top song obsessions for 2011

The Tree Ring @ San Diego Women’s Club by Natalie Kardos. The Tree Ring top my list of top song obsessions for 2011. Frontman Joel P West also appears on the list.

Song obsessions are those songs that your brain picks for you, those ear worms that get stuck in your head and have you singing them to yourself or going back to hit repeat on your ipod. I like the idea of reporting what my brain got stuck on each year. Here’s the list of the songs that were stuck in my head the most in 2011.

If you want to read through past years’ lists, here are my top song obsessions from 2010, 2009, 2008, and 2007.

  1. The Tree Ring – Wore It Deep (mp3) (buy)

    Wore It Deep (The Tree Ring) from Destin Daniel Cretton on Vimeo.

    From the first time I saw this video, I was in love with this song. It’s beautiful and calm, yearning and plaintive. Lovely, somewhat abstract lyrics. “The morning sang slowly to a different tune// With the sky tired in a blustery blue// We woke up tired and blustery too.” The video is something to talk about as well, with the light coordination and confetti snowfall all timed to perfection.

  2. Adele – Someone Like You (mp3) (buy)
    In some ways this seems like an attempt to capture the magic of her previous album closer, “Hometown Glory”, but in some ways it’s a completely different song, with much more pain in it. Here she captures something universal about lost love without seeming trite or chiche. (Be sure to watch her performing a knock-out rendition on the VMAs.)
  3. Bon Iver – Holocene (mp3) (buy)
    One of my most anticipated albums of the year was Bon Iver. While it was almost guaranteed to not be the transformative album that For Emma, Forever Ago was, it is a great album. This song is clearly the strongest on the album with all the qualities that make Bon Iver great. I’ve spent many hours sitting on my couch while this song spins around on the turntable.
  4. Ted Leo & the Pharmacists – Parallel or Together (mp3) (buy)
    Ted Leo is a gifted man, creating unique songs that fuse the melodies of indie rock with the energy and overall aesthetic of punk. I’m a big fan, but somehow I’d never heard this song until this year. When a friend introduced me to this song, I literally listened to it eleven times in a row. I couldn’t get enough of it on that day; and every time I’ve heard it since, it’s put a smile on my face.
  5. Bombadil – I Will Wait (mp3) (buy)
    There’s something about old hymns like “Be Thou My Vision” and “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” that have a draw for me: traditional folk melodies pared with straight-forward but beautifully composed lyrics. The first time I heard this Bombadil track, I thought it sounded old and actually searched around on this point only to find it is a Bombadil original. Just a little haunting and with a beautiful melody, this song had me pressing repeat many times this year.
  6. Archers of Loaf – Harnessed in Slums (mp3) (buy)
    Seeing the reunited Archers, a love of mine from my high school and college days, burn through this song on Jimmy Fallon back in June really got me into this song again (and it made me want to be in a rock band again). Both in the studio version and the Fallon version, Eric Bachmann and company weave distorted guitar guitars together in a soundbed under Bachmann’s choked vocals. Classic indie rock!
  7. Pickwick – The Round (mp3) (buy)
    Perhaps my favorite find of this year is Pickwick. I saw them years ago when they were a mediocre folk band, but they’ve really discovered something interesting in the intervening time with a great soul-pop sound. This is my favorite song of the lot.
  8. The National – Think You Can Wait (mp3) (buy)
    Win Win is an enjoyable film about a lost wrestling coach and a lost kid finding each other and making each other’s lives better. I’m not sure what the National has to do with it, but when I heard this song as the credits rolled, I knew I had to get it.
  9. Hoodie Allen – Joy & Misery (mp3) (download mixtape)
    I liked this Hoodie Allen mixtape and listened to all of it quite a bit, but this song really stuck out. The sampling of both the Cold War Kids’ and Florence and the Machine’s versions of “Hospital Beds” along with Hoodie Allen’s youthful, self-consciously clever rhymes over it had me listening to it over and over.
  10. Ben Franklin Cult – Dirt off Your Locks (mp3) (not for sale, no known artist website)
    I’m not sure what the story with this song is, but its apparently off of a mash-up album pairing Josh Ritter with Jay Z. I didn’t know the original Jay Z song very well, but it fits great over an aggressive sample from Ritter’s “Rattling Locks”. And remember, “Ladies is pimps, too.”
  11. Matt & Kim – Block After Block (mp3) (buy)

    In the early days of Mates of State, I would go see their shows and come out in awe of the joy and fun that was exuded out of them and their instruments during the shows. Few bands have captured that sense since then, but I would watch this Fallon performance, dance around grinning, and repeat.
  12. John Statz – Old Old Fashioned (demo) (mp3) (studio version available soon here)
    John Statz caught my ear this year, but this Frightened Rabbit cover (in demo form, the studio version will be on his forthcoming album Old Fashioned) really cemented it for me. It seems so fast and loose, perhaps recorded for fun, but as the voice at the end says “That’s some sweet shit!” It’s a lovely and new rendering of an already familiar song.
  13. Matt Pond PA – Bring on the Ending (mp3) (buy)
    I listened to Matt Pond PA on and off for most of the first part of the last decade, but somewhere along the way, they slipped off of my heavy-rotation band list and got to the point where I rarely listened to them. Then my friend Shawn toured as their cello player in March–I went to their show to see the band but mostly to hang out with Shawn. During the show I realized there were all these great songs of theirs that I wasn’t listening to. Since then they’ve been back in my rotation, no song moreso than this one.
  14. Lykke Li – Get Some (mp3) (buy)
    The very beginning of this year was dominated by this song. Driving and barely restrained in its urgency, this song was the soundtrack to many solitary walks, workouts at the gym and subway rides to job interviews. Can you do anything after listening to this song? Probably not but try to tell the song that. (Trivia: the song was inspired by Murakami’s Wind Up Bird Chronicle.)
  15. Joel P West – Ocotillo (mp3) (buy)
    Joel P West, who also leads the Tree Ring (and who I have featured before) came out with a nice EP at the end of the year. Once again, beautiful melodies are paired with nice turns of phrase. “The cactus survives just by the dew// And in truth I am mostly water too.” So am I, Joel.
  16. Two Sheds – Let Her Dance (mp3) (unreleased, get it here)
    How great are Two Sheds? I’ve spent a lot of time with their previous album and EP. This year I discovered that they’ve been posting demos and covers. I didn’t know the original oldies song (which is worth checking out), but this is a fun version that had me going back to it over and over again.

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