Top 50 Songs of 2011 :: 40-31 [And I went down, I went down hard]

 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 40-31.

40. Milagres - "Glowing Mouth"

We make a lot of jokes about modern independent rock sounding like someone took one too many cold pills. Milagres sat just on the edge of sea sick with "Glowing Mouth" - and maybe think of this as more recovery than desire to plumb the depths - a bit of Dramamine pop, spinning, tippy and a little weird. But, the refrain, "Son, you better get used to believing in things that you can't see", a fractured falsetto, stuck out as one of the best of the year. The other side of the couplet was about things seen and said in the dark, a perfect analogy for buzzy, slow-drive pop song, all florescent lights and fog on the car ride home.

39. French Films - "Pretty In Decadence"

Even a band from Finland with a name about foreign cinema like French Films wore their influences on their sleeves in 2011. "Pretty In Decadence" cribbed style notes out of all the great post-punk pop bands, tipping its cap to Original Gangstas like Robert Smith while managing to put contemporary bands like the Drums on notice not just for plagiarism, but for bad plagiarism. The guitars were warm and bright and the chorus was a shout-along affair with a rich and meaningless edict about "stay[ing] this way baby". We figured, it's been this way since the early 80s, no one is changing.

38. They Might Be Giants - "Can't Keep Johnny Down"

They Might Be Giants were the band I came to terms with in 2011, fully admitting that they were the favorite band of my childhood. It wasn't that I had somehow forgotten all those memorized lyrics and melodies, but TMBG finally released an album that reminded me of how I felt in 1996 when Factory Showroom landed in my mailbox and I refused to take it out of my portable CD player. "Can't Keep Johnny Down" was as playful as indie rock would get in 2011 with lyrics about soiling your drawers and addressing haters as "all the dicks in this dick town." They Might Be Giants were back, and I was back with them.

37. Polica - "Lay Your Cards Out" 

When in doubt, do something dark and sordid. Polica, a Minneapolis band with an affinity for shadowy electronics and loop pedals, found a slice of utter brilliance with "Lay Your Cards Out". In essence, it was a pep talk with lyrics about "getting your head right" and the eponymous title lyric's encouragement to be straight forward. The vocal was one of the most sultry of 2011, a woman asking for honesty and telling you to get your shit together at the same time, at once entirely vulnerable and totally uncompromising.

36. Friends - "Friend Crush"


Friends will be the band who slays your 2012 in a way you always hoped Lykke Li would but never did. "Friend Crush" was their first proper single, a loose bass line and maracas covering a pleading vocal and a chorus about being in love with your best friend. It was murder, slowly done, a long form improvisation piece about gaining proximity by factors of half, each time getting closer and closer but never, ever getting there.

35. Jonquil - "Mexico"

Jonquil's "Mexico" rang as a slice of the tropical pop that so dominated the last few years of independent rock music. These references were more obvious; hell, the title was "Mexico" and the sound was as warm as the water would get this year. The band is set to release their full length in 2012 and "Mexico" will be on it, a hand warmer for the winter and all these spinning melodies, like some pinwheel, that only belong somewhere hot and breezy.  

34. Priory - "Lady of Late"

Priory's "Lady of Late" was the song I sung to myself most in 2011. The melody had that natural adhesive quality, lyrics and melody firmly stuck on the first listen. The guitars pulled from the 2004 Modest Mouse catalog, but the surging background vocals and the lyrics about some girl who absolutely kills you made these memorable moments. "I went down, I went down hard", sings vocalist Brandon Johnson, a combination of word and tone that never left your brain after you heard it. 

33. Bad Lamps - "Never Know The Difference"

Bad Lamps surged out of the gates with an excellent first single, "Never Know The Difference". It was snappy, little pop song about a "little, spotty British girl", a bit of electro-pop with a basic foundation and brilliant execution. It was simple to be sure, an insistent drum loop, a bit of guitar and an arrangement rooted in a series of three elevating chords, but, this simplicity allowed for an impressive series of hooks to spill from verse and chorus alike.

32. All Tiny Creatures - "An Iris" [feat. Justin Vernon]

All Tiny Creatures captured Justin Vernon for the hook of their delicate, spinning single, "An Iris". This collaboration might quite rightly leave you questioning: Does All Tiny Creatures really think they're Kanye West? While the band and Mr. West only shared a collaboration with Vernon in common, "An Iris" was built on a twirling guitar loop, an arrangement that recalled some of Clock Opera's original material and remix work. The directionality of the recording spun around in your headphones, Vernon and the band switching left and right channels as if in orbit around your skull.  

31. Best Coast - "Gone Again"

It was all chorus from Best Coast on one-off single, "Gone Again". A series of backing "oohs" and the imminently hooky refrain, "I know that you're gone again." The verses felt less like verses and more like B-melodies, like pre-choruses, as Best Coast singer Beth Cosentino sang about the reasons she should be happy (see: getting high) and the reasons she can't be (see: "you're gone again").

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