The race for Vague Space song of the year was incredibly tight between the top four tracks on this chart (which also nicely mirror the top four albums of the year) but alas a decision had to be made and since I fell one way for album, I fell the other way for song so without further ado, here's my favorite track of 2011...
1. "Barnes' Yard" The Rural Alberta Advantage
This track was actually also on the list in 2009 in its Daytrotter form but with the full-out rock band this song turned out to be a surprising favorite on the album among so many great tracks. It's less than 2 and 1/2 minutes long, tells a story from the band's lead singer's childhood, and it just flat out fucking kills. I dare you to listen to this song and not immediately want to turn up the volume. Just brilliant.
The song that made me fall in love with yet another perfect incarnation of music from Spencer Krug, a song in which the first 4 minutes is to me one of the greatest expressions of music ever created. The extra 4 minutes of organs that close the song help you to recover from the brilliance before but unfortunately cost Spencer his chance at a 3rd #1 song of the year on these charts.
3. "Suicide Demo for Kara Walker" Destroyer
4. "Last Known Surroundings" Explosions in the Sky
Two sprawling tracks from my 3rd and 4th favorite albums of the year, epic highlights from epic albums, the former with lyrics written by artist Kara Walker with a beat that Dan Bejar thought would fit in the band Suicide's catalog, the latter track the opener to another great EiTS album, a perfect ebb-and-flow gem that climaxes in glory.
5. "Stamp" The Rural Alberta Advantage
6. "Nosebleed" Deerhunter
7. "North Star" The Rural Alberta Advantage
2011 was the year I finally fell for Deerhunter after kind of sort of mostly liking Bradford Cox and the band before now. And "Nosebleed", the B-side to the "Memory Boy" single that wasn't deemed good enough to make the Halcyon Digest album was the track that started my growing obsession. Oh, and the other two songs are the next best tracks after the #1 song of the year on the amazing Departing, the second album from a band that really deserves to be at least as huge as Deerhunter in the indie rock world and probably bigger than that.
8. "Rider" Okkervil River
9. "Return to the Violence of the Ocean Floor" Moonface
10. "Bay of Pigs (detail)" Destroyer
Oddly, "Bay of Pigs" is the 2nd song in the top 10 of 2011 that was also in the 2009 chart, and since "Bay of Pigs" is higher on this chart than that one with really only a minor change in the ending of the original track, does that mean that 2011 was a weaker year musically? Perhaps. Or perhaps I just can't get enough of this song and this incredible album by Destroyer, a sound departure for him that was definitely presaged by the original "Bay of Pigs" release some 2+ years ago.
11. "Serve the People" Handsome Furs
12. "Postcard from 1952" Explosions in the Sky
13. "Memory Boy" Deerhunter
14. "Vagabond" Beirut
"Serve the People" is a song that appears to be about police violence or a police state cracking down on citizens and protesters and it was released back in the spring, well before American citizens were violently dispersed from their constitutional rights to assemble for protest in these past couple months. And there wasn't really much of an outcry, either from this site or from the media or the American public. Seems like rights we once took for granted just get taken away and we don't care enough to... well, care. Anyway, sorry to get onto my political soapbox for this music-focused post but the Handsome Furs did put out probably the most "important" song on this list, and also a great song in its own right.
Dogs in the capital howling at dawn
Someone's driving by with the radio on
Someone making noise from the center of town
You kick em in the head and you kick em when they're down
And you don't serve the people
50 million souls living underground
50 million people gonna float gonna drown
From the north, further north where....
Kids were making noise with their generators on and the cops said move along
Serve the people
They don't want to know
They don't serve the people
Keeping everything under control
And it's diamonds and gold for the idiot sons
All the privileged thieves gonna make things run
Well I believe in heart and apocalypse sound
You kick em in the head and you kick em when they're down
And you don't serve them
You don't serve them
You don't serve the people
No, you don't serve them
No, no, you don't serve the people
Singing oh my god, waiting here so long I'm feeling changed, I feel a change
And you don't serve them
15. "Repatriated" Handsome Furs
16. "Loose Heart = Loose Plan" Moonface
17. "Let Me Back In" Explosions in the Sky
Take Care (x3), the latest albums by EiTS, really had a great collection of long, beautiful, stunning anthems, some of their best songs since way back when I first fell in love with them with 2003's release of The Earth is Not a Cold Dead Place. At 6 songs long (and all the songs very long themselves), it sort of matches Moonface's release in structure, and seems to be mirroring Spencer's band on this countdown, with its first 3 tracks on this list just behind a Moonface song. And speaking of Spencer (and really, a Vague Space music post pretty much always speaks of Spencer), here he is with his former Wolf Parade partner, both of them putting out incredible music again in 2011, just -- somewhat sadly -- not together.
18. "We Have Everything" Young Galaxy
19. "Midnight City" M83
Two tracks with a similar dance music-inspired vibe that were both on my weekly playlists for a very long time, Young Galaxy at the start of the year and M83 at the end. Both artists also put out great albums in 2011 as these songs were an entrance into collections of songs that surprised me with their wonder.
20. "Walking Far From Home" Iron & Wine
I think this song was in some shitty pop movie like Twilight or something and it might have been released in 2010 but I didn't really hear it until I heard Kiss Each Other Clean and I'm amazed at how sometimes, every once in a while when I'm least expecting it, Sam Beam can make a song that just blows me the fuck away. I'm typically not into alt/country or folk or whatever genre Iron & Wine would generally find themselves a part of but he can flat out make some great music that strikes me right where I need.
21. "Trails" Asobi Seksu
22. "What About Us" Handsome Furs
23. "Never Quite Free" The Mountain Goats
John Darnielle's latest album had some highlights - including this wonderful ballad above - but All Eternals Deck was a mild disappointment. The same cannot be said for the Asobi Seksu album that kicked off 2011 and featured another of their great pop wonders like "Trails". Of course, I would give anything to hear anything new from any of the bands in this grouping, all among recent but now all-time favorites.
24. "Nothing But Heart" Low
25. "Forget That You're Young" The Raveonettes
26. "Coma Summer" Weekend
27. "Rubber" Yuck
Yuck and Weekend are two bands I never heard of until this year and I still don't know much about the latter other than the rest of their songs sound not much like this beautiful treasure that probably came out well before 2011 but I just heard now. Yuck's first full-length came out this year and really doesn't feature a lot of songs like "Rubber" but it became a minor hit and I kind of loved it too, as it placed pretty high on my year end album list. Both songs are damn great.
28. "I Don't Want Love" The Antlers
29. "Especially Me" Low
30. "About as Helpful as You Can Be Without Being Any Help at All" Dan Mangan
31. "Payne's Bay" Beirut
This Antlers song really was a highlight of their 2nd album and a highlight of the year in music. The fact that it falls so relatively low on the chart has as much to do with the quality of the songs ahead of it on this list, belying the theory discussed above regarding "Bay of Pigs" that this year wasn't quite as strong as years past. I think as far as songs go, there was still a ton of quality, particularly here at the top.
32. "Korakrit" The Octopus Project
33. "Helplessness Blues" Fleet Foxes
34. "We Need a Myth" Okkervil River
I know others didn't have this impression but I was pretty disappointed with the Fleet Foxes release this year. I was late to the party with their first full-length but really fell in love with it a couple years ago although that love seems distant now and I never really gave this album a ton of listens and it never really connected with me the way that I hoped. It could all just be timing I guess. But the title track is an excellent song.
35. "Goshen" Beirut
36. "Wait" M83
37. "Human Qualities" Explosions in the Sky
"Goshen" was the 2nd leaked track off the latest Beirut album (after "East Harmlem" and it really woke me up to the potential of a band I'd largely forgotten about but suddenly came to love again. This sweet ballad was a bit of a departure for the band (much like M83's similarly ballad-like "Wait") but it really worked and drew me in to an album that had a bunch of treasures awaiting (3 tracks in the top 35).
38. "This is Why We Fight" The Decemberists
39. "Tornado '87" The Rural Alberta Advantage
40. "No Feelings" Handsome Furs
My iPhone has been pretty much a savior in the first couple weeks since my surgery, allowing me to limp around in pain in my house using both hands on crutches and yet able to carry a phone, an 8000+ song music collection, my SiriusXM satellite radio, the CBC Radio 3 station, Pandora, the Internet, Netflix streaming, other videos, Twitter, and my email all in my pocket. I mean, yeah, I guess my Droid could do most of those (although not nearly as well -- Sirius always crashed, Netflix never worked right, and the Internet was slower and not as easy to maneuver + Twitter didn't have a decent app) but at no point did my Droid have any significant portion of my music collection (because it took too many steps to sync with iTunes and it wasn't as big). Anyway, the reason I'm pumping up the iPhone is that I've heard "Tornado '87" a few times over the past week off of something other than my personal music collection and I'm not entirely sure where (CBC Radio 3, SiriusXMU, or Pandora most likely), which makes me happy that this 4th or 5th best track on the album is getting some indie rock play, hopefully expanding the audience to this incredible band.
41. "The Way You Wish You Could Live in a Storm" Moonface
42. "Santa Fe" Beirut
43. "Chinatown" Destroyer
44. "Damn These Vampires" The Mountain Goats
45. "Mermaid" Okkervil River
Moonface's song wasn't officially on the album release but he gave it away free on his website as a bonus track at the same exact time Organ Music came out so I've basically considered it a wonderful closing song on my favorite album of the year. "Mermaid" was similarly not on Okkervil River's album, but it came out a couple months earlier and it didn't really fit in the album much at all, so I didn't really consider it as part of I Am Very Far. Such are the vagueries of making these year-end lists but suffice it to say, all these songs are very well liked. And brilliant.
46. "I Am No Longer a Motherless Child" Efrim Manuel Menuck
47. "Think You Can Wait" The National
48. "How to Be a Werewolf" Mogwai
I haven't seen a ton of movies this year and I don't see enough movies at the theater anymore to actually write year-end lists -- by the time I've seen them on Netflix or HBO or wherever the year is often over -- but Win Win would definitely be at or near the top of my favorite films of 2011 pretty much regardless. This track from The National was a beautiful one-off from the soundtrack to that perfect film.
49. "Don't Carry it All" The Decemberists
50. "Good Night" The Rural Alberta Advantage
Colin Meloy and the boys have called it quits at the end of this year, going out on somewhat of a down note with an album I didn't quite love. But the two tracks that made the top 50 were certainly worthy of the name. The RAA closes out 2011's list with 5 tracks in the Top 50, the most of any band.
51. "How Darwinian" Dan Mangan
52. "Be Forewarned, The Night Has Come" Blackout Beach
53. "Sighs" Asobi Seksu
54. "Savage Night at the Opera" Destroyer
55. "Get Away" Yuck
56. "Intro" M83 Featuring Zola Jesus
57. "Rows of Houses" Dan Mangan
58. "Every Night My Teeth Are Falling Out" The Antlers
59. "The Body" Pains of Being Pure at Heart
60. "We are Unhappy" Bonnie "Prince" Billy
61. "Automatic" Yuck
62. "You See Everything" Low
63. "Beautiful Burning Desire" Blackout Beach
64. "Post-War Blues" Dan Mangan
65. "Same Mistake" Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
66. "Blown Minded" Young Galaxy
67. "Mighty Long" Tapes 'n Tapes"
68. "Heavy Calls & Hospital Blues" Efrim Manuel Menuck
69. "The Rise" Okkervil River
70. "White Noise" Mogwai
71. "VCR (The XX Cover)" The Antlers
72. "Civilian" Wye Oak
73. "The Peacock" Beirut
74. "Steve McQueen" M83
75. "Wolves at the Door" David Bazan
76. "Luppulagio (live)" Sigur Ros
77. "Whale Song (Song Instead of a Kiss)" Moonface
78. "Try to Sleep" Low
79. "Anser" Ohbijou
80. "Get to France" Mogwai
81. "Hornet's Fury into the Bandit's Mouth" Blackout Beach
82. "Heart in Your Heartbreak" The Pains of Being Pure at Heart
83. "Come to the City" Slave Ambient
84. "Death Rays" Mogwai
85. "Perth" Bon Iver
86. "Idiot" Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
87. "The Valley" Okkervil River
88. "Two Lovers" The Rural Alberta Advantage
89. "You're Blessed" Iceage
90. "Anne with an E" The Pains of Being Pure at Heart
91. "Shell Games" Bright Eyes
92. "Calgary" Bon Iver
93. "Under the Knife" The Rural Alberta Advantage
94. "Kaputt" Destroyer
95. "Hounds" The Antlers
96. "Shit-Hawk in the Snow" Moonface
97. "As Serenity Calls Your Name" Envy
98. "It's Real" Real Estate
99. "A Candle's Fire" Beirut
100. "Agony" Handsome Furs
Beirut ends up tying The Rural Alberta Advantage with 7 songs each on the countdown in 2011. Moonface had 6. Handsome Furs, Okkervil River, and Destroyer had 5 songs each other chart.