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A 2011 Album (and 67 Other Worthwhile Songs) - Page 2 PDF Print E-mail
Music - Feature Stories
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Thursday, 15 December 2011 11:30

Second Fiddles

Adele, “Rolling in the Deep” and “Turning Tables.” Honestly, one of these probably deserves a spot on the mix album, but she needs no help from me. A great soul voice, with the discipline to serve the songs rather than the ego.

Tori Amos, “Shattering Sea.”

Cold War Kids, “Royal Blue.”

Nikka Costa, “Pro*Whoa!” Doubtlessly, the year’s best song featuring the word “coochie.”

The Decemberists, “Down by the Water.”

Drive-By Truckers, “Used to Be a Cop.”

Elliott Brood, “Their Will.”

Explosions in the Sky, “Human Qualities.”

Feist, “Caught a Long Wind.”

Liam Finn, “Reckless.”

Foo Fighters, “I Should Have Known.” A paint-by-numbers escalation from sorrow to rage, but painted really, really well.

Fucked Up, “I Was There.”

The Go! Team, “Rolling Blackouts.”

Ha Ha Tonka, “Jesusita.”

Kaizers Orchestra, “Philemon Arthur & the Dung.”

Kasabian, “Velociraptor!” One could not possibly improve the catchy/cheesy chorus, as voracious and dumb as its subject: “Velociraptor / He gonna find ya / He gonna kill ya / He gonna eat ya.”

Little Hurricane, “Crocodile Tears,” “Haunted Heart,” and “Give Em Hell.”

David Lowery, “I Sold the Arabs the Moon.”

Mogwai, “San Pedro.”

Peter Bjorn & John, “Second Chance.” I wouldn’t blame anybody who cringes at this song after its ubiquity in Bud Light Lime commercials and on ESPN. Given its irresistible hook and cowbell, it was destined to sell something, but it deserved better products.

Social Distortion, “Road Zombie.”

Those Darlins, “Be Your Bro.” At half its length, this would have easily made my primary list, bluntly coarse, funny, and true: “I just wanna / I just wanna / Be your brother / You just wanna be my boyfriend / I just wanna run and play in the dirt with you / You just wanna stick it in.” Alas, the song never gets past its brilliant concept and retro-girl-group pastiche.

Times New Viking, “No Room to Live.” There’s nothing at all modern about this sloppy lo-fi nugget, as likely to have been unearthed after 40-odd years as produced this year. But good songs are good songs, no matter how backward-looking they might be.

Wild Flag, “Future Crimes.”

Rachael Yamagata, “Starlight.”

Second Helpings

Campfire OK, “Brass.”

The David Mayfield Parade, “Blue Skies Again.”

The Envy Corps, “Ms. Hospital Corners” and “Exchequer.”

Hella, “Osaka.”

Other Lives, “For 12,” “Tamer Animals,” and “Dust Bowl III.”

Vivian Girls, “Trying to Pretend.”

Blasts from the Past

For no good reason, I exclude from each year’s mix album artists who were featured in previous years – dating back to 2006. These are my favorite 2011 tracks from some of those artists.

Arctic Monkeys, “All My Own Stunts.”

The Black Keys, “Lonely Boy” and “Little Black Submarines.”

Ane Brun, “One” and “I Would Hurt a Fly.”

The Dodos, “Going Under” and “Hunting Season.”

PJ Harvey, “The Last Living Rose,” “The Glorious Land,” “The Words That Maketh Murder,” “On Battleship Hill,” and “The Big Guns Called Me Back Again.” In a career largely composed of great and nearly great albums, Let England Shake might be her best.

Klaxons, “Hello 23” and “Sorcerer City.” Leftovers from last year’s Surfing the Void that put most bands’ A sides to shame. Jerks.

O’Death, “Bugs,” “Alamar,” “Black Dress,” “Ourselves,” and “Pushing Out.” On Outside, the band’s punkish-bluegrass bluster gave way to delicacy and introspection, with thoughtful, rigorous arrangements. I miss the howling intensity of “Vacant Moan” (featured here in 2008), but I’ll happily take this.

Peter Wolf Crier, “Beach.”

Radiohead, “Little by Little.”

Tapes ’n Tapes, “Outro.”

A Covers EP

Nirvana’s Nevermind turned 20 this year, and Spin’s Newermind tribute had plenty of strong efforts and a few fantastic ones: Amanda Palmer’s “Polly” (simultaneously kitchen-sink and spare) and Foxy Shazam’s stylistically careening “Drain You” (with mariachi horns replacing the climactic guitars). There was also the poetic justice of the Meat Puppets doing “Smells Like Teen Spirit” as ... well, a Meat Puppets song.

And speaking of “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” the soundtrack to The Muppets featured a perfectly odd, fragmentary Muppets Barbershop Quartet version that manages to be faithful to both the original and the barbershop style. (Please note: Meat Puppets = M’uppets.)

In a similar rip-it-apart-and-put-it-back-together vein, Guards’ cavernous, slow-motion “Motorbreath” (roughly one-third the speed of the Metallica original) transforms the song from proud anthem to lonely lament.

Of course, covers don’t need to deconstruct their source material. Fiona Apple & Jon Brion delivered a lovely, pillow-soft, and true “Everyday” on Rave on Buddy Holly.

And Quad Cities native Lissie, on her Covered Up with Flowers EP, proved herself a strong interpreter, particularly with Kid Cudi’s “Pursuit of Happiness” and Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance.” There’s no re-imagining here, but her treatments are nearly transcendent merely by grafting that big, expressive voice onto sturdy rock treatments.

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