Here they are, looking just a little smug. My favorite songs of 2011, numbers 5 through 1.
Brett Dennen, “Comeback Kid”
This year Brett Dennen released his fourth album, the amusingly titled Loverboy. The album as a whole is great, but the immediate standouts to me were “Sydney (I’ll Come Running)” and “Comeback Kid.” They both featured sassy lyrics and a sing-along-worthy chorus. “Sydney” was my initial favorite, until “Comeback Kid” worked its way into my heart and stayed there. The lyrics are the perfect blend of cheeky and hopeful, and the tune is relentlessly upbeat. I defy you not to be singing “Na na na na na na / That’s my dog” by the end.
Meredith Fierke, “Train’s Song”
I had the pleasure of meeting Northfield, MN, native Meredith Fierke while doing a piece for my creative nonfiction class this spring. In the process of researching for the story, I bought her day album The Procession on iTunes. The assignment eventually ended, but my appreciation for her music did not. “Train’s Song” is one of her best, and it also happens to be the only one posted on YouTube. My other favorites are “Make You Real” and “Backyard.” They’re the kind of songs that demand a second listen.
The Temper Trap, “Sweet Disposition”
On top of being one of my favorite movies in recent years, (500) Days of Summer brought some excellent music into my life. Most excellent of all is “Sweet Disposition.” I love the way it builds momentum. I love the way it never lets up until the final seconds. Once you get to the point of understanding the lyrics, you will find them subtly romantic and equally hypnotizing.
Lady Gaga, “You And I”
Forget the absurd music video. Forget that horrible radio edit with “Minnesota” dubbed in over “Nebraska.” The album version is Lady Gaga at her piano chanteuse best. It must be said that piano chanteuse is my favorite Lady Gaga persona. I have the entire Born This Way album, and while most of the songs took time to grow on me, “You And I” was a favorite from the start. It cannot be denied that the woman has pipes. It gives me some serious karaoke urges, but I know I wouldn’t be able to pull it off.
Josh Ritter, “Kathleen”
Score one for Carleton a cappella groups. I first heard this song at an Exit 69 concert, and I was nothing short of smitten. Can you be smitten with a song? I proceeded to listen to it more than any other song this year, so I’m saying yes. It’s musically compelling, but the lyrics are what truly sets it apart. Even before my English major days, lyrics were an important part of my listening experience. “Every heart is a package tangled up in knots someone else tied,” he sings. It doesn’t get much more beautiful than that.