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