It's been another spectacular year for music, but what were the highlights? Here's our pick of the 50 best songs of 2011. We also asked NME readers to vote for theirs - you can check out the readers' top 20 here.

50AKA What A Life

The Chief’s solo campaign began in the exact opposite way to Beady Eye’s: a year of radio silence rather than a 12-month brag about “classics”, and then some beautifully melodic and unashamedly ‘mature’ songs like these. With its disco beat and rave piano motif, ‘AKA… What A Life!’ was, by his standards, way out there; ‘If I Had A Gun...’ was as archetypal a Noel G song as you could ever imagine.

49If I Had A Gun

Try as little brother might to turn the whole post-Oasis experience into a puffed-chest pantomime, the story on Gallagher Sr’s side seems to be all one of freedom and ease at long last. Rather than the bullish threat the title might suggest, Noel only wants to “shoot a hole into the sun and love would burn this city down for you”. There’s a relaxed relief that you can hear in his solo work so far. Rather than desperation to prove himself as a new man, Noel’s now got the time and space to work up songs that have been around for some time, such as this graceful beauty.

It first appeared in these pages back in April 2009 under the guise “Oasis – The New One”, recorded by a Taiwanese fan during soundcheck for a Taipei gig. “It finds Noel’s vocal at its most heartbreaking and vulnerable,” we noted. “That feeling? That’s your soul being dug out.” Of course, one fateful guitar lob meant that it was never going to make it into Oasis’ oeuvre, but we’re glad that it saw the light of day, its delicate charms beefed up into a thing of melancholic, chest-cramping gorgeousness. The next one’s disco, apparently – now that is cutting loose.

48The Great Pan Is Dead

What do you get if you cross a hardcore frontman, a sex-obsessed noise artist, a fixation with ridiculous old goth and synthpop records, and a factory full of drum machines? Why, the hysterically OTT opening track on the second album by New York auteur Wesley Eisold and pals.

47Muscle Memory

They had a silly name and they made two extremely fun jitter-punk albums but, alas, the Glaswegian sextet have decided to call it a day. Thankfully, they’ve gone out with a bang with ‘Muscle Memory’, a track so excitable it almost spews up.

Dananananaykroyd - 'Muscle Memory'
Video: Dananananaykroyd - 'Muscle Memory'

46Lose It

A swarm of cold-wave keys and Katie Stelmanis’ icy vocals provided the grounding, but it was the snowflake-like synth trills and the classical choir-like harmonies that ice-picked their way to ‘Lose It’’s heart. Lines like “My face screams without any motion” pinched us with stolid beauty.


It seems implausible that Copenhagen teens Iceage could emerge from the cocoon of the Danish hardcore scene – their frantic, speedy noise wasn’t built for indie-kid love. Then you remember ‘Broken Bone’, which rumbles like prime No Age or Liars, and has the catchiest chorus.


The biggest hit of 2011 that never was. Joe Goddard is the man responsible, and he brings all the eccentric charms of his band Hot Chip to a house tune that judders and quivers oddly, and yet manages to slay every line of defence your heart and mind has put up to fend off this sort of thing.

43Reckless With Your Love

A double whammy. On one hand, an epic house anthem that walloped us with diamante-encrusted air miles (from Chicago via Toronto). On the other, a moody tale of paranoia and promiscuity in a world where it was more than the hot disco lights that flashed and burned.

Azari & III - 'Reckless With Your Love'
Video: Azari & III - 'Reckless With Your Love'

42Real Love

The most exhilarating live band of 2011 captured the stern and repetitive urgency of their gigs on this industrial-scale rave monster, tweaking up all that brain-spangling techno euphoria that underlays their steely and austere severity. New Order drummer Stephen Morris was on the studio knobs, too.

41She Wants

One of three Metronomy tracks on our list, this first single, loping and luring, romanticises late nights, narcotics and sleep deprivation in earnest. ‘She Wants’ is like a slow-to-start pill that eventually crawls up your spine, seeps into your skin and then won’t let go.

Metronomy - 'She Wants'
Video: Metronomy - 'She Wants'

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