Favourite Songs of 2011

So many people are starting to base their listening on songs these days, such is the reduction in attention spans, the proliferation of YouTube browsing and the ease of compiling ones own playlists featuring the best stuff you want to hear. Separate to my Top 50 LPs of 2011 I’ve also put together a list of songs that caught my ears and became hard to shake. There were of course dozens of others that could be included here but this is a lucky dip of sorts into some of my favourite tunes of 2011 that might lead you further into the artist’s work if you havent checked them out yet…

In no particular order as they are all great…

Dick Diver – On The Bank

Those Darlins – Screw Get Loose

J. Mascis – Not Enough

Total Control – One More Tonight

Light Asylum – Dark Allies

The Strokes – Under Cover of Darkness

Iron & Wine – Tree By a River

Timber Timbre – Bad Ritual

Little Dragon – Ritual Union

Wilco – I Might

Two Tears – Eat People

The Pains of Being Pure At Heart – Belong

Iowa – Complete Control

The Laurels – Black Cathedral

The Adults – Nothing To Lose

Austra – Lose It

Atlas Sound – Te Amo

Twerps – Dreamin

Royal Headache – Really In Love

Melodie Nelson – Waiting

Black Lips – Spidey’s Curse

Crystal Stilts – Shake The Shackles

Jamie XX – Far Nearer

The Felice Brothers – Ponzi

The Paper Scissors – Lung Sum

Robag Wruhme – Thora Vukk

Wavves – I Wanna Meet Dave Grohl

Wild Flag – Romance

Leader Cheetah – Crawling Up A Landslide

ALBUM REVIEW: Wild Flag | Wild Flag

written by Chris Familton

Carrie Brownstein has become something of an indie superstar in recent years with her commentaries on NPR, the TV series Portlandia that she co-wrote and stars in and of course her history in the righteous rock band Sleater Kinney. Now she has re-emerged musically in Wild Flag, a four piece that also includes Mary Timony (ex-Helium), Rebecca Cole and Sleater Kinney drummer Janet Weiss. Their debut album takes that raw and confrontational sound of Sleater Kinney and marries it with more melodic songwriting in places, garage rock flavours and a wonderful balance of both fun and serious rock n roll.

The first single Romance opens the LP and is a statement of intent with its tumbling drums and off-kilter guitar lines that surge and stumble gloriously before a heady and triumphant chorus soars high . It is probably the closest to Brownstein’s previous work than anything else on the album and it works effectively as the stepping off point for the new project.

Mary Timony takes lead on the much softer and melodically subtle Something Came Over Me showing a different side to the Wild Flag. Her voice is more indie pop than indie rock without sacrificing the tough garage rock vibe that runs through the record. That vibe is enhanced by the magnificent production quality – all warm closeness, clarity of instrumental separation and a lack of processing and overt compression to the sound of the album. The way they have constructed songs that allow each instrument to both harmonise and contradict each other is a constant source of delight. It keeps the songs alive and evolving with a rough and ready fluidity that constantly throws up sonic surprises like the chop and change dynamics of album closer Black Tiles.

One of the closest links to the garage rock vein is the sound of Rebecca Cole’s keyboards, primarily the swirling organ she often employs. It adds a contrast to the sharp-riffing guitars and often replaces the bottom end where bass guitar would normally reside. On Endless Talk she leads the dancing melody of the song, taking it in the vicinity of some of the sounds that were emitting from Dunedin, New Zealand across the 80s.

Simplicity is another key to the success of this debut. Electric Band relies on super primitive drumming to propel Timony’s delightful ode to playing in a rock band. The same approach is taken on Future Crimes but it is injected with an urgency that makes it feel like it is about to collapse in on itself at any moment. Like all great garage and punk rock songs it has that surge and insistency that heats the blood and quickens the pulse. Wild Flag sound like they are on the front foot, holding nothing back and relishing the chance to play dynamic, lively music together. This isn’t stupid, basic rock music, far from it. It is intelligent, lean and energising rock n roll.

this review first appeared on The Dwarf