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Leesville Daily Leader - Leesville, LA
  • 21 stellar songs for your 2011 collection

  • About all these songs have in common is that, with a few exceptions, you probably didn’t hear many of them on the radio this year. But they’ll sound great coming from your iPod.

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  • About all these songs have in common is that, with a few exceptions, you probably didn’t hear many of them on the radio this year. But they’ll sound great coming from your iPod.
    1) “It Doesn’t Mean a Thing,” Airborne Toxic Event. The group retains its chipper yet punky nihilism on this standout track.
    2) “Culture War,” Arcade Fire. This moody outtake from their Grammy-wining “The Suburbs” album makes you wonder what other treasures are in their vaults.
    3) “Mama I’m Leaving,” Ariel Rubin. Percussion-driven folk stomp from the Boston singer’s auspicious debut EP “Big Spoon.”
    4) “Sometimes,” The Bandana Splits. Retro, poppy girl-group fun with harmonies to spare.
    5) “Prelude/The Sound of Music,” Brooklyn Rundfunk Orchestra. The group’s rock revisionist version of the songs from “The Sound of Music” was a hoot, no more so than on the lick-heavy title track.
    6) “Doris from Rego Park,” Don Rosler. A real-life sports radio caller becomes a character in Rosler’s melancholy ode to loneliness.
    7) “Peg O’ My Heart,” Dropkick Murphys. Irish beats, gravelly yelps, jangling guitars and Bruce Springteen — what more could you need?
    8) “Candlemaker Row,” Daniel Isaiah. Dylan’s spirit is all over Isaiah’s wild, literate paean to life’s fleeting moments, a standout from his ambitious “High Twilight” album.
    9) “The Road,” Emmylou Harris. Harris pays tribute to early collaborator and alt-country pioneer gone too soon Gram Parsons, her aching voice somehow more beautiful than ever.
    10) “The Hard Sell,” Gumbo Diablo. A driving Zydeco duet that manages to encapsulate the Boston group’s Bayou spunk — and there’s a lot of it.
    11) “Another Like You,” Hayes Carll. Carll’s caustic duet with Cary Ann Hearst is the funniest song of the year, and recalls Johnny Cash and June Carter at their most endearing.
    12) “Sounds Like Hallelujah,” The Head and the Heart. The group’s trademark harmonies, strings and acoustic hopefulness are fully present on this highlight from the remastered version of their self-titled debut.
    13) “Go Tell Everybody,” The Horrible Crowes. A driving meditation on sympathy, sin and mortality. Best played loud.
    14) “Galahad,” Josh Ritter. A classic Ritter story-song from his “To Yet the Unknowing World” EP, this tale of a knight and an angel is in turns funny, biting and irreverent. (And not a little bit sacrilegious.)
    15) “Show Me The Place,” Leonard Cohen. Haunting and elegiac, it sounds like Cohen is back with a vengeance — his “Old Ideas,” coming in January, should be a highlight of 2012.
    16) “I Am Useful,” Let’s Wrestle. On this Mersey beat bopper, singer Wesley Patrick Gonzalez reconciles to “put an English face” on his romantic abandonment. Wry and winning, like the group itself.
    Page 2 of 2 - 17) “No Simple Machine,” Old 97’s. Exemplary wordplay and a laconic alt-country vibe make this one a keeper, one of many on the group’s latest.
    18) “Oh My Heart,” R.E.M. Lilting and poignant, it’s proof positive the boys had more left in them when they called it quits this year.
    19) “Freak Out,” Tapes ’n Tapes. Great band name, a great vocalist in Josh Grier and a great indie-rock beat combine in one of the year’s standout songs.
    20) “Marathon,” Tennis. Sumptuous, finger-snapping, echo-ey surf-pop — Alaina Moore makes you want to sail away with her.
    21) “Thunder On the Mountain,” Wanda Jackson. On Jackson’s raucous cover of Dylan’s latter-day rockabilly stomper, boogie woogie piano, screeching Jack White guitar and dynamic horns all take a back seat to the leading lady’s husky vocals. At 73, she’s never been better.
    Peter Chianca writes for the Gatehouse Media blog Blogness on the Edge of Town. Email him at pchianca@wickedlocal.com.

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