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The Up-Turn

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Check out our top 10 songs of 2011 after the jump.

10.) Tyler, the Creator- Analog (Feat. Hodgy Beats)

When Tyler, The Creator first built his buzz, the many people that knew him only for the reputation that was built for him would never have thought he could make on of the best summer songs of the year.  The light, quirky synths that make up the beat for “Analog” perfectly complement the careless and nostalgic images Tyler and Hodgy paint with their verses.  Although Tyler got famous for being offensive, over-the-top, and dark, “Analog” shows that he is also very well suited to make music that can be quite the opposite of that.

9.) Vince Staples- Versace Rap (prod. Michael Uzowuru)

There’s not enough angry rap these days.  I know a lot of people will find it blasphemous for me to say such a thing, but its true.  Sure, there is a lot more Odd Future-ish rap around lately, but I don’t see that as truly angry rap.  That style of rap is more focused on being offensive with a tongue-and-cheek humor behind it.  I’m talking about that “Keys Open Doors” -style angry-and-bitter-at-the-world-and-everyone-in-it rap.  Thankfully, Vince Staples came through with some genuinely angry rap towards the end of the year.  Vince took some beautifully infectious Michael Uzowuru production, and used it to tell the cold and dark story of his life growing up in a rough living situation while gun shots blare rhythmically in the background.   Vince isn’t the rapper obsessed with being offensive that people think he is, he shows with the line “Not denying Christ, I’m just denying niggas’ options / ‘Cause praying never moved my grandmother out of Compton” that he simply has had a truly dark life and lives in pessimism because of it, which coincidentally results in amazing music.

8.) Thuston Moore- Benediction

When news broke that Thurston Moore was getting a divorce with fellow Sonic Youth member, Kim Gordon, I am sure many hipsters went to this song to have a nice cry.  For all the wide-eyed hopefulness that exists in the song, ‘Benediction’ finds Moore confronting a strained relationship.  When the undisputed king of 80s noise-rock sings “whisper I love you 1,000 times into his ear,” over delicate, acoustic instrumentation, it doesn’t sound forced or cheesy.  Instead, Moore sounds as genuine as ever, he’s just less concerned with teenage riots and suburban tension.

7.) ASAP Rocky- Peso

ASAP Rocky opens up ‘Peso’ by declaring his allegiance to his hometown of Harlem, however, the music shows Rocky’s willingness to draw influence from more than just his hometown.  Rapping over a gorgeous beat from ASAP member Ty Beats, Rocky shows off an untouchable confidence and swagger that has secured his spot as a huge force in hip-hop.  “Our presence is a present, just to kick it is a blessing” claims Rocky, and it’s hard not to believe him.  For anyone who thinks ASAP Rocky is just some good production and hype, ‘Peso’ shows off how much more he is.

6.) James Blake- I Never Learnt to Share

I like to think of “I Never Learnt To Share” as the culmination of James Blake’s style on his debut LP.  James Blake’s ability to take a mindlessly repeated (and often borrowed) idea or phrase and build upon it to create something detailed with nuances and bolder shades shines throughout the track.  “I Never Learnt To Share” starts with a heavily dark atmosphere from the building of the phrase “My brother and my sister don’t speak to me, but I don’t blame them”.  Yet as the phrase is repeated more and more times it completely loses meaning (especially when you read an interview where Blake talks about being an only child) until the song finally reaches an epicly furious breakdown acting as the culmination of a catharsis.  Its hard to pinpoint where Blake is getting these emotions from, but they come across loud and clear in his carefully crafted synthesizer progressions.

5.) Fleet Foxes- Montezuma

Three years after Fleet Foxes took the blogosphere by storm, the Seattle quintet start off Helplessness Blues by summing up the mood of the album in one opening line “so now I am older.” For the next 50 minutes, Robin Pecknold explores his own insecurities of aging and finding his small place in the huge world.  With meticulously arranged group vocals, swelling, acoustic instrumentation and an unforgettable chorus, uncertainty and self-doubt have never sounded so good.

4.) Ducktails- Killin’ the Vibe (ft. Panda Bear)

“Don’t go killin’, killin’ the vibe/ I can’t take your lifestyle/ Can’t you just sit a while and try your hardest to smile?” are the only lyrics in Ducktails’ pop-gem ‘Killin’ the Vibe’.  The lyrics are delivered by an apathetic Mondanile before being enveloped by Panda Bear’s angelic, wordless chorus as he vaguely says the word “smile”.  Hypnotic and repetitive, ‘Killin’ the Vibe’ succeeds at creating the careless mood that its title suggests.  It is 4-minutes of pure good feelings and a perfect look into the blissed-out mind of Mondanile.

3.) Shabazz Palaces- Recollections of the Wraith

“Recollections of the Wraith” is a fantastic track in that it contains so many of the things that make Shabazz Palaces great while staying tasteful and dignified.  The main color in the beat is conveyed through Shabazz Palaces’ own unique take on the always-popular-in-hip-hop female vocal sample.  Instead of creating a soulful homey feel, this sample is manipulated to sound haunting and introspective.  Then Butler adds one of his most simplistically genius lyrics yet for the hook, chanting “Clear some space out so we can space out” conveying a vivid image and emotion without saying anything directly.

2.) Zoo Kid/King Krule- Out Getting Ribs

When “Out Getting Ribs” first began receiving a lot of attention, it was attached to this video.  No one knew anything about Archy Marshall other than that he looked kind of like Rick Astley dressed in grandpa clothes.  Yet, from the moment the first haunting chord is struck, the then sixteen year-old pours an incredibly thick and tangible sense of wise beyond his years emotion into the song that could win over even the most image-concerned person.  The song, owing its title to a Jean-Michel Basquiat work, shows Archy Marshall to have a distinct sense for unique creativity and tenacity, just like Basquiat himself, which is awesome to see coming from someone my age.

1.) Real Estate- Green Aisles

The words epic or groundbreaking are often thrown around when it comes to recipients of ‘Best Song of the Year’.  It is easy to look back on the year and remember the songs that pushed us musically with huge lengths, avant-garde structures and lofty themes.  ‘Green Aisles’ isn’t one of those songs.  ‘Green Aisles’ floats along at just over 5-minutes carried by cascading guitar lines, ambling drums and wistful vocals.  Without ever obsessing over the song, ‘Green Aisles’ became the second most played song on my itunes.  ‘Green Aisles’ is a retreat into the childhood of the members of Real Estate as Courtney describes New Jersey fall imagery and being blacked-out on a bicycle.  “Our careless lifestyle it was not so unwise, no”.

-The Up-Turn

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