21-17

21. “Girls Love Beyonce”- Drake & James Fauntleroy

It’s a foregone conclusion that next year Drake will overtake Kanye’s throne and achieve the title of Best Rapper Alive, and if “Hold On We’re Going Home” is any indication, maybe even the biggest musician in the country. But even after an excellent year that began with “Started From the Bottom” in February and the release of his third album in November, Drake’s best moment wasn’t one of his many radio smashes or spotlight hogging guest verses, but a quiet spring Internet release borrowing from Destiny’s Child’s “Say My Name,” one of the best songs of the aughts. Drake isn’t radio’s best rapper and not nearly its best singer, but he’s the only one that can do both well enough to merit the equally justifiable Frank Sinatra and Kanye West comparisons. Most importantly, however, Drake is a ladies man, and he knows exactly how to make girls happy: girls love Beyoncé, girls love to hear him sing, and girls love it when someone actually speaks to them with respect.

20. “Blood on the Leaves”- Kanye West

Yeezus arrived like a bomb on track for self-destruction, its most damning component its centerpiece, “Blood on the Leaves.” It wasn’t contemptible enough that Kanye West spat on Nina Simone’s “Strange Fruit” with his trademark conceit; he ripped it to shreds courtesy of a breathtaking horn sample from trap heroes TNGHT. Far from West escaping a distasteful appropriation of Simone’s recording, however, he mixes two disparate sounds like oil and vinegar, and paired with his colossal bravado, the song powers beyond a political correctness that no one expects out of West anymore. There’s no good reason why putting “Strange Fruit” over trap should function, nor should West have even considered pairing Simone’s soft piano with TNGHT’s overwhelming horns. Worst of all, there’s no good reason for any of his lyrics (“Now you’re sitting courtside/wifey on the other side/gotta keep ‘em separated/I call that apartheid”). None of these parts should work together, but they find a way, and the final product is a beautiful exploration of a singular mind with incredibly unrelateable but fascinating problems. Mr. West isn’t looking for sympathy, just an open ear, and even at his most loathsome, he’s still a worthy listen.

19. “Tomorrow”- Shakey Graves 

I won’t pretend like I know anything about American roots music. I would very much like to know, but environmental circumstances and arbitrary taste choices leave me in the dark to anything country/bluegrass/honky tonk/rockabilly related. One thing I do recognize is that Shakey Graves is wholeheartedly Texas, with a vocal range that could produce tears from the most hardened cowboys and a strumming ability that would impress fans of both ZZ Top and Explosions in the Sky. He’s an everyman, in the sense that his songwriting doesn’t stray from the traditional dog died/girlfriend left me/just ran out of gin template of the American songbook, and also in the sense that he does everything himself. Closed eyes can imagine a four-piece band jamming out the same noises, but Shakey Graves does himself with gusto what the best southern musicians have trouble doing as a unit. And though he begins nearly every song with a hopeful, drawn out “Well…” he’s a consistently engaging lyricist: “I’m tired of losing/I used to win every night of the week/back when sex and amphetamines/were the staples of our childhood physique,” he declares as an ambassador of a lifestyle that seems so simultaneously heartbreaking and attractive.

18. “Defeated No More”- Disclosure

Disclosure accomplishes nothing on their breakthrough album Settle that Daft Punk didn’t already establish on Discovery, but that doesn’t make their use of house music’s best traits as the basis of their pop repertoire any less impressive. The high point on Settle is their breathtaking single “Latch,” but “Defeated No More” presents the best-of-both-worlds phenomenon with such breeze that one could honestly argue it a perfect demonstration of both the aforementioned musical genres. Vocalist Edward McFarlane rides the groove like a bird caught in a jet stream, soaring above the melody without even breaking a sweat. Though McFarlane shines, the song’s best moment occurs when he is quietest, mumbling under the Surrey duo’s celestial pre-chorus, a soft but confident burst of ecstasy fitting for a rave’s climax and cooldown. Despite what many (British) sources say, Disclosure is not revolutionizing electronic dance music, but they sound as professional and polished as any DJs aiming for top-40 success.

17. “No Below”- Speedy Ortiz

Steven adjusted his flannel button-up and took a swig of his Anchor Steam, standing against a corner of the room trying to avoid eye contact with the woman tapping her knees on the couch. She had long, black hair and lips that drooped almost asymmetrically, and whenever he heard her hum, Steven became too intrigued just to forget her. He swallowed his pride and some phlegm and slowly made his way over.

“Hey,” he said, “I thought you’d might like some company, my name is…”

“Steven Malkmus,” she interrupted, “lead singer of Pavement, underappreciated critical darling and soon-to-be alt-rock deity. I know who you are. Do you know who I am?”

“Yeah, you’re P.J. Harvey, alt-rock trailblazer, soon-to-be the only two-time Mercury Prize winner, everybody knows who you are,” he responded.

“I like your band’s albums, Steven. There’s this nice mix of apathetic competence and sun-drenched weird.”

“I like your albums, too, P.J. They’re the sort of brooding works that no one in the industry has the balls to make anymore since grunge became a thing.”

“Want to make a baby?” she asked.

“Only if you don’t write a song about it,” he responded.

Steven and P.J. then made a baby with the most perfect indie rock genes available, allowed her to name herself Sadie Dupuis when they declared her old enough to make decisions, and as proud parents watched as their daughter’s band made 2013’s best indie album.

This is fan fiction, if that wasn’t clear.

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