Thursday, February 6, 2014

2013 Singles: #5 to #1

#5 "Hold On We're Going Home" by Drake
Cause you're a good girl and you know it
I know exactly who you could be
I'm not sure why I had such a difficult time rationalizing a top spot for Drake a few years ago. "Marvins Room" is still a fantastic track and I'm kinda relieved he did nearly as well his next time out.

I'm also gonna say the dude's charming and funny. His turn hosting SNL was great (as was Bruno Mars's). Damn talented kids.

#4 "Pompeii" by Bastille
But if you close your eyes, does it almost feel like
Nothing changed at all?
A brilliant track that I've loved for months.

Never mind that when I first posted it I reversed the artist and the title. You didn't notice that either.

What's not to love about this track? Exactly.

#3 "Get Lucky" by Daft Punk/Pharrell/Nile Rodgers
She's up all night for good fun
I'm up all night to get lucky
I've called Daft Punk LCD Soundsystem more than once today.

That's a little disturbing.

More disturbing: that the Album of the Year Grammy won by this album is Nile Rodgers's only Grammy. Fail NARAS, fail!

#2 "Nuclear" by Destiny's Child
Anytime the climates change between us
We share a bond they can't restrict, that can't be touched
I've adored this song from the beginning. It's got a perfect 90s soul vibe and I could easily hear this dropping in between Stone Roses, En Vogue, Whitney Houston or Pet Shop Boys.

Still could. I mean, not if it requires me going out of anything...

And, AND, produced by Pharrell... selfish selfish Pharrell.

#1 "Can't Hold Us" by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis
Got that Bob Barker suit game and plinko in my style
Money, stay on my craft and stick around for those pounds
Had I be just a tad more aware of it last year it would have made the singles list. Since it didn't there was no way to ignore its brilliance again.

Kudos to Microsoft who I credit with building my awareness through their use of this song in Surface ads. Not the only song owing a little something to a commercial this year (see also "Hey Brother" and "Brave"). I think that was Microsoft's best move in years.

If you noticed I don't have "Same Love" in either year, good job. It's just too much for me. Meh.

2013 Singles: #10 to #6

#10 "Recovery" by Frank Turner
So I've been pounding on the floor and I've been crawling up the walls
And I've been dipping in my darkness for serotonin boosters, cider and some kind of smelling salts
I would have liked this song in any year I was alive. This is exactly what great pop music sounds like when it's great to me.

And now I have a catalog to acquire.

#9 "Follow Your Arrow" by Kasey Musgraves
If you save yourself for marriage you're a bore
If you don't save yourself for marriage you're a whor-rible person
Kasey's is the supreme song addressing the classic Breakfast Club double standard (Ally Sheedy's "It's a trap" scene--the second most famous "It's a trap" scene of the 80s). 

The song hands out a lot of advice and, while some of it might not be what parents want their kids hearing, I think it's good a nice balance to it.  Of course I don't have a 14 year old daughter who'll get all potted up on weed and become a lesbian because some country singer told her to.

Then again neither do you.

#8 "Wake Me Up" by Avicii/Aloe Blocc
I tried carrying the weight of the world
But I only have two hands
Avicii's second single on the list. He's no Pharrell, but otherwise huzzah.

The single, Aloe Blocc, is married to Maya Jupiter. Or I'm just making shit up.

#7 "Happy" by Pharrell
I’m a hot air balloon that could go to spaceWith the air, like I don’t care baby by the way
Pharrell shared with Daft Punk and Robin Thicke for a great year but didn't share his Oscar nomination with anyone else.

That seems rude.

Still, hoping it beats the boring song from Frozen.

#6 "We Can't Stop" by Miley Cyrus
Remember only God can judge ya
Forget the haters cause somebody loves ya
I can't tell you why this took up space in my head since late last summer.

I'm sure Robin Thicke is happy to have her twerqing during this VMA performance. I'm sure Justin Timberlake, the night's "big winner" is not happy that no one remembers who the night's big winner was supposed to be. It was Miley. It's she who owns the night.

And after all of this I will just say she's done a great job of maneuvering herself into a position where "Hannah" isn't bugging her anymore.

2013 Singles: #20 to #11

#20 "Young Girls" by Bruno Mars
All these roads steer me wrong
But I still drive them all night long, all night long
I've got no problem with Bruno Mars being hailed as the reigning king of pop music.

Also this would make a great song for Dwight Yokum.

#19 "The Mother We Share" by CHVRCHES
I'm in misery where you can seem as old as your omensAnd the mother we share will never keep your proud head from falling
I'd hoped the stylized spelling of the name would be past us by now.

Regardless of their name, the band had one of my favorite albums from 2013.

#18 "Timber" by Pitbull/Ke$ha
It's going down, I'm yelling timber
You better move, you better dance
Yeah bitches, you better believe it.

All that stuff I said about Eminem and Rihanna? That does not apply here. I didn't care for Pitbull in the past and don't love me some Ke$ha now. But despite that, this is a fun song.

#17 "Hey Brother" by Avicii/Dan Tyminski
Oh, if the sky comes falling down, for you
There’s nothing in this world I wouldn't do
If you know Dan it's as the voice of "Man of Constant Sorrow" from Oh Brother Where Art Thou? Between that and his work in the bluegrass band Union Station he has 14 Grammys. Take that Liza.

Avicii is rocking some interesting collaborations with True, his debut album. As you'll see in the top 10 as well. 

Debut? Yes. Prior releases were singles or EPs.

#16 "The Wire" by HAIM
Does your imagination try to make you what you wanted to be?
Because I'm sorry I do what I did, but it came naturally
From brother to sisters: the sisters Haim or The SiiHaas. No, wait, HAIM. Stylized spelling, for the win!

There's a lot of retro to love in this: Eagles, Pat Benetar and The Pretenders? Sure, throw them into the blender. There's more in there, too, just dig around a while. It's good!

#15 "Wrecking Ball" by Miley Cyrus
It slowly turned, you let me burn
And now, we're ashes on the ground
The lesser of Miley's entries this year (she's done well in the past with me). 

This song had 5 writers. I wonder how that breaks down across what's here...

The production is what brings me back and even that defies an easy explanation for its appeal. Cirkut and Dr. Luke both work with an array of current pop recording artists (I'm avoiding words like singer or musician these days): Katy Perry, Rihanna, Britney, Nicki Minaj, Pink. But this sounds different. Intentionally distant. That thing I find a problem with Janelle is okay here. Weird, right? 

#14 "Southern Comfort Zone" by Brad Paisley
I have kissed a West Coast girl underneath the Northern Lights
I know what it's like to be the only one like me
It's a tough one to explain. The lyrics are clumsy but sweet. The production is solid. Paisley is a great musician, one I'm happily a fan of. And yet there was something about this that bothered me a year ago and something else about the song that I never grew tired of.

#13 "Daddy Was a Real Good Dancer" by The Dismemberment Plan
But if all my eulogies are all corny fantasies
I'll just put on my favorite groove cause that's what we would always do
This song's inclusion here is owed to its inclusion in the first 3 best of lists I reviewed for 2013. 

They've been around a while but I don't know anything about the band. Since they're playing Coachella I assume it's fair to be over them already... that was quick.

#12 "Love Me Again" by John Newman
I stole and burnt your soul
Is that what demons do?

This song's inclusion here is owed to Dancing with the Stars which I wouldn't have watched if Two Broke Girls had remained remotely watchable.

It's not and here we are.

#11 "Blurred Lines" by Robin Thicke/Pharrell
OK now he was close, tried to domesticate you
But you're an animal, baby, it's in your nature
That little fucker Pharrell is on here 3 times AND as a producer has at least one more track in the top 10. Top 2 in fact. 

And I'm rooting for him to pick up the Oscar for Best Original Song. And he's not even the primary artist for the song.

And T.I. does something on this song. If that's short for Texas Instruments probably the calculator that adds up all the time there's superfluous singing. Texas Instruments are powerful enough to account for even the most out of control egos.

Does this song perpetuate rape culture? Discuss.

2013 Singles: #30 to #21

#30 "FOH" by Superchunk
In my cups I see you watching from the edge of the bed
I'm sinking words that you never said
There's a video for this song with a story to it.

I don't think it does the song justice. I've taken to Superchunk (and only recently) because there's an urgency and brevity to them. A video longer than the song doesn't help in that case.

#29 "Come With Me" by Ricky Martin
There's no limit to forever
And there's no ceiling in the sky
I haven't kept up with Ricky's music since we broke up back in early 1999. 

He wasn't comfortable enough in his sexuality to go out in public with me and I'd already had sex with him a few times and thus was ready for something new. 

This song could be from 1998 or 2000 or any year since whatever year all the Latins exploded. I mean, Ricky did in early 99 but that was a different thing. Also Enrique Iglesias, but this isn't about him.

#28 "This Disorder" by The Features
Is there a need to be concerned
Have they done studies, what have they learned?
It's cool that I know nothing about this band. I would have bet they were Aussies but they're from Sparta TN. 

And they've been rocking it for over a decade. So cool.

Why, what did you know about them?

#27 "Hard Out Here" by Lily Allen
Don't you want to have somebody who objectifies you
Have you thought about your butt, who's gonna tear it in two?
I wish she would have kept the title "Hard Out Here for a Bitch." It aligns with the title of the Oscar-winning "Hard Out Here for a Pimp" and it's just fucking better. 

There are 2 songs (possibly more) that directly address the double standard for the gyno-Americans (slut if you do, bitch if you don't) and this is the lesser of those (although I think there's a third and it didn't make the top 50, so this is the middle of the pack).

I'm not sure if it would have been appropriate for Allen to embrace the cliches (as she does here) or to reverse them a la Michelle Shocked (but fuck her) with "On the Greener Side."

Whatever gets me gratuitous beefcake, that's the correct answer.

#26 "The Monster" by Eminem/Rihanna
You're trying to save me, stop holding your breath
And you think I'm crazy, yeah, you think I'm crazy
Years ago I loved me some Eminem.

Now I loves me some Rihanna.

Which is why this is on here.

#25 "(Everything is) Debatable" by Hellogoodbye
It's such an arbitrary line that we dance
We waited centuries to throw up our hands
Forest Kline of Hellogoodbye is the west coast version of Rivers Cuomo.


#24 "The Fox" by Ylvis
The secret of the fox, ancient mystery
Somewhere deep in the woods, I know you're hiding
Over 350 million views on YouTube. Clearly I'm not the only one who enjoys this as a single, but I readily admit it goes downhill about halfway through. 

A smart DJ would megamix this shit with Psy and possibly Ricky Martin (he likes threesomes).

#23 "Man" by Neko Case
I'm not your identity crisis
This was planned
Hmm, perhaps this gender swap track from Neko is the third I mentioned during the Lily Allen post. 

If so that makes her the lowest (sorry dude, someone's gotta be bottom, ask Ricky Martin [or Kenny Chesney]).

#22 "Sirens" by Pearl Jam
I didn't care, before you were here
I danced in laughter with the ever after
You could have told me this was from any of their albums after the first two and not including Backspacer (which I really liked) and I wouldn't have known better. I think that speaks to their consistency of their sound (but not meant in a bad way). They work well in their musical wheelhouse.

Of course you could also have told me they're covering a Dave Matthews song here and I'm not sure I could argue that point either. But that's only because thematically it's "So Damn Lucky" all over again. And also it sounds a little like Eddie's imitating Dave early in the song.

#21 "Mirrors" by Justin Timberlake
'Cause with your hand in my hand and a pocket full of soul
I can tell you there's no place we couldn't go
I'm not sure "Mirrors" and "Sirens" are all that different, thematically.


Oh, it's worth pointing out that I lowered its final rank based on what I thought was an unfortunate end for the song. I blame that part on one of his 3 songwriting collaborators (Timbaland [I originally typed Timbland which maybe he's become]; J-Roc and James Fauntleroy), but who knows with JT. Also he's JT. Unless James Taylor is also around.

Fun fact: James Taylor has a very large penis. Allegedly. I guess "fact" until otherwise determined. Not sure about Justin. Let's assume yes since he hangs with lots of black dudes and seems comfortable.

2013 Singles: #40 to #31

#40 "Starlet" by Matt Pond
These wires twist their way to you
And by the time they reach you I'll be gone
I almost always type "Pong" when I type his name. That doesn't tell you much about the music but maybe if you remember that I really like him, all the pongs will build up. Despite that, I'm posting him here.

I'd hoped "Snow Days" use in a Starbucks ad would keep him from the siren call of the major label deal but alas, BMG. Sorry dude.

#39 "We Were Rock and Roll" by Janelle MonĂ¡e
And I remember the smell of guns
War lived in me but love finally won
Her collaboration with Erykah Badu "Q.U.E.E.N.S." made many year-end lists and I still don't get it. And as much as I've loved her singles in the past, I lose interest with the whole time-traveling android thing pretty quickly.

I'm curious if the icy veneer goes away when she's no longer an android. 

Or is she doomed to spend time with Winona and Keanu?

#38 "Brave" by Sarah Bareilles
Say what you wanna say
And let the words fall out
I'm not sure who optioned this for their commercials but it's a show I watch regularly and I think I heard this song 9000 times (perhaps after The Daily Show and The Colbert Report online) without knowing who it was or what she was singing.

By the way all of this "be the weird quixotic person you really are" is nice until I'm inconvenienced. Then watch your freak asses out.

Just saying. Til then, go on, be brave.

#37: "Unbelievers" by Vampire Weekend
I'm not excited, but should I be?
Is this the fate that half of the world has planned for me?
Erin (and many others) insists that "Diane Young" was a single of the summer (or the single of the summer) but I wasn't feeling it. This track, however, burrowed in and stayed.

It lacks the frenetic percussion I typically love from Vampire Weekend but within the chamber pop constraints the lyrics shine a bit more. Faith and sin and grace and doubt... well played.

#36 "Don't Swallow the Cap" by The National
I have only two emotions
Careful fear and dead devotion
I was delighted to hear about The National from 2 coworkers. Am I alone responsible for their continued increase in acclaim and visibility? Surely not.

Surely not.

#35 "Late March, Death March" by Frightened Rabbit
My bridge is burned, perhaps we'll shortly learn
That it was arson all along
OMFG they opened for the fucking National and I didn't go. I am the lamest mother fucker in all of existence.

"Oh, but it sold out" you might have heard me exclaim.


And look at how they converge here, reminding me of my lameness.

Also it's worth pointing out this is the alternate version of the song, from the EP of the same name. In case someone checks against the rules (there are no rules).

#34 "San Francisco" by The Mowglis
Do you feel the love? I feel the love
C’mon c’mon, lets start it up!
Lyrically the most optimistic thing I've got for the year. It's a big hippie power pop collective and that's perfect for an ode to the systematic drug that is the charms of San Francisco. I've taken that one before.

#33 "Nightlife" by Jody Watley
Gonna get my hair done, nails done
I'm gonna get my drag on
Jody Watley!

Put her down with the other 20+ year old acts putting out stuff this year.

Then go dance.

#32 "Afterlife" by Arcade Fire
After all the bad advice
Had nothing at all to do with life

Arcade Fire's follow up to The Suburbs wasn't as instantly embraceable but it warmed on me.

The song titles of this and the preceding are just happily similar, it wasn't intentional.

Now go back to dancing.

#31 "When I Was Your Girl" by Alison Moyet
In my cups I see you watching from the edge of the bed
I'm sinking words that you never said
Its position on my list probably doesn't convey how many times, and for how long, I've had this song stuck in my head.

I'm kicking myself for not seeing her in San Francisco last November. D'oh!

2013 Singles: #50 to #41

#50 "When You Touch Down From Outer Space" by Stornoway
I just pray (I just pray)
I just pray you're strong enough to drink it in
The only track given weight by their live performance. That's a testament to how few live shows I caught in 2013 more than anything. But damn were they good.

In the running tally of "love is great and we have possibilities ahead" vs. "love sucks and there's no hope" chalk the opener to the former.

#49 "Elephant" by Tame Impala
He pulled the mirrors off his Cadillac
'Cause he doesn't like it looking like he looks back
This track from what I believe to be their second album (and it is) earns a spot more for endurance than for excitement. 

Had Lorde made the list that would be why. But she did not. Many people will be confused by her absence, but I'm not impressed. Yes, I have Miley on here twice and Brad Paisley and yet no Lorde. Oh hey, did you notice how none of this is about Tame Impala? 

Me too.

#48 "Sweater Weather" by The Neighbourhood
Touch my neck and I'll touch yours
You in those little high-waisted shorts
A few things about this song remind me of Fastball's "The Way" which I think was a top 5 single for me back in 1998 which is, fuck, 15 years ago. None of those things are super interesting, by the way, so I'm not really up for enumerating them.

On the other hand, if you told a naive listener (not clueless, just having not heard it before) this was Bruno Mars do you think they'd believe it?

I do.

#47 "Green Garden" by Laura Mvula
Take me outside, sit in the green garden
Nobody out there, but it's okay now
Mvula is one of this year's Mercury Prize shortlist that charmed me. This was a great year for discovering new artists that way and, as I type this, she may be the only one making the top 50 which, frankly, surprises me. 

Surely the Arctic Monkeys are on here... Bowie?

#46 "Metroland" by OMD
We fail and we fall
We fear and we crawl
Great albums from Pet Shop Boys, Alison Moyet, The Ocean Blue, David Bowie and OMD (I'm sure there were others from 20+ year old acts) gave 2013 a certain comfort. And these albums weren't just playing out a variation on the hit, they all brought something new to their respective discographies.

Or am I overcompensating and they just milked their hits a little more?

I should point out that I wouldn't even call myself an OMD fan and yet I bought this album because it's really fucking good. 

Not that you care.

#45 "Waltzing Matilda" by Hilary Grist
It's no more than you can handle
Don't be left behind
I find this song adorable and I find this video adorable-r (even more adorable, whatev). 

The song is sweet encouragement not to waste one's youth on fear, on anger. When Grist sings "don't be left behind" it's knowingly plaintive. I think. I'll ask her if that's what she was going for (oh it helps to know that this song found me when she emailed something to me and I have no idea why she thought I was worth the effort).

The video's even more awesome with the mash-up for noir, sci fi and goofy adolescent humor ("the minute I saw your... face"). How can you not love that? 

#43 "You & I" Local Natives
The closer I get, the further I have to go
To places we don't know
Local Natives are digging their roots into me. They started in 2010 and while I've never been super effusive (right? The National, Frightened Rabbit, Stornoway, Neko Case--that shit you're bored of I'm sure) they are definitely continuing to grow in my esteem. 

I suppose it's better this way, lowers the expectations for each successive outing. Avoid that MGMT crash.

#42 "Jim and George" by Rosanne Cash
They're cutting down a tree nobody cares to see
Could be the last one in New York
This single was a gift to The Church St. Luke in the Fields and its outreach programs for people living with AIDS and for LGBLTQQ youth. I love BLTs.

Sadly there is nothing to embed.

But you can preview it here.

But really you should spend the dollar and purchase it here, cheap bastard.

#41 "Love is a Bourgeois Construct" by Pet Shop Boys
I'll explore the outer limits of boredom, moaning periodically
Just a full-time, lonely layabout that's me
Ah my sophomore year of college: intellectual hubris paired with rampant hormonal flash mobs.

Pet Shop Boys lyrics are far smarter than you're appreciating unless you already totally get their genius. If you confuse them with Information Society you're part of the problem.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Gaga's Law

Monday, February 3, 2014

R.I.P. Philip Seymour Hoffman

I'm pleased at the number of my friends and family expressing sadness at his loss. It's suitably north of Paul Walker and south of Lou Reed.

When I saw him in Scent of a Woman (the movie for which Al Pacino WON an Academy Award, let us never forget) he was weasel-y and familiar, and I think only one of those 2 things was in the script. How do you pronounce Gstaad anyway?

From his debut in 1992 to the Best Actor Oscar for Capote in 2005, his path to stardom was respectable. He favored independent movies and ensemble roles and always managed to stand out. The awkwardness of his coming on to Dirk in Boogie Nights, his urgency in The Big Lebowski and his humanity ordering groceries and porn (but mostly porn) in Magnolia.

Don't tell my mom I still haven't seen Capote, probably the movie she's liked more than any other from the last 10 years. To be clear, she knows, I just don't want you rubbing it in her face or anything. Certainly it would be weird to call her from out of the blue and say something like that to her.

As I look across his filmography I realize I may be less of a fan as my friends and relatives. I like him more when he's less prominent. Better in Twister than Mission Impossible III, better in The Talented Mr. Ripley than in Doubt. I don't even remember him in Charlie Wilson's War and haven't yet seen The Master.

He was nominated for 2 Emmys and 3 Tony awards.

I come back to this scene from Magnolia because it's been one of those weeks/months/years where this seems to capture my mood and because I find it one of the most audacious scenes in movies, possibly ever.

Rest in peace dude.