Archive for February, 2012
by Jonathan on February 3rd, 2012
I was hanging around with my friends Eva and Luna tonight, taking turns playing each other new music on YouTube. Which reminded me that I hadn’t posted my favorites of 2011 yet. So!
In no particular order (other than stating my favorite of the year in #5), some stuff I loved in 2011:
1. Cass McCombs, “County Line”.
Last spring, someone from Domino was evangelizing about Cass McCombs’ upcoming Wit’s End, and played me “County Line”. At the time, I liked it well enough, but, to my surprise, the song haunted me all year long. And why not? Right from the start it had the feel of a standard – I could easily imagine Glenn Campbell singing it on a TV variety show in 1976. Beautiful songwriting, lovely performance, sincere production, just a great song.
2. Burial, “Street Halo”.
Glad to have anything from Burial – I’ve been crying myself to sleep waiting for that long-promised K7 mix album for several years now. The thing that gets me most about “Street Halo” is that loping break that hits at 1:11 – I don’t know why, but it just slays me. Indeed, the song is largely about various progressions and transformations of that run. BTW, sorry this video isn’t more interesting – fan video makers seemed to prefer the other songs on the EP (“Stolen Dog” and “NYC”); they’re all great, but “Street Halo” – glacial, alienated, beautiful – is the best of them.
3. EMA, “California”
Like Asian porn, “California” is something far more likely to appeal to men, who’ll tend to see it as some cool chick really telling it like it is, than to women, who (I’m guessing) will find it narcissistic posturing. And it’s true – the tough girl posing works only so well (I don’t think I’d have loved this song so much if I’d first seen it a a video, rather than listened to it without the visuals). But love it I do. It’s the drones, really – the Suicide-like distorted organ, the bass pedal-y bits that somehow remind me of Laurie Anderson, the sustained, shrilling electric guitar. And I love the lyrics. I don’t usually listen to song lyrics, but there’s something arresting about spoken word stuff, and Erika Anderson, with her Kim Gordon-echo delivery, does the almost-stream-of-consciousness thing very well. For me, the song becomes transcendent at around the 3 minute mark – the lyric is personal, and meaningless to me, but she nails the stresses and the rhythmicity down so tightly that my weapons are useless against it. The album is quite good, but it’s, you know, songs, and she’s not yet a strong enough lyricist to stop her words from becoming a little trite when she slots them into the grid of a verse. Still, I think we’ll all agree that this is the best song we’re likely to hear about selling menstrual blood-stained pants to a friend for some time. I seem to be going on at length about this one – apparently, I feel the need to defend my choice. Basically, at the end of the day, I just love this song.
4. Bon Iver, “Holocene”
Let’s see: clean, sweet acoustic/semi-acoustic guitar trickling quietly, sparse instrumentation to avoid burying the singer, emotionally-exposed double-tracked vocal? Yep, Justin Vernon pretty much owns Vulnerable Sincerity in pop music. A beautiful song, wholly irresistible.
5. Oneohtrix Point Never, “Sleep Dealer”
“Replica“, the title cut from this year’s Oneohtrix Point Never album, got a lot of love, and I’m not sure why. I mean, it’s good, but to me it sounds like a 1998 Boards of Canada out-take. Don’t get me wrong – in my book, that’s high praise indeed, but… still. For me, the strongest song on the album was “Sleep Dealer”, also a throwback, this time to the glitchy electronica of Diskont-era Oval, but just absolutely gorgeous – my favorite song of the year. I like it so much that I’m going to post links both for the short edit for the official video, and for a clip of the full-length song. BTW, if you don’t like the short edit, you won’t like the full version. Update: Well, I can’t find the full 5 1/2 minute version online, so, sorry about that. It’s more of the same, only… more.
BONUS ROUND: BEST TWO FREE SONGS OF 2011:
6. The Weeknd, “The Morning”
Therapists say that people who pay more for their sessions tend to value them more; I say that’s probably also true with music. I downloaded House of Balloons back when it first blew up, but didn’t listen to it properly for much of the year. My mistake. I’s a remarkably strong album, dark and electronic and unsettling and frequently beautiful. “The Morning” is probably the best cut on the album, but has some stiff competition. Download all three Weeknd albums for free at his web site – scroll horizontally to find them.
7. Azealia Banks, “212″
Utterly infectious – who couldn’t love this? Well, if you have issues with bad words or lesbian/gay sex references, you might not love it, but I thought it was really delightful. And, seriously, once you’ve seen the video, only a person with a heart of stone couldn’t forgive the naughty stuff! Not sure if this is still a free offering, though.