Monday, April 2, 2012

Taking On 2012: Top Tracks (Q1 Quarterly Review)

Where has the time gone? Down the critical drain, no doubt. And now that the time is no more it is time to begin the listing. Start the counting down. Organizing strategies. As it was written last year, it shall be written again. And again after that, until the future shuts us down and the electricity flows no more through these wires.

There has certainly been music this year, and some of it has even been pretty good. Of course some of it has been pretty bad too, but that's kind of the trade off, I imagine. But what's so great about music is, like a killer sammy from the local sub shop, you can pick and choose all the meats that make it in to the final product. And, naturally, kick the bad ones to the curb. I'm talking to you, mayonnaise!

So don't expect to find any mayo here, just straight up heaters. And you can even click on the links where possible to jam out on your own. I'm in your head.

10. Dark Paradise - Lana Del Rey

Though Lana Del Rey found herself caught in a storm of detractors, I was taken with the sound of her album. Paired with some haunting lyrics, she worked her way in to my heart. And few songs have lyrics more dark and provocative than "Dark Paradise". There's a sense of desolation that tonally pervades the song. The way that Lana Del Rey conveys tone is what surprises me the most. It's easy to get caught up in all the extraneous details surrounding Lana Del Rey, but in the end if it's just about the music, she completely nails it.

9. On My Dip - Gillie Da Kid ft. DeSean Jackson and Lou Williams

I don't know what it means to be on one's dip. I have listened to this song probably more than I've listened to any other song this year. It's not good. It's not really even catchy. But it's so ridiculous, so seemingly unaware of its hollowness that I find myself admiring this kind of freedom. Some times I have even think that the Lou Williams verse is good. I don't know. Might as well go 'head and dip on 'em!

8. Skin - Grimes

If last year heralded the domination of electronic music and dubstep, then Grimes meteoric rise to prominence makes a ton of sense. However, like Lana Del Rey, it helps to take Grimes out of context and just focus on the music. Her sparse use of lyrics combines with a flood of manufactured noise that sort of typifies where music is right now in the way it pulls inspiration from many sources without completely embracing one. The expression is impressive, and in that I find pleasure.

7. Demons - Sleigh Bells

Coming about halfway through Sleigh Bells's sophomore album Reign of Terror, a hybrid entity that mixes together the noise-pop of Treats with the subdued tranquility of standout "Rill Rill" is perhaps the most traditional, loud, barely comprehensible soundscape. The theme thus far on this list has been the way that songs build energy and then disperse that throughout a song. There might be a build here, but it hits hard from the beginning and barely lets up. Encompassing is the best word to describe Sleigh Bells best song of the year.

6. Purple Swag (H-Town All Stars Remix) - A$AP Rocky ft. Killa Kyleon, Paul Wall, Bun B

Though I love Houston's rap scene, a key formative experience in my younger days was discovering Chamillionaire and Paul Wall's masterwork Get Ya Mind Correct, I have always been kind of up and down on chopped and screwed music. However, OG Ron C is, along with Michael Watts, the most notable living Houston DJ, and combined with the feel of A$AP Rocky's music the pairing is natural here. And, as usual, Killa Kyleon murders his verse.

5. Big Beast - Killer Mike  ft. Bun B, TI, and Trouble

I was at first taken aback by the collaboration between Killer Mike and El-P because the latter's beats always seem to be so specific to his style that I wasn't sure if it would work. If "Big Beast" is any indication, there's no reason to fear. As with any great track that sees multiple rappers working together the best moments come from a desire to one up the last artist. And that sense of energy builds and builds throughout the song, with each artist bringing their top game.

4. Oldie - Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All

Odd Future, as a collective, are always at their best when they are together. The best song any of them have made, including solo ventures, is "Swag Me Out" from Radical. "Oldie" channels some of this song's wonder, but slows down the beat and makes it a lot more serious. It's a little bloated and long, but I still find it easy to revel in its sprawling nature, despite it not being of the same quality as OFWGKTA's collective best song.

3. Beez in the Trap - Nicki Minaj ft. 2 Chainz

I don't really like Nicki Minaj as a whole. Most of her music is overbearing and annoying, but like "Super Bass" before it, sometimes she gets a beat that masks all of the problems I have with her. What resulted in "Super Bass", and what is found here once again, is pop music working at its finest. Quite literally even, if you focus on the beat. It's a song that might be slight, but what works functions so well that artistic heft almost becomes less important. It's just a song to take in, be taken away, and enjoy.

2. The House that Heaven Built - Japandroids

It has been far too long since Canadian garage noise duo ultra rockers have released music, but if there was fear they lost their touch while on lengthy tours "The House that Heaven Built" crushes all of them and leaves them in a sea of distortion. From the second the song kicks in a sense of liberation manifests, a growing freedom and yearning. Untouchable, undefeated, and always moving. Wash over me, Japandroids.

1. Hands on the Wheel - Schoolboy Q ft. A$AP Rocky

Though I find myself distanced from the life that both Schoolboy Q and A$AP Rocky detail in their early year fire starter, damn if it's not one of the most exciting songs to come along in quite a while. In what has already been a strong year for hip-hop, this hedonistic anthem has been blasting in my system (tearing up that early 2000's Buick!) for months, and it's not going anywhere any time soon.

So what just missed the cut? Here are the songs that were On The Bubble:

I'm Fabio - Lil B

Kate Boosh - Heems ft. Kool AD and Despot

Buttons - Lambchop

Cartoon and Cereal - Kendrick Lamaar ft. Gunplay

Factory Girl - Xiu Xiu

So what do you think of the list? Did I miss any heaters that were straight up fire? Let me know below in the comments section! And look forward to the upcoming Quarterly Reviews for both Albums and Film.


Comments are welcome and, for anyone with a literary mind, I encourage checking out my poetry blog filled with all original works for your reading pleasure.

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© 2011 Richard James Thorne

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