Friday, November 25, 2011

Outtakes 2011: Expectations

It's Day One of the Tip of Your Tongue, Top of My Lungs year-end extravaganza!  100 Songs for 2011 will be available December 5.  Until then, we're taking a daily look at five good songs that didn't make the cut.  Today's theme:  Expectations.

When it comes to the "100 Songs" list, I never know what to do with my very favorite artists. Obviously, every year's list will include my favorite new tracks by The Hold Steady or The New Pornographers, but, to be honest, almost every song recorded by bands like that would number among my favorites of the year. That's why they're my favorite bands.

As consumers of the list, though, I doubt you really need to hear a sixth Los Campesinos! song. And I worry that, if you don't like my ninth-favorite Robyn song on the year, you might sour on her in general.

So I try to maintain a very strict standard when it comes to my desert island favorites. In fact, these five artists didn't make the list at all. Here are five tracks that are pretty good, but certainly not among the best these artists have produced. If you like them, even a little bit, please check out the rest of their respective catalogs.

Drive-By Truckers - "The Thanksgiving Filter"

Saw DBT at the Fillmore this year, and it was probably my favorite show of the several of theirs I've seen. The least engaging songs, though, were those taken from 2011's Go-Go Boots. "The Thanksgiving Filter" is my favorite track on the album, but it still pales in comparison to the dozens of classics they've written over the last fifteen years. Check out live shows like this one for a taste of the band at their best. "Marry Me" > "Let There Be Rock" > "Zip City" is as perfect an introduction to the band as you'll ever hear.

The Ark - "Breaking Up with God"

On the strength of brilliant albums like 2006's State of the Ark and 2007's Prayer for the Weekend, The Ark were one of the first Swedish bands I truly fell in love with. 2011's greatest-hits collection Arkeology is an excellent introduction to the band, but the one new song on the record, "Breaking Up With God," falls well short of the heights the band has scaled elsewhere. Check out "One of Us Is Gonna Die Young" or "Death to the Martyrs" instead.

Das Racist - "Michael Jackson"

I'm thrilled that Das Racist is getting all rich and famous off of 2011's Relax, but the best songs on the album wouldn't have cracked the top five on either of the free mixtapes the guys put out last year. Stream them here:

Ellie Goulding - "Lights"

I'm still not entirely sure where "Lights," the song, came from. As I understand it, Ellie's album, also called Lights, did not include this song upon its 2010 release. At some point, there was a 2011 re-release, which did include this song, as title track, first song, and lead single. It's just not on par with "Under the Sheets," "Starry Eyed," or "I'll Hold My Breath."

Mayer Hawthorne - "The Walk"

"Your Easy Lovin' Ain't Pleasin' Nothin'" is absolutely one of my favorite songs of the five years. I hate to say "It's too bad Mayer hasn't written anything nearly as good since then" because, really ... nobody has written anything as good since then. It's not an insult at all. Still, when you set the bar that high, it's hard for your fans to feel anything but a little disappointed.

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