40-36

40. Lemme Freak – Lil Dicky

The history of curly-haired white people making fake rap is arguably as illustrious (well, as financially lucrative anyway) as the modern history of rap itself. And there’s probably some suburban blogger in his suburban home arguing the minutiae of why Lil Dicky a.k.a. “Mr. Leftward Sloping Penis” a.k.a. “Mr. Firm Handshake” redefines the genre of comedy rap in ways that the Beastie Boys, Weird Al, and The Lonely Island never did. But in all honesty, Lil D-I just recycles a winning formula with updated cultural references and some lingerie models in his (superb) videos. He’s dropping some nice one-liners on the way (“Girl, I even have a fridge/with the water on the door/like with the crushed ice”) and probably will get a record deal and a few guest spots, but all signs indicate that Dicky is nothing but a flash in the pan. In the meantime, he’s dropping some worthwhile Twitter shares, the best of which being “Lemme Freak,” probably the greatest song about blue balls ever recorded.

39. Fall in Love – Phantogram

You see, there’s rock. Rock is loud. Rock is the kind of stuff your parents hated. Rock is fast, rock is anti-establishment, and rock is aggressive. Rock is drums, bass, guitar (sometimes two), vocals, and sometimes keys. That’s pure rock ‘n roll

And then, there’s alternative rock, which is apparently something else. You’ve listened to it; there are no more modern rock stations, only “alt rock” stations, and these stations play the likes of Lorde, Disclosure, CHVRCHES, Passion Pit, Purity Ring, Grimes, and now Phantogram, just the latest iteration in the “big sound tiny vocals” movement that’s probably underexposed, if anything. “Fall in Love” is ambitious and instantly likable with an Alfred Hitchcock sample to hook you in. It probably won’t sweep the nation if it hasn’t already, but it has a comfy home on alt rock stations for now. Is it rock? Sure, whatever.

38. No Type – Rae Sremmurd

Kriss Kross references are warranted and should be expected, because these brothers are young, squeaky, and backed by unclouded hooks that should be the staple of Southern slow-downs. But here’s the part that gets me: those squeaky voices of Khalif and Aaquil Brown? They’re on reverb, as if the gravitas of their non-existent (or still to come, who knows if they’ve hit puberty?) baritone deserved echo beyond the church steps. In any other year, we’d be looking at these high-sock wearing young bloods with the unpronounceable name and ask them what on earth they are doing on the charts with the grown-ups. But they successfully declared a no-flex zone earlier this year and capitalized on their newfound space. “No Type” bangs, and that’s the sort of qualification that translates to success in later years.

37. Inside Out – Spoon

Oh goodness, haven’t we gone through this already? We get it, Spoon is a tirelessly good band, deftly described by Pitchfork writer Mike Powell, who sometimes confuses “…their newest good record from their previous good record.” Their ridiculously competent leading man Britt Daniel hasn’t slowed down despite sandwiching his two good Spoon records with a better Divine Fits album, rolling out new age dad rock as his most loyal listeners start turning into dads and granddads themselves. History suggests that this string of excellence has to stop, but there’s nothing in Daniel’s discography to suggest he’s capable of making a mediocre record.

36. Never Catch Me – Flying Lotus, Kendrick Lamar (2)

Steven Ellison a.k.a. FlyLo couldn’t have made this song four years ago. It’s not that he wasn’t capable; 2010 saw the release of Cosmogramma, his best album to date under any moniker. It’s just that in 2010, Kendrick Lamar wasn’t really a thing. He definitely existed, but there’s no way Ellison would have considered putting K-Dot on a track with squiggly synths and basslines that make fingers fall off. But now? There’s literally no other option; try finding another rapper on the radio today that can maneuver through Ellison’s asymmetrical hypnosis. “Never Catch Me” would have just been another Flying Lotus song had Kendrick not stepped up to the podium, but now that he’s free to lecture, it’s one of the best songs Ellison has put to tape.

 

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