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The Best Songs of 2011

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Frankly, the year in music was rather lackluster. My rejection of commercial radio became permanent; my loyalties to KCRW, the music-oriented NPR station in Santa Monica, and KEXP, the independent, listener-supported station up in Seattle, cemented further. But even then, the quality of the music released this past year left much to be desired. In fact, a few of the songs presented on this year’s “best of” list wouldn’t have made the cut in years past, such was the sorry state of things in the music industry in 2011.

So, with that, my personal picks for the best twenty songs of the year, presented "countdown style," from #20 to #1...

20. CODEX – Radiohead

The slow build of this song caught my ear. Pretty decent track from these veterans.

19. MY SYNTHS ARE THE BOMB – Kraak and Smaak

I really started digging these guys when they released “Squeeze Me” a few years back. This track comes close to living up to its stupendous predecessor.

18. SECRET LOVE – Stevie Nicks

Although debuting on the national album chart at #6, Nicks’ “In Your Dreams” album went relatively unnoticed this year, selling less than 300,000 copies to date. To be sure, it wasn’t her best work, but this track caught my ear when it was released in January.

17. YOUNG, DUMB, AND IN LOVE – Mat Kearney

Cheerful, bouncy title track from the West coast native’s third album.

16. ONE DAY AT A TIME – Samantha Gibb and the Cartel

After releasing material several years ago as M.E.G., Samantha Gibb, Lazaro Rodriguez, and Nick Sallons fled Miami Beach and immersed themselves in the underground alternative scene of Nashville. The result was “Temptation,” a change in direction, but a pretty good album none-the-less. Gibbs’ sultry vocals highlight this wonderful track.

15. MIND ERASER – The Black Keys

Good, old-fashioned 70s style rock.

14. SHAKE IT OUT – Florence + the Machine

With their latest effort, the group continue their rise in the commercial realm.

13. ROCK DUST LIGHT STAR – Jamiroquai

The title track to an album that was released in the fall of 2010, it has yet to be released here in the States. The song appears on the Best of 2011 list on a technicality, as I didn’t obtain an imported copy of the set until this past summer.

12. LUCKY NOW – Ryan Adams

A basic, beautiful piece of music from the North Carolina native.


Simon returned to his 1970s hey-day with the “So Beautiful or So What” album. This opening track features background vocals from Mrs. Paul Simon (otherwise known as that bohemian from yester-year, Edie Brickell), as well as samples of a 1941 sermon from Rev. J. M. Gates. Very catchy tune.

10. THE WALK – Mayer Hawthorne

Good, old-fashioned 70s-style R&B from the geeky white boy from Ann Arbor.

9. FORGET THAT YOU’RE YOUNG – The Raveonettes

After hearing this on KPEX.com, this one was in heavy rotation on the iPod over the summer.

8. SO IN LOVE – Jill Scott (w/ Anthony Hamilton)

Another well produced, old-school-style R&B track.

7. PUMPED UP KICKS – Foster the People

This year’s guilty pleasure. It doesn’t hurt that these guys are so effin’ adorable.

6. SHARE THE MOON – Indigo Girls

Every now and then Amy Ray and Emily Sellers write something that I find just absolutely gorgeous. This track falls into that category.

5. TAKE ME OVER – Cut Copy

Cut Copy caught my ear back in January when this track was played on KCRW. This infectious, 80s-oriented pop song has been in heavy rotation on my iPod ever since.

4. DOWN BY THE WATER – The Decemberists

In the spirit of early Fleetwood Mac and R.E.M. (in fact, Peter Buck plays guitar here), this single from the Portland-based Decemberists features Gillian Welch on harmony.

3. WILL DO – TV on the Radio

Ten years and five albums later, TV on the Radio only hit my radar in 2011. Their album, “Nine Types of Light,” is among the years best. This was the first single from that set.


Even with my rejection of commercial radio, there was no getting away from the year’s best-selling single. Adele is arguably the current vocal champ of the pop bunch. And what I like about her is that she never resorts to the whole “vocal olympics” thing that so many of her contemporaries do.

1. SAVE ME – Goyte

The Belgian-born, Australian-bred Gotye earned his degree in Modern Languages (Japanese) at Melbourne University before his life-long love of music took him away from law school. His current album, “Making Movies,” was released only a month ago, and this track, buried deep inside the track listing, is, in my opinion, the best of the year.