Top 50 Songs of 2011

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year end songs Top 50 Songs of 2011

I promised the staff I would not go all Masterpiece Theater with this intro, so I’ll be brief. Our Annual Report has reached its halfway point with our Top 50 Songs of the Year. The many flags of our staff are hoisted high — and we couldn’t be happier with what we’re saluting. From Cults’ very first song to Tom Waits’ thousandth song, we put up the tracks that left us with more thoughts, feelings, and impressions than any other. We think we done good.

But just to make sure the world still spins on its axis, let us know what you think we missed from our list and what you liked in the comments. We thrive on that stuff.

Additionally, we’ve got the de rigueur Top 50 Songs of the Year Spotify playlist for you, a quick link to purchase the song on Amazon, and an easy ctrl-c +ctrl-v list for you at the very end immediately following our #1 song of the year.

As always, our profuse thanks for reading, enjoy these tunes, and we’ll see you again next week for the second half of our 2011 Annual Report.

-Jeremy D. Larson
Content Director

50. Ellie Goulding – “Lights”

ellie goulding lights Top 50 Songs of 2011

At age 24, Ellie Goulding’s folktronica turned heads across the world, especially with “Lights”. Remixed from here to high heaven by killer producers, sampled by Lupe Fiasco for his latest mixtape, and dropped by DJs looking to get well-dressed girls on the dance floors from the Bay Area to Eastern Europe, its appeal lies in its honest vocals, minimalistic beats, and stark, raving energy. It’s Goulding’s first charting single in the U.S. and Canada, and judging from the widespread allure (and the thousands who camped near her stage at festivals nationwide), it likely won’t be her last. -Paul de Revere

49. Cults – “Go Outside”

Cults debut album Top 50 Songs of 2011

Going from relative obscurity to indie stardom isn’t anything new, but the way Madelline Follin and Brian Oblivion of Cults did it with such New York coolness and style still seemed incredibly refreshing. By the time the mainstream caught wind of Follin’s adorably unique, helium-filled balloon voice, “Go Outside” was already a bona fide song of the summer contender. Its lyrics are like a mantra for anyone in a going-nowhere relationship, delivered in an irresistibly sweet, poppy tone. And how can you not dig that crazy glockenspiel solo? -Gilles LeBlanc

48. Big K.R.I.T. – “Country Shit” (Remix)

big krit remix Top 50 Songs of 2011

The original version of “Country Shit” showed up on last year’s K.R.I.T. Wuz Here, but this remix, featuring all-new bars from Ludacris and Bun B, goes harder in every way. Over a chopped and looped vocal sample and thunderous bass, K.R.I.T. delivers an unusually aggressive verse for “the folk in Texas that’s forever wreckin’ with the Styrofoam cup and the purple fluid.” This is a rave-up, no doubt, and it just might be the greatest Dixie rap get-together this side of “Int’l Players Anthem”. -Mike Madden

47. Mikal Cronin – “Apathy”

 Top 50 Songs of 2011

So much good came out of the fertile ground of the San Francisco psych/garage scene this year, and Mikal Cronin’s debut LP may be best in show simply because he’s got the hooks. “Apathy” digs in with stopgap verses and a vintage 60’s underground sound. Cronin is wrestling with that all-too-real twentysomething identity crisis; he’s a man who’s sure he doesn’t want apathy or empathy. Or everything. Or anything. His generation struggles with defining themselves, and finding a fine line between slacker and sincere is difficult. This loud and splashy confession pretty much nails that frustration. -Jeremy D. Larson

37. Adele – “Rolling in the Deep”

adele rolling in the deep Top 50 Songs of 2011

Each year, there comes a song that is seemingly everywhere, from non-stop radio play to appearances in TV ads and basic cable shows. In 2011, that song was Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep”. Musically, it appealed to a plethora of audiences, as if it were assembled from an equal number of dark, bluesy soul tunes and light, airy disco tracks. The vocals are among Adele’s finest, with an undercurrent of immense wisdom driving forward the larger-than-life, emotionally devastated cries of pain and confusion. But it’s the song’s overall sentiment, of having immense romantic regrets and laying every last one of them on your ex, that made this cut such a massively universal experience. Rare is the track that can mend wounds and help sell the iPhone 4S, but “Rolling in the Deep” does all that and more. –Chris Coplan

36. AraabMUZIK – “Streetz Tonight”

araabmuzik streets tonight Top 50 Songs of 2011

Don’t let the trance label deter you. AraabMUZIK’s Electronic Dream is an atmospheric trip from beginning to end. Best experienced as a whole, there are moments that jump out from the rest, perhaps none more than “Streetz Tonight”. Here, AraabMUZIK dials back his trademark drum machine ingenuity in favor of woozy synth grooves and airy, simplistic female vocals for a different, more laid-back type of head rush. -Austin Trunick

25. Girls – “Vomit”

girls vomit 1 Top 50 Songs of 2011

“Vomit” is an anthem of solitude. Like Elliott Smith and Nirvana before him, Christopher Owens struggles with his own opiate addiction. This song is a declaration of an inescapable torment, an unanswered longing, a tender futility. The beginning guitar riff echoes with loneliness like a flickering lightbulb in a dark room. Owens repeats the line “looking for love” as he and Chet White descend into instrumental insanity: A guitar solo wracked with distortion erupts, an organ hums beneath, and melismas sound out through the song’s climax. “Vomit” is its own manifesto, expressing the belief that madness is freedom, that pain is inspiration. -Summer Dunsmore


50. Ellie Goulding – “Lights”
49. Cults – “Go Outside”
48. Big K.R.I.T. – “Country Shit” (Remix)
47. Mikal Cronin – “Apathy”
46. Cold Cave – “The Great Pan is Dead”
45. Das Racist – “Michael Jackson”
44. The Horrors – “Still Life”
43. Bill Callahan – “Riding For the Feeling”
42. Dum Dum Girls – “Coming Down”
41. Lykke Li – “I Follow Rivers”
40. Wilco – “One Sunday Morning (Song for Jane Smiley’s Boyfriend)”
39. Liturgy – “Generation”
38. Washed Out – “Amor Fati”
37. Adele – “Rolling in the Deep”
36. AraabMUZIK – “Streetz Tonight”
35. Tom Waits – “Hell Broke Luce”
34. The Black Keys – “Lonely Boy”
33. Kurt Vile – “Jesus Fever”
32. Battles – “Ice Cream”
31. Kate Bush – “Wild Man”
30. Mr. Muthafuckin’ eXquire – “The Last Huzzah” (Remix)
29. The Strokes – “Under Cover of Darkness”
28. Beirut – “East Harlem”
27. The War on Drugs – “Come to the City”
26. Frank Ocean – “Novacane”
25. Girls – “Vomit”
24. Beastie Boys – “Make Some Noise”
23. Real Estate – “It’s Real”
22. Childish Gambino – “Bonfire”
21. Fleet Foxes – “Helplessness Blues”
20. Radiohead – “Lotus Flower”
19. Cut Copy – “Need You Now”
18. Neon Indian – “Polish Girl”
17. Drake – “Take Care”
16. Jamie xx – “Far Nearer”
15. The Mountain Goats – “High Hawk Season”
14. The Weeknd – “Wicked Games”
13. The Throne – “Niggas in Paris”
12. Destroyer – “Kaputt”
11. Wild Flag – “Romance”
10. Foo Fighters – “Rope”
09. James Blake – “The Wilhelm Scream”
08. SBTRKT – “Wildfire”
07. EMA – “California”
06. St. Vincent – “Cruel”
05. tUnE-yArDs – “Bizness”
04. Beyoncé – “Countdown”
03. M83 – “Midnight City”
02. Tyler, the Creator – “Yonkers”
01. Bon Iver – “Holocene”

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Top 50 Songs of 2011