We’ve just launched our pick of the 50 best tracks of 2011. We also asked a whole load of musicians (and the odd actor) to suggest their own standout songs of the year – you can find out what they had to say after the jump.
Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs:
Virgo Four – ‘It’s A Crime’ (Caribou Mix)
Musically this track is a pitch black dancefloor journey, technically it is production perfection. Hands down the best track of the year.
John Coley, Sound Of Guns:
Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – ‘AKA…What A Life!’
Absolute chooneage, beast pounding drums and a soaring chorus. I come from the age of Gallagher, so it was good to hear the King back on his throne.
Iain Mahanty, Kids In Glass Houses:
Noel Gallagher – ‘AKA…What a Life!’
The album is my favourite of the year. Not only does the album really establish him as one of the greatest song writers of our generation (if not, all time), but this is definitely one of the best songs he’s written.
Rob Lee, Pulled Apart By Horses:
Justice – ‘Civilization’
It drags prog rock from the depths of Hell and transforms it into dance music that people who only listen to grunge cannot help but headbang to.
Kevin Barnes, of Montreal:
Roman Gian Arthur – ‘Dearly Departed’
My favorite song of the year, off the top of my head, is Roman Gian Arthur’s ‘Dearly Departed’. I love how it feels so sophisticated and funky and sexy and transportive all at once. RGA is a genius
Beccy Taylor, Slow Club:
Devon Williams – ‘Your Sympathy’
Devon’s a master with taking classic 70s romantic melodies and crafting them with perfect production. The strings on this track are so beautiful. He’s taken the best parts of west-coast-surf-wave or whatever you want to call it and done what so many fail to do, write an actual song behind all the style.
Murph, The Wombats:
M83 – ‘Midnight City’
Easily one of the favourite tracks from 2011 for all three of us. A great dance track, really well produced, but also a solid pop song with M83’s traditionally epic synths. The track was on the playlist before going on stage on our recent world tour, never failing to put us in the mood for a show!
Rob Milton, Dog Is Dead:
Girls – ‘My Ma’
It’s been a while since I’ve been excited by Hammond Organs and slide guitar solos but there’s something effortlessly cool about this track. It’s been a strange year for guitar music so I guess hearing something fresh that sounds like it jumped out the 70’s is pretty awesome.
Chase & Status – ‘Hitz’
I heard this on the radio a lot in the mornings as I was going into work at Shepperton Studios. It always made my ears prick up and I made a point of finding out what it was. In my day, we would have referred to this tune as ‘phat’.
Lee Newell, Viva Brother:
Cage The Elephant – ‘Shake Me Down’
It’s a humdinger of a tune.
Ben Duffy, Fenech Soler:
Julio Bashmore – ‘Battle For Middle You’
Sometimes a tune just rises up from everything else that’s going on. This track drifted around the festival airwaves all summer and we heard it everywhere we went. An amazing production that cemented Julio’s hype.
Tom Campesinos!, Los Campesinos!:
Real Estate – ‘Municipality’
This was one of my favourite tracks of the year. They have an annoyingly good ear for melodies that they wrap up in warm, dreamy clouds of guitar-led glee. Mmm, delicious.
Daniel Blumberg, Yuck:
Fanzine – ‘Rocket Fuel’
Urgh it’s so beautiful I can’t describe it. It doesn’t have a chorus but the whole thing is one beautiful chorus and then it fades out. I couldn’t decide between this and ‘Running Around’ by Fanzine. I think they’re my favourite band now. I think I want to listen to them now.
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross feat. Karen O – ‘Immigrant Song’
Usually a cover version of an older song would not feature on my top tracks of the year list but this is just unbelievably good. A great Led Zep song to start with but taken to an entirely new, higher level by the genius hands of Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. Powerful, exciting, relentless, it takes your breath away.
James Hoare, Veronica Falls:
Girls – ‘Saying I Love You’
Girls are far and away the best band around these days. The songwriting style of ‘Saying I Love You’ could initially be slightly too soft for some fans of the earlier work, but it’s pop perfection with production to match. Reminiscent of a Big Star or Denim ballad. Chris Owens and Chet White seem to have all their influences flawlessly sewn together and are the obviously the real deal.
Jamie Baker, Officers:
Gary Numan – ‘The Fall’
To hear someone who has influenced a generation come back with a record made up from what was essentially a group of unfinished songs sounding as forward thinking and as ground breaking as ever – sound and production-wise, just shows why Trent Reznor was prepared to go to such lengths of helping him get a visa for the US! He’s kind of gone away and thought it all up again.
Dave Williams, Shields:
tUnE-yArDs – ‘Bizness’
I like ‘Bizness’ because it reminds of when I moved in to my new house. I listened to the album constantly, and the song was on at my house warming bbq – which incidentally was where Luke and I discussed me and him being in a band together and we started practicing the following week and had a gig within 3 weeks.
James Vincent McMorrow:
Wye Oak – ‘Civilian’
I first heard this song on a blog back at the start of the year, and immediately became obsessed with it. Jenn Wasner’s voice is so unique, and I’m a huge fan of John Congleton, who produced the record. I was listening to the album near constantly after it came out in March. Their set at SXSW was probably the best show I’ve seen all year. You’ve never heard a two piece band sound more immense – if you closed your eyes you’d have thought there were eight of them up there. Pure magic.
Giles Robinson, Flashguns:
My Morning Jacket – ‘Holding On To Black Metal’
The whole album is amazing. But when they performed this song on Jools Holland earlier in the year, I thought they blew the whole room away. They have been a massive influence for us.
Sam Felix, Flashguns:
Tame Impala – ‘Expectation’
By far and away the most refreshing song of the year. Released in 2010, but I’ve been on it all year…
Ric Phethean, Tall Ships:
The Antlers – ‘Corsicana’
It’s rare that you come across a song so achingly beautiful and unashamedly emotional as this. The perfect antidote to the overhyped, meaningless, and vacuous shit you hear on the radio. “We should shut that window we both left open now“. Perfection.
Michael Webster, Baddies:
Gruff Rhys – ‘Whale Trail’
Just when you are expecting a mid-paced Super Furrys standard, Gruff hollers “I can see my house from here!” and conducts a sound which makes you feel like you are holding the control pad to the most fun Nintendo classic ever! 1UP for Gruff Rhys!
M83 – ‘Midnight City’
This was released around the same time as I moved down to London. I like listening to it when I’m on the Overground, flying past the city, feeling like the king of the world.
Duncan Wallis, Dutch Uncles:
John Maus – ‘Believer’
There’s some serious doom-laden synth work all over his album but this particular track serves as a perfect ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ moment. His voice commands as a guiding beacon to a warm cave, which is a refreshing approach on reverbed vocals of this magnitude. ‘Tis truly an epic wonderment of 80s like shoegaze pop.
Tom Burke, Citizens!:
The Rapture – ‘How Deep Is Your Love?’
We went crazy to this every night when we went on tour with them. It’s immense live. It was a close call between this and ‘We Found Love’.
Emma Daman, Islet:
Braids – ‘Plath Heart’
I’ve been walking through the park listening to this track a lot lately. There’s a hopeful spirit about it that turns damp air and wet trees into something particularly beautiful.
EMA – ‘California’
Y’all just got TOLD.
Steve Sparrow, Morning Parade:
Elbow – ‘Lippy Kids’
The first track I heard from Build a rocket boys. A stand out song of the year for me, great lyric, impeccable arrangement of effortless beauty. I managed to catch them twice this year and I was blown away by their presence and warmth.
Richard Sinclair, Clement Marfo & The Frontline:
Wretch 32 – ‘Don’t Go’
This song topped off what’s been an incredible year for Wretch, and helped newcomer Josh Kumra make an immediate impact on the music scene with a feature on a No. 1 selling single. As a follow-up to ‘Traktor’ and ‘Unorthadox’, it was great to see a different side to Wretch 32 and the simplicity of the track allows the listener to fully engage with his lyrical content.
Tom Waits – ‘Last Leaf’
As morbid as this might sound, I’d like this to be played at my funeral. I expect it to become one of my favourite songs of all time. It is simply perfect.
Steev Livingstone and Simon Ward, Errors:
D’eon – ‘Transparency’
The Yamaha DX7 synthesiser was the ubiquitous Stock-Waterman-Aitken sound of the 80s. The DX7’s bright, synthetic, crystal clear, radio-friendly sound is beautifully offset on ‘Transparency’ by the dark lyrical content.
Rick Nunn, The Milk:
The Beastie Boys – ‘Make Some Noise’
After 4 years out, the Beasties came back and blew us away with easily the best drum sound of 2011, combined with a monster riff and…one of the best music videos of all time. Quite simply, we don’t talk to anyone that’s not into this song.
Dan Smith, Bastille:
Metronomy, ‘The Look’
I love how laid back and hooky it is. The bass lines are brilliant, and the synth solo is awesome. It was also a track that we listened to over and over when we were on tour earlier this year so I love it because of that.
In joint first place is ‘Wildfire’ by SBTRKT. I’m a bit obsessed with that album at the moment, and Little Dragon’s vocals on this track sound wicked – especially with all the effects he puts on them.
Dhani Harrison (son of George Harrison), Thenewno2:
Elbow – ‘With Love’
Love the positive vibes and shady connotations. The group backing tracks are awesome. It’s one of those songs that gives me goosebumps. Guy Garvey is fantastic. At Coachella, one of my friends went unconscious during this exact song – he fell on his face. Any song that can make you go unconscious is obviously brilliant.
Daniel Petersen, Evaline:
Elbow – ‘Lippy Kids
It was the song of our summer touring Europe. This song makes me appreciate the hard times of being out on the road with the band and makes me want to push on and do something special. It sounds like someone saying “remember the good times but don’t stop going until you’ve reached your goal”.
David Thomas Broughton:
Wild Beasts – ‘Loop The Loop’
My favourite track of 2011, based on the amount of time I’ve been singing it to myself as I walk along, is ‘Loop The Loop’ by Wild Beasts – perhaps beacuse it doesn’t have too many words, sentiment is succicnt and I like the kind of rhythm, gentle Glass or Reich. Also it is massively reminicient of Mr. Roy Orbison. Singing is good. But I nearly chose something else on the basis that they are descibed as ‘dream pop’.
Andrew Hunt, Outfit:
Sandro Perri – ‘Changes’
Some beautiful lyrics concerning the progression of the self through a lifetime of changes. Musically, it’s so natural pulling in classic rock references and then ruminating on the psychedelic overtones throughout the outro, which gives you space to appreciate the song’s scope and thoughtfulness.
Mauro Remiddi, Porcelain Raft:
Oupa – ‘Forget’
The first time I heard that song I was left in silence – that beautiful piano line and vocal melody, with Daniel’s voice being a silent energy, shy in the verses but strong enough when he tells her “…no you can’t forget me now“. That song was on repeat on my ipod. ‘Forget’ gives space to a feeling. The song doesn’t want to prove anything, it shows a place and gives enough room for you to get in.
Jonathan Clancy, A Classic Education:
Oneohtrix Point Never, ‘Sleep Dealer’
This is simply a song that to me is POP at it’s purest form. I downloaded it, played it 30 straight times while at work on my headphones and felt a million miles away. The problem is I had no idea where I was. I think he’s done such a great thing on this record, making pop music out of something that apparently is just so far from being pop.
Will Daunt, Zulu Winter:
St. Vincent, ‘Cruel’
I only heard this a month or so ago, but was blown away by it. Like a lot of great pop songs, it contrasts upbeat melody and beats with some dark lyrics, and a beautifully messed up guitar sound. And her voice is astonishing.
Courtney Rumbold, StooShe:
Rihanna – ‘We Found Love’
We love the fact the video is set in the UK. It’s sick and catchy and like our track ‘Betty’, it expresses serious issues in a lighthearted way. Plus we think Rihanna is amaaazing, she’s doing it BIG… Love her and her work ethic.
Emma Cooper, Standard Fare:
PJ Harvey – ‘The Last Living Rose’
It’s so hard to pick one song from the year so I’m going with my first thought. The album ‘Let England Shake’ took me back to how I listened to music in my teens – i.e. not always getting it first time but sticking with it anyway and music growing on you as you hear the lyrics and adjust to the music. I have too much instantly accessible music in my life nowadays so this was really refreshing. I love how catchy the melody is and the imagery of the lyrics are wonderfully evocative. PJ Harvey sings in a nice English accent which is charming.The whole album is great but this is the song I find myself singing to myself whilst washing up or cycling home.
Evan Abeele, Memoryhouse:
Adele – ‘Don’t You Remember’
In a year where the predominant discourse concerning indie music seemed over- focused on manufactured controversy, plastic surgery, and Twitter feuds – it’s only fitting that seemingly the only artist to not partake in this brand of creative marketing finished off the year with the most record sales. ‘Don’t You Remember’ isn’t the most overt example of the kind tortured intimacy that Adele’s made her calling card (‘Someone Like You’ bears that distinction), but even when it seems that the only thing preventing an Adele song from mutating into a Kelly Clarkson song is the merciful witholding of a canned string section; it’s the idiosyncrasies of Adele’s voice that keeps bringing us back to her side, and ‘Don’t You Remember’ is a fine example of those idiosyncracies doing everything right.
Phil Winter, Tunng:
Jilt Van Moorst – ‘Oops’
Starts off like a typical/good minimal tech tune , but turns into the most bonkers comedy childish excellent call to have a good time !
Tim Hecker – ‘Hatred Of Music’
It’s a beautifully stirring, haunting, processed piano piece which is as unsettling as it is warm. This has been getting some seriously heavy rotation.
Alex Cameron, Seekae:
Floating Points – ‘ARP3’
Has to be the smoothest release of the year, if not all time. It’s always reassuring to hear an artist come back from the far left with a confident, familiar form. This whole release sounds, and feels brilliant. He maintains his staple repertoire of live sounding percussive grooves and free bass lines – but locks them in to a house groove with ARP3. Quite soft in sound, but hard hitting all the same. Floating Points can do no wrong.
You can read more about our highlights of 2011 in the current issue of NME