NPR logo Bob Boilen's Favorite Songs Of The Year

Best Music Of 2011

Bob Boilen's Favorite Songs Of The Year

"Abducted" by Cults
Courtesy of the artist

Every year, All Songs Considered producer Robin Hilton and I have a discussion that goes something like this:

Bob: "Instead of a list of a list of our favorite albums, I think we ought to do a list of favorite songs this year."

Robin: "Everyone wants an albums of the year list. How could we not do a list of albums of the year?"

Bob: "But we're a show about songs!"

And then the conversation spins out of control, and in the end, Robin wins.

But this year, Robin's on paternity leave, so in addition to our list of listeners' picks for the albums of 2011 and our personal lists of favorite albums from Ann Powers, Stephen Thompson and myself, I've put together a list of my favorite songs of the year! Ah, I feel so much better now.

It happens every December: music that was important to my year gets left out. For example, I listened to so many songs from Cults' debut album — I didn't love every song, but I adored "Abducted." When that song kicks in, it's perfect. And how about Delicate Steve's "Butterfly?" It's an instrumental that's catchy and unique, and it was so good to hear a guitar up front like that. "Halfway," by Milagres, is one producer Phil Spector would have been proud to make. (Now that I think of it, he'd have loved Cults, too.) And, while not every song on James Blake's record knocked me out, I have to mention it: Blake has a unique sound, and he's also fabulous in concert (see my list of favorite live shows here).

It was hard to leave St. Vincent's Strange Mercy off my favorite albums list, but it may have missed the cut simply because "Chloe in the Afternoon" drove me up a wall. But the album also offered up many contenders for this list of my favorite songs, with "Northern Lights" leading the pack. M83 made a brilliant record, Hurry Up, We're Dreaming — it may have been my big mistake to not include it on my list of favorite albums. The endearing "Raconte-Moi Une Histoire" stood out for me over other worthy songs, including the earworm "Midnight City." Then there was glory to be found in so much uplifting music this year — bands seemed to get bigger and bigger. Typhoon exemplified that for me: A lot of songs this year took a slow-burn approach, building to an effervescent climax, and "The Honest Truth" is a good example.

So many good songs from 2011. My 20 favorites are below, and you can find 100 picks from the entire NPR Music team here. What were your favorites?

Bob Boilen's Favorite Songs Of The Year

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1. Cults, "Abducted"

  • from Cults
  • by Cults

Abducted

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Song
Cults
Album
Cults
Artist
Cults
Label
Columbia
Released
2011

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You Yes You

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2. tUnE-yArDs, "You Yes You"

  • from w h o k i l l
  • by tUnE-yArDs

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w h o k i l l
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w h o k i l l
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tUnE-yArDs
Label
4AD
Released
2011

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Bubble

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3. King Creosote & Jon Hopkins, "Bubble"

  • from Diamond Mine
  • by King Creosote & Jon Hopkins

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Song
Diamond Mine
Album
Diamond Mine
Artist
King Creosote & Jon Hopkins
Label
Domino Records
Released
2011

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Art of Almost

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4. Wilco, "Art of Almost"

  • from Whole Love
  • by Wilco

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Whole Love
Album
Whole Love
Artist
Wilco
Label
dBpm / Anti
Released
2011

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Someone Like You

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5. Adele, "Someone Like You"

  • from 21
  • by Adele

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21
Album
21
Artist
Adele
Label
Columbia
Released
2011

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Expect

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6. Balam Acab, "Expect"

  • from Wander / Wonder
  • by Balam Acab

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Wander / Wonder
Album
Wander / Wonder
Artist
Balam Acab
Label
Tri Angle Records
Released
2011

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Lotus Flower

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7. Radiohead, "Lotus Flower"

  • from The King Of Limbs
  • by Radiohead

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The King Of Limbs
Album
The King Of Limbs
Artist
Radiohead
Label
TBD Records
Released
2011

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My Time

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8. Caveman, "My Time"

  • from Coco Beware
  • by Caveman

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Coco Beware
Album
Coco Beware
Artist
Caveman
Label
Original Recordings Group
Released
2011

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Calgary

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9. Bon Iver, "Calgary"

  • from Bon Iver
  • by Bon Iver

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Bon Iver
Album
Bon Iver
Artist
Bon Iver
Label
Jagjaguwar
Released
2011

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Butterfly

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10. Delicate Steve, "Butterfly"

  • from Wondervisions
  • by Delicate Steve
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East Harlem

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11. Beirut, "East Harlem"

  • from The Rip Tide
  • by Beirut

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The Rip Tide
Album
The Rip Tide
Artist
Beirut
Label
Pompeii
Released
2011

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Halfway

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12. Milagres, "Halfway"

  • from Glowing Mouth
  • by Milagres

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Song
Glowing Mouth
Album
Glowing Mouth
Artist
Milagres
Label
Kill Rock Stars
Released
2011

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Desire

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13. Anna Calvi, "Desire"

  • from Anna Calvi
  • by Anna Calvi

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Anna Calvi
Album
Anna Calvi
Artist
Anna Calvi
Label
Domino Records
Released
2011

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14. Fleet Foxes, "Helplessness Blues"

  • from Helplessness Blues
  • by Fleet Foxes

Helplessness Blues

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Helplessness Blues
Album
Helplessness Blues
Artist
Fleet Foxes
Label
Sub Pop Records
Released
2011

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15. James Blake, "The Wilhelm Scream"

  • from James Blake
  • by James Blake

The Wilhelm Scream

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James Blake
Album
James Blake
Artist
James Blake
Label
Republic
Released
2011

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Raconte-Moi Une Histoire

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16. M83, "Raconte-Moi Une Histoire"

  • from Hurry Up, We're Dreaming
  • by M83
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17. Gem Club, "252"

  • from Breakers
  • by Gem Club

252

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Breakers
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Breakers
Artist
Gem Club
Label
Hardly Art
Released
2011

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Northern Lights

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18. St. Vincent, "Northern Lights"

  • from Strange Mercy
  • by St. Vincent

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Strange Mercy
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Strange Mercy
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St. Vincent
Label
4AD
Released
2011

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Bob Boilen's Favorite Songs Of The Year

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19. Typhoon, "The Honest Truth"

  • from A New Kind Of House
  • by Typhoon

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A New Kind Of House
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A New Kind Of House
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Typhoon
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Tender Loving Empire
Released
2011

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Bob Boilen's Favorite Songs Of The Year

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20. My Morning Jacket, "Circuital"

  • from Circuital
  • by My Morning Jacket

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Circuital
Album
Circuital
Artist
My Morning Jacket
Label
ATO Records
Released
2011

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