20. True Widow – “Skull Eyes”

Sounds like: Low covers by a much heavier band

True Widow’s “Skull Eyes,” was the record that made me download this album. “Skull Eyes,” is so damn good because Nikki Estill is just such an engaging singer in comparison to normal lead vocalist Dan Phillips. I just wish she was given more of an opportunity.

19. tUnE-yArDs – “Bizness”

Sounds like: Afro-centric world beat pop. When my sister heard me listening to this song she thought I was listening to some “African ****.” I kid you not.

Just typing that name pisses me off. Stupid upper lock & capital letters. Stupid pitchfork hipster hype. Hate aside, “Bizness,” is a fantastic song that would make anyone give tUnE-yArDs afro-centric “whokill,” a listen. It’s just a shame the rest of the album wasn’t nearly this good.

Sidenote: watch this video! the first minute or so with the little girl is absolutely hilarious.

18. Juicy J – “Who Da Neighbors?!?!”

Sounds like: The theme song to get ****ing hype to with your boys

“My mansion sittin’ on forty acres…who the neighbors?!?!
Kobe Bryant from the Lakers! now that’s paper!” 

I first heard this song in August in a house some friends and I rented out in New Jersey. Two of my friends and I enjoyed jumping up and down drunk out of her minds while listening to this. Months later, I still find this to be one of the easiest songs to hype me up.

17. PicturePlane – “Techno Fetish”

Sounds like: Heavy lo-fi electropop. Think the Pains Of Being Pure At Heart if they met Pavement during their peak…at a massive rave where everyone is tripping balls.

“Techno Fetish,” is the type of electronic record that’s poppy enough to appeal to fans of bands like Friendly Fires & Foster The People, but heavy enough to maintain my interest.

16. The Coathangers – “Johnny”

Sounds like: These girls purposely trying to suck, yet sounding brilliant in the process.

I love when The Coathangers get heavy. These punk darlings are at their best when drummer Stephanie Luke (and occasional lead singer) is screaming her head off while lead guitarist Julia Kugel is screeching in her annoying cheerleader voice. They won’t appeal to everyone, but if you take them for what they’re worth they’re a damn good band.

15. Wavves – “Nodding Off” feat. Best Coast

Sounds like:
Exactly what you’d expect a Wavves song to sound like with Best Coast backing vocals for good measure.

Wavves & Best Coast were the surf pop/punk darlings of 2010. Both released similar, simple LPs that received surprising amounts of critical acclaim. Considering both bands reminded fans of each other it was no surprise when the two teamed up on Wavves recent EP. This song about unrequited love (or is it actually about God?) is about as good as I can imagine a collab between these two bands being. Translation: it’s really fucking good.

14. Real Estate – “It’s Real”

Sounds like: The perfect pop record

I think this may be one of the most infectious records of the year. I play this when I’m happy, when I’m sad, when I don’t need a reason for it. I just like hearing it. Real Estate may be the northeastern Fleet Foxes of pop with their harmonies and layers upon layers of instrumentation.

13. PJ Harvey – “The Words That Maketh Murder!”

Sounds like:  Everything you need to know about the latest PJ Harvey record

“I’ve seen soldiers fall like lumps of meat”

PJ Harvey holds no filter on “The Words That Maketh Murder,” a song about war crimes & upholding justice. What’s so engaging about this record is that she has no problem creating mental imagery with her points. A journalism professor of mine always said it’s more effective to describe what you feel rather than to say what you feel. I wonder if PJ was sitting in that class.

12. A$AP ROCKY – “Trilla” feat. A$AP Twelvy & A$AP Nast

Sounds like: Houston production with South heavy flows from the A$AP crew

I think the most ironic part of this song is that despite being the best song on this mixtape it’s not produced by Clams Casino. For me, that says two things: Beautiful Lou did a wonderful job on the beat and the A$AP crew isn’t reliant on Clams Casino for a good tune.

11. Drake – “Cameras” 

Sounds like: Drake teasing us with his potential on an album that could have been much, much better

I don’t expect much from Drake on a regular basis, but this is the type of record that makes me pick up his new releases. Drake’s latest album is about 10 songs too long, but the 10 songs that are album worthy are records that belong on a classic record (case & point: THIS.)

What makes Drake so good on certain songs is varied flows, tight lyrics & extended use of that R&B sound he’s so good at complimenting. It’s not that he doesn’t attmpt this on “Take Care,” he just doesn’t do it as well as he can.

10. Anna Calvi – “Love Won’t Be Leaving”

Sounds like: The best song on the best “dark female vocal” record of 2011. Combines soul, pop and goth in one.

Calvi is a real wonder in my eyes. A 30-year old fox that makes some of the darkest and hauntingly beautiful music these ears have heard in some time. On “Love Won’t Be Leaving,” Calvi is never complex or pushing the limits. She hardly ever does that, really. She’s just being herself, which is probably the most interesting part about her. She cloaks herself in this mist of secrecy and it breathes in her music. It’s what keeps her so damn interesting.

9. Jay-Z & Kanye West – “Niggas In Paris”

Sounds like: The other song that makes my friend and I bug out while pregaming

Case & Point: This is the best song to get hype to. I don’t really need another reason to post about this song. If you don’t think so, then tell me why Jay & Kanye perform the song 6 times at concerts and the crowd still goes insane. Yeah…

8. Little Scream – “The Heron & The Fox”

Sounds like: Sad folky pop record reminiscent of winter

“I told the stripper at the bar that the shots we got were magic, 
‘make a wish and they’ll come true’… 
as she smiled her golden tooth glinted in the light, 
and I wonder what she wished for. I just wished for you.”

I think this may be my epically sad song of the year. Nostalgic in words, but sad in nature this song is from a person who’s invested years in a relationship only to watch it crumble to pieces. One whose defined their life by their relationship only to feel lost afterwards, because that’s what their life was, the relationship. This song is a cold, yet very real representation of a heartbreak. A type that I’ve seen firsthand.

7. St. Vincent – “Dilettante”

Sounds like: Pop goddess in simplistic setting with loud juxtaposed guitar

I know that most people are jumping up and down over songs like “Cruel,” and “Surgeon,” off the latest St. Vincent record. For good reason. Those records are damn good (both of which almost made my honorable mentions list.) For whatever reason, I’ve always found this record to be the real highlight of this album. Soft song and beautiful vocals with probably the most haunting guitar on all of “Strange Mercy.” Maybe I’m just a sucker for cheap thrills of juxtaposition.

6. James Blake – “Wilhelm’s Scream”

Sounds like: Dubstep fused with soul

It was always weird to me how someone can mix soul and dubstep on a consistent basis and still create good music. In theory the two don’t seem to mix at all. Blake however, has found a way to make the fusion as effortless as possible. “Wilhelm’s Scream,” is the perfect example of this.

5. Egyptrixx – “Naples”

Sounds like: Tropical paradise in dubstep form

The way Egyptrixx producer manipulates his synthesizers is really something wicked. They echo and scream, allowing this sonic interpretation of basic sounds. While most of “Bible Eyes,” includes the grittier synthesizers, songs like “Naples,” allows a softer more tropical feel. From 2:05 to 2:21 is probably the best 16 seconds of music I’ve heard this year.

4. Yuck – “Get Away”

Sounds like: 90s revival band done right

“Break it down…then break it up again!”

I’ve been pretty critical of Yuck for how much they blatantly rip off Dinosaur Jr, but I can’t deny how ****ing good this song is. I like how they mention that they’re a rip off band on this record too. At least they’re self aware, even if it’s in an ironic way.

3. Big KRIT – “R4 Theme Song”

Sounds like: Pimp C in his prime

Listen to that beat and tell me KRIT isn’t talented as fuck. Now listen to this dude spit and try to say the same thing. The south doesn’t need KRIT to be relevant, evidenced by other coasts biting from the south’s style, but it doesn’t hurt to have KRIT on their team.

2. Smith Westerns – “Weekend”

Sounds like: Glam rock by young, talented relatively immature band

You ever just like a song but can’t come up with anything besides mundane and stupid reasons behind it? I like this song because I like it. I like this song because it’s always relevant. I like this song because it reminds me of my teenage years.

Of all the mundane and stupid reasons, I think that last one is the most true. The music video pays homage to walking around and doing stupid things with your friends (often before anyone had a license, of course.) What I find great is that these guys, who aren’t far removed from high school themselves, really capture that pre-license era in both song & video. Effortlessly that opening rift reminds me of high school and though those aren’t the best years of my life the nostalgia is well worth the listen.

1. The Weeknd – “XO”

Sounds like: The darkest most nocturnal contemporary R&B track of the Weeknd’s incredible discography

“I love it when your eyes are red
Ah yea, are you on my cloud yet?
Cause I got a brand new cam, can we video feed, can we POV?
Oh, I…wanna catch you at your best,
When your hair’s a mess, you look so depressed
and you’re filled with regret and you feel like you gotta go home

Cause these nights pass, so much quicker then the days did
Same clothes you ain’t ready for your day shift,
But you up you need money for ya’ face lift,
Lust over love…is ya mindset?
Waken up with most of ya’ side wet
Another room, you hear your mom cryin’
Cause she found your bag stuffed in the laundry
And the Bacardi from the last party

If they won’t let you in, you know where to find me
And if you wanna go again…you can always call me
Cus all we ever do is love, open up ya’ mind you can find the love
Girl you ain’t alone…we all been alone
Baby just be honest”

The Weeknd has probably put out enough material this year for a successful career. Let alone one year of work. With “XO // The Host,” he talks about making some girl dependent on his drugs only to mock her in the process because she needs him so much more than he needs her. It’s the perfect story of taking advantage of someone, something so many people do to each other by use of drugs or what have you.


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