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Masochist's Overly-detailed Top 20 Songs Of 2011

I probably spent too much time on these descriptions, especially since I don't think that many people will read it. But here it is, my opinion of the top 20 songs released in 2011. No artists repeated.
Shaolin vs. Wu-Tang

"MASTERS OF OUR FATE" - Rae delivers yet another stellar Wu-Revival album, and the song I latched onto this time is grounded a bit more in reality, and a bit more inspirational. The Winston Churchill speech fits so well with this song, both with the lyrics and the beat, that the first time I heard it I had to restart the song just to make sure I actually heard what I thought I heard. It's intense in its message, and very classically Wu.
19Love Axe

"RIGHT AWAY" - To tell the truth, this song probably isn't the best song on the album by any means (that honor should probably go to the opening track). But it's an earworm, to be sure, and I've listened to it three times as much as the opening track. I even learned it on guitar (it took me five minutes, but I still took the time to get it down). It's also been in my head since the beginning of the year. So in retrospect, maybe it IS the best song on the album...for me, anyways.
18Pharoahe Monch

"STILL STANDING" - I'm in the minority with my love for Pharoahe Monch's third solo album, but it was a great record to enjoy and explore. The gospel influence that permeates the album only helps it, and this song is the penultimate of that influence. The inspirational lyrics lend themselves for inclusion on any feel-good playlist, which is exactly where I put it. It's uplifiting almost (ALMOST) to the point of cheese, but that never stopped me from giving it good rotation this year.
17Tom Waits
Bad As Me

"KISS ME" - I remembered, when I first got to this song after hearing the whole album for the first time, that my friend Taxidermist had posted this on his Facebook so many months ago and pre-emptively proclaimed it Song of the Year. I remembered that I had forgotten about it. And as I listened to it again, I remembered those beautiful moments in Tom Waits' discography that made him a legend. That ragged voice, like every alcohol-drowned musician, imperfect yet so damn real like the out-of-tune piano he plays on, spread its intoxication through my ears, and I remembered the very first time I listened to the song. And I remembered why, all those months ago, I agreed with Taxi wholeheartedly. Perhaps if I hadn't forgotten about the song until a week ago, I still would.
16The Dear Hunter
The Color Spectrum (Complete Collection)

"NEVER FORGIVE, NEVER FORGET" - There are seven first-track songs on this list, which goes to show what an impression the first track of an album can have on me. This is no exception...especially in the case of the Complete Collection of The Color Spectrum, because I STILL haven't listened to every song on it. This song works, though, because that chorus comes out of nowhere. Dear goodness, how do you go from that relatively flat verse to that absolutely lung-bursting high note!? That amazing juxtaposition is what made this song the most memorable of all the ones I listened to on that album.
15The Black Keys
El Camino

"LONELY BOY" - It's a bit too late in the year for this song to make it very high up the list, but it's just catchy enough to make the list nonetheless. I won't forget that black-guy-in-a-pink-shirt dancing it up in front of the motel office any time soon. And yah damn right, I've danced along with him!
The Valley

"THE VALLEY" - I realize that this is an absolutely unheard-of phenomenon that no one else but me experiences, but when a single song turns me on to a band's entire catalogue, usually that song gets an unusual amount of plays throughout the year. "The Valley" did exactly that for me, making me rue every single missed opportunity to see Eisley live this year (which, oddly, was quite a few). It's an easy listen, and it has never failed to put me in a good mood; the type of song that I imagine an independent movie might play during its opening credits; bouncy and light-hearted with angelic harmonies and ironically dark-ish lyrics. An excellent addition to any coffee- shop soundtrack, Christian or otherwise.
13Old Man Markley
Guts N' Teeth

"FOR BETTER, FOR WORSE" - The single most fun song I listened to this year.
12Bad Meets Evil
Hell: The Sequel

"FAST LANE" - With the possible exception of "Welcome 2 Hell" (the track right before this), this is by far the best song Eminem has done since "Mosh." And this EP is his best release since 'The Eminem Show'.

"YELLOW BELLY" - For me, the first songs of Thrice records almost always become favorites of mine. "Cold Cash and Colder Hearts," "Firebreather," "All The World Is Mad"...all of them are excellent in my eyes. "Yellow Belly" follows the trend, probably for the simple fact that it's the first song on a Thrice record, but more for the fact that it's a damn good song. That drawn-out, haunting guitar line behind the second verse is a spectacularly simple addiction of mine, and the bridge is the catchiest one I've heard from the band since "Firebreather."
Odd Soul

"ALLIES" - The closest thing that 'Odd Soul' has to a straightforward rock song. The drumming is some of the best on an album full of stellar drumming, and the main guitar riff is probably my favorite on the entire album (save the title track). As off-beat as it is, it still managed to get stuck in my head.
9Hugh Laurie
Let Them Talk

"ST. JAMES INFIRMARY" - It took exactly one song to validate Hugh Laurie's decision to write an American Blues album, and sing it in an American accent. And even with a 2:40-long intro, this song demands you pay attention to its intricacies. Everything, EVERYTHING fits into place, even that five second accordian fill about 2:15 in. And then, when Hugh Laurie (finally) starts singing, you breathe that sigh of relief because you realize that, yes, this album was a good idea.
Hurry Up, We're Dreaming

"MIDNIGHT CITY" - Pure 80's schmaltz of every type and flavor. There's the "laser-firing" sound effect, the barren, synth-and-electric-drum-driven chorus, the Rick Astley-esque drum fill that pops up in the background every so often, and even the George Michael sax tribute at the end. Promise, though, that you felt like a bobblehead everytime this came on. And I bet it came on often.
7Scale the Summit
The Collective

"THE LEVITATED" - ...just watch that video, and maybe you'll get what I mean when I say I've never been so impressed simply WATCHING someone play guitar (start at 0:45). The full song is even better, of course.
6Foo Fighters
Wasting Light

"BRIDGE BURNING" - 'Wasting Light' was such a refreshing listen: a straight modern rock album that carried with it everything good about the 90's (the least of which was the fact that it was recorded in Dave Grohl's garage). It was tough choosing which song would end up on this list--should it be the stripped back "I Should Have Known?" or the pure 90's homage "White Limo?" or the emotional "These Days?" In the end, "Bridge Burning" was the song I listened to the most, and the one stuck in my head the longest, so it's the one that gets the spot.
Portal 2: Songs to Test By

"EXILE VILIFY" - Ballad of the year, like only The National could pull off. It felt so real hearing this the first time I found that secret room in Portal 2 that I had to hear it again...and again...and again. Oh, and I might mention that I'd never heard a song by The National before this one, so I'm not a fanboy raving about his favorite band...though after hearing this, I may turn into one.
4Tech N9ne
All 6's and 7's

"WORLDWIDE CHOPPERS" - The most impressive hip-hop song I've heard in years, plain and simple. Multiple listens haven't lessened its power. Fucking Busta Rhymes...damn.
3Fair To Midland
Arrows and Anchors

"MUSICAL CHAIRS" - Ever since the demo came out over two years ago, this song has been on repeat in my head. I knew all of the melodies and most of the lyrics, paid attention to every drumbeat and keyboard note...and yet, when the studio version was released, I was STILL blown away. The forward-mixing of the out-of-place bassline puts a very distinct Fair-to- Midland-spin on the song, and those extra little high-hat hits change the entire dynamic of certain parts. Oh...and the music video is one of the best band-playing-the-song videos I think I've ever seen. I've been digging this song for over two years...and counting.
2Manchester Orchestra
Simple Math

"PALE BLACK EYES" - It's the build-up. It's the climax. It's the utterly desparate self-depreciating plea that would automatically make Oscar- worthy any movie or actor that managed to scream it out with as much emotion as Andy Hull pulls out of his throat at the end of this song. It's probably the most heart-felt rock song I've heard this year (other than perhaps Foo Fighters' "I Should Have Known"), and it somehow manages to trump the rest of the specatcular songs on this album to make my list. It's that damn good.
The Dreamer, The Believer

"GHETTO DREAMS" - This wasn't an easy decision by any means; even just within hip-hop, there are quite a few songs that could've made it here (which gives me so much hope for the future of the genre, to tell the truth). But when it comes down to it, there hasn't been a song since Raekwon's "House of Flying Daggers" in 2009 that has fully captured my attention in the year it came out like "Ghetto Dreams" has, hip-hop or otherwise. The song is deceptive; it's very tounge-in-cheek, a don't-take-me-too-seriously track that Common seemingly wrote while literally dreaming about his perfect woman. The thing that captures my attention, however, is how FRESH this obvious old-skool homage sounds. It's got a classically simple No I.D. beat underlining two of the best M.C.'s from the '90's (and two of my favorites, period), and those M.C.'s give their best performances of the decade so far. And it's catchy as hell, too; I seriously look like a avatar whenever this song comes on. And sometimes I forget to actually answer my phone because I'm too busy listening to this as my ringtone. It may not have been an easy decision, but it's a firm one: Common and Nas's "Ghetto Dreams" is my song of the year.
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