It's that time of year (actually a little past, I missed tagging onto the blog wave of retrospective list making)... Here's a list of 11 songs released this past year that I really enjoyed. I'll post a similar list for album length efforts in the next week or so.
Eric Copeland – 'U.F.O's Over Vampire City'
In my book this is undoubtedly the song of the year. A true torch song equipped with a stiff slip for these retro-cats who still think that style will suffice in their reverential role-play. This joint comes bathed in blue light, an unseemly lurch that seduces the hips as the eyes and the heart are forced witness to a repulsive sexual slither as slimy as any Screaming Jay Hawkins screed. Blissful torture.
U.S. Girls – 'The Boy Is Mine'
Pardon me for a second as I make reference to a song I had some hand in (more accurately a finger)... In all honesty Meg hit this one out of the park, I can't think of many other artists who can blindly flirt with trend (90's R'n'B being a shit-hot credential these days) while coming out the other end as untainted and original as this lady. Nary a wink for irony-hungry blog fiends - straight goods in other words. The massively underrated Onakabazien deserves some limelight for this one as he actually put together this remix with the original vocals intact some years ago, composed entirely out of cut ups from his dusty basement experiments. Get on board with an uncompromising siren, and an unsung genius (not a bad executive producing / mixing job either).
Mobb Deep – 'Black Cocaine'
At this point Alchemist has to be acknowledged for the crazy run that he's been on the last couple years. For my buck this might be my favourite rap beat of the year. In all honesty I just heard this song for the first time this week, but judging by the fact that Al made my favourite beat of 2010, and of 2009 I don't think the immediate enthusiasm is undeserved. Also good to hear Infamous P comfortably back on his laconic-lunkhead shit.
Actual Water – 'Latoya'
Do you like sugar? (I'm tee'd up here to hesitantly say brown sugar)... Welcome to Actual Water 2011. While at one point not too long ago (pre-ST band) I stood stage-front jealous at Actual Water's cerebral combination of Neu! hypnotism and Mark E. Smith slop, they've now dropped the tweeds and have donned the paisleys. At this point they're more likely to cop a lick from Edison Lighthouse than Television, though what remains as the common denominator is an unmistakable exuberance for music making that can't help but be infectious. This is a perfect pop song by Wizzard, or the Sweet standards. Watch it race up the Billboard 200, 1972.
Gonjasufi – 'The Lows'
One thing I like about Hip Hop is that in some corners fidelity has always been an open question. Since the golden age 80's, tape hiss, grime, fuzzy bass saturation all hallmarks of tape culture have reverentially been referred to as the real or raw shit. (Try telling R. Stevie that pop rock has had a similar affinity for low-rent vibes until recently). Gonjasufi comes dangerously close to abusing this fidelity leeway with a conceptually sound track about being broke. Just as a slick beat can allow for some transcendent grandiosity, so does this junk music run parallel to the sentiment as verbally expressed.
KA – 'Cold Facts'
Speaking of grime... Since kinda debuting on one of the best rap albums of the last five years KA has turned out to have legs of his own. The four (slept on) video singles he's dropped this fall have been some of the vibe-heaviest burners since RZA was on his game. In all honesty it's hard to single out one of these tracks above any other, which bodes well for the vivid grit that his forthcoming Grief Pedigree album seems to suggest it will deliver.
Jef Barbara – 'Wild Boys'
Pretty impressive stuff. Wisely collaborating with synth and italo-kosmiche master Femminielli to legitimately evoke an era in music when early Prince would seamlessly blend into Berlin Bowie, bumping against any number of Moroder concoctions at a DJ night. The thing is this guy fucking goes for it, he owns the funky bass playing and shameless guitar solo shreddery – as he should. Fuck irony, for real. Probably Canada's best bid at a legitimately exciting POP star in the coming year.
Jean-Claude Vannier – 'Au Desepoir Des Singes'
Although I was somewhat weary of the might JCV (one of my heroes) trying to re-enact his arrangement glories of the early 70's, employing many of the same session doods from his mighty tandem LPs, I was pleasantly surprised by this track. It does a pretty good job of evoking the combination of lithe funk and sexual french sophistication that he helped Gainsbourg to trademark. Honestly, no one can get a string session sounding like Vannier (except for Beck, when he consciously tries to emulate Vannier).
Blu feat. Edan – 'Ronald Morgan'
Obligatory Madlib produced track. Sift through the absolutely blunted murk to uncover the best rap verse of the year by Edan in complete psychedelic word-wizard mode (cue it up to 1:35). Absolutely incredible.
Rocket Freudental – 'Der Alleiner'
This one, I can't find a preview for on the internet. I came across the record during my fall Euro jaunt. One of the best shows on the tour was in Stuttgart (near where this band is from). We partied with some cool cats whose record collection seemed to mirror my own in an eerie way. In any case they enthusiastically recommended this band as the best contemporary rock band in Germany, and actually gave a copy of this LP to me. It is a great, eclectic record. The best song sounds like Crazy Horse riffs chopped up and bludgeoned into something awesome and strange. It's hard to tell if there are samples involved or how the fidelity was achieved which is a haziness I enjoy. I've been told the lyrics are quite good too.
Drake – 'Headlines'
I include this track as an 11th, not only for sake of the only somewhat guilty pleasure it provides or for some skewed hometown pride but mostly for the simple thrill of the insistent, addicitive pulse of the actual music - all Aubreyisms aside. In truth Drake is a highly entertaining figure, not only for the fodder he provides the Big Ghost blog, but for his occasional flashes of great taste. This thing rides like some unholy Wendy Carlos Moog journey into the simple arrpegiations and repitions of Philip Glass. Good stuff in other words.