Friday, December 30, 2016

Pop Candy Arcade Playlist: The 125 Songs of 2016, 101-125

We've reached the end of this list, and while the contents have managed to stay mostly stable for most of the posting this week, there has still been a fair amount of shuffling and indecision on my end. This whole thing is an exercise in a kind of pointless obsession, building up something that will mostly be for my own records that I can go back to time and again and listen to and track my own tastes and the shifts in sounds and larger music trends. Much has changed between my first list (in 2009) and now. Bands and artists have all but disappeared, songs were included that I would never think to put in now, and it's obvious that each year since then I've devoted a little more time to actually tracking down new music, collecting it throughout the year, and trying things beyond initial first impressions.

All that's to say, I'm still making these for myself, but I hope that the readers who browse through them enjoy doing so and that you find a song or two that you might not have heard but wind up liking.  The playlist itself is still to come, but here's the final section of this bloated list...

101. Rendez Vous / "Distance" A Parisian band that makes synth-based post-punk that will be right at home in any playlist anchored by Joy Division.

102. Rihanna ft. Drake / "Work" There were a few standout tracks on ANTI, and while I considered including "Love on the Brain" as an interesting departure point for the pop-star, "Work" is a pretty undeniable and ubiquitous presence on the 2016 landscape that manages to make Rihanna at an almost self-parodying level of her trademark bleating, well, work.

103. Roisin Murphy / "Ten Miles High" You can always count on Roisin Murphy to merrily skip through the genres and pull together an album that's as much pop as it is experimental jazz, as much disco as it is slow-burn soul. It's the spiritual twin of last year's Hairless Toys, and "Ten Miles High" is a place where Murphy showcases the strange way her instrumentals stretch in opposition to the vocals, constructing the songs bones until it's strong enough to launch itself in a new direction.

 104. Roses / "Julian March" This Los Angeles based post-punk-pop group pulls from its 80's influences and delivers a danceable, upbeat party jam.

105. Run the Jewels / "Call Ticketron" I'll undoubtedly run through a whole bunch of steps on my way to choosing a favorite off the Christmas-released RTJ3, but for right now, this is the standout moment for me. It's a rapid-fire tag-team job over a schizophrenic beat that seems designed to deliver the AWESOME Killer Mike verse about 3/4 through. Yes.

106. Savages / "The Answer" I saw Savages in concert twice this year, and can say with absolute conviction that anything that might be lacking on their second album is made up for in abundance in their live shows. They are a killer, killer live band. "The Answer" is perhaps the best encapsulation of that energy on the album, so it wins on the list where "Adore" might be more appropriate.

107. SchoolBoy Q / "Groovy Tony / Eddie Kane"  If there's one thing SchoolBoy Q is great at doing, it's figuring out how to blend a variety of musical textures in one album and, sometimes, in one song. This is one such effort, an epic track that starts out great and only gets better as it twists through to something completely different.

108. serpentwithfeet / "four ethers" serpentwithfeet is a collaboration between Haxan Cloak and Josiah Wise, a classically trained, queer, pagan gospel performance artist with a multi-colored beard, face tattoos, and an absolutely enormous septum piercing. I note all this because Wise is, yes, absolutely a fascinating character, but also because everything that he is seems written into the way the music stretches through avant garde soul constructions, operatic influences, and a level of drama that is unparalleled by anything on this list.  This is a great EP, and you should be aware of it.

109. Shura / "Nothing's Real" Shura landed a couple spots on last year's list before her album even dropped, and she didn't disappoint with its release. "Nothing's Real" is the album's title track, a 80's-touched piece of pop that chronicles the moment of being hospitalized after a panic attack. I'm telling you, anxiety-pop is a movement, and Shura is one of its leaders.

110. Sofi Tukker / "Drinkee" This NYC duo uses Portuguese and jungle rhythms, but the real reason this song is on here is because about half way through this song it gets caught in some kind of bass vortex and let me tell you, that is a great moment. In the car. In your headphones. Over the speakers. It is a moment to wait for.

111 -112. Solange / "Cranes in the Sky" - and - "F.U.B.U." Man, what did they feed the Knowles sisters while they were growing up?  Because, I mean, first you think one has the standout album of the year and then the other one comes along and is like, also, here is another standout album of the year with a completely different vibe.  Solange has crafted an incredibly unified album on questions of black female identity and it could not have arrived at a more timely moment. "Cranes" is a beautiful, light song masking a voyage to a dark, sorrowful place. "F.U.B.U" is an affirmation, her own call to get it "Formation".

113. Sophia Loizou / "Genesis 92: The Awakening" More ambiance, more crinkly, ethereal sounds, more textures I could describe as ghostly.  More! More! More!

114. TIFFANY / "I Just Wanna Dance" A solo departure for Tiffany, the American-born and South Korea based member of Girls' Generation who seemed to find a brand new audience with her 6-song mini-album this year.  Tiffany has literally been trained to be a pop star, and her solo work proves it: it's polished, big, and fully formed.

115. Tove Lo / "True Disaster" "True Disaster" opens with a cloud of sound and gives way to a brilliant, self-destructive pop song about pursuing that which one shouldn't.

116. Traumprinz aka DJ Metatron /  “2 Bad (DJ Metatron’s What if Madness is Our Only Relief mix)” Traumprinz/DJ Metatron/Prince of Denmark is impossibly prolific, and I've only just hit the tip of the iceberg in terms of what's readily available across his span of releases. But "2 Bad" is a vast, expressive swath of electronic atmosphere that's just lovely.

117 -118. A Tribe Called Quest / "The Space Program" - and - "Whateva Will Be" Oh man, I was extremely excited about the return (and final album) of Tribe, and I was not disappointed. Even though the group lost Phife Dawg (again, much too early) this year, they found a way to finish the album, keep his presence alive, and make works that have proven - again - to be timely as hell.  While "We the People" and "Dis Generation" were perfect in a post-election moment, I just love, love "The Space Program" so damn much. It's pitch perfect, insta-classic Tribe, with a warm beat and a killer flow, and "Whateva Will Be" follows through with a groove.
119-120. Underworld / "Low Burn" - and - "I Exhale" So, when I finally started actively collecting vinyl this year, here's a thing you have to understand: I already had a couple Bowie titles, there were some things I owned for the hell of it, but the first thing I hunted and bought was actually Underworld's Dubnobasswithmyheadman, and I don't know a single damn person in my social circles who gets this.  Anyway, the point is: I love Underworld. There's something about what they do that just works for me, that has this weird, grimy yet smooth, insomnia-perfect bass that feels wrong and right, clean and dirty, repetitive and constantly changing.
121. Vince Staples / "War Ready" An A+ Andre 3000 sample opens this track over a ear-catching instrumentals that subside into a minimalist clicking that serves to highlight the song's battlecry.

122. The Weeknd, Daft Punk / "Starboy" Yeah, I know, every year that passes leaves me with more conflicted feelings about The Weeknd. If we're being honest, the thing that makes this song (and "I Feel It Coming", which could be swapped out) is really how obviously Daft Punk's fingerprints are all over the instrumentals. These are collaborations that get the job done, even if the lyrics are sort of garbage.

123. Whitney / "Golden Days" The drummer from Unknown Mortal Orchestra and Smith Westerns' guitar player teamed up and made a folksy rock album of songs that, for some reason, a lot of people went a little crazy for. I can't say I get the hype on most of the tracks (they generally scream, ok, I can see aging white hipster dudes buying into this), but "Golden Days" is a charmer with singalong potential and a good, solid, road trip-ready vibe.

124. Young Thug + Travis Scott / "pick up the phone" I'm fascinated by Young Thug as a presence in hip hop, but am slightly less fascinated by much of his musical output thus far.  I don't think "pick up the phone" is particularly innovative, either, but it is pure hook and rolls by so quickly that you don't know you've been sold until it's over.

125. Yves Tumor / "The Feeling When You Walk Away"  Another artist straddling the line between music and performance art, Yves Tumor crosses genre lines whenever the hell he wants, blending smooth soul grooves with suddenly noisy electro jazz, ambient sounds, and a touch of psychedelia. Don't be scared, though, this track is pure groove...

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