Kultur Klatch / Favorite Best Songs of 2011, Part 1 of 4

I finally found some time to post my favorite best songs of 2011, so here they are:

Intro” / M83 / Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming
“M83’s music has always felt like it exists in celestial spaces. No matter how thick Anthony Gonzalez’s arrangements, no matter how mammoth his ambition, it sounds both infinite and weightless. ‘Intro’ is the first track from his forthcoming double LP, Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, an album so deep and expansive it could house weather systems within weather systems. And rather than explode at first count like early listen ‘Midnight City’, Gonzalez eases us up and into his odyssey slowly but surely. Nika Roza Danilova, otherwise known as Zola Jesus, makes an appearance here to goosebump-heavy effect. She whispers a few lines of narrative as we get going, and then she starts to belt. Synths dance. Bells sparkle. A choir erupts amid crashing cymbals and rippling tom. Everything else looks so tiny from way up here.” (David Bevan, Pitchfork)

Civilization” / Justice / Civilization
“‘Civilization’ is Gaspard Augé and Xavier de Rosnay’s big return, and it comes on splashy as glam circa 1974: big, galumphing beat, deliberate tempo, fist-waving chorus, keyboards that split the difference between triumphalist and mock-triumphalist.”  (Michaelangelo Matos, Resident Advisor)

Putting the Dog to Sleep” / The Antlers / Burst Apart
“Lest you think the Antlers’ have become just another pleasant indie band, consider closer ‘Putting The Dog To Sleep,’ a hauntingly beautiful track that speaks to the end of a relationship as good as any lyric Silberman has penned. ‘Well my trust in you / is a dog with a broken leg / tendons too torn to beg / for you to let me back in,’ Silberman sings as a guitar heavy with reverb punches through the fog, ending with a line typically unsure: ‘Put your trust in me / I’m not gonna die alone / I don’t think so.’ It’s a harkening back to the Antlers who won so many people over by being brutally open, but at the end of a record like Burst Apart it sounds like a band capable of so many things, confident in sharing joy and heartache equally.”  (Rudy Klapper, Sputnik Music)

We Found Love” / Rihanna f/ Calvin Harris / Talk That Talk
“Europop really fits Rihanna. No, this song is not taking any risks in our current dance-crazed climate. But unlike some artists, Rihanna actually sounds right at home with the dance sound. As well it should, since Rihanna jumped ahead of the pack with the dance sound way back when on ‘Please Don’t Stop The Music.’ These are her sonic stomping grounds.”  (Ricky Ribeiro, Bark + Bite)

All Die Young” / Smith Westerns / Dye It Blonde
“In the past, all the young dudes in glam-rock torchbearers Smith Westerns had their greenness working against them. They staged Marc Bolan séances with a budget taken from between couch cushions, and their live show could be generously described as ‘ramshackle.’ But a song like ‘All Die Young’ requires a brashness that borders on naïveté, as they make a run at the sort of dream-big, Bic-waving power ballads that is unthinkable from most of their indie rock peers. The Brit-pop ambition of Dye It Blonde varies from one song to the next, but here they perfectly channel Oasis’ most populist, stein-hoisting slow jams. The sustained pipe organ chords that open ‘All Die Young’ augur enough drama to come, but then come the pinched, trebly slide guitar that’s so reminiscent of George Harrison that the cheapest critical descriptor, ‘Beatlesque,’ is pretty much unavoidable. Cullen Omori is so in thrall that you can hardly make out any of the lyrics, just the important ones– ‘heart and soul,’ and on the strangely jubilant coda, the title. It’s their showstopper, and I have no idea how they plan to credibly pull this off live, but that’s just the audacity of youth coming through again, living in the moment, and if tomorrow comes, we’ll figure it out then.”  (Ian Cohen, Pitchfork)

Overdose” / Ill Blu / Meltdown EP
“Don’t worry if UK funky isn’t your thing, their sound isn’t easily as bound by the funky discipline that other producers in the scene struggle to move out of, despite their strong reputation as master remixers at the forefront of a spectrum of UK music that is a bit awkward and sometimes tacky, Ill Blu are easily able to please the more progressive listener, joining the likes of Lil Silva and Roska.”  (wearerebels.com)

County Line” / Cass McCombs / Wit’s End
“McCombs is no stranger to a nomadic recording process – Southern California, New York, and Michigan have all served as places of inspiration for the songwriter – but on McCombs’ latest single, ‘County Line,’ said wanderer aesthetic seeps effortlessly into a smooth serving of Hammond organ and upright bass. It’s sexy and wide-eyed in a way that counts James Taylor as its greatest influence – but where Taylor’s croons and propositions always maintained New England as a backdrop, McCombs adopts a sense of wanderlust totality. The song’s titular county line, the one ‘left so far behind,’ could be anywhere, as long as it’s far away from whoever it is who ‘never even tried to love me,’ as McCombs declares, in a falsetto like walking on glass that will put chills up your spine. It’s a beautiful, stunning song for driving into sunsets, gazing across plains, seeing everything and nothing.”  (Genevieve Oliver, Pretty Much Amazing)

Pumped Up Kicks” (Young DuckBeats Remix) / Foster the People

The Lakes We Skate On” / Hello Saferide / Säkert! på engelska
“Translation, of course, is never a straightforward substitution of one set of words for another. A song or poem draws significance, pace and a part of its character from things like rhyme, the rhythm of a sentence, and the way consecutive words sound when metered next to each other, not simply from the bald semantic ‘meanings’ of the words selected. As a gifted writer whose songs possess an almost supernatural ability to induce tears of recognition and sympathy, Norlin will, of course, already be aware of this, and her approach on På Engelska is an interesting one. … ‘The Lakes We Skate On’ sounds distinctly Johnny Marr-like in its lilt and jangle.”  (Jude Clarke, Wears the Trousers)

Always All” / Persian Rugs / Always All
“Toronto, ON’s the Diableros imploded part way into the making of their third album, but fans of the band’s fuzzy indie pop will certainly find plenty to love in Persian Rugs. The Diableros’ Ian Jackson formed the group with former bandmate Matt Rubba, as well as Ali Sunderji, who played in the Airfields with Jackson. Rounding out the quartet is Kaye Hamilton, whose lovely vocals and keyboard playing help elevate their debut seven-inch above their contemporaries.”  (Ian Gormley, Exclaim!)

The Noose of Jah City” / King Krule / King Krule
“South-east London teenager Archy Marshall, aka King Krule, used to record under the moniker Zoo Kid, but – and we’re guessing here – didn’t want to have the same problem Boyzone and Sugababes inherited as they got older (that is, being lumbered with a name that aged immediately). Not that Marshall shares any musical sensibilities with either of them – his heroes are Elvis Presley, Gene Vincent and Tom Waits – but it’s a reflection of his desire for longevity that it was changed. The Noose of Jah City – a Guardian exclusive and the lead track from his forthcoming self-titled EP – shuffles rather than explodes into the spotlight, a mumbled intro making way for a hypnotic slowburn guitar figure that ushers in a simple beat before Marshall’s characterful vocals (pitched somewhere between Jack Peñate and Gwilym Gold) deliver a pretty tragic tale of death and retribution.”  (Michael Cragg, The Guardian)

When I Was High” / Nikkiya / SpeakHer
“I think living in Asia and Italy have contributed to my style. When you mix that with South Carolina, you get a very unique style. It is definitely unique to me. I always liked bands like ‘Ace of Bass’ and all that euro-pop music. When I came to South Carolina, I started to hear all this crunk music. So I began incorporating those sounds in to my music. I also grew up with my mom listening to artists like Anita Baker and Whitney Houston. On top of that, my dad was a preacher, so I grew up around a lot of gospel. … The words are ‘Life seemed so damn good when I was high’. So that means life appeared to be better when I was high when I was going through tough times. You know, shit happens. I realized, masking those feelings by getting high is not the right thing to do. At the time, like my lyrics say, it appeared that life was actually good when it wasn’t. I think it’s a song a lot of people can relate to.”  –Nikkya, in interview with Spot On Long Island

Circuital” / My Morning Jacket / Circuital
“The leftover feedback leads right into the title track, Circuital, a guitar-riff driven track that is one of MMJ’s best songs since 2005′s ‘Z,’ featuring chiming guitars, wailing vocals, and a perfectly written song.”  (Troubled Souls Unite)

Gen N-E-Y” / M.I.A. / Vicki Leekx
“Named after the popular and currently highly controversial WikiLeaks, which, like M.I.A., has pissed off a lot of authoritative figures, VICKI LEEKX is a return to the forum for the surprising popstar: 36 minutes of ongoing belligerent, dance-frenzy audible fury, with production from the usual suspects Diplo, Switch and Blaqstarr. The mixtape’s highlight is indubitably ‘GEN N-E-Y,’ where the politically charged songstress repeats ‘if you don’t give a fuck, I don’t give a damn.’ Here, M.I.A.’s heavily reverberated vocals are hostile and deafening, on an explosive beat that combines /\/\/\Y/\‘s glitchy electronica and Kala‘s indisputable swagger. Among the substantial dubstep and bass heavy supremacy lies layers of noise and distortion, working in convergence with Maya’s auto-tuned voice. The political connotations surrounding the song adhere to her usual ‘fuck the system’ motif, strengthened by the most turbulent backdrop she’s come out with recently.”  (Daniel Koren, Pretty Much Amazing)

Immigrant Song” / Karen O w/ Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross / The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
“Not long ago, the entire population of the internet freaked out a little over Trent Reznor and Karen O’s collaboration on a cover of Led Zeppelin’s ‘Immigrant Song’ for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo soundtrack. It’s a great cover from two of the most boundary-pushing artists out there today – Karen’s ferocious (you’d have to be to do Robert Plant any justice) and Reznor’s chilly, driving electro soundscape backs her up perfectly. You can now watch its hypnotic video, a cut of select images from the film’s trailer.” (Genevieve Oliver, Pretty Much Amazing)

Generation” / Liturgy / Aesthethica
“As heard on the instrumental monster ‘Generation’, Liturgy’s second effort affirms each of those big ideas frontman Hunter Hunt-Hendrix loves. Suggesting Glenn Branca and Don Caballero more than Mayhem, ‘Generation’ repeats its riff as though the record were broken. For the guitars, any motion is incremental, with crisp waves of distortion occasionally smearing into layers of dissonance. The charge here comes from drummer Greg Fox, who explores the possibilities of his small kit– letting the high-hats rest, letting them ring, limiting the action mostly to his combat-ready snares– with a pioneer’s zeal. It’s like seven minutes of the introduction to the best rock’n’roll song you know. A tune like this might lose Liturgy whatever heavy metal rights they had earned; when you’re pumping your fists, though, to minimalist metal this ecstatic and transcendent, it’s really hard to care.”  (Grayson Currin, Pitchfork)

How Deep is Your Love” / The Rapture / In the Grace of Your Love
“‘How Deep Is Your Love?’ does away with the punk side of [The Rapture’s] signature dance-punk sound almost entirely, leaving only a ghost of it in Luke Jenner’s forever-nervous yelp. Instead, this is straight-up dance music, its classic Chicago house piano line accentuating a percolating disco groove that never lets up even when it breaks down to hand claps and nothing else. And when the elemental sax solo rises up out of nowhere on the second half– honking and squawking with vengeance for a solid two-and-a-half minutes– things ascend exponentially. This is nightclub drama done right, and if it took the Rapture five years to make a track like this, then it was time well-spent.”  (Tom Breihan, Pitchfork)

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