Thursday, January 7, 2016

Pop Candy Arcade Playlist: The 100 Songs of 2015, 51-75


The third section of our end of the year music wrap up is a little bit like two mixtapes smashed together. The front end has a certain progression of more internet friendly artists (often with electronic edges and riffs on the PC pop move) and the back half is a strange blend of folks who could be described as hippies by comparison. Basically, if you're one of those people lamenting an audible "lack of instruments" (as much as that's probably an illusion) in part one, it will all change midway through. Funny how these things work out, isn't it?

Read on. Play on. Find the 8Tracks playlist at the bottom of the entry, click through to collect them all.



51. NAO / "Bad Blood"  The year's other, less cacophonous "Bad Blood" comes from London singer-songwriter Nao, an artist who uses R&B to pull familiar sounds and rhythms into strange shapes.  "Bad Blood" is as smooth as it is jarring, a combination that seems almost impossible.

52. Her / "Five Minutes"  We don't know much about the mysterious French pop duo, and their debut has yet to drop, but "Five Minutes" is a promising groove that's just a little bit lovably cheesy in its seduction.

53. Tate Kobang / "Bank Rolls (Remix)" The bass on this thing is an automatic positive, and the Baltimore rapper unfurls a constant, on point rhythmic flow that meshes with it beautifully.

54. Kiiara / "Gold"  Kiiara comes from somewhere in my homeland - Illinois - and makes a glitchy, spikily carbonated variety of bedroom pop.  Her debut tracks sound like Top 40 tracks stripped for their parts, and that's a good thing...

55. Carly Rae Jepsen / "Your Type"  Carly Rae Jepsen and the Quintessential Song About Unrequited Love and the Curse of the Friendzone. Everyone has been there, definitely. I will repeat: if you're not feeling Taylor Swift's feels, you're probably feeling CRJ's.

56. Shura / "White Light"  You like moody pop? You like new spins on old synths?  You like jams? Here, take this Shura song. It's what you need. (You can tell I'm getting very tired of coming up with these little short spins...)

57.  David Zowie / "House Every Weekend (Radio Edit)"  While his name be a little ambitious (if you ask me), David Zowie's debut is a pretty perfect little house jam.  There's a lot to be said for finding the right repetition, running it only as long as it can be extended, and stopping at precisely the point where you might want to listen again, but you don't need things to keep going. This song does that.

58. Purity Ring / "Begin Again" Sparkly sinister noise! Huzzah! There is a Melancholia level apocalypse lurking in the love affair being described here.
 59. Grimes / "Kill V. Maim"  In this Art Angels track we imagine Grimes in her true form - some kind of mutated, super-powered video game quester jumping and leaping, holding her sword and taking down enemies with a blur of color and noise in her wake.  Of course, the song is actually about an imagined version of Michael Corleone as a space traveling, gender-switching vampire. So, you know. Makes all the sense in the world.

60. Kill J / "Youre Good but I'm Better" A song that finds the Danish popster annoyed at the state of a toxic crush, one in which she demands an answer and then backtracks to question why she would even care in the first place.  It's bitter and weird and a little sad even as it restores some power.

61. Dej Loaf (ft. Big Sean) / "Back Up" The Detroit rapper wants you to understand that she just doesn't have time for your antics right now, and the track is easy, upbeat, and a new brand of old school.

62. Miguel / "Coffee (F*cking)"  Miguel is an obvious Prince fan, and "Coffee" is one of his most obvious attempts at getting closer and closer to that thing Prince does so effortlessly. It's cheesy, but so in your face about it that you don't have time to realize that he's basically spinning a rom com monologue or long-form pickup line.
63. The Internet (ft. Kaytranada) / "Girl"  Odd Future members Syd the Kid and Matt Martians joined up with some other folks to follow in the footsteps of Frank Ocean and start making some crazy good queer electro-R&B. Question any lists that don't include mention of them.

64. The Weeknd / "Earned It" Yep. This is a song made for the 50 Shades of Grey soundtrack. Yep. It's pretty silly. Yep. It has some problems, sure. Yep. You've heard it so much you're scratching your head and wondering if it was even from this last year. I can't help it though, I like it. It's the perfect example of a song designed for a movie soundtrack, a big, cinematic pop song that shamelessly aspires to things bigger than its capable of producing.  (That and when it comes on in the car it feels like you're in some sort of Jaguar advert or something)

65. Lianne La Havas / "Unstoppable"  La Havas appeared on this list several years back now, and it wasn't until recently that I remembered to check out her sophomore album.  A mistake was made. She has an irresistible, breezy, jazzy voice, the kind that makes everything sound like an airy summer jam. It may be the dead of winter for us now, but it's not too late!

66.  Kamasi Washington / "The Rhythm Changes" Washington is part of the jazz team that composed the backing tracks on Kendrick Lamar's album, but his own The Epic is just that - a three hour explosion of the type of jazz that influences hip hop rhythms (but doesn't include them).  "The Rhythm Changes" is one of the vocal tracks (ft. Patrice Quinn) and it pulls from its various influences to sound, basically, like a new classic.

67. Joanna Newsom / "Leaving the City" I went through a phase in college where I really liked the big, orchestral quality of Newsom's Ys.  It was a beautiful album, and the only place I could get beyond the elements many found twee (yes, her voice is an acquired taste). I've found it difficult to get into Newsom's work since. Much of it sounds increasingly either too big or too sparse, lacking in the gravity that claimed a song like "Emily."  While I don't love the new album in the way many critics do, "Leaving the City" has many of the qualities Newsom's best songs do: a heaviness like a cosmic force. And so it is that she returns to the list after many many years gone.
68. Kurt Vile / "Pretty Pimpin" Kurt Vile is one of those singer-songwriters I just never "got." It feels like he's been a constant go-to for most year end wrap ups in recent memory, and I've gone through the repetitive motions of giving him a shot and sort of shrugging my shoulders. Nothing really spoke to me. So it is much to my surprise that yes, here it is: the official first Kurt Vile appearance on this list. "Pretty Pimpin" has a swagger and a progression that's rather satisfying to sing along too. Maybe that's all I need?

69. Father John Misty / "Chateau Lobby #4 (In C For Two Virgins)"  This sounds like the soundtrack to a lost Wes Anderson film about kids who hang around cemeteries. It's just compelling, really.

70. Panda Bear / "Tropic of Cancer"  I think I've decided that Panda Bear's music is all about texture, that there's something almost tactile about the sounds produced that leaves you with very little white space, certainly, but with a whole kind of room-filling hologram dream chamber, in this case gilded and piled with furs and high saturation oil paints.  I am not on anything. Really.

71. Belle & Sebastian / "Play for Today" Since the God Help the Girl project it sounds rather like Stuart Murdoch and company have really committed to the theatrical quality of their songs. This feels custom made for a gleefully shot musical sequence about mundane, boring things.  Duet potential: high.
72. Bully / "Trying"  Nashville band Bully is one that seemed surprisingly likely to come up in conversation as a crowd pleaser this past year, and "Trying" is the sort of rambling, anxiety-expressing, 90's style guitar-driven rock song that makes it easy to understand why.

73. Kendrick Lamar / "King Kunta"  An undeniable funk rhythm that pulls from a host of influences and decades, easy to listen to, easy to jam to, hard driving and yes, that word again, deeply complicated and heavily charged in all the best ways.
74. Deerhunter / "Snakeskin" Deerhunter pull in a surprising, 70s disco strut and blend it with a eschatological, doomed references that make it unclear whether singer Bradford Cox's lyrics are meant to be brash, bragging swagger or an invitation to martyrdom.

75.  Shamir / "Call It Off" We need the video on this. Because it's so good and gets directly to the heart of what makes this song so fun, and there are custom Muppets.


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