Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Taking On 2014 - Top Tracks (Q1 Quarterly Review)

I didn't forget this place existed, I'm just pretty much a terrible person and have only been ingesting a ton of media without any writing or documentation of my experiences except on a personal level. But I'm a sucker for lists, I guess, and honestly I get the feeling that a part of me would die if I didn't do these Quarterly Reviews. So here we are, dishing on some sick ass tunes that I have been keeping track of on this Spotify playlist. Here are the dankest of the dank so far below, even with a few words that reflect some attempt at personal feelings on songs that give me personal feelings.

As usual I will link to them whenever possible, so click the titles on each track if you can/if you want to hear the things about which I am writing because they are all pretty much fantastic.

10. "Pinata" - Freddie Gibbs and Madlib featuring Casey Veggies, Domo Genesis, G-Wiz, Mac Miller, Meechy Darko, and Sulaiman

First, let's get this out of the way: this song is not nearly as good as "The Last Huzzah" despite some comparisons I have seen made between the two. More in line with something like "1Train" it's kind of not fair to compare it to that A$AP Rocky track either because this one sort of exists in the middle of the two. Mac Miller is arguably the most instantly recognizable rapper on the song, but even he is a far cry from the lesser names on "1Train." The beat here, impressively strung together once again my Madlib, never out weighs its welcome and allows each rapper to flex their muscles. The standout verse belongs to Flatbush Zombies's Meechy Darko.

9. "Bicken Back Being Bool" - YG

I'm not counting the ending skit in the song when evaluating what YG does on one of the few featureless tracks from his album, but even if I did the strength of the initial two verses might be enough to solidify its spot on this list. YG's flow during the song is what immediately jumps out, riding the beat flawlessly to create this cohesive sound. And that beat, the way it kind of chimes up and down in its simplicity, the bumps that underscore everything, it's entrancing.

8. "Humphrey" - Cam'ron

The sense that 2014 is a great year for hip-hop, based on the first three entries on this list, is perhaps a bit of a fallacy (not to spoil the album list too much), but as far as single tracks go in this Golden Age, rap continues to pretty much be on a roll. In recent years New York hip-hop has led part of the resurgence, but to see veteran Cam'ron return on this A-Trak and Party Supplies banger of a beat without missing a step is pretty startling considering most innovation has come from a youth movement. The sound is updated, but the lyrics are vintage, filled to the brim with quotes and punchlines, braggadocio and brutality, making me eagerly await the EP from Cam'ron and A-Trak.

7. "Sad 2" - Frankie Cosmos

Set as the final track on Cosmos's wonderful Zentropy, "Sad 2" takes a singular event and uses it to explore a multitude of emotions, vulnerabilities, and ideas that are simultaneously singular and universal in a strange way. I only half jokingly, due to the song's title and placement on the album, call it a response to "Bound 2," because much like the final note on Kanye's Yeezus, there's this overwhelming sense of emotion on the closing Cosmos track.

6. "Danny Glover (Remix)" - Young Thug featuring Nicki Minaj

I was a bit late on the Young Thug hype train at the tail end of 2013, but thus far the majority of 2014 has been about appreciating all the trap advancements that Young Thug has pushed over the past twelve months. "Danny Glover" is almost certainly one of his biggest hits, and the remix that features Nicki Minaj handling auto-tune and punctuated delivery with almost as much ease as Young Thug himself makes it one of the year's most hard hitting tracks.

5. "Birth In Reverse" - St. Vincent

Pretty tough to pick my favorite track from St. Vincent's most recent self titled album, and I'm honestly still not sure if lead single "Birth In Reverse" is the best option, but each time I listen to it the lyrics mingling with the pulsating electronic sounds are near impossible to resist. St. Vincent's vocals almost become an instrument of their own, but that may also downplay just how great the songwriting on display throughout the song is, the specific images she is able to conjure, are damned impressive.

4. "Sanctified" - Rick Ross featuring Kanye West and Big Sean

Rick Ross's verse in this song is good, sure it's outclassed by the beat, but on its own it's still good. However, it is without question the involvement of Kanye West, in all this manic energy the carries over from line to line, that thrusts this song in to the upper echelon of the year's top tracks. The way he plays on Big Sean's chorus, tweaking just enough and then flowing seamlessly in to his verse, creates another top notch Kanye feature.

3. "Fine, Great" - Modern Baseball

Another shorter song, Modern Baseball's "Fine, Great" packs in plenty of brash determination alongside lyrics that could easily be laughed off if they weren't delivered with such sincerity. The way "I hate worrying about the future/cause all my current problems are based around the past" kind of captures this intangible sense of transition that I wrestle with constantly, and to hear a song that vocalizes all that in one ringing line is one of the reasons I continue to seek out new music.

2. "I Watched The Film The Song Remains The Same" - Sun Kil Moon

With Benji, the most recent album from Sun Kil Moon, I could almost select any of the songs to occupy this spot because the way that personalization is used as a means of processing life carries throughout the album, but the longest song on there is also my favorite because it takes this insular event that I have no personal connection with (neither the film nor the Led Zeppelin album) and prods at the idea of time shifting our perspective of events that once meant one thing and have transformed in to something else, but also placing the initial understanding within conversation. An inability to let go, perhaps no need to let go, but rather to process and exist, and it's kind of sad and beautiful. It's Dylan~esque in its construction, and I can't resist that.

1. "Words I Don't Remember" - How To Dress Well

Ever since this song popped up online around the end of February/beginning of March, I have been captivated. The slow snaps in the background, the sparse vocals, and the cutting lyrics make this one of the prettiest songs I have heard in quite some time. How To Dress Well does not work in a genre of which I am overly familiar, and aurally he also seems to be pushing R&B in a direction that more overtly blends with the trend of incorporating house music in to instrumental arrangement, all of which culminates in this insanely beautiful love song that never becomes overly romantic, just realistic and gorgeous.

On The Bubble

"War" - Chief Keef
"Nothing In My Heart" - Marissa Nadler
"Enemy" - Angel Olsen

Thanks for reading, and be sure to look out in the next couple of days for the best albums of the year so far as well as the best films. Did I miss any songs? Let me know what I need to listen to in the comments below!


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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© 2014 Richard James Thorne

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