[sic] Magazine

Annual Round-Up pt. 3: My 2011 – Tracks of The Year

So, to complete this tri-part annual summary, I present those cuts that have best soundtracked my 2011. On heavy rotation, these blinders truly rock/humble/excite – delete as appropriate. No doubt you had your own favourites. Here are mine:
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1. Holy Other – “Touch”
Head and shoulders above almost every other track released this year, “Touch” is a groundswell phenomenon, converting all those it encounters. Helping to establish/define the R&B-indebted, chop-and-paste post-dubstep landscape, both Holy Other and the label from whence it came are a revelation.

Glitchy and atmospheric, its slo-mo beats are underpinned with pulses of bass-filled drone. A second rhythm snaps into place as a mutilated female vocal is clipped into a string of beats – a similarly treated male vocal further drives the mix from a distance.

This seductive concoction then falls apart to return with the slowest, yet most effective drop in recent memory. The vision to provide such power in such restraint is now Holy Other’s calling card and here it is exploited to the fullest with a real Midas “Touch”.

2. Keep Shelly In Athens – “DIY”

Keep Shelly In Athens

Stepping out of esoteric laptronica, Greek duo Keep Shelly In Athens have recently been into increasingly glorious, stone-cold killers such as the magnificent “DIY”, which is driven on brilliant synth, snapping percussion and a frosty vocal to die for.
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3. Sealings – “King Shot”

Sealings

Short and anything but sweet, “King Shot” is masked in huge shoegaze surges, cassette-deck production and everything-louder-than-everything-else levels. I really could listen this rough-edged gold all day, and when I playlist this little lot I most certainly will.
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4. Gang Gang Dance – “MindKilla”

Gang Gang Dance

What to say about “MindKilla”? It’s the sort of huge dancefloor filler that might be playing in some sweaty box way beneath a tUnE-yArDs-curated evening of tribal/pop oddness. That, or it’s a quasi-aggressive outer-rings ode to brain transplantation.
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5. Cold Showers – “I Don’t Mind”

Cold Showers

True to the angles and gloom of old, this is post-punk the way it should be played in the near future. With a proper punk tempo and guitars ripped from the likes of Little Girls and Weekend that swoonsome male-female repartee is really just a bonus.
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6. Black Lips – “Modern Art”

Black Lips

Writing poppy garage-rock/psyche-punk songs as perfectly crafted as an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm is an art – “Modern Art” as it turns out. Immaculate.
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7. Cloud Nothings – “No Future/No Past”

Cloud Nothings

Emotionally damaged post-hardcore (aka proto-emo) was an unexpected deviation for Dylan Baldi , but by God did this sample hit home. It’s like Slint never went away.
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8. Grimes – “Sagrad прекрасный”

Grimes

At the experimental end of chillwave is Clare Boucher and on top of being a total babe she peddles awesome, sometimes-Russian-language weirdness such as this.
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9. Bill Callahan – “Baby’s Breath”

Bill Callahan

A choice extract from an excellent LP, “Baby’s Breath” is written with thought-provoking skill and Callahan has rarely, if ever, sounded better suited to his material.
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10. The Men – “Bataille”

The

Explosive, essential and bruising, this feral, fast-out-of-the-tracks punk-rock knows only nihilism and noise, and “Bataille” is only too keen to spread the word.
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11. Moonface – “Shit-Hawk In The Snow”
Every time you think this stellar track can’t get any better it does as Spencer Krug pulls out all the stops for this intense organ-synth mind-melter.

12. Other Lives – “Tamer Animals”
Yes, it sounds like The National , but The National are great, and so is this anthemic title track to Other Lives’s slow-burning smash LP.

13. CHLLNGR – “Haven”
Glitchy, step-influenced rollercoaster “Haven” does that vocal tampering trick excellently and with overlapping synth scales and a percussive spine for company too.

14. Porcelain Raft – “Talk To Me”
A beat-driven oddity from this Italian expat – a remarkably large track for one bedroom produced, that size due to its massive bass murmur and isolated lyrics mewed out into cavernous space.

15. Octo Octa – “I’m Trying”
Best fidgety, minimal house-type track of the year. This is the sort of thing Hed Kandi thought they were compiling for a long time, but clearly weren’t.

16. Iceage – “White Rune”
Iceage attack the brutal “White Rune” with teeth bared. It may not be original, but it’s as good as the early post-punk/hardcore titans these young Danes so strongly emulate.

17. Rape Faction – “Whiteboy Uptown”
Ear-bleedingly awesome noise-rock with a sinister delayed vocal, laser-like guitar shards and muscular drumming that all sound like the property of a much bigger band.

18. The Weeknd – “Lonely Star”
This guy is rewriting the rules for contemporary R&B, restoring the much maligned genre with imagination and passion, reclaiming it for the bedroom-bound and forlorn.

19. Craft Spells – “You Should Close The Door”
Every wondered what Ian Curtis might have sounded like if he’d been in a slightly better mood? Ladies and gentleman, I give you “You Should Close The Door”.

20. Hunx & His Punx – “The Curse Of Being Young”
This is classic stuff, which truly sounds original … in a 50s rock ‘n’ roll/pop sense. Shannon Shaw ‘s vocal contribution in this back-and-forth is an absolute show-stealer.

21. Cults – “You Know What I Mean”
It’s this sort of effortlessly epic pop that earned Cults their reputation as almost too perfect, and its soft, rock-n-roll-love-song centre is made to melt the stoniest of hearts.

22. Panda Bear – “Slow Motion”
End-of-year lists aren’t complete without Noah Lennox , and, IMO, his off-the-wall psyche-pop experiment “Slow Motion” takes the crown for his best moment in 2011.

23. Björk – “Crystalline”
She’s still got it. This hypnotic slice of polished strangeness houses hooks aplenty, none more so than its vibrant chorus, and, after time, that finale just about works too.

24. Wild Beasts – “Lion’s Share”
One of the UK’s best bands, Wild Beasts continue their impressive run with tracks like “Lion’s Share”, which dazzles with its inventive range and effective piano work.

25. The Antlers – “No Widows”
It takes a while to strike, but the tender depths of “No Widows” are deceptive, beckoning the listener forth siren-like ensnaring him/you indefinitely.

26. Dirty Beaches – “Lord Knows Best”
When Dirty Beaches isn’t knocking out screeching proto-psyche or noir rockabilly, he’s equally adept at likeable lullabies that earn him his “trashcan Elvis” comparison.

27. Clams Casino – “Gorilla”
“Gorilla” is all about those huge, mangled surges. It-label Tri Angle sure know something special when it hits their ears. These warped post-everything beats prove it.

28. Estasy – “Wild Wants”
A spooky number from these Italians with as much promise of heaven as of hell, and its creaky synth and atmospheric vocal are quite unlike much else doing the rounds.

29. Colourmusic – “We Shall Wish (Use Your Adult Voice)”
Not unlike Wild Beasts if they beefed up their sound a little, this is celebratory experimental-rock that deserves the classification … and plaudits in their plenty.

30. La Sera – “Beating Heart”
A very worthy, if sombre track of the year with a guitar line that chimes like early (i.e. good) Interpol and which drifts forward on mesmeric vocal harmonies.

31. Crystal Stilts – “Sycamore Tree”
One of many fine cuts from this year’s strong LP, the dusty “Sycamore Tree” frolics in forgotten corners of 60s psyche serving it afresh on a bed of spaghetti western.

32. Lana Del Rey – “Video Games”
There’s pop and then there’s Lana Del Rey. She’s already going stratospheric (aka shit next year), so fall in love with this soulful masterpiece quick before she does.

33. A Grave With No Name – “Wooden Locket”
This year Alex Shields concentrated his low budget on the ultra-fragile songwriting side of his repertoire and “Wooden Locket” demands to be kept close to your heart.

34. Lykke Li – “I Follow Rivers”
Sorry Syco, this Swedish lass is how pop stars should sound. Intelligent, alternative and damn moreish. Selfish to wish her not getting any more exposure isn’t it?

35. Big Deal – “Talk”
Like a recently dumped Slow Club overdosing on classic Pavement , Big Deal are just that and the raw strength “Talk” possesses is down entirely to its heartfelt simplicity.

36. Guerre – “Millennium Blues”
Wonderful windblown vocal and pedal–driven sound that aligns “Millennium Blues” with the spectral soul and/or ravaged R&B of the sensational How To Dress Well .

37. Night Manager – “Pizza Pasta”
The strongest Night Manager jam by a mile – its blown-out percussion and infectious vocal melody bringing long-lost Best Coast material to mind.

38. She’s Hit – “Lustless”
Garage, proto-psyche or surf, She’s Hit nail down a sound on “Lustless” and it’s a perfect blend of J&MC fuzz, 50s rock ‘n’ roll love songs and, possibly, bagpipes.

39. Water Borders – “What Wiwant”
Off-beat, vaguely tribal, strongly haunting, “What Wiwant” pummels from unknown angles like being locked in combat with a voodoo poltergeist.

40. Austra – “Lose It”
Bravery-like synthwave with one foot in mid-90s dance doesn’t sound great, but that fluttery operatic turn from Katie Stelmanis provides some magically cohesive dust.

41. No Ceremony – “Hurt Love”
This out-of-nowhere sample, with it simple piano repeat, regular beat and accelerated vocal doesn’t seem like a winner until you’ve heard it. You’ll have to trust me.

42. Girls Names – “Bury Me”
I defy you not to grin along to this pop gem. J&MC vocal over playful guitar strokes – some West Coast of Ireland surf, some garage. What’s not to like?

43. Dive – “Corvalis”
80s nostalgia and its iconic indie jangle are in very safe hands thanks to Dive – little surprise with a Beach Fossil in their fledgling ranks.

44. Esben & The Witch – “Marching Song”
A bewitchingly dark and drum-heavy cocktail quite difficult to categorise, but one that duly envelopes and overloads when played as loud as it should be.

45. Total Babes – “Be So True”
It’s garage. It’s punk. It’s pop. There are pop hooks aplenty to this fuzzed-up low-budget clatter, and searching for the band online always yields a surprise.

46. HTRK – “Eat Yr Heart”
Still cooler than you, these Aussies jump the dark, slo-mo-beats-and-mutilated-vocal bandwagon this year with no more impressive results than this.

47. Light Asylum – “Dark Allies”
Shannon Funchess comes on here like an 80s she-devil bent on seduction, her aggressive delivery reminiscent of Grace Jones dipped in industrial lacquer.

48. Blouse – “Into Black”
Diaphanous, wistful dream-pop atop new-wave synth chords and beautifully hazy vocals – it seems the best parts of the late 80s haven’t finished with us just yet.

49. Dear Eloise – “Castle”
If Sofia Coppola knew about these Chinese fuzzy ‘gazers she’d be writing Lost In Translation II with haste – and rubbing her hands at the prospect too.

50. Wooden Shjips – “Lazy Bones”
It zigs, zags and frazzles brains with ease; “Lazy Bones” is like watching a psychotropic sunrise in fast forward and rewind simultaneously.

The best of the rest (no order and with some loose genre classification):

Wellington Downs – “Grapefruit & Rye” (Noise-Rock)
Echo Lake – “Young Silence” (Shoegaze)
Tammar – “The Last Line” (Shoegaze)
EMA – “Grey Ship” (Alt-Rock)
Gauntlet Hair – “Top Bunk” (Experimental Pop)
Lumerians – “Burning Mirrors” (Psyche)
Veronica Falls – “Come On Over” (Indie/C86)
Cerebral Ballzy – “Insufficient Fare” (Punk)
Dum Dum Girls – “Wasted Away” (Garage Rock/Girl Group Pop)
Lia Ices – “New Myth” (Singer Songwriter)
Puro Instinct – “Silky Eyes” (Dream Pop)
Vondelpark – “Hipbone” (Chillwave)
White Ring – “Roses” (Witch House)
Times New Viking – “Want To Exist” (Garage-Punk)
Acrylics – “Lives And Treasure” (Indie/Pop/Ital-Disco)
Yuck – “Get Away” (Indie/Rock)
Zola Jesus – “Hikikomori” (Singer Songwriter/New Wave)
Trailer Trash Tracys – “Dies In 55” (Experimental Pop)
The Vaccines – “Post-Break-Up Sex” (Rock ‘n’ Roll/Garage-Punk/Pop)
Bass Drum Of Death – “Get Found” (Garage-Rock/Grunge)
Wild Vibes – “Oedipal Love” (Psyche-Pop)
Beat Connection – “In The Water” (Chillwave)
Lyonnais – “The Fatalist” (Noise-Rock/Post-Punk)
Braids – “Lammicken” (Experimental Pop)
No Joy – “Hawaii” (Shoegaze/Dream-Pop)
Smith Westerns – “Imagine Pt. 3” (Glam/Pop)
Ty Segall – “My Head Explodes” (Garage-Rock)
Is Tropical – “South Pacific” (Electronica/Indie)
Warm Brains – “Let Down” (Indie/Shoegaze)
Bazooka – “I Want To Fuck All The Girls At My School” (Indie/Rock/Lo-fi)
Mazes – “Go Betweens” (Garage-Rock)
White Hills – “Upon Arrival” (Psyche-Rock)
Mothers Of Gut – “Wizard Tree” (Psyche-Rock)
Future Islands – “Give Us The Wind” (Synthwave)
Gold Leaves – “Cruel & Kind” (Singer Songwriter)
The Horrors – “I Can See Through You” (Indie/Rock)
Washed Out – “Far Away” (Chillwave)
James Ferraro – “Cinderella” (Lo-fi Glam)
Maria Minerva – “Gloria” (Chillwave/Experimental/Lo-fi)
The Raveonettes – “Recharge & Revolt” (Pop/Shoegaze)
Weekend – “Hazel” (Noise Rock)
Still Corners – “I Wrote In Blood” (Dream-Pop)
Love Inks – “Rock On” (Indie/Pop)
Wet Paint – “Distant Memory” (Slacker Pop)
Bon Iver – “Minnesota, WI” (Soft Rock)
Gross Magic – “Sweetest Touch” (Indie)
Vivian Girls – “I Heard You Say” (Garage-Rock/Girl Group Pop)
tUnE-yArDs – “Bizness” (Singer Songwriter/Experimental)
Kurt Vile – “Puppet To The Man” (Heartland Rock)
WU LYF – “We Bros” (Indie-Rock)

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