These are sixteen tracks that I discovered and liked in 2011. The list was not intended as a ranking but rather as a playlist for friends, and the songs are therefore in no particular order – aside from the first track, which is also my pick for song of the year. Wherever possible, I have included music videos. Enjoy!
Artist: Lykke Li
Song Title: I Follow Rivers (The Magician Remix)
What it is: the best song of 2011. Bar none. And that’s a fact, not an opinion!
Why it made the list: Pretty self-explanatory, given the above, right?
Song Title: The Bay (2 Bears Remix)
What it is: one of the most addictive songs of one of the most hyped records of 2011
Why it made the list: It’s a good song by itself, but the 2 Bears remix adds a bit of ‘oomph’ (for lack of a better expression) and lets you preserve a faint hint of musical elitism, because it’s not just that song you heard on the radio the other day, but a remix even though (luckily) it sounds much like the original…
Artist: The Phenomenal Handclap Band
Song Title: Oh Baby (Clock Opera Remix)
What it is: In one word? Groovy. Yes, I know that sounds like Austin Powers – but listen to it and I bet you’ll agree
Why it made the list: The band’s name, really. I used to have a playlist with funny song titles (such as ‘Icehockey Hair’, or ‘The Only Difference between Martyrdom and Suicide is Press Coverage’), but didn’t listen to it much, because it turns out that some artists apparently compensate less than average song writing skills with witty song titles. You would think that a group called ‘The Phenomenal Handclap Band’ was a case in point – but this remix by Clock Opera is really good!
Song Title: Blue Sky
What it is: the first single of Common’s new album The Dreamer, the Believer, which samples my favourite E.L.O. song
Why it made the list: While the video is admittedly a bit cheesy, this was the ultimate mood-lifting song of 2011 – and it was good enough to make me forget about the utterly stupid fight he’s picking with Drake these days…
Artist: Rebecca & Fiona
What it is: Perhaps my favourite pop song of the year
Why it made the list: These days, most DJs appear to be Swedish men, most of whom are younger than me, and have a penchant for T-Shirts with loud prints or lumberjack shirts. These two are still Swedish (as well as slightly younger than myself) – but they are decidedly female, and while at times they make some questionable fashion choices, they are infinitely more appealing than the lumberjack crew. Whenever they don’t DJ, Rebecca & Fiona make music, and ‘Ted’ is a really neat pop song. Nothing more, nothing less, but one I would sing along to in the car (if I had one).
Artist: Frank Ocean
Song Title: Swim Good
What it is: The main reason this year to reconsider my deep-rooted dislike for R&B
Why it made the list: Because I listened to this for three days on repeat after first hearing it. And because the video is like the weird love child of Quentin Tarantino, Hype Williams, Kanye West and Tyler the Creator. And finally, because the quote ‘That’s some pretty good beats on this 808 CD’ will make for an excellent mixtape title at some point in the future.
Artist: The Weeknd
Song Title: High for This
What it is: 2011’s drug ballad (every self-respecting ‘Best of’ list needs one)
Why it made the list: The Weeknd released three(!) free mixtapes this year, all of which were great. But the song that blew me away (No pun intended. Ok, maybe a little bit) was this one. Maybe it’s the drum sample, or the eerie synths, but it really works. There is a fan-made video that I have included below. It uses scenes from ‘Requiem for a Dream‘ – which as you can probably imagine goes well with the song’s topic…
Artist: M83 & Kanye West
Song Title: Midnight Life (The White Panda Mash Up)
What it is: Probably the most recognisable melody of the year – massively improved by ‘The White Panda’, who realised that mashing it up with Kanye West’s ‘Good Life‘ would make for a great song
Why it made the list: First, because it’s an excuse to sneak in another song that features Kanye West, secondly, because it’s one of those rare instances where a mash-up is not just entertaining but actually better than the original version of both songs.
Artist: Foster The People
Song Title: Houdini (RAC Remix)
What it is: The only rendition of a Foster the People song I have enjoyed so far
Why it made the list: It almost made me forget about the atrocity that is Foster the People’s godawful Hipster anthem ‘Pumped up Kicks’. I’m afraid that I can’t be friends with you, if you actually like that song, so if you do, NEVER tell me about it. In fact, if I’m ever angry at you, tell me how much you hate ‘Pumped up Kicks’ – your express dislike will instantly convince me that you must in fact be a decent human being…
Song Title: Wildfire (feat. Drake and Little Dragon)
What it is: London-based producer puts Canadian rapper and Swedish indie band on the same loopy beat
Why it made the list: I know that some of you like Little Dragon but can’t stand Drake (and vice versa). This song should convince you that they are in fact both brilliant – or at the very least that SBTRKT makes good beats. Also, I wanted to casually mention/brag about the fact that I saw Little Dragon live earlier this year, and that it was a great concert.
Song Title: Headlines
What it is: epic
Why it made the list: I have a thing for repetitive synth beats, and the first verse is possibly the best that rap had to offer in 2011. Still not sure about the football gloves though…
Artist: Kanye West & Jay-Z
Song: No Church In The Wild (feat. Frank Ocean)
What it is: The best Hip-Hop duo since Talib Kweli and Mos Def were ‘Black Star’
Why it made the list: I have never waited more impatiently for the release of an album. And it delivered. End of.
Artist: The Rapture
Title: How Deep is Your Love (A-Trak Remix)
What it is: a faster, and hard-hitting version of The Rapture’s original version
Why it made the list: I love A-Trak, and (almost) everything he puts out on his own, or as part of Duck Sauce, but I listen to this song almost exclusively for the low base drum that sets in at 3:33 (and only lasts for about five seconds). And the seriously addictive hook. And the amazing production. Well, for a lot of reasons, really.
Artist: Wolfgang Gartner
Song Title: Space Junk (OVERWERK Remix)
What it is: Only slightly less addictive than crack!
Why it made the list: Even people who don’t like House music love this song. Which was reason enough to include it!
Artist: Dada Life
Title: Fight Club is Closed (Religion Remix)
What it is: 2011’s meanest, dirtiest base line that wasn’t Dub Step
Why it made the list: Those of you who know me personally will probably know that I fancied myself a bit of a runner earlier this year – and you can trust me when I tell you that no other song makes you run faster. As a result, this was pretty much constantly blaring from my headphones whenever I battled it out with my arch enemy (a.k.a. Highgate Hill in London) this summer.
Title: Levels (Original Mix)
What it is: You will know. If you don’t, just pretend you do!
Why it made the list: Even if you have no idea who Avicii is (a skinny, Swedish teenager, who also happens to headline major music festivals), or don’t care for (Progressive) House Music, you will have danced to this song last year. If not, you might want to seriously re-evaluate the way your life is going!