LeonTh3Duke’s 10 Favorite Songs of 2011

So after Lisa Marie’s list of favorite songs I decided to finally finish up and post the list I had been working on as the year closed. Obviously not everyone will like my picks. Music is a very subjective art form and all of are tastes tend to vary greatly. Still please feel free to comment.

So without further ado…

10) “That’s My Bitch” – Jay Z & Kanye West

This tenth pick was the hardest. Too be honest I probably would have rather gone with a song from an artist mentioned below, but I wanted to mix it up a bit and add something from a different album. So I decided to go with ‘Watch the Throne’ which was met with both praise and a lot of hate. I personally fall somewhere in the middle. Much of it is unbearable, even if I enjoy Kanye West and Jay Z’s solo stuff. But still a few stood out, including ‘”That’s My Bitch”, and that is almost entirely because of Elly Jackson and Justin Vernon.

9) “Paradise” – Coldplay

Many have claimed that Coldplay has sold out, maybe they are right, personally I hate that label. I also pretty much hated their latest album, but one song stood out, and maybe it is because the radio played it on a loop, ‘Paradise’ is a track I fell in love with. I think it best captures the essence of some of their greatest hits and is a joy to listen to.

8) “Hard As They Come” – CunninLynguists

Easily my favorite hip-hop group/performers around, CunninLynguists always blows me away and their new album did just that. Now I wasn’t sure which song to pick for the list, but I want to add at least one and decided to go with the one posted above. Under the production of the brilliant Kno, it is easily one of my favorite songs of the year. Can’t get enough of it.

7) “Immigrant Song” – Karen O (with Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross)

I think it is safe to say that anything Karen O releases will end up somewhere on my “best of” list of that year. For 2011 it was her rocking cover of Led Zepplin’s “Immigrant Song” that she did with Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross for the opening credits of “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo”, and say what you want about the film this song nails the tone.

6) “New York New York” – Carey Mulligan (“Shame”)

I guess some could question whether this cover by Carey Mulligan for the film “Shame” qualifies for a list such as this but there is just no way I could not include it. For those who haven’t seen the film it might not be very impressive, her vocals aren’t what some would call “American Idol” worthy, but within the context of the film it is a beautiful and emotional song, and although we might not be able to see all that emotion on character’s faces as we do in the film, I still believe a lot of it bleeds through even with just the audio. Heartbreaking.

5) “Misty” – Kate Bush

So to be honest I know very little about Kate Bush, even if she has released the same amount of albums as I have fingers. What drew me to her latest album ’50 Words for Snow’ had nothing to do with its critical praise or my knowledge of her previous work, but actually it was the inclusion of Stephen Fry on one of the tracks…yes leave it to one of my man crushes to lead me to one of the years best albums which included one of the years best songs. Sadly it can only be found, without being thrown onto some weird amateur video, in a small clip but it still gets acorss the beauty and atmosphere of the dreamlike song.

4) “Two Small Deaths” – Wye Oak

I loved everything about Wye Oak’s latest album ‘Civilian’ and could have posted a few songs from it on this list, but the one that stood out was easily ‘Two Small Deaths’. Just beautiful stuff, give it a listen and find out what I mean.

3) “Surgeon” – St. Vincent

These is just something so mesmerizing about St. Vincent that I can’t put my finger on. This isn’t to say I love every song she has released, but each of her albums contain a handful of tracks that just blow me away, as did the one posted above. I find it to be so hauntingly beautiful.

2) “Holocene” – Bon Iver

As a huge fan of Justin Vernon and his atmospheric ‘For Emma, Forever Ago’ it is no suprise that his latest album, ‘Bon Iver’, won me over completely. I loved every track but this beautiful and hypnotic song always stood out. I’ve listened to it more times than I can remember.

1) “I Follow Rivers” – Lykke Li

To be honest, at any different moment I could have claimed that one of the top three listed here was my current favorite and at various times during the year they definitely switched places a few time. The reason I’m going with “I Follow Rivers” for this list is that of the three it is easily the most catchy, the one most likely to be stuck in my head for about a week and although the quality of these top three are pretty much equal in my eyes, I think being the one that stuck the most should be labeled my favorite. Beautiful stuff. Love it to death.

Lisa Marie’s 10 Favorite Songs of 2011

Continuing my series on the best of 2011, here are ten of my favorite songs from 2011.  Now, I’m not necessarily saying that these were the best songs of 2011.  Some of them aren’t.  But these are ten songs that, in the future, will define 2011 for me personally.  Again, these are my picks and my picks only.  So, if you think my taste in music sucks (and, admittedly, quite a few people do), direct your scorn at me and not at anyone else who writes for the Shattered Lens.

By the way, I was recently asked what my criteria for a good song was.  Honestly, the main thing I look for in a song is 1) can I dance to it and 2) can I get all into singing it while I’m stuck in traffic or in the shower? 

Anyway, at the risk of revealing just how much of a dork I truly am, here are ten of my favorite songs of 2011.

1) What The Water Gave Me (performed by Florence + The Machine)

Musically, 2011 was a good year for me because it’s the year that I first discovered Florence + The Machine.

2) Only In My Double Mind (performed by Centro-Matic)

This is a great song from one of the best bands to come out of North Texas.

3) Man or Muppet (performed by Jason Segal and Walter)

Featuring lyrics from the brilliant Bret McKenzie.  This song makes me cry every time.

4) Immigrant Song (performed by Karen O, Trent Reznor, and Atticus Ross)

Say what you will about David Fincher’s rehash of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, it had a good soundtrack.  This cover of Immigrant Song made the film’s first trailer bearable.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t really featured in subsequent trailers, being replaced by Daniel Craig going, “I want YOU to HELP ME catch a KILLER of WOMEN.”

5) Friday (performed by Rebecca Black)

Yeah, yeah, I know.  It’s a terrible song and you know what?  That’s why I can’t help but love it.  Listen, there are thousands of terrible song released every year but there are none quite as a terrible as Friday.  The genius of Friday is that it took everything that we associate with terrible music — nonsensical lyrics, insane autotune, a socially irresponsible message, creepy rappers who show up out of nowhere and for no good reason — and then just smashed it all together into the YouTube video that refused to die.  Add to that, a few months ago, me and my BFF Evelyn got like totally drunk and then wandered around the streets of Dallas singing this song at the top of our lungs and I swear, every guy who passed by yelled words of encouragement at us. 

(And, by the way, if you’re going to hate someone, hate on Fred Phelps.  Leave Rebecca Black alone.  Life’s too short.)

6) Hold it Against Me (performed by Britney Spears)

Yeah, yeah, I know.  Everyone loves to hate on Britney blah blah blah.  This song is fun to sing in the shower and you can dance to it.  And, quite frankly, that’s all I need.

7) Beard (performed by Burning Hotels)

This is from another North Texas band.

8) Fucking Perfect (performed by Pink)

An anthem.  (Yes, I know this song came out in 2010 but it was important to me in 2011 so I’m listing it here now.  So there.)

9) Love Is The Drug (performed by Oscar Isaac and Carla Gugino)

From the Sucker Punch soundtrack comes this sneakily subversive cover.

10) No Light, No Light (performed by Florence + The Machine)

Finally, what better way to end this list than with some more of Florence + The Machine.

Finally, I want to close this list with a song that came out long before 2011 but it’s an important song to me and it was sung by someone who we lost far too early this year.

Coming tomorrow: ten of the best things I saw on television in 2011.

What Lisa Marie Watched Last Night: The Help (dir. by Tate Taylor)

I actually watched several things last night, including the season premieres of The Bachelor and Intervention.  However, neither one of those is an Oscar contender.  The Help is, so I decided I better take the time to watch the film via OnDemand.

Why Was I Watching It?

I wasn’t planning on seeing this movie when it first originally opened in theaters because, just based on the trailer, it looked like it would be your typical, terribly self-congratulatory mainstream films.  I’ve seen far too many films that promote the same old stereotypes in the name of progress and tolerance, as if good intentions can make up for bad filmmaking.  But, so many of my girlfriends came to me raving about how much they loved this film and then my Aunt Kate just about disinherited me when I told her I hadn’t seen the movie (or read the book that it’s based on) and eventually I realized that I had to see the film.  Add to that, chances are that this film is going to be an Oscar contender.

What Was It About

In segregated Mississippi, aspiring writer Skeeter (Emma Stone) decides to write book about the life of the African-American maids and nannies who work for her best friends.  After some initial difficulty, she wins the trust of two maids (Viola Davis and Octavia Spenser) and gets down to exposing the truth.

What Worked

First off, The Help is a perfect example of a well-made, entertaining mainstream film.  I laughed at the funny parts, I cried at the sad parts, and I thoroughly enjoyed the film, even though it kinda fell apart during the 2nd hour.  There’s a lot of very legitimate issues that you can raise about how the film portrays life in the segregated South but the film itself is entertaining and well-made.

It’s also one the best acted films of 2011 with Viola Davis, Octavia Spenser, and Emma Stone all giving great performances.  Jessica Chastain is funny playing a clueless newlywed and Bryce Dallas Howard does a typically good job playing the type of bitchy Queen Bee that we’ve all know and  have all secretly hoped would end up fat and divorced.  I also thought Allison Janney, who plays Stone’s mother, gave an excellent and underrated performance.

This film was directed with a perfect eye for the details needed to make even the most minor of characters memorable.  If nothing else, I enjoyed watching it just to see what everyone would be wearing from scene to scene.

The film’s first hour is probably as perfectly paced and tonally balanced as any film I’ve seen.  However, things fall apart during the second hour (more on that below).  Luckily, the film’s ending is powerful and partially redeems the film’s uneven tone.

What Didn’t Work

The film is moves along pretty well until the 2nd hour, at which point it smashed into a wall created by the inability of mainstream film to truly honestly deal with racism.  At the start of the second hour, civil rights leader Medgar Evers is assassinated by a member of the Ku Klux Klan and I found myself waiting for some sort of expression of anger (or really, any emotion other than stoic suffering) on the part of “the help.”  Instead, we get a scene where both Viola Davis and Emma Stone are watching Evers’s funeral together and both are impressed to see John F. Kennedy show up.  In the next scene, Davis has put a picture of President Kennedy up on her wall next to a picture of Jesus.  So, in other words, this film reacts to the murder of a black man but deifying a white man.  After showing us a clue of violent reality, it’s as if the film can’t figure out how to balance out the ugly realities of racism with the film’s need to appeal to the widest possible audience.  As a result, the next hour of the film feels rather disjointed and uneven.  Even though the film partially redeems itself with one of the best endings of the year, it’s still hard not to feel as if we’re watching a feel good film about something nobody should feel all that good about.

Like a lot of mainstream films about racism, a good deal of this film centers on the friendship between blacks and a few white people who, magically, don’t appear to have a shred of prejudice within them despite the fact that they were raised in the same racist culture as every other white person in the film.  As a result, the racism seen in the film doesn’t really seem like it’s an ingranied part of culture as much as it just seems like the result of a couple of bullies acting like jerks.  As a result, despite its very good intentions, a film like The Help will often unintentionally minimize just what a struggle the fight for civil rights was and is. 

“Oh my God!  Just like me!” Moments

Needless to say, I totally related to Emma Stone’s character in this film. 

Lessons Learned

It’s difficult to make a feel-good movie about racism.