NPR logo The Current's Surprise Hits Of 2011

The Current's Surprise Hits Of 2011

Dawes, seen here performing at the Newport Folk Festival, had one of The Current's most popular songs of the year in "A Little Bit of Everything." Shantel Mitchell for NPR hide caption

toggle caption Shantel Mitchell for NPR

Dawes, seen here performing at the Newport Folk Festival, had one of The Current's most popular songs of the year in "A Little Bit of Everything."

Shantel Mitchell for NPR

This year has been flooded with crossover pop successes. Records like Adele's 21 and Foster the People's Torches have long had "smash success" written all over them, and with good reason — they're great records. But what may be of more interest, at least to some, are the hits that weren't preordained.

At The Current, a ton of the music we play resonates with our music team, our hosts and our audience. But these five songs came seemingly out of nowhere to capture a special place in our hearts and playlist.

The Current's Surprise Hits Of 2011

Phantogram, "Don't Move"

  • from Nightlife

The upstate New York duo Phantogram made waves with its 2009 album Eyelid Movies. But it was the seductive and slow-burning electro-pop of "Don't Move," a single from the band's 2011 EP Nightlife, that became Phantogram's defining moment to date — and one of the year's most intriguing songs. Sarah Barthel's alluring and ethereal vocal is what clinches the track's appeal, but the shape-shifting beats rumbling beneath are equally amazing.

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Song
Nightlife
Album
Nightlife
Artist
Phantogram
Label
Barsuk
Released
2011

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Dawes, "A Little Bit Of Everything"

  • from Nothing Is Wrong

We've always liked Dawes, both for its genuine take on American roots music and its general likability and connection with fans. But the 2011 album Nothing Is Wrong sent listeners into a frenzy. The Twin Cities area has reacted in a particularly warm way, selling out multiple appearances by the band and otherwise cementing Dawes' popularity both in the Midwest and abroad.

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Song
Nothing Is Wrong
Album
Nothing Is Wrong
Artist
Dawes
Label
Loose
Released
2011

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Polica, "Wandering Star"

  • from Live on 89.3 The Current

The Minneapolis quartet Poliça has such a massive following — and exudes such confidence and poise, such personality and originality — that you'd scarcely be able to tell from listening to the band that it didn't exist six months ago. Part of that is Poliça's background: It includes members of Minneapolis outfits like Vampire Hands and Roma di Luna. Poliça's debut album, Give You the Ghost (which was recently given an early digital release as a surprise holiday gift to the group's fans), is colored by a mysterious quality that's hard to pin down, but marks the band as one of rock's most fascinating new acts. "Wandering Star" has this X-factor in spades, and provides a superb introduction to a great new band.

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Howler, "Told You Once"

  • from America Give Up

This local band burst onto the scene without much of an introduction. "I Told You Once" subsequently explained Howler's surge in popularity, and had representatives from Rough Trade Records flying out to Minneapolis to see the young group perform live. Howler's take on the classic surf-rock sound has led to its appearance on many "Next Big Thing" lists.

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Song
America Give Up
Album
America Give Up
Artist
Howler
Label
Rough Trade
Released
2012

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Gotye, "Someone That I Used To Know"

  • from Making Mirrors

At the beginning of 2011, 31-year-old multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Wouter de Backer — known to the public as Gotye — was little-known outside of his home country of Australia and hadn't released an album in five years. But since releasing his third full-length record, Making Mirrors, in August, he's made a huge splash. At the heart of this flurry of buzz is "Somebody that I Used to Know," featuring New Zealand singer Kimbra. The song's infectious melody and yearning words were inescapable on The Current's airwaves in the latter half of this year, and with good reason.

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Song
Making Mirrors
Album
Making Mirrors
Artist
Gotye
Released
2011

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