Jen Stratosphere Fanzine’s Top 10 Songs of 2011

This was originally going to be a Top 3 list, but I couldn’t resist doing a Top 10 instead.  Too much joy to spread around this year!

Illustration Credit: Leslie Dallion

10.  Meringue & Malice – “Christmas Covered in Candy”

Leslie Dallion and Ryan Breegle, formerly the duo The Loligags (on Happy Happy Birthday To Me Records out of Athens, Georgia), are back as Meringue & Malice, creating delightfully original, and pastiche, jingles and crafting videos from old-timey found footage.  Just in time for the holidays Leslie and Ryan offer this sweet treat filled with Leslie’s deliciously fine ‘n’ dandy vocals.  A Christmas covered in candy is every kid’s (and kid-at-heart’s) dream and it comes true in aural form on this full-blown piece of ear candy that will stick for a good long while…

Official Video:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q8d7cdRqZ2U&feature=g-all

Official Site:  http://meringueandmalice.bandcamp.com/

 

9.  Jane Hunt – “Vasene”

The EP that this song originates from is titled Violin Venus and it’s an apt description for Jane Hunt, who was trained as a classical violinist, and this lead-off track.  The rapturous “Vasene” sweeps up and away with exquisite violin crescendos that will leave the listener misty-eyed.  Ethereal female vocals sung in a foreign language mix with tantalizing violins, electronics, and a kicky beat, leaving the listener in elated thrall by the end of the song.

Soundcloud: http://soundcloud.com/search?q%5Bfulltext%5D=jane+hunt+vasene

 

8.  Thursday – “Fast To The End”

Thursday sadly broke up just this past November, but the band members end on a high note with their sixth and last studio album No Devolucion.  On this lead-off track the NJ-based band meld its signature post-hardcore, screamo sound with “dreamo” vocals from frontman Geoff Rickly.  His airy vocals float gently, but forlornly over cycles of rapid-fire beats and distorted guitar turbulence.  Even when Geoff and bandmates Tom Keeley, Steve Pedulla, Tim Payne, Tucker Rule, and Andrew Everding, experimented with their original sound, they stayed true to the end – in the connection to their fans, and in their ideas and ideals conveyed by Geoff’s vivid lyrics, band member interviews, and causes they support.  Thursday will be greatly missed…

Unofficial audio at YouTube:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aU-mmX5vFk8

Link to Official Thank You (and goodbye) statement from Thursday:  http://thursday.net/thank-you

 

7.  Steve Kilbey & Martin Kennedy – “Close”

Steve Kilbey of The Church and Martin Kennedy of All India Radio have collaborated again on a captivating second album titled White Magic.  The covertly sinister “Close”, off of said album, features brushed drums and cymbal shimmer that mingle and dissolve like mist under the blazing sun. An unhurried beat, sparse, Western guitar reverb, acoustic guitar strum, and muted keyboards crop up like sagebrush, punctuating the assuredly foreboding tone of the song.

Steve delivers the stark, laconic lyrics of “I hide in the dark…” and “I’m close… / getting closer…” in a sinuous, insinuating sing-talking hush. Does Steve want a love connection or some other type of pleasant interaction? No. The cold, hard fact is that he doesn’t want any of those distractions. He’s “…gonna need revenge…”

Official Video at YouTube:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RShpdFuaPow

 

6.  The Boxing Lesson – “Muerta”

“Muerta” is a grand, deliberately-paced, slow-building dirge awash with bluesy slide guitar lines, deep, solemn organ notes, and tense, pained vocals from lead vocalist Paul Waclawsky. Paul’s lamenting vocals arc upwards in airy anguish, as he strings out the words “…waiting to die.”, backed by Jaylinn Davidson’s sweeter-toned vocals. Fomenting guitar licks follow, supported by crests of brighter synth notes and rolling waves of organ. The finale features jags of searing rock guitar and elevating swells of organ notes that create an expansive and uplifting atmosphere.

Official Video at Vimeo:  http://vimeo.com/25685206

 

5.  Lana Del Rey – “Video Games”

Lana Del Rey skyrocketed into popular culture based on her video for “Video Games”, and subsequently has had to endure the hype (over 9 million views on YouTube) and the backlash against her mysterious musical past under her given name Lizzy Grant (an EP was released in 2009 and a debut album was “withdrawn” soon after).

Putting all that info aside, Lana’s music and vocals stand tall on their own and she brings a breath of fresh air to her retro-glam styled tunes.  “Video Games” is a confessional number full of longing and heartache.  A vintage-sounding Lana lingers languidly over her lyrics of “It’s all for you / – everything I do.”, drawing them out with a pensive, lilting introspection and womanly allure.

Official Video at YouTube:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HO1OV5B_JDw

 

4.  Lana Del Rey – “Blue Jeans”

While “Video Games” is drawing all the accolades, fire, and views on YouTube, “Blue Jeans” is just as noteworthy, if not more so, since it showcases Lana’s self-described “gangsta Nancy Sinatra” style with a mash-up of edgy, short-phrase lyrics on the verses and a sentimental romanticism on the chorus sections.  The “Video Games”/”Blue Jeans” single is out now and the highly anticipated debut album from “Lana Del Rey” drops January 31st, 2012 on Interscope Records.

Official Video at YouTube:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8t-I-Lqy06g

 

3.  Princess Chelsea – “The Cigarette Duet”

It’s hard to quit this addictive pop duet sung by New Zealander Princess Chelsea and guest vocalist Jonathan Bree of The Brunettes.  Princess Chelsea and Jonathan’s melodic sing-song refrains give off a nursery rhyme vibe as ebullient music box-like synth notes mingle with the occasional deeper cut of Western guitar reverb.

The innocent nature of the sonics is contrasted by “real world” lyrical content which pits a couple against each other.  One is a smoker, played by Princess Chelsea, who is disinterested in the dangers of smoking and sing-talks sweetly, but dismissively “It’s just a cigarette / and it cannot be that bad.”  Her other half, portrayed by Jonathan, is quick to rejoin in a richly nonchalant voice that “It’s just a cigarette / and it harms your pretty lungs.”  Who will win the fight?

Official Video at YouTube:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4TV_128Fz2g

 

2.  The Twilight Singers – “Waves”

“Waves”, off of Dynamite Steps, the latest album from Greg Dulli and company, releases a furious onslaught, both aurally and lyrically.  The song seethes unrelentingly with a dissonant, tightly wound turmoil of aggressive guitar distortion and Greg’s gritty, vehement proclamations.  Pieces of menacing lyrics like “What you foresee is what you’ll get.” and “…shattered beyond repair…” surface from the depths as an impassioned Greg fights against, but is ultimately carried away by the savagely thrashing sonic waves.

Official link to song at Soundcloud:  http://soundcloud.com/twilight-singers/03-waves

 

1.  mr. Gnome – “Capsize”

It was a toss-up whether to include this song or “We Sing Electric” by mr. Gnome, but despite the Queens Of The Stone Age spirit of “We Sing Electric”, the edge goes to album-ender “Capsize” because it blazes from the start and never lets up.  Nicole’s anxiously tense, exclaimed vocals are echoed and layered, producing a disorienting atmosphere to the tune.  Guitars and drums accelerate at a furiously blistering pace, creating a fine frenzy of controlled chaos that builds up (or burns down?) in an exhilarating, cathartic sonic assault

Official link to song at Soundcloud:  http://soundcloud.com/mrgnome/capsize