Just one last set of 20 songs to go, and we're right at the edge of the New Year. I've been a fan of 2013, generally, and the weeks to come should bring a toppling, effusive list of my favorite films of the year (good year for music, great year for movies) over at my primary blog - Love and Squalor. In the meantime, the penultimate list keeps running through all the eclectic business, including some picks I don't think I could have ever seen coming. Read on...
62. Charli XCX / "You (Ha Ha Ha)" Charli XCX's second appearance on this list is a bitter, bitchy kiss-off track boasting juvenile insults and plenty of self-satisfied schadenfreude.
63. Run the Jewels / "Get It" Last year El-P and Killer Mike both made my list individually. This year, they joined forces and called themselves Run the Jewels. Considering that they're both ferocious rappers, there's a surprisingly laid-back congeniality to their collaboration.
64. Pusha T. ft. Kendrick Lamar / "Nosetalgia" Artfully arranged, brilliantly paced, this is a killer track where the rhymes roll out like pointed, deadly weapons. It sounds like unfinished business from Pusha, young ambition from Kendrick.
65. Beyonce / "***Flawless" When parts of this track first surfaced, they were called "Bow Down/I Been On," and the backlash they received was immediate. People resented the idea of nice, girl-power oriented Beyonce throwing down a command for her fans to "bow down." Still, the sample was a stomper, and she repurposed it into something that feels like a direct response to the criticism that demo received. There's context here, proud feminism, and a really fabulous breakdown where we're gifted the joy of "I woke up like dis."
66. Jai Paul / "Str8 Outta Mumbai" Jai Paul is now a near total mystery. His actual singles, when he's released them, have been eaten up by critics, and when a 16-track album appeared on Bandcamp earlier this year, well, folks went crazy. Of course, Paul then claimed the work wasn't meant to be released, and the label confirmed these were unfinished tracks from a distant past. Whatever the case may be, they're out there now...and decent enough to make the list.
67. The Weeknd / "Professional" We know I'm a big fan of The Weeknd, but Kiss Land wasn't a particularly bright spot in his short but seriously prolific music career. Still, "Professional" is a super luxe star-voyage that sounds like taking a night flight through the Los Angeles of Blade Runner. And, um, A++ for the killer sample from Emika's "Professional Loving."
68. Tinashe ft. Travi$ Scott / "Vulnerable" Tinashe looks like an extra from Glee or a Disney Channel backup dancer, yes, but she sure as hell doesn't sound like one. "Vulnerable" is a sultry, grimy slow jam that seems to wallow happily in its own mud.
69. Four Tet x Grimes / "Human Once Again" Alright, so technically this is Four Tet's reworked remix of the Grimes track "Skin," but it really breathes new life into the song. So much so, in fact, that I'm willing to ignore my policy of skipping over remixes of old shit and consider it a separate, hypnotic thing of its own.
70. Moderat / "Therapy" Dark electro tends to be my study music. Minimal to no lyrics, constant rhythms, the gentle hum of machines. "Therapy" is perfect for that task. It's a ponderous, repetitive clockwork that breaks itself into pieces and reconstructs itself again.
71. Darkside / "The Only Shrine I've Seen" Darkside is a collaboration between Nicholas Jaar and Dave Harrington, and one that walks slowly before forcing you out of your seat.
72. Majical Cloudz / "Childhood's End" Frontman Devon Welsh has a voice that demands attention, and though I'd kinda love to hear what it sounds like over a house beat, "Childhood's End" is a beautiful, wrenching narrative remarkable in its simplicity.
73. Phosphorescent / "Song For Zula" For the second and last time, Phosphorescent: the song everyone expects to see when they're skimming a list. The vocals tremble, the instrumentals mash-up lilting Mazzy Star guitars and synthpop beats.
74. Disclosure ft. London Grammar / "Help Me Lose My Mind" I swear this is the last Disclosure track, guys. But, I mean, I like it a lot.
75. CLASSIXX ft. Nancy Whang / "All You're Waiting For" I don't know much about Nancy Whang other than that she was in LCD Soundsystem and tends to show up to lend loose, kinda coolly bratty vocals to dance beats. Similarly, I don't know much about CLASSIXX apart form that they make excellent dance beats. Also, the video for this is precisely what I think of when I imagine yacht music.
76. Janelle Monae ft. Erykah Badu / "Q.U.E.E.N." Weirdo funk polished by a new class of perfectionist. Monae continues her sci-fi odyssey with lyrics, guitars, and Prince-influenced keyboards that are, at times, almost too perfect. Then Erykah Badu enters to introduce the outro and the whole thing takes off.
77. Pulp / "After You" Before Arcade Fire teamed up with James Murphy, Pulp did. And because I love Pulp, and because Jarvis Cocker's vocals blend well with disco rock, this rare one-off makes the grade.
78. DJ Rashad / "Let It Go" DJ Rashad is a Chicago footwork artist who I feel like I read more about than I actually listen to. Footwork doesn't really do it for me, but with "Let It Go," Rashad seems to have hit upon a fuller, richer, more UK-oriented sound. I get it now.
79. My Bloody Valentine / "Only Tomorrow" After a very extended absence, My Bloody Valentine resurfaced to loud cheers from indie kids everywhere. MBV's distorted, dazed dream rock has always been more suited for solo, background listening from my end, but to represent the album, I've been forced to pull a track from out of the haze.
80. Paul McCartney / "Alligator" I have NEVER been one for Paul McCartney's post-Beatles work. A little "Live and Let Die," sure, but otherwise...uh...no thanks. So, you could color me as absolutely beyond shocked when I was listening to an NPR podcast (of course) and was introduced to a McCartney song I actually enjoyed. It's a jaunty track produced by Mark Ronson, a little anxious, a little nervous, a little frustrated, a far cry from one of those damn silly love songs.