Well, folks, it's been.... a year. Music-wise, I can't say that 2011 has been a sterling effort, but it's been ok (certainly no 1993 or 1997, the two best years for music during the past 20 years). While I'm still trying to determine whether there are even five consistently solid albums for my 'Top 5 Albums' list, I do have a fair amount of songs that were in the running for 'Top 10 Songs of the Year.' And here they are:
10. Good Day Today / David Lynch --- An odd man came out with an odd music album this year (although not so odd if it's what you were expecting from someone like Lynch), and Good Day Today is the best track on it. A steady electronic beat helps drives Lynch's vocoderized vocals, at once optimistic and sad.
9. Burning Up / Nick Carter --- The underrated, sexiest member of The Backstreet Boys released another solo album this year (and is currently on tour), and while Justin Timberlake needn't lose any sleep, it was a solid effort. Carter managed to come up with a winner with Burning Up, a poppy club ditty that features his voice going down to a low crank at times, as well as a guest rap. Very seductive.
8. Girl Panic / Duran Duran --- While their latest album isn't all that great, Duran Duran has to get props for this song, for many reasons, not least of which is its sheer audacity (hopefully tongue-in-cheek) that they can still cause "mayhem" with girls. Simon LeBon (old enough to be my pappy) is probably not setting many young girls' hearts aflutter as he did during the 1980s, but it's cute to think that he thinks so. And the song ain't half-bad. Lively and with a good chorus.
7. Best Love / Steve Martin & Paul McCartney --- An unexpected pairing produces a simple, cute and beautiful song. Steve Martin on his banjo, with Sir Paul singing the lyrics that Martin wrote, about an appreciation of a person and a relationship, makes for a nice, melodic tune. I often catch myself singing bits of it from time to time. It should probably be higher on the list.
6. Over / Gus Gus --- Known for producing some great sex music, Gus Gus can also be counted upon to, every now and then, make a bit of music that appeals to something other than the libido. Over is such a song. While obstensibly a dance song, Over's lyrics betray the deflated emotions of a relationship that is ended, leaving those involved to question how it came to an end, and why they didn't try (this time) to fix things.
5. Black Out the Sun / Darren Hayes --- Just because I'm in a good relationship doesn't mean I can't enjoy a nice, old-fashioned, storming weeper of a song. And, lately, Darren Hayes (formerly one-half of Savage Garden) can deliver those quite well. With this, the second single off his new album, Hayes goes through the turbulent motions of crying out for his lover to no longer hurt him. It's one of those songs that you've gotta' hear to fully appreciate. It also features a great video to accompany it -- a rarity these days.
4. Ghost on the Canvas / Glen Campbell --- Recently diagnosed with Alzheimer's, the venerable singer decided to record one last album, and go on one last tour (he'll be in Bloomington, IL in early 2012). If this song is any indication, Glen's still got what it takes. Pretty much the only song of his I like (aside from Rhinestone Cowboy), Ghost on the Canvas is one of those treasures that features curious lyrics, heartfelt vocals, and a slight bit of pathos, given Mr. Campbell's situation (not unlike how Johnny Cash's cover of Hurt evoked many of the same bittersweet qualities).
3. Pumped-Up Kicks / Foster the People --- Probably a one-hit wonder, this group has nevertheless made one of those songs that serves as a fun, memorable summer ditty. A slam on hipsters (that hipsters haven't quite cottoned-on to yet, since they bop around to it in droves), Pumped-Up Kicks (a reference to shoes) has managed to appeal to all ages, and will always remind me of driving around campus during the early Autumn of 2011.
2. Scheiße / Lady Gaga --- Ok, I admit it. I don't "get" Lady Gaga. My gay brethren will likely dis-own me for it, but her schtick just doesn't appeal to me. Dressing up in all those outlandish outfits, talking fiercely about being her own person, and encouraging others to do the same. Yeah, yeah, ok. But, damn, if she can't write and put together some awesome music. I had Scheiße on repeat for a long time after I first heard it. No doubt the best track off of her current album, it's driving club rhythms, her strong vocals, and the "oh-oh-oh-oh-oh" combine to make for a killer song. You go, girl!
1. Hellbent / New Order --- For the second time since I've been doing year-end lists, the venerable synth-pop group from England (which rose from the ashes of Joy Division) comes in with the # 1 song of the year on ol' Matty-Matt's list. What can I say about this song to do it justice? It features a good blend of rock and electronic sounds, and Bernard Sumner's vocals are ever so longing. A tragic track about trying to repair an old friendship (and love?), the song speaks to the artistry of a band three decades old.
So, that's my official Top Ten list, but there were some other songs that I enjoyed this year that didn't make the list, either because they just weren't quite Top 10 material, or because they weren't released in 2011. Following is a list of those songs:
Daddy Fat Sax / Big Boi
Midnight City / M83
La Baie / Etienne Daho
Lucky / Lucky Twice
Lifelines / A-ha
Indestructible / Robyn
Listzomania / Phoenix
Cameras / Matt & Kim