This is the first of many times for both these artists on the list. Here the Weeknd provides his eerie tortured-party R&B before the beat drops and Drake laments.
McCombs brings another signature somber note in his trademark melancholy falsetto. One of my favorites from Wit’s End.
The first verse of this track more or less describes my life right now – realizing we are not unique snowflakes but small cogs in a machine we don’t know about yet. Simple, yet poignant.
From the maniacal laughter to the thumping stomp of that chorus to those wailing guitars, Joy Formidable claim the throne as the loudest new band of 2011.
146. YACHT – Dystopia
A play on an old R-rated cheerleader chant becomes a boogie-worthy ode to the end of the world. In typical Yacht fashion, it makes you wanna dance around the flames.
A standout track from the more mature, subtle, pop-influenced second album from this Austinite-turned-Brooklynite.
Carter breaks out the Autotune for a lover’s lament, a surprisingly strong R&B track on a disappointing rap album.
Perfect for a cold winter night during snowfall, this experimental hip-hop bedroom producer loops melodic moans, pops, and drowsy beats all in sweet cadence.
Jamie xx’s remix album of what was to be Scott-Heron’s last album is a moving tribute; “My Cloud” feels less like a remix and more like his ghost is singing to us.
141. Tom Waits – Chicago
Waits returns with another strong album – this opener starts things off by reminding us just how much we missed our favorite raspy barroom brawler.
Even this album track hidden deep within Zonoscope is an indicator of just how awesome Cut Copy’s new disc is.
They may be doing a 180 in 2012, but this year Cloud Nothings gave us simple, fun, smart lo-fi power pop. “Should Have” is a career highlight.
138. EMA – Breakfast
Past Life Martyred Saints tries a lot of different things, and delivers on pretty much all of them. This slow-crescendo multi-vocal track is simultaneously creepy and somber.
137. M83 – Intro
Zola Jesus lends vocals, but Anthony Gonzalez holds his own here, fervently screaming along to introduce us to his double-disc dreamscape.
If that trouble’s-coming instrumental break doesn’t give it away, this is trademark Weeknd, coaxing a young, drunk female at a party into an afterparty gangbang.
UMO sample Pointer Sisters for this unbelievably catchy singalong from their overlooked, upbeat debut.
Anyone who can get adult contemporary staple Michael Bolton to declare in his loudest croon, “This whole town’s a pussy waiting to get fucked” deserves recognition.
Stick around for the breakdown, when this song catapults from 80′s synth to an all-out funk-off between our two ambitious producers.
132. Wavves – Horse Shoes
Nathan Williams continues his reign of stoner punk champion, releasing an infectious falsetto-hooked one-off track.
This Colorado duo have been playing together for a long time, and in their debut LP they layer on echoes, drum loops, jangling guitars, and what sounds like a piano underwater.
For a Born Gold track, this one isn’t as chaotic….at first. Once the stammering vocals kick in, that jittering rhythm finds a weird dance-worthy pattern.
A quick slow jam from Annie Clark and her fantastic Strange Mercy, featuring a sliding, almost atonal guitar line in the chorus.
Adams tried to find his Heartbreaker roots, but mostly missed the mark this year. With the exception of this gorgeous track, which might be a career highlight for the prolific songwriter.
Our favorite Japanese folk-pop noodler returned this year with another strong album of melodies that would break any language or cultural barrier.
Pusha opens himself up to the full Kanye treatment, boasting a big hook and a little gloating. A sharp transition from his coke rap days in Clipse.
This Brooklyn group prepares for a follow-up album in 2012, and from the sound of this first track, they’ve discovered their inner pop music lover.
Two of 2010′s best new artists collide on this track about adhering to being used and abused by an unrequited love.
123. Foo Fighters – Rope
The first single from the Grammy-nominated Wasting Light; you’ve probably heard this one a million times, but let it serve as a reminder of the awesome comeback these guys made this year.
Another great track from this alt-country supergroup featuring members of Dawes, Deer Tick, and the Delta Spirit.
Khalifa’s breakout hit turned him into the next big stoner rapper overnight; bonus points for inspiring Lil Wayne to freestyle a Super Bowl version for his Packers, “Green and Yellow.”
Lifting lyrics from “Trust Issues,” Drake makes his verses shine alongside Ross’ grunts, Carter’s wit, and Khaled’s finest production work ever.
This Austin band delivers a more accessible version of that My Bloody Valentine reverb-heavy shoegaze – “Imagine Hearts” is a prime example of that sound and the group’s new album.
This hyped producer mixes 90′s era female vocals alongside heavy beats, circular synth lines and atmospheric layers of melody. Great stuff.
A one-off track from Bradford Cox that once again trumps anything he did with his more experimental project Atlas Sound in 2011.
The most abrasive, loud, in-your-face track from these newcomers yet. It might be a hint they have more to offer than what we’ve previously heard.
This awesome new duo has three tracks on the list this year – after seeing them at Fun Fun Fun, I highly anticipate a full-length in 2012, which will likely qualify another set of tracks for consideration.
Perhaps the most fun this crew has offered to date – bonus points for a hilarious video set in a music instrument shop.
Another band I must rave about that had a great show at Fun Fun Fun; “Don’t Let Her Go” is a strong track from an emerging garage rock quartet.
Dinosaur Jr.’s frontman gave us another great album of acoustic-based goodness this year; “Is It Done” is my personal favorite from the new disc.
Austin’s very own continues to turn heads with a spectacular live show and a new great album featuring this booty-shaking lead single. If there is such a place as Booty City, you can bet Lewis is the mayor.
Previously unreleased, this was to be the title track to the album that followed Warning; the master tapes, however, were stolen, and the band decided to start from scratch. They ended up creating a little album called American Idiot.
109. Primus – Moron TV
Les is playing lyrical catch-up since his primary band has been out of service for twelve years; finally we get to hear the inevitable commentary on reality television Claypool had likely been storing since Survivor premiered.
Teams and Star Slinger collaborated for an excellent EP – this track is a banger showcasing the strengths of the two projects. So dance, kids!
At first, it sounds like children playing in a meadow. Or perhaps they’re journeying through it. Either way, when the cymbals crash at the end, we know they were heading to the biggest rock show imaginable.
Another great up-and-coming electro-pop female vocalist. “Stay Away” is a great track that received accolades upon its Web release this summer.
105. Terius Nash – Ghetto
Nash might have had a mostly introspective mixtape drop this fall, but he always makes time to remind us that the ladies love him and his nonstop swagger.
104. MNDR – Cut Me Out
Yet another enjoyable Fun Fun Fun performance, and MNDR rocked it solo with a laptop and a lot of energy. Also looking forward to a full-length in 2012 from this one.
The only track on Audio, Video, Disco that comes even close to the glory days of Justice and their fist-pumping noisy-house first record.
The closing track of this Brooklyn band’s debut is a gradual crescendo led by pulsating drums and a mountain of vocals repeating the same line with increasing force.
These kids had a great year; not only is their latest LP fantastic, but they delivered a worthy EP as well. This is the brilliant title track to that EP, and one of the band’s best to date.