Sunday, December 9, 2018
As we close out yet another year, it becomes clearer and clearer that the focus of musicians have turned to the personal: whether its their lives within a social or political construct, the artist is now a full representative of the times, even pop artists. Gone are the days of merely presenting a fantasy for fans but instead that has been replaced with letting fans into their personal reality.
The good thing is that the groove isn't gone. That said, here are the best songs of the year:
81. Blue Rose (Amen Dunes): McMahon’s emotional voice was often bruised by reverb on his previous albums, which blurred the lines between visceral rock, psych, and folk. Here, his vocals rings out fully unclothed as they conjure images of love’s all-consuming force and the restlessness of dreamless nights. The personal meaning of “Blue Rose” makes its directness particularly apt: McMahon saysthat the song was inspired by his relationship with his unpredictable father. That knowledge gives extra weight to determined lyrics like, “I will stick around/I’m the baddest, stoniest thing in town.” Even though there’s a fragility to the delivery that makes it unclear whether to take his boasts at face value, you’re left with no doubt of McMahon’s categorical faith in himself. The sticking power of “Blue Rose” is just as undeniable. (PITCHFORK)
82. If You Know, You Know (Pusha T): Pusha is an audacious and pitiless victor: “Dance contest for the smokers/I predict snow, Al Roker/I only ever looked up to Sosa,” he spits, still empathizing with villians in his narcotic fantasy where the smartest (and most unapologetic) corner boys become kingpins and sophisticates. He keeps living out his rise on a loop, as if trying to savor every second. “If you know you know,” he reiterates, shrugging off the cycle you’ve stepped into once more. As Pusha-T again asserts command over his dominion here, it’s hard not to be impressed by his ability to keep making the same powerful first impression. (PITCHFORK)
83. Bad Boy (Red Velvet): who said girl groups are on their way out?
84. Nameless, Faceless (Courtney Barnett): As a quiet-loud slacker anthem with a witty eye for detail and well-turned phrases, “Nameless, Faceless” is basically your archetypal Courtney Barnett scorcher. Who else could write a jangly opening verse that almost manages to empathize with self-important trolls (“I wish someone would hug you,” she sings) and then savagely eviscerate them in a hard-charging chorus armed with a brutal Margaret Atwood quote (“Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them”)? And yes: Those Kim Deal-like backing vocals are, in fact, by Kim Deal. In an already strong year for politically tinged music, this one stands up with the best of them by staying true to Barnett’s strengths. (PITCHFORK)
85. Busy/ Sirens (Saba): quietly telling black tales that we rarely hear.
86. Loss (Pale Grey): the smooth sound of delicious regret.
87. The Kids Are Alright (Chloe x Halle): they’re alright…nothing further needs to be said.
88. Headstone (Flatbush Zombies): a fitting elegy for hip/hop icons.
89. Curse Of The Contemporary (Lump): Laura Marling drops the solo earnestly for a hot minute to present a swift funky jam.
90. Ice Station Zebra (Jack White): a weird mash up of ideas but somehow it works.
91. My Boy (Twin Fantasy) (Car Seat Headrest): we’ve heard the loud-soft-loud concept before but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t work.
92. Could U Love Me (Liz): Sailor Moon pop princess capturing our language.
93. Beyond (Leon Bridges): just a simple story of a boy in love with a girl and wanting the whole world to know about it.
94. Another Time (Mimicking Birds): the slow build juxtaposed to lovely beats is stunning.
95. Fever Dreams (Emma Ruth Rundle): some times there’s nothing more searing than a woman letting it all fly in a rock ballad.
96. High Horse (Kacey Musgraves): If you played someone “High Horse,” it might take a few guesses before they identified it as a country song. That four-to-the-floor beat with the funky, Nile Rodgers guitar, that popping bass—none of these are elements of country that should be on a hit from one of the genre’s brightest stars. But the elements are all there: the middle-American lyrical imagery and references, the light slide guitar solo, the banjo, the background acoustic strings. It’s like a winking scrambling of genres that creates a sound entirely Musgraves’ own. Some often compare her to Taylor Swift as a country artist with major crossover potential. But less a brand than her uber-famous counterpart, Musgraves has more in common with the likes of Sturgill Simpson or Chris Stapleton, who are crossing over based on musical ability alone. (ESQUIRE)
97. Glorious Idea (Virginia Wing): who says you can’t revisit the synth-heavy 80s again?
98. Star Treatment (Arctic Monkeys): walks a very fine line but never stumbles into schmaltz.
99. Talking Straight (Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever): the band’s good old rollicking time continues.
100. Heaven’s Only Wishful (MorMor): In one of his few interviews, Toronto producer/singer MorMor told Pigeons and Planes that in school, "I kept searching for kids like me, but it never happened. In the end it gave me some good perspective." You can hear that solitude, that self-searching in his debut song. (ESQUIRE)