Thursday, February 23, 2012

Old TV Graphics are Scary

I've recently learned that since the 1970s, the BBC has utilizes a system to display teletext information of things like news headlines, sports scores, and stock prices during hours when they're not broadcasting. It's a neat-looking service with Atari 2600-level graphics.

The only reason I wanted to bring this up is that in a comment for the Ceefax video above, the top-voted comment is "ceefax scared me as a child". I completely understand.

Longtime readers (or even firstimelongtime) will know that I was absolutely terrified by the intro to the late movie on Channel 7 WABC New York when I was a child.

There must be some magical combination with late hours and sudden tonal and graphic shifts in television programming. But I was sure that every old animated intro for WABC's late night movie was  designed to somehow frighten me.

I can only wonder how the tradition continues.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Most Elevatonous Songs of 2011

The Most Elevatonous Songs of 2011
The best arbitrary tie-riffic countup.

First, let's warm up:

Ok. As usual it was difficult because I don't really pick out "songs of the year" so much as "songs I most loved to throw on a playlist to play out loud". So it's more poppy, has more beats. The hooks more immediate. Less post-apocalyptic soundscapes with pitch-shifted children crying. Fewer reverb-drenched paeans to summery trees. The other common complication is that in a numbered position I tend to add in other songs by the same artist in the same place. This year I'm trying to make it a bit more interesting by adding some lyrics. So if you're okay with all that, enjoy!

Oh, and I added one of those Yahoo web players, so huge youtube embedded videos don't get in the way and you can listen easier.

1. Rihanna "We Found Love"
"we found love in a hopeless place" x100
One of my favorite forms of pop music. A dance beat set to melancholy. Hard to beat. It's probably a side-effect of watching Neon Genesis Evangelion and realizing apocalypse and pop are a great fit. Or according to the video, a bleak, poor, drug-addled British existence and upbeat dance music.

Little Dragon

2. Little Dragon "Ritual Union"
"… it drowns my feelings in the sea / then dried out over on the beach"
"Shuffle A Dream"
"pick and choose if you want him / would you share? cause that's the deal, girl"
Yes, Swedes dominate the chart again. They're just too good at pop music. One thing I've been intrigued with in the past couple of years is seeing folks around my age who grew up with Mariah Carey and similar singers/pop stars showing their influence. Also "Shuffle A Dream" teaches you not to let someone who looks at rain steal your soul.


3. Cults "Abducted"
"He took my heart away and left me to bleed out, bleed out"
"You Know What I Mean"
"And I can't sleep alone at night / Yeah, you know what I mean"
"Never Saw the Point"
"I never saw the point in trying / Cause I would only let you down"
I definitely appreciated the cramming of hooks into the reverb.

4. SBTRKT feat. Drake & Little Dragon "Wildfire" remix
"I love em all, I just love me more"
Drake and Little Dragon make my favorite all-star remix of the year.
     & "Right Thing to Do" feat. Jessie Ware
Jessie Ware is such a hurricane such a hurricane. Hurricane Sade.

Joker and Jessie Ware

5. Joker feat. Jessie Ware "The Vision"
Jessie Ware has been a great presence for me this year (although "Nervous" came out last year). Check out her performances of this and last year's SBTRKT track "Nervous" in the Boiler Room on Youtube. While she is basically singing in front of a mixing board in a club, she tears it down. Joker provides an extra-hard Mega Man stage for Ms. Ware to navigate, which she does with grace.

Jay and Ye

6. Jay-Z & Kanye West / Watch the Throne "N***** in Paris" (NSFW)
The whole record is an odd victory lap for two people who've been taking victory laps for a while. The sheer amount of references to designer clothing is quite breathtaking. That s*** cray.
     & "Otis"
Jay: "Photo shoot fresh, looking like wealth / I’m ’bout to call the paparazzi on myself" 
Ye: "Lord, please let them accept the things they can’t change / And pray that all of their pain be champagne"

Azealia Banks

7. Azealia Banks "212" (NSFW)
I'll be honest and say that I did not hear this until year-end lists started to come around. Though it was first through a 'best videos' list. This lady is raw. Allegedly she comes from the same school as Nicki Minaj. I'm sure she won't disappoint by putting out an R&B album.

8. Beyoncé "Countdown"
She had me from the moment she yells "killing me softly".

9. Wild Flag "Electric Band" / "Romance"
They make me want to windmill, high kick, and generally rock out.

10. Charli XCX "Nuclear Seasons"
     & "Stay Away"
I really wish I could roller skate to "Nuclear Seasons".

11. Gang Gang Dance "Mindkilla"
A Street Fighter II stage featuring a mutant witch.


12. Ronika "Forget Yourself" / "Wiyoo"
There are a lot of nostalgic synth tunes out there today, but Ronika puts out some genuine jams. I feel no affectation here. This is not to discount her other singles this year: "Only Only" and "In the City", which are also jams.

Lil Wayne and lasagna

13. Lil Wayne "6 Foot 7 Foot" (NSFW)
"Real G's move in silence like lasagna"
Weezy sounds like he was having fun here and I had fun listening to that. I just wish the playfulness and inventiveness spread to the rest of C4.

Nadia Oh
We Swagging-ton. Warning: if you have not heard this before, you might hate it at first. Just give it a chance. It's easier to start with the shorter-length video versions of these songs, they're still entertaining and gives you a sense of what's going on without a full moombahton workout with all the squawks. You could get annoyed or you can dance. Here:

And as Popjustice says for "Taking Over the Dancefloor", there is much joy in the way she rhymes "moombahton", "Don Julio Patron", and "Kate Middleton". "No Bueno" has a bit more pop immediacy, with the autotune set to a less strangled modulation. That boy was just no bueno.

15. Grimes "Vanessa" / "Oblivion"
I love that her single is called "Vanessa" and in the video she looks like Denise and sings like Rudy. I love her story that she has basically been learning how to make music from album to album while having an ear for tunes and again hearkening back to Mariah Carey. Now she's putting out some amazing singles. "Oblivion" is the teaser for her full length album coming out next year.

16. Washed Out "Amor Fati"
Makes you want to put on tinted sunglasses and ride somewhere with waves. The man knows his aesthetic.

17. M83 "Midnight City"
An instant classic.

18. Cut Copy "Need You Now"
A slow-burning Cut Copy epic.

19. Katy B "Broken Record"
Solid emotions-on-the-dancefloor tune. An aside: Last year, I included Katy B's "Lights On", and since then I've had some kind of weird change in my feelings on the album. There's no sense that there's anything sensual happening on the dance floor and even a song titled "Easy Please Me" is about dudes trying to waste her time. Which is a thing, I know, and you should feel great about dancing on the dancefloor on your own (such was the theme of my favorite song of last year). Going back to "Lights On", because I've seen so many movies/TV shows with unhappy couples using the threat of sex with the lights on (like with Jon Favreau in I Love You, Man) that I laugh whenever I hear her lyrics "you can't scare me with the lights on" (by which she meant she will not stop dancing even if the house lights go on because the club is closing). The End. 

20. Yasmin "Finish Line" / "Light Up the World" ft Shy FX & Ms Dynamite
I love "Finish Line". Even if the subject matter is a bummer and it sounds like one of my poli sci professors keeps saying the title. "Light Up the World" was the drum & bass jam of 2011 that I was not expecting.

21. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart "Belong"
     & "Heart in Your Heartbreak"
I do admit that the beginning of "Belong" provokes me to nod my head once at the brief guitar distortion + angst. I'm surprised that there wasn't already a song called "Heart in Your Heartbreak" but this sounds like how it would sound. Timeless is what I'm saying.

22. The Joy Formidable "Whirring" / "A Heavy Abacus"
I'm usually not really big into big emotions conveyed with this much earnestness, but the bigness of this band's sound makes it powerful.

Willy Moon

23. Willy Moon "I Wanna Be Your Man"
The sheer economy of this song is just amazing. I'm pretty sure all the percussion is a balloon being popped. I still have no idea what the deal is with this dynamic young man. I think 2012 will be more illuminating.

24. Dum Dum Girls "Coming Down
Sounds like Mazzy Star's "Fade Into You" but that is not a bad thing. I did hear this song soundtracking a scene in an episode of CSI. That is bad, but I can forgive.

25. Peaking Lights "All the Sun that Shines" / "Tiger Eyes (Laid Back)"
Nice, warm, dubby, psychedelic pop. 


666. Kreayshawn "Gucci Gucci"
In spite of the backlash, I was entertained.

Best Duran Duran song of the year:
Girl Panic

Monday, January 31, 2011

The Most Slizzard, Elevato-nous Songs of 2010, it's Tie-riffic!

Note: You need to give the page a little time to load. There's a lot of videos.
So many videos!

So yet again a list of songs to commemorate a year. Yet again really late. My songs tend to be poppy. Quietly devastating tripped out tracks with mournful sampled vocals do not make this list. This list of no authority whatsoever.

It starts at #1. There will be ties with other singles by the same artist. Making this list "tie-riffic". I'm indecisive. Don't worry about it. It seems to end at about #13, but continues on. Still, good choons.

But first, Lyrics of the year:

"Poppin bottles in the ice, like a blizzard,
When we drink we do it right, gettin slizzard,
Sippin sizzurp in my ride, like Three 6,
Now I’m feelin so fly like a G6"

And of course: Word of the year is: "Slizzard". I don't know how I lived without that word.


1. Robyn: "Dancing on My Own"

& "Hang With Me"

& "Indestructable"


Robyn is a pop star that does not get pop star sales but releases some of the best pop music out there. (Go pick up Robyn, her self-titled album and 2010's Body Talk now if you haven't!). And by "pop" I mean that in the best possible sense. She is able to paint a scene that we can all identify with and celebrate. She makes you want to be in her corner. Which makes Pitchfork's assessment that she is the "Rocky Balboa of pop music" pretty apt. Particularly in "Dancing on My Own", a song about getting your heart broken in the club, alone in the corner, watching it all go down. She makes you want to throw up a fist or lighter in the air while singing the chorus.

It was tough, but it gets the slight edge in this three-way tie for #1. "Hang With Me" comes from a different perspective, advising someone that if they play their cards right, you can indeed hang with her. But don't go all crazy. "Indestructable" is coming from the other extreme from "Dancing", in a relationship that feels so strong that it invokes its title. The line "I'm gonna love you like I've never been hurt before" is pretty strong considering the tales of rejection, not-so-great-dudes, and unease with getting in deep relationship-wise. Anyway, it was tough picking out a #1 and then coming up with excuses for the ties, but Robyn paints a strong, compelling picture with these three singles forming a sort of story arc.

2. Big Boi: "Shutterbugg" featuring Cutty

& "General Patton"

Big Boi has had to deal with some crap in order to release his excellent album Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty but it was worth it. Yet again, I guess I don't understand the music-purchasing public. This record was seen as difficult art and not radio-friendly by his former record label. To me, the record was a well-produced lyrical showcase for Big Boi and incredibly accessible. The best of both worlds. Anyway. Shutterbugg was tough for me to place. It vied for the #1 spot. Killer verses, killer chorus, killer production by Scott Storch with the voicebox and all. "General Patton" is majestic. Which is a feeling I aped to soundtrack Chopper John MD.

3. Zola Jesus: "Night"

Again, this was tough. The rise of Zola Jesus has been great to see this year. This song chills me to the bone. With the backwards sampled voices that bookend the track and the distorted echoes of the bridge into the chorus, it's basically like you've been seduced by a ghost and you can't escape. The great thing about this song is that I think that's actually what this song is about. Nika Danilova's voice is wonderful and the goth-y backdrop is just perfect.

4. Crystal Castles: "Baptism"

& "Not in Love" (Platinum Blonde cover) featuring Robert Smith

Crystal Castles - Not In Love from Video Marsh on Vimeo.

& "Pap Smear"

Crystal Castles (II) was an album I listened to on repeat a ridiculous amount of times in 2010. My page registered the albums tracks at the top of my most-listened-to list. "Pap Smear" was my favorite song off the album but not released as a single. Still, "Baptism" showcases what was so great about the album. It exists at an oddly danceable intersection of abrasive and poppy. Having Robert Smith of the Cure sing Platinum Blonde's "Not in Love" is just a ridiculous all-star moment. You literally can't lose.

5. Best Coast: "When I'm With You"

& "Boyfriend"

So I covered "When I'm With You" on last year's Best-of list. I'm adding it again because it got an official video and was included on this year's Pitchfork list. It's a great song, so I have no problem adding it again. Last year I said: "Lyrically it stays simple until the haunting end. It's haunting to me because I don't know if it calls the lyrics of the first portion of the song into question". Which I still think is a great interpretation. Though unfortunately the video for the song does not indicate such intricate layers. Over the past year, I've found that Ms. Best Coast loves California and her cat. She also enjoys mixing the subject of romantic longing with garage rock. That might sound limiting, but she's really good at conveying these things. It's been a pleasure listening to her album Crazy For You in 2010.

6. Arcade Fire: "Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)"

& "Ready to Start"

Sprawl II is synth-y and dance-y and was not was I was expecting from Arcade Fire. Win Butler's voice can seem pretty thin, but when she wonders "if the world's so small" out loud, it hits me. Lyrics about sprawl and "dead shopping malls" are kind of trite, but the honesty of the track and the way it's sung more than makes up for it.

7. LCD Soundsystem: "Dance Yrself Clean"

See also: "I Can Change"

I haven't had the same relationship with LCD Soundsystem singles that everyone else has. I love James Murphy's lyrics and identify with them more than those of most artists. The meditative singles however don't stand out to me more than the albums they come from as a whole. "Dance Yrself Clean" is 9 minutes I can break out over and over again. It builds slowly but has great musical touches of electro and dance. "talking like a jerk, except you are an actual jerk, and living proof that sometimes friends are mean"... such a great line. I like it more than the critics' top LCD (actual) single "I Can Change", tho that single is also great.

8. Gorillaz: "Melancholy Hill"

& "Stylo" featuring Bobby Womack and Mos Def

& "Empire Ants" featuring Little Dragon

My favorite Gorillaz track from Plastic Beach was "Empire Ants" but it was not released as a single. It would have been a hard sell as a single because it's composed of two distinct halves. But when Little Dragon's part of the song begins and the synths swell, it's magical. "Stylo" is a solid track that owes a lot to Bobby Womack and his huge voice. "Melancholy Hill" is oddly the most current-sounding single they've done with its chillwave-sounding backing and 80's sounding synth notes punctuating the backdrop. The verses remind me of the Beatles "And You Bird Can Sing" with the similar "you don't get me" lines. I like. Also, thanks to the video, whenever I hear the beginning of "Melancholy Hill", all I see is Noodles in a mask firing a machine gun in slow-motion.

9 (tie). Kanye West: "Power"

& "Runaway" (the 35 minute film)

9 (tie). Lady Gaga: "Telephone"

& "Alejandro"

Lady Gaga and Kanye West are so ridiculously similar that it makes sense that they would have toured together before the Taylor Swift mess. They both strive for some kind of ridiculous pop-art sensibility. They use any opportunity they get in order to imbue their public persona with avant garde-ish visual representations. But they do so in a kind of clueless rich-person way. However, it's still enjoyable. They're feet are firmly planted in pop with Gaga's Madonna and Kanye's Michael Jackson obsessions. As long as the pop aspect is maintained, we're good. In keeping with that are these four great pop singles. Also, if you get to see Donald Glover do stand-up, you should hear his bit about his expectations for that aborted Gaga/Kanye tour. I can totally identify.

10. Kylie: "All the Lovers"

& "Get Outta My Way"

& "Better Than Today"

It is Kylie. We love Kylie.

11. Class Actress: "Journal of Ardency" (video slightly NSFW)

I'm not entirely sure this counts as a 2010 song, but it would seem that like Best Coast's "When I'm With You" the song was originally released in 2009 but with a video and more wide release in 2010. So I'm counting it. It's also great. From the red tint of the video and the rolling around provocatively in fishnets, seductive vocals, bouncy synth-y electro backing, you can tell that it's a bit of a sensual track. It succeeds.

12. Caribou: "Odessa"

When the piano banging picks up at the end, I just have to pretend like I will dance.

13. The Pipettes: "Stop the Music"

& "Call Me". It's unfortunate that The Pipettes kind of imploded. Their debut album We Are the Pipettes was full of big 60's girl-group sounds with great singles and hooks abounded. In the meantime they lost all but one member from that album, Gwenno. Then they kept adding and losing new members. Now it's Gwenno and her sister Ani. The sound changed to move up to the 70's and 80's. This did not please many folks in the critical community. The new album Earth vs The Pipettes definitely sounds like a different beast than previous. "Stop the Music" starts off with latin-sounding guitars that immediately break with the past and moves on to disco. It sounds different but it has enough hooks for three different songs.

14. Yeasayer: "O.N.E."
from Paranoid US on Vimeo.
It's a lovely track so earnestly sung that it sounds almost religious. Or like a Culture Club song.

15. Glasser "Mirrorage"

& "Apply"



Jay Electronica: "Exhibit C"

& Shiny Suit Theory featuring Jay-Z, The-Dream, Charlotte Gainsbourg

Both Jays make it look easy. I also like how both tracks have Jay Electronica quoting a conversation he had with Diddy about how he should get out there and do something. "Exhibit C" show off Jay's almost conversational rhyming ability. He doesn't really have to stick with a theme and he doesn't. He still manages to make a ridiculous amount of references and quotes seem like part of one narrative. "Shiny Suit Theory" is more of a 2011 track. I think it was leaked to get some attention to his long long long awaited album. And it did because of its ridiculously clever production, verses, expert Jay-Z guest spot, Charlotte Gainsbourg singing in one section. Allegedly The-Dream is in there somewhere. He was an independent being courted pretty heavily by Diddy and Jay-Z (with Hove winning out). I'm not sure what the deal is. Jay Electronica is ridiculously gifted, but his style is always more famous in the indie hip-hop or college circuit. I don't see a HOT 97 Summer Jam in his future. So we'll see.

Sleigh Bells: "Rill RIll"

& "Tell Em"

& "Infinity Guitars"

Sleigh Bells were very polarizing this year, but I think they're enjoyable. Just not for more than 5-10 minutes. I believe strongly in the marriage of pop and noise, and SB have a very interesting combination. Shouting and guitar riffs. They also remind me a little of Bis, the difference being the red-lining volume and the hardness of the beats and guitar. One thing I can't decide whether I like or hate is the singer's constant use of "oh!" or "uh!"

Wild Nothing: "Chinatown"

Deerhunter: "Desire Lines"

It's really the backing "ahh"s that get me.

Die Antwoord: "Evil Boy" (video NSFW)

Guest-starring and produced by Diplo. First off, this video is crazy. Second, you have to read the Boing Boing articles about this track. There are some cultural issues you need to know before getting offended by the subtitled section of the video and the ever-present penis imagery. It is actually uplifting (ha?). With a sick beat by Diplo. I also love that the guest MC refers to his penis in the chorus via a pun on the name of the armed wing of the ANC during Apartheid, "Umkhonto we Sizwe" or "Spear of the Nation".

Salem: "King Night"

I don't really care about the indie rock debate about calling the music "witch house", I just know that when I first heard this track it nearly deafened me and I enjoyed it. "Holy Night"-sampling, ridiculous bass and all.

M.I.A.: "XXXO"

M.I.A. got the short end of the stick in 2010. She got "gotcha"d in an interview, all the critical support vanished, "Born Free" was seen as too much (though it was pretty cool with its sample of Suicide's "Ghost Rider"), and aside from hearing "It Takes a Muscle" on college radio, I haven't heard much. I didn't like "XXXO" initially, but the production, the hook, and the video with its portrayal of Arab dating sites and the garish gifs that go with it just sealed the deal.

Male Bonding: "Year's Not Long"
Nice guitar rock with enough hooks for several songs.


Sophie Ellis-Bextor: "Bittersweet"

The most posh-voiced pop singer ever released another great single in 2010. It's a very UK dancefloor pop single but considering that kind of production is becoming huge in the US, it's not so odd. It's a very close relative to the excellent Girls Aloud single "Untouchable". Sophie has put together an excellent collection of pop singles over the years, it's definitely worth checking out.

Jessie J: "Do It Like a Dude"

The video is a bit silly and all mugging for the camera. But this single is enjoyable. Especially the line "you think I can't get hurt like you, you motherfucker" which is really the core of the song. It would definitely be a boon to pop radio if she makes it here. A line that I think US pop radio needs: "do it like a man dem suga suga suga".

Nicole Scherzinger: "Poison"

It gets stupider every time I hear the lyrics, but it's very danceable and the chorus is amazing for it's simplicity. I'm also amazed at how helium-y her voice gets when she needs to hit a higher note. Still, it won't win awards for creativity, it's just a solid dance pop tune.

The Hundred in the Hands: "Pigeons"

More flash than bang, but still very catchy and elegant electro rock. Perfect for a night at the indie disco.

2009 - 2008