I have absolutely no clue what is going on out there. I know that Beyoncé had that song with the counting, Adele had a song that was maybe about doing ecstasy in a pool, and some guy with a beard got nominated for a Best New Artist Grammy even though For Emma, Forever Ago came out literally forever ago. Ignorance of popular music is par for the course when you suffer from a chronic case of musica snobbis obscurum. The only relief is uttering the phrase "oh, you've probably never heard of them" to the pedestrian aesthetes you call friends while exposing them to these underrated and underexposed gems from 2011.
10. Lab Coast -- "Really Realize"' from Pictures on the Wall (February 22, 2011)
The second that lazy main riff chugs out of the speakers and into your ears you can feel yourself converted into a mindless surf zombie. Sweet voices swirl around you in a harmonic undertow dragging your body out into the endless horizon. Silhouettes fill your periphery, faces obscured by the radiance of solar flares. Suddenly you find yourself among the clouds, floating on cotton candy daydreams. Thunder purrs as you fall back to the shore in the drops of a million first kisses. This song is summery perfection.
9. Young Adult Faction -- "Wrong From Right" from New First Impressions (April 8, 2011)
Brainlessly verbose power pop from a band shamelessly wearing their love of The Clash on their well-tailored sleeves. But unlike The Clash, the moral lessons of this song can pretty much be summed up as "white people problems." Ask these guys what the kids want and they shrug their shoulders and dance off into the arms of the night; Combat Rock blaring in perfect synch from their iPhones. It's been a while since being privileged has sounded so fun.
8. Work Drugs -- "Rad Racer" from Tropic of Capricorn (April 1, 2011)
This is such a "getting ready to go out on a Friday night" jam that by the time the song collides into its anthemic "movin' up, movin' down, left to the right" refrain, I realize that muscle memory has me pantomiming mascara application.
7. You Won't -- "Dance Moves" from Skeptic Goodbye (April 1, 2011)
This one time I took a hand full of Cyclobenzaprine and Adderall trail mix and made a chopped and screwed mash-up of "Holiday Road" and "Dead Roses." But the only thing is I didn't. I woke up three days later surround by the components of a disassembled '61 Marketeer Thunderbolt Deluxe, $429 in dimes, and a baker's dozen of slowly deflating helium balloons. I looked at my computer screen and saw that I had made a playlist with only this song occurring 3,807 times.
6. Brighten Up! -- "The Mexican Man of a Million Answers" from Their Old Stuff Was Better (April 1, 2011)
Handclaps, tambourines, '60s melodies, swingy time signature, kitchen sink instrumentation... it all reads like indie pop by numbers, but jeez, this song has got me cutting lines from Pixy Stix so I can stay up all night writing postcards to all the "what if's" that torment my existence. But it's cool; I wouldn't have had it any other way.
5. Sleeping Bag -- "Slime" from Sleeping Bag (August 9, 2011)
Earlier this year I had a younger friend ask me what it was like to be a teenager in the '90s. I said it was mostly wearing gas station attendant shirts and wallet chains... so many wallet chains. I kind of wish I could have just played this song for her instead. It's like Pavement if Pavement were good (ooooooooh, edgy, April doesn't like Pavement).
4. Saskatchewan -- "Dreamboat" from Dreamboat (May 6, 2011)
I spent the summer cruising around listening to this song at top volume. So most likely, anytime you saw me it was still bouncing around inside my skull and I was just too self-conscious to share it with you. (An aside, I believe the concept for the video is "what if I drank mushroom tea and crashed the Owl Town field day?")
3. Fidlar -- "Wake Bake Skate" from DIYDUI (April 12, 2011)
At first listen you might mistake this as list of bellyaches of a loser lifestyle, but listen again; this is a celebration of cheerful nihilism. This is the life story of the titular boys of "Boys Beers Burgers." I write love songs about dudes like this.
2. Baby Monster -- "The Fear of Charlie Sunrise" from Baby Monster (June 27, 2011)
Sometimes I'll watch John Hughes films and whenever the scene comes up where the couple finally gets together I'll press mute and play this song instead. It works for just about all his high school movies (I tried it when Macaulay shoots Joe Pesci in the balls but it was a fail). I just could not get enough of this song; I even made it my ring tone.
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1. Born Gold -- "Lawn Knives" from Bodysongs (September 20, 2011)
You know how people like Steve Albini always talk about how analog is superior and digital should take a long shit off a short pier*? Well, this is Exhibit A in my defense of cold, steely, machine music. If I count the version released when Born Gold was Gobble Gobble, then I listened to this song more than any other this year, sometimes several times on repeat. I was addicted to the glitches and snaps; the combustion of bytes made possible by limitless tracks; the silences that were truly silent and not the white noise of an ancient hissing tape; but above all the hopefulness. God damn, this song is upbeat but with a melancholy just below the surface. It's kind of like a summer romance -- at first sunshine and picnics then at its finale, when all goes still, sunburns and grass stains.
*a malapropism I repped hard in the '11