Best of ’11: 8in8

Amanda Palmer, Damian Kulash, Ben Folds and Neil Gaiman, a.k.a. the band / via amandapalmer.netThe Best Songs You (Maybe) Didn’t Hear 2011
Track 9: 8in8, “One Tiny Thing”

Who’d have thought that the lead singer from OkGo would completely outclass collaborators like Ben Folds and Amanda Palmer? Back in April, I wrote:

Palmer, Folds, Kulash, and Gaiman (“the band,” as Palmer put it) took the stage in very good humor but in a near-delirious state thanks to the hectic songwriting/recording schedule of the preceding 24 hours. Their intent was to record 8 songs in 8 hours, hence 8in8, but as that became unrealistic, they settled for 6 songs in 12 hours: still a very respectable output… the real standout of the evening was the Kulash-fronted “One Tiny Thing,” with its dark, spare arrangement (it recalls OkGo’s “Hello My Treacherous Friends” in a very good way) and heartbreaking poetry about the end of a relationship: it’s a hell of a song, and it could/should be released as a single. Stream it below:

Head to Amanda Palmer’s Bandcamp page to download 8in8’s Nighty Night: the minimum donation is $1 to download the all 6 songs.

Best of ’11: TV On The Radio

TV On The RadioThe Best Songs You (Maybe) Didn’t Hear 2011
Track 8: TV On The Radio, “Will Do”

Art rock slow jamz don’t get much better than this. Nine Types Of Light wasn’t showered with the critical praise normally associated with a new TVOTR release, but I fell hard for it quickly: it’s steeped in soul and funk, and is deliciously warped. “Will Do” was an instant favorite:

Best of ’11: Starfucker

StarfuckerThe Best Songs You (Maybe) Didn’t Hear 2011
Track 7: Starfucker, “Bury Us Alive”

I said it before, back in February, so I’ll say it again:

“While MGMT have decided to focus solely on shitty psychedelic rock wanking, Starfucker have claimed their indie dance/rock crown: hook-laden synths swirl over stomping beats creating a batch of songs that are eminently re-listenable. Get hooked by streaming or downloading (for free!) ‘Bury Us Alive’ below:

…There’s not a single weak link on the album, but ‘Bury Us Alive’ is an early frontrunner for my 2011 year-end best-of playlist.”

And it stayed in contention all year long, making the final cut with ease. The End.

Best of ’11: Motopony

MotoponyThe Best Songs You (Maybe) Didn’t Hear 2011
Track 6: Motopony, “I Am My Body”

RCRD LBL gave away Motopony’s “I Am My Body” over the summer, and I was instantly hooked: it’s a delightfully morbid circle of life writ large by fuzzy bass, old-timey piano, and hand claps (“When I get my body back to the earth/Don’t put me in no box/Let my bones disperse/Feed me to the cows/Feed me to the chickens and the sows/Feed me to the ones that I eat now.” It’s sadly unrepresentative of their self-titled debut, which is a bit of a folky bore, but that doesn’t detract from the fun. Check out a live version of the song here:

And download a free MP3 from RCRD LBL.

Best of ’11: Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears

Black Joe Lewis and the HoneybearsThe Best Songs You (Maybe) Didn’t Hear 2011
Track 5: Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears, “Booty City”

I said this about Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears back in March and it’s still true:

“After sharing a tune from their debut album with my friend Paul, he nicely summed up their sound as ‘Screaming Jay Hawkins meets Stax records.’ They pack more funk, soul, and blues into one single than most bands squeeze into a whole album.”

Joe’s sound is equal parts Robert Johnson and James Brown: deep delta blues stirred up with with sweaty funk and soul. And those horns! Damn, son. “Booty City” was a favorite of mine all year long — here’s why:

Best of ’11: Beastie Boys

Beastie BoysThe Best Songs You (Maybe) Didn’t Hear 2011
Track 4: Beastie Boys, “Ok”

A little thing like cancer can’t stop Brooklyn’s finest. Though its release was delayed by a number of months while MCA battled salivary gland cancer, the Beastie Boys’ Hot Sauce Committee Part Two proved that they’re still a force to be reckoned with. After the minimalist hip-hop of To The 5 Boroughs and the instrumental detour The Mix-Up, Committee feels like a homecoming: the sound of the record is full and playful, equal parts Check Your Head and Hello Nasty, and the 3 MCs are still cheeky masters of their craft (“I thought I’d be smooth like a nice Nutter Butter”). There’s lots to love on Committee, but “Ok”‘s poppy electro-funk made it my instant favorite:

Best of ’11: The Black Keys

The Black KeysThe Best Songs You (Maybe) Didn’t Hear 2011
Track 3: The Black Keys, “Lonely Boy”

With their new album El Camino, I feel like the Black Keys have finally hit their stride. Every other release of theirs, including their relative breakout Brothers from 2010, has had just about one transcendent moment where their brand of riff-heavy blues was married to an undeniable hook, but the rest of the albums felt like blues-by-numbers filler. El Camino, however, is all killer & no filler, balls-to-the-wall boogie-woogie rocking from beginning to end, and lead single “Lonely Boy” is just about as perfect as a rock and/or roll song can be. It also features one of the best/weirdest music videos of all time:

“Lonely Boy” has Danger Mouse’s magic touch: much like his masterwork “Crazy,” the song is just long enough to rock your socks off, but is short enough to make you want to listen to it again right away.