Summer Mix/My favorite songs from the first half of 2010

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7 jui. 2010, 6h28m

Man, my spring ended on a great note. I saw one of Voxtrot's final shows, I spent a few days with a buddy down at the beach, I dropped shrooms... ahh. Well anyway, the point of this is to share the mix cd I've made for the summer, which cnosists of (surprise, surprise) my favorite songs of the year thus far. When we did shrooms I thought it would be fun to listen to music on my headphones, and some songs here, as a result, are present merely because they affected my trip quite profoundly; those will be marked with an asterik. ...c? Fuck, I don't know...

And yes, I said all that because I realize how INCREDIBLY OBSCURE the title was. Thank god I cleared all that up, right? Anyway, if any of the songs here turn your stomach, please spare me the "lol u must be a complete retard to like that" and rec me something you think is better. And um.. well, I guess that's enough rambling. Let's get on with it.

1. The Dillinger Escape Plan - Farewell, Mona Lisa
Mathcore, hardcore, progressive metal, it really doesn’t matter what you call it, it’s some pretty amazing shit. This isn’t necessarily the best song on the album, but it’s easily the best intro so far this year – the low, almost surf-rock sounding opening riff is almost inviting, but when Greg Puciato takes that deep breath, in that moment you know a shitstorm’s about to hit. And it hits hard, harder than anything that was on Ire Works, at least. The first half is classic Dillinger; furious screams, intensely technical drumming, and forcibly merging time signatures together in a way that doesn't quite makes sense until after a few listens. The second half is a rather dramatic, prog-ish bit that almost resembles Tool in its ambition, but obviously far heavier, made all the more gripping by Puciato’s raging delivery; the way he seethes as he screams, "You should never put your trust in any of us" is convincing almost to the point of being frightening. The two halves really shouldn’t work together, but somehow they pull it off, and it flows impressively all the way to the song’s dying strains.

2. Owen Pallett - Keep The Dog Quiet*
Perhaps a sharp contrast, but there's a sinister quality this song shares with Mona Lisa; its build up is dark and masterful. It begins with a simple pizzicato and Pallett's gentle voice, but before long the string arrangement sneaks up on you and by the second verse they're in full force (like Lisa Lisa and the Cult Jam! ...aw crap nobody got that). Brilliant arrangement, haunting vocal patterns, and an ending almost startling in its abruptness.

3. Crystal Castles - Baptism
I can't quite put my finger on what exactly draws me to this track. Maybe it's the slight resemblance to Vanished, which was my favorite off of their debut. Maybe it's the way that each verse fails to resemble a vocal pattern over a throbbing dance beat so much as the initial sound of a fucking explosion on repeat for forty seconds at a time. I don't know, I'm not a doctor. All I know is that this song is the shit.

4. Deftones - CMND/CTRL
Speaking of bands who are no strangers to resembling explosions with their music, Chino Moreno and Stephen Carpenter's efforts work in perfect conjunction here. They serve as a perfect example of that age-old phenomenon: repeatedly getting punched in the face, and loving it. I cannot listen to this and not move in some way during the verse; "switch and co-MAAAAND!!! Just because I CAAAAN!!!!" And let's not forget how Frank Delgado's synths sneak in around the bridge, and the last verse is intensified (even more so!) with relentless feedback. And then, after all this, it does what every great song does - it ends too god damn soon.

And let's not forget your little speech!

5. Massive Attack - Girl I Love You
Say what you will about Massive Attack's latest; Girl I Love You stands alongside the group's best. It's dark and brooding, but in a way that doesn't quite fit in with either 100th Window or Mezzanine, and it's layered intensely well - as my last.fm charts will attest, I have listened to this song a great many times since the album came out, and even still, every time I hit the 2:25 mark the hair on my arms stands up; it never fails. Not to mention that it boasts the best horn infested outro in an electronica song this side of Radiohead. I'm a quick one to defend Heligoland, but... damn, I really wish the rest of it was this good.

6. Dum Dum Girls - Rest of Our Lives
I hate to resort to a typical fanboy defense for this song, but it's true - if this song's chorus doesn't move you in some way, you have no soul. All this surfy lo-fi nonsense that has been so popular as of late certainly isn't without merit, but this really stands out simply because of the soul behind the vocals (and the applied affects, I should add). It reeks of summertime reminiscence, and manages to sound neither particularly melancholic nor hopeful... I am growing less eloquent as this write-up goes on (the computer's been drinking, not me) so words are beginning to fail me, but... good. This song that.

7. Cults - Most Wanted
While the big fuss is around their single Go Outside, I think this is the one that's really worth getting excited about. It is so incredibly, nauseatingly twee'd out; it's as if they took into consideration just how cutesy and saccharine soaked a song would have to be to make a person puke all over themselves, and then took it back a notch. It literally comes that close to hitting my gag reflex every time, but I suck it up and swallow every drop.

8. Whitey - Count Those Freaks*
A bafflingly unpopular indie act, Whitey started out toying with a basic lo-fi style and has evolved into quite an eclectic sound. On Count Those Freaks, he tackles a basic swing sound and shows off his knack for catchy melodies with a very dark, twisted, and paranoid approach. The way he piles on new sounds as the song progresses is rather inspired as well, and the result is a demented, almost danceable track that builds up to tremendous effect.

9. Bassnectar - Timestretch*
If it were possible to slip into a hot tub that was filled with bass rather than water, I imagine this to be the closest thing possible. Timestretch makes me simultaneously thankful and angry that I never had the bass in my soundsystem tweaked; though I shudder to think what my car would sound like while it played, I imagine it to be pretty damn amazing all the same. The best part is where it peaks about four minutes in, and the synths take this weird turn and repeat the hook, but sounding as if they'd gone hoarse. Spec-tacular.

10. Flying Lotus - Do the Astral Plane*
Yeah, this is the one every FlyLo fan, their mother, father, and creepy uncle who never married are in love with, and for damned good reason. Do the Astral Plane is the perfect representative of Cosmogramma’s sound – all the directions it goes in are nearly overwhelming, but somehow he manages to keep it just accessible enough to enjoy. It does what every great dance track does, it opens with a catchy hook that is so instantly likeable that nobody would mind if he simply put it on loop – and then he doesn’t. The track goes through so many changes throughout its near four minute length, sampling house, jazz, hip-hop, funk, electro, and so on and so forth, yet it never spirals out of control, keeping its initial sound buried in the mix just enough to be mildly obscured but still identifiable. Not to mention that it was practically made for blaring while driving with your window down on a summer night… oh crap, this is going to end up on a car commercial, isn’t it…

11. Arcade Fire - The Suburbs
Like most Arcade Fire fans, I was rather underwhelmed by the singles released from their upcoming album upon first listen. My first impression, at least, was that it sounded like more traditional indie than an actual Arcade Fire song, much like Broken Social Scene’s somewhat disappointing recent album. However, what really gives this song its quality is the sheer emotional weight. I’ve always had a soft spot for deliberately hoping in the face of hopelessness, which is what The Suburbs feels about to me. Hearing Win Butler talk about wanting a daughter so he can show her the possible beauty in the world before the inevitable damage life can incur on people is devastating, namely when coming not even a minute after going on about everything’s inevitable end, singing “It meant nothing at all, it meant nothing.”

12. Sarah Jaffe - Clementine*
This one is a real heartbreaker. Sarah Jaffe has never been the most impressive singer-songwriter, but she really hits pay dirt here. Musically, what catches you are the various and spare strings that chime in at just the right moments, which keeps the gloomy, minimal nature of the track while making it feel just a little busy. It’s the lyrics that kill, though – it basically details that moment when heartbreak turns into that cold, emotionless state. It may sound a bit extreme, but really we’ve all been there, when love sounds like the least appealing thing in the world, not necessarily because you think it’s worthless, but because in your mind no matter how great it could be, it could never be bigger than the hurt it can bring.

13. Noisia - Stigma
I love the fact that I heard this before Immersion came out; it really softened the blow of hearing such a disappointingly 'okay' record. 'My favorite dnb group dropped the ball? That's okay, Noisia's got it covered.' It's a bit difficult to pinpoint singular moments on such a great album, but I picked this simply because once the beat kicks in, it sounds so simultaneously old school and futuristic to me; plus, once the zooming synths begin, I can't help but be reminded of the end of 2001: A Space Odyssey. And that's never a bad thing. Well, unless you were raped or something while that movie was on. That would kinda suck.

14. Eminem - Almost Famous
It’s nice to see that while with Relapse, where I was in a group of maybe six people in the world who actually liked it, Eminem’s new album Recovery is getting the general praise that it has. I wouldn’t quite call it a return to form (given my fondness for Relapse), but there’s no denying that he’s firing on all cylinders here. Em has a remarkable way of letting his flow go off in its own direction independent of the beat, but somehow making it fit in the confines of the song and sound as if it shouldn’t have been any other way. And the flow here is outstanding; over DJ Khalil’s organ driven beat, he goes from funny to clever to inspirational, and by the end of each verse he sounds absolutely unstoppable – as if he could easily have kept going for another ten minutes when Liz Rodriguez steps in with her best Karin Dreijer Andersson impersonation for the chorus. Squeezing Abraham Lincoln off of a penny, working ‘antidisestablishmentarianism’ into a rap, making hilarious Verne Troyer and David Carradine references... seriously, is there anything NOT to like?

15. Janelle Monáe - Wondaland
I'm surprised that this one isn't more popular; it's so pretty. The slightly psychedelic approach here is very clever, and even the praying chants at the end, a type of thing which usually annoys me, are fit in very well. Very spacey, very upbeat, and she sounds freakin' adorable with her voice all helium-ed out.

16. Alcest - Solar Song*
Dear 95% of all the indie bands trying to replicate shoegaze for the last three years,
You just got your asses smoked by a black metal band.
Love, Kevin

17. The National - England
I can't believe that this band has managed to get even SADDER than they sounded last time around... really, High Violet is so deeply affecting, it's absurd. "Summer sent her running" ...or wait, is it "Summer sent a runner?" Oh, I know. He's saying "Hi, I'm Matt Berninger and I'm a big mumbling doofus." I gave up on trying to sing along with this long ago... even when you're by yourself, the last thing you want to do is be like "Fre... hearts, lights a... city.... adadada...DESPERATE TO... AADADAAAA..." But frankly, it doesn't matter what he's saying, which is a testament to just how powerful their music is. They are so capable, they can seemingly express any emotion they want with the music and vocal patterns alone. And who can talk about England without referring to that incredible climax... it seriously blows its load all over the listener's face, and they can't help but love it.

....so does listening to the National... make.. me.. ..gay?

18. The Irrepressibles - In This Shirt
Speaking of gay, this band is seriously gayer than eight guys blowing nine guys; incredibly flamboyant and emotional, and simultaneously recalling both Oingo Boingo and Gilbert & Sullivan. There's an intense longing expressed here, and the opera-befitting instrumentation does a fantastic job of elevating the mood. Given how melodramatic the music and Jaimie McDermott's vocals are, it's no surprise that the band doesn't have more fans. Still, for those who can enjoy this sort of thing, it's a truly gorgeous song.

...and that's it.

Just for fun, here are the songs I regretfully kept off:

The Dig - Two Sisters In Love
Beach House - Silver Soul
Scuba - Three Sided Shape
Hindi Zahra - Beautiful Tango
Erykah Badu - Window Seat
Menomena - Dirty Cartoons
Watain - Reaping Death
Past Lives - Falling Spikes
Godzilla Black - The Bad Place
The Black Keys - Everlasting Light
Shining - Fisheye
The Chemical Brothers - Another World
Far - Pony
Ghastly City Sleep - 1994 (it's a weird world)
Ratatat - Sunblocks
How to Destroy Angels - A Drowning
The Roots - Dear God 2.0
.Cyanotic - Dose Responsive
and so on...

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