Comment: 2011's Best Songs

At the end of every year I tend to spend a bit of time contemplating how to suitably wrap things up. Sometimes it's a single post that just lists things that were particularly note-worthy, other years I have been much more formal and had a collection of top five lists. This year I feel like running with something a bit more free form so here is a list of my favourite songs from this year.

There are too many songs here to say something about all of them. I'll go into a bit of detail on a selection of the ones that meant the most to me and that will make the post long enough as it is. There is also a Spotify playlist that pulls all of these together to make it as easy as possible to have a listen. Nothing here is ordered based on 'best' - the playlist and this list were built to flow as well as is possible with such a diverse selection of music. Having said which, there was one song that stuck out for me more than any other this year... Read on to find out which...

'I Don't Want Love' - The Antlers
The opening track from The Antlers' Burst Apart was a contender for song of the year for me. It's a beautifully exposed and fragile track and the decision to stick such a piece at the start of an album still amazes me because it is so easy to miss just how staggering it is. There aren't many bands that come close to Thom Yorke's brand of experimental melancholy, but The Antlers come close.

'Collapse' - Iceage
Iceage's debut album was the kind of brash, rapid fire album that really encourages repeat listening, but it was the discordant melodies of 'Collapse' that I always longed for more of. This most surprising thing is how much is crammed into a two-minute record, from the frictional intro of the guitar to the closing bars at the end.

'Undertow' - Warpaint

'Codex' - Radiohead

'Share The Red' - Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks

'Vomit' - Girls
Girls' second album saw them continue to expand their sound but nothing on that album came close to the gospel ambition of this needy and emotional indie cut.

'I Can See Through You' - The Horrors

'Montana' - Youth Lagoon

'Come To The City' - The War On Drugs
I said it all on the review last week but golly, does this flick my switches. It's difficult to judge something so close to a first listen but I'm confident that 'Come To The City' will stick out for years to come. The sound of a hand reaching out to pull you from the quick sand - an emotive wall of sound.

'It Takes Time To Be A Man' - The Rapture

'Ice Cream' - Battles feat. Matias Aguayo
When I saw Battles at Glastonbury the mechanical precision and strength of drummer John Stanier blew me away: this dude kicked the fucking doors off. Matias' vocals and percussion just took things to another level - this is math rock on spring break: sexy, wild and completely in control.

'Caffeinated Consciouness' - TV On The Radio

'Manifesto' - Planningtorock

'Saturday Love' - Toro Y Moi

'Manila' - Rough Fields

'Minnesota' - Bon Iver

'The Wilhelm Scream' - James Blake

'Video Games' - Lana Del Rey
Is she for real or faking? That question seemed to rumble around for months and yet everyone seems to have forgotten that real pop music is just a show anyway. I don't need to know her real name - Lana stole my heart as she laid a smack across my cheek with the line "It's you, it's you, it's all for you... Everything I do...". Sometimes popular music is best left with some mystery.

'Space Is Only Noise If You Can See' - Nicolas Jaar
Still Jaar's best record and 2011’s most unhinged vocal by far. Try as you might, this makes no sense but the space groove bass line and wonky lyrics made Nicolas Jaar one of our most exciting producers. The fact that he hasn't felt the need to do anything even remotely similar since only compounds the magnificence of it. Grab a calculator and fix yourself.

'Stay' - Gunnar Bjerk

'What I've Lost' - Benoit & Sergio
Everything Benoit & Sergio released this year was fantastic, but nothing came close to this track from side two of the Boy Trouble EP, a contemplative late night road trip through the old haunts with a new (potential) lover. If people ever tell you electronic music has no soul then play them this - a track full of heart and pain and a crucial hint of hopeful yearning.

'Need You Now' - Cut Copy

'Midnight City' - M83

'Hawaiian Air' - Friendly Fires

'All Nite' - Rustie

'Fallout' - Neon Indian

'Lonely Days (Drop Out Orchestra Vocal Remix)' - Mario Basanov
Mario's original was good but this shimmering sun baked disco remix is truly great. It's strength is that it simply hits that summery Ballearic vibe better than any other seven-minutes of music I heard this year. Throw in some excellent guitar work (more guitar solos on disco please!) and you've got something very vey good indeed.

'Basement L.O.V.E.' - Motor City Drum Ensemble
MCDE's DJ Kicks blew every other mix CD released this year out of the water with it's fantastic mixture of soulful jazz and subterranean house music for the heads. This separate remix of the 'L.O.V.E.' cut released on that mix as an exclusive is a brilliant taster for that mix even if doesn't actually appear on it. Loose and airy, it feels like a slowed down summer's day spent dancing on Mediterranean tiles after a night with no sleep.

'Arise' - Maceo Plex

'Far Nearer' - Jamie xx
2010 saw the xx break into the mainstream but in 2011 Jamie proved the best is yet to come. As good as the xx's debut record is, in my opinion it can't hold a candle to this solo track. Sounds like Paul Simon kicking back on a dubstep rumbling tropical island; this is Kia Ora, Five Alive and Rubicon rolled into one.

'Banana Ripple' - Junior Boys
As if Mario Basanov and Jamie's 'Far Nearer' weren't enough sun... 'Banana Ripple' easily takes my vote for song of the year. This unashamed summer disco dance track caps off an album of angst-ridden self-reflective electronic pop on It's All True like a glorious and carefree butterfly emerging from a self-absorbed chrysalis. 'Banana Ripple' is a song of three acts where each one is more fantastic than the last. The Hammond organ peaking towards the end never fails to give me goose bumps, and that is what music is about.

So, what did I miss?

BP x

Album Review: In The Grace Of Your Love - The Rapture

It has been five years since The Rapture's last album and, with the exception of the gloriously funky Timbaland produced 'No Sex For Ben', ages since we heard anything new from Luke Jenner and the band.

The Rapture were one of the first artists to release anything through DFA as a label and were certainly first to release a full album in the form of the DFA produced dark and strung-out yet funky Echoes. It was an album that helped plunge post-punk into the limelight.

But a lot has changed since then. Bassist and vocalist Matty Safer has left the band, they have left and then returned to the label that first broke them and most significantly Jenner's mother sadly tragically suicide, with Jenner having his first child and converting to Catholicism shortly after and.

You can feel the impact of these events on In the Grace of Your Love. Whilst previous album Pieces of the People we Love was carefree and celebratory - a collection of songs about parties, cars and music itself - this feels much more grounded and grown-up. With Jenner's father depicted on the cover seemingly effortlessly standing on a surfboard as he rides a wave it feels like The Rapture are in the same pose - willing themselves to land the moves without seeming to break a sweat.

On the whole they manage it. The album is bookended by polar opposite tracks. Opener 'Sail Away' is ballsy, almost arrogant, as Jenner rides the wave of emotion that the rest of us are seemingly excluded from. Musically it's strident, with soaring keys and a vocal that just feels like a continuous chorus. But it feels a million miles from the relative sophistication of Echoes. Whilst the latter was full of references to Gang of Four 'Sail Away' feels like U2 covered by the Killers. It comes off like a confusing compromise.

If the opener is a million miles from the Rapture we fell in love with then the closing track, 'It Takes Time to be a Man' is equally distant but in another direction. A ballad that sees Jenner openly making his moves whilst simultaneously demonstrating his sensitive side, it's punctuated with a surfer rock baseline, jazz keys and brass. For all the change it is a much more welcome entry into the band's catalogue than 'Sail Away' and packs the kind of album closing gravitas that benefitted the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' 'Maps' on their debut.

Elsewhere things are a bit less contentious. Much of In the Grace of Your Love feels midway between the darker first album and funk of Pieces of the People we Love. 'Miss You' is typically of this - the verses stripped back to little more than a thick drum beat and heavy bass. It feels like a contemporary re-imagining of the Rolling Stones track of the same name, desperation seeping from Jenner's vocals. 'How Deep Is Your Love' takes proto-house and rebuilds it around a brass heavy punk funk number.

'Come Back to Me' is one of the best songs on this record, it's song structure seemingly an inverse of the established norm of starting quiet and building to a crescendo. With a looping, dubby start based around a twisted accordion sound it pulls a handbrake turn halfway through into a dark and foreboding re-imagining of what you have just heard, a minimal house conclusion that works by emphasising an alienated longing for something, anything.

After the partied excess of their last album In the Grace... feels reigned in, but in doing so I can't help but feel that The Rapture have tempered their creativity. Echoes felt packed with ideas and songs the band needed to get out. At times In the Grace of Your Love feels a little bit like that album cover - coasting along with little evidence of the effort that making this album must have taken, particularly given the tumultuous period the band have been through.

BP x

In the Grace of Your Love is out now on DFA, available from Amazon.co.uk on CD, LP and MP3 [affiliate links].