The 50 Best Songs of 2011

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Every day between now and New Year’s Eve, we’ll be looking back at the best music and pop culture of 2011. Today we look at the best songs.

30. James Blake – “The Wilhelm Scream”
With a minimalist, bedroom-sound stroke, James Blake coolly covers his own father’s “Where to Turn.” The result is a haunting, sparse piece of downtempo music; icy robotic production wrapped around a muted but warm, soulful center.—Kyle Smith

29. Givers – “Up Up Up”
Dance-y with a Cajun twist, this is one of the most infectious songs of the year. So many indie-pop efforts fall short of a catchy refrain, but Givers do it damn well.—Adam Vitcavage

28. Wye Oak – “Holy Holy”
Jenn Wasner’s gnarled, messy guitar intro contrasts everything else in Wye Oak’s standout Civilian track, which includes reverb-heavy drums and dreamy, inspired melodies.—Tyler Kane

27. The Antlers – “Rolled Together”
The Antlers  followed up their heartrending 2009 masterpiece Hospice by trimming some of the overarching epicness and lightening up. But the dynamic post-rocker “Rolled Together” incorporates the best of both worlds.—Max Blau

26. My Morning Jacket – “Circuital”
All of My Morning Jacket’s albums have had at least one barn-burning epic, and it’s the title track of new album Circuital that once again delivers the goods. Driven by an airy, triumphant guitar pattern, “Circuital” beckons like an open road on a clear, sunny day.—John Barrett

25. The Head and The Heart – “Down In The Valley”
The Head and The Heart may be newcomers, but songs like “Down In The Valley” make the band feel more like an old friend. It’s one of the most downright listenable songs of the year.—Luke Larson

24. Those Darlins – “Be Your Bro”
An ode to gender relations for the ages, “Be Your Bro” features some irresistibly catchy hooks and cutting vocals delivered with the utmost sincerity. “I just wanna run and play in the dirt with you,” frontwoman Jessi Darlin explains. “You just wanna stick it in.”—Bonnie Stiernberg

23. Radiohead – “Lotus Flower”
You either love, hate or still can’t get over your indifference for The King of Limbs, but you can’t deny that “Lotus Flower” taught us that it’s fun to dance (or flail) like Thom Yorke. Tripping on In Rainbows and Kid A pills, the album’s first single sets you free, just as Radiohead promises to do in its lyrics. —Nicole Anegon

22. The Decemberists – “This Is Why We Fight”
The Decemberists  have always been great at lyrical metaphors, and with “This Is Why We Fight,” love becomes war. Even though there are losses, bloodshed and maiming, love is worth fighting for, regardless of the ultimate cost.—Ross Bonaime

21. Middle Brother – “Blue Eyes”
In “Blue Eyes”, the Middle Brother boys’ ode to a dream woman are dive-bar gritty and Whisky smooth. A wonderful bourbon-barrel-aged love song to make you pine for lost loves.—Sean Doyle

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