The songs below represent the tunes I played on repeat after hearing them for the first time this year. They made me whip my hair, bust-a-move, or sing at the top of my lungs. Some inspired a contemplative moment. There were so many great tunes in 2011, but these found a unique place in my heart. Ranking each track was particularly difficult, so I used my iTunes play count as an aid. If you find yourself receiving a gift card to an online music store or money this winter break and are looking for some new tunes to sport in your music library, I recommend you download any of these stellar songs.
20. “Don’t Let it Get to You” by ROSTAM (Don’t Let it Get to You)
ROSTAM is the new solo act from Vampire Weekend’s keyboardist, Rostam Batmanglij. His songs such as “Don’t Let it Get to You” have a catchy world music vibe, complete with powerful percussion, synth-layers, and woodwinds.
19. “Losers” by The Belle Brigade (The Belle Brigade)
Siblings Barbara and Ethan Gruska are sick of societal norms. In beautiful harmony, they offer encouragement to all of the average people in the world: “We’ve all tried to be on top of the world somehow/‘Cause we have all been losers.” In a nutshell, The Belle Brigade tells the world to just live — don’t get caught up with self-image and impressing others. Do the things that make YOU happy. This song, “Losers,” definitely takes the cake for most inspirational of 2011.
18. “Far Nearer” by Jamie xx (Far Nearer)
Jamie xx is the solo project of Jamie Smith, the front man for the English indie pop band The xx. At the ripe age of 22, Smith is oozing with talent and the track above, “Far Nearer,” is a shining example of his impressive blend of vocal sampling and electro beats.
17. “We Sing In Time” by The Lonely Forest (Arrows)
At one point this past semester, I had the refrain from this Lonely Forest track playing on repeat in my head for a week straight: “In time the trees die and light will fade/But I hope for a new breath, a new life to take me away.”
16. “Older Together” by Black Light Dinner Party (BLDP)
What type of music results when four producers from three different cities embark on a music collaboration that spans over two years? The catchiest electro-pop tune that I have heard in years. Check out Black Light Dinner Party.
15. “Hanging On” by Active Child (You Are All I See)
Armed with a stunning falsetto voice, sparkling harp instrumentation, and electronic backbeats, New Jersey native Pat Grossi creates the most beautiful song of 2011.
14. “Don’t Move” by Phantogram (Nightlife)
I did not learn of Phantogram’s infectious electric rock tunes until October of this year. After catching them in concert at Union Transfer in Philadelphia, I was blown away. Ironically, “Don’t Move” inspired me to bust-a-move like never before.
13. “Simple Girl” by Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. (It’s a Corporate World)
In addition to having one of the coolest band names of all time, Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. created one of the catchiest tunes of 2011 with “Simple Girl.” Any song with gorgeous whistling is an automatic winner in my book.