Best Songs of 2011
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The 75 Best Songs of 2011

Nostalgia Alert! Jump back a decade and enjoy the best songs of 2011. They are headlined by a synthpop classic, a massive hit from a hot diva, pristine harmonies of a young band headed for greatness.

65. Washed Out – “Amor Fati”

Washed Out’s full-length debut Within and Without is a sublime aural chillwave/glo-fi experience. The tracks are perfectly aligned and carefully crafted, none more so than the stellar single “Amor Fati”, a touching song about support, strength and forgiveness that doesn’t sound like a corny self-help Whitney Houston ballad about support, strength and forgiveness. As for many Washed Out tunes, lyrics (and their inferred meaning) are incidental and often times unintelligible — that’s not to say that they’re unimportant, but rather complementary like a nice red wine with your steak dinner. So, when you’re on your 50th listen of “Amor Fati” (and you will be if not already) and finally make out the line: “Don’t drift too far / It’s not your fault / Let go, reach out / The choice is yours / To Find”, you’ll feel your heart lift even higher than it already does when the song begins. — Enio Chiola

64. The Vaccines – “Nørgaard”

A rip-through-your-skull punk guitar riff. Whiplash-inducing pace. A girl. Yelling. A chorus you can’t not sing along with. Instrumental break with falsetto humming. “Going steady.” A boy. The Vaccines’ single “Nørgaard” had it all. That it happened to be about an actual Danish model was a nifty side note. That it all happened in one minute and 39 seconds was the very definition of rock ‘n’ roll. — John Bergstrom

63. Paul Simon – “Rewrite”

It’s classic Paul Simon: The Afro-influenced backbeat. The quirky final 30 seconds of whistling. The gentle voice as soft as a million freshly fluffed pillows. The verses that come to life as stories right before your eyes. He’s a living legend, and this year’s So Beautiful Or So What reminded us all that he’s still got some serious songwriting abilities left in him. And of all the fantastic tales he offered in 2011, “Rewrite” was undoubtedly the best. — Colin McGuire

62. Pepe Deluxé – “The Storm”

Just when you thought you’d heard everything, Finnish scientists of sound Pepe Deluxé dropped “The Storm”, a beacon of analog originality in a sea of pro-tooled homogeny. This slice of cinematic surf rock is a minor character in the group’s esoteric pop opera in three parts, Queen of the Wave (due in early 2012), yet it clearly stands on its own merits, with an Analogue Systems synth bass, twangy guitar, bombastic choir refrain hailing the gods, and a tasty Joe Meek like transistor organ solo laid over a bed of funky drums and a full orchestra. Seriously epic. — Alan Ranta

61. Florrie – “I Took a Little Something”

Musically, the song is all sweetness and light from the ringing piano that introduces the song, an impeccable post-disco/house burst of pop euphoria from Xenomania’s house drummer. But like a lot of her contemporaries, Florrie has more complicated emotions in mind. “I need to know just one thing was never in doubt… we’re happy ever after in my head.” Doubt and bliss have rarely been as inextricable, or as potent, and the result is as suited to solitary contemplation as it is to joyful movement. — Ian Mathers

60. Jamie XX – “Far Nearer”

The steel pan is a stubborn bastard that refuses to die and resists the temptation to be backed into a corner. The mid-to-late ‘naughts saw an infusion of steel pan in the short-lived and unlikely Balearic revival, but as it was it about to wither from consciousness along came the XX’s programmer Jamie Smith last year with “Far Nearer”, a gorgeous effervescent island pounder whose tropical vibe plays more like rehab than all-night party. “I feel better when / You feel better when”, the soulful but tweaked voice intones. That the verse ends with the somewhat maudlin “I have you near me” matters little, since the longing of the first two lines speaks to an absence, a melancholy indicating that he/she is not near, at least not near enough, to the singer. This track floated around for a long time as a radio rip before the red hot Numbers label put it out this year. In an age of instant gratification though, it was worth well worth the wait to have it near us. — Timothy Gabriele

59. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – “The Body”

Awkwardness in your own skin is a supreme subject in music, especially so in the indie-pop bands the Pains of Being Pure at Heart musically take after. With sexual and religious matters at hand, the song plays up the shy romantic tension in their music. A soaring anthem, it epitomizes the way the Pains are shining up their influences. Its chorus “tell me again what the body’s for” is instantly iconic, feeling like it’s summarizing pop music as a whole while expressing generations of anxious youthful feelings. — Dave Heaton

58. Purity Ring – “Belispeak”

Purity Ring, still a fairly mysterious act, burst onto the blog scene this year with the release of three stellar tracks. “Belispeak”, the best of these songs, distills the ingredients of the duo’s electropop into its purest form. Corin Roddick has clearly ingested the Knife’s discography. He lays steel drum-esque synths over a lurching beat, while Megan James gets her girlish vocals chopped and pitched into an alien patchwork. The results are immediately gratifying and subtly sinister, designed to cause a panic on the dancefloor… an emphasis on panic. — Corey Beasley

57. Coldplay – “Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall”

Drawing near-plagiaristic inspiration from an unlikely source (Peter Allen’s manic piano salsa “I Go to Rio”), the initial report from Coldplay’s Mylo Xyloto offensive is a ravishing pop single. Riding successive waves of synth stabs, barricade-stomping rhythm, and Jonny Buckland’s glittering fills, “Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall” achieves a tone of effortless joy. And although it may seem incongruous in a song featuring Chris Martin expounding on the cathedrals in his heart, its greatest point of impact derives from a display of restraint. Reigning in Will Champion’s thunderous drumming until the song’s final minute is a masterstroke, and his full entrance is a rocket-booster blast propelling an airborne craft straight into the stratosphere. This ain’t no comma, it’s a full stop. — Ross Langager

56. Fixers – “Crystals”

Rarely has otherwise sleepy Oxford had so good a cause for local musical pride. The city’s productive five-piece Fixers are tipped for mainstream success in no small part due to “Crystals”, their deliriously entertaining roller-coaster ride of a single which simultaneously justifies and transcends the band’s comparisons to the Beach Boys. Joining searing guitars, stereo-panning synths, and a mammoth chorus results in a psychedelic experience, which like all the best ones is gripping, disorienting, and instantly unforgettable. — Andy Johnson