Sunday, December 8, 2013
Here is the second part...
61. Rotisserie (The Child of Lov): first, let’s get the obvious out of the way: yes, this song is speaking about chicken. Not the act of eating chicken but comparing the love process to the rotisserie process. The blues beats add much credence in its own spacey belief system. It’s very easy to see though that The Child of Lov has all the soulful anguish needed in pop.
62. Work Bitch (Britney Spears): Britney’s delivery and fierce enunciation sets the track apart from the banality of her current LP and makes this a distinctly Britney banger. The gay clubs are gonna go wild for it no doubt.
63. Do What U Want (Lady Gaga feat. R. Kelly): a futuristic, electro-tooled R&B slow jam with delicious chorus shout outs and restraint all around to pull off quite a feat. The concept, as is with most Gaga tracks, is right on the cusp of pop culture.
64. Turnt (The Dream feat. Beyonce & 2 Chainz): with Beyonce singing sublimely about ratchet thoughts and Siri, The Dream scores with this track, the only one from his new album that plays its cards just right.
65. Broken Heart (Dr. Dog): Toby Leaman, the duskier-voiced of the band's two singers, seems to be in particularly sharp form here, following through on his strong performance on the band’s last album.
66. Suit & Tie (Justin Timberlake feat. Jay Z): Timberlake’s long-overdue return single shows off his still formidable vocals, speeded-up beats and that retro luxuriousness no one does better.
67. Y.A.L.A. (M.I.A.): a take on the popular expression YOLO, M.I.A does what she does best by juxtaposing harsh beats to abstract ideas. It’s not as iconic as past work but its damn formidable.
68. Amour dans le Motu (La Femme): a lovely French ditty that races ahead while never forgetting the easy pleasure derived from sculpting noise for the masses, irrespective of time and place.
69. Ribs (Lorde): With soft, melodramatic vocals, Lorde sings about the fears of getting older. The low-paced production is pierced ever so slightly with a pop reverb but here is the stuff the pop market desperately needs.
70. Hold On, We’re Going Home (Drake): while Drake’s rapping ability seems mercurial at best, his emo levels have improved on an extreme level. Here he sounds repentant yet just the right levels of dethatched as well.
71. Try to Be (Blue Hawaii): the kind of intricately crafted pop music that is simultaneously chilly and easy to embrace. It reels you in immediately with a spacious acoustic loop and ethereal vocal melodies.
72. From The Sun (Unknown Mortal Orchestra): dreamy soundscapes woven into a catchy chorus and a hit emerges. From the Sun remains weightless yet full of resonance, the perfect spring-board from which to launch.
73. Winning Hand (Bilal): a little jazziness in tow with his unique phrasing and vocals, Bilal passionately tells his tale of love in all forms and posits his love for a woman as a winning hand.
74. Cloud Aura (Charli XCX feat. Brooke Candy): Charli XCX has evolved from the neon-drenched girl pouncing around warehouse parties to a rising pop star. Her music is now taking stock of all the little heartbreaks she’s had to endure.
75. Step (Vampire Weekend): Koenig coos that he’s “stronger now” and in the process manages to sound dated yet brand new. It’s a clever trick-- a new stylish one we haven’t heard from them before.
76. A Wall (Bat For Lashes): “Where you see a wall, I see a door," Khan sings and with the subtle electronics propelling the track, it hearkens us back to that emotional love phase of Bjork ten years ago. Khan, at long last, is defining the balance, between the bare and the polished emotional connection of music. She’s also aware, as she croons persistently, that compromises can often lead to breakthroughs.
77. Samson (V.V.Brown): the tale of Samson, the biblical strongman, is well known but here Brown adds many fascinating levels, parsing it to her own recent struggles with the music business.
78. You Can’t Be Told (Valerie June): the lyrics are incredibly catchy but note how the ever changing hook reads very much like a warning too, “Won’t do right and he can’t be told / no he can’t be told” and “eagle bird got his eye on you / everything you do, he got his eye on you.”
79. I Heard (Young Fathers): the singing, rapping, and primal beat ring through clearly, and give this tender ballad dynamics it needs to move emotions and groove crowds.
80. Avant Gardener (Courtney Barrett): Barnett endears herself by the quiet, assured nature of her craft. Here she’s a bored, unemployed youngster trying her hand at gardening and waxing poetical about it. Though her vocal delivery reminds immediately of Sheryl Crow, her lyricism is much sharper as witnessed by the line, “The paramedic thinks I'm clever 'cause I play guitar/ I think she's clever 'cause she stops people dying”.
Saturday, December 7, 2013
Finally, the songs list and after the Grammy nominations last night, you realize that some of those acts are here as well. Weird year because up until late November, I wasn't sure I'd have 100 songs for this list. It hasn't been the greatest year for popular music but after digging through the offerings, the list emerged. Great year for hip/hop---eight of the top ten songs covered by the genre. Kendrick Lamar led the way with five awesome tracks, with Danny Brown not far brehind with four.
So, without further ado, here is part one, I call it the club edition...
81. Subtle (Active Child feat. Mikky Ekko): the closest thing Grossi has done that’s relatively dance-pop worthy. The tune leans hard on aggressive 1980s synth-pop textures, with vocalist Mikky Ekko on hand to deliver some full-throated forcefulness contrasting with Grossi's always-floating falsetto.
82. God’s Love To Deliver (Jim James): a surreal effort slurred with a dreamy vocal push that works itself into quite a fit as ode to Martin Luther King Jr…which might escape you as you take in its beauty.
83. Attracting Flies (AlunaGeorge): continuing their pop explorations, the band hijacks a straight pop groove with a flute of all things and infectious doo-wop vocal assertions.
84. Imagine It Was Us (Jessie Ware): regrouping for another winning collaboration with hot producer Julio Bashmore, this slinky ’90s-style club track is the soul singer at her most fun.
85. Doin’ It Right (Daft Punk feat. Panda Bear): you can’t really go wrong once Panda Bear joins in and inspite of the reportedly difficult recording conditions of the track, here is the clear stand-out from Daft Punk’s vastly overrated new album. Doin’ It Right is a four minute jam of the band providing an infectious line while Panda Bear infuses a restrained yet trademark genius turn. The two aesthetics gel instead of being conflict manifest.
86. The Apple (V.V. Brown): easily the most accessible song ever from Brown, The Apple has a distinctly retro ‘80s flair, something this former model could definitely sashay down a runway to and strut around fiercely about.
87. Street Of Dreams (Frankie Rose): maybe Rose needed to do a cover of The Damned’s Street Of Dreams after all for me to get into her. As someone who felt she got unwarranted critical love, it’s nice to finally be able to join in the praise. There are so many standout sections here--the peaceful coos, the harmonizing chorus—but finally Rose isn’t hiding her voice behind production anymore, that’s the best plus.
88. Voices (Soft Metals): a song that’s been around in some form at least three years now but the remix’s use of analogue synths gives it the right levels of girly seductive pull needed to rock the clubs. The great thing about this hypnotic beat is that even with headphones you can enjoy its evey subtle and superb detail.
89. Melody Calling (The Vaccines): wistful guitars and a clean, two-tiered chorus was pure bliss, and the Vaccines’ trademark energy was there in the steady, propulsive rhythm.
90. Wraith (Peace): song about falling in love with a prostitute, says Peace frontman Harrison Koisser, something he seems totally ready to rock out about on this lush single.
91. Pretty Boy (Young Galaxy): catchy synth loops from front-woman Catherine McCandless as she meditates on her memories of a former companion - as compellingly as she can muster.
92. Burning Desire (Lana del Rey): it’s been a long twelve months for del Rey as she’s sought and won acceptance by fans and critics alike. Now her eagerness to please has taken a new twist, one that sees her realizing that newer, younger females are adapting her husky vocals to please also. Here she ups the ante by employing a stunning range to her lovely misery.
93. Anomaly (Doldrums): Airick Woodhead has that weirdly gender-less vocal range that can always find an electronic groove and, like smog, create delicious denseness. Anomaly is sheer glitch pop, the type more utilized by Crystal Castles and, of course, Grimes with its brash, crunchy noise and very chaotic soundscapes.
94. Retrograde (James Blake): the first single from Overgrown, is a straight-up soul crooner where his characteristic production details are still in place, but they're in the service of arrangement rather than disorientation. Those wordless falsetto curlicues recall none other than D’angelo as the snap of the snare suggests that this is the sort of steady pop.
95. XXX 88 (M0 feat. Diplo): Mø (real name Karen Marie Ørsted) is a new Swedish singer that one suspects will blow up next year and this is her introduction to the Americas. Diplo wisely hangs invisibly on the track, painting the landscape with exciting beats while M0 lets loose her searing vocals in all its blissful range.
96. Dropla (Youth Lagoon): Trevor Powers, aka Youth Lagoon, looks geeky, but the romantic poetic type of geek that’ll sit down for van hour and pen an ode to his imaginary girlfriend stating how she’ll, “never die”. And that’s what Dropla is, a gorgeous number that verges on psychedelia and baroque pop. The vocals never register heavily but the sheer insistency is chilling.
97. Defriended (Beck): five years away from the landscape and now Beck gets the hunger again. This is great news for any music lover, even though who “defriended” him from social contact in his hibernation. The bear is back and this electronic paw swipe may be ominous for what’s to come next year.
98. Flashbulb Eyes (Arcade Fire): the group’s choices of source material have gotten more steeped into esoteric questioning with each new record and here, draped over sumptuous guitars, Butler tackles the issue of selfies being used as a way of stealing a person’s soul, or at least giving them the pretense that they have one worth consuming.
99. High Living (Toro Y Moi): a seductive attempt at the new school of R&B, one that Bundwick has toyed with before but finally has delivered on. The beats utterly sizzle as he segues vocally to his deepest levels yet…drugged up on false memories with some chick.
100. Love Illumination (Franz Ferdinand): the text-book instrumentals are always a highlight listening to the group but who knew they had such psychedelic flourishes in their arsenal?
Friday, December 6, 2013
It's the list I like the least every year. It reminds For clarification, being on this list doesn't necessarily mean the album was awful but it does indicate that I expected much more. Many of these artists are brilliant but somehow the artistry didn't click me too much of fallen heroes/icons or at the least, great musician or ideas being snuffed out or bereft of stunning ideas.
1. The Knife Shaking The Habitual: um, we waited seven years for this? Hell, no.
2. Moonface Julia with Blue Jeans On: every time Spencer Krug releases an album that fails to captivate the world a huge part of me dies.
3. Fryars Radio PWR: while we wait for his real sophomore we have to chew on this sentimental project.
4. Yeah Yeah Yeahs Mosquito: did anyone even remember that these guys put out a record this year?
5. Of Montreal Lousy With Sylvianbriar: after a long successful run, sounds like the partying has finally caught up with Kevin Barnes.
6. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds Push The Sky Away: starting to sound old and uninteresting.
7. Summer Camp Summer Camp: it's admirable that, despite a prevailing fondness for suburban teen pop that predates the cordless phone, Summer Camp are trying their best to kick their reliance on nostalgia, they've rendered themselves rudderless in the process. Such a slavish focus on the past can be a problematic handicap and sinks this toothless release.
8. Tanya Morgan Rubber Souls: after a retro masterpiece four years ago with Brooklynati, the band has suddenly become faceless in a grasp to incorporate pop into their sound. The annoying vocal drawl isn’t helping either.
9. Black Milk No Poison, No Paradise: incredibly blah especially coming after his brilliant collaboration EP with Danny Brown in 2011.
10. Shad Flying Colours: after a breakthrough three years ago, Shad reconnected with his family and lost everything else—including his edge—in the process.
11. Laura Marling Once I Was An Eagle: amazing talent but the best outlet hasn’t been found yet.
12. Dizzie Rascal The Fifth: when a critically-acclaimed artist calls their fifth album ‘The Fifth’ then alarm bells sound off right away…and its usually with just reason as is witnessed here.
13. The Weeknd Kissland: his proper debut LP, Kissland had some nice moments but it also showed us that Tesfaye still has a lot of growing up to do. Right now he’s still the schoolboy playing adult, instead of the other way around.
14. Phoenix Bankrupt!: the fun now sounds like a hangover.
15. James Blake Overgrown: not bad but certainly not as consistent as his debut.