After a slight delay, here are the best songs of the last year...
1. Vanessa (Grimes):
AVI proved last year that when she sports dance riffs she can move mid-sections without really trying. Vanessa takes this a step further by juxtaposing pop and techno into her mesmerizing wall of sound technique.
2. The Words that Maketh Murder (PJ Harvey):
the political undertone that she’s been at pains to eschew throughout her career finally catches up to her lips when she utters the line, ‘what if I take my problems to the United Nations?’ It’s a snarky piece of viciousness and one uncharacteristic of Harvey to let fall on record but it reinforces a point of entry into any war: countries only get involved when shamed or forced to do so.
3. Friedrichshain (Chelsea Wolfe):
a haunting call out for help, Friedrichshain is Wolfe’s best song of her career so far. Friedrich epitomises the Pied Piper and Wolfe the curious children being taken away from the known and being swallowed up by the unknown.
4. Monopoly (Danny Brown):
misogynistic but so damned irresistible, Brown is rightfully leader of the new wolf-pack of rappers just out for a high then waxing lyrical about shit. The key difference though---as a line like, ‘the hybrid smoking on papaya/ that gave you niggas bronchitis/ what you write is like vagina/ what I write is Wall of China/ nigga that’s great…’, is alarmingly clear.
5. A Treatease Dedicated to The Avian from North East Nubis… (Shabazz Palaces):
a stoned rap battle to the death but one that shows so much sincerity and brilliance.
6. Last Night at the Jetty (Panda Bear):
we’ve all lauded his Beach Boys fascination with sound but here at last he emerges out of such inclinations to carve out a fantastic, new sound all for himself.
7. Body Work/Fuck My Brains Out (The Dream):
even if you’ve never been a fan before of Terius Nash, this stunning, identity-robbing twin idea of D’angelo and Prince getting squashed together into a sort of porno jam, is astonishing. Besides, who among us hadn’t wanted that to happen? If the former decently puts the case of his horniness then the latter track is the slutty after-effect…the one that gets him laid.
8. Casebasket (Jean Grae):
Jean returns with her smartest effort to date and it’s as if the female MC scene hasn’t been struggling since Missy Elliott went AWOL.
9. Beth/Rest (Bon Iver):
the year’s most controversial song has equal detractors and admirers but let’s rest the faux-cool argument and deal with the product. Vernon dives head-on into a 80’s saxophone warp that felt like it needed Kenny G yet somehow manages a stunning result without his usual falsetto. I call that genius.
10. Crystal Ball (Grimes):
the year’s best talent in a workout that simply blows the competition away. The beats slam hard, colliding blissfully with her puerile vocals (‘faster/ faster/ the lights will flow…’) and yet is remarkably soulful at the same time like a little slice of pop perfection.
11. Backpackers (Childish Gambino):
the most stunning middle-finger to come out of hip-hop since Eminem ten years ago, Glover dropped the term ‘backpackers’ in a smart swipe at critics.
12. Jump Your Bones (Liam Finn):
a sad overlay of messy, entangled feelings. Finn runs ragged with the electronic equivalent of white heat laying itself bare to be devoured by black rage.
13. Pinned (When Saints Go Machine):
a stunning lo-fi twee masterpiece that manages to rock in the club and in the headphones. Though the meaning of Pinned doesn’t seem to go beyond poor Johnny dying, at least he goes off into the big sky with some ska-flavoured music.
14. Baby Missiles (The War on Drugs): a sombre recollection of love, lead singer Adam Granduciel’s voice starts out very Arcade Fire-ish under some hazy beats and lyrics about oblique stuff.
15. Bizness (Tune-Yards):
the freak-folk juggernaut we all knew she was capable of producing when Garbus appeared two years ago. Here she suffuses some brilliant pop and horns into her zany melodies and you realise that the only thing she’s a victim to is a fine track and deserved recognition.
16. Fall Creek Boy’s Choir (James Blake & Bon Iver):
an unlikely pairing but one that created a ton of excitement. It didn’t fail the hype test either: Vernon gets all sad while Blake creates boy choir heaven fodder.
17. Huzzah!(remix)(Mr. Muthafuckin’eXquire feat. Danny Brown, Despot, Das Racist & El-P):
a cross between crunk-nodding, Method Man-worshipping and the irrepressible Danny Brown stealing the show with another high octane guest rap.
18. Ok (Beastie Boys):
the boys soldier on with this often-times brilliant jam and it’s like they’re just starting out again..a few white boys with two turn-tables and a microphone.
19. Ablutophobia (Sheep, Dog & Wolf):
crashing horns and the best Justin Vernon cabin music outside of that band…I kid you not. This from a minor and an ex member of a punk band.
20. Happiness (Things I Never Told You):
with an entire song dedicated to praising the happiness found between legs, it’s no surprise to find out that the East London duo started out by sound-tracking gay porn. Now, they focus on their own relentless sounds and thank God their own bedroom bullying is brilliant and full of retro energy.