2011’s Year In Music: Top 10 Songs

We are back to that time-honored tradition of compressing more than 300 days of good music into handy lists, this particular chronicle summarizing songs that moves us, make us move, or make us stop. And by us, I mean just me.

I liked that the discovery process this year was aided, in part, by Spotify, in an avoidance of the clunky CPU vampire that is MySpace or taking up bits of hard drive space for full mp3 downloads. My friends were posting what turned them on more and more on Facebook (sometimes unintentionally). Other people’s Top 10s were showing up as early as mid-November. I’m not going to pretend I haven’t seen some.

Since the delineation between songs and singles is becoming hazier, made squishy by terms like “leak,” “preview,” “premiere,” “teaser,” “alternative edits” and other language, I’ve tried to keep this list equally loose, sometimes going with songs that weren’t official radio drops, tracks that arrived in 2010 (but came into their own in 2011) artists that aren’t singles artists and songs that I wouldn’t even say are representative of the artists that perform them.

They’re just songs, folks. I liked them, and I hope there’s some you like.

Listen to the majority of these songs on the Spotify playlist (sans Tom Waits, Devon Sproule, Clams Casino, SubRosa and Danny Brown).

Additionally, I have some generally unranked tracks below those that didn’t make my top 10. You can hear them by clicking. Thanks again to Alex Dorn this year who — like last year — sussed out our picks into easy and fun videos. Below are my picks, though I encourage you to check out the handiwork. And thanks for Alan Sepinwall, y’know, for going first. I will be posting my top 10 (or 30 or 40…) albums soon, and Melinda Newman will have her top 10 albums picks up imminently.

(Sorry that the f-bomb blows up three times in the following song and artist names. Coincidence?)

Here are my top 10 favorite songs of 2011:

1. M83 – Midnight City
2. Adele – Rolling in the Deep
3. Tyler, the Creator – Yonkers
4. tUnE-yArDs – Bizness
5. Mastodon – Black Tongue
6. Nicki Minaj – Super Bass
7. Tom Waits – New Year’s Eve
8. Jill Scott feat. Anthony Hamilton – So In Love
9. Cut Copy – Need You Now
10. Beastie Boys – Make Some Noise


Wild Flag – Romance
J. Cole feat. Jay-Z – Mr. Nice Watch
Miranda Lambert – Fine Tune
Gil Scott-Heron and Jamie xx – I’ll Take Care of U
Jay-Z & Kanye West – Otis
Low – Nothing But Heart
NewVillager – Rich Doors
Yelawolf feat. Kid Rock – Let’s Roll
Sallie Ford & the Sound Outside – I Swear
St. Vincent – Cruel


Rihanna feat. Calvin Harris – We Found Love
Danny Brown – Monopoly
My Morning Jacket – Holdin On To Black Metal
The Berg Sans Nipple – Change the Shape
Laura Marling – Sophia
Frank Ocean – Novacane
Liturgy – Generation
TV On the Radio – Second Song
F*cked Up – The Other Shoe
PJ Harvey – Words That Maketh Murder


Peggy Sue – Cut My Teeth
Psychologist – Comes In Waves
Colin Stetson – Lord I Just Can’t Keep From Crying Sometimes
Katy B – Go Away
Hanni El Khatib – F*ck It, You Win
Beirut – Santa Fe
Feist – A Commotion
Robyn – Call Your Girlfriend
Florence + The Machine – What the Water Gave Me
Spank Rock feat. Big Freedia – Nasty


Ryan Adams – Ashes & Fire
The Naked And Famous – Punching in a Dream
Clams Casino – I’m God
Devon Sproule – I Love You, Go Easy
Chase & Status feat. Liam Bailey – Blind Faith
The Head and the Heart – Lost In My Mind
SubRosa – Borrowed Time Borrowed Eyes
Pink – F*ckin’ Perfect
Neon Indian – Polish Girl
Bon Iver – Holocene