Monday, December 28, 2009

Best Songs of 2009 Pt. 1

This year's commentary on songs that I thought were better than other songs is especially long, mainly due to the pretty good year its been for albums and singles. As always, I began the year complaining and ended it overwhelmed by great music, some of which I'm rushing to digest as I'm typing this (about 14 albums) so I can get the album list up by Thursday afternoon at the very latest. Will I succeed? If there's food and drugs around in the next few days, then that's a no.

Beyonce- "Video Phone (Feat. Lady Gaga)"

The last two Beyonce albums took me a year to enjoy, the former due to some sort of egregious oversight on my part, the latter because the ballad portion of I Am...Sasha Fierce was just terrible. I don't enjoy hearing Beyonce sing ballads because, though most likely on key, her voice tends to sound like a horse neighing to me in the context of her having to emote in such a way (Which itself makes her duet with Shakira kind of a menagerie). But the "fierce" portion turned out to be fucking great. At this point Beyonce's kind of robotic in her perfection of what's possible as a black pop singer, aided by the fact that from when I was a kid to now hip-hop, rather than say, Third Eye Blind, became the standard influence on pop radio production, even when the songwriting itself still harps on worn out pop-punk and post-grunge tropes. A perfect example of that meld actually is "Irreplaceable". But since the album's not going to make my list, I have to gush now about the indefatigable level of attitude and awesomeness here. The video's great, which is nothing new considering this last Beyonce album, and Lady Gaga manages to counter Beyonce's poise and measured choreography with what amounts to her interpretation of a "new way" NYC vogue freakout (shades of Leyomi Mizrahi?).

Absu- "Between The Absu of Eridu & Erich"

Amerie- "Pretty Brown (Feat. Trey Songz)"

Baroness- "The Sweetest Curse"

Never took them seriously as anything other than an imaginative 2004-era Mastodon clone until the dual leads come in halfway through, which besides supplanting the band that they clearly got most of their inspiration from, reminds me of how terrible Mastodon have become.

Bat For Lashes- "Daniel"

Beanie Sigel- "Think Big"

Beans is the kind of dude that I love in small doses, but could never sustain an album. He's the kind of rapper that can show up on a track like "Ignorant Shit" and lyrically annihilate it but after its all over you know you'll probably delete half any record you download from him afterward. Therefore 2:15 of Sigel going in in the middle of this weird "Waiting to Exhale" drama he's putting out in the public is optimal; no bullshit, just the Broad Street Bully getting it in on something that automatically caresses the automatically stans out for 90's rap throwbacks.

Brand New- "You Stole"

The minute the old guard emo/scene bands quit having any sort of ideas about commercial success is usually when they put out their best stuff. Poison the Well, Zao and Thursday come to mind, all acts who put out their best records after they were poised to maybe push more limited edition merch just to break even on tour. Out of all these bands, Brand New is the only one to have matched that abandoning of pop prospects or even radio programming with a great album all the way through, epitomized by the best song on the record, 6 minutes of watery guitar, brush drums, brooding, and a scant middle section guitar freakout.

Brutal Truth- "Evolution Through Revolution"
Myspace took over imeem and youtube is oddly bereft of any audio from this albums save for two songs, but its streaming on their myspace so there you can hear what basically sums up the Brutal Truth catalog: equal parts amazing and annoyingly dumb. There seems to, in Brutal Truth, Snoop, and Cephalic Carnage, be a common theme of aging potheads not only becoming sad and embarrassing, but terrible. This track represents Brutal Truth, whose dedication to almost /b/-tard levels of stupidity and shittiness on Evolution Through Revolution just continues the weird descent into self-parody that makes up a good quarter of Sounds of the Animal Kingdom, which even they now admit was recorded terribly because they're non-functional stoners. But this song is worth all the crap for the one cool riff they introduce every now and then.

Burnt By The Sun- "Inner Station"

The greatest grind-y chugXcore band of all time. By far. And one of the few Dave Witte projects that isn't terrible (looking at you Municipal Waste).

Busdriver- "Do The Wop"

Somehow Busdriver managed to release an even more niche album than the trippy prog-rap record he put out with Radioinactive and Daedalus 5 years ago, mainly because somehow the leap to Epitaph and success he got from the change in sound convinced him that filling his record full of Deerhoof and West Coast post-Dilla beatmakers would be a good idea, i.e. it should've been more Flying Lotus, less Nosaj Thing (even though the latter puts on an amazing DJ show). This is one of the least convoluted/unlistenable tracks on the record, which, as a stan, is a definite letdown.

Cam'Ron- "Get It In Ohio"

I could've done this on Frooty Loops unmastered and everything, which is a big reason Cam is endearing. Even on Come Home With Me there were songs that it seemed like no one cared to even attempt to make sound as good as the other songs on the record. But Cam sounds best over mixtape-fidelity beats, this being the most triumphant sounding shit on the whole record which, though he's lyrically in a rut at this point, is the closest thing to good he's released since Purple Haze.

Camera Obscura- "French Navy"

The sound of velvet sweaters filled with syrupy goo being picked at by incorrigible chinchillas.

Clipse- "Eyes On Me"

I usually like the most danceable track on a record for two reasons: either the record's pretty awful but its saving grace is said song, or the album's great and the dance track is incongruous and is easier to highlight than anything else. It's the former for this song, which is one of a few highlights on a pretty blah Clipse record, that felt half-assed and half-restrained instead of focused like, say, Hell Hath No Fury.

Converge- "Cruel Bloom"

Only strange due to the fact that it tends to lean more Tom Waits/Neurosis than their ballad-y, contemplative songs tended to in the past, but one of a handful of things I heard during the year I could actually call "beautiful" without feeling as though I'd have to justify myself.

Dizzee Rascal- "Dance Wiv Me"

DJ Class- "I'm The Shit Remix (Feat. Kanye West)"

The last two years at college have made me appreciate the power of a good club track a lot more than when stuff like J-Kwon and Juelz Santana was the norm and if you were lucky they'd pepper in some dancehall and soca so you could actually get into the vertical outercourse that was the entire purpose of you pre-gaming three shots of grain and loading your wallet with two packs of Trojans and your emergency contact number. At this point I'm more likely to go to a club or party to check out what's popular with people who don't spend all their time listening to 90's house and blackened thrash, which more often than not is pretty amazing stuff, even when it's terrible. I could write a dissertation on the power of song placement and genre and how "Sexual Eruption" and "Turn My Swag On" were the most important and powerful songs of last year, regardless of genre. "I'm the Shit" was usually packed in between house throwbacks and one or two Baltimore club songs, and though Baltimore club didn't really get ingrained in setlists up here like it might've elsewhere, this song's probably going into the canon.

DJ Paul- "Stay Wit Me"

DJ Quik and Kurupt- "Ohhh!"

The real reason people loved West Coast rap was because it sounded great at parties and was easily digestible. No multi-layering of jazz samples, no "rah rah!" yelling, just groove and an efficiency at storytelling that has been lacking from East Coast rap for a good minute now. If life was fair this would be a block party staple next to the "Cha-Cha Slide" and "Gin and Juice"

Don Omar- "Virtual Diva"

I am an asshole. And the Bronx is rife with STIs.

DOOM- "Batty Boyz"

The fact that people didn't get up in arms about this song is either testament to DOOM's lack of real-world popularity of the fact that this is actually one of the funnier and least-hostile anti-gay rap songs ever made, so much so that "anti-gay" is probably a little to describe the track. Basically the opposite end of the spectrum of "Boom Bye Bye"

Drake- "Houstalantavegas"

I love Drake as an R&B sanga, but as a sanga ternt rappa, he's pretty much just a faux-sophisticated mixtape rapper, which is why I put this over "Best I Ever Had". Being saved from his lyrics, which fall into the aughts-trend of not making much fucking sense or meaning as much as he thinks they do, is the main reason, but the fact that this is So Far Gone's ultimate "I put on music when I fuck" song puts it over the top.

The-Dream- "Rockin That Shit"

The most 80's Janet Jackson-sounding shit EVER. And fuck Fabolous. Honestly.

Eminem- "The Warning"

Sure, when the only good song you've put out in 5 years is a Mariah Carey diss track, you're clearly as dated and over-the-hill as Mariah herself, but its worth it to hear pre-Triumph the Insult Comic Dog Eminem.

The Flaming Lips- "Convinced of the Hex"

Erasing 5-6 years of "Meh" within 30 seconds

Game- "I'm So Wavy"

Still lyrically garbage, still with an ear for great beats, but now with the ability to actually rap. Could still get run over by Reginald Denny and not affect anything at all; dude's the definition of extraneous.

General Surgery- "Restrained Remains"

Ghostface Killah- "Stapleton Sex"

I have a personal list of things I subject friends to to see if they are, quite honestly, interesting enough to bother investing into a personal relationship with. FTM tranny on MTF tranny porn, Wonder Showzen, etc, etc. This song quickly got added to that list, and anyone flinching or getting overly conservative during this shit gets the gasface and demotion to "acquiantance". Disarmingly reckless yet even-handed and sex-positive as only Ghost could do.

Grand Puba- "Hunny"

Hits the same 90's old-head rap spot that Stakes Is High does. Sure, its sweater and Hennesey rap but there's nothing wrong with that.

Grizzly Bear- "Ready, Able"

Like every Grizzly Bear song, it's the chorus that does most of the work, though the build-up is just as important. 1:56 in though, the song reaches a well-earned crest of almost soulful ache in the melody. Something pretty enough to stage an low-budget rape scene around.

Gucci Mane- "Lemonade"

When I started seriously listening to Three 6 Mafia and UGK two years ago, I longed for a car, not for transportation but for the sole purpose of getting ridiculous speakers and enjoying my favorite tracks the way they were meant to be. This track, the best song on The State vs Radric Davis, is the kind of song that makes me alienate long-suffering friends and relative, the kind of blustering of "You don't understand how fucking amazing this is! Listen to the 70's-rock build-up the bass does in the chorus and then the knock it settles back into after each one!" or "Yes the song's about jewels, why does that matter?" that elicits eye rolls and snide dismissals from the kind of people trying to still push Elzhi or The Blueprint 3 on me.

HEALTH- "Die Slow"

If I had to rank this shit, this would probably be my second favorite song of the year, tapping into the two things I listened to most attentively my junior year of high school: pre-1994 industrial and post-punk with ghostly androgynous vocals. Although I can easily see why they're not that popular.

Jamie Foxx- "Speak French (Feat. Gucci Mane)"

If I had to rank this shit? Fourth favorite song. About a minute too long, and like "Lemonade" and "Die Slow", something I feel that I'd have to defend and explain rather than let speak for itself. Which seems insane to me, but "grim yet cunty" isn't quite the niche market they're trying to reach with this. Also reaffirms my belief that we're in a renaissance of music-to-miss-periods-to not seen since the early 90's.

Jay-Z-"Thank You"

The only thing on this typically half-shit/half-interesting album. Now that I'm not 12 anymore I tend to hold Jay on a higher pedestal than I did then, forgetting that the guy never did actually put out a classic. Sure I'd prefer an album of "Thank You"s, but units need to be pushed to continue to pay off Papa Knowles, so I have to be realistic. Shit, even Reasonable Doubt benefitted from and was elevated by critical hindsight, nostalgia, and the fact that 90's rap was arguably better because albums were still being constructed, as opposed to the current era of disjointed, filler-laden major label mixtapes. Still, first Jay track I've screw-faced over in years.

Jeremih- "Birthday Sex"

Guaranteed to make a room smell like pussy and cocoa butter. And maybe TCB hair products.

Joell Ortiz- "U.N.I.T.Y"

Only member of Slaughterhouse I fucks with for a reason. Who else could've flipped this song into a paean to platonic relationships?

No comments: