What are the top songs of 2011?: one of the hardest questions I ask myself each year and this year is no different. What are the tunes that you constantly played and hopefully continue to do so? Sunset is one of the best blogs out there. Biased? Maybe. But listen, putting this tape together opened up my eyes (I actually mean ears). From the likes of Frank Ocean & Drake to Reptar & M83, the diversity here is a little like this: that shit cray. I respect music so much more after listening to this collection. Typically, you might have never seen me listening to some of the types of choices made by the Sunset writers on here, but hey…shit happens…and somehow I love everything on here.
I asked each writer to send me their top 5 songs of 2011 with a brief paragraph describing their choices. The results? A fucking raw mix of songs. Enjoy it!
Hit the jump to read all of our picks and sample MP3s from each.
Lydia’s Picks: @SunsetRearview
5. Youth Lagoon – “17”
4. Bon Iver – “Hinnom, TX”
3. M83 – “Raconte-moi une histoire”
2. The Antlers – “I Don’t Want Love”
This was one of the harder things I’ve ever tasked myself with doing. Good God. There were so many incredible songs released this year; the notion of picking a top five is almost absurd, but in this era of collecting singles and file sharing, it only made sense. Reptar takes the cake with their song “Stuck In My Id,” but in a close second came The Antlers’ “I Don’t Want Love.” Each of these songs is unique in their own way, but every single one of them has the ability to be replayed over and over again, likely for the rest of my life. Without revealing which songs I chose (because I really am trying my best to keep it to my top five only), I’ll cheat a little bit and say that two songs by Fucked Up and Beirut were really hard to leave off this list.
Jordan’s Picks: @JDimerrr
5. Frank Ocean – “Songs For Women”
4. Rich Kid Sound System – “Not Far From Home”
3. One Room – “I Want You”
2. Skizzy Mars – “Douchebag”
It took me several days of sitting at my computer trying to figure which songs I’m dubbing as my top five of 2011. Only two spots were safe on my list; the other three were up for grabs. Hair was pulled, tears were shed, and nails were bit, but I finally came up with my top 5. Quick summary: Frank Ocean has the voice to melt a woman’s heart. RKSS is addicting. Who the fuck is One Room? Skizzy is a douchebag. Phew, got that over with. Now, I only want to talk about one song. So, my number one song of 2011? Levels. Let me tell you why. I never get sick of it. I immediately fell in love, and I call this my favorite song of all time. Might not be a rational judgement, but I don’t care. I went to Dayglow back in October and when Levels came on…I thought there was an earthquake. The building was shaking and the amount of people going “BAH DAH DAH DAH NAH NAH, NAH NAH NAH NAH BAH NAH NAH NAH” was insane (took about 10 minutes to get those exact lyrics down). Plus the amount of remixes/mashups this got was ridiculous. Aer’s “Shot Clock” was probably my favorite. Thus, Levels is my number one song for my 19 years of existence. Hell yeah, fuckin’ right. Stay classy San Diego.
Arjun’s Picks: @THEArjunGrover
5. M83 – “Midnight City”
4. Drake – “Marvin’s Room”
3. Fleet Foxes – “Helplessness Blues”
2. Reptar – “Stuck in my Id”
The number one spot could have easily gone to the Jamie xx remix without Childish Gambino, which just shows how far above the competition this one song is. On it, you have one of the premiere female vocalists of today, one of the most sought after producers in the game today, and my personal favorite rapper. Jamie xx chops and screws Adele’s vocals into sounding manly, and Gambino lays down one of his sharpest, most biting verses ever in the last minute and a half of the track. I’m genuinely not sure if anything could be more perfect. “Stuck in my Id” is just beyond catchy. You can tell something is beyond catchy when the verses themselves are catchy. Like, this would be great song without the chorus, but man, if you’re not dancing by the time that chorus kicks in, then you’re probably paralyzed, and I’m sorry for that. “Helplessness Blues” is a track that will make you reevaluate your entire life. I wish you had a choice in the matter, but no, it’s part of the deal; if you hear this song, you will reevaluate the way you’re living. “Marvin’s Room” is raw and personal and long. It features everything your aunt loves about Drake: his singing voice, his rapping voice, his half-rapping/half-singing voice, his girlfriend’s voice, and his signature “uhh.” My fifth favorite song of the year comes in the form of M83’s “Midnight City.” This track and I have been through a lot together: late night car rides, morning car rides, evening car rides. It features the year’s catchiest synth lead that was almost ruined by Lydia when she said that they sounded like car horns. BUT NO, my friend, they are not car horns; they are synthesizers, and they are catchy. Also, shout out to the sexy sax solo at the end. Swag swag.
Dusty’s Picks: @dcbui
5. Drake – “Marvin’s Room”
4. Jay-Z & Kanye West – “Gotta Have It”
3. Frank Ocean – “We All Try”
2. ASAP Rockey – “Peso”
A year ago, I was giving Yeezy’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy countless spins on any and all devices that were capable of producing sound. In those 365 days since then, hip-hop has continued to make strides as a genre, which has become rather typical after the trendsetting Mr. West releases an album. The post-MBDTF era that was 2011 has proven to be no different. Now don’t get it twisted—I’m not saying that everybody this year has bitten Kanye’s style or was even directly influenced by him (sans Childish Gambino). But, I am saying that the Fishstick-loving rapper tends to make it acceptable for hip-hop to venture into wildly strange and uncharted territory—at least in terms of the genre—and that’s a beautifully twisted thing. That’s why we’ve been able to enjoy and embrace genre blending newcomers like ASAP Rocky, who hails from Harlem but swags it out like he’s from Houston. Or Odd Future’s Frank Ocean, who croons over the likes of MGMT, Coldplay and even The Eagles. Then there’s The Weeknd, who appeared out of thin air to produce the most mysterious and tantalizing sex and drug-infused weirdness that makes me wonder how he and Justin Bieber even came from the same country. On top of all of this, we were still treated by juggernauts like Drake, Jay-Z and Kanye as they matured into sonic splendor. So, here’s a toast to 2011. 2012 may be the end of the world to some, but it’s the start of a new one for the rest of us. Cheers.
Wesley’s Picks: @RecycledOrphan
5. Generationals – “Trust”
4. Jhameel – “Bernal Heights”
3. SBTRKT – “Wildfire ft. Drake & Little Dragon”
2. D.Veloped – “Childish Games”
I’ve filtered my picks through my friendships. Since the best times in 2011 were spent with my friends and during those times we were enveloped by the sound of music, I’ve picked songs that assisted in providing me my best memories. As I write this, I’m crying like a schoolgirl riding a unicorn with a rainbow saddle. These are sticky songs; songs that rewire your brain for the better. You’ll be energized, beat up, and probably a little wet. These artists are like an abusive father with loose fists – when they go hard, their beats are hard to beat.
This whole cloud is high… James Franco.
5. Solow & Zalem Hest – “No Levels (Avicii vs. Waka Flocka)”
4. Mr. Little Jeans – “The Suburbs (Arcade Fire Cover)”
3. Jay-Z & Kanye West – “New Day”
2. Childish Gambino – “Heartbeat”
Top 5 songs, you say!? It seems impossible, but by sweet Odin’s beard I’ll give it a shot. Childish Gambino took a firm, comfortable seat in my list a long time ago. And he’s not going anywhere. He is, at once, introspective and serious, hilarious and mind-blowing. I remember seeing a video of him spewing “Bonfire” live, and holy shit that man didn’t miss a beat. His wordplay is jaw-dropping, but at the same time he can tell a story and reveal a thoughtful, intimate side to himself that I really appreciate. And all against some crazy dope beats. That is the hip-hop I live for. And speaking of the hip-hop I live for, all you Watch The Throne haters need to sit down, shut up, and unplug your minds and ears. WTT had a few bad songs — no doubt — but man oh man did it have some absolutely phenomenal ones. So many have reached a skyscraping play count for me, but I still stick by “New Day” as one of the best. Incredible production from the RZA, and some of most reflective verses from Jay and ‘Ye that I’ve heard in a long time. Mr. Little Jean’s cover of “The Suburbs” hummed me into oblivion the first time I heard it. That base, that wobble, that beat, that voice. Wa-wa-wee-wa. Put on headphones for that one. And Avicii’s “Levels” was one of he highlights of 2011 for sure. But still, I can’t help myself, I love me some hip hop vocals layered all up on that. I start Solow & Zalem Hest’s “Levels” mashup before all my runs now, and I don’t think I’m going to get sick of it anytime soon. And for numero uno. A little part of me feels a little guilty giving a song the number one slot, because so many artists and songs this year have been amazing. Can’t I give number it to all of you?! But, alas, I must choose. And I haven’t yet mentioned Bon Iver, and I’ll be damned if I forget him. Besides it simply being one of the best songs on Bon Iver’s 2011 album, I picked “Beth/Rest” because you can barely make out the lyrics. The point I’m trying to make is that the music Bon Iver makes goes far, far, far beyond the realm of words and lyrics. It’s like an acoustic drug. It takes me away to a plane and a state of mind that’s wonderful and instrospective and peaceful and hard to explain all at the same time. That’s abstract as hell, but hopefully some of you Sunset riders feel me! Go get it, 2012.
D Prep’s Picks: @DJDPrep
5. Noah & The Whale – “Just Me Before We Met”
4. M83 – “Midnight City”
3. Kendrick Lamar – “HiiiPower”
2. Bon Iver – “Minnesota, WI”
“17” is beautiful in its simplicity. While remaining quaint in its subtleties, “17” has an entrancing, gripping effect; perhaps it’s the delicate beauty of his voice, or the nuances in Powers’ voice, that pull you in. Or, it may be the perfectly timed, perfectly subtle drop of the song, which occurs right around the 2:20 mark, that makes you hit repeat time and time again. Whatever it is, Youth Lagoon’s The Year of Hibernation was an unbelievably impressive freshman effort, and it deserves attention. Continuing on to “Minnesota, WI,” Justin Vernon and Bon Iver will forever be one of the bands that means the most to me. Vernon’s voice is as stunning as always, and his voice combined with the other sounds on this track create a wall of auditory force that has a tangible impact on the listener. “Never gonna break, never gonna break.” With it’s haunting introduction, beautiful J. Cole production, and clever, real, and meaningful lyricism, Kendrick Lamar’s “HiiiPower” almost immediately established Lamar as one of the most promising young rappers in my mind. As is a trend throughout the entirety of Section.80, Kendrick Lamar talks about subjects in a very tough, honest way, all while remaining lyrically intriguing and witty. M83 has the most catchy, dance inducing synth lines since LCD Soundsystem called it quits, and “Midnight City” is perhaps the best example of that. Noah & The Whale is one of my favorite current bands, and their 2011 release Last Night On Earth only cemented that status. I love the bass line in this song, and Charlie Fink’s vocals are, as always, spot on–he has one of my favorite current voices, and along with the rest of the band, creates an amazing, full sound that incorporates a ukelele, a mandolin, a fiddle, a stand up bass, electric guitar and a wonderful set of drums played by Michael Petulla. These are my favorite songs of 2011, and I think they are representative of the way the industry has changed over the past year, reflecting my favorite new sounds and artists.
I hope you enjoyed everyone’s picks! As you can see, some of writers had similar picks, which only strengthens that particular song’s campaign for top song of 2011. What is your top song of 2011? Leave us a comment!
By popular demand, the most common artists among our writers were Childish Gambino, Frank Ocean, Reptar, M83, Bon Iver, Youth Lagoon, and Drake. 2011 was a fantastic year. Here’s to what we hope will be an even better 2012!