Friday, December 30, 2011

The Best Music of 2011 - Part 3

The Best Music of 2011

The Best B-Sides or Bonus Tracks of 2011
Does what it says on the tin! 

1. "Silence" [Clip @ YouTube] - Kylie Minogue // Kylie saved the best Aphrodite offcut for the last single release for this era (I guess!); this b-side to the "Put Your Hands Up" single, for me, tops her 2010 b-sides and bonuses. "Silence" is simple: a no-big-deal 4-on-the-floor beat peps along as a springy piano riff surfaces and goes underground throughout the song. But Kylie's performance of the melody and delivery of inspired lyrics that play on the "silent" theme ("the best is what you haven't heard") crank up the volume on "Silence."

2. "The Only" [Listen @ SoundCloud] - Lykke Li // Kicky garage-band pop that would have been a radio hit in 1966, yet sounds 2011 fresh.

3. "Remain Nameless" [Listen @ MySpace] - Florence + The Machine // It's all about that creeping bass and insidious little synth arpeggio. Florence keeps things intense but doesn't quite let it all hang out vocally - thus creating a mysterious, eerily restrained atmosphere.

4. "No Bueno" [Listen @ SoundCloud] - Nadia Oh // I thought the original Colours album was fun, but this bonus track ups the entertainment factor. It's essentially a rework of "Taking Over The Dancefloor," but it has a silly charm all its own. Bueno!

5. "Pressed" [Listen @ SoundCloud] - Jessica 6 // Six minutes of nu-disco delights. This "White Horse" b-side is nice and laid-back, all bleeps, bloops, and warm, sweeping synths.

The 5 Best Remixes of 2011
There were tons of remixes this year, and this category honors the best of the best.

1. "Mirrorage (Lindstrøm Remix)" [Listen @ SoundCloud] - Glasser // Deliberate, methodical, and utterly hypnotic. I saw Glasser's video for "Mirrorage" at the end of 2010 and checked out her debut from that year, Ring, in 2011. Turns out it's one of my favorite 2010 albums... that I didn't actually hear until 2011. "Mirrorage" is the incantation-like jewel of the album, and this remix by Lindstrøm Remix stretches it out for a blissful 7 and a half minutes. One heavy, locomotive-like beat throughout, as "Mirrorage" is played out in various mutations - sounds super-minimal, but each element is used to maximum effect.

2. "Changed The Way You Kiss Me (Mensah Remix)" [Listen @ YouTube] - Example // 55 seconds in. That's when the remix travels to some kind of ridiculous level of nifty. That drop that knocks the air out of you is done a few times during the song's 5 and a half minutes, but it never gets old. I love how this mix transforms the original dance-pop sound of the original track into something downright menacing.

3. "Yoü and I (Mark Taylor Remix)" [Listen @ POP On And On] - Lady Gaga // Though I like the rejigged "We Will Rock You" stomp/handclap of the album version, this remix takes the track into a category of its own: electro honky-tonk. (Much, much better sounding than that might lead you to think!!)

4. "Aphrodite (Denzal Park Remix)" [Clip @ SoundCloud] - Kylie Minogue // The title track of Kylie's 2010 masterwork was practically begging for a hands-in-the-air, super-synthesized victory lap of a remix. Denzal Park delivered. Like "Keep on Pumpin' It (Astral Flight Mix)" refashioned for 2011. In other words: yes.

5. "Scheiße (DJ White Shadow Mugler)" [Listen @ YouTube] - Lady Gaga // Like "Mirrorage (Lindstrøm Remix)", this nine and a half minute-long experience is kinda blissful. Fierceness in musical form.

The 3 Best Leaks (still unreleased) of 2011 
Lots of stuff leaked this year, but only tracks that still
remain unreleased are in the running for this category.

1. The Dannii Minogue song leaks // Yay Dannii! With her music career apparently on hold for now, it was wonderful to hear some new old Dannii tunes this year. "Karma Is A Bitch" takes the cake for best title (and the song itself is cute), the aching "Weak" would sound incredible with a full orchestral backing, and "Fear Of Flying" and "Healing On The Dancefloor" would totally have fit right onto the gem-filled Unleashed tracklist. (Check out more info about these leaks at Diva Incarnate and Feed Limmy [posts 1 and 2]!)

2. The Madonna song leaks // Like manna from heaven, Madonna tunes streamed onto the 'net all year long... none through official means, but ah well. My picks of the lot? The instrumentals. SO MANY INSTRUMENTALS. In particular, the Music and American Life album instrumentals hit the right spot: it's like listening to entirely new music, with details that I missed before popping up all over the place. Bring on all the Ray Of Light instrumentals for 2012!! (One can hope!)

3. The Britney Spears song leaks // Lots of really interesting Britney song leaks showed up this year, from the beautiful ballad "Everyday" to the "La Isla Bonita"-sampling "Love 2 Love U." Merry Britmas to all, and to all a good listen!

The Best Album Reissue(s) of 2011
Albums from the past, re-released for a 2011 audience!

1. The Queen album reissues: Batch 1, Batch 2, Batch 3 // QUEEN! 2011 marked 40 years of Queen songs, and part of the celebrations included reissues of each of their studio albums plus bonus tracks. Their '70s album bonuses, for me, were fascinating to hear, especially the BBC sessions and live performances. (I'm admittedly a stan for '70s Queen. '80s and Innuendo/Made In Heaven Queen are awesome too, of course, but there's something about that "no synthesizers" sound that just speaks to me!)

The Best Compilation or Greatest Hits Album of 2011
I judged this category based on the quality of the
songs and the cohesiveness of the album as a whole.

1. Mounqaliba - Rising: The Remixes - Natacha Atlas // Yessss, remixed Natacha Atlas! I adore her voice, but haven't really gotten too into her work since 2006's Mish Maoul. I guess I'm stuck on her electronic fusion sound. So! This collection of remixes of tracks from her 2010 album Mounqaliba was just the thing for me. Lusciously reworked songs like "Batkallim" and "Taalet" are reinvented with undulating, skittering, or simply pounding rhythms by big names like Cheb i Sabbah, Bombay Dub Orchestra, and Beats Antique.

The 3 Best Music Videos of 2011
Tons of music videos popped up this year - these were my favorites.

1. "I Follow Rivers" - Lykke Li // Sleek, super-simple, striking. OK, so it's just a sometimes-hooded Lykke Li chasing a dude through bleak, snow-covered terrain, but "I Follow Rivers" is quietly intense. When Lykke catches her guy at the end, showers him with concerned kisses, and gazes straight into the camera while cradling his head, you can't really tell if her journey is over or if it's just begun.

2. "Shake It Out" - Florence + The Machine // Hazily regal, this ornate illustration of "Shake It Out" sticks with you.

3. Nadia Oh's 2011 music videos - "Taking Over The Dancefloor"; "Jump Out The Window"; "Amsterdam"; "Soopermodel"; "No Bueno" // She gon tek ur money; she's a bad bitch; Nadia Oh is for the win, yo; she climbs on top of shit... in summary: fqn amazin.

The Best Artist of 2011
To be the Best Artist of 2011, the artist must have
maintained a consistent level of fabulousness all year.

1. Kylie Minogue // Well duh! I saw this flawless human being in concert for the first time ever on April 30, 2011 at the Patriot Center in Virginia, during her Aphrodite Live 2011 North American tour. Like a dream come true, except I never even dreamed I'd see Kylie live because it wasn't until 2009 that she graced our shores, and even then I just figured she'd never come near enough where I live (glamorous Maryland!). But lo! She came. And a dream-I-didn't-dare-to-dream came true! I wrote a short review of the show shortly after seeing it (and loving it), and I'll make sure to get that posted soon. But all that needs to be said, really, is that Kylie is an amazing, amazing, amazing entertainer (and singer! She needs more kudos for her voice).

And that's it for 2011! Have a very Happy New Year, everybody! See you in 2012!! :)

Cheery bye, Scarlett

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Best Music of 2011 - Top Singles

The Best Music of 2011
The 50 Best Singles of 2011
Catchy, memorable, and downright fantastic - 
that's what makes a song one of the best singles of 2011!

1. "Shake It Out" [Video] - Florence + The Machine // Beyond its bigger-than-big, elegant sound, it's the lyrics that really got me. As I noted on my LiveJournal, "Shake It Out" and its middle-eight bit ("And I'm damned if I do and I'm damned if I don't..." and especially that "And I'm ready to suffer and I'm ready to hope" line) has actually brought tears to my eyes (see my long sob story to get why). "Epic" is overused, but I think it truly applies to "Shake It Out" and its elegant over-the-topness.

2. "I Follow Rivers" [Video] - Lykke Li // That ambient beginning and end, that honking (in a good way) riff, that chorus ("deep sea, baby... dark doom, honey"): "I Follow Rivers" is so dang beautiful.

3. "Near To God" [Video] - Pati Yang // At about 30 seconds in, prepare to be amazed. The driving synth bass and propulsive drumbeat get serious. Pati's background vocals on the chorus are nothing short of celestial. More like an experience than a song, this one.

4. "Aşk Kaç Beden Giyer" [Video] - Hadise // I have no idea what she's singing, but even I can feel the fierce in Hadise's delivery here. The catchiest song of the year for me - it got stuck in my head a lot (probs because I listened to it so much!). And that middle 8, when she draws the title lyric out all sultry-like, is delicious.

5. "Love Is Won" [Video] - Lia Ices // More mood! In this case, Lia's rich voice, piano, light drums, and bass work to make a cozy atmosphere. It feels like a song you've loved forever. So lovely!

6. "Marry the Night" [Video] - Lady Gaga // It's like Lady Gaga updated Real McCoy's "Another Night" for 2011! I love the Eurodance punch of the instrumentation, and the chorus is amazing. The outro is fantastic - it could last forever and I could never get enough!

7. "Electric" [Listen @ YouTube] - Anniela // Pure, perfect pop! It just makes ya feel good. Not much more I can say - "let the beat just hit you with that feelin'!"

8. "Weekend" [Video] - Class Actress // Such a sexy groove of a tune. Class Actress hit all the right buttons here: a laidback beat, chiming synths, and a killer, melodic chorus.

9. "Killer Bee" [Video] - Anouk // Just try to listen to this and not feel your spirits lift. That chorus! That ascending/descending outro! That voice!

10. "The Streets" [Video] - Camille Jones // Ooooh. This is smooth. I love how the bass bubbles under the track and keeps threatening to boil over.

11. "Bite Back" [Video] - Zowie // SUCH a good song. I wanna hear more from Zowie! A huge hit on my iPod at the beginning of the year, "Bite Back" has such a cool sound, partly thanks to incredibly effective production, and mostly thanks to Zowie's assured delivery. Awesome stuff.

12. "Hold It Against Me" [Video] - Britney Spears // That breakdown. OK, the rest of the song is ace, too (love that vocal thing Brit does with the "little hazy" line) but that bass, those ad libs, those effects ("now-now-now-NOWWWW"), and that lead-up to the final chorus - perfection.

13. "Come Closer" [Video] - Miles Kane // Also perfect. It's short but super sweet, and the chorus of "whoa"s and "ahh"s is the best use of non-word sounds this year (sorry, "Till The World Ends"!)

14. "Rock Paper Scissors" [Video] - Kreesha Turner // Cool. It's pretty unlikely to listen to this and not get addicted. That thumping beat underpins a fantastic, slow-burning vocal from Kreesha, with scratchy synths brightening a deep, dirty groove.

15. "Taking Over the Dancefloor" [Video] - Nadia Oh // Kate Middleton who? It's all about Nadia Oh - as this moombahton epic proves. Everything about it works like a charm, from the squeaky synth zips to the sing-song lyrics.

16. "Meaninglessness" [Listen @] - Bell // Was this a single? I saw it offered on a few blogs, so I thought it might be. I dunno. Alls I know is, what a nifty chorus lyric - "all the meaninglessness means so much" is certainly a contender for best line of the year. Bell's voice is so neat - she's got a cool, conversational delivery.

17. "Rock 'N' Roll Delight" [Video] - Hugo // Dreamy, delish, delightful (heh.)

18. "Lady Luck" [Video] - Jamie Woon // This guy. I want to love his album, but I feel like it just didn't hit the highs of "Night Air," "Spirit," and "Lady Luck" - the rest of the album is fine but kinda inconsequential. But "Lady Luck" - ooohh! Jamie Woon's multitracked vocals melt like butter over a bass-heavy mix that will have you hitting "repeat" again and again.

19. "Body Rock (Radio Mix)" [Video] - Barbarellas // Another album that I felt was almost fantastic but was dragged down by a few duds - but not by "Body Rock." This tune reintroduced me to the former B*Witched twins, and I was hooked. So sassy! It's just a good, old-fashioned pop song. Quality stuff.

20. "You'll Never Love Me" [Listen @ YouTube] - Elisabeth Carew // Put an album out, Elisabeth Carew! I'd buy it! She did a song in 2008, "Destructive," that I loved, and I love this one, too. The chorus is kind of a downer, but Elisabeth's voice sugar coats it. Another big hit (on my iPod).

21. "White Elephant" [Video] - Ladytron // Luscious. "White Elephant" is densely layered with regal synths and a twinkling melody, while lead singer Helen Marnie holds court.

22. "Professional Loving" [Video] - Emika // Dat bass. Emika's soft, kinda creepy intonation is the cherry on top of this delightfully unsettling track. A haunted house of a tune.

23. "Born This Way" [Video] - Lady Gaga // Her second entry on this list, Lady Gaga's "Born This Way" caught a lot of warranted melodic/lyrical flack. But at the end of the day, I still feel an urge to shake a tail feather as Gaga expresses herself over that incessantly driving beat. It's so joyful! Misguided, calculated, or a total rip-off it may be, but... I still really like it and its massively over-produced self.

24. "White Horse" [Video] - Jessica 6 // Deep, seductive synths and disco-ready drums combine with Nomi Ruiz's honeyed demands ("let me see you dance, let me see you move") to make a hugely infectious track.

25. "Runaway Love" [Video] - Alice Gold // So '60s that you feel like you should don some go-go boots! Terrific, electric-keyboard (or something!)-touched production is enhanced by Alice's neat voice.

26. "Take A While" [Listen @ YouTube] - Pati Yang // "Near To God" has a passionate urgency, and so does "Take A While." In this case, though, it's less dance floor-ready, with plucked strings and rockin' drums surrounding Pati's expressive vocals - you can hear the sadness in her delivery. Touching.

27. "I Stand Alone" [Video] - Theophilus London // Upbeat production doesn't tell the whole story - "I run this town to be with you" reveals the aching heart at the center of this tune. Love those vocals that come in at the end!

28. "Lucky Day" [Video] - Nicola Roberts // I'm gonna bet that it's nigh on impossible to listen to "Lucky Day" and not feel at least a bit cheery.

29. "Witches Brew" [Video] - Katy B // The spiraling synth and insistent drumbeat coloring the verses are contrasted beautifully with the breakbeat chorus. Katy B's bewitching (heh) vocals cook up (heh heh) something special here.

30. "Party Rock Anthem" [Video] - LMFAO // My fave song of summer 2011! It's great big goofy obnoxious fun. "Party Rock Anthem" is like the novelty songs of the '50s and '60s - "Purple People Eater," "Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini" and so on - that we don't seem to get as much these days, but with screeching synths. We needs songs like this on the radio - there's always a place for silly!

31. "내가 제일 잘 나가" [Video] - 2NE1 // Going through the channels in the middle of the night and coming across MNET was one of the cooler moments of my year, because that's how I found this 2NE1 tune! Tons of 'tude and infectiously synthy production, the English translation of the title offers a good approximation of the song: it really is "the best."

32. "Ding Dong (Official Version)" [Video] - Dana International // That magnificent middle 8! Such a super-catchy, super-dreamy pop tune.

33. "On the Floor (feat. Pitbull)" [Video] - Jennifer Lopez // Rather heavenly, actually!

34. "Stick Shift (Radio Edit)" [Listen @ YouTube] - Antoine Clamaran feat. Soraya // Not quite as life-completingly amazing as last year's "Live Your Dreams" (another Clamaran/Soraya collabo), but it's a lot more witty, with its references to road rage and other such vehicular stuff.

35. "Superman" [Video] - Hadise // Sexy! Like I said in my album summary, it's the strings in "Superman" that take center stage. They sound like a simple loop during the chorus, but man are they effective.

36. "Moonlightpeople" [Video] - Barbara Panther // Barbara Panther's singular vocals pepper the jingling percussion of this track with soundbytes like "check it out, now" - and who am I to refuse a cool cat like Ms. Panther?

37. "DNA" [Listen @ YouTube] - Wanessa // Dance-pop to the max! I hadn't listened to Wanessa before her latest LP (also titled DNA), and I'm so glad I gave her sound a spin! "DNA" has a classic, divalicious chorus that Wanessa belts out with aplomb. "It's in her DNA," indeed!

38. "Put Your Hands Up" [Video] - Nerina Pallot // Such a lovely song! The colorful strings and buzzing bass highlight the centerpiece here: Nerina's delivery of wonderful, loved-up lyrics.

39. "WORLD OF FANTASY" [Video] - capsule // A bit over 6 minutes longs, and I love every second of it. When the bass comes in to beef up that bright, shining lead synth - well, it's pretty neat.

40. "Changed the Way You Kiss Me" [Video] - Example // The sung bits? Perfection. "We used to be so, so soulful / Al Green on the background vocals" - is also genius.

41. "Drop It Low" [Video] - Kat Deluna // I had a fairly serious addiction to this bouncy ditty during the summer. It's like someone's playing the synth bit on a trampoline.

42. "You'll Be Mine" [Video] - The Pierces // I got a big Fleetwood Mac vibe from this enchanting tune - but the Pierce sisters' voices make this earth-child sound all their own. Like finding a cool shadow on a sunny day; it's bright out, but there's a touch of darkness, too.

43. "Dévoile Qui Tu Es" [Listen @ YouTube] - Jacynthe // Why had I not heard of Jacynthe before this year? I've missed out on so much wonderful pop! I now love her high-quality dance-pop sound - "Dévoile Qui Tu Es" gives an ideal intro to her tunes.

44. "Til Death" [Video] - Wynter Gordon // What a killer (heh) line - "with the music I die." Wynter Gordon is the most underrated voice in pop, and this irresistible ode to dancing till ya die proves why she needs to get big. The Denzal Park Radio Edit adds a clever tick-tocking (at least to my ears) rhythm that takes the song to another level.

45. "Motorcycle 666" [Video] - Pop Levi // Pop Levi's back, and all beefed up! The chugging guitars and sample of a deep voice intoning "six, six, six" work with Pop's super voice to make something sinfully good.

46. "GIMME GIMME" [Video] - MADEMOISELLE YULIA // I can't listen to this sunny track without grinning!

47. "Starlight" [Video] - Sophie Ellis-Bextor // Gorgeous and lush, "Starlight" features a twilit melody and a beautiful Sophie vocal.

48. "Stoopid" [Listen @ YouTube] - CeCe Peniston // Finally! New CeCe! CeCe's voice is as distinctive and club-ready as ever, and the way she tosses off that diss - "you must really think that I'm stoopid" - is already a classic music moment in my book.

49. "La Bete et la Belle" [TV Performance] - Amanda Lear // La Reine Lear is in her spellbinding element here - all mysterious lyrics and booming, anthemic chorus. The production is fab, too - I only wish it lasted longer!

50. "Sweet Suburban Disco (Radio Edit)" [Listen @ YouTube] - Billie Ray Martin // Billie Ray Martin gets - and does - the suburban desire-for-glamour thing better than anyone. Old-school synth stuff, with a dynamite title line - "sweet suburban disco" is one of the best lyrics of the year. So cool.

Part 3 of The Best Music Of 2011 coming up! :) Cheery bye, Scarlett