Monday, December 14, 2015
Here at last is the final section--closing out the year with history: for the first time since I started this list in 2007, one artist has four (4) songs in the top 10. Also, by virtue of having three (3) previous songs in the top 10, the artist (Kendrick Lamar) has passed Noah Lennox for the person with most overall top 10 songs (7).
Lamar, by virtue of claiming the top spot, now is the first artist on my lists to have a #1 album and #1 song....
It's been a titanic year for him but the rest as well. Here goes:
1.The Blacker The Berry (Kendrick Lamar feat. Assassin): is the obvious reference to the upheaval and hurt blacks still feel at police brutality post Trayvon Martin and Ferguson ( ‘sometimes I get off watchin’ you die in vain/ its such a shame/ they may call me crazy/ but homie you made me/ black don’t crack, my nigga…’). And that’s what makes The Blacker The Berry such a great song: amid the maelstrom of superlative production and lyricism, Lamar keeps everything dead honest and vulnerable. And unabashedly black.
Kendrick Lamar Ft Assassin- The Blacker The... by rawpa-crawpa
2. Fade Away (Susanne Sundfor): trapped between its obvious longing for 70s ABBA and early 00s Robyn-esque pop structure, Fade Away manages to maneuver both decades with delicious skill. The immediacy of Sundfor’s voice means this could be mid-week loneliness or Sunday church revivalism---it’s that fantastic.
3. Wesley’s Theory (Kendrick Lamar): references so many struggles while beating us relentlessly with an originality that reduces everything in his path useless. From sampling Jamaica’s own Boris Gardiner to slyly taking on Wesley Snipes’ public tax evasion case as a means of cautioning over-spending, it spins but never loses focus or its firmness.
Kendrick Lamar - Wesley's Theory (Feat... by bestofmusic1
4. King Kunta (Kendrick Lamar): the free-loading mentality gets a toxic shakedown on King Kunta, a track that slyly posits sexual politics with phallic power (‘bitch where you when I was walkin’?/ life ain’t nothing but a fat vagina…’)
5. Back To The Future (Part I) (D’angelo): after removing his presence from us for nearly fifteen years, D’angelo realized that a return track had to be on his album. And we all know what the return track contains: first, it confirms the artist is back, (‘no matter if you lose/ you got to come back again/ pay some dues…’). Secondly, it must demand respectful distance, (‘if you’re wondering about the shape I’m in/ I hope it ain’t my abdomen/ that you’re referring to…’). Thirdly, it has to fucking rock. D’angelo ticks off all the boxes in style, the ending dripping with so much spectral funk that it’s as if he never abandoned his crown.
6.Lazarus (VV Brown): when she steps into the club, VV Brown manages to construct shards of noise that’s in sync to the absolute best of what house/hop can offer and this is her best yet.
7.That Battle Is Over (Jenny Hval): not many self-empowering records are done aimed for women past child-bearing age. With that in mind, or, rather looming on her horizon, Hval prattles on the upside of those years. The titular battle of course is motherhood, wifedom, corporate-climber, any persona a woman has to acquire to please or to accommodate everyone else. Hval is previewing but cheating also and there’s rising guilt.
8. Billie Jean (Dawn Richard): a hustler’s spin on the Michael Jackson classic? Not quite but not totally off the mark either.
9. Sapokanikan (Joanna Newsom): she’s off telling stories again, Joanna Newsom is known to spin tales more grand than any contemporary artist and Sapokanikan is no difference. The title, as you might know, is the former name for Greenwich Village, and by the time she’s though, she’s thrown in figures painted by Picasso, poetry by Shelly as well as a tender scene of impending death and how gracefully it’s handled. As always, we’re left spellbound.
10. Alright (Kendrick Lamar): the opening lines of the brilliant Alright echoes Sofia’s (Oprah Winfrey) lament in The Colour Purple (‘alls my life I has to fight, nigga…’) over a jazzy web of resentment and misogyny ( ‘what you want/ a house or a car/ 40 acres and a mule/ a piano, a guitar/ anything, my name is Lucy, I’m your dog…’). Indeed, the entire second verse rapped by Lamar is the closest thing any rapper has ever come to beat poetry on record: it’s that on point with its rage and hideousness.
11. WTF (Missy Elliott feat. Pharrel): with Timbaland apparently too busy to produce, Elliott’s highly anticipated return was produced by Pharrell but who misses Tim when the result is this exhilarating?
12. Worth It (Danny Brown): no matter how hard he tries to shed his joker image, Danny Brown cant, at least not yet but Worth It makes the case that there’s goodness in the role. Make no bones about, few can rival Brown’s bravado and even fewer could topple this effort. Brown has this effortless way of tossing off these types of gems but their experimental feel is greatly undervalued. We’ll look back at this phase in his career one day and appreciate—and nod our heads—all this goodness.
13. Sugah Daddy (D’angelo): the way D’angelo hypnotizes with his grooves, you’d be excused for not realizing how fuck-boyish this track is. Embedded within its coda are lines like, “I hit it so hard I made the pussy fart” and, right after, “she said it’s talkin’ to ya daddy”. Let those lines sink in next time you’re bobbing your head to it.
14. Prisoner 1 & 2 (Lupe Fiasco feat. Ayesha Jacko): containing one of the year’s best lines (‘hate is habitually accelerating terror…’), Lupe constructs a modern tale of life in prison. After spitting out darts for just over four minutes, we hear a gate close and then the track spins upon its head into some unique territory, with Lupe the ringmaster, breathlessly holding it all together.
15. Blur My Hands (Lupe Fiasco feat. Guy Sebastian): seen as a flip-off to Atlantic, Lupe holds nothing back but even he’s upstaged by Sebastian’s soaring vocal work on the chorus. But if Blur My Hands is indeed a veiled diss track, it’s also Lupe’s clearest show of appreciation to his fans who’ve stuck by him throughout the turbulence.
16. Flesh Without Blood (Grimes): Boucher terms the music on Art Angels as “bro art” and the more I think about it, the more I think she’s fucking with us. In fact, I think she must be slightly amused at the great reception the album’s been getting because, as becomes obvious if you listen her pack catalogue, she’s been spinning these gorgeous songs for four years now.
17. Everytime Boots (Julia Holter): fans of Holter must be brimming with pride that they stuck with her, now that she’s arrived to pop and fashioned something s breath-taking and catchy that even Joanna Newsom must be a little envious. The last verse is gloriously held in refrain before cutting off the rush of blood to our heads.
18. Voodoo Doll (John Grant): pop music is littered with great pep talk tracks but I reckon no one’s ever made one this funky before. Voodoo Doll is the stuff Prince would be adding to albums thirty years ago or even Beck too, you know. If he still had a sense of fun and daring. It’s been a tough time for Grant but he knows it makes no sense moping about it s he’s gone to his mirror and slapped both jaws and put this on blast.
19. Ratchet Commandments (Tink): that Timbaland sonic reign just won’t let up and here he tosses a gem to Tink, who’s just 19, and she outlines the new rules of what’s not acceptable in her generation’s dating life. She takes no prisoners or sides here, both men and women get lined up against the wall, whether its hoes, (‘if you know your pussy loose/ you a ho/ so do better…’) or gen X-ers desperate for social media significance, (‘every night doing the most up on Instagram/ maybe that’s the reason why bitches they can’t keep a man…’).
20. Damn That Valley (U.S. Girls): one of the unforgettable scenes in Spielberg’s brilliant ‘Saving Private Ryan’ was that shot of the army car driving up to the farm. The mother sees it from the kitchen, turns the front door slowly and as the general steps out, collapses. She knows the news will be horrible but wasn’t prepared for the moment. It’s the same shocking reaction Meghan Remy has on the track, camouflaging the pain with a sumptuous reggae beat and Grace Jones affectations.