Friday, December 30, 2011

The Playlist, 60 Most Excellent Songs of 2011, 21-40

Yesterday you asked, today you shall receive.  In an effort not to clutter up memory space or freak out browser pages, you can find the Youtube playlist for this installment at the bottom of the entry - or- opt for straight sound / no visuals with the 8tracks option included right up top.  One more day and we're there...

21. BURIAL / "STREET HALO" Burial arrives back on the scene with an ambient sort of dubstep as true to his sound as ever.  I do love a sustained rhythm.  There you have it.

22. RADIOHEAD / "LOTUS FLOWER" and "CODEX"  The songs run up next to one another in a slipstream of Radiohead's trademark moaning melancholy.  "Lotus Flower" has a beat to it, but "Codex" is classic sad bastard music perfect for late nights, headphones, and ceiling-gazing.

23. FRANK OCEAN / "NOVACANE" On the less offensive and slightly more sophisticated side of OFWGKTA, we have Frank Ocean, the smooth operator of the rap clan who loads his songs with an overabundance of incidental information and seems to be trying so very hard to strike just the right pose.  This is a hip hop track called 'novacane''s totally about Frank getting with a girl who wants to be a dentist real bad...why else?

24. LANA DEL REY / "BLUE JEANS"  All that was said for "Video Games" can be repeated here. This song staggers, saunters, then flies.

25. FLORENCE + THE MACHINE / "WHAT THE WATER GAVE ME" Does anyone really hate on Florence Welch yet?  If haters do exist, I haven't met them.  Welch gets mainstream charts as close to fairy folk as they have been since, what, Annie Lennox? Kate Bush?

26. JAMES BLAKE / "LIMIT TO YOUR LOVE"  James Blake almost didn't make the cut.  He makes a fairly underwhelming first impression on most, especially if you've been pre-exposed to the vast amounts of hype afforded him.  Still, Blake makes for first rate insomniac listening; a fantastic score to projects, classwork, and writing of all sorts.  His songs are slow, sparsely instrumented, cautiously layered auditory collages that build at the same time that they deconstruct.  From another artist, this song would be a straightforward piano ballad.  Here, it's anything but.

27. DJ KHALED FT. DRAKE, RICK ROSS, & LIL WAYNE / "I'M ON ONE"  All of them folding into the Drake/The Weeknd populated realm of the decadent slow-burn.  This is an exhausted, weary, cynical party song.  It's great.

28. EMA / "ANTEROOM"  EMA made it on the merits of the work, and not particularly because I'd call "Anteroom" a favorite.  I admire it in all its lo-fi, angst-ridden honesty.  It has the sound of a depressive anthem, perfect for being a brooding teenager kicking rocks along the sidewalk, but just as good scoring an indie flick suicide attempt.  A little sad, a little angry, a lot stand offish.

29. DRAKE FT. RIHANNA / "TAKE CARE"  Drake and Rihanna pretty much show up everywhere. Here they are together.  It's like double trouble.  They're both interesting pop characters, and Drake continues to blur hip hop lines and shift between straight up R&B and trying to be a boy next door Kanye West.

30. PLANNINGTOROCK / "DOORWAY"  Planningtorock is the stage name of Janine Rostron, a woman who wears a facial appliance to perform and experiments in gender perception via her music.  If you listen to Planningtorock, the vocals have an androgynous quality that make them, for lack of a better word, terribly mysterious.  Rostron has created an enigmatic sound and style, and "Doorway" has a witchy quality that invites you in only to drag you under.

31. LADY GAGA / "AMERICANO"  The best songs on Born This Way are not the radio singles.  They're the dark, odd little dance tracks that seem to tread carefully in the direction of something other than the Top 40.  I could have chosen the 80's hair infused "Highway Unicorn" or the chanting, Germanic "Scheiße" --both of which I rather love-- but instead opted for the truly bizarre "Americano".  "Americano" is like the place where Rosemary Clooney, West Side Story, ABBA, and 2 Unlimited intersect with Madonna.  It's a trash pop masterpiece of tarantella gypsy beats, pounding bass, and platinum blonde grit.  As such...I love it.  I just love it.  I want to link arms and run in a circle as fast as I can to it until I get so dizzy I can't stand up.

32. THE FIELD / "IS THIS POWER"  Remember the part where I said I like sustained rhythms?  This is the cheery side of that.

33. THEE OH SEES / "THE DREAM"  If this was actually the result of time travel to a garage in the 1960's, I wouldn't be surprised.  Now would be the time to commence jumping about the room.  Throw a twist or two in (or some LSD, or some napalm) and you'll be good.

34.  SBTRKT / "WILDFIRE" Little Dragon's vocals remind me of Prince in Camille mode, with the synths just as exactingly orchestrated as they would be if the song belonged to the purple one.  SBTRKT takes the same bastardized R&B sound The Weeknd is working with and breaks it a little more...

35. CHILDISH GAMBINO / "L.E.S."  Childish Gambino is the stage name of the multi-talented Donald Glover, who you know as Troy on "Community".   Glover seems to be operating in a mode incredibly similar to his TV persona, loading up his homebrewed hip-hop beats with pop culture references and incredibly nerdy insults that seem to mock the titans even as it aspires to their level of flippancy.  As I recall, Pitchfork dismissed the album outright as a collection of sort of out-of-touch, self-centered joke rhymes, but I think there's quite a bit to enjoy here.

36. GIL SCOTT-HERON & JAMIE XX / "I'LL TAKE CARE OF YOU"  Jamie XX remixes an under-appreciated poet and gives the now late Scott-Heron a bittersweet farewell track.

37. ARAABMUZIK / "MAKE IT HAPPEN" The sort of tranced out electronica that's too big and atmospheric for its confines. Dripping with menace, perfect as an opener, potentially as powerful when blasted from giant speakers as "Ghosts N' Stuff."


39. TORO Y MOI / "STILL SOUND" Chazwick Bundick often looks, for all practical purposes, like the most grating hipster son of a bitch on the planet.  Those glasses, that sometimes facial hair, the tank top in this video...oy.  Also, I hate the cover of "Underneath the Pine" like a lot.  Yet, the album possesses a great retro sound that blends his signature chillwave with a tremendously charming spaced out lounge noise.

40. ACTIVE CHILD / "JOHNNY BELINDA" In one word: regal.  

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