Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Of Wolves & Vibrancy

I read this at a conference in Seattle in 2007 on a panel that included Erik Davis. Erik is some sort of friggin' genius. Then Mike McGonigal put it in his Yeti magazine. Which is a great magazine. But you knew that already. Then it was included in a book called Pop When The World Falls Apart. That book has some rad stuff in it if you see a cheap copy somewhere. I read this over and didn't cringe too much, so I decided to post it here. 

 Of Wolves and Vibrancy

A brief exploration of the marriage made in hell between folk music, dead cultures, myth, and highly technical modern extreme metal

by Scott Seward

In my capacity as a custodian at a small island hospital off of the coast of New England, I have a host of duties to fulfill and I wear many hats. Many of these hats can be fairly smelly, and—given that I usually work by myself, and that the work itself tends to be somewhat mechanical and entirely physical—I find that I can be taken over and nearly overwhelmed at times by certain Proustian reveries triggered by the site-specific odors I come into contact with on a regular basis. Blood, urine, vomit, shit, freshly-mown grass, the salt-water spray from the harbor across the street, the oppressive, on hot days almost visible cloud surrounding the water-treatment plant out back, the cleansers and waxes, the iodine and ammonia, the food from the cafeteria, and even the thick, oil-streaked coffee that my Brazilian co-workers brew nightly in the break room far from prying eyes.
            All of these smells, separately and in conjunction, have the power to intoxicate me, eliciting primal, nearly forgotten memories that go back as far as the cradle. And of course it’s not just the smells. The sights and sounds of birth, death, and the various bodily humiliations visited upon us in between those two milestones, to which my position affords me a unique all-access pass, can fill my head with all manner of disorienting thoughts and connections that sometimes force sobering reflections about my own life and mortality upon me.
            And then there are days when I simply dream of pie. Hot cherry pie.    
            It might sound a little too cute if I were to say that all of this near-constant—occasionally alarming—stimulation provides inspirational and creative fodder for the writing about heavy metal I do every month for a metal magazine. But it would be true. And it might be a bit morbid if I were to say that a blood-streaked floor sometimes reminded me of what I love about metal. But that would be true too. I have an immediate, visceral reaction to the sounds of metal, as I do to the sight of blood, and both serve to connect me to the past via experience and memory and to the present via . . . what exactly?
            With metal, I think it’s that sense of immediacy and vitality that even mediocre examples of the genre can conjure up simply by virtue of hyperbole and that striving to be the most of something. The most base, or debased, or most grandiose, or most gloomy, or most triumphant. I respond strongly to unashamed displays of the will to power in most genres of any art. At the very least, I admire those who feel as if the infinite is within their grasp. No matter how misguided their central premise. Believing you are a bad-ass is half the battle when it comes to creating something compelling.
            And as far as my reactions to blood . . . well, blood is blood. It’s freaky and mysterious and hard to get out of carpets. Even a drop can send me swooning down the rabbit hole of scabby, incandescent childhood filth and fury.
            If metal is the music that most accurately reflects my physical and mental reactions to my surroundings, then the metal I find myself attracted to, for reasons of empathy, sympathy, and love of moss-covered rocks in dark forests, is metal that makes the most of the past—the long ago and forgotten past, the past of myth, the past of runes, ruins, and revelry—and incorporates that past into a wholly modern form. I might say the same about rock music in general (I am a rockhead and love all its myriad guises), but modern extreme metal—the hard to grasp stuff, the nasty stuff, the stuff that doesn’t reach out to include you, the stuff that lives in its own world away from the crowds, and that doesn’t try too soothe even in its beauty—reminds me more of jazz or rap or tricky modern classical music, which demand that you crack codes before they will break bread with you and thus are more intriguing and captivating to a devourer of sound such as myself.
            Rap and metal are close cousins. They rarely kiss, and when they do people often turn their heads away in embarrassment. And that’s because they aren’t third cousins—they live two houses down from one another and know each other well. They both have secret languages, worlds built from words and visions and fiery art filled with transcendent repetitions, monster beats, and often dour and dire predictions of harm and mishap. This, in a more general way, was jazz, too, once upon a time—dangerous, noisy, demanding, whispered about. Adored by underground Swedish hordes.
Metal and rap are still the danger sounds today, in a way that traditional and even alternative rock and roll—ever smarter, ever more bloodless and odorless—hardly ever is. There is ferment and experiment and the dedicated plowing of fertile fields in metal.
            Of course, it’s possible that my personality is simply better suited to the worlds that metal creates than those of other popular genres: tense, prone to delusions of grandeur, brooding storm clouds, fond of Vikings.

As I write this, I am on fire watch. The alarms are out in Wing Three and it is my job to spend the night at the hospital after my shift and search empty offices every hour for the sight of flames softly licking ’round bare wires or the acrid stench of smoke. For insurance purposes. I’ve set up camp on a couch in Acute Care. It’s four a.m. and I’m blasting Orphaned Land’s 2004 album Mabool on my headphones. I am hallucinating slightly as a result of the long day now turned to night.
            Orphaned Land are from Israel and are beloved by Arabs and Jews alike. They combine their metal—which is already a combination of mid-tempo death metal and orthodox doom—with aching lyrical passages and harmonies (think of a combination of Fiddler on the Roof and Jesus Christ Superstar, if you dare), and high-spirited traditional Arabic and Israeli acoustic instrumentation, as well as a smattering of Yemenite chant and your general Old Testament-based vibe and charm.
            Mabool is quite a ride. Like most compact discs, it’s about twenty minutes too long, but even so, it’s a striking artistic statement, and one that took all of seven years to make in between bouts of homeland insecurity and spilled blood and treasure. The acoustic folk elements are soldered seamlessly onto the electric metal chassis. Orphaned Land’s metal tends to be fairly middle of the road, and even their death grunts are amiable. Not for them the extreme speed and aggression of, say, American death metal band Nile, the Ancient Egypt-obsessed brutes who leaven their bombastic pleas to Atum or Osiris with period-appropriate serpentine constructions played on Middle Eastern instruments. Nile’s self-described “ithyphallic” metal shares some of the same mythological territory as extreme archeologists and Mesopotamia/Sumeria metal champs Melechesh and Absu, as well.
            Even given Orphaned Land’s relative placidness, though, Mabool is still an album you must give in to. Sink in to. When it comes to metal, it can be hard for literal-minded music fans to turn off their minds and float downstream. The social conditioning, the stigmas and stereotypes are so strong. I take heart in the fact that more people probably hate opera than metal (which is also a shame, and also partially vocal-based). Then there are the people who can never look beyond the juvenile and cartoonish aspects of some metal; to them the music will forever be monolithic, stupid, not worth bothering with.
            The truth is, metal needs its puerile and unsavory elements to be as strong a form as it is. If you exclude the bad and the ugly from art and only focus on the good, then you are truly living in fairyland. Also, you are your grandmother. A song entitled “Strangled By Intestines” will not be to everyone’s taste, but dig a little deeper and you will learn that its author, Joe Wolfe (of the group Heinous Killings), is revered by hundreds as one of the greatest low-tone goregrind vocalists of all time!
            Orphaned Land has stopped whirling, and I am playing some Magane. Still no sign of fire in the building. The only thing I smell is the overripe scent of dying flowers in a vase of fetid yellow water, left on the table next to me by long-gone wishers of well. Magane are from Japan and make what they like to call Yomi metal. It is a blend of blackened death metal played with punkish zeal plus evocative strains of Gagaku (ancient Japanese court music) and Shinto chants and recitations. The band draws lyrical inspiration from the sacred Kojiki text when they’re not shrieking about killing Christian pigs and drinking themselves to death. Shintoism!
            Many camps of folk-metal lay great emphasis on the pre-everything world. Pre-Christian, pre-Roman, the supposedly anarchic wonderland of ice and snow before the invaders showed up. Metal has always been a great place for people who don’t feel they belong in the world. And metal artists go to great lengths to create a home, a place, a life, a philosophy, a religion, out of the tools of their art. Or they go out of their way to trumpet the merits of their own small patch of soil.(Again with the rap comparisons. Speaking of which, you have no idea how members of the California Latino-American thrash-metal revival movement feel about the wrong people wearing high-top Reeboks. It ain’t pretty.)
            I can dig the sentiment. In the 1980s, I was a big admirer of British anarcho-punks like Crass and Flux Of Pink Indians, and the idea that some of these groups had punk-rock communes seemed so cool to me. In the states there was the Dischord house and the Better Youth Organization. Punk boy scouts, really. I would have looked for a like-minded place or cult myself at the time, but I’ve never been fond of gardening. Other than on an aesthetic basis, I can’t say that I’m all that interested in Germanic neo-paganism, Odinism, heathenry, mysticism, Satanism, Celtic neo-Druidism, animism, shamanism, or ritual-based Asatru worship practices, but I admire their practitioners’ pep and hand-crafted leatherware—and their music, of course.
            To be honest, I’m not a huge fan of the real deal ancient folke consorts that dot the landscape of music festivals and renaissance faires. Too often they lack the fierceness and meatiness of music born from blood and fire and plague. Metal bagpipers usually trump the historically accurate but noticeably timid players in the traditional music camps. One listen to Finland’s Korpiklaani, who rage like the Pogues after several years of weight-training,  sends me instantly back to a time when trolls ruled the woods, in a way that all the progressive, well-meaning Breton flute toodlers in the world could never manage.
            I also appreciate how modern Korpiklaani and other folk-metal artists are. They dream of the past, but they live in the here and now and make music that reflects that. The Viking folk-metal of Falkenbach, Tyr, Moonsorrow, Ensiferum, and Einherjer re-creates old Norse and Celtic battle rhythms and hymns with great liveliness and invention—they can also all play their heathen butts off—but they also never fail to bring new ideas to the world of metal and music through their deft use of modern recording techniques. Not unlike the brave—and oft derided—’70s progressive-rock titans of yore.
            Tyr are from the remote Faroe Islands, equidistant between Iceland and Norway, whose fishing communities have never entirely lost the love or feel for their Viking and Celtic heritage. Tyr even sing some of their songs in Faroese, a language based on Old Norse and once outlawed by their Danish masters (the islands are now an “autonomous region” of Denmark).
            Which brings me to my next point. The nationalism, neo-nationalism, and even national socialism of some modern metal bands is obviously problematic, though less so when you’re listening to solo music for lute and are told that the artist is “Aryan-identified” . . . If you say so. Luckily, most of the best artists in the folk-metal and even current neo-folk world are simply avid tree-huggers, and while I might not want to ask some of them their views on immigration or rap music, that would probably also be the case with more than one of my favorite country performers.
            Even a cursory glance through the interview section of The Convivial Hermit magazine—an excellent chronicle and repository for the wit and wisdom of scores of kindred spirits in the metal underground—will reveal more evidence of a longing to be left alone to create in peace than of overarching theories regarding the superiority of any one race. They are all like-minded souls who appreciate the efforts of others around the world and, through their art and fandom, probably have more contact with far-flung corners of the metal omniverse, and thus everywhere, than most provincial citizens ever will, myself included.
            Being of the shut-in persuasion, I can appreciate the yokelism involved in writing impassioned opuses about the mountains and terrain right outside your door. I am all for forest-identified performers. Local color artists who may not stray far from the black and white paint on their palette, but who explore the possibilities of their limited repertoire to its fullest extent. I confess it can even make me a bit wistful. Or envious. My family has lived in New England for over four hundred years and I can’t say that I know the land very well. Or that I feel I have a claim on it, or am a part of it. On the island I now call home, the pinkletink is supposedly the herald that announces the arrival of spring in our region. I’m still not sure whether the pinkletink is a bird, a flower, or a frog. 
            There is a tradition being passed down to young Nordic and Slavic and Asian and Russian misanthropes who are also one-man bands; they are honoring that tradition in  their way and making something new and exciting out of it and learning about what makes their home unique. There is a freshness in even the most fumbling attempts to extract meaning from words and sounds and instruments that are, in some cases, thousands of years old. There is bravery in turning your back on modernity, even if only in song, and taking a walk in the woods.    

I am currently writing this in Newton, Massachusetts. Don’t ask me how I got here. I’m not a fan of the traffic patterns in the area, and the sprawl makes me grit my teeth. Familial warmth makes up for this, however. Not far from here is Brook Farm, that grand, doomed experiment in highbrow communal living where my great-great grandfather, as a boy, learned to use a printing press and be Transcendental in every little way. In America, too—where dissatisfaction with modern life runs neck and neck with our ability to create new and often useless things to fill our lives with—there is purple mountain majestic metal that thrives on the arcane—and, apparently, bird-watching. One-man forest rangers such as Sapthuran, Blood of the Black Owl, and Celestiial.
            Celestiial’s debut, Desolate North, on the tiny Bindrune label, is a psychedelic mélange of ambient forest hush, bird sounds, gently strummed guitar, and muffled, tortured cries. It’s a beautiful and unsettling journey. It would be practically New Age if it weren’t for the whole tortured cry thing.
            Blood of the Black Owl’s main man—when he isn’t harnessing masculine forest energy through funeral doom and wolf howls—has another group devoted to ritualistic drone-based pagan hypnotism. Ruhr Hunter celebrated its tenth anniversary with an elaborate box set that contains, along with a compact disc, moss and soil from the Pacific Northwest, ocean stones, crow feathers, mink bones and teeth, insects, branches, and white birch bark from the state of Maine! You know you want one.
            And what did you do to commemorate Ruhr Hunter’s tenth anniversary, hmmm? Plant a tree? Skin a mink?
            So many of these bands and artists have been digging the nature scene for so long; they have years and years of sorrow, beauty, and brutality under their belts and are content for the most part to be ignored by everyone except the metal faithful.     
            None of this music is new, of course. Just new twists on old designs. And, in my eyes anyway, a certain perfection of a form. It must also be understood that most of the new music I am so thrilled about is based on newer metal sub-genres such as technical death metal, funeral doom, black metal, and the like. Subgenres that came of age in the ’90s. There is an all-encompassing synthesis occurring today in music that blurs the line between what is metal and what is . . . art-rock, prog, folk. All manner of genres are being assaulted by musicians who made their name with metal, but who are expanding their sounds so fast and furiously that new labels are being created daily by trainspotting weirdos working feverishly to keep up with new developments. It is a heady age.

So far I’ve avoided any discussion of the extremely popular and densely populated power metal/symphonic metal/progressive fantasy metal genres that have likewise been experiencing boom times in recent years.. This is not because of any distaste on my part for these hirsute, virtuoso, Beowulf-gobbling, steed-riding proponents of all that is metal. Nay, it is only that these sons and daughters of the almighty Iron Maiden deserve their own lengthy scrolls to record their many deeds of valor. Germany alone counts more minions devoted to the exploits of Hammerfall, Blind Guardian, and Iced Earth than you could shake a hobbit’s walking stick at. God bless their obsessively melodramatic, triumphant hearts.
            Have you heard the new Therion album? Gothic Kabbalah? It’s a double-disc set devoted to the life and work of 17th-century mystic and runic scholar, Johannes Bureus. Yowza! Now we’re talking. But as ineffably righteous as all that swordplay is, the art that truly stirs my senses lies closer to earth. And is of this earth, in its own weird way. Not that it doesn’t also pay homage to what came before in the metallic realm. That is the honor and pleasure of all future metal musicians. Numerous folk-metal bands were inspired by the industrial neo-folk movement of the 1980s that involved people like Current 93, Death In June, Laibach, and Boyd Rice. Some of them, like morbid teens looking to shock, played with the totems and imagery of fascism and brown-shirt martialism.
            The influence of industrial noise-rockers Swans, in their head trauma–inducing youth as well as their later apocalyptic folk-music-to-end-all-folk-music phase, can never be underestimated. But the roots of folk and fantasy and cryptic messages from beyond in metal are as old as metal itself. Even older. Born of comic books; sci-fi; horror movies; sword & sorcery epics; Poe; Lovecraft (especially Lovecraft); the British invasion of Kinks, Who, Them, Stones, Pretty Things, Beatles, Yardbirds; the garage rock that followed; ersatz-mystical sitar psychedelia; “Nights In White Satin”; “A Whiter Shade Of Pale”; fairytale psych; blues myth appropriations and misappropriations; Coven; Black Widow; Black Sabbath’s iron man and wizard, and drug-dream fairies wearing boots (as a kid I was so perplexed by this song—a fairie wearing boots? How is that scary? What am I missing?); the folk revival; hippie folk; the folk-rock explosion; the progressive hard rock of High Tide, Hawkwind, and a thousand unwashed others from Magna Carta to Caravan to Gentle Giant to the Nice to Status Quo to Atomic Rooster to Jethro Tull to Lucifer’s Friend.
            And not least, of course, Led Zeppelin, who probably could have managed the whole “future of metal” thing by themselves (well, with a little help from Black Sabbath). Their unholy mix of hard proto-metal and exquisite UK folk is pretty much unmatched to this day. (That and their tight grooves and swing—two things that many people bemoan the lack of in current hard-ass bands).
            Which brings us to the ’80s and what would become the dominant sounds of today’s modern extreme metal. The new wave of British heavy metal, second generation UK punk, American hardcore punk, Venom, Trouble, Bathory, Slayer, Hellhammer, Celtic Frost, Metallica, Sodom, Kreator, Mercyful Fate, Voivod, and others would invent the future of black metal, death metal, grindcore, and doom—and they did it with a smile.
All of which brings us, lastly, to wolves. The early ’90s Norwegian explosion of black metal, that disharmonic din that tranformed a frosty, responsible nation seemingly overnight into a dark den for blasphemous church-burning nihilists, opened up the floodgates of creativity for a small group of outcasts and the metal world has never been the same. It certainly seemed as if death metal, which came into its own in the late ’80s, would be metal’s evolutionary success story for the ’90s as well.
            But black metal, so singlehandedly furious, more akin to the sounds of some avant-garde classical experiment in dissonant repetition and not so concerned at the time with death metal’s extreme levels of technical prowess, would prove to be a do-it-yourself catalyst for many who had the fever but who lacked the flavor. Norway’s Ulver were an early favorite, apart from the unholy trio of Darkthrone,  Mayhem, and Emperor.
            Ulver is the Norwegian word for “wolves,” and the band’s first three albums were a trilogy devoted to the concept of the wolf in man. Millions of people are at least subliminally aware of Ulver, since the poster for their lo-fi black-metal masterwork, Nattens Madrigal, was displayed for years on the wall of Anthony Soprano Jr’s bedroom on the popular HBO drama The Sopranos. Pretty tricky of whoever put it there. The wolf in man, get it?
            Ulver continue to confound and beguile audiences with everything from IDM and trip-hop-based soundtrack work, massively ambitious art rock, and other forays into the nether regions of experimental sound and vision. After the initial black metal albums they made their name with, they truly turned heads with a double-disc art-metal salute to William Blake’s The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. They are quirky, to say the least.
For our purposes it is the second album in their trilogy that is most important here. 1995’s Kveldssanger is a neo-classical work of plainsong, cello, and guitar, and has enriched everyone it touches to this day. It seems like half or more of the tender spirits involved in the making of modern folk-metal—in whatever way, shape, or form that music comes in—have been possessed by Ulver’s singular creation. And wolves have abounded ever since. Wolves, and woods, and ice, and snow, and more snow, and mountains, and blood, and wind, and gods, and even funny little trolls who drink too much beer in the Finnish forests. What a strange bunch. And yet how confident they are in their torment and fury and doubt and pride and growth and love of land and primitive ghosts.
            I leave the last words to Ulver, from their 1999 Metamorphosis EP, an experiment in techno-derived wooziness with words by Rimbaud and wolves ever on the mind, naturally.

"Note: Ulver is obviously not a black metal band and does not wish to be stigmatized as such. We acknowledge the relation of part I & III of the trilogie (Bergtatt & Nattens Madrigal) to this culture, but stress that these endeavors were written as stepping stones rather than conclusions. We are proud of our former instincts, but wish to liken our association with said genre to that of the snake with Eve. An incentive to further frolic only. If this discourages you in any way, please have the courtesy to refrain from voicing superficial remarks regarding our music and/or personae. We are as unknown to you as we always were."

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Picking Out Some Blizzard Records To Play Before The Storm Hits

New Arrivals At John Doe Jr. Used Records In Greenfield, MA 2-3-13

Scott Seward Putting More Records On The Ebay (I Am Not Craig Moerer)

Thrift Store Finds Of The Day (This Is Not An Episode Of American Pickers)

Scott Seward Culling His Record Collection - Volume One (I Am Not The Co...

Scott Seward's Record Hall Of Fame Volume One! (I Am Not Michael Ochs)

Too Many John Mayall Records at John Doe Jr. Used Records (It's Kinda Sad)

Scott Seward's Record Collection A-Z Volume Three (I Am Not David Mancuso)

Scott Seward's Record Collection A-Z Volume Two (I Am Not Skrillex)

Scott Seward's Record Collection A-Z Part One (I Am Not John Peel)

Possibly The Worst Album Ever Made. By Anyone. Ever.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

I Listened To All Of Pitchfork's Top 100 Tracks Of 2013 And I Didn't Die.

I went in blind. I had not heard the vast majority of these songs. I was unfamiliar with most of the artists. I'm 45, pink, married to a womyn, have two kids, a mortgage, and a tiny business selling records to the people of Western Massachusetts. I am both in and very out of the current pop/indie/rap/r&b loop. But enough about me, what did 2013 look like to the good people of Pitchfork? It looked pretty Pitchfork-y! Did I learn anything after listening to all these songs? Well, I learned that rap music is awesome and that college kids listen to a lot of music that nobody is going to remember a year from now. Haha, just kidding. I didn't learn that. I already KNEW that. Oh, it was quite the education, my friends. The bright side of things for me was the futurism on display. That was very comforting to me. Even retro-futurism is a form of futurism, right? I am a big fan of the new sounding new. I believe that every generation should have their own new thing to call their own. And the Webnought Generation of music fans out there definitely have more than enough new things of every stripe to call their own. Good for them! I like some of it and I do not like some of it. As you shall see. Spoiler: I liked more than I thought I would. The almost complete absence of Brian Wilson fandom might have had something to do with that. Finally! You did it, indie nation! I had almost given up hope. Onward to brave new worlds!

100. Factory Floor - “Fall Back” (DFA)

This is the sound of someone learning how to make electronic music. I'm all for learning! We grow when we learn. And a track like this can be inspiring to the thousands of home musicians out there who are also learning how to make music. Probably.

99. Thee Oh Sees - “Toe Cutter – Thumb Buster” (Castle Face)

Castle Face is a dumb name for a record label. I kinda dig this song though! It's piffle, but enjoyable enough. The riff is wimpy, but it's a recognizable rock riff and I enjoy those. Wait, it stopped and now it's starting again. It's two songs in one. This must be the Thumb Buster part. I'm gonna pretend like it just stopped and that we didn't hear the Thumb Buster part. It's really long. Wait, no, dammit, it's not Thee Oh Sees adding a dumb coda to their song, it's the next song by The Range! This is a continuous mix, Pitchfork? Don't you know how slow I am? My apologies.

98. The Range - “Metal Swing” (Donky Pitch)

This is the dumb song that comes right after “Toe Cutter – Thumb Buster” by Thee Oh Sees. Okay, not really. But Thee Oh Sees could have probably made this if you gave them a minute. This song features samples of “an unidentified Cockney-accented UK rapper” and, boy, I'll bet he was steamed when he found out about it! More piffle. Donky Pitch also a pretty bad label name. Plus, that's  not how you spell donkey.

97. Foxygen - “No Destruction” (Jagjaguwar)

I've actually heard this band before and liked one of their songs! This is not that song. More bedroom stuff. It makes me want to listen to The Clean. Or Beachwood Sparks. They are probably learning too though like their friends in Factory Floor. The whole world is learning. We all hit our heads and have to re-learn everything again.

96. Ty Segall - “Sleeper” (Drag City)

The 90's are back! And they're comin' to get you! Hold on to your hat! Wait, there is no link for this song. I am listening to a completely different band. Sorry, Ty! Okay, let me search for Ty's song...found it. Don't hate it. I'm too old for it though. It sounds too young on me. I've seen too many people die. This would be perfect for a sad 16-year-old though. And there ain't nothing wrong with that.

95. Swearin' - “Dust In The Gold Sack” (Salinas)

The 90's are back! This was the song that I thought was a Ty Segall song. Makes me want to pull out a Bettie Serveert album. Now there was a band! If you liked 90's indie pop you will like this all over again. Hey, I was listening to Veruca Salt the other day. I'm not throwing stones. I can dig the grunge vibe every now and again. I'm hip.

94. Duke Dumont - “Need You (100%)” (Blase Boys Club)

GREAT label name. Also: the 80's are back! This is really, really good. Like, way good. This is retro house I can get behind. Duke Dumont is from London but you'd never know it listening to this. It's THAT good. A name to watch.

93. David Bowie - “Love Is Lost (Hello Steve Reich Mix By James Murphy)” (Columbia)

I'll be honest, I left the room for a little bit and came back and this is still going and all I know is Steve Reich could poop this out in his never-ending sleep. So could James Murphy apparently. I did not hear the new Bowie album. I'll bet it was a return to form though.

92. Lil Durk - “Dis Ain't What You U Want” (Def Jam)

“This song is as hard as fuck on my moma” is a choice quote from a listener on the Soundcloud page that this song appears on. Not my moma, that's all I know. Boring. Lazy. Forgettable. My moma deserves better. My mom reps hard for Julius La Rosa and there is no way in hell Julius would have suffered through this tired arrangement on one of his albums. And Julius knew a lot of hard men. Harder than hard. Neither def nor a jam as that one guy used to say.

91. Forest Swords - “Thor's Stone” (Tri Angle)

More learning. This must be British, right? When I see “skeletal dub” in a description I put my dubious face on. And for good reason. I'm definitely down with Demdike Stare though. You should check them out. And if you are truly feeling adventurous, check out my beloved Necro Deathmort, actual British people who bring Thor's hammer down with a vengeance. Wait, Thor had a stone? I should really read more.

90. Yo La Tengo - “Ohm” (Matador)

The 90's are back! These guys have always seemed like they are probably really nice people. They seem amiable enough. I think I even know some people who know them and they've never said anything bad about them.

89. Young Thug - “Picacho” (Brick Squad Monopoly)

See, now, if Kanye sounded like THIS I would totally be a Kanye fan! It's that simple. This is my jam! And it totally sounds like 2013. Great snapshot of a year. More like this, please.

88. Grouper - “Vital” (Kranky)

Wow, way to bum a guy out, Grouper. Young Thug you ain't. RIYL: Low, sleigh rides, field hockey, light roast coffee, comfortable/casual.

87. The National - “Pink Rabbits” (4AD)

The link on Pitchfork is to a song by The National called “Sea Of Love” so I'll just listen to that. It's a time-honored indie rock tradition to give a song the same title as a really great old song and make the new song not anywhere near as good. It's kind of a strange tradition if you ask me. The National definitely follow this tradition and then some. We may never know what “Pink Rabbits” sounds like but if “Sea Of Love” is any indication, we will never know what “Pink Rabbits” sounds like. FYI: 4AD was one of the greatest independent record labels of the 1980's.

86. Ty Dolla $ign - “Paranoid” (self-released)

DJ Mustard! That is the best DJ name I have ever heard of. That's what it says on Pitchfork, I swear. I'm already envisioning a rap version of the Clue board game. Oh, man, I could totally get rich. I mean imagine the possibilities. Ty (no relation to Ty Segall as far as I know) is okay. But it is definitely Mustard who brings the spice to this sausage-fest. No, for real, he does. The backing track is hot.

85. Janelle Monae - “Q.U.E.E.N.” (Bad Boy)

The 90's are back! Years and years ago, in the 90's, I was in the basement of the Salvation Army store on Market Street near my apartment in Philly and it was me looking at records and older African-American women looking at clothes. “Tyrone” by Erykah Badu came on the radio. Watching those women listening to that song is one of the more memorable moments in my life. It was as if someone had thrown some firecrackers into that basement. It was as if Jesus himself had thrown firecrackers into that basement and then played “Tyrone” for us. I'll never forget that day. Sadly, that store was buried by a collapsing building not that long ago. People died. I spent years of my life in that store. I learned more in that store than I ever did in school. Fuck school. No, wait, go to school. You need it. I bring up this anecdote because Erykah is sorta (but not in an exciting way) on “Q.U.E.E.N.” and “Q.U.E.E.N.” is no “Tyrone”.

84. Chvurches - “Recover” (Glassnote)

Chvurches are obviously aiming to be the Big Pig of the Witch House set. Or maybe Basia, I dunno. Their interweb font totally warned me beforehand that I was in for screechy, in-the-red production and for this I thank them. I thought it was thoughtful anyway. I turned down the volume before playing. Do they sound any better on CD? Their Soundcloud clip sounds abysmal. In case you missed it: the 80's are back.

83. My Bloody Valentine - “New You” (self-released)

This is not one of the better songs from the new MBV album. And the beat is seriously dopey. It sounds like the demo that it probably was. Who can remember where all this “new” material came from? I am definitely a fan of the old stuff. When the new album came out, I was happy for even bigger fans in the way that you are happy for a relative who gets a promotion or a friend who posts pictures on Facebook of them finishing some sort of charity road race. Good for you! Seriously, why did this make a top 100 list? Is every other song on the album on this Pitchfork list too? This might be the case. We shall see.

82. Jon Hopkins - “Open Eye Signal” (Domino)

I swear to the great goddess Badu that I did not start this exercise to poke fun at Pitchfork or their thing or their “place” on the internet or in the world or any of that. I'm cool with them. I don't really read the site that much though and that's why I like to check out their year-end lists. Just to see what the kids/internet/music-crit-of-a-certain-stripe is up to. But I gotta quote this sentence from the Jon Hopkins blurb: “Sometimes it seems like electronic music has two primary molds: austere minimalism and extreme party-starting maximalism.” And I only quote this sentence to make one general point to anyone reading and not necessarily to the person who wrote it who shall remain nameless. If you believe this, you should listen to more electronic music. Because whenever you say that one big giant thing PRIMARILY has two ways of doing things you should try a little harder to find out if it does in fact ever do a third or fourth thing on the regular. Just a tip from your pal Scott. As far as the actual track goes, it ain't all that.

81. Disclosure - “Help Me Lose My Mind” (PMR)

This song features someone named London Grammar and I don't know who that is but while listening I can't help but wonder what this song would have sounded like if it featured Kelsey Grammar. It probably would have been more compelling because Kelsey Grammar is a dark motherfucker with some secrets. But the U.K. Is always on the lookout for a new Dido or Beth Orton to love so we'll let them have this one and keep our thoughts to ourselves. The 90's are back, fyi.

80. Future – Karate Chop (Freebandz/Epic)

This track is cool and Future is demented and the production is completely fucked and again this is why  Kanye leaves me cold cuz Future probably made this while he was waiting for the light to change, but more importantly while checking this out on Youtube, I found there was someone named Rich Homie Quan out there in the world and his video for the song “Type Of Way” is now my favorite video of 2013. I worry about him though. Rich Homie Quan. He has a lot of friends but I don't know if they always have his best interests at heart. I just hope that Rich Homie Quan is looking out for Rich Homie Quan.

79. Omar Souleyman - “Wenu Wenu” (Ribbon Music)

People love this guy. He don't need no Four Tet though. Can't you just like someone without getting all up in their business? Nusrat, The Congos, this guy, the list is endless. It's never better than their own stuff. Is it ever better? It isn't. Just send them a check in the mail. Can't you just send them a check in the mail? They don't really need you cooking in their kitchen. A fan letter and some cold hard cash. That's all they need. A gig maybe. A place to stay when they are in town.

78. Mariah Carey - “Beautiful” (Island/Def Jam)

This song also sounds like it was knocked out in a New York minute (people are busy these days!) and it threatens to be Miguel featuring Mariah Carey instead of the other way around but the beat is cool and it's harmless and charming and I will always have a place in my heart for MC and she looks really happy in the video and it's funny that all these people out there are trying to go back in time to Mariah's day and the woman herself is quite content with the here and now.

77. Julia Holter - “Hello Stranger” (Domino)

They didn't have a link to this on Pitchfork, but I sought it out anyway and I'm glad I did! And this isn't a bad indie rock song with the same title as a more famous and better old song either it’s an honest-to-gosh cover version. I confess that I enjoy this version for COMPLETELY nostalgic reasons. It's basically a This Mortal Coil version of “Hello Stranger”. It sounds exactly like an arrangement off  of the first or second TMC album. Even the way Julia's version ENDS is textbook Ivo! It's uncanny. And I'm a sucker for that shit, what can I say? I've been searching for a new Virginia Astley to love for decades too. I will be checking out Julia's album for sure now. I just hope it’s all as slow and sad and Lynchian. Imagine that, people are nostalgic for not just the 80's but the way that people covered songs from the 60's in the 80's. What a world we live in. 

76. Fuck Buttons - “Brainfreeze” (ATP Recordings)

I don't think I knew that Fuck Buttons sounded like this. I tend to get them confused with all the other new bands whose names I know and who I have read about in the funny papers but who I never actually listen to. Pissed Jeans. Fucked Up. All those guys. Anyway, long industrial instrumentals are fine by me. If their other stuff sounds even remotely like this track I would listen to more. Just don't tell me they ruin it by having vocals on some tracks. Or even worse, “guest” vocalists. They wouldn't do that, would they?

75. Youth Lagoon - “Mute” (Fat Possum)

I don't think I'm ready for the revival of 2006. I can't listen to this entire song. I apologize.

74. M.I.A. - “Come Walk With Me” (Interscope)

2006 is back on the attack! I don't know who you have to be to listen to this more than once, but you don't live in my house. Wait, I'm totally lying. My wife would listen to this more than once. And I love her, I really do. So, theoretically, I understand the impulse to listen to this. And theoretically I like the IDEA of genre-smashing superheroes like M.I.A. And Santigold, but for some reason I hear their stuff and when it's done it's gone. Right out of my head. Like a bird. Like a bird that knows Diplo. Who can say why this is? They try really really hard to engage my ears. But my ears, alas, they just won't listen.

73. Big Sean - “Control (HOF)” (G.O.O.D. Music)

I love this song. I actually know this song. I have listened to this song many times over the last year. I love Kendrick Lamar and I love him on this song. This is the best song of 2013. This is better than any Kanye West song ever made.

72. Darkside - “The Only Shrine I've Seen” (Matador/Other People)

I like any song that reminds me of Rolf Harris's “Sun Arise” and this song does. In general, the music is fantastic on this. A shame about the vocals, but what are you gonna do? It's certainly too late to do anything about it now. Maybe there is an instrumental version of the album I could buy? I would buy it tomorrow.

71. Arctic Monkeys - “Do I Wanna Know?” (Domino)

I know it's early yet, but it looks like Domino might have been the Pitchforkiest label of last year. And how did the Arctic Monkeys – a band I have heard about forever without ever knowingly hearing – fare in 2013? Um, okay, I guess. Mostly I'm just trying to remember if I've ever heard the word “settee” used in a rock song before. I can't think of any. But I haven't heard every Graham Parker album. This song would actually be excellent as the credits roll after a teen vampire movie. Hey, that's a compliment!

70. Neko Case - “Man” (Anti Records)

I've never listened to a Neko Case album or a New Pornographers album or an A.C. Newman album. The little I have heard has just been a case of turning on NPR out of boredom in the car and catching a bit here and there. I DID make the mistake of listening to a Destroyer album once and let me tell you that will never happen again. I don't really feel qualified to have an opinion about music like this. It's out of my league. It does absolutely nothing for me. It makes me feel nothing. Anti Records is an appropriate label for music like this. If this music excites you, you're already dead. Which is a pretty mean thing to say! Believe me, I surprised myself with that.

69. 2 Chainz - “Feds Watching” (Def Jam)

This is seriously addictive. I could mainline this right here and right now. Whoever produced this deserves a medal. This single should come with a car. In order to buy this single, you must drive it away from the showroom. Bravo. Plus, I love when rappers take on the Feds. They are suitable foils for genius rap stars. This might stop me in my tracks cuz now I'm just gonna want to listen to 2 Chainz all night.

68. Kurt Vile – Goldtone (Matador)

Ooh, I think Matador and Domino are neck and neck now for Pitchforkiest label of 2013. I have to say that I'm a little scared that this song is over 10 minutes long and a little sad that I stopped listening to 2 Chainz to hear it. But I'll give it a shot. Man...this is really long. Again, a guy who seems like a nice guy. Lives in Philly, right? He probably knows people I know. Probably buys records. Yikes, yeah, I'm at a loss. It was a very long song.

67. Daft Punk - “Doin' It Right” (Daft Life Limited/Columbia)

Remember the love/hate for this album? Those were the days. Or more accurately, the love/what's the big deal? for this album. They tried really hard, but they couldn't make me buy an album with Panda Bear on it. I just listened to it on the Youtube. It was close though. I did debate going across the street to the FYE store and plunking down my hard-earned money. But I knew I would play it once in an  “event” sort of way and then never play it again. Maybe that would have been enough. I enjoy going to the movies and seeing something big and splashy and then never seeing it again. Listening to this song now it just feels soooooooo slight. Good old Panda Bear is actually not that annoying on it. It could be anyone doing the vocals though. You'd have to ask Daft Punk why they went with a nerdy non-singer for the song. They must have had their reasons. Another album where an instrumental version would be very helpful.

66. Chance The Rapper - “Chain Smoker” (self-released)

According to Pitchfork, Chance The Rapper is an “emissary from true life”. Well ain't we all? I ain't fibbing and I ain't no CGI bullshit. Hey, it's cool, we all get our truth from somewhere and if Chance is where you get yours, more power to you. He doesn't really do it for me personally. And this song kinda bugs me. What's he saying about Frank Ocean? All I know is if Chance gets together with Kanye you can really watch me run for the hills.

65. Robin Thicke - “Blurred Lines” (Interscope/Star Trak)

Talk about played. It's like hearing friggin' “Macarena” at this point. Or “Zoot Suit Riot” or “Who Let The Dogs Out”. I still like “How Bizarre” more. I still wish this was a Timberlake jam. Robin Thicke's face bugs the shit out of me. I got lots of love for his dad though. Still not as annoying as “Crazy” got though. “Crazy” ruined CeeLo for me for as long as I live pretty much. Who am I kidding, I never got tired of hearing “Who Let The Dogs Out”.

64. Prurient - “You Show Great Spirit” (Blackest Ever Black)

You go, Pitchfork! Robin Thicke into Prurient is some sorta college radio mind-blower. I'm all for it. I love that the Prurient dude is called “unfathomably prolific” in the Pitchfork blurb! Like you couldn't possibly fathom how prolific this guy is. Welcome to noiseland. Where prolific artists are very very fathomable. The norm, really. There are dudes that make Prurient look like a three-toed sloth. Noise people are like sci-fi writers. If they are awake they can probably make a tape/art/start a zine/start a label/play in 20 different side-projects. They are really BUSY for people who often move slowly and don't always have steady employment. If we could harness the inner nervous energy of America's noise musicians, I think we could reach Mars in a matter of days. Anyway, yeah, Prurient dude is a busy beaver. And I like his allovertheplaceness. He certainly suits internet nation's peripatetic nature. He's a talented guy too.

63. Young Galaxy - “Pretty Boy (Peaking Lights Remix)” (Paper Bag)

Ability-wise, this is a step above similar DIY indie-synth stuff that Pitchfork people seem to like so much. Plus, it's cute and it reminds me of New Order without actually trying to be New Order. It's got some pep. I like the ping pong effects. Someone even more talented could take this track and come up with a really cool dub version if they were so inclined. One of those moombahton dudes could do it up right. Someone with editing skills.

62. Vampire Weekend – “Ya Hey” (XL)

The one thing that I really appreciate about Vampire Weekend is that they aren’t completely terrible. There is nothing worse than hearing and reading about a band forever and then finding out that they suck. I end up feeling like a party pooper. VW are even occasionally enjoyable. I like how this song starts out exactly like one of Cass McCombs’ anonymous baby-faced drifter anthems because I like Cass McCombs’ bummer bookworm travelogue steez. I would call VW talented amateurs. I just wish they wouldn’t enunciate their lyrics so clearly. All the new campfire rock bands do this. Like they are in school and are told to project and speak as clearly as possible. It’s unfortunate because the rock slur hides many sins. I cringe when I hear the references to Zion and Babylon and the Motherland in this song. If your lyrics are nonsense best to make them incomprehensible and if you must use schoolboy diction sell the HELL out of them. Or write better lyrics. Again, it’s probably a generational thing. VW are no doubt as profound to their fans as Echo & the Bunnymen were to me as a kid. It helped though that I only understood about half of what my favorite bands were singing back then. It added to the mystery. It was all downhill once you could understand what the hell Michael Stipe was singing about. I only found out last year that “Brown Sugar” was about slave trading! I had no idea! I’d never read the lyrics before. Kinda made me feel a little gross. This was the Stones party anthem where the blow up dolls would make an appearance at their live shows? Yuck. Anyway, there are worse bands than Vampire Weekend. If you want to hear imperious cultural imperialism done correctly, check out an album by long-forgotten 80’s band Modern Romance, Those dudes were seriously talented pillagers of just about every continent on earth and their lyrics were truly silly.

61. Charlie XCX – “You (Ha Ha Ha)” (Iamsound)

See, this is what I’m talking about! “You (Ha Ha Ha)” totally slays “Ya Hey” in every way! This song completely owns its phoniness. The exotica sample that drives this song is an agreed upon shorthand for anything even vaguely “oriental”. In the early 90’s, when exotica dance tracks came out every day, they would have had Hindu dancers dancing with hip hop dancers in the video. A one world wrongness that seemed perfectly right in its wrongness. This is kinda the “Pumped Up Kicks” of U.K. dance pop. I’m guessing Charlie is from the U.K. Where else would she be from? Plus, you only really hear about half of what she says. Which is a big plus. You mostly hear the kid rap slang and the ha ha ha chorus. That’s how it’s done, Vampire Weekend. If you stripped this down and played it amateurishly on rock instruments it could even BE a Vampire Weekend song. But it wouldn’t be half as good, I’ll bet.

60. Thundercat – “Heartbreaks + Setbacks” (Brainfeeder)

This is the vaguely futuristic Twitter-driven chillwave nu-soul sound that the internet raves about and it’s fine but slight. The song itself is an afterthought and it’s about as futuristic as next month’s phone bill. But I’ll never say never and even if people are only taking baby steps toward the 35th  century it’s a start at least. I just don’t know how long I can wait for people to reach the same cosmic heights that soul artists reached in the 1970’s. The planet is dying fast, hurry up, you guys!

59. Majical Cloudz – “Bugz Don’t Buzz” (Matador)

You may be a wonderful person and a talented guy but if you remind me of the Radiohead or Coldplay dude I can’t really listen objectively. It’s not your fault! Plus, the Z’s gotta go. What is this, 2006?

58. Sky Ferreira – “Nobody Asked Me (If I Was Okay) (Capitol)

This is a cool song! It’s an actual modern pop rock song on a major label that is good and radio-ready and everything old-fashioned like that. Is all her stuff like this? Do they play her on the radio? They should. Whoever THEY are. The robots. Jesus, even the guitars sound pretty cool. That almost never happens at this late date. Sign me up as a Sky fan.

57. Classixx – “All You’re Waiting For” (Innovate Leisure)

The vocals kinda kill this for me. The music isn’t bad in a house music phone app kinda way. But the indie-blasé female vox just don’t thrill. The chorus is nice and dreamy. I would actually recommend this to the DJ at the roller rink the more I think about it. It’s fresh. I wish the vocals were just a little snottier or something. B+. If I gave music grades. I would give this a B+. But I don’t really do that.

56. Chief Keef – “Citgo” (RCA)

This is really a pretty remarkable song. Vampire Weekend should listen to this song. They should hear the cadence and delivery on this song. Chief Keef is a sound artist. I don’t know if Vampire Weekend could ever work at such a high level. It would take years of practice for them to get this good and to sound so effortless. How old is Chief Keef anyway? He looks like a kid. Man, I dig this.

55. Justin Timberlake – “Mirror” (RCA)

I didn’t even know that J-Tim had an album out in 2013 until a couple of weeks ago. Just in case you wanted definitive proof of how out of it I am. I don’t have cable anymore though. Just the Netflix. And now the Hulu. Hulu! Sooooo many samurai movies to choose from! Turns out I didn’t miss much if this track is anything to go by. Sounds like the 15th single from his boy band days. It doesn’t help that the Youtube I listened to sounds like poop. It’s GOT to sound better on the actual CD. Yeah, a right snoozer as they say.

54. Rich Homie Quan – “Type Of Way” (self-released)

OMG, it’s Rich Homie Quan!!! I love him! He is my new favorite rapper as of yesterday. Good one, Pitchfork! Wow, and this track has blown up since it appeared on Youtube with like 400 zillion views. I’m not the only one enamored with the Quan. I like that they mention dancehall in the pitchfork blurb because Jamaica is the only other country I can think of that can achieve this kind of flow of rhythm and voice. “Type Of Way” is truly a stunner.

53. Deerhunter – “Monomania” (4AD)

This leaves me cold. They go for that old Sonic Youth extended guitar rocket/racket liftoff thing and I should be wowed but I mostly just waited for it to end. An A for effort? Maybe they are really good live. They might be really awesome live. It bears repeating, 4AD was one of the greatest independent record labels of the 1980’s.

52. Pharmakon – “Crawling On Bruised Knees” (Sacred Bones)

Thumbs up, bitches! Two bloody blister-covered thumbs. I feel like if the internet is good for anything it’s good for discovering killer new heavy/dark/ambient/electronic/ambient/noise music. There is just LOADS of great stuff out there. This is where the whole learning as you go DIY thing really works in your favor. Making up cool noises is something anyone can do and when it sounds like this I’ll listen to it all friggin’ day. Deerhunter should throw off their dirty boots and check this shit out.

51. Arcade Fire – “Afterlife” (Merge)

Yeesh, again with the vocals. So awkward. Like someone made a synth-pop anthem out of a Bright Eyes b-side. I don’t even want to know what the deal is with the Latino slice of life video that accompanies the song. I want to blame the Montessori system of education for some reason, but I don’t know why. Just in general. I would like to blame it right now. For everything. You have to blame someone! Eh, it could be worse, I suppose. At least Arcade Fire got rid of the whole Amish band camp hoedown nightmare they were pimping for so long. That’s a plus. The music that was in the movie Drive with Ryan Gosling was way better though. Forget who did it. As far as fake 80’s stuff goes. The 80’s are dreck! On this song, at least.

50. Phosphorescent – “Song For Zula” (Dead Oceans)

I didn’t actually listen to this whole song. I got the drift. It’s fine. Not my thing. If you like Bruce Springsteen or Bono in conversational mode, you might dig it. People are funny about voices. They hear one they like and they just want to hear it all the time. This isn’t the voice for me. I can’t fault the song or anything. Like I said, I’m a Cass McCombs fan and a lot of people might find him dreary and monotonous. Even I can’t take a ton of his music all at once and I like the guy.

49. Courtney Barnett – “Avant Gardener” (House Anxiety/Marathon Artists)

I highly recommend this if you enjoy quirky/funny/wordy singer/songwriters. This is great. Go buy her album. I have no idea if everything on it is as good as this, but it’s worth investigating. Thanks, Pitchfork!

48. Pusha T – “Numbers On The Boards” (Def Jam/G.O.O.D.)

Just one more reason why I don’t need Kanye in my life. This sounds so good. So simple you’ll wish you’d thought of it. 2 minutes and change to tell you everything you need to know and have everyone else scrambling to keep up. The mark of a rap champion.

47. DJ Rashad – “Let It Go” (Hyperdub)

For drum heads only. Or bass heads. Or fussy jungle heads. I can’t say I have kept up on recent developments within the Chicago footwork underground, but it makes total sense that this is on a U.K. label. They loooooove this kinda thing. I can’t imagine hearing stuff like this in a club all night. I think it would wreck me. What’s a good drug to go along with this jitterstep drum clinic epic? And why do I get the feeling that the Brits were on to something newer and shinier 5 minutes after this hit the racks?

46. A$AP Ferg – “Hood Pope” (Asap Worldwide/Polo Grounds/RCA)

Wait, did he say that the demons want his dome? In any case, A$AP Scott approves. This is a heavy track. I really, really wanted to like a song called “Hood Pope” from an album called “Trap Lord”. I love when a song lives up to its title. Underwater goodness.

45. Glass Candy – “Warm In The Winter” (Italians Do it Better)

More 80’s mania. The synths sound cool. New Order 4ever. Look for the instrumental version if there is one because you don’t want to know about the vocals.

44. Parquet Courts – “Stoned and Starving” (What’s Your Rupture?)

Fun! People still love the Velvet Underground and the Modern Lovers and I think that’s sweet. Plus, tight drumming on an American indie rock song in 2013? By a live human drummer? Wonders never cease.

43. FKA twigs – “Water Me” (Young Turks)

Ideally, she should be known as A$AP twigs, but we can’t have everything. Cool video. twigs and her painted doll look and creepycrawly voice are a pretty hypnotic combo and then she turns into a Keene painting and the ramshackle electronics keep churning and there you have it. It’s over.

42. Todd Terje – “Strandbar (disko)” (Olsen)

I already know that I love this one and this is my favorite version of the song too. Should have been in the top ten for real. When I first heard about TT I bristled a little bit at the play on Todd the God’s name, but what can I say, the dude backs it up. This is primo grade-a top notch modern electronic dance music and almost faultless and flawless in my opinion. Essential.

41. Janelle Monae – “Primetime” (Bad Boy)

Janelle is back with everyone’s best buddy Miguel. Again with the 90’s. But it’s nice. This would be a welcome addition to any car radio. It’s a pretty trad slow jam when all is said and done. If it ain’t broke and all that.

40. Kanye West – “Bound 2” (Def Jam)

I love the fact that the Bad Boy single is followed by the Def Jam single. It really is the 90’s! This could even be a homage to Puffy. Man, if Kanye and Puffy made an album together next year it would be like some sort of double kryptonite to me. I don’t know what would happen. My head might explode. I just never want to hear Kanye’s voice. And that’s MY problem. The music is fine, but as I have already amply illustrated, there is a LOT of amazing stuff to listen to out there in the world of rap. Stuff that is infinitely more interesting to me. Let’s leave it at that. For now. There are probably five more Kanye singles coming up…

39. Waxahatchee – “Swan Dive” (Don Giovanni)

The most fun you’ll have with this is listening to the drummer try to keep the same rhythm for the length of the song. They just can’t do it. At one point they stop! Defeated! The pressure is too great to play one thing for three minutes. They regroup and give it another go. I think this is indie rock inspired by Lucinda Williams or something. It’s pretty sad. Again, I beg of you, Palomine by Betty Serveert. Buy it already! It’s even on Pitchfork’s favorite label, Matador.

38. Migos – “Versace” (self-released)

If your parents ever visit you and you feel like they have overstayed their welcome and you want them to leave? Crank this shit up. I don’t care WHO your parents are, they will leave in a hurry. Guaranteed. Big ups from this style maven.

37. Perfect Pussy – “I” (self-released)

I’m always afraid that people will sully the pussy band name. Pussy Riot get a pass because they hate the pope or whatever. I can’t actually remember what their music sounded like. Pussy Galore and Harry Pussy are obviously the gold standard of pussies. Perfect Pussy aren’t in that league, but they do sound like they are ready for a 90’s pussy riot of their own. Man, even the pussy music is retro these days. Perfect for your next lo-fi college mixer or pajama party.

36. Rhye – “Open” (Polydor/Seven Four/Innovative Leisure)

Sade is back! Wait, the actual Sade is still around…eh, there is room for two. This is really pretty. Buy this if you like pretty.

35. A$AP Rocky – “Fuckin’ Problems” (RCA)

No, wait, play this for your parents if you want them to leave your house. Just play new rap music. If they are over the age of 30 they will hate it 9 times out of 10. Let’s be blunt, if Kendrick Lamar is on a song, then it’s a Kendrick Lamar song in my book. Having said that, this is not my fave Kendrick song of the year. It will make your parents cry though.

34. Haim – “Falling” (Polydor/Columbia)

There was a lot of hubbub in some circles about Haim last year because apparently people didn’t get the memo about how we are slowly but surely dying via global warming-related diseases and extreme weather. I will damn Haim with faint praise until my dying breath. They’re fine. They could be worse. They could be the Arcade Fire! I enjoy selling Fleetwood Mac albums to teenagers. I really do. Haim also have a lot of learning to do. Some people love the way their album sounds, but I found it jarring when I heard it on the car stereo speakers. I am still adjusting to the new digital age. I already kinda prefer them to the similarly ethnomusicology-minded Vampire Weekend, so, there is that.

33. Run The Jewels – “Banana Clipper” (Fool’s Gold)

Y2K in full effect! This features Big Boi and El-P apparently! Man, “Wheelz of Steel” was such a cool song. When is Camp Lo making their comeback?! I’m ready for that. I’d change my pants for that. I’m gonna dust off my Styles of Beyond vinyl when I get home and give that a spin too.

32. Disclosure – “White Noise” (PMR)

This is great! It features “Alunageorge” and at first I thought that was just the woman singing, but Alunageorge is actually an electronic duo and now I’m curious about them. The vocals totally make this track as opposed to the previous instances where I yearned for an instrumental version. 4 stars! One of the best dance tracks that I’ve heard in a while.

31. Lorde – “Royals” (Lava/Republic)

Come back, Dido, all is forgiven! This song is really catchy. And I’m gonna stop there. Too much virtual ink spilt in the name of Lorde. If I think some people have liked this song for wrong and lazy reasons other people have explained why much more eloquently than I could. Just be thankful for what you’ve got. That’s what I always say.

30. Daft Punk – “Touch” (Columbia)

These guys again. This is the one with Paul Williams. You will never hear me badmouth Paul Williams. He did so much amazing work with my hero Roger Nichols. I admire this demented epic even if I don’t really want to hear it that much. It’s some sort of testimony to the human spirit and to not giving a fuck what your fans might want to hear. Kudos, gentlemen.

29. Savages – “She Will” (Pop Noire/Matador)

Go, Matador Go! I am completely in love with the lead singer of Savages and I don’t care who knows it and I will confess this in the presence of my lord and my wife and I’m pretty sure those are the same people. Ooh la la, I am such a sucker for the Ian Curtis hairdo on a sexy French woman. Be still my goth heart. Sorry. I like the music okay too. But, honestly, I would watch her sing the French phone book. I even watched all the videos she made with her lame pre-Savages band. What can I say, le cœur wants what le cœur wants. The album’s okay. File it next to the first Elastica album that you sold years ago.

28. Kingdom – “Bank Head” (Fade To Mind)

Your avant R&B is living all over me. Well, at least it doesn’t sound like the 80’s or 90’s. This deserves more than just a cursory judgement/listen. There is life here. What does a Kelela do when she’s not singing with a Kingdom? I might just have to find out…

27. Chvrches – “The Mother We Share” (Glassnote)

My 8-year-old son might like this one. He’s been listening to a lot of Deadmau5 and he’s eight so he’s very familiar with alternate spellings. This just makes me feel like Mount Rushmore.

26. My Bloody Valentine – “Only Tomorrow” (self-released)

A$AP Kev and his crew are back on this self-released demo recording. The guitars are choice. Not much to see here though.

25. Danny Brown – “Kush Coma” (Fool’s Gold)

 Finally subject matter that I can relate to. We’ve all been there. You wake up after ten episodes of Parenthood on the Netflix and go “Wha’ppen?”. Danny sure ain’t in no coma on this song. He’s wide awake. A$AP Rocky and someone or something called Zelooperz too. It’s okay. Kinda curious what some of the other tracks sound like. Weed science is an underrated science.

24. Jai Paul – “Str8 Outta Mumbai” (self-released)

This is crazy. I don’t know what to make of it. It’s a mess. Synth squiggles and muffled vocals and snatches of…uh…stuff. To make matters more confusing, the person who put the album up on Youtube notes that “This is pitched up AND slowed down”. So I have no way of knowing how this is supposed to sound. I have to say, I’m intrigued. But if this turns out to be some secret Animal Collective side-project I’m gonna hurt someone. I’d hate to think I was accidentally listening to Panda Bear. Okay, I looked and he’s got a wiki entry and he seems like a legit U.K. weirdo. This is genuinely weird. I will stay tuned.

23. A$AP Ferg – “Shabba” (Polo Grounds/RCA)

It’s official, I’m buying this album tomorrow. This track was produced by Snugsworth. Snugsworth! I love that Shabba Ranks isn’t on this song. He used to be on a lot of songs. A$AP Rocky is in the house. Naturally.

22. Majical Cloudz – “Childhood’s End” (Matador)

I don’t really want to listen to this, but I’ll be positive. I’m listening…Come are my all-time favorite Matador band, by the way. Hey, remember H.P. Zinker? Unsane ruled. My brother had an album out on Matador. Vinyl only. How much did you get for your Kustomized CDs? Okay, the song is over. It’s actually not bad. The lyrics start out inadvertently hilarious, but I dig that the dude is trying to sound like the dude from Dead Can Dance, because Dead Can Dance were on 4AD one of the greatest independent record labels of the 1980’s. Next!

21. James Blake – “Retrograde” (Republic)

“James Blake has spent much of his career burrowing into the crevices of sadness…” Ouch! You can get a splinter that way. He definitely makes me want to cry a little. But not in a good way. At least he doesn’t wear an old man hat. And for that I applaud him. If he made an album with Adele they could both fill their swimming pools with money and swim in the money forever because they would be sooooo rich. Like, fuck you all and die rich.

20. Kurt Vile – “Wakin’ On A Pretty Day” (Matador)

Hey, what do you know, another 10 minute long Kurt Vile track…okay….well, we could talk about Bailter Space and Chavez while I listen to it, I guess. For the record, I am pro-Pavement. I could never get into Silkworm. I’ve recently discovered how strange Mecca Normal could be. I didn’t know! Feel kinda dumb about that. Whither Guitar Wolf? Or Solex and Jega for that matter. Two Lone Swordsmen –vs- Mogwai. True fact: Our Aim Is To Satisfy Red Snapper is one of my very favorite Matador records. I doubt anyone listens to it now. I reviewed Turn On The Bright Lights for the Village Voice…I’m guessing I got like 6 minutes of this song left. *sigh* Like I said, he’s probably a really swell guy. Hey, it’s over. Goodnight, Kurt.

19. The Knife – “Full Of Fire” (Mute)

Wait, The Knife haven’t put out an album in seven years? Did they forget to pay their electric bill? They could have used my DSL connection. I remember the last album because my wife bought it and I’m always stumbling across it. I don’t think I ever listened to it though. This is 9 minutes long…prog rock is back! It is pretty epic. Lots of twists and turns. It could be a prog suite. Not really goth enough for me though. EBM people put stuff out like this every day and nobody cares. That’s why EBM people are so sad! Nobody listens. But good to have you back, Knife.

18. Drake – Worst Behavior (Cash Money/Young Money Entertainment/Universal Republic)

This video is 10 minutes long…and it’s really bad. Wait, there’s a 5 minute Canadian comedy routine…okay, the song is back. People love to love/hate Drake, but I have managed to avoid him almost entirely. I will leave him to others. Seeing Cash Money pop up on the screen just makes me want to go on a Cash Money Youtube spree like nobody’s business. I’m comin’ for ya, B.G.!

17. Sophie – “Bipp” (Numbers)

This is far out! Sophie is on to something here. Man, this would really freak out my cats. This is future music! I think she invented the first new 21st century music genre. Give Sophie the Nobel Prize, her day has come! Holy shit, I want more. What the hell was that?

16. Blood Orange – “You’re Not Good Enough” (Domino)

The Domino juggernaut strikes again. They must be generous with the promos. I happen to know that there are at least 25 more record labels out there other than Matador and Domino. Eh, this track is pretty dreary. And sloppy. And it ends with a minute of ambient crowd noise, so maybe even Blood Orange got tired of it. Blood Orange are no Sophie. Sophie for president!

15. Bill Calahan – “Small Plane” (Drag City)

This guy is like the automatic snooze machine for me. It’s like I said before about voices. Some people just really like certain voices. I hear him and want to take a very long nap. I liked his sexy funeral song from years ago, but mostly I just wanted a country singer with a good voice to cover it. Someone still should. It was good enough to be a country song.

14. Vampire Weekend – “Step” (XL)

My boys! Man, the delivery on this is twee as fuck. That accent is something else. Even the dude from Belle & Sebastian muttered “Frackin’ wimps!” when he heard this. The guy from Belle & Sebastian has been watching a lot of Battlestar lately. The word association lyrics are a fun little game to pass the time before heading to the dining hall, I guess. I am still puzzling over this line from the Pitchfork blurb: “He’s no longer aiming at a strawman of the culturally appropriating college bourgeoisie, but rather everyone giving it a shot.” It has me flummoxed! I think I’m just not reading it right. Shoot me an e-mail if you figure it out.

13. Earl Sweatshirt – “Sunday” (Columbia/Tan Cressida)

I like Earl. He’s a talented young man. Has everybody forgotten about Odd Future already? Is it over? The wild carnival ride? It’s important that freedom rock be free. I should really buy this album. I feel like it’s a true artifact of a certain time and place and I might forget it ever happened if I don’t have tangible proof. What are these guys gonna be doing in 10 years? I’m genuinely curious. If I were a teenager right now, this shit would be, like, everything to me. That I’m pretty sure of.

12. Sky Ferreira – “I Blame Myself” (Capitol)

This Sky song is cool. But not as cool as the other Sky song. She has totally passed me by. I watch this on the Youtube and there is TONS of old Sky footage and interviews and songs and I have no idea if she’s famous here or not. Did she have a big hit? Was she on an old Disney T.V. show? I probably won’t end up doing that much research. This song doesn’t seem to have blown up on Youtube at all. And it’s old in pop world terms by now. It’s certainly made to be heard on the radio.

11. Kanye West – “Blood On The Leaves” (Def Jam)

My man! How fucked up do you have to be to make this song? Pretty fucked up! Kanye should bust out the Ouija board and ask Nina Simone’s ghost what she thinks of this song. And then before she can answer, hit her ghost over the head with the Ouija board and sample the sound that makes and make a song called “Mississippi Cameltoe” and then…hell, I don’t know. Watching what Kanye will do next is a sport for a lot of people. They like watching him. They cringe, they cheer, they boo. The human circus. Me, I’m watching The Shield right now. When Vic stomps into the pawn shop and smashes the glass display case behind the counter and pulls out a knife from the display case and holds it up against the pawn shop guy’s throat? Man, Kanye never thought of THAT one. That is some serious Lee Child hardboiled shit right there.

10. Autre Ne Veut – “Play By Play” (Mexican Summer/Software)

This song is a grower as they say. The more you hear it the more it sticks. It’s fairly ambitious internet soul with iphone-appropriate production. Years ago, I was truly afraid that the cell phone era of sound would leave me in the dust. For the three minutes that people were enamored with the Ed Banger Records sound and groups like Justice I thought the end was near. It seemed purposely awful to me. It felt like the people making it weren’t trying to challenge listeners in a noise music sense, but that they actually thought that this was the way music should sound. At the same time that Justice were assaulting my delicate sensibilities, I was listening to heavyweight EDM that was staggering in its sonic possibilities. My Kompakt CDs from that time are still a gold standard of mid-2000’s recorded sound. I wanted that future to win. It didn’t. Although there is still amazing and amazingly made digital electronic music being made every day. Mostly in Germany and other exotic climes. And I adjusted to the badness. I can listen to the most annoying dubstep in the world now and not even bat an eye. And when I hear Autre Ne Veut or autotune rap or indie r&b my ears have been trained to ignore what I feel are deficiencies. The more I hear “Play By Play” the more normal it sounds to me. We are all learning to adapt to reduced circumstances in the waning days of capitalism. To make a long story short, Generation Earbud is just gonna hear things differently than I do. I’m listening to “Play By Play” for the 4th or 5th time now, and I am already in their pocket. I’m a quick study.

9. Deafheaven – “Dreamhouse” (Deathwish)

“Over nine minutes in length…” Here we go again…Hey, that reminds me, where is the metal this year? (I'm not even gonna ask where the country is. I understand, kids.) Hasn’t Pitchfork had more metal in their lists in the past? Maybe I’m remembering wrong. I can see the non-metal appeal of this. Screamo is beyond played out, but Isis broke up right when the wider world was REALLY ready to love a band like Isis. Which is why you got so many bands that sounded like Isis for years. Deafheaven’s hybrid of screamo and Isis-core is a smart move. Don’t even get me started on metal album production. Oh, don’t get me started! We would be here forever. This was recorded in a screamo/hardcore style though and not a metal one. I can see the appeal. Sounds about…hmmm…7 or 8 years old though. But it might sound new to you.

8. Daft Punk – “Get Lucky” (Daft Life Limited/Columbia)

I think I may have heard this before somewhere…I ain’t gonna deny this song. Who’s gonnna deny it? There is no denying. Should have been number one on this list probably.

7. Disclosure – “Latch” (Sony)

This is wonderful. I am all for this being the official sound of 2013. I extend my congratulations to Disclosure and their families. And to Sam Smith too! Who the hell is Sam Smith? I should buy this album. Can I find this album? That is the question. You should buy it too. This would sound GREAT on your earbuds. It sounds great right now on my computer.

6. Haim – “The Wire” (Columbia)

This is a truly great Shania Twain song. I do kinda wish Mutt and Shania had made it, because it would sound even better, but a cool Shania tribute is still nice. I am hardwired to love that Eagles beat. I have loved that beat so much since I bought “Heartache Tonight” on 45. I’ve ALWAYS felt like someone should use it for something cool and someone finally did. I always thought it would be a rapper, but Haim’s rap is suitable. I would love it if Haim got Mutt Lange to produce their next album. They need bigger and shinier. Plus, he’s from Africa, he’s down with the big beat.

5. Ciara – “Body Party” (Epic)

Whoooo baby. I think I need a cold shower after this one. Hotsy totsy. Ain’t nothin’ quiet about this storm. This is my kinda throwback. I think I need more Ciara in my life.

4. Arcade Fire – Reflektor (Merge)

Uh oh. Ciara, run, it’s a trap! Has anyone written the definitive critical study on the ubiquitous use of masks and/or obscured faces in musical iconography of the 2000’s? It’s the one common strand that united/unites almost every genre of music in the modern era. It must mean SOMETHING. You should google all these bands/artists (I was going to include pictures of everyone on here, but I am too lazy…). The majority of them use masks or somehow hide their faces from view in Google image search images. It ain’t just Daft Punk is all I’m saying. Though I guess if you wanted a cross-genre Pitchfork origin you need only look to Daft Punk, Kanye, and Animal Collective. I don’t hate this song. There, I said it. I said something positive about Arcade Fire. Can we move on now? I feel dirty…

3. Vampire Weekend – “Hannah Hunt” (XL)

Gentlemen! We meet again. This song is not ten minutes long. And the only thing missing is a Wes Anderson-directed video of little kids in the woods wearing homemade animal masks. It’s a snooze. But if you are young and fragile or young at heart and frigid you might need this. Also, always remember: You are Lisa Simpson.

2. Kanye West – New Slaves (Def Jam)

My wife is in love with Death Grips. She totally wants to marry Death Grips. I’m cool with that. What I’m not cool with is my oldest son’s guitar teacher teaching my son “Tears In Heaven” and having to listen to him practice it at home. URGHHHHH. Clapton. The white man’s burden. Fuck a Clapton! Fuck Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker while I’m at it. After Cream it was all over for those lumps. You ever hear the album Ginger Baker made with Fela on it? Yeah, exactly, and you don’t need to either. Wait, I forgot about Sunrise On The Sufferbus. One of my favorite albums of the 90’s. Okay, Ginger is spared. Anyway, I know Kanye’s pain is what I’m trying to say. Hahaha! All of a sudden this song makes PERFECT sense. Maybe he is a genius…Maybe I’m just really slow. Fur coats! When was the last time I even SAW a fur coat? It’s been a long time.

1. Drake – “Hold On, We’re Going Home” (Young Money Entertainment)

I guess people really like this song. People REALLY liked “Royals” a ton, so I know the general population can latch on to things that speaks to them in a powerful way and that I am not always a part of that. I like when I am sometimes. The one thing I am always ready to rally around with other people is art. And food. Art and food. I’m not about to gripe about who should be where on anyone’s list. If Pitchfork loved this Drake song, then that’s good enough for me. Maybe they had a wistful year. 2013 was a weird fucking year and we all need something to hold on to. Even if it’s Drake. I was hanging on to my family and my store and my friends for dear life last year. And music, needless to say, got me through a ton of black clouds as well. It always does.