1. “Take a Dive” – By Day By Night. Big, friendly synth-pop that’s a mix between M83 dusky drama and Chad Valley exuberance.
2. “You’ve Got Somethin‘” – Air Bag One. I don’t know if it’s just my vantage point, but it seems like we’ve moved from big synth-centric ’80s jams to big vocal-centric ’80s jams. If so, Air Bag One is on point with this tune.
3. “Time (feat. La Petite Rouge)” – Haring. Wavering chillwave synths create a blissful mood before a neat and tidy beat comes in to give the song motion and structure. It grows from there, without ever overwhelming the initial mood. Beautiful.
4. “A Berry Bursts” – Twin Hidden. This enthusiastic, difficult-to-classify track sits somewhere between gentle indie-pop, low-key electro, and Tokyo Police Club’s giddy pop-rock attack. It’s way fun, whatever it is.
5. “Kangarang” – Casual Strangers. This psych-rock tune explores the more ambient, experimental, almost electronic vibes of the genre–eschewing huge guitars for a deep groove, this song is a burbling, thoughtful instrumental jam.
6. “Start Again (ft. Amy)” – Stefansson. I can’t resist an EDM song that is tasteful and restrained with the more stereotypically brash audio elements of the genre.
7. “Lackluster No.” – Nova Heart. A stark, sparse landscape gives way to an elegant, pristine, magnetic body of the song. It fuses electronic elements and live bass in a surprising way. It grabbed me and wouldn’t let go.
8. “World Government” – Heptagon Heaven. Do you need six minutes of arpeggiated synths, great sound washes, and general “cool” vibe? Of course you do.
9. “Indian Summer” – Jai Wolf. The stuttering optimism of Gold Panda fused to ODESZA’s artsy, high ideals post-dub makes for a deeply impressive track.
I’ve rarely been on-the-ball enough to get my year end lists done by December 31, but this year I made a concerted effort to have all my 2011 reviewing done early. As a result, I was able to put together not just a top 20 albums list, but a top 50 songs mixtape and a top 11 songs list. Here’s the mixtape, organized generally from fast’n’loud to slow’quiet. Hear all of the songs at their links, with one exception of a purchase link (#27). The other lists will come over the next few days.
I’ve been training for a half-marathon since August, and I now only have two more training runs before the 13.1 miles of something-vaguely-akin-to-glory transpire. My interest in running music has been directly proportional to the increasing length of the runs, which is one of the reasons IC readers are treated to the RunHundred top ten list every month. I haven’t jumped into the continuous mix boat yet, but Kitsuné Maison’s 12th compilation The Good Fun Edition is pretty close to one.
Kitsuné is an interesting story in itself: it’s a record label, music magazine and fashion store all at once, in addition to putting out compilations of electronic/dance music. The label roster boasts the excellent Two Door Cinema Club, as well as IC new faves Is Tropical. (Neither appear on this particular compilation, sadly.)
But plenty of other great tunes fill out the fifteen-track compilation: “Goose” by The Cast of Cheers takes a profoundly post-punk angle on dance music, providing a Bloc Party-esque indie rock extreme to the compilation. “Record Collection 2012 (Plastic Plates Remix)” by Mark Ronson and the Business Intl. and “Let’s Work” by White Shadow form the extreme end of the dance spectrum, as both are essentially clubby beats and melodies with minimal lyrics (and song structure) provided.
Tons of different angles on dance music fall in between those, like the Phoenix-goes-house genre mashup that is “Excuse Me” by Lemaitre (easily the most infectious track on the comp, as well as the most baffling). “Zimbabwe” by New Navy is all up in that post-disco/hipster-world-music groove. MuteMath is checking its discography to make sure it didn’t write “Closet Anonymous” by Man Without Country. There’s plenty of ’80s-inspired stuff, if you’re into that—although none of it reaches the transcendence of Chad Valley’s work.
If a good compilation is supposed to sound like a radio station that you don’t want to change, Kitsuné’s The Good Fun Edition is working exactly as it should. I expect nothing less from the compilation series that helped launch Icona Pop, although I don’t hear anything as immediately arresting as that find on this version. Still, the overall effect of the comp is impressive; you could leave this in your car and spin it for a long time without getting bored. And “Excuse Me” will most likely never get boring.
As computers go, so does electronic pop. In the ’80s, electro-pop was this magnificent other (and if you’re Chad Valley, it! still! is!!!). As computers became more ubiquitous, electronic pop did as well; The Postal Service’s Give Up triggered pop culture’s awareness that electronic pop could be gentle. Now we’ve come all the way to The Shoes, whose song “Wastin’ Time” makes electronic pop sound downright organic by integrating it seamlessly into “real” sounds. And I do mean seamlessly.
The video, on the other hand, is a throwback to an era when film meant something. The cinematographic style, story, camera angles and immense attention to detail all point to a time before disposable YouTube vids. (It’s telling that this is hosted on Vimeo and not YouTube, but that’s another post.) The attention to craft and the perfection with which the visuals match the feel of the song make this music video my favorite of the year so far, barely edging out Brianna Gaither’s “Find You.” It’s a bit unfair competition, however: Director Yoann Lemoine‘s recent work also includes videos for Katy Perry and Taylor Swift.
Just like IC puts out its year-end best-of list in February, my half-year best-of doesn’t hit until August. This list includes the music I covered while at the Oklahoma Gazette.
If you would like to see this list visually, I’ve created an Independent Clauses Pinterest page that also includes the best artwork that’s crossed IC’s path in 2011 and a list of best books about pop music.
16. Chad Valley – Equatorial Ultravox. ’80s dance-pop revivalism that captures both the playful nonchalance and wistful romanticism of the first disposable music era.