Two Jams 6/3

A Jam That Came Out This Week – “Everything Now” – Arcade Fire

Now that Arcade Fire is one year late on their typical three-year album cycle, any new release, much less a dedicated single with a video, is a newsworthy event. “Everything Now” puts 2013’s Reflektor’s future disco on cruise control, though Arcade Fire’s cruising speed nudges everyone else out of the passing lane.

A Jam That I’m a Little Late On – “Money” – Riton, Kah-Lo, Mr. Eazi, Davido

Riton is an English producer who incorporated the help of Nigerian pop stars Kah-Lo, Mr. Eazi, and Davido for a breezy and universally catchy dance jam.

 

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Three Jams 5/19

A Jam That Came Out This Week – “Fool’s Errand” – Fleet Foxes

The Pacific Northwest folk phenomenon exploded a decade ago with Fleet Foxes’s first two beautiful records, lush and confident throwbacks that re-ignited acoustic power in churches and dance halls all over the country, inspiring Clear Channel copycats like The Head and the Heart, The Lumineers, and even Mumford and Sons. And then they went into a deep silence, no word about upcoming projects or thoughts, no words at all, really. Which makes these first two singles eight years later seem so sudden, but hey, I’ll take it.

A Jam That I’m a Little Late On – “Harry” – Macseal

Macseal is a Long Island emo/math rock/American Football disciple, and there’s no hiding their affection in the jangly guitars and muffled anguish. But emo is smarter than it ever has been, to a point where anonymous bandcamp criers can get heavy internet rotation.

A Jam That Was a Jam and is Still a Jam – “A Roller Skating Jam Named Saturdays” – De La Soul

Old heads (hide your prejudices), how many early hip-hop jams still hold up? Here’s a fun trick: if you name any De La Soul song, the chances are pretty good.

Three Jams 5/12

In a poorly masked excuse for writing practice, I present the first installment of this (hopefully) weekly series, in which I share three jams.

A Jam That Came Out This Week – “Gospel” – Rich Chigga, Keith Ape, XXXTentacion

I work and socialize in a heavily Asian-American area of these United States, so it’s likely that I’m invested in this Rich Chigga phenomenon far more than the rest of the country (he only has five songs out FFS). However, it’s probably fair to declare this meme a real cultural force, now. Rich Chigga slaps.

A Jam That I’m A Little Late On – “Big Beautiful Day” – PWR BTTM

The dirty little secret about precious, anti-establishment indie-rock is that it has always been overwhelmingly straight, white, and male. PWR BTTM has the white part down, certainly not the straight, and the male part is a bit complicated. But the music is an otherwise familiar vague anger, like a polished Green Day, only gayer.

An Older Jam That’s Still A Jam – “Over and Over Aain (Lost and Found) ” – Clap Your Hands Say Yeah

CYHSY is a band that still exists, mostly in the memories of those who were there when they and Arctic Monkeys kinda changed everything about music marketing twelve years ago, but also in the sense that Alec Ounsworth is still making music. Very little compares to track two on their debut, however, where Ounsworth’s low register sounds like David Byrne’s falsetto, with the same emotional imperative the Talking Heads always managed.

 

 

 

My 50 Favorite Songs of 2016

A star broke out this year. After toiling through years of underground notoriety, a famous rap mogul gave him a shot, putting him all over his most recent album. And after his sophomore album exploded, people started to recognize, giving him features on singles, a spot in XXL’s Freshman Class, and a Grammy nomination for Best New Artist.

It’s a familiar story. Anderson .Paak’s 2016 mirrors Chance the Rapper’s 2014: a soulful rise to pop consciousness with an ear to live performance and a dedication to past works of previous geniuses. Coincedentally, both Anderson .Paak and Chance the Rapper are nominated for Best New Artist this year, though I sincerely hope that .Paak wins. How could you turn down that smile?

Of course, Chance is a favorite of mine as well, and he gets no shortage of love, showing up four times on this year’s list. Hip-hop artists take 22 out of the 50 spots, the most that I can remember in any of the seven year-end lists that I have done. Philadelphia broke out, representing four spots on the list, a surprising feat for the largest American city I know nothing about. And the first artist to break double-digit appearances: Drake, making his tenth and eleventh contribution to the countdown.

2016 kinda sucked, right? But at least the music was fun.

50-46

50. “Guau!” – Beck, Mexican Institute of Sound (Mp)

Beck’s brand of weird lost it’s luster right around the time “Wow” found itself in an ad campaign. But have no fear: Mexican Institute of Sound is here to inject some south-of-the-border strange. And Mr. Hansen, more often than not the palest guy in the panaderia, most likely gives his Angelino approval.

49. “Feed The Streets (Watch The Stove)” – Helper

Stouffers gets credit not only for the best April Fools prank of the year, but also an instant classic of corporate branding. Seriously, this EP entirely about preparing, serving, and eating Hamburger Helper is molten-lava microwave hot.

48. “All The Way Up” – Fat Joe, French Montana (2), Remy Ma

This song is “Lean Back.” There is nothing about this song that makes it any different from “Lean Back.” If I were to compare it to any song, with every song in history at my disposal, “Lean Back” would be the one I would consider and eventually settle upon. It’s the same damn song, man. Still good, though.

47. “On The Lips” – Frankie Cosmos (2) (m)

Indie rock’s poet laureate is back at it, this time trying to figure out where to kiss ‘ya. And it’s so adorable that it deserves one of those “aw shucks” answers.

46. “Come And See Me” – PARTYNEXTDOOR (2), Drake (9) (p)

Midway through “Come and See Me,” PND takes a step back and allows Drake to take over the crooning. Unless you’re listening closely, it’s hard to tell that any change has taken place at all, which begs the question: does PND do anything that Drake hasn’t already done? But as long as Drake has stepped away from the minimalist ballads, someone is going to have to Drake it up for him. This’ll do.

 

45-41

45. “Welcome To Your Life” – Grouplove (3) (mp)

Another summer, another summer jam from Grouplove. Ho, hum.

44. “Good House” – Deakin

As Animal Collective’s least notable member, one who decided to take a poorly-timed break from the band when their masterpiece Merriweather Post Pavilion was recorded, Deakin doesn’t get much press. But his natural aesthetics ripped straight from AnCo are hardly lesser-than, and his album Sleep Cycle was the best of the band’s 2016 output. They didn’t really put anything out to begin with, but baby steps.

43. “XYZ” – Tennyson

That illin’ cover art, gag me with a spoon, right? But don’t fret, the instrumental is anything but 90s. Maybe 2090s, if we still have rain forests in seventy years.

42. “Wedding Singer” – Modern Baseball (2)

“Emo but with a lot more perspective” would be a better classification of Modern Baseball’s sound without giving it an early-aughts stigma. But emo is far smarter than it ever has been, party because MB’s effortless wisdom forces everyone else to put down the tissues and bring their own nuance. Their own is still the best, however.

41. “No Limit” – Usher, Young Thug (3)

Young Thug has this habit of making every song he appears on his own. And if you even had to guess whether Usher Raymond had some help with “No Limit,” his best song in over a decade, Thugger is there in the background to provide some clarity.

 

40-36

40. “Lite Spots” – Kaytranada (pm)

A bossa nova sample and friendly house make this the public radio song of the year.

39. “Black Beatles” – Rae Sremmurd (3), Gucci Mane

Songs settled upon as memes get bad reputations. “Harlem Shake” was a perfectly fine song ruined by an irritating trend. Same with “Know Yourself” and “Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1,” though Quad City DJs may have a different opinion. Point is, you need a pretty good sense of humor to get through the trolling that comes with internet ubiquity, and the boys at Rae Sremmurd have it down.

 

38. “For Free” – DJ Khaled (3), Drake (10)

In the sense that Drake name-checks “that boy from Compton,” “For Free,” is most certainly a response to Kendrick Lamar’s jazzy “For Free?” interlude. But he also bites the beat and opening bars from “Blow the Whistle,” so maybe “For Free” is really Drizzy’s chart-topping tribute to Too $hort. Maybe it’s both. For Khaled, it’s just another anthem, but it’s an anthem nonetheless.

 

 

37. “You Was Right” – Lil Uzi Vert

Philadelphia’s Lil Uzi Vert imagines himself as a young Scott Pilgrim, which is an apt comparison since much like Scott, he isn’t a particularly impressive musician. But his charm and unique aesthetic were enough to get him a spot amongst XXL’s freshman class, and his 2016 mixtapes, though thoroughly mediocre, had a few bright spots, the Cudi-lite “You Was Right” being the best. And I find Uzi likeable because I, too, am a Scott Pilgrim fan.

36. “Get Dat Fetus, Kill Dat Fetus” – Sextina Aquafina

Nothing is original anymore. Everything has already been done.