Lucien’s List: The Best (And Worst) Tracks of 2011

By Lucien Flores, Muse Music editor

Today may be the start of February, but let’s face it, these songs were so good (and terrible) that we still can’t get them out of our heads.

1) “Vomit”Girls – Quiet guitar and muted drums establish pitch black misery as singer Christopher Owens painfully sings of wandering the streets alone at night, looking for love. Soon, powerful and fuzzy disjointed guitar solo rip through the song, building angst with each second. Finally, divine Pink Floyd-esque organ and a female-church-choir propel the song into a heavenly orbit as Owens invites us to “come in to my heart.”

2) “Run Right Back”The Black Keys – I’m so proud of these guys. Thick in the vanguard of the early-2000s garage rock revival, The Black Keys released the stellar Thickfreakness and Rubber Factory. After a slight misstep with 2006’s Magic Potion which brought more of the same, there was danger that the band would fizzle out like every other garage-rock band not named the White Stripes. However, The Black Keys have since put out three fantastic albums, each one exploring new sonic terrain. “Run Right Back” off of the recent release – El Camino – perfectly exhibits the band’s progression from a self-produced two-piece outfit to an unstoppable force. The Keys have found a way to bring their bluesy roots, lyrics of dangerous women, Dan Auerbach’s irresistible hooks, and Patrick Carney’s maniac drumming to masses without sacrificing anything musically.

3) Future Starts Slow” – The Kills – The opener to this year’s Blood Pressures, sets the tone of the album and sends a definitive statement on the state of the band: after a three-year hiatus in which lead-singer Alison Mosshart joined Jack White and company in the Dead Weather and singer/guitarist Jamie Hince got engaged to model Kate Moss, The Kills are back – blusier, louder, and better than ever. Hince’s relentless guitar riff and the noisiest drum-loop ever propel the track as the two members sing a sultry duet on top.

4) Circuital” – My Morning Jacket –After the chaotic ending of the previous track, “Circuital” materializes in a spacey and embryonic state. Hushed guitar and Jim James’ calming vocals sooth listeners before bright acoustic guitars emerge from the bleak darkness of space. These invading guitars then propel the track into a 7:19 experience that climaxes with a Wilco-esque guitar solo. Fittingly, the song ends as it throws listeners back into this embryonic state; it’s evolution and 2001: A Space Odyssey all in one track.

5) Art of Almost”- Wilco – Starting with incredibly funky drumming, a broken record spinning, sci-fi sounds, fuzzed-up bass, and shimmering organs, the song starts like no other Wilco track. The experimental song is structured bizarrely with millions of false endings that climax into one very long, very loud, and certainly very un-Wilco Nels Cline guitar solo. “Art of Almost” is one large ‘f**k you’ to those who endlessly dismiss recent Wilco records as dad-rock.

6) Triccs” – Royal Bangs – A four-minute blitzkrieg of pounding drums, slugging keys, and frantic guitar from an eclectic Knoxville trio discovered a few years ago by Black Keys drummer Patrick Carney on MySpace.

7) French Exit” – The Antlers – A catchy, falsetto-heavy, track that features bright keys and chugging guitar undertones from this Brooklyn trio known more for the ethereal and cathartic tracks off their first album, Hospice.

8) Sleep Forever” – Portugal. The Man – A sprawling clean-guitar epic from this group of hardworking Alaskans.

9) Two Against One” – Danger Mouse and Daniele Luppi (Featuring Jack White) – The standout track on Danger Mouse and Daniele Luppi’s homage to the classic spaghetti western scores of the 1970s, “Two Against One” features dueling Jack Whites spitting out impressive fast-talking lyrics over a choir and a bouncy harpsichord. Rarely does Jack White sound so polished.

10) Speaking In Tongues” – “Arcade Fire (featuring David Byrne) –Arcade Fire and David Byrne of Talking Heads fame? Need I say more?

10 Honorable Mentions:

“East Harlem” (Beirut), “Sensitive Kid” (Cold War Kids), “Doors Unlocked and Open” (Death Cab For Cutie), “Don’t Carry It All” (The Decemberists), “The Man From San Sebastian” (DeVotchKa), “Helplessness Blues” (Fleet Foxes), “Exile Vilify” (The National), “All Die Young”(Smith Westerns), “You Turn Clear In The Sun” (Telekenisis) and “Posters” (Youth Lagoon).

Best Song Found Randomly On Bandcamp:

Welshrats” – And the Giraffe – This delicate number evokes The National and memories of suburbia.

Worst Song of the Year by a Band I Like:

Finally Begin” – Cold War Kids – My brother once said, “If there’s a song that hooks the teenage girls in, this is it.  It’s generic, catchy, comfortable, has an already released cheesy video, and I can honestly see this song being an opener for bands like Train and The Script” and he is entirely accurate. This song is a microcosm of why Mine Is Yours fell flat and honestly makes me feel embarrassed for the band, but with lyrics like, “Finally open my arms wide, finally I let you inside, finally made it past the end to finally begin” it’s hard not to. Hopefully this also marks the end of Cold War Kids’s recent attempts to take the Kings of Leon Route to stardom.

Worst Song of the Year:

Super Bass” – Nicki Minaj – On one episode of Community, Jeff Winger breaks down and says, “I hate Glee, I hate it. I don’t understand the appeal at all.” Replace “Glee” with “Nicki Minaj” and you get my sentiments exactly. Hell, even Rebecca Black’s “Friday” is a welcomed change from this irritating hit.

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