To say that 2011 was a great year for music would be a huge understatement. I’ve never had a more difficult time narrowing down top albums, let alone top songs. Continuing in the tradition that brought the 3 Of The Week feature back as a regular column last January, the next few weeks will share my favorite songs from last year. Here’s to another fantastic year in 2012!
1. “Golden” – Farewell Fighter
Who would’ve thought that my favorite song of the year would come from an unsigned band I’d never heard of prior to 2011? While The Way We Learn, as a whole, is fantastic beyond description, this is the song that made me keep coming back to the EP to make it my most-listened-to collection of songs for the year (only one other song topped any of these). A chronicle of growth, optimism, and emotion, there is absolutely nothing I dislike about this track. The lyrics are personal but still have that perfect singalong quality, and the instrumentation is interesting and dynamic. My favorite line (aside from the singalong at the end) references a previous song: “Yeah, I still don’t have that cartridge, but I’m learning how to live in black and white.” The back-and-forth vocals fit the lyrics perfectly, and the interlude manages to make me actually like the way children’s voices sound. It’s a carefully constructed piece of work, and was easily the best song I listened to last year.
2. “The Feel Again (Stay)” – Blue October
Atmospheric, emotional, and dynamic. Those are the three adjectives that best describe this song. Featuring Justin Furstenfeld’s trademark intimate lyricism and vocal strength at their best, alongside one of the best string parts of the year, this is the song that made the rest of the album my biggest disappointment for the year by sheer comparison, and that was an album that made my top 20 in a phenomenal year for music. In the six months since hearing this song, I haven’t found anything more moving. I’m a pretty big fan of Blue October, and this track is the best thing they’ve ever released. If the rest of Any Man In America had fulfilled the promise of this song, it would have been an easy pick for my album of the year. Either way: this is the one you have to give some attention to.
3. “Mannequin” – The Summer Set
To be honest, I wasn’t expecting to like Everything’s Fine as much as I did. There was a youthful charm about the upbeat pop-punk (emphasis on the “pop”) of the band’s debut, but the sophomore release proved that The Summer Set is more than just some flavor-of-the-week girlfriend band. Well, maybe they’re still a girlfriend band, but they’re a damn good one, and they know how to craft a great song. On a record full of pop gems, “Mannequin” is the one that really stuck out on first listen, and really sticks out six months later. The string section adds a lot to the overall feel of the track, as vocalist Brian Dales sings a heartbreaking expression of emotion to an ex-girlfriend with lyrics that feature one of my favorite metaphors from any song this year. The drums in this song also set the mood perfectly. That said, as much as I love the denser sound of this song, I’d kill to hear an acoustic version sometime in the future.