25. Bon Iver- Holocene
I know, I know… why is one of the biggest critical and commercial indie success stories of 2011 just barely getting a mention? It’s weird for me. Bon Iver’s debut effort, “For Emma, Forever Ago” touched people (including myself) in a way few albums do- the sheer intimacy, meticulously layered vocal harmonies and incredible backstory had me completely obsessed in 2008. For me, when I personally invest so much into an album- it doesn’t matter how good or bad the next album is- it just doesn’t feel as special. The National’s “High Violet” is probably every bit as good as “Boxer”, but the latter holds a special place in my heart that the former will never be able to touch. The same happened this year with Bon Iver and Fleet Foxes. I know it’s lazy to just pick the song that… oh, just got nominated for record and song of the year at the Grammys, (no big deal, really) but it looks as if Bon Iver will soon be a household name.
24. Penguin Prison- Don’t Fuck with My Money
An attention grabbing title I first heard on XM radio, I’m surprised the blogosphere and hipsterazzi hasn’t jumped on this group a bit more. It seems that 80’s throwback synth-pop in the indie world is dime a dozen these days, but there’s something special about this song. As I found out watching the music video, the song takes on a new meaning with referencing the Occupy Wall Street movement. Not sure if that was the original intent for the song or if it was an opportunistic move, but it does make perfect sense. They did fuck with our money after all.
23. J. Cole f/ Drake- In the Morning
I was almost convinced that J. Cole wasn’t going to happen. After endless industry hype, deafening mixtape buzz, and countless promotional singles, none of the singles seemed to gain any traction. It wasn’t until last month that Cole scored his first top 40 hit on his own with “Work Out”. “In the Morning” was supposed to be the hit to break him- a delicate, definitely Drake inspired rap ballad about, well, hitting it in the morning. The beat is irresistible after a few listens, great bars by Drake and J. Cole alike- what else is there to say? It truly shows testament to how Kanye West’s introspective soul-searching style of rap has influenced a new generation of lyricists that aren’t afraid to wear their hearts on their sleeve.
22. Wiz Khalifa- The Race
I dare you to find a better beat than this. An album track off of America’s favorite new stoner, “The Race” doesn’t exactly cover new territory for the newly famous rapper, but the song just works so well. It’s been a banner year for the “Black and Yellow” lyricist, but it genuinely puzzles me as to why this wasn’t released as a single while the painfully average “Roll Up” was. “The Race” is a relatively formulaic track that is buoyed to greatness via its beat alone. Someone give producer I.D. Labs a raise.
21. Girls- Saying I Love You
Timelessness in music is an ultimate virtue. Lo-fi indie band Girls released their first album (appropriately titled “Album”) to critical adoration in 2009, but their sound was a bit too… well, lo-fi and muddled for me to sincerely love the release despite effort. They cleaned up their sound on their sophomore effort, “Father, Son, Holy Ghost”, an album that gives 2011 the middle finger and devotes itself classic 60’s and 70’s rock music. “Saying I Love You” hasn’t received the most attention off the album from critics, but I could honestly see the track being sandwiched in on The Beatles’ folk-rock influenced “Rubber Soul”. In every form of media, if I hear something composed today that could have been released any time over the past 40 years, you’ve won me over.