Sunday, 8 January 2012

My Year in Lists: Songs

So like a lot people blogging out there I decided to take on the challenge of writing year end lists. First up are the songs (listed alphabetically), and there should be albums too in a week or so. I haven't included any songs from stuff that's on my albums list as that would have ended up a mega-gargantuan task. Indie lovers may feel a bit short changed, but there's more of that on the albums list. There's a spotify playlist for the songs on the list that are on spotify:  Enjoy!

Adele - Rolling in the Deep (Jamie xx shuffle)

Adele is a whiney bint and her music is some of the most boring dross that I have ever heard in my entire life. It’s a good job then that Jamie xx is about to give some vitality to her usual claptrap with his fantastic pitch-shifted remix of Rolling in the Deep. One of many fantastic tunes from Mr xx this year, this one stands out as an excellent example of why remixes are a good idea – the complete transformation ofsource material into something else far more adventurous and interesting.

Azealia Banks feat. Lazy Jay - 212

The hype surrounding Azealia Banks’ 212 was almost inevitable in 2011, the year of Odd Future. A three minute banger containing graphic sexual imagery and gratuitous use of the word cunt, set to a bouncy house beat, the song showed Banks keen to establish herself a bad girl image, despite her classical training. Equal parts Tyler, The Creator and Kreayshawn, the song justified the hype with its invigorating catchiness. Imma ruin you, cunt indeed.

Benoit & Sergio - What I've Lost

I’ve already blogged enthusiastically about Benoit & Sergio this year, and whilst the initial excitement has died down, I still find this song fantastically evocative. Bittersweet and gorgeous, it is this restrained groove that has been music from popular dance music for some time. When you hear “little French girl, I wanna drive you round the streets tonight”, you want to drive her around those streets too.

Bjork - Crystalline

As Bjork is such an innovative artist, it came as no surprise this year when she released an album-as-ipad-app. Focussing just as much on visuals as sounds was merely a small step for a musician so concerned with aesthetics. The gorgeous clangers-cum-lsd clip that came with this song matched the music perfectly – somewhat bizarre but astonishingly brilliant. The left turn with a minute remaining vies for an award as the year’s greatest Aphex Twin song not released by Aphex Twin too.

Earl Sweatshirt - Dat Ass

Hidden away on a low-profile mix tape, this minute-long track is Odd Future at its most soulful and it’s all too brief. Powered by a soulful sample from J Dilla’s Time: Donut of the Heart (which itself samples the Jackson 5), it finds Earl in an uncharacteristically jubilant mood. I wish those boisterous scamps would do stuff like this more often.

Feist - How Come You Never Go There

Feist returned from the musical wilderness in 2011 with her well-received Metals, the cover of which was decided as the winner of an online paint-by-numbers competition. Inside was found much of Feist’s usual fare, albeit this time with a darker edge than on The Reminder. There has always been something bittersweet about her tales of life and love, but here the focus was squarely on the bitter, and How Come You Never Go There was a case in point, for the first time showcasing Feist with an accusatory tone. Those melodies are still pretty sweet though.

Girls - Vomit (can't say I recommend trying to Google the single's cover)

Girls proved to be more than a flash in the pan with their sophmore record Father, Son, Holy Ghost and this storming single was an undoubted highlight. The desperation in Christopher Owens’ voice was palpable, and the explosion of guitar mid way through matched the climax of the song’s narration perfectly, the bolt-on choir a perfect metaphor for excess. Vomit made loneliness and yearning sound cool for all of its six and a half minutes.

James Blake - Wilhelm's Scream

The main highlight on an otherwise disappointingly dry album, Wilhelm’s Scream was deceptively simple, with James Blake’s lonely cry building to a gorgeous murky climax. With Blake seeming to be splitting off in many directions this may be the best song of this type we hear from him, a diamond amongst the dull rough elsewhere on this album.

Jamie xx - Far Nearer

Jamie xx features far more heavily on this list than anyone has a right to, especially for someone who has released only one solo single. On that single, however, he showed that he was capable of much more than just fantastic remix jobs. This airy track, powered by the sound of steel drums, lies a million miles from the moodiness exuded by his band. Instantly appealing, its exuberance is infectious.

Jamie xx & Gil Scott-Heron - NY Is Killing Me

This has been something of a stellar year for musical chameleon Jamie xx (not so much for Gil Scott-Heron who passed away in May), with a number of high profile projects to his name. His set of Gil Scott-Heron remixes could so easily have gone wrong, but he pulled it off with aplomb and no small amount of skill. This truly essential track managed to be both haunting and an awesome club banger. A true ruse for any aspiring DJ.

John Maus - Believer

John Maus goes beyond pretentious to preposterous. Recent interviews have seen him comparing his music to power struggles throughout human history and attempting to explain his hysterical stage presence as a response to the metaphysical question of how we can be sure of our own existence. Whilst part of our retort to him should be “Mate, get over yourself. You just make synth music.” we should also applaud Maus for his instantly appealing dark pop. Recalling both Joy Division and Kraftwerk, Believer was one of the highlights from his third album We Must Become The Pitiless Censors of Ourselves.

Kreayshawn - Gucci Gucci

The year’s biggest musical marmite moment came from female white Oakland-based rapper, Kreayshawn and her equally infectious and daft single Gucci Gucci. Even in a world where rap has proliferated so much into mainstream culture, it was no surprise to see so many rap purists coming out against Kreayshawn’s “bastardised” version of the form. But the point here was fun rather than legitimacy, and Kreayshawn bought it in spades. Swag.

Lady Gaga - Judas

Is it still ok for me to like Lady Gaga? Everything she did this year, apart from this song, felt tired. Born This Way was Scissor Sisters lite, and they weren’t exactly lead-like in the beginning. The first single, however, caused me genuine excitement in the same way that Papparazi did; “hey guys, this is Eurodance that I can like too!” Another overblown theatrical video was also order of the day. More tunes please Gaga, and less sloganeering!

Lana del Rey - Video Games

Lana Del Rey could quite possibly be the story of the year. With accusations of falsehood and fakery flying around, it was a good job that her songs were so impeccably well written, regardless of who wrote them. Naysayers have accussed del Rey of being all aesthetic and no substance, but I challenge anyone to feel unmoved by the gorgeous piano balad Video Games and its equally fantastic b-side Blue Jeans. I can only hope that the songs on del Rey’s forthcoming album are half as good as these.

Lil Wayne feat Corey Gunz - 6 Foot 7 Foot

Everything Lil Wayne does falls into one of two distinct categories:
a)      Complete failure, or
b)      Unparalleled success.
Whilst Mr Carter seems to have produced more of the former recently, this was definitely part of the latter category. Wayne works best when he leaves feelings out of it and sticks to bragging just about how great he is. It may be a rap cliché, but with a beat this addictive and lines this crazy, who’s gonna hate?

Rival Schools - Wring It Out

Rival Schools made a storming return this year, over 10 years since the release of their last (and in fact debut) album. 2011 saw them more mellow, but still capable of producing rousing rock anthems as well as any their younger contemporaries. Wring It Out is power pop at its best.

SBTRKT - Wildfire

SBTRKT has steadily been making a name for himself with some high profile remixes and EPS over the past few years. This standout track is from his debut album, which is influenced by the whole spectrum of UK bass music. Post-dubstep goes pop. 

Tyler, the Creator - Yonkers

I have to be honest, Tyler, The Creator doesn’t sit particularly well with me. I find his music trad and his spiel boring, and quite frankly I think that Goblin was largely rubbish. Yonkers, however, I feel was a moment of real genius. The first view of the genuinely shocking (no mean feat in these times) was an exhilarating experience that’s hardly faded over time. Couple the excellent beat with some genuinely funny one-liners and you have Tyler’s definitive moment to date. Everything surrounding it is irrelevant when a song is this good.

Washed Out - Within & Without

Despite a largely lacklustre album this year, Ernest Greene still proved himself capable of the occasional moment of beauty. Within and Without, his album’s title track, was tender and restrained, but still carried an air of regretfulness between its notes. More of this on your next record please Ernest.

Wild Flag - Romance

Indefinite hiatus. These words hang over so many of the 90s brightest lights that they have become almost cliché. These words are also a curse for fans of Sleater-Kinney, damning Wild Flag’s debut with the weight of expectation. It speaks well for Carrie Brownstein and co then that Wild Flag’s eponymous album has been so well received, with this 70s-esque rocker the focal point of the Wild Flag campaign.

The Young Knives - Love My Name

The Young Knives haven’t garnered much attention over the past couple of years, and post-punk isn’t exactly de rigueur at the moment, but the first single from their latest album was an under the radar pop gem. Love My Name brimmed with fake excitement and sarcasm, but quite what the band were sarcastically pretending to be excited about is still a complete mystery.