I missed the December 31st deadline I had put on this blog post. Thanks to Comcast, there was an outage in my area and this post lay in limbo until now. Thanks for sticking around for it. :)
I’ve spent the better part of the last couple of weeks reading everyone’s “Best of 2011″ song lists. I’ve listened to a lot of different music in 2011 and I thought it might be fun to do my own list and share it with you all. I should warn you now, this isn’t an exciting list. In fact, there are quite a few sad, depressing songs on the list, but there is a reason why every single one of them made it on, so I hope you’ll take the time to read them over. And hey, maybe you’ll discover a song you hadn’t heard before, which would make me very happy.
So here they are, my Top 10 Songs of 2011, according to last.fm and other technical thing-a-muh-hoojets. And assuming some of you don’t actually make it to the bottom of this blog post, I figured I’d go ahead and wish you all a very Happy New Year. Here’s hoping your 2012 is full of health, happiness, and many blessings. :)
Dizzy’s Top 10 of 2011:
10: “Born to Die” by Lana Del Rey: Thanks to the TuneIn app for my Android, I’ve discovered some great radio stations from around the word. My favorite station, by far, is 97.7 XFM out of Manchester. Thanks to a top-notch playlist, I’ve been listening to some music that would’ve otherwise went under my music radar. One of the artists I discovered via XFM is Lana Del Rey. The first time I heard “Born to Die”, I actually got goosebumps. She had me with the very first couple of lines. It’s such an epic, depressing song…and I love it! The video is beautiful and insane…and I love it! And is it just me or does Lana look exactly like Ginny Baker, Samantha’s slightly bitchy and over-medicated sister, from Sixteen Candles? Keep your eye on this one. I have a feeling she’s about to hit it big here in the States.
9: “Same Old You” by Miranda Lambert: I do love me some Miranda Lambert. In fact, I love her so much that she makes this list twice. But let’s take one song at a time, shall we?
I picked “Same Old You” for my Top 10 because it’s my favorite from Four the Record. The entire album is a tour de force and firmly cements Miranda as the baddest, boldest chick in country music at the moment. I’ve read a lot of mixed reviews about the album and I think most people were confused by the creative “risks” that Miranda took with some of the songs, most notably “Fine Tune”. Personally, I love the fact that she went outside the box and her comfort zone on some of the songs, but to each their own.
And while “Same Old You” isn’t the flashiest song on the album, it is, in my opinion, one of the best. The amazingly talented Brandi Carlile wrote the song for Miranda and provided background vocals. For all the fuss about Miranda’s musical direction, I think people need to look no further than this song to see where she stands.
“You can keep your ring and I’ll keep my Daddy’s name.” Is it possible to marry a lyric?
8: “Howlin’ for You” by The Black Keys: There’s nothing I love better than an ass-kicking rock band, which is probably why Brothers and El Camino by the Black Keys were two of my favorite albums of the year. Every single track was bang-up, but it was “Howlin’ for You” that stood out the most for me. I’m not afraid to admit that I openly squealed with glee when I heard this in the pilot episode for Once Upon a Time. It’s such a fun, sexy, catchy tune.
As for the video, well it’s got Trisha Helfer in underwear and leather, so what’s not to love? Seriously, we need a movie out of this. I’m looking at you Tarantino.
7: “If I Had A Gun” by Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds: I spent the better part of my junior and senior year of high school trying to decide who I wanted to be more: Alanis Morissette or Cher Horowitz, and listening to (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? in my bedroom over and over and over until I had Oasis’d myself and everyone around me out. At that time in my life, the songs on that album spoke to me in ways that nothing else really did. “Wonderwall” was the answer to everything. I was this angsty teenage girl who had finally come into a rebellious stage and this was the soundtrack to all of those feelings that were bursting out of me.
When most people think of Oasis, they think of Liam Gallagher’s bad behavior and legendary sibling rivalry with his brother and band mate, Noel. It’s a natural response considering all the gossip over the years about drug and alcohol induced concerts and fist fights between the two. If you push all of that muck aside though and really break the group down in terms of what they’ve delivered, you can’t deny that Oasis is an important part of rock history. They have inspired so many bands and artists over the years and their songs are considered classics by many, myself included.
I have a deep love and appreciation for Oasis and the creative brainchild that is Noel Gallagher, which is why I’m elated that he’s back with his High Flying Birds and releasing beautiful songs like “If I Had a Gun”. Here’s hoping that a new generation of angsty teens fall in love with his music like I did.
6: “Poison & Wine” by the Civil Wars: If there is any justice in this world, the Civil Wars will win every Grammy award that they’re nominated for. I’m a little miffed that country radio hasn’t embraced them as they deserve, but they’ve developed quite a huge following, despite the lack of radio airplay. You don’t have to be a country fan to appreciate the impressive songwriting and vocals of Joy Williams and John Paul White.
I picked “Poison & Wine” for the list because it’s beautiful and heartbreaking…two of my favorite musical components. I also played this song obsessively for weeks at a time. I think that counts for something.
Side note: I love how they get right in each others face, practically nose to nose and cheek to cheek, in their videos.
5: “Gonna Get Over You” by Sara Bareilles: Simply put, this song makes me happy. Like, jump up on a table and sing out loud like an idiot happy. Yeah, that happy. And the video is adorable. I love Sara Bareilles. :)
4: “Housewife’s Prayer” by Pistol Annies: Let’s be honest, country music radio is horrible. Has been for years. You’ve got these numbskull program directors listening to numbskull radio reps who wouldn’t know their ass from a hole in the ground, yet pretty much dictate what does and doesn’t get played on the radio. And I know it isn’t exclusive to just the country format, but since we’re talking about a country song now, we’re going to stay on that path.
So yeah, country radio sucks. Real country music, and I mean the good stuff, is rarely heard. The definition of “real country music” is a topic which has been hotly debated over the years, and depending on the types of music you prefer, you either listen to country radio or turn your nose up at it.
Me? I love good songwriting. It’s as simple as that. Sure I have some guilty pleasure songs, but at the core of my tastes is a desire for a strong message, whatever that message may be. It just has to be real and honest. Something with emotion that reaches right into my chest and grabs my heart with both hands and squeezes. I tend to listen to anything of the alt-country or classic country persuasion. You know, stuff you won’t hear on the radio. *grumbles*
I think that’s why the Pistol Annies is one of my favorite artists at the moment. Yes, I love Miranda Lambert, but this group and these songs aren’t just about Miranda. It’s about three amazing singer-songwriters who’ve decided to go back to the basics. Every single track of their self-titled debut could’ve been recorded 30 years ago. It’s classic, but it’s still contemporary. It’s got attitude, but it’s still soft. And oh my lord, it’s real and it’s honest.
We’re talking about gold-diggers, baby carriages before marriage, mufflers tied on with guitar strings, and boys below the Mason-Dixon line. More importantly, we’ve got three women: Angaleena Presley (Holler Annie…my favorite!), Ashley Monroe, and Miranda Lambert, lending their pens, their hearts, their souls, their experiences, and their distinct voices into these songs.
I picked “Housewife’s Prayer” as one of my top favorites of 2011 because it’s my favorite track on the album. I found myself listening to this song over and over and just loving it more with every listen. I can identify with the woman Angaleena is channeling. I know all about the stress of bills, kids, and marital life. And while her housewife prefers to down her troubles with alcohol,pills, and the threat of burning the whole damn house down, I deal with mine in less dramatic means: books, Twitter, and damn good music that the assholes at corporate radio are too dumb to play.
3: “Never Let Me Go” and “Shake It Out” by Florence + the Machine: I am the biggest Florence Welch fan. She’s like some amazing fairy goddess with her flowing gowns and red hair and bare feet. She’s some sort of ethereal, woodland nymph that dances around on stage, putting everyone in a trance. And that voice? Perfection. It’s wonderful to think of something so strong coming out of someone who is so very soft-spoken.
Florence’s debut album, Lungs, has been one of my favorite albums for some time now, so much so that I listen to it pretty much every day. And because I think of it as this brilliant piece of work, it’s fair to say that I had a lot of trepidation about whether her sophomore effort would venture off the path that I had come to love so much. I really had nothing to worry about. Whereas Lungs is very unworldly, Ceremonials is full of so many dramatic twists and turns. It’s darker and yet very soulful. There’s bluesy gospel choirs and beating drums. It’s big and bold and everything you’d want and expect from Florence.
I had a difficult time picking just one favorite from the album, so I’m picking two. The first is “Never Let Me Go”, which is one of the most beautiful songs I’ve heard in a very long time. The second is “Shake It Out”, which is about shaking out all of your regrets and moving on.
Bow to the genius that is Florence + the Machine.
2: “Wetsuit” by The Vaccines: Add this one to the “Discovered on XFM” list. Most people went with “Norgaad” for their lists, but it was “Wetsuit” that won me over. I turned 34 this year and somewhere in the midst of me feeling depressed about getting older and watching my son turn into a hormonal, angry teenager, the Vaccines came along to tell me that everything was going to be okay. I needed to stop worrying about turning older and start enjoying life just a little more. I needed to grab it by the balls, throw caution to the wind, and get to living and loving more. This could be the anthem for anyone of any age who is desperately trying to hold on to whatever youth they can. My resolution for 2012 is to live every day by this song.
1: “Someone Like You (Live in Her Home)” by Adele: This is it. This was my favorite song of 2011. The last time I had a song hit me in the gut like this was when Bonnie Raitt’s “I Can’t Make You Love Me” was released back in 1991. On my list of all-time favorite songs ever, “I Can’t Make You Love Me” is top of the list. I don’t think there’s ever been a time I listened to it that I didn’t tear up a bit or outright cry. The emotion of the lyrics and the sadness dripping off of Bonnie’s voice has held a place in my heart for the better part of 21 years. I’ve heard a lot of sad songs in that time, but never had one to even compare to my favorite…until now.
I love a good heartbreak song and it doesn’t get any more heartbreaking than “Someone Like You”. Adele took a painful, real-life breakup and wrote a masterpiece out of the pain. The song itself is so simple, which is really what makes it so elegant and beautiful. It’s a story about running into an ex-boyfriend, years down the road, and admitting that you still love him. And here he is, with this beautiful life and beautiful wife, and all of these things that you wanted with him, but he just didn’t want with you. You try not to be bitter, you try to be positive and say that you’ll move on, but in the end, you know that every man will be in the image of this man who doesn’t love you. How can you NOT clutch your chest at that? Tell me that doesn’t break your heart.
This song has resonated with people all over the world for a reason. And that reason is how real and brilliant it is. Guts me every time.
I’m choosing this live version over the album version mainly because I prefer her vocals here. There’s something about her voice when she’s singing “Don’t forget me, I beg. I’ll remember you said.” on the album version that throws me off. She’s hits a very awkward high note that seems rushed. But on the live version, that part of the song is toned down and slower, which really makes a difference for me.
Side note: 1991 really was the best year ever, right?