Friday, January 4, 2013

The Playlist: 100 Most Excellent Songs of 2012, 41-60

...and we set forth into the New Year. The furious 100 continues. In this edition you'll find a sampling of more specifically pop, hip hop, and R&B bent jams.  As mentioned, it was a good year for all of the above, and we've seen a concentrated return of sampled sounds from 90's genres blended to create new sounds by enigmatic, interesting artists off mixtapes, on underground releases, and in the mainstream top 40.  Collect them all!

41. Santigold / "Disparate Youth"  Santi returns with a sound that defies easy categorization, but which here sounds like the long lost twin of the AWOL Res (what happened to her?).

42. AlunaGeorge / "Your Drums, Your Love"  Sugar rush pop vocals over draped over warped voices and skittish beats, a lovely, adult pop song.

43. Schoolboy Q / "Hands on the Wheel"  Distant, looped echo chamber instrumentals weave a hazy backdrop for the capable rhymes of the drugged out Schoolboy Q.

44. Katy B x Geeneus x Jessie Ware / "Aaliyah"  Sneaking in right at the close of the calendar, UK popster Katy B drops "Aaliyah" as part of a free EP and the world dances into the sunset.

45. How to Dress Well / "& It Was U"  Patterns upon patterns, sadness upon deceptively cheery beats.

46. Nicki Minaj ft. 2 Chainz / "Beez in the Trap" A ice cold, positively frigid single beat leading into an equally chilly diss track dripping with sneering apathy.

47. John Talabot ft. Pional / "Destiny" The best kind of dance track is one with a slow build that opens at exactly the right moment. Producer John Talabot weaves a soft, glittering tapestry of pure dance bliss.

48. Andy Stott / "Luxury Problems" The title track of Stott's album and another stable slow-build with rich deep bass and a creeping, unbearably cool menace.

49. Azealia Banks / "Fierce" Azealia Banks exploded this year, and if you've yet to hear of her, you have some serious catching up to do.  While the free tracks and mixtapes seemed to drop constantly, my favorite track may be this quiet, Paris is Burning based dark vibe that -in a way- serves as an understated showcase of the things Banks does best: fashion beats and monotone rhyme.

50. Angel Haze / "New York" Haze and Banks are feuding as of today, I believe, but each earns equal standing on this list. Haze takes no prisoners, spits raps far fiercer than those of Banks, and announces her presence with a middle finger raised.

51. Scissor Sisters / "Let's Have a Kiki"  I'm sorry, but lists that are ignoring "Let's Have a Kiki" need to take a break and just have fun for a little bit. The song may not be great, but it's an instant, dance floor classic with delightfully campy lyrics and a simple, easy to imitate dance far more fabulous than "Gangnam Style" on any day ending with a y.

52. Saint Etienne / "Tonight" Saint Etienne are pop veterans with a sound that hasn't shifted too much in the decades since their inception. In a way they've been making -for ages- exactly the kind of pop that's recently come into vogue. It only makes sense that they'd return now...

53. Rihanna / "Diamonds"  If you can shake this song from your head, you're a far better person than I. It's a damply sappy track that weakly attempts to sweep up the cosmos into a sad little love song, and I know this.'s got something that may make it last long after the Top 40 stations get over it.

54. Kendrick Lamar / "Bitch, Don't Kill My Vibe" Mellowed out, west coast hip hop that flows free and makes you wish for a convertible and a sunny day in the dead of winter.

55. Usher / "Climax"  A restrained, evenly tempered R&B track that, perhaps ironically, never reaches an actual climax.  As surprising as it is melodic.

56. Grimes / "Be a Body" I latched on to this Grimes track above all others for reasons I can't quite explain. The ethereal becomes hypnotic, the beat punches and kicks and cycles and seems to demand that you immediately invent some kind of lava lamp choreography for it.  You should.

57. Captain Murphy (Flying Lotus) ft. Earl Sweatshirt / "Between Friends" We now know that Captain Murphy is just a rapping Flying Lotus, which makes the way he vocally presents himself on his Murphy tracks super odd.  The instrumentals, though, are the right kind of acid jazzy, tripped out sound we've come to expect from the man behind all the action.

58. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis / "Thrift Shop" A hook-filled, singable, likable, homegrown little ditty about thrift shopping and bargain hunting that flies in the face of the overproduced business side of slick production values and conspicuous consumption.

59. Carly Rae Jepsen / "Call Me Maybe"  At first, I really hated this song.  I came around to it after innumerable plays by every single one of my friends in every possible situation. Still, I don't love this song, and at this point the sugary quality of the catchphrase has worn its welcome.  I almost didn't put the song on here at all, and then I know, in a few years I'm going to have mad nostalgia whenever I hear this.  Done.

60. Odd Future / "Oldie" Ten minutes of the whole Odd Future crew introducing themselves, taking turns doing what they each do, and quietly one-upping one another and lovingly pushing themselves in ways that are almost charming and which make a non-believer understand the potential in each member of the group.

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