Monday, January 4, 2016

Pop Candy Arcade Playlist: The 100 Songs of 2015, 21-50

I don't know why I decided to break this list into uneven chunks, but I did.  So it is that after the part one, we round out the first half of the list with 30 tracks that run through genres and moods like there's no tomorrow.  The 8tracks playlists for these can be found at the bottom of the entry, or you can click through and collect them all here. 

Shall we move on?

21. Jamie xx ft. Young Thug & Popcaan / "I Know There's Gonna Be (Good Times)" If I'm not mistaken, this was a playlist requirement at every party scene from the moment it dropped.  It was the song of the summer for anyone who doesn't actually listen to the radio, if that makes sense, a bright, sunny, jangly track for kicking off a night out.

22. FKA twigs / "Glass & Patron" The video finds twigs essentially giving birth to a vogue competition, but the song itself is another halting, clicking, dizzying step in the artist's feminist exploration.  Twigs is building a musical dissertation that finds her deconstructing R&B to toss around ideas of female sexuality and reclamation; worth listening to every step of the way.

23. Shamir / "Hot Mess"  From a song boasting voguing visuals to a track that sounds custom made to vogue to, Shamir makes a self-doubt you can dance to.

24. Grimes / "Flesh without Blood" It's a big, bratty pop-punk song put through a blender, wrapped in reverb, and made into something that feels sugar coated and magic even as it talks about destruction.
25. Hinds / "San Diego" Spain seems to be cranking out garage bands lately, and Hinds (formerly called Deers) is a super fun group of ladies making raw, messy guitar sounds.  "San Diego" has a touch of surf rock and an infectious energy.

26. Sjowgren / "Seventeen" I know almost nothing about Sjowgren outside of the self-introduction they posted to Medium, but "Seventeen" has a huge hook and nothing but potential.

27. Petite Noir / "MDR" Petite Noir is Yannick Ilunga, an artist from Cape Town who blurs genres and sounds in a way that feels effortless. "MDR" is a marriage of new wave, disco, and Afropop that takes old sounds and makes them as fresh as can be.

28. Wizkid ft. Drake & Skepta  / "Ojuelegba (Remix)" Wizkid isn't a new artist to the rest of the world, but with the remix of "Ojuelegba" grabbing a Drake feature and endorsement, he got some attention around these parts.  There's little to say about this song other than it's delightful.  You can't argue with it. Why would you?

29. Kendrick Lamar / "The Blacker the Berry"  As noted, To Pimp a Butterfly is a heavy album, and one dealing directly with current conditions.  This song finds Kendrick Lamar grappling with a type of self-hatred perpetuated by a type of systemic racism, with lyrics that cut to the core of key conflicts while rooting them to an individual consciousness.  It's devastating,
30. Jamie Woon / "Sharpness"  Woon appeared on the UK scene with folks a few years back with electro-r&b folks like Jessie Ware and James Blake, and then sorta disappeared.  He's back, and producing smart, straightforward, hella slick songs that are traditional in the best way.

31. The Weeknd / "Can't Feel My Face" This was the year Abel Tesfaye went full pop and broke into the mainstream. Though it's a bit overplayed at this point, "Can't Feel My Face" is one of 2015's certified jams, and - whatever your thoughts are on The Weeknd - no year end round up seems complete without a mention.
32. Kelela / "Rewind" Leave it to me to go for the uptempo track on an album full of feelings.  Not that "Rewind" doesn't have them, it's just that it also has a distinct bounce (courtesy of producer Kingdom).

33. Miguel / "The Valley"  I saw Miguel's music written about somewhere using a description that was something like free verse erotica, and that seems right.  In a musical subgenre that's a little sex-obsessed, he is king. "The Valley" is a fabulously filthy jam, do you need it to be something else?
34. Purity Ring / "Stranger Than Earth"  Purity Ring's last album sounds like they've taken an entire of an EDM festival, thrown it deep into a well, and have lowered a microphone down just a little bit into the blackness to catch reverbed echoes as they smugly sing to themselves. "Stranger Than Earth" shakes you and insists it has a dancey beat where - in reality - there may only be phantoms.
35. Justin Bieber / "Sorry"  Sorry not sorry. You go ahead and deal with it, imma dance it out.

36. Abra / "Roses"  Pretty sure this is the literal soundtrack to a tumblr search for "pastel goth."  "Everything dies and everything changes... I'm young and I'll waste you away..."

37. Beach House / "Elegy to the Void" I often think that I don't really like Beach House, a thought largely triggered by how frequently they come up in my iTunes shuffle and how similar so many of their songs kinda are (I mean...really). When I go to cut down their tracks, though, I can't actually do it. The songs are too pretty, too sorta doomed already, and they're automatic atmosphere. "Elegy to the Void" is a romantic, dark galaxy quest; as shoegazey and beautiful as anything.
38. Natalie Prass / "My Baby Don't Understand Me"  If you've followed these lists, you know that when I endorse a song that could be categorized as at all some kind of "folksy" rock pop that usually means it's probably touches with one of a couple things: theatricality, an orchestra, or real dark darkness and a kind of pretty sadness that obliterates the Adele-variety of ballad.  This is pretty much the first two, a gently swelling exploration of a dying relationship.

39. Sufjan Stevens / "All of Me Wants All of You" Oh, right. So that thing I was saying about folksy type rock pop?  Hey look! I found Sufjan Stevens!  Pretty sad things! Someone throw this on the soundtrack to a downer indie movie circa 2005!
40. Chairlift / "Ch-Ching"  Chairlift worked with Beyonce (on "No Angel") a couple years back and seem to have emerged on the other side significantly altered.  Their new album hasn't dropped in full just yet, but if "Ch-Ching" is any indication, they've become magical fucking badasses.

41. Hot Chip / "Need You Now" Perfectly melancholy dance music. The sort of thing that feels designed for long reflective runs or - a favorite activity for certain friends of mine - feeling all the feelings on the dance floor.

42. New Order ft. Elly Jackson / "Tutti Frutti" The veterans pull in La Roux's Elly Jackson for a shimmering, perfectly constructed disco track. I am not immune to its powers. I surrender.

43. Brandon Flowers / "I Can Change"  Flowers is the frontman for The Killers, a band I stopped caring about after their first album, so when a friend sent me the link to this early last year I was like, why?  Then I played it. And there was the Bronski Beat sample. And yep, I have listened to it a lot.
44. Missy Elliott ft. Pharrell Williams / "WTF (Where They From)"  When I saw that this had dropped I was in my office, mid-conversation. Obviously, I demanded everyone stopped what they were doing so that we could listen and appraise.  And it was good. We have missed you, Missy.

45. D.R.A.M. / "Cha Cha"  This song is pretty dumb, I'll be the first to admit it. Between the Super Mario World sample and the Ms. Frizzle reference, though, it's so ridiculously charming and fun that it's hard not to fall for. Go with it.

46. Boogie / "Oh My"  Boogie's self-produced first outing is a survivor's tale of street violence in Compton, and one deeply critical of the world he came up in.  It's also pretty catchy.
47. Shura / "Touch"  Hypnotic synth beats draw you in to singer-producer Shura's slinky "Touch" and by the end you know she's going to be a star.

48. Unknown Mortal Orchestra / "Can't Keep Checking My Phone" What is this song even? Space disco? Psych funk? Do you dance to it? Is it headphone music? I dunno, but I like it.

49. Courtney Barnett / "Kim's Caravan"  Sometimes you want that pure rock song that builds and builds until it blows up everything around it. This is Courtney Barnett's neurotic, obsessive meditation on mortality and world destruction that gets bigger and bigger until it turns back into a crippling existential angst that manifests in a glorious swell of guitar.
50. Dilly Dally / "Desire"  There's a touch of Breeders-style guitar here, but its gone a little bad, wilted under the moaning, cracking wails of lead singer Katie Monks. A wonderfully grungy type of garage rock.

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