They climbed off their pedestals and then they sang this song

As I noted recently, I’m charged with contributing to various year-end assessments over at Spectrum Culture, including the list we came up with of the Top 25 Songs of 2011. Last year, my preferences were solitary enough that some of my personal picks for the best single songs didn’t make the final tally, so I made a point of highlighting a few of them in a separate post in this space. As I sat down to revive the tradition, I realized that I had far more in common with my colleagues this year and eight of my top ten made our final list, including my top six picks. Indeed, all of the songs I absolutely felt most strongly about were represented. So, with a little less fervor than last year, here’s a handful of songs from my list that stayed only on my list.

Wye Oak, “Holy Holy”


Without getting too deep into our process, there were several different songs from Wye Oak’s excellent Civilian that were nominated for consideration, which I suspect wind up effectively cancelling each other out. I would have gladly thrown my support behind any of them (Wye Oak was the only artist I included more than once on the list of twenty songs that I submitted for the last round), but this was my clear favorite. All the strengths of the band’s latest are evident in this track, from the guitars that are fuzzy and yet crystal clear and the propensity to suddenly pivot the song in the most unexpected way.

The Rural Alberta Advantage, “Muscle Relaxants”


I like this band a lot, but I much confess I often let them slip my mind. One of the other writers submitted this song for consideration and I was immediately remind of the effective merging of twang and yearning, churning rock ‘n’ roll drive. The punchy beat is especially terrific.

Mike Adams At His Honest Weight, “Bad Weather”


This has got some of that shoegaze muddiness but underpinned with a sly pop sense that really sneaks up. The vocals have the soft urgency of Jesus and Mary Chain in those moments when the Reid brothers are trying their hardest to convince the world that they don’t actually care.

The Felice Brothers, “Fire at the Pageant”


In a review, I described the whole album from The Felice Brothers as a “happy slop bucket of song.” This track illustrates that perfectly. At times, it’s admittedly sort of a mess, deliberately so, I think. That’s why I love it.

Eleanor Friedberger, “My Mistakes”


I have a feeling that both this song and the album it comes from are going to keep growing on me as time passes. Every time I listen to it anew, it sounds freshly inventive all over again. Friedberger has an especially nice earthy tone to her voice that cuts nicely against the buoyant, studio slick instrumentation.