Music of 2011: Tracks 20-11

Although most of the praise from GGD’s Eye Contact has been directed towards the eleven-minute “Glass Jar,” “MindKilla” is really the track that deserves the most hype for succinctly hitting all of the aspects of what makes the band great in a slim 5:29. The track begins tentatively, with a thumping bass drum, a glittering but conservative keyboard, and Lizzi Bougastos seemingly invocating her muse. Soon after synths swell, Bougastos recites nursery rhymes, and the song crescendos two times—once to a filthy breakdown at the midpoint, and again at the track’s end when everything jumps off a cliff with 32 seconds remaining, leaving only the murmuring instrumental remnants of before. There’s so much oddness being thrown into the song at once that it transcends analysis; it’s something that should only be enjoyed jumping back and forth in your room.

#14. “Lindisfarne” – James Blake

Much like the previous track, critical acclaim has been mostly misguided in donning James Blake’s “The Wilhelm Scream” as the standout track, when in fact it’s really an exact cover of his dad’s band’s “Where to Turn.” Blake is being touted as a pioneering figure for the future of pop music, and “Lindisfarne” is at once original and indicative of that statement. The first part of the two-movement suite begins only with Blake’s transformed voice woefully serenading, “Beacon don’t fly too high.” By the second part of the track, Blake adds sparse accompaniment—a warbly guitar and lightly used drum machine add grace notes to the melody established in the track’s first movement, but create a brilliant new texture that makes the listener appreciate the same phrase in entirely new way. Blake’s innovation will be an incredibly exciting thing to observe as he reaches his mid 20’s.

#13.  “Otis” – Kanye West and Jay-Z

“Otis” is probably not even the best track on mega-collab of the year Watch the Throne, but the audacity behind the lyrics and the artists who wrote them make it one of the most culturally significant tracks this decade. In a time where the economy is so bad that Time’s Person of the Year is “the protester,” Yeezy and Jigga began selling “Occupy All Streets” t-shirts that in no way benefited the Occupy Movement, dropped an unthinkable amount of money to sample “Try a Little Tenderness,” and shot the video for the song consisting of driving around in a modified Maybach with four girls in the back seat. The verses only contain incessant rhymes about their wealth and un-touchability, and it makes for what is maybe the most simultaneously sleazy and enjoyable track of this century.

#12. “Holocene” – Bon Iver

If a song can be both Grammy-nominated for “Record of the year” and number two on Pitchfork’s songs of the year (two of the most separate spheres of music criticism today), there must be something special going on. Bon Iver creates what actually might be the most beautifully poignant track of the year; oscillating arpeggios and slide guitars shift in dynamics as Justin Vernon dejectedly declares “And at once I knew, I was not magnificent.” Saxophones pop up intermittently, but they’re too defeated to make a sizeable impression in the song’s vastness, a clever metaphor for the singer’s insignificance in the context of the song’s narrative. Through all this melancholy, hope sprouts in the subtle drum rolls and Vernon’s restrained delight in repeating “And I could see for miles, miles, miles.”

#11. “Bizness” – tUnE-yArds

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