Top Tracks of 2011 #20-1

20. The Black Dahlia Murder – “A Shrine to Madness”

From the moment the song begins, you don’t know what’s going to be flying your way. The orchestral strings set an ominous tone for what will be brutal roller coaster ride with no lapbar. Listen to it and tell me that you don’t see a dark forest filled with unholy creatures staring right at you. “A night so black as Satan’s hide/ When we ghouls do come alive/ When the masks of mockery disguise our wicked eyes.” A song about true evil on Halloween? I’m sold. (Monika & Tall Kyle)

19. James Blake – “I Mind”

Probably the most hyped artist of the year, Blake got a lot of shit for attempting more of a singer-songwriter style on his debut album. “I Mind” blends his past work as a dubstep musician with his new style by incorporating live vocals. “I Mind” also features the closest thing to a beat dropping on his album, but when that beat drops, oh god does it drop! (Adam)

18. Eligh & Amp-Live – “Beautiful Addiction (feat. Grieves & Blake Hazard)”

Amp-Live has been droppin’ Bay Area infused beats for many years now with Zumbi & Living Legend member Grouch, though now he’s working with the quick spitta Eligh. This song just encompasses all the aspects of the Bay to LA West Coast new vibe. (Bryce P.)

17. Wye Oak – “Holy Holy”

Baltimore folk band Wye Oak are best known for their dramatic folk music. The best example of this on the duo’s third LP, Civilians, is in “Holy Holy”, in which their traditional loud vs. quiet sections are emphasized. (Kelsie)

 

16. Bright Eyes – “A Machine Spiritual (In the People’s Key)”

“A Machine Spiritual” is a track that showcases both Conor Oberst and Mike Mogis at their peak, both lyrically and in terms of production. The stop and start guitar progression, tango beat, and whispering in and out vocals during the song’s most articulate moments give Bright Eyes a new flavor, and I’m loving the taste. (Brennan)

15. Beach Fossils – “Adversity”

I remember sitting in a living room with the Beach Fossils boys and all watching the music video for this song for the first time ever together. I guess as a memory, this song will always be stuck in my head. (Andi)

 

14. Real Estate – “Municipality”

Lo-fi music is generally associated with being nostalgic, so when a band who radiates nostalgic vibes like Real Estate records in a proper studio, there’s a fear of some sort of soul being lost along the way. “Municipality”, luckily, is a tearjerker. The descending chorus notes bleed a sense of longing, so much that it’s hard not to think back to more blissful times. I’ve embarrassingly daydreamed numerous times to this song. (Adam)

13. Emperor X – “Canada Day”

An endless stream of brilliant metaphors and anecdotes make this song stand out, climaxing with an incredible analogy for love and the Great Lakes. (Josh)

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12. Dyno Jamz – “Kingdom Come (feat. Ray Dalton)”

One of the newest hip-hop groups out of Seattle, Dyno Jamz uses a full band and puts raps over jazzy instrumentation. “Kingdom Come” is a song of hope for those going through rough patches of life. Ray Dalton’s voice is absolutely mesmerizing and clear on this song. (Brittany W.)

11. Fleet Foxes – “The Shrine / An Argument”

The epic two-part centerpiece to Fleet Foxes second album starts off in a familiar way, until Robin Pecknold literally screams “Sunlight over me no matter what I do” and sends shivers up your spine. The Foxes haven’t pushed themselves to display this much ferocity before, and when the free-jazz “Argument” starts up near the end of the song, it can be jarring. But make no mistake, this is the best track Fleet Foxes have made to date. (Adam)

10. Purity Ring – “Belispeak”

One of the breakout bands of CMJ this year, Purity Ring only have three songs officially released so far. Their latest, “Belispeak”, is a hyperactive future-pop stomp. The way Corin Roddick chops up Megan James’ lyrics and utilizes the unearthly sounds as instruments throughout the song is magical and innovative. If Purity Ring are the future of music, we better hope we live through 2012. (Adam)

9. James Blake – “Lindisfarne (Parts I & II)”

Lindesfarne is two part track that can be reminiscent of Imogen Heap’s “Hide and Seek” or Bon Iver’s “Woods” but it feels so much more remarkable even though it’s simply Blake’s vocals guided through the overused effects of auto-tune. His minimalist style and utilization of silence make this track feel powerful and sincere. If this doesn’t make it on the season finale of some popular primetime soap, a music supervisor needs to be fired. (Brennan)

8. Protest the Hero – “Hair-Trigger”

With each album, Protest the Hero pushes the limit of what they can do for the genre of metal by trying to redefine it with shear musical genius. This track showcases everything that is solid within Protest the Hero. Hands down, the best part of the song arises when guest vocalist Jadea Kelly begins singing in tandem with Rody Walker adding all the more atmosphere to the story of betrayal laid out for your experience. That’s what’s great about Protest the Hero; you hear every bit of energy they put into their work and you are drawn in like a weak swimmer in a rip tide. (Monika & Tall Kyle)
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7. Balam Acab – “Oh, Why”

Too-young-to-drink producer Alec Koone drew influences from 60s psychedelic folk, electronic music, hip-hop, and the living world to create a new genre with his debut LP, Wander / Wonder. The softest track on the album, “Oh, Why”, utilized vocal samples over found watery sounds doubling as percussion and added atmosphere. (Kelsie)

6. Coma Cinema – “Her Sinking Sun”

As the first single from Blue Suicide, “Her Sinking Sun” gave listeners a peek into the slightly more experimental edge of Mat Cothran’s dreamy rock music. The strings and sampled synth suggest an upbeat song, but when Cothran starts singing “Flowers of skin and bone / we’re all alone / waiting to die” the contrast is striking. Death has been a recurring theme in Coma Cinema songs, so it’s appropriate that no one else this year has painted a more depressing and simultaneously uplifting picture as Coma Cinema did. (Adam)

5. Panda Bear – “Surfer’s Hymn”

“Surfer’s Hymn” is a track that showcases Noah Lennox’s best attributes. While covered by an arrangement of crashing waves and quick drum mallet, the melody glides through an array of polyrhythms. His voice sounds more beautiful than ever, and the lyrics are equally as rewarding: “I wouldn’t ever want to bet upon the balance on what’s going on, would I?” To an unexperienced listener it sounds like a pop song gone horribly wrong, but sometimes it’s the most unfamiliar music that deems to be most rewarding. (Brennan)

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4. Shabazz Palaces – “Are You… Can You… Were You? (Felt)”

This track opens up with the perfect line letting you know it’s a vacation. “I woke up to it, heavy, alight with trueness / Always a way of losin’, compelled to knew it.” Let your mind travel and take in the freshness that has been Shabazz Palaces the past couple of years. Isaac “Butterfly” Butler has shown us that he can demonstrate hip-hop fundamentals with Digable Planets and then re-write the rules with Shabazz. (Kyle S.)

3. Julian Lynch – “Back”

New Jersey psych-folk songwriter Julian Lynch isn’t new to KZUU, his 2010 album Mare landed the #23 spot in our Albums of the Year. Always prolific, he released Terra early this year to similar critical acclaim. The whole album flows flawlessly, recalling chilly Midwestern plains. It isn’t until the closing track “Back”, that the album feels so immediately classic. Built upon and endlessly hummable guitar riff, “Back” starts out as a nostalgic folk tune before exploding into a psychedelic galactic jam. It throws your senses for a loop, and I’ve experienced a countless number of emotions while listening to this song. It’s something I’ve connected deeply with and no other song released this year really affected me the same way. (Adam)

2. Howth – “The Wind Blows Cold”

Howth’s under-the-radar debut self-titled slipped by most people, but it’s hard to see how when you listen to songs like “The Wind Blows Cold”. Carl Creighton is a songwriting master; his songs have impeccable lyrics over emotional guitar chord progressions. “The Wind Blows Cold” is reminiscent of 70s songwriters, pulling you into the song with every whistling chorus. (Kelsie)

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1. Youth Lagoon – “Montana”

This track exemplifies what Youth Lagoon’s Trevor Powers is best at: one hell of a climax.  With an array of haunting countermelodies, shifting back and forth distorted guitars, and keyboards that sound like the opening theme of an episode of The X-Files, Trevor Powers’ melodies spark gut-wrenching emotion that provoke the deepest thoughts of one’s imagination. (Brennan)

Boise, ID resident (and poster child) Trevor Powers’ debut LP The Year of Hibernation is bedroom pop at its best – stripped down instrumentation, hazy and anxiety-ridden production, and relatable lyrics about coming-of-age experiences that could happen to anyone. Where Powers truly excels is monstrous and emotional breakdowns that tug at your heart, and “Montana” is the track that does just that. (Kelsie)

Trevor Powers pours an incredible amount of passion into his music, and “Montana” is quite simply the most cathartic release of musical emotion released in 2011. As the song builds to an overwhelming climax, Powers determinedly repeats “I will grow.” It’s intensely captivating, wholly sincere, and entirely uplifting. (Adam)

One thought on “Top Tracks of 2011 #20-1

  1. Pingback: Purity Ring – Shrines | KZUU 90.7fm

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