Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Pop Candy Arcade Playlist: The 125 Songs of 2016, 26-50

And now for the second part of the end of year music roundup. We will continue with the alphabetical order kicked up in the latter half of part one.

As noted, a complete playlist will be made available at the conclusion of the list.  We're pushing through this before we figure out how best to assemble music scattered across a dozen platforms, basically.

Moving on...

26 -27. Car Seat Headrest / "Drunk Drivers / Killer Whales" and "Unforgiving Girl (She's Not An)" 
 I'd written off Car Seat Headrest for a hot minute based on a very cursory click through on Spotify where I'd jumped through tracks trying to get a sense of the sound and thought, well, this is just another indie dude with a guitar. This is, in short, a tremendous disservice to Will Toledo. These are songs that change and shift in surprising ways, and "Drunk Drivers / Killer Whales" has one of the most unique builds I've heard in quite some time, unfolding slowly to become a truly dynamic, sing-a-long rock song.

28. Carla dal Forno / "What You Gonna Do Now?" Aussie musician Carla dal Forno crafts gloomy, distant songs that sound like they'd be perfectly suited to replace the soundtrack of an Alain Resnais film. Throw this thing over Last Year at Marienbad and you've got something.

29. Carly Rae Jepsen / "Higher"  This year CRJ released the B-sides to last year's pop masterwork Emotion and proved - beyond a shadow of a doubt - that the songs she discards are stronger than most of your faves' biggest hits.  This one, in my estimation, is the top of that heap.

30. Cate le Bon / "Wonderful" This song sounds like someone sped up a Courtney Barnett instrumental, participated in an audio-based exquisite corpse exercise, and realized the results were delightfully manic. Again, that's a good thing.

31. Chance the Rapper / "All Night" (ft. Knox Fortune) While I'm perhaps ok with electing Chance as the unofficial mayor of my city, I have to admit that - while I admire his talent - I still haven't found a solid access point to his brand of hip hop.  Most of Coloring Book just isn't my thing, but "All Night" is a total exception; a super-fun, speedy, dance-worthy run of word play that's over before it has time to wear out its welcome.

32. Cloistral / "ни" Cloistral is basically a mystery to me, with all that I know coming from the Bandcamp page for an album boasting characters that might as well be hieroglyphics. It's tagged as Armenian. It's also tagged as Swedish. It's recorded in Armenia, and part of a four track album available for a low price and which I wholly recommend to anyone who enjoys long, ambient soundscapes that feel straight out of a quiet moment in Blade Runner or at the edge of Tron.

33 -34.  Coco Morier / "Dreamer" - and - "No Stranger (To Love)" 
Coco Morier has written songs for a great many pop sensation (including several for Britney Spears, Ellie Goulding, Demi Lovato, and Sky Ferreira), but remains relatively unknown as a pop artist in her own right. She is, as V magazine claimed, a "best kept secret" on the pop landscape, and one who finally got around to releasing a full-length album this year. If you have a taste for pop at all and don't know her, now is the time. Start with "Dreamer" and "No Stranger (To Love)" and you should have no trouble working your way in.

 35. Cross Record / "The Depths" This is one of those points where I'm like, ok, how many times have I already used "atmosphere" and "build" to talk about songs? A lot?  Shit. Because, this is another one of those. What else can I come up with? A dreamy track that sounds like tying on your boots at sunrise to go and take a walk across the foggy moors, or something.

36. D.R.A.M. / "Broccoli" (ft. Lil Yachty) And on the opposite side of the spectrum of musical sounds, we have the ever-happy, delightfully goofy D.R.A.M. and the small boat making a song that could believably be tapped out by Rolf and the Muppet Babies after a long day listening to West Coast 90's jams. Again, this is a good thing. Everyone should aspire to Muppetdom.

37. Danny Brown / "Really Doe" (ft. Kendrick Lamar, Ab-Soul, Earl Sweatshirt)  Speaking of Muppetdom, Danny Brown's voice tends to move rapidly between the strained, loud-mouth cartoonish noise that made him famous and a smooth, effortless sprechesang. In the past, I've favored the latter, "Really Doe" is the former, and better for it, highlighting Brown in the midst of some atypical guest features.  Worth noting, too, that this is one list entry from an album that's pretty damn strong in its weirdness overall.

38. Danny L. Harle and Carly Rae Jepsen / "Super Natural" PC Music's Danny L. Harle teams up with CRJ (who we just established makes hits out of the air we breathe) to craft a song that is such a perfect, blissful throwback to a certain kind of early aughts dance pop (ATC, Sarina Paris, etc) that it's hard not to feel a certain kind of instant nostalgia for days spent talking about crushes and playing DDR at the mall.

39. DIANA / "Moment of Silence" Hello, I brought you some Canadian electro-pop. You can add it to all of your summer playlists right now. Are you hosting a pool party? Great. Are you going on a boat? Sounds good. Will you be lazily sipping a drink? You need this. Are you taking a road trip to California? Also this.

40.  Drake / "Controlla" - and - "One Dance" (ft. WizKid, Kyla)  As an album, Views is more of an overly long mixtape that seems to bounce between moods and songs and postures without enough cohesion to make it work as an object.  That said, these two songs somehow manage to be jams of the highest order, even with Drake kind of mumble-whining all over them. I have had too many moments this year where one of these came on at a bar and it took everything I had to not be that girl who yells out that this Top 40 hit "IZ HER JAM" because basically you just start dancing immediately. It just happens. It cannot be stopped.

41. Emily Jane White / "Hands" I believe we call this Goth Folk. Winter music. Dark, dark, winter music.

42. Femme / "Fever Boy" Technically "Fever Boy" is from 2013, not 2016.  Femme is a pop voice who has been picked up for features and singles here and there, but this year she put together Debutante, a glittery pop album that announces a more official arrival to a would-be queen of the indie pop scene.

43-44. Frank Ocean / "Nikes" - and-  "Pink + White"  Blonde is a smaller album than Channel Orange, one that seems to find Frank Ocean following-up on years of silence and in conversation with the voices in his head, tiny bits of familiar songs, helium vocals, reflections on events that have shaken the national consciousness. These are tracks that look inward after taking in everything outside and can only respond with sadness, philosophical meandering, and loose thoughts and memories of identity and connective similarity.

45. Frankie Cosmos / "Floated In" Greta Kline's songs are flash fiction prose poems, short bursts of storytelling that create an impressive sense of character and moment before disappearing or moving on to the next one. "Floated In" isn't even 1:30 minutes long, but it manages whole chapters in that time.

46. Hamilton Leithauser + Rostam / "In a Black Out" Leithauser hails from the Walkmen and Rostam is a former producer/instrumentalist for Vampire Weekend, and I'm telling you this because it took a little too long for me to figure out that the feeling I got from hearing the gorgeous, baroque sensibility of "In a Black Out" was basically the same one I had hearing the Walkmen's "Wake Up" way back in high school. It's a very pretty song. Headphone music that will make you want to dig into your angst and take a lie down on the shag rug.

47. Hinds / "Garden" Spanish, girl-band garage rock FTW, basically. Really hits its stride at the chorus, "and I feel like I'm freezing again..."

48. James Blake / "Always" James Blake always moves at his own pace. Since this is a film blog, let's apply a distinction from the world of cinema to what Blake does: if most pop music relies on editing to piece together scenes and propel the narrative forward, Blake pulls an Orson Welles and focuses on deep space composition. The songs pull you inward and build in depth instead expanding outward, asking you to piece together disparate layers in a moment instead of waiting for the bass drop.

49. Jamie xx, Kosi Kos / "Come We Go" This was a collaboration between Jamie xx and DJ Koze (operating as Kosi Kos) for the latter's Pampa Records compilation and, well, it's one of those tracks that drives ever forward, ever faster, and makes all the subtle little moves you want it to along the way.

50. Jamila Woods / "HEAVN"  Fact: Jamila Woods' album HEAVN is very good. Fact: while I was trying to decide what to include from it on this list, about half of the album was lumped onto the playlist. Fact: I'm still not sure this is the choice I'll stick with ("Blk Girl Soldier"? "Lately"?). Fact: that does not change that this is very good. It begins with a nostalgia play on The Cure's "Just Like Heaven" and continues with a clarity of sound that is just gorgeous.

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