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DaveyBoy's Top 40 Songs Of 2011

In previous years, I have had silly rules for this list like "one song from each artist" & what are the "allowable release dates". Stuff that this year, as I'm just going with common sense. Plus, when you have one singer who provides 2 song of the year contenders, then it would be silly to rule one of them out. The only track I did not take into account was the amazing 'Forever My Father' by Go Radio as that had appeared years earlier on one of the band's EPs. As per usual, my descriptions will be less formal than my Top Albums list. And I've decided to throw in a key lyric for the Top 20 songs. Plus, it's me, so you know there are going to be some seriously guilty pleasures amongst this list...
Someone Like You

For months, I couldn't split album opener 'Rolling In The Deep' & closer 'Someone Like You'. The latter eventually won me over marginally more because of the way it blended genuine emotion with a sense of (for want of a better word) catchiness. Ballads which strike a chord with the mainstream populous will usually have one or the other, but not both. Also, they are usually very general so as to be easily relatable... 'Someone Like You' is, yet it is also undeniably personal. Beautifully sung by Adele & written by Adele and Semisonic vocalist Dan Wilson, this is the type of song that is timeless. And if ever an exclamation point had to be put on a song, then it was emotionally delivered at the BRIT Awards. "Sometimes it lasts in love but sometimes it hurts instead".
Somebody That I Used to Know

(featuring Kimbra) "I don't even need your love, but you treat me like a stranger and that feels so rough". With that lyric alone, Wally De Backer (aka Gotye) sums up this song perfectly. His eloquent - yet to-the point - words are exactly how our own thoughts will always lack objectivity to some degree. In a sense, it's such a simple tale to this track, yet the way in which it is told is as beguiling as it is satisfying. And just when you think you have it pegged, Kimbra arrives with the other side of the story, almost chiding the male for how convincing his one-sided re-telling is. 'Hearts A Mess' was really really good, but 'Somebody That I Used to Know' has deservedly earned mainstream crossover success for Gotye. His albums may be a little scattershot, but when he gets it right, he shows you exactly where the bullseye is.

While 'Up Up Up' was the deserved choice of lead single from 'In Light', it is the rock-oriented 'Meantime' which is my personal standout, since it best exemplifies Givers' unpredictable song structures & boy-girl vocal dynamics. Some gorgeous 50s like guitar melodies, a group chant & a fantastic guitar solo all help make the tune... But it is just short of the 3 minute mark where my musical moment of 2011 occurs: Following a rousing crash of drums, cymbals & guitar, a tempo switch signals Tiffany Lamson to leave her striking vocal mark on proceedings... And it is just pure bliss! "Don't get stuck in the meantime. No such thing as the meantime".
4Florence and the Machine
What The Water Gave Me

Most people - whether they liked 'Ceremonials' or not - preferred 'Shake It Out', but it was 'What the Water Gave Me' all the way for yours truly. Why? Because it's probably the best example of "tension and release" that I heard in 2011. For an album that was arguably filled with too much noise on occasions, this track was unafraid to dial it down, before unleashing its fantastic crescendo. And what a celebratory climax it is too... There's a moment in the video for the single which shows Florence wearing the most natural smile you could ever see from a pop star nowadays... And it just seems so fitting. "Lay me down, let the only sound be the overflow... Pockets full of stones".
Rolling in the Deep

Even Adele's detractors could not denounce this amazing tune. Despite it being terminally overplayed by every radio station & music-video show all around the world, its quality endured throughout 2011. Those who bore easily of the vocalist's many ballads, would have been pleasantly surprised at the pace, melody & borderline menace evident here. Maybe the neatest trick of all, was that in unleashing this hitherto unseen side of herself, Adele managed to continue to successfully integrate that soulful croon which has been the bread & butter of her career. "We could have had it all, you had my heart inside of your hand"
6The Joy Formidable

Yeah, yeah, I know the original version of this song had been released prior to 2011, but if you're gonna re-record a track & improve on it so significantly, then it deserves all the plaudits it can get. Hell, even more than the 5 tunes above it on this list, 'Whirring' just may be the cut which gets me most excited when it comes on. It's melodic, it's catchy & it RAWKS THE FUCK OUT! And that's even before the extended coda which is the aforementioned improvement I was referring to. Now guys, get down under so I can see this beast played live. "Turn the dial on my words, I can feel them fall short".
7The Swellers
The Best I Ever Had

The engrossing nostalgic theme that runs throughout The Swellers' 4th LP 'Good For Me' is perfectly encapsulated on lead single 'The Best I Ever Had'. Hitting home on multiple personal levels, everything about the song is sincere, relatable & just downright honest. Maybe the "relatable" portion is a little exaggerated for myself, since even the years quoted in the tune have some meaning. The nostalgic references to music we all listened to when we were younger may seem cliched in theory, but just feel dead on with the way The Swellers have written & performed this sensational track. "And if everyone else heard this, they wouldn't be so sad... It was the best I ever had".
8The Jezabels
Endless Summer

People often wonder as to the choice of lead singles from particular albums, and 'Endless Summer' is the perfect example of why they are so important. In the past, I had liked a couple of songs by The Jezabels, but never really thought much more of the band. Some internet dude named Fisterbut then posts the band's new single & hey presto, I'm a convert. From it's rousing opening that consistently has me playing air drums to Hayley Mary's amazingly controlled & diverse vocal performance, 'Endless Summer' is the proverbial game-changer for this talented band. Put it this way, there is definitely nothing ephemeral about this tune. "In my mind, you're the ephemeral kind".
9Rise Against

Most infamous for its borrowing of a line from an Against Me! song, the blistering opening track from 'Endgame' is a high-energy fist-pumper from the get-go. It's structure may be a little too predictable for its own good, but it undoubtedly assists the satisfying, crowd-pleasing nature of 'Architects'. And for all of the band's recent haters, there is nothing dialed down here concerning the passion which comes from any of the musicianship, vocals or lyrics. And have I ever mentioned that I could listen to Joe's bass-lines all day? "Do you still believe in all the things that you stood by before? Are you out there on the front lines, or at home keeping score?"
10Manchester Orchestra

Yeah, yeah, I know 95% of the population feel the title track is best, but to put it in the most predictable, puntastic fashion: 'Mighty' is a mighty song. Andy Hull's vocals feel like they are going to explode at any second, for an excellent example of tension & release. Yet, when that release comes, it's in the form of a fantastic orchestral arrangement... And then, when you least expect it, the climax does not come by way of aggressive screaming, but in the shape of an anthemic sing-along. Just marvelous. "It's not like I was lost for a purpose, I lost purpose and purposefully froze".
11Foster The People
Pumped Up Kicks

I had not heard this song at the end of 2010, so it counts this year. And in terms of pure catchiness, 'Pumped Up Kicks' just may well be the song of 2011. I mean, who in their right mind can get that chorus out of their head. And then there's that whistling. Hell, it even overcomes the subdued, distorted vocals of its verses which cry anything but mainstream catchiness. It's simple, it's repetitive... Basically, it's pure pop heaven. In fact, I know you're singing it to yourself right now! "All the other kids with the pumped up kicks you'd better run, better run, faster than my bullet".
Stay True

In the year in which we quite possibly heard the last of New Jersey post-hardcore outfit Thursday, how fitting if the final track from their final album was to be titled 'Stay True'. And what a behemoth of an 8 minute song it is. "Disregard the critics' praise, they'll be the first to tell the news that you've sold your soul". Well, Thursday need not worry on such a thing, because they didn't sell their sould to anyone... Keeping to their aggressive, experimental ethos to the very end.
We Bros

"It's a sad song that makes a man put money before life". Well, if that's the case, then life comes well before money when 'We Bros' is playing, because this is anything but a sad song. From its jangly guitars to its much talked about organ, this tune almost makes you not give two hoots about what the hell they are singing about. In fact, it just makes you wanna put an arm around the shoulders of the person next to you & sing that infectious chorus: "We bros you lost man, we bros so long. Put away your guns man and sing this song".
14Foo Fighters
Bridge Burning

"THESE ARE MY FAMOUS LAST WORDS". Oh, I beg to differ Mr. Grohl. If there was anyone doubting the longevity of The Fooeys, it was those snarling 6 words which, quite frankly, shut them up. The explosive opener from the tremendous 'Wasting Light' really did sum that album up perfectly. It's a raw, breakneck tune with a genuinely aggressive edge... And yet, it still includes The Fooeys trademark shout-along melodicism which no-one does better than them.
15Mayday Parade
Oh Well, Oh Well

Using every device imaginable to accomplish their aspiration of matching their debut LP, one need look no further than the self-titled LP's opener. Beginning slowly with piano, strings & Derek Sanders' lovelorn vocals, the full band kicks in before a catchy chorus, "woh woh" filled bridge & melodic gang vocal outro. It really is the kitchen sink approach near its very best! "It's not the first time but this one really carved it in, tell your new friends that they don't know you like I do".
For You, and Your Denial

Ahhh, that opening violin line. Fuck me, it's swoon-worthy. Seriously, if ever there was a more obvious live set opener, then I don't know what it is. It almost distracts from what a great song this actually is FULL STOP. Really well-written to take in their newfound maturity, Yellowcard ensure that 'For You, and your Denial' does not ignore all the traits which has made their career what it is. "You've got sadness twisted up with jealousy, show your fists to make them look like loyalty".
17The Getaway Plan

Both the barometer and - in my opinion - standout on The Getaway Plan's comeback LP 'Requiem', this anthemic track takes many simple ingredients & makes them sound absolutely huge. Strings, keys, a sing-along chorus & soaring guitar are only the prelude, as even a children's choir makes an appearance. Some people like the dramatic approach & some people hate it. Your call. "We are we are moving onward, we are pushing forward far beyond your reach".
Muscle Memory

Let's be honest, you never know what you're going to get from second to second - let alone track to track - with these crazy Scots... But right from that catchy opening riff of 'Muscle Memory', you just get the feeling that something special is about to take place... And so it does, on what is probably the best song of their unfortunately short career. "You'd like me better if i liked you less".
19Twin Atlantic

I want my surname to be McTrusty... But anyway... Many were disappointed with Twin Atlantic's album of the same name, but the title track is just an outright rocker with some fantastic guitar work & Sam's distinctively thick Scottish accent. And when he belts out "Whoa, where's your passion? Where's your fire tonight?", well, he thankfully brings the passion for a mass chest-thumping sing-along.
20The Dear Hunter
Deny It All

(featuring Andy Hull) They better have got a song on this list, since they had 36 goes at it! But seriously, the terrific 'Deny It All' well & truly deserves its spot here, with its propulsive instrumentation (I love the bass on this track) & that Andy Hull bridge which perfectly sets up its climax. "Close your eyes and deny it all... And it all will go away".
21Bon Iver

By only rating it a 4 (& not a 6) out of 5, it's probably obvious that I didn't totally immerse myself in Bon Iver's excellent debut LP. I guess I just had nothing that 100% drew me in. Come album #2, I happened to accidentally watch & hear 'Holocene' on the tv... & I was totally hooked. That gorgeous guitar melody & that unbelievable falsetto (especially when he croons "...and at once I knew I was not magnificent"). Simply breathtaking. If I liked folk more, this would be #1.
22The Black Keys
Lonely Boy

Get your chainsaw revved up people. I've never been the hugest fans of these guys, but this is admittedly awesome. I mean, the whole album is, but this song is just soooo fun, upbeat & filled with hip-shaking hooks galore... Yet, it's also rather raw, with a driving, bluesy rock 'n' roll sound. All these things shouldn't be able to go together, but I'll be damned, The Black Keys (& Danger Mouse) made them. Geniuses.
23Panic! At The Disco
The Ballad of Mona Lisa

I specifically recall the relief when I first heard this song & it didn't sound like 'Yellow Submarine'. Harking back to their debut LP, Panic! return to what they do best: Upbeat, rocky & catchy tunes with hefty doses of the theatrical thrown in for good measure. The "woh woh woh's" help a fair bit too.
24Manchester Orchestra
Simple Math

A genuinely thought-provoking song which still uses glorious orchestral arrangements like much of the tracks from the album of the same name. Andy Hull is as fantastic as ever, as is his band, but it's the song-writing which lifts this one to another level. Really, it's just a great album & 4 or 5 tracks from it could easily have made this list.
25Funeral Party
New York City Moves to the Sound of LA

I think this may have seen the light of day in 2010, but who cares! "Same old shape with the brand new sound"... Couldn't have said it better myself guys, as this absolute belter of a song is a supremely crafted exercise in controlled chaos. Opening with the coolest of all percussive instruments; the cowbell, its buzzing guitars & outstanding rhythm section excites as much as any debut single this year.
26You Me At Six
Bite My Tongue

(featuring Oli Sykes) "Oh look, a pop-punk band got Oli Sykes to scream on their song... It automatically sucks". Yeah, nah. Even if the guest-spot is not altogether necessary, 'Bite My Tongue' absolutely rules. It's a nice blending of styles with the band maturing their musicianship, incorporating the heavier screams & delivering a huge chorus which is as recitable as almost any other in 2011.
The Curse of Perfect Days

"And we were still so cool". Oh yes, you are still cool Emery. It's me, do I need to add anything more than that 1 word? EMMERRRYYYYYYYY! Oh ok, I'll just cut & paste from my review then: Effectively utilizing layered vocals, 'The Curse of Perfect Days' sees Toby Morrell's harmonies at their anthemic best, creating a sing-along up there with the best of the band's career. EMMERRRYYYYYYYY!
Better Love

A somewhat overlooked track from 'The Valley', 'Better Love' just seems like the perfect mid-point of the band's sound to me. It has a subtle edge to it which gives it that extra kick so to speak... Yet, it's still oh so sweet. The layered vocals in the chorus are just fantastic & it's the best use of the word "Hallelujah" in a song for quite some time!
29The Weeknd
The Morning

Picking a single tune from 'House of Balloons' almost seems unfair, since the album/mixtape works so much as a complete product. What I really wanna do is include the consecutive tracks 'The Morning' & 'Wicked Games' right here, since they work so well hand in hand. Yet, it is the former which probably best exemplifies the alluring accessibility of The Weeknd's R&B... By a whisker.
Torn Up in Praise

From an under-appreciated album that I genuinely did not expect to like, Manchester quintet Spokes integrate an indie-rock vibe into their brand of post-rock. More importantly than that, they incorporate plenty of vocals, as can be heard on the celebratory 'Torn Up in Praise'. Citing other well-regarded 2011 LPs, this sounds like a cross between Hey Rosetta! & WU LYF.
31The Cab
Temporary Bliss

From the album which was the biggest surprise to me during 2011, power-pop act The Cab took a huge step up on their LP 'Symphony Soldier'. The infectious chorus of 'Temporary Bliss' is its standout, a tune that Justin Timberlake & Maroon 5 would have loved to perform to a much bigger audience.

The closest thing to a knockout punch on Thrice's consistent 'Major/Minor', 'Promises' displays the outstanding musicianship & vocals that the whole album delivers, but adds a memorably anthemic chorus to the blueprint.
33City and Colour
The Grand Optimist

The best voice going around bar none! There was no way I was gonna leave Mr. Dallas Green off this list. And I've chosen 'The Grand Optimist' because not only does it showcase his voice as good as any other track on 'Little Hell', but one can't help but feel that the songwriting is extremely personal & very heartfelt.
34Balance and Composure
More To Me

From a band that I think could be capable of recording a classic one day, Balance and Composure divided opinion with their debut LP, but there was just something captivating about their emotion-packed intensity. This incessant track is a good example, with its deceptive melodies & passionate vocals shining out.
35Jack's Mannequin
My Racing Thoughts

Jack's Mannequin is capable of better than what was displayed on their still solid 3rd LP, but its lead single displays those catchy melodies, sing-along choruses & just generally very likable delivery as good as most other tracks from the band's past.

From its silly video & nonsensical lyrics to the unashamedly obvious "oh oh oh's", "la la la's" & "para para para's", this is just one big ploy to get a song stuck in your head & have you sing along whether you actually like the tune or not. Darn Coldplay & their talent at doing so time & time again.
Midnight City

For some reason, I initially preferred 'Steve McQueen', but I'm unsure why. Basically, the synth stab hook of 'Midnight City' is quite possibly the biggest hook of 2011. And where did that sax come from? Dunno, but it was a nice bit of icing on the cake!
38Marianas Trench

I was almost going to write the exact same thing as what I did for Coldplay's Paradise, because this song is just infectiously catchy & will have its 1 word hook stuck in your head for days. Of course, the difference is that Coldplay are known outside of Canada!
39The Strokes
Under Cover of Darkness

I still think Julian's vocals are some of the most over-rated going around, but man can those 4 guys behind him play! On this particular track, the rhythm section is superb, while there are some fabulously catchy intertwining guitar lines. Throw in a little solo & we have ourselves a great song.
40Deaf Havana
I Will Try

In the log-jam of songs looking for the final spot on my list, I felt that I couldn't exclude a track from my #7 LP of 2011. Sure, I'm a sucker for a big anthemic rocker complete with "woh woh's" & closing gang vocals, but 'I Will Try' also includes some of those honest, personal & extremely relatable lyrics which made for such a consistently excellent album.
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