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“What really matters is what you like, not what you are like… Books, records, films — these things matter.”
— High Fidelity

Etcetera

Best Songs of 2011

2011 was one of the first years I endeavored to make myself, at the end of the calendar year, a 100-song playlist that encapsulated all that I listened to and loved over the previous 12 months. As such, this list, published five years later, varies little from that one I made back in December ’11.

Fewer than 10 songs were dropped from that original list, replaced by ones I discovered in 2012 and 2013. Because that original list was as finely tuned as this mix, sequenced for more than 6 hours of continuous playback, it was quite difficult to find space for these new tunes. But I did, and this new playlist is the result of that effort.

Though I have listened to some of these songs dozens of times, the truth is that, when you have a music library as big as mine, five years is not quite enough to truly gain an appreciation of a song. There are too many other tracks to listen to, both new and old, to properly delve as deeply into these as I would like. As such, I am still finding my way through parts of this playlist, seeing where the songs play best in the soundtrack of my life.

If I made this list five years from now, I may find that the sands have shifted yet again, and a few more songs drop out, to be replaced by ones I had underestimated before, or had somehow missed in my first two tries to encapsulate the year 2011. More likely still, I may find that my favorite song from this list has waned, only to be replaced by one I enjoyed previously, but did not truly love until its secret was unlocked.

Often that secret can be as simple as finding an application to my own life where there was none previously, but most fruitfully, the secret is revealed from within the song itself. Maybe I suddenly hear the words fully, as if for the very first time. Maybe some chord strikes me with a new nostalgia that did not previously exist. Maybe an association between the song and a memory becomes even more poignant with the passage of time. Maybe it’s going to be a combination of all of these things? Whatever the reason, I am very excited for what the future of holds for these songs, and their place in my life.

For these year-end lists, I like to undertake the seemingly impossibly task of creating an hours-long mix. The order you see below represents that effort, which you can listen to via Spotify. Sadly all 100 tracks aren't available, but you get the general idea. Track notes to come eventually or maybe never.

  1. Build a Rocket Boys!

    With Love

    Elbow

    Build a Rocket Boys!

    Downtown

    Notes

  2. Nine Types of Light

    Keep Your Heart

    TV on the Radio

    Nine Types of Light

    DGC

    Notes

  3. Motopony

    King of Diamonds

    Motopony

    Motopony

    self-released

    Notes

  4. Tell Me

    Blue Skies Again

    Jessica Lea Mayfield

    Tell Me

    Nonesuch

    Notes

  5. No Color

    Good

    The Dodos featuring Neko Case

    No Color

    Frenchkiss

    Notes

  6. S/T II: The Cosmic Birth and Journey of Shinju TNT

    Another Sky

    Akron/Family

    S/T II: The Cosmic Birth and Journey of Shinju TNT

    Dead Oceans

    Notes

  7. Deerhoof vs. Evil

    Secret Mobilization

    Deerhoof

    Deerhoof vs. Evil

    Polyvinyl

    Notes

  8. Wild Flag

    Something Came Over Me

    Wild Flag

    Wild Flag

    Merge

    Notes

  9. w h o k i l l

    Bizness

    tUnE-yArDs

    w h o k i l l

    4AD

    Notes

  10. 21

    Rumour Has It

    Adele

    21

    Columbia/XL Recordings

    Notes

  11. Blood Pressures

    Future Starts Slow

    The Kills

    Blood Pressures

    Domino

    Notes

  12. Mine Is Yours

    Louder Than Ever

    Cold War Kids

    Mine Is Yours

    Interscope

    Notes

  13. Circuital

    Circuital

    My Morning Jacket

    Circuital

    ATO

    Notes

  14. Mirrors

    Give Up the Ghost

    U.S. Royalty

    Mirrors

    Family

    Notes

  15. Wasting Light

    These Days

    Foo Fighters

    Wasting Light

    Sony

    Notes

  16. I Am Very Far

    Your Past Life as a Blast

    Okkervil River

    I Am Very Far

    Jagjaguwar

    Notes

  17. The King Is Dead

    This Is Why We Fight

    The Decemberists

    The King Is Dead

    Capitol

    Notes

  18. Kiss Each Other Clean

    Walking Far From Home

    Iron & Wine

    Kiss Each Other Clean

    Warner Bros.

    Notes

  19. 100 Lovers

    100 Other Lovers

    DeVotchKa

    100 Lovers

    Anti

    Notes

  20. Strange Negotiations

    Strange Negotiations

    David Bazan

    Strange Negotiations

    Barsuk

    Notes

  21. Um, Uh Oh

    Lookin’ Good

    Say Hi

    Um, Uh Oh

    Barsuk

    Notes

  22. Divine Providence

    Clownin’ Around

    Deer Tick

    Divine Providence

    Partisan

    Notes

  23. Twister

    Morning Son

    Country Mice

    Twister

    Kanine

    Notes

  24. Several Shades of Why

    Is It Done

    J. Mascis

    Several Shades of Why

    Sub Pop

    Notes

  25. Joseph Giant

    Almost Running Out of Everything

    Joseph Giant

    Joseph Giant

    self-released

    Notes

  26. Long Player Late Bloomer

    Middle of Love

    Ron Sexsmith

    Long Player Late Bloomer

    Ronboy Rhymes

    Notes

  27. Ashes & Fire

    Chains of Love

    Ryan Adams

    Ashes & Fire

    Pax Am

    Notes

  28. A Creature I Don't Know

    Sophia

    Laura Marling

    A Creature I Don’t Know

    Ribbon Music

    Notes

  29. We Are the Tide

    I Know

    Blind Pilot

    We Are the Tide

    Expunged

    Notes

  30. The People's Key

    Jejune Stars

    Bright Eyes

    The People’s Key

    Saddle Creek

    Notes

  31. No Witch

    All Land Crabs and Divinity Ghosts

    The Cave Singers

    No Witch

    Jagjaguwar

    Notes

  32. Megafaun

    Hope You Know

    Megafaun

    Megafaun

    Hometapes

    Notes

  33. The Rip Tide

    Payne’s Bay

    Beirut

    The Rip Tide

    Pompeii

    Notes

  34. Lupon

    Juniper

    Y La Bamba

    Lupon

    Tender Loving Empire

    Notes

  35. Candidate Waltz

    Mercedes Blast

    Centro-Matic

    Candidate Waltz

    Undertow

    Notes

  36. Middle Brother

    Blue Eyes

    Middle Brother

    Middle Brother

    Partisan

    Notes

  37. Go-Go Boots

    Everybody Needs Love

    Drive-By Truckers

    Go-Go Boots

    ATO

    Notes

  38. So Beautiful or So What

    Love Is Eternal Sacred Light

    Paul Simon

    So Beautiful or So What

    Hear Music

    Notes

  39. Helplessness Blues

    Grown Oceean

    Fleet Foxes

    Helplessness Blues

    Sub Pop

    Notes

  40. The Harrow & The Harvest

    Hard Times

    Gillian Welch

    The Harrow & The Harvest

    Acony

    Notes

  41. Smart Flesh

    Ghost Woman Blues

    The Low Anthem

    Smart Flesh

    Nonesuch

    Notes

  42. Smoke Ring for My Halo

    Runner Ups

    Kurt Vile

    Smoke Ring for My Halo

    Matador

    Notes

  43. Cloud Nothings

    Forget You All the Time

    Cloud Nothings

    Cloud Nothings

    Carpark

    Notes

  44. Days

    Green Aisles

    Real Estate

    Days

    Domino

    Notes

  45. Towards the Sun

    At Your Door

    Alexi Murdoch

    Towards the Sun

    Zero Summer

    Notes

  46. Video Games

    Video Games

    Lana Del Rey

    Video Games/Blue Jeans 7"

    Polydor

    Notes

  47. Only in Dreams

    Coming Down

    Dum Dum Girls

    Only in Dreams

    Sub Pop

    Notes

  48. Metals

    The Circle Married the Line

    Feist

    Metals

    Cherry Tree

    Notes

  49. Burst Apart

    Putting the Dog to Sleep

    The Antlers

    Burst Apart

    Frenchkiss

    Notes

  50. No Time for Dreaming

    Why Is It So Hard

    Charles Bradley

    No Time for Dreaming

    Daptone

    Notes

  51. The Road to Memphis

    Progress

    Booker T. Jones featuring Jim James

    The Road to Memphis

    Anti

    Notes

  52. undun

    Kool On

    The Roots

    undun

    Okayplayer

    Notes

  53. The Dreamer, The Believer

    Lovin’ I Lost

    Common

    The Dreamer, The Believer

    Warner Bros.

    Notes

  54. Stone Rollin

    Stone Rollin’

    Raphael Saadiq

    Stone Rollin’

    Columbia

    Notes

  55. El Camino

    Stop Stop

    The Black Keys

    El Camino

    Nonesuch

    Notes

  56. Can't Get Past the Lips

    Try Me Out Sometime

    Broncho

    Can’t Get Past the Lips

    Cop Friendly

    Notes

  57. What Did You Expect From The Vaccines

    Blow It Up

    The Vaccines

    What Did You Expect From The Vaccines?

    Columbia

    Notes

  58. Gimme Some

    Dig a Little Deeper

    Peter Bjorn and John

    Gimme Some

    Almost Gold

    Notes

  59. Walls

    Dressed Sharply

    An Horse

    Walls

    Mom and Pop

    Notes

  60. Trust

    Trust

    Generationals

    Trust

    Park the Van

    Notes

  61. Human Hearts

    It’s Casual

    Maritime

    Human Hearts

    Dangerbird

    Notes

  62. Thao & Mirah

    Squareneck

    Thao & Mirah

    Thao & Mirah

    Kill Rock Stars

    Notes

  63. Tripper

    WACS

    Fruit Bats

    Tripper Bonus Track

    Sub Pop

    Notes

  64. D

    Street Joy

    White Denim

    D

    Downtown

    Notes

  65. The Whole Love

    One Sunday Morning (Song for Jane Smiley’s Boyfriend)

    Wilco

    The Whole Love

    DbPM

    Notes

  66. Collapse Into Now

    Überlin

    R.E.M.

    Collapse Into Now

    Warner Bros.

    Notes

  67. Let England Shake

    In the Dark Places

    P.J. Harvey

    Let England Shake

    Vagrant

    Notes

  68. Common Burn

    Common Burn

    Mazzy Star

    Common Burn / Lay Myself Down 7"

    Rhymes of an Hour

    Notes

  69. Kaputt

    Kaputt

    Destroyer

    Kaputt

    Merge

    Notes

  70. Bon Iver

    Michicant

    Bon Iver

    Bon Iver

    Jagjaguwar

    Notes

  71. The King of Limbs

    Separator

    Radiohead

    The King of Limbs

    XL

    Notes

  72. ROAR

    California Sunrise

    Dirty Gold

    ROAR

    Autumn Tone

    Notes

  73. Dive

    Daydream

    Tycho

    Dive

    Ghostly International

    Notes

  74. Coastal Grooves

    Champagne Coast

    Blood Orange

    Coastal Grooves

    Domino

    Notes

  75. Nightlife

    Don’t Move

    Phantogram

    Nightlife

    Barsuk

    Notes

  76. Shapeshifting

    Cover Your Tracks

    Young Galaxy

    Shapeshifting

    Paper Bag

    Notes

  77. Within and Without

    Eyes Be Closed

    Washed Out

    Within and Without

    Sub Pop

    Notes

  78. Zonoscope

    Where I’m Going

    Cut Copy

    Zonoscope

    Modular

    Notes

  79. Passive Me, Aggressive You

    Young Blood

    The Naked and Famous

    Passive Me, Aggressive You

    Universal

    Notes

  80. In Light

    Up Up Up

    Givers

    In Light

    Glassnote

    Notes

  81. Torches

    Pumped Up Kicks

    Foster the People

    Torches

    Columbia

    Notes

  82. Family of Love

    Happy Birthday Party

    Dom

    Family of Love

    Astralwerks

  83. Paradise

    Two Cousins

    Slow Club

    Paradise

    Moshi Moshi

    Notes

  84. Bright and Vivid

    Who Are You

    Kathryn Calder

    Bright and Vivid

    File Under Music

    Notes

  85. Strange Mercy

    Year of the Tiger

    St. Vincent

    Strange Mercy

    4AD

    Notes

  86. Civilian

    Civilian

    Wye Oak

    Civilian

    Merge

    Notes

  87. Grown Unknown

    Daphne

    Lia Ices featuring Justin Vernon

    Grown Unknown

    Jagjaguwar

    Notes

  88. James Blake

    The Wilhelm Scream

    James Blake

    James Blake

    Republic

    Notes

  89. Holy Ghost!

    Some Children

    Holy Ghost! featuring Michael McDonald

    Holy Ghost!

    DFA

    Notes

  90. You Are All I See

    Hanging On

    Active Child

    You Are All I See

    Vagrant

    Notes

  91. Beth Ditto

    I Wrote the Book

    Beth Ditto

    Beth Ditto

    Sony

    Notes

  92. Can't Hold Us

    Can’t Hold Us

    Macklemore & Ryan Lewis featuring Ray Dalton

    Can’t Hold Us

    self-released

    Notes

  93. Watch the Throne

    Gotta Have It

    The Throne

    Watch the Throne

    Roc-A-Fella

    Notes

  94. Megalithic Symphony

    Sail

    AWOLNATION

    Megalithic Symphony

    Red Bull

    Notes

  95. We're New Here

    I’ll Take Care of U

    Gil Scott-Heron & Jamie xx

    We’re New Here

    XL

    Notes

  96. Electric Hustle

    Let’s Go Back

    Kraak & Smaak featuring Romanthony

    Electric Hustle

    Jalapeño

    European release

  97. Underneath the Pine

    Still Sound

    Toro y Moi

    Underneath the Pine

    Carpark

    Notes

  98. Hurry Up, We're Dreaming

    Midnight City

    M83

    Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming

    Mute

    Notes

  99. Ritual Union

    Ritual Union

    Little Dragon

    Ritual Union

    Peacefrog

    Notes

  100. Talk That Talk

    You Da One

    Rihanna

    Talk That Talk

    Def Jam

    Notes