The Best Music of 2011
The year’s best b-sides, remixes, videos, and more!
The Best B-Sides or Bonus Tracks of 2011
Does what it says on the tin!
- “Silence” by Kylie Minogue: Kylie saved the best Aphrodite offcut for the last single release for this era (I guess!); this b-side to the “Put Your Hands Up” single, for me, tops her 2010 b-sides and bonuses. “Silence” is simple: a no-big-deal 4-on-the-floor beat peps along as a springy piano riff surfaces and goes underground throughout the song. But Kylie’s performance of the melody and delivery of inspired lyrics that play on the “silent” theme (“the best is what you haven’t heard”) crank up the volume on “Silence.”
- “The Only” by Lykke Li: Kicky garage-band pop that would have been a radio hit in 1966, yet sounds 2011 fresh.
- “Remain Nameless” by Florence + The Machine: It’s all about that creeping bass and insidious little synth arpeggio. Florence keeps things intense but doesn’t quite let it all hang out vocally – thus creating a mysterious, eerily restrained atmosphere.
- “No Bueno” by Nadia Oh: I thought the original Colours album was fun, but this bonus track ups the entertainment factor. It’s essentially a rework of “Taking Over The Dancefloor,” but it has a silly charm all its own. Bueno!
- “Pressed” by Jessica 6: Six minutes of nu-disco delights. This “White Horse” b-side is nice and laid-back, all bleeps, bloops, and warm, sweeping synths.
The 5 Best Remixes of 2011
There were tons of remixes this year, and this category honors the best of the best.
- “Mirrorage (Lindstrøm Remix)” by Glasser: Deliberate, methodical, and utterly hypnotic. I saw Glasser’s video for “Mirrorage” at the end of 2010 and checked out her debut from that year, Ring, in 2011. Turns out it’s one of my favorite 2010 albums… that I didn’t actually hear until 2011. “Mirrorage” is the incantation-like jewel of the album, and this remix by Lindstrøm Remix stretches it out for a blissful 7 and a half minutes. One heavy, locomotive-like beat throughout, as “Mirrorage” is played out in various mutations – sounds super-minimal, but each element is used to maximum effect.
- “Changed The Way You Kiss Me (Mensah Remix)” by Example: 55 seconds in. That’s when the remix travels to some kind of ridiculous level of nifty. That drop that knocks the air out of you is done a few times during the song’s 5 and a half minutes, but it never gets old. I love how this mix transforms the original dance-pop sound of the original track into something downright menacing.
- “Yoü and I (Mark Taylor Remix)” by Lady Gaga: Though I like the rejigged “We Will Rock You” stomp/handclap of the album version, this remix takes the track into a category of its own: electro honky-tonk. (Much, much better sounding than that might lead you to think!!)
- “Aphrodite (Denzal Park Remix)” by Kylie Minogue: The title track of Kylie’s 2010 masterwork was practically begging for a hands-in-the-air, super-synthesized victory lap of a remix. Denzal Park delivered. Like “Keep on Pumpin’ It (Astral Flight Mix)” refashioned for 2011. In other words: yes.
- “Scheiße (DJ White Shadow Mugler)” by Lady Gaga: Like “Mirrorage (Lindstrøm Remix)”, this nine and a half minute-long experience is kinda blissful. Fierceness in musical form.
The 3 Best Leaks (still unreleased) of 2011
Lots of stuff leaked this year, but only tracks that still remain unreleased are in the running for this category.
- The Dannii Minogue song leaks: Yay Dannii! With her music career apparently on hold for now, it was wonderful to hear some new old Dannii tunes this year. “Karma Is A Bitch” takes the cake for best title (and the song itself is cute), the aching “Weak” would sound incredible with a full orchestral backing, and “Fear Of Flying” and “Healing On The Dancefloor” would totally have fit right onto the gem-filled Unleashed tracklist. (Check out more info about these leaks at Diva Incarnate and Feed Limmy [posts 1 and 2]!)
- The Madonna song leaks: Like manna from heaven, Madonna tunes streamed onto the ‘net all year long… none through official means, but ah well. My picks of the lot? The instrumentals. SO MANY INSTRUMENTALS. In particular, the Music and American Life album instrumentals hit the right spot: it’s like listening to entirely new music, with details that I missed before popping up all over the place. Bring on all the Ray Of Light instrumentals for 2012!! (One can hope!)
- The Britney Spears song leaks: Lots of really interesting Britney song leaks showed up this year, from the beautiful ballad “Everyday” to the “La Isla Bonita”-sampling “Love 2 Love U.” Merry Britmas to all, and to all a good listen!
The Best Album Reissue(s) of 2011
Album(s) from the past, re-released for a 2011 audience!
The Queen album reissues (Batch 1, Batch 2, Batch 3): QUEEN! 2011 marked 40 years of Queen songs, and part of the celebrations included reissues of each of their studio albums plus bonus tracks. Their ’70s album bonuses, for me, were fascinating to hear, especially the BBC sessions and live performances. (I’m admittedly a stan for ’70s Queen. ’80s and Innuendo/Made In Heaven Queen are awesome too, of course, but there’s something about that “no synthesizers” sound that just speaks to me!)
The Best Compilation or Greatest Hits Album of 2011
I judged this category based on the quality of the songs and the cohesiveness of the album as a whole.
Mounqaliba – Rising: The Remixes by Natacha Atlas: Yessss, remixed Natacha Atlas! I adore her voice, but haven’t really gotten too into her work since 2006’s Mish Maoul. I guess I’m stuck on her electronic fusion sound. So! This collection of remixes of tracks from her 2010 album Mounqaliba was just the thing for me. Lusciously reworked songs like “Batkallim” and “Taalet” are reinvented with undulating, skittering, or simply pounding rhythms by big names like Cheb i Sabbah, Bombay Dub Orchestra, and Beats Antique.
The 3 Best Music Videos of 2011
Tons of music videos popped up this year – these were my favorites.
- “I Follow Rivers” by Lykke Li: Sleek, super-simple, striking. OK, so it’s just a sometimes-hooded Lykke Li chasing a dude through bleak, snow-covered terrain, but “I Follow Rivers” is quietly intense. When Lykke catches her guy at the end, showers him with concerned kisses, and gazes straight into the camera while cradling his head, you can’t really tell if her journey is over or if it’s just begun.
- “Shake It Out” by Florence + The Machine: Hazily regal, this ornate illustration of “Shake It Out” sticks with you.
- Nadia Oh’s 2011 music videos – “Taking Over The Dancefloor”; “Jump Out The Window”; “Amsterdam”; “Soopermodel”; “No Bueno”: She gon tek ur money; she’s a bad bitch; Nadia Oh is for the win, yo; she climbs on top of shit… in summary: fqn amazin.
The Best Artist of 2011
To be the Best Artist of 2011, the artist must have maintained a consistent level of fabulousness all year.
Kylie Minogue: Well duh! I saw this flawless human being in concert for the first time ever on April 30, 2011 at the Patriot Center in Virginia, during her Aphrodite Live 2011 North American tour. Like a dream come true, except I never even dreamed I’d see Kylie live because it wasn’t until 2009 that she graced our shores, and even then I just figured she’d never come near enough where I live (glamorous Maryland!). But lo! She came. And a dream-I-didn’t-dare-to-dream came true! I wrote a short review of the show shortly after seeing it (and loving it), and I’ll make sure to get that posted soon. But all that needs to be said, really, is that Kylie is an amazing, amazing, amazing entertainer (and singer! She needs more kudos for her voice).
And that’s it for 2011! Have a very Happy New Year, everybody! See you in 2012!! :)