Sunday, January 20, 2008

THE BEST SONGS OF 2007 (#1-#20)

The final installation nearly swings totally to M.I.A. She has the best album of 2007 and for good reason (as will be outlined on my album list). For giving us an alternative to hip/hop alone and as well as clearly defining the sharpest sound currently on the planet. That said, here are the final 20 songs...

20. ‘Brianstorm’ (Artic Monkeys): finally delivering the punk good that they’ve been promising, when they rip into the line ‘see you later, innovator’ it’s like a kiss off to fallen idols like Oasis.

19. ‘Boyz’ (M.I.A): picking up from where ‘Arular’ left off, MIA has harmonized her tight sound into something more insidiously attractive yet harder to figure out. It’s a sign of maturity, as ‘Boyz’ succinctly proves—her stock sure is hardy and fruitful on all fronts. And with our own Sample 6 dancers enmeshed on it I wonder for how much longer local radio stations can continue to ignore her.

18. ‘Like A Boy’ (Ciara): what a difference the years make as they go by. Ciara would’ve sunk under the weight of such a challenge couple years ago but now—coming off the equally challenging ‘Promise’ she touches on tender gender-bender and comes out swinging in the major leagues.

17. ‘LES Artistes’ (Santogold): the future is here now; Santi White is the American version of M.I.A (you heard it here first) and is the direct result of the Diplo split. The album drops in ’08 but this advanced track will more than whet appetites with its thumping beats and raw attitude she dishes in spades. If Maya ever hoped to do an ‘Umbrella’ then too late, Santi has beaten her to it.

16. ‘Everything’s just Wonderful’ (Lilly Allen): Allen has finally unearthed a better take on sweet sarcasm of ‘Smile’ and this time the bitter-sweet lyrics really bite deep.

15. ‘For the Pier (and Dead Shimmering)’ (Sunset Rubdown): a swirling, Wolf Parade-esque masterpiece that cries out of its void for help.

14. ‘We Were Born the Mutants Again With Leafling’ (Of Montreal): draped over a lush, crunching sound, Barnes lets loose feelings of despair and its effect is simple yet stunning.

13. ‘Stop Me’ (Mark Ronson feat. Daniel Merriweather): the best blue-eyed pop ballad in quite a long time, Ronson grabs Merriweather along for a smart, street-tough look at love.

12 ‘Blue Honey’ (Pop Levi): proves that not only MIA is digging Eastern culture, disco Levi, replete with some brilliant faux vocals. The way the song builds slowly then Levi blows it breathlessly apart with the chorus.

11. ‘Cuckoo, Cuckoo’ (Animal Collective): the uber experiment of Avery Tare with its harsh drumming skimming the ends of raw vocals. It’s an impressive last stand, slightly off putting baptism of sound and that makes it one hell of a punk model.

10.‘Mama, Won’t You Keep Them Castles in the Air Burning’ (Clap Your Hands Say Yeah): though abandoned by critics for burrowing themselves deeper into a stoned vibe that seemed obscure at best, it takes songs like this one—the type of unabashed beauty that grows more towards end—that prove CYHSY will win out eventually.

9. ‘Peacebone’ (Animal Collective): the first blast of cool magic from ‘Strawberry Jam’—imagines itself as interlink between reality and fantastic lyrical longings. Thank goodness for overt ambition from these rock geeks.

8. ‘Umbrella’ (Rihanna): without doubt one of the best ideas all year. It’s a bit stalled by repetition yet remains quite fantastic with its flourish of attitude.

7. ‘Jimmy’ (M.I.A): no one twirls so many trends into one solid hip/hop outfit so fantastically like Maya. ‘Jimmy’ incorporates Bollywood, Cyndi Lauper and biting social commentary into one sweet delivery. Quite a knock out punch this rambling commentary rolled into a wrapping that eludes a riot grrrl tag.

6. ‘$20” (M.I.A): stunning use of raw fissures subduing each other, all under her conscious lyrics flowing just as impressively, Maya borrows a famous Pixies line and runs viciously with it.

5. ‘Bros’ (Panda Bear): The ghost of Brian Wilson rummages through this sunny song’s disposition and it’s absolute acceptance of things lost while one sheds innocence, sheds skin. 'Bros' starts with an owl hooting and by the end a collage of folk influences take deep root. The spaces between them are populated with the type of ingenuity that prove how much other mix and matchers just aren't thinking enough.

4. ‘The Sloganeer: Paradise’ (Meshell NdegeOcello): Fantastic jazz imprint. NdegeOcello continues to merge her expanded sense of melody with her forceful lyrical input and such a result is gorgeous as well as groovy.

3. ‘Back to Black’ (Amy Winehouse): This warbled vocal style reveals the devastation of Winehouse’s emotion as she reveals everything. Whereas other songs from the opus felt just short of epic, the title track is, to paraphrase another artirst, 'big time sensuality'.

2. Bamboo Banga’ (M.I.A): when Maya yells, ‘MIA coming back with power, power’ overdubbing on a sample of ‘Roadrunner’, then we know she’s a serious badass. The technical aspect of the song is as immaculately crafted as anything Prince was able to conjure over two decades ago.

1. ‘Sugar Assault Me Now’ (Pop Levi): astonishing homage to the past funk grooves, Levi contorted the heck out of himself with this funk track that constantly pushes itself. It's a trick not many funkmasters can maintain nor can they level out a plain line like 'right now' without sounding forced. Hats off Levi, you've given us the best song of the year!

Thursday, January 3, 2008

THE TOP 100 SONGS OF 2007: #21--40 (PART 4)

Without doubt, this penultimate section of my song list is the most varied. The styles featured here swing from extreme to extreme but all belie a cohesion that was only topped by the twenty songs ahead of them. One group comes to mind; Of Montreal. Releasing the most Prince-aping disc of the year, Kevin Barnes' glam determination underlines the doggedness with which these other artists stuck into the raison d'etre of these songs.
Here they are...

40. ‘I Need You’ (Alicia Keys): I could wax lyrical about the many, many faults of Alicia Keys but 'I Need You' is the result of what she does right in spite of her earnest self. When she coos her lyrics and allows the music to shape the direction of the song and not her vocal affirmations, its rthe most sensual thing she's done.

39. ‘Indestructible Life’ (Old Time Religion): a collage of bad dialogue, chaotic music rushing wildly around…what the hell is happening here never becomes clear or resolves itself and while it’s scary, it’s also monumentally engrossing.

38. ’Yankee Go Home’ (Clap Your Hands Say Yeah): every list should make room for a little indulgence so we arrive now to CYHSY. When Ounsworth tears into the chorus it’s the most infectious thing ever and the socio-political context is pleasing yet unmistakably sad at the same time. It wasn't supposed to work but somehow it does.

37. ‘I’d like To’ (Corrine Bailey Rae): pitch perfect range finally found.

36. ‘Roc Boys (And the Winner Is…)’ (Jay Z): Jigga is back doing what he does best and though only white critics have been praising what is essentially just a plain good disc, everyone can agree on this track's greatness.

35.‘The Fragile Army’ (Polyphonic Spree): showing My Chemical Romance how it’s really done.

34. ‘Gronlandic Edit’ (Of Montreal): swiftly proving to be band of the year, Of Montreal treats us to some suave faux vocals and stunning textures. A real smooth triumph.

33. ‘Violet Stars Happy Hunting’ (Janelle Monae): Outkast’s best kept secret steps out with a totally rocking single that recalls the ephemeral danger of Grace Jones.

32. ‘Wild Mountain Nation’ (Blitzen Trapper): sweet retro rock tune.

31.Map of the Problematique’ (Muse): treads a constant and sublime line.

30.‘Hot Wuk’ (Mr. Vegas & Opal): wicked rhythm coalescing with devious intent as only Jamaican music can.

29. ‘Delirium’ (Rahsaan Patterson): bridges both funk and blues camps with its high-voltage of funk, making Patterson the most exciting R&B find this year.

28. ‘Art Bitch’ (Cansei de ser sexy): though CSS meander always somewhere between slight and swift variations of fun, ‘Art Bitch’ mixes enough MIA and Bjork-esque aesthetics to concoct an impressive hybrid of abstraction and attitude. Besides how do you top a line like, ‘I sell my crap/ and people ask for more’!

27. ‘Cobra style’ (Robyn): the stuff of which Pink can only dream to produce.

26.‘Faberge Falls for Shuggie’ (Of Montreal): the best Prince rave up since Beck’s ‘Sex Laws’.

25.‘Relax, Take It Easy’ (Mika): a smooth, retro romp that updates George Michael’s ‘Fast Love’ stoned vibe.

24. ‘Skip Ghetto’ (Pop Levi): even when softening his stance and delivery, Levi is still miles ahead of the pop batch.

23. ‘A Sentence of Sorts in Kongsvinger’ (Of Montreal): astonishing sampling technique used in this track that teaches others how it’s done and so heartbreakingly too.

22. ‘D.A.N.C.E.’ (Justice): the strongest song with vocals on their debut, the Paris duo show their North American funk rivals how it’s done.

21. ‘Kidz Are So Small’ (Deerhoof): a blissful collage of Bjork-like childish admissions that work in an off-beat, simplistic manner. Witness how Satomi’s vocals concede ground to the bare essentials driving the tune and one realizes how nuanced her work has become.