame Impala. This is what I imagine I’d listen to at Burning Man. Or if I were into dropping acid. OR BOTH AT THE SAME TIME. (Currently, I just bounce to it while I made dinner and stuff).

Tame Impala – It’s Not Meant to Be – I think these guys came on Q once? Either way it’s epic stuff and I listen to this stuff whenever I cut me some sweet s-curves on the slopes. Epic, and makes great use of some wah-wah function or whatever that thing’s called outside of Pa Rappa the Rapper.

The Sheepdogs – I Don’t Know – I don’t know if it’s authentic, real, rock and roll, or just some rip-of imitation, but it’s a damn good one if so and I will continue to play it like it’s the goshdarned Allman Brothers.

Pickwick – Hacienda Motel – Props to Derek Kreindler on this one. Black Keys-y blues feel, echo-y vocals, and some other adjective on which I’ll throw on a y. This is exactly what I hope to hear when I step into an Austin bar at SXSW.

Alex Winston – Locomotive – I don’t know what to say about this song, or if it’s even really all that good (haven’t heard anything else from the artist), but it’s just so freakin’ catchy.

jj – Still – Again, took me awhile to jump on the jj bandwagon as their last album made me fall asleep on multiple occasions. But this—this is like trance, but with street cred. I like to listen to this album while I walk around Toronto and pretend I’m straight up-G. And then realize I’m wearing a scarf and cardigan and haven’t properly disguised the knitting needles sticking out of my backpack.

tUnE-YaRdS – Powa – Favourite concert of 2011 was easily Merrill’s May show at the Horseshoe with Cait. Sweaty, booze-fuelled, and a crowd that actually looked like they wanted to be there.  Yeah. In Toronto. I’ve seen Merrill four times now and her energy, showmanship, and genuiness are undeniable. 

Blitzen Trapper – Love the Way You Walk Away – While I’ll admit I was disappointed by their live show, Blitzen Trapper on record is the closest I’ll come to country without cringing. Some good ol’ (new) campfire music. 

Bon Iver – Holocene – Best album of 2011, hands down. No, seriously, put them down. So intricate, so much attention to detail, so much emotion, and then some fucking violins. Just majestic. Okay, this concert was ALSO the best concert I saw in 2011. But on a totally different level. GIVE HIM ALL THE GRAMMYS.

Feist – Caught a Long Wind – Admitting how much I love Feist, or Feast as my boyfriend endearingly refers to her, makes me feel way too old to even have a blog. But this is the kind of music to take a bath to. You know, sink under the water and light some candles and just indulge and feel like a total lush. Screw Diana Krall.

Beach House – Take Care – Doesn’t this just make you wanna make spoons with someone you love in a king-sized bed with far more pillows than necessary and drink bowls of hot chocolate and snuggle till the end of time, like that old couple in Titanic, but less depressing?

Little Joy – The Next Time Around – Easy-living, summery ditties that sound like the perfectly exotic Brazillian-American marriage that they are. Fitting soundtrack for a Wes Anderson movie.

Fruit Bats – Born in the ‘70s – This is one of those albums you can just put on in the background and play on repeat over and over and over and it will subconsciously brighten your mood. But if you just want to actually listen to it, it’s great for that too.

Kanye West (feat. Pusha T) – Runaway – Heroic album of 2010, this is the song that lasted for me through 2011.  An anthem, really.

The War on Drugs – Buenos Aires Beach – Even sans Kurt Vile, Adam Grandunciel’s unique voice and melodic structure is enough to carry this band. Didn’t like Slave Ambient quite as much, but this song stands the test of time (all four years, so far, and I refuse to take it off this list). 

Kurt Vile – Jesus Fever – While this is easily in my top five songs of the year, and I so deeply regret selling my Kurt Vile tickets for his show at The Drake in July, I’ve gotta say, this guy is not festival material. Stoned doesn’t even begin to describe it. I’m gonna pretend I didn’t see him in Chicago this summer, and continue to play this song over and over until I get sick of it, which will be never.

Lykke Li – Possibility – This song’s off a Twilight soundtrack. Kill me. I love/hate Lykke Li, and this song’s an equal hit miss. But when it hits, it hits sooooooo sweet.

King Krule – 363N63 – Mysterious and gloomy, King Krule is a top discovery for me this year. And even if he didn’t make brilliant music, the fact that he’s a teenage brit ginger named Archie would be enough to sell me. Dreamy.

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