2011 was a wonderful year for music. Great new bands were formed, established favourites released brilliant new albums, and some songs came out of nowhere to blow people away. The high quality of music released meant that coming up with a list of favourite songs was not an easy task. In coming up with my list of my top 25 songs of the year, I had one major problem: some of my favourite albums of the past year have many brilliant songs worthy of recognition. In deciding to put only one song from each band or artist on this list, I wanted to increase the number of different musicians being recognized. With that said, I will include a few other songs from each band’s 2011 albums that are worth checking out. If the album is a single and the corresponding album was not released in 2011, I will recommend some other songs from that artist to check out. Look below for songs 25 through 16, and be sure to check back soon for the rest of the list!
25. Givers – “Up Up Up”
One of the most infectious songs of the year, “Up Up Up” is a perfect song for summer. It is a happy and light-hearted song, with vocalists Tiffany Lamson and Taylor Guarisco complementing each other perfectly. Already a popular addition to the FIFA ’12 soundtrack, this song seems destined for one of Apple’s iPod commercials.
Also download: “Saw You First”, “Meantime”, “Ceiling of Plankton”
24. Grouplove – “Colours”
A band that is no stranger to iPod commercials, Grouplove’s popularity has skyrocketed in the past few months. While the addictive “Tongue Tied” has been embraced by people wholeheartedly, it’s the memorable first single from their debut album Never Trust a Happy Song that deserves accolades. With memorable lyrics, as well as simple yet effective instrumentation that complements the song well, “Colours” is one song you’ll find yourself playing on repeat. Fun fact: like “Up Up Up”, “Colours” is featured on the FIFA ’12 soundtrack, as well as the NFL ’12 soundtrack.
Also download: “Tongue Tied”, “Itchin’ on a Photograph”, “Cruel and Beautiful World”
23. Marina & the Diamonds – “Radioactive”
As a huge fan of Marina & the Diamonds, “Radioactive” is an interesting introduction to the sound of her upcoming second album, Electra Heart. Marina Diamandis’ voice is versatile and quirky, perfectly suited for this upbeat dance-y number. The music video is well-made and worth a watch, introducing the concept for the new album, which is centred around the character Electra Heart. Diamandis has said that the album is centered around the idea of the corrupt side of American ideology, with the character representing the corruption of oneself. While the sound of “Radioactive” strays a bit from what was seen on The Family Jewels, it ties into the theme of the album well, and is a well-written and memorable pop song that deserves to be a hit.
Also download: “Mowgli’s Road”, “Hermit the Frog”, “Rootless”
22. Dan Mangan – “Starts With Them, Ends With Us”
I have never listened to Dan Mangan much. It’s not because I don’t find his music enjoyable, but rather because I just haven’t given it the time of day. That all changed with the release of Oh Fortune. “Starts With Them, Ends With Us” is a more subdued indie-folk tune for the first three and a half minutes before exploding into a euphoric and grand song, complete with horns and trumpets galore. It is memorable, intriguing, and, quite simply, a brilliant song. I recommend checking out the entire album, but if you have to check out just one song, make it this one.
Also download: “If I Am Dead”, “Jeopardy”, “About As Helpful As You Can Be Without Being Any Help At All”
21. Manchester Orchestra – “Virgin”
One of the most powerful songs of 2011, without a doubt, “Virgin” stands out as the highlight on an already great album. The choir is a perfect addition for the song’s memorable chorus, and is one of the best uses of a choir in a song in quite some time, complementing Andy Hull’s vocals brilliantly throughout. At times eerie and haunting, the song is quite chilling and stands as one song that I will still remember years down the line.
Also download: “Simple Math”, “Deer”, “April Fool”
20. Eisley – “Better Love”
The Valley represents Eisley’s best work yet. A band that is often known as much for being a family as for their music itself, they write well-composed tracks that are definitely deserving of a wider audience. “Better Love” is, in my opinion, the band’s best song. Uplifting and bright, and featuring amazing harmonies from the DuPree sisters, the song feels immediately familiar, as if it has been one of your favourite tracks for years. “Better Love” stands as a perfect introduction to Eisley’s music and a shining example of the indie-pop genre.
Also download: “Watch It Die”, “Smarter”, “Oxygen Mask”
19. The Weeknd – “The Morning”
Smooth as hell. That’s about the best description I have for “The Morning”, a highlight of The Weeknd’s first mixtape, House of Balloons. The song is brilliant, both stirring and unforgettable. Abel Tesfaye has arguably the best voice in R&B currently, and has gone from being a relative unknown to one of Canada’s top new talents. Releasing three great mixtapes in 2011 alone, with House of Balloons shortlisted for the Polaris Music Prize, and with an official album coming in 2012, I have a feeling we will be seeing a lot more of Tesfaye in the near future.
Also download: “High For This”, “Wicked Games”, “D.D.”
18. The Black Keys – “Nova Baby”
The Black Keys are one of the most consistent bands in music today. They release music frequently, and each album seems to improve upon the last. While it will still take some more listens to decide if El Camino has enough to top Brothers as a whole, “Nova Baby” is one song that stands out amongst the rest of their discography. As usual, Dan Auerbach offers up solid vocals accentuated by striking guitar riffs, while Patrick Carney provides a rousing and suitable percussion accompaniment. Along with fantastic production from Danger Mouse, it is hard to believe that two musicians can create such enjoyable blues rock jams.
Also download: “Lonely Boy”, “Dead and Gone”, “Gold on the Ceiling”
17. St. Vincent – “Surgeon”
Annie Clark can do no wrong. On Strange Mercy she has crafted an experience that is enthralling from start to finish. While a lot of praise has been (deservedly) been given to “Cruel”, “Surgeon” has not gotten quite as much recognition as it commands. Clark sings with a confidence that at times feels seductive. Not only that, the instrumentals are unbelievable. Guitar, bass, and synth combine to create a track without equal on the album. The last minute of the song is unbelievably satisfying and memorable, with a solo designed to thrill. Strange Mercy is one of the year’s best albums and highly recommended from me.
Also download: “Cruel”, “Strange Mercy”, “Northern Lights”
16. Washed Out – “Amor Fati”
A song that makes me want to fly, and the perfect summer jam, “Amor Fati” is Washed Out at their finest. It is also one of my favourite chillwave songs and Within and Without is a great album to start with when discovering the genre. With soaring vocals from Ernest Greene and some great synths backing him up, the song transports you to a land of dreams and refuses to let you go. It is an optimistic, feel-good song that will melt away all of your worries. This is one track you will undoubtedly still be spinning in 2012 and beyond.
Also download: “A Dedication”, “Eyes Be Closed”, “You and I“