Thursday, December 29, 2016

Pop Candy Arcade Playlist: The 125 Songs of 2016, 51-75

Guess what? I'm afraid that in this section of the list, we are going to have to succumb to some inevitable housekeeping. Namely: the problem with making this thing mostly sort-of alphabetical has occurred. Specifically: I was listening to some of the songs from later on down the line in the car today and I was like, really? Do I want this on here? Why did I take this other thing off? Surely that thing was better than this thing? Even more specifically: I am giving in to the Fifth Harmony exclusion you likely didn't notice in the last post. I have moved them on and off the list so many times that at this point it almost feels like the thing deserves to be there just for constantly showing up. You win, Fifth Harmony. You win.

Here we go. Part III. Late additions first.

 51. Avalon Emerson / "2000 Species of Cacti" I swear I didn't choose it just because I love the title (though I do), it's a great club track that is appropriately arid and firmly rooted, with bright twinkling notes that kick in at the mid-point to make it all the more lovely. 

52. Dawn Richard  / "LA (ft. Trombone Shorty)" I'm late to the Dawn Richard party. The former Danity Kane member has released a trilogy of themed album driven by an interest in colors, occult and mystical elements. On "LA" the music blends genres, pulling from acid jazz, 70's grooves, and electro-pop to build its own mysticism.

53. Fifth Harmony / "Work From Home"  AGAIN. FINE FIFTH HARMONY. YOU WIN.  

54-55 Jenny Hval / "Conceptual Romance" - and- "Female Vampire" I adore Jenny Hval's lushly cinematic, deeply atmospheric Blood Bitch album and adopted it for the last quarter of 2016 as a type of constant soundtrack and mantra, letting it play over and over again in my headphones for whole mornings and work periods (something I rarely can manage).  It's a bit difficult to break out the songs as individual pieces once you've become attached to the entire album as art object or piece, but even with that caveat, the Chris Kraus-inspired "Conceptual Romance' and the shaky, chilly "Female Vampire" are standouts. This is brilliant, experimental, complicated music rooted in an exploration that's as literary as it is musical. Much, much love.

56-57. Jessy Lanza / "It Means I Love You" - and - "Oh No"  Speaking of great albums, damn does this Jessy Lanza joint grow on you. There are a ton  of female musicians doing really interesting work fracturing pop music and exploring all kinds of anxieties via sound, and if Jenny Hval's channeling becomes a cinematic score, Jessy Lanza's is more of an echo-chamber of nostalgic sounds harnessed and forced to do her bidding at a tempo that cuts.

58. Jubilee / "Wine Up (feat. Hoodcelebrityy)" Jubilee is Jessica Gentile, a DJ and producer influenced by her split time in New York and Miami, as the synthesis of dancehall, springy bass, and a certain knowing choppiness might suggest.  There's nothing tremendously complicated about why this is on here. It's just fun.
59. Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith / "Existence in the Unfurling"  Smith talks about her synthesizer as a space ship command console and discusses the waves of sound she produces as containing "electrical ghosts" and you can hear exactly that in "Existence in the Unfurling" as it stretches itself through the thought process of a cyborg. 

60-61. Kaytranada / "You're the One" (ft. Syd)  /  "Lite Spots" It seems like everyone who digs Kaytranada has their own choice for favorite track. You can feel free to sub yours in as they're all pretty damn solid. Kaytranada is a Canadian producer by way of Haiti, and there's a sense of all manner of musical imports finding their place here.  On the two songs included, look for the way "You're the One" plays like a summer day in a bubble and the way "Lite Spots" reworks a bossa nova track into an automatic dance party. 

62. KDA, Tinashe / "Just Say" Fuck it. Let's just stop writing this list and go to a club. We've got time, right? It's only 12:30. 

63. Kedr Livanskiy / "Razrushitelniy Krug (Destructive Cycle)"  And here we find that Russian synth pop has made it onto the list. As it does. Livanskiy is a 20-something out of Moscow who has been kicking up her own underground electronic scene there. The song is, supposedly, about self-reflecting on destructive cycles, though I must admit I don't understand a word of it.

64. Kelsey Lu / "Time" Lu recorded her debut EP live and in a church with, apparently, nothing but a loop pedal, her cello, and her voice. It's, well, it's very impressive. 

65. Kendrick Lamar / "untitled 06 / 06.30.2014" Oh look, more bossa nova. Oh look, more Kendrick Lamar. How did that get here? I can't imagine...

66. Kiki Hitomi / "Galaxy"  Hitomi has released work with King Midas Sound in the past, but on her solo album she blends musical genres, eras, and cultures with surprising results, frequently pulling from Japanese pop of the 50's and reggae to transform it all into something that sounds like it comes from outer space or was designed to score a melancholy reboot of Barbarella.  Into it. 

67. KING / "The Greatest"  Prince was a fan of this pop/R&B trio when their EP appeared a few years back, and on their debut album, they're crushing the contemporary R&B vibe in a way that feels familiar, lived in, and old hat while still feeling completely new, modern, and fresh. 

68. Kornel Kovacs / "The Bells"  Kovacs is a Swedish producer who knows how to make fun, warm dance tracks. He can take a hard song and soften the edges, and that's what happens on "The Bells", where a piece of symphonic, cold techno (the Jeff Mills song of the same title) comes down with a case of the disco fuzzies.

69. Kristin Kontrol / "X-Communicate"  This is Kristin Welchez (Dee Dee of Dum Dum Girls) deciding to ditch the garage-rock for pure 80s synth pop.  It's quite a departure, and in cases of songs like "X-Communicate", a very successful one.  This is a complete sound, a well-considered song, and a project clearly fueled by a desire to continue a tradition instead of simply step into a nostalgia wave.  It's clear-eyed pop with a good goth edge, and that's always up my alley.

70. Kyle Dixon & Michael Stein / "Stranger Things"  At this point I really have to ask: would it be 2016 without some mention of the goddamn Netflix show in every wrap-up known to man?  Probably not. Whatever your feelings are on the show itself, you must admit the theme song is one of its most compelling elements.

71. L.A. Witch / "Ain't Comin Home" Exactly what I want to be listening to in a mostly empty dive bar on literally any day of any year in any mood.

72. L├ąpsley / "Operator (DJ Koze's Disco Edit)"  The 19-year old Brit has quite a voice, and "Operator" is almost like a glimpse at what Adele would sound like if she dropped the ballad-driven grand dame thing and made music that matched her personality. 

73. Lee Fields & The Expressions / "Never Be Another You" Lee Fields is not a new soul singer, he is a real, old-school soul act with a long and winding history of small records, disappearing acts, and failed attempts at kicking off a career through the late 60's to today.  What makes this song great is simply that it could easily and believably fit right in on a playlist of soul standards from a golden era. Everything feels right, it's a wonder this song hasn't been around forever.

74. Leon Vynehall / "Kiburu's" So, I've read that Rojus is a concept album that's in large part influenced by a merger of dancefloor culture and the curious rituals of varied birds of paradise. "Kiburu's" sounds exactly like that, an exotic blend of tropical pageantry that feels as though it's about to take flight.

75. Leonard Cohen / "You Want It Darker" Another of 2016's great losses, and another fitting closing chapter. There's a dark choir backing Cohen's gravel voice here, and it's solid support for the reckoning taking place in the lyrics. Though it's impossible not to read Cohen's "I'm ready, my Lord" as grappling very specifically with the mortality he addressed in several interviews before his death, the whole song is one fit for this difficult year.  "You want it darker / we kill the flame"

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