By TYLER ROSS
It’s that time of year again: the turkey’s gone and people start looking forward to the holidays. In the musical world that means two things: New Year’s Eve shows and Best of the Year lists. While New Year’s Eve surely resides in Madison Square Garden, making an end of the year list is a little trickier. To make matters worse – or better, depending on how you see it – 2011 has been an incredible year. But there’s an upside to scouring the year’s releases: I’m left with a pretty awesome playlist. Now in its second year, Boner Jams is a collection of some of my favorite songs from the year, along with some ones that slipped by from years past.
The Radio Dept. – Heaven’s On Fire, Clinging to a Scheme
Something about the intro and guitar part immediately grabbed me with this one. There’s a lot going on but they rope it in to a steadily moving and upbeat track.
Toro y Moi – New Beat
Where “Heaven’s On Fire” may have been a constrained effort, “New Beat” is anything but. This is a swirling and rolling affair that finds Bundick borrowing equally from 70s funk, 80s disco and contemporary electronica.
St. Vincent – Cruel
On “Cruel,” Annie Clark reins in some of her experimental tendencies to create a beautiful pop song that stands out from the already impressive Strange Mercy. Swirling synths combine with fuzzed out guitars and incredibly catchy runs down some sort of xylophone or such.
Clive Tanaka y su orquesta – Neu Chicago
Though not truthfully from 2011, this song – and album – was too good to leave off. The mysterious Clive Tanaka delivers a laid-back dance effort driven by steel drums and heavy bass and clap. It’s about as sparse and relaxed a dance groove as you’re going to find, and it’s quite simply beautiful.
Lykke Li – I’m Good, I’m Gone
This one isn’t even close to being a 2011 release, but Li’s newest album, Wounded Rhymes, made me look back at the Swedish singer-songwriter’s excellent and varied debut, Youth Novels. To me, “I’m Good, I’m Gone” embodies much of what I love about Li: complex arrangements of simple elements. Then there’s her voice, seductive and distant at the same time. Look for the finished version, with the correct track order, on my Spotify or Facebook page in the weeks to come.
Pajama Club – Tell Me What You Want
It’s hard to resist the allure of steady rolling drums like one hears in “Tell Me What You Want.” Pajama Club, Neil Finn of Crowded House fame’s new project, mixes pop sensibility with experimental electronica and a healthy dose of rock.
Wilco – Whole Love
Wilco lives and dies by front Jeff Tweedy’s songwriting. When he’s on point, the results can be astounding. On The Whole Love’s title track, Tweedy crafts a beautiful folk piece that seems to ooze emotion. Warning: it may be tough to get Tweedy’s lines out of your head.
Cut Copy – Take Me Over
On their newest album, Cut Copy continue the 80s appreciation from In Ghost Colours but tone down the heavier edged electronic influence. “Take Me Over” is easily the most infectious cut on the album. There’s still the lofty synths and catchy croons, but now with a sparse guitar lick and ratatat of the drums.
Blood Orange – Champagne Coast
I see this as the hardest song to get across to listeners. In a sense, Blood Orange’s music is sparse- slightly repetitive with minimal additions. Yet on “Champagne Coast,” it comes as a slowly building track that adds piece by piece to create a great effect. Music is all about emotion, and “Champagne Coast” has tons of it.
Theophilus London – Why Even Try
“Why Even Try” is a bit of a jump stylistically for Boner Jams. Though it gravitates a little more towards hip-hop, up-and-comer London, it just has too much damn character to leave off the list. It doesn’t hurt that Dev Hynes (of Blood Orange notoriety) handles the production of the feel good track of the year.