Top 50 Songs of 2011 :: 30-21 [The world will unfold all around us]

Welcome to our annual countdown of the 50 best songs of the calendar year. Songs must be from an EP, LP or demo released during 2011, no band may appear twice. Each post contains a lyric from one of the ten songs to follow, a hint and a hook that stuck out clearly in this group. Today, we count down 30-21.

30. The Jezabels - "Endless Summer"

This was the year and the album where the Jezabels washed over the American consumer like a rogue wave. Well, it didn't happen, but it wasn't for fault of "Endless Summer", an alternately austere and bold piece of pop music. Singer Hayley Mary cast herself in the sharpest form of relief, the single best voice of the year, a vocalist entirely unrestrained and simultaneously in total control.

29. Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. - "An Ugly Person On A Movie Screen"


The mix of electronics and silky vocals gave Detroit's Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. an easy entry point to the pop listener of 2011. Building on a successful 2010 EP, the band returned with a well received full length (just ask Paste Magazine) and a track five, "An Ugly Person On A Movie Screen" that blew the collective doors off. Or maybe it was the roof, a musical convertible with the power to pick up the breezy, send the clouds home early and sound sunnier than anything else you heard this year. The chorus was full of woozy "nahs" and lyrics like "You don't know how your caged bird sings". It was, of course, critical of a world too focused on aesthetics, even if the aesthetics here were fantastic.

28. Typhoon - "Summer Home"

Sometimes it is a lyric, even just one, that sticks out so squarely it makes the whole song ache with relevance. For Typhoon on "Summer Home" it was the soaring and fragile, "it's how we start over" set on repeat in the bridge. The band attempts to follow its own recommendation, stripping the arrangement down to nothing, before building it again, though never returning to the edicts of the bridge. It was a delicate brand of folk music that Typhoon pulled off in 2011, built at once for destruction and again for framing, its edges serrated but not ill suited to construction.

27. Friska Viljor - "Larionov"

Friska Viljor rarely makes any sense to the American audience. The name intimidates us, this before we even get to a song title we don't recognize. Can't you name yourselves after an animal like these American/Canadian bands do, we think? But, Friska Viljor don't care, and they're making the most fun music in the world right now. "Larionov" is an explosion of horns and kick out the windows drums. "You know the answers to the beating of my heart", they sing as their arrangement absolutely explodes around them, and maybe you reconsider how you felt about the consonants in their name and you go pick up their recent album.

 26. Youth Lagoon - "Afternoon"

Youth Lagoon, like Beirut before him, is a precocious, multi-instrumentalist from a part of the country that most Eastern Indie Music Elites label as good for American Indian Art to be used as a t-shirt design in Williamsburg. But the American West couldn't hold this bedroom collection, and "Afternoon" was so full of rich melodies and nostalgia that it didn't feel a bit indulgent or dishonest. Youth Lagoon is really just a kid, but then again, so was Condon.

25. Auditorium - "Sunday"

If you are planning on getting in a relationship in New York City in the next few months, listen to Auditorium's "Sunday". Hell, this song is so sweet, you might end up dating it. Realistically, it describes a rosy-hued picture of life on Prospect Park West, marching up toward Grand Army Plaza and the Great Lawn with a cup of excellent coffee in hand, all in perfect time and harmony. This is your shift at the Co-Op set to music; this is your life but better.

24. We Barbarians - "The Wait Is Over"

Having seen their live show twice now, it is undebatable fact that We Barbarians are the best rock band playing in New York City right now. On their most recent EP, "The Wait Is Over" slotted at track two, a combination of glossy pop hooks and big guitars. The band bears inexact comparisons to early We Are Scientists, but their energy is different, an explosion of resurgent vocals and thrashing breakdowns. If this is modern barbarism, we will throw open the gates of the city and let the invaders in. But then again, they're already here and they're already dominant.

23. Polarsets - "Leave Argentina"

In the year that closed LCD Soundsystem's official career, bands like Polarsets proved that: 1. the cowbell was still very much alive and 2. Dancing in rock music was not as dead as James Murphy's band. "Leave Argentina" was an absurd trip to South America, full of references to "debonaire" sensibilities, nudity and, predictably, cocaine. The final movement put the listener inside the machine as the band screams about feeling drunk and glamorous. It didn't bring indie rock back to the club - it was already there - but it moved it onto the dance floor and made it do the windmill.

22. The Rural Alberta Advantage - "Barnes' Yard"


One of those albums that is so firmly in our collective rear view mirror by December, it would be easy to forget that Rural Alberta Advantage released a record this year and even easier to forget that the best song on it wasn't the promotional single, "Stamp". "Barnes' Yard" surged unexpectedly from the speakers, a breathless and aerobic exercise in acoustic pop. As usual, the final denouement lay in Nils Edenloff turning his neck into turnpike of surging veins, screaming into your iTunes with no regard for your safety or his own.

21. Stricken City - "Some Say"

If there was one band that absolutely should have made more noise and sold more records before their demise, it was certainly Stricken City in 2011. "Some Say" was the band's last single before going on permanent hiatus and their last chance to convince you to buy one of their records. The song was divided into a few distinct movements, a soft open, a crackling first third, and an outright explosive final act. "Some Say" was post-punk with an updated ethos but, more likely, it was the song and the band that you missed.

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