What Pitchfork’s Top 10 Songs of 2011 Say About Us


It’s that time of year again, when everyone from New Yorker critics to mp3 bloggers who barely write a single sentence about the songs they post embark upon that great equalizer: the best-of list. This week, Pitchfork has revealed its writers’ 100 favorite tracks of 2011, and as usual, it provides some subliminal insight into where young, indie types’ (we’ll do everyone the favor of not using that word) heads have been over the past 12 months. Indulge us in our overanalysis of what the site’s top 10 songs of the year say about us, after the jump.

10. DJ Khaled ft. Drake, Rick Ross, and Lil Wayne — “I’m on One”

We wanted two things out of mainstream hip-hop this year: jarring, unexpected beats and the kind of self-flagellating decadence that only Drake (and his pal The Weeknd) could bring. We think this ties into a general sense of depression that seemed to be an overarching theme in the music most of us embraced this year. Also, we all loved the video because we all missed Four Loko. Bad.

9. Azealia Banks — “212”

If “I’m on One” represented the musical present, Azealia Banks is its future. In a year that brought us the confounding viral success of Kreayshawn, we’re clearly hungry for women in hip-hop. But Harlem’s own Banks, who topped NME‘s 2011 Cool List and had been an under-the-radar critical favorite for a few months before that, is far more likely to sustain the momentum for long enough to release a great album. Mark our words: 2012 will be the year of the smart, funny woman emcee.

8. Cass McCombs — “County Line”

We want the wilderness. And escape. And peace. And quiet. And not the same city grind every day. Many of us are secretly considering a retreat to the kind of place that inspires a song like this one — or at least a roadtrip like the one in the video.

7. Beyoncé — “Countdown”

We still love you, B. Even when you make an album without a “Single Ladies” or a “Crazy in Love” on it, we can’t resist your down-to-earth diva persona and your adorable dance videos. And we’re excited for your baby, too.

6. Destroyer — “Kaputt”

Late at night, in our most whispery, doubtful moments, we are nostalgic for a time we don’t even remember. We’re not sure whether it’s the ’70s or the ’80s or the ’90s, but we know it’s here, in this Destroyer song.

5. Real Estate — “It’s Real”

Here’s some more nostalgia, but it’s happier nostalgia. While “Kaputt” might have been about our longing for the excess of the past, we love “It’s Real” because we’re wistful for the wholesome days of childhood. Those soft-rock “whoa-ho-ho”s and the adorable-dog-filled ’80s sitcom-style video are no accident.

4. Nicki Minaj — “Super Bass”

This time last year, we weren’t sure about Nicki Minaj. But we have come around to her in 2011, largely because she was the one pop star who gave us a big, banging anthem that was just pure joy from beginning to end. With so much sad music around, even the most hard-hearted haters had to relent in the face of 2011’s very own dance-floor “Whatta Man.”

3. EMA — “California”

The “fuck you” wasn’t just for California — we could freely apply it to whatever was overrated and upsetting in our own lives, and thus through EMA’s song find some catharsis. The rest of “California” functions the same way: We might not get all the quotes and references or know all the names from Erika M. Anderson’s own life, but the tension between all that’s on her mind and the release she’s looking for can’t help but resonate at a time when so many of us are aimless and confused. It’s even there in the exploding percussion.

2. Bon Iver — “Holocene”

We’re still impressed by that somber, serene guy-in-the-woods with a funny voice routine, even when we know that the musician behind it is partying with Kanye West. Incidentally, this is why you still see so many beards around.

1. M83 — “Midnight City”

Nothing will ever beat a dramatic, hooky showstopper that also makes us feel kind of smart and satisfies our need to broadcast our good taste. “Midnight City,” like most of M83’s catalogue, is cultural capital you can dance to.