Song, by Toad – Festive Fifty 2011 1-10

01.Easter – Somethin’ American This might be the first time such an unknown song by such an unknown band has ever been given top spot on any of my end of year lists, but they were absolutely brilliant live when they played up here in September, and this song is just fantastic, as are the other two songs on their Soundcloud page.  It’s less lo-fi than a lot of the DIY stuff I’ve listened to this year, and the squalling solos which tease Easter’s songs to an end evoke loads of old school US indie music.  This gives quite tight pop songs a loose, expressive, emotive finale and when they get going live these bits really are amazing.

02.Crystal Swells – Patent Trolls This is another absolute peach of a song which went straight from a PR email to the very front of my brain for the entire year.  I had this on tape in the van for months, and I go back to it again and again.  This one is probably more menacing, compared to the reckless pace of the rest of the album, but that opening riff and the crescendo to which the song builds are just absolutely fucking blinding.

03.Ringo Deathstarr – Do It Every Time Alright, this is the highest-placed pure pop song on this list.  A simple guitar rhythm and a simple tune, delivered with plenty of pace and energy.  This is one to leap around to, pure and simple, and just about the best one of its kind this year.

04.The Low Anthem – Boeing 737 I played this on the podcast last week and struggled to introduce it then, as I probably will now. Firstly, I have hardly heard anyone sing anything about the twin towers attacks without sounding just a little bit forced and uncomfortable when doing so, but this manages it with some aplomb.  And then to have that kind of subject matter twinned with such and incredibly rousing song is an odd and absolutely brilliant juxtaposition.

05.Earth Girl Helen Brown – Hit After Hit This was one of those ‘what the fuck am I even listening to?’ moments, the first time I heard it. It’s old fashioned music, what I can only really describe in my cultural ignorance as soda-stream pop, and it’s not that unusual exactly, there’s just something weird about it.  It’s a bit unsettling, a bit out of focus somehow, and at the same time absolutely brilliant.

06.Josh T Pearson – Thou Art Loosed The solo album may not hark back to Lift to Experience all that much, but this song, the first on the album, seems to have just enough of that shimmering texture to link the two eras of Josh T. Pearson’s music together.  And that repeated “I’m off to save the world” seems to rather sadly presage the tales of personal failure which make this album so uncomfortably compelling.

08.Weird Era – Garage Honeymoon A muffled, growly mess, but it’s got such momentum and drive that I can’t stop listening to it.  It’s rough, muffled, growly shoegazey guitar stuff with a great riff.

07.Jonnie Common – Photosynth Alright, it’s possible I might have included this when it was a Down the Tiny Steps song, so including it again seems like a bit of a cheat.  Doesn’t matter though, this is pop brilliance.  And the video was shot in our back garden too!

09.Timber Timbre – Woman Is that seriously a sax on there?  Why yes, yes indeed it is, and it’s brilliant.  This is one of the biggest songs on the album and one of the most surprising too, given the relatively extravagant instrumentation.

10.Milk Maid – Back Of Your Knees I am absolutely delighted with the band’s Toad Session recordings, not least because I was so apprehensive about the actual recording process.  This might be my album highlight, as much for its more raucous live incarnation as this excellent version.

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