Wednesday, January 11, 2012

In Living Color: A 2011 Music Retrospective


2011 was the year the internet bleached music, and I don’t just mean the thousands of sans-color album covers. It was like some giant reset button in the office of music got reset by a bunch of kids that broke in to trash the place. And that's pretty much how I feel about 2011 in general. It was just a bunch of young talent yelling, "FUCK it, I am on one!" Starting with James Blake steamrolling his way into full blown consciousness to the sheer power of viral with Tyler, Azealia, The Weeknd, Lana Del Ray to Drake becoming America's favorite sweetheart (read: pussy) to the internet era of rap solidifying itself with the "Huzzah!" music video – the new talent was on a shopping spree of the meanest kind (the kind where they buy all the good, new cloths and stuff). They were all, “Fuck, let’s get back to the Beach cloths and Beach Boys. And Saxophone. You guys remember saxophone?” And then Christopher Owens wrote some really pretty songs. 

My Top Ten Albums of 2011                                                                   
10. Bon Iver – Bon Iver
9. EMA – Past Life Martyred Saints
7. JAY Z and Kanye West – Watch the Throne
7. M83 – Hurry Up, We're Dreaming
6. Drake – Take Care
5. St. Vincent – Strange Mercy
4. The Weeknd – House of Balloons
3. Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues
2. James Blake – James Blake
1. Girls – Father, Son, Holy Ghost 

 My 30 Favorite Songs of 2011                                             

30. Last Night at the Jetty – Panda Bear
It’s like a fog that I can wonder through whenever I want.
29. Gotta Have It -- JAY Z and Kanye West
The number one key to my heart is Ferris Bueller’s Day Off references. The second is James Brown. Oh, James Brown (*Joel gets weak in the knees*).
28. Sublimation Hour -- Destroyer
Dan Bejar writes all my favorite New Pornographers songs, and while Kuputt didn’t really stick with me after the first couple listens, this song did (because it’s mostly a New Pornographers song).
27. Ronald Reagan Era – Kendrick Lamar
If there’s any part of you that liked the Marvin’s Room interlude, go download Section.80 now. Kendrick is my favorite actual rapper of 2011, whatever that means. Whoop-whoopty-whoopty- whoop whoop!
Apparently this came out last year? I don’t even care.
25. July – Youth Lagoon
This was the first song I ever heard by Youth Lagoon, and it was something like love at first site, except I didn’t go see them.

24. Yuck – The Wall

I wasn’t tuned in enough during the 90s to know what 90s music was all about, but this was stuck in my head for all of summer, so I guess it’s pretty great. 
                                                                                               
23. Under Ground Kings – Drake
I be banging that Drake in Brandon’s car. 

22. Songs for Women – Frank Ocean
I would totally sing songs to get at women.

21. You Know What I Mean – Cults
Cults kind of got the shit-end of the stick with my lists by tittering on the fringes of both. They deserve more credit than they’re getting here. Anyway, this is my favorite song by them.
20. Jesus Fever – Kurt Vile
This song is what a perfect cup of coffee tastes like.
19. It's Real – Real Estate
18. Surgeon – St. Vincent
“I spent the summer on my back” is my third favorite lyric of the year, and the rest of this song is Brian Eno B-A-N-A-N-A-S. 
17. Holocene -- Bon Iver
“…and at once I knew I was not magnificent” is my second favorite line of the year.
16. Huzzah! (Remix) -- Mr. Muhfucking eXquire feat. feat. Despot, Das Racist, Danny Brown & El-P
“Huzzah!” is the wet-dream collaboration of the ‘11 soaked-era of internet rappers, and every one of them brought their A game (if by A-Game you mean a return to form for Das Racist, El- P’s One Sick Verse and a Holden Caulfield reference). 
15. "Swerve... The reeping of all that is worthwhile (Noir not withstanding)" – Shabazz Palaces
With a title like that, you had me before I even hit play. But let me hit play, and then let me hit it again, and again and again because I’m not even close to figuring out everything this song is about.  I might be able to decipher only a lyric or two with each listen, but don’t take that as a detractor –it’s like a rereading “To Kill A Mocking Bird,”  where you notice these small (or huge) things each time that are just perfect and you can’t believe you missed the first time. It’s like that only a five minute read that makes it so much easier to say, “oh, one more time can’t hurt.”
14. 212 -- Azealia Banks ft. Lazy Jay

“212” is the antithesis of “Super Bass,” in that it takes all the plastic-y, pretty-pretend lyrics of “Super Bass” and knocks them across the fucking head with a lethal dose of authentic 4-voiced (four count ‘em four) shit talk. Also, it's super pure pop rap!
13. Bizness – tUnE-yArDs
It doesn’t get nuttier than this. Also: Merrill Garbus has a very nice lady voice.
12. Just A Song – Girls 
It doesn’t get truer/prettier than this.
11. Niggas in Paris – JAY Z and Kanye West
This was the anthem to my apartment, because apparently being a bunch of white dudes in the middle of Missouri made us really relate to this song. But seriously, we listened to it all the time. Also, my apartment’s go-to party song.  
10. Look At Me Now – Chris Brown feat. Lil Wayne, Busta Rhymes
2011 had so many all-star collaborations for label rap that it’s just plain bizarre that a Chris Brown song was my favorite out of the bunch. And even though the Busta Rhymes verse is obviously the best part, it’s still by-and-by a Chris Brown song. He sets the tone for the whole thing. Even Lil Wayne’s verse does something for me. I’m eating a bunch of humble pie.
9. House Of Balloons / Glass Table Girls – The Weeknd
The thick mystery of House of Balloons and The Weeknd didn’t really get answered with this song, but it sure has hell cemented my love for Abel Tesfaye’s voice/lyrics/style//lifestyle.    
8. Let Her Rest / Queen of Hearts – Fucked Up
I had a rough time getting into the actual epicness of David Comes To Life simply because I would just want to start it from the beginning again, which I did. Over and over and over.
7. Rolling In The Deep – Adele  
You know who first told me about this song? MY DAD. That’s how far my head is up my ass. Fortunately, that means I’ve never even come close to losing any love for this song. Thanks, ass.
6. Yonkers – Tyler, The Creator

I basically dropped out of Art History because I couldn’t stop watching this music video the night before the first test, and it was a lot more than just the Adventure Time reference that got me hooked.“Yonkers” is the perfect combination of the spite Odd Future trademarked with Tyler’s playful, in-joke-driven side. Plus, that beat. So simple, so creepy, so good.    
5. Midnight City -- M83

Even though Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming is based on Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, “Midnight City” reminds me way more of “Cherub Rock,” which isn’t really what it should be doing. But it does. And that’s because “Cherub Rock” has one of my all-time favorite guitar riffs ever. It’s simple and pretty and it says ‘fuck you, I’m never changing.’  “Midnight City” takes that idea of a perfect riff, keys it up a notch and then gets Victoria Secret models to, y’know, walk down a runway in underwear.
4. Video Games – Lana Del Rey










Lana Del Rey has been criticized enough by the internet and everybody else and I don’t really care about any of it. I only care about this song. And I don’t even have a copy of it on my computer. I’m just adding another view to the YouTube count every five minutes of my life.  
3. California – EMA

I constantly want to compare Erika M. Anderson to Kurt Cobain and Patti Smith, but that’s just diminishing to the full form of self she presents on Past Life Martyred Saints. But I’m still going to do it because “California” runs the course the usual Patti Smith track of soul-bearing, stream-of-conscious swan song I always fall head over heels for. And I fell hard.  
2. Vomit – Girls 

I am looking for love and it’s not in a hopeless place. It’s with Girls.
1. Helplessness Blues – Fleet Foxes


I blasted this song all summer long, driving home at night with the windows rolled down screaming out to the empty streets. But it wasn’t until I had a total character breakdown at the start of sophomore year that this song became a sort of weird, sacred anthem for me.
I heard that the pressure of producing the album Helplessness Blues caused Robin Pecknold’s girlfriend to leave him, but after hearing the album she basically understood everything he was going through and got back with him. I can’t claim Helplessness Blues (the album), but I sure as hell claim “Helplessness Blues” (the song) -- because Robin Pecknold knows what he’s writing about and I relate, which is what a song of year is all about to me. And at the end of 2011, nothing has summarized everything I felt, was feeling and currently feel about life, love and everything than this song. All my favorite lyrics of the year are in this song. It’s my song, and in the future  whenever I think back to 2011 -- this is the song that'll going be playing in the background.

Ok, we’re done here. Nothing else do see here.

Joel Samson Berntsen (Rave On -- Cults)

1 comment:

Brandon Foster said...

Sneaky bastard.
/*clothes
//fuck you for never having to do arts cal