Thursday, December 29, 2016

Pop Candy Arcade Playlist: The 125 Songs of 2016, 76-100

Let's try getting one of these out during daylight hours, shall we? This is the penultimate chapter of the annual year-end list, and I'm hoping not to have anymore moments of sudden correction between today and tomorrow.  In the meantime, I continue to seat the newcomers next to the veterans, the bubblegum next to electronic discord and distorted guitars, the questionable next to the obvious.

Beginning with...

 76. Lucy Dacus / "I Don't Wanna Be Funny Anymore" Dacus is a 21-year old making sunny indie pop out of Virginia that sounds like it merges the wit and anxieties of Courtney Barnett with a voice not entirely unlike Zooey Deschanel's.  This song is a succinct use of her talents, nailing down a want to be something else to the outside world and cataloging the options in a way that gets straight to the heart of makeover montage cliches and feels so, so real.


77. Maggie Rogers / "Alaska"  Maggie Rogers went a little bit viral this summer in a video of Pharrell Williams reacting to (and enjoying) this very song, which feels like the kind of trivial detail that we'll look back on once she releases a full album and wonder at. For now, though, "Alaska" is an easy, clear-eyed pick that flags her as one to watch.

78. Marie Davidson / "Naive to the Bone" Davidson is a spoken word poet, but in a way that's much more like Nicole Blackman's collaborations with Recoil than, say, Kate Tempest or Jenny Hval. She speaks plainly, coyly over the minimal beats of "Naive to the Bone" in a curious way that seems to demand that you dance as she looks on, completely disaffected, bored to even be there.


79. Massive Attack / "The Spoils (ft. Hope Sandoval)" I'm a sucker for Massive Attack's production skills, and the trip-hop godfathers returned this year for a couple EPs that delivered the dark and gloomy goods, mixing in folks like the above, Young Fathers, and Tricky to make some songs that roll through the speakers like a thundercloud, immediately changing the spaces they touch.


80. Michael Kiwanuka / "Love & Hate" UK singer Kiwanuka teamed with Danger Mouse for this album, which means it's a thing that sounds hyper-polished to a point that you almost feel like it doesn't need you to mention it...for the first few minutes. Then the thing opens up into this sprawling beast of a soul song and you're like, oh, well, that's going on the list...


81. Midland / "Final Credits" Is it more disco? YES. YES IT IS. This guy knows how to use some sustained notes, people.

82. Mitski / "Your Best American Girl" It's a song about trying to live up to someone else's expectations and realizing, basically, that nothing can come from that. Mitski constructs the narrative clearly, building it away from the contained, gentle lyrics that open the song and allowing it to become something all guitars and solid rock and roll. It's going to be what it is, she's going to be who she is. That works for everyone.


83. MJ Guider / "Triple Black"  Drum machines serves as underpinning for Melissa Guion's distant, impressionistic vocals and the cloud of synths and industrial droning that swirls around it. I know almost nothing about Guion or her MJ Guider project, but can tell you it's worth a listen.

84. Moses Sumney / "Lonely World" I like my folk music delivered to me with a side of the electronic, and Moses Sumney understands that. The electro-soul artist delivers sweeping, falsetto-driven folk sensibilities that reveal layer upon layer of twinkling rhythms and surprise elements the more he croons.

85. Newman Wolf / "Please Keep Talking" An LA artist using skittering electronic music to reflect on the pain of his 20s. You know. As one does these days.

86. Nicolas Jaar / "No" "No" carves out a space and builds whole buildings and streets for you to wander as you listen to it. It's a fairly subdued song, distant lyrics with an echo that suggests a cavernous room, muffled beats that sound like a block party overheard.


87. Nine Inch Nails / "Burning Bright (Field on Fire)" NIN is now made up of Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, his repeat partner of so many David Fincher film scores. The soundtrack collaborations have worked exceedingly well for them, and so it's interesting to see what it looks like when those sounds are unleashed, allowed to swell and clash and become something that is obviously, audibly Nine Inch Nails; loud, aggressive, and dark as hell.

88. Nisennenmondai / "#3" This is the four minute track on an album that's made up of very long drags of experimental/industrial clicking and repetitive drum beats from a Tokyo-rooted all-female instrumental trio. They construct obsessive waves of sound that occasionally - believe it or not- become danceable.  Consider that my first exposure to this group was an album of theirs used as pre-show music for a Savages concert, consider that it was being played at top volume, consider that everyone seemed to be sort of bobbing along unconsciously.  The repetition works. It just works.

89. Nite-Funk / "Let Me Be Me" Nite-Funk is Nite Jewel and Dam-Funk forming their own mini supergroup and a powerful dance force. It's safe to say that some things are just meant to be.


90. Noname / "Diddy Bop (ft. Cam O'bi and Raury)" Noname is Chicago-based rapper raised on a strong diet of poetry and young creative programs that seem to have done her a tremendous amount of good. When she raps it's effortless: a flowing, playful cloud of words that feels, often, much more like a clear, rapid sing song that covers complex issues of black femininity.

91. Olga Bell / "Power User"   Russian composer Olga Bell makes strangely juvenile songs that sound like warped dance music, PC pop that's been deconstructed yet again to consider why they work.  Which is, well, sort of what she did.  "Power User" could be thought of as Bell's academic consideration of a hip-hop bridge, one that leaves it functional but thoroughly strange.


92-93.  Parquet Courts / "Human Performance" - and - "Captive of the Sun" Parquet Courts gets two songs if for no other reason than they've hit their stride as a band and I just can't decide. They occupy that space of smart, sharp rock and roll and have an identifiable wordiness that - I think - fans of The Pixies, Pavement, or more vintage art rock acts like The Velvet Underground immediately pick up on as theirs.  They can pull off something that sounds like a New York twang, and do it while still sounding like they rose up from the underground to make simple rock songs out of complicated thoughts.

94. Pillow Person / "Go Ahead"  Pillow Person is the solo project of Hot Chip's Sarah Jones, and on "Go Ahead" she stares into the void of the PC Music CG valley and pulls out something that becomes less cyborg pop star, more real human girl.
95. Porches / "Braid" Porches titled this album Pool, and it is appropriately named. The water theme runs strong throughout and carries into the entire sound of the album. It's a bit sad sack, but with a shimmery beat you could move to and maybe feel a bit enthusiastic about. You know. If you're into feeling things.

96. Powell / "Jonny [feat. Jonny]" This sounds like trash robot noise. Something that tries to be deliberately mechanical and a little droning - think Suicide, think Devo - and aspires to a total disinterest in being anything less than messy about it. It succeeds because of it, with a garage-robot punk sensibility heightened by vocals that sound like a come on.

97. Preoccupations / "Memory" First: Preoccupations is the band formerly known as Viet Cong, and thank god they got rid of that name. Second: it's a good name for a band that digs hard into meandering, droning self-inquiry. Third: this is a very long song that comes in phases, switching its rhythms and patterns to explode into guitars that feel like they're designed to be cut into the mixtape of an angsty kid right between Psychedelic Furs and Peter Murphy and then subsiding into retreating waves.


98. Rae Sremmurd ft. Gucci Mane / "Black Beatles" The official soundtrack to the Mannequin Challenge, yes, but more than that. There are moments when Rae Sremmurd's youthful enthusiasm and hooks kinda work to convince you that, sure, yeah, you're cool with them going around saying they're feeling like the Beatles. Yeah, I feel it.

99. Raw M.T. / "One Last Shot" Italian house that plays the game. Because, you know, there's just not enough of that on here, or something.

100.  Red Axes / "Sun My Sweet Sun" Red Axes is a DJ duo based out of Tel-Aviv with a background in punk and a focus on house.  "Sun My Sweet Sun" is a jangly, happy-making blend of tropical noises that I just find really delightful.

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