30. Perfume Genius – “All Waters”
I want a job as the guy who picks music for movies just so I can insert this song into a critical scene. At just over two minutes, “All Waters” builds and builds and leaves you wanting more. It’s gripping, stirring, moving, and so much more, born out of so little.
Link to download: http://pitchfork.com/reviews/tracks/12843-all-waters/
29. Mutemath – “All or Nothing”
Mutemath continue to exist as one of the best balancers between alt rock experimentalism and mainstream listenability, and I’m thrilled that they’ve emerged ever so slightly in popular music. While they often keep it up tempo, Mutemath often succeed so well when they keep it atmospheric, giving us tracks like “All or Nothing”, which has so much more going on than you might first hear.
28. Jack’s Mannequin – “Casting Lines”
I don’t believe anyone does piano-based pop better than Andrew McMahon, and my weak spot for the guy that has fronted both Something Corporate and Jack’s Mannequin continues. “Casting Lines” is a classic example of vintage McMahon, building from simple piano into a rousing closing number about coming home.
27. Iron & Wine – “Godless Brother in Love”
Close your eyes and enjoy. Iron & Wine’s Sam Beam has long utilized hushed vocals, but here he transitions further into singing, and never before has he done so over so pleasant a sound.
26. The National – “Exile Vilify”
“Does it trouble your mind the way you trouble mine?”, Matt Beringer asks. This song is both dark and beautiful, proving that The National write better songs for video games (Portal 2, in this case) than most bands write for major releases.
Link to download: http://www.seizurechicken.com/2011/04/the-national-exile-vilify-mp3/
25. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah – “Misspent Youth”
There’s something truly wounded sitting behind “Misspent Youth”. Both the musical aesthetic and the resigned delivery of lines like “there’s a permanence to the memory of a bruise” merge to create a song that’s altogether interesting and moving.
24. Wires in the Walls – “Soft Shirt”
The award for obscure pick of the year goes to alt rockers Wires in the Walls and their track “Soft Shirt”, a free download that turned into repeated listens across the summer. Building out of one of better guitar lines of the year (around 1:20) to one of the more rousing choruses I heard, Wires in the Walls flash their potential. Time will tell whether this is just a flash in the pan.
23. War on Drugs – “Brothers”
The first of two entries from surprise band of the year, War on Drugs, whose album climbed high into my favorites for the year. “Brothers” combines all the elements that make me love them: the almost psychedelic sound reminiscent of The Verve and nearly Bruce Springsteen-ish lines like “Wondering where my friends are going/and wondering why/they didn’t take me”.
22. Foster the People – “Houdini”
I have to admit I was downright surprised how much I loved Foster the People’s album. Everyone knows “Pumped Up Kicks”, but I was excited to find that “Pumped Up Kicks” practically stacked up as an average track next to many tracks on this album, most of all the rambunctious pure fun of “Houdini”. When all the electronics and falsettos collide for “focus on your ability”, you can’t help but move.
21. Against Me! – “Because of the Shame”
Sometimes when all of the real fans of a band you don’t care for rail against a band’s “new sound”, it’s the perfect time to try them again. So color me shocked when I first heard Against Me!’s “Because of the Shame” and the opening piano bit followed by not only the typical rush of guitar, but a perfectly powerful, rousing song with a compelling story. The energy behind the song compares to some of the best of The Hold Steady, but with a life of its own.