We'll continue our top 25 countdown with songs #5 through #1.
#5: All of the Lights - Kanye West
The third and final selection from My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, "All of the Lights," explodes following a swollen string section interlude, morphing the album's impeccable middle section, with "Power" leading into "All of the Lights" and swirling off with "Monster." With that, "All of the Lights" is the album's polished core, swimming in blasting drum beats, guest voices, and a daunting platform -- Kanye being able to manipulate his most endearing forces into a breathing example of perfectionism
#4: Shutterbugg - Big Boi (ft. Cutty)
"Shutterbugg" is an exemplary sample of what a lot of time and patience can do for a song. As with most of Sir Luscious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty, Big Boi's first (technically) solo work outside of OutKast, "Shutterbugg" was hindered by years and years of delays; the albums first promo single was released in 2007, believe it or not. Regardless, not suffering any Chinese Democracy type anguish, the delay didn't pull anything back. "Shutterbugg" is a incredibly polished and formed piece that vigorously blends the best of funk and Big Boi's coined southern verse. The wait was probably worth it.
Big Boi (ft. Cutty) - Shutterbugg
#3: Fuck You - Cee Lo
Without much of a doubt, "Fuck You" was the feel good single of the year. If I was popular enough to manage a poll, it'd be pretty hard to say that it wouldn't be the fan favorite, what with the Glee covers and multiple video mashups to go along with it. Cee Lo combines all of the interlayering factors that add up to something almost everyone can keen into: nostalgia? Check. Abrasiveness? Check. Universal understanding? Check. Don't be swayed by "Forget You," the toned down radio-friendly version, or even worse, Paltrow style. "Fuck" matters.
Cee Lo - Fuck You
#2: Dancing On My Own - Robyn
I've been totally ignorant of Robyn for the past few years, passively ignoring or just not getting it. I suppose my blatant disregard for what she's been able to do since her late 90s one hit wonder in the States made "Dancing On My Own" that much more important to 2010. It's a deceivingly well-paced dance pop masterwork, combing her invigoratingly melodic prose with an intensely romantic sub-sound into an all-engrossing dance frenzy. But, even with the lightning flash of awe-inspiring sound, Robyn's sense of loveless distance makes it that much more enchanting, disheartening, and, all at once, effortlessly breathtaking.
Dancing On My Own - Robyn
#1: Giving Up the Gun - Vampire Weekend
For one, "Giving Up the Gun" is defiantly unsuspecting: it's a melodic push of Vampire Weekend's strongest aesthetic forces, gleefully bound together in a spur that is almost impossible to categorize. In a way, it's the hardest thing Vampire Weekend ever had to do in their short three year career -- tactfully enclosing on the Ezra's romanticism, and the rest of the bands clever, blindingly thoughtful combination of buzzing bass and drums, strings, chimes, and a splitting mystery key board. "Giving Up the Gun" may end up being this good because it's an unspoken mismatch of multiple components that don't seem to fit well together. But, then again, the best songs usually have that effect.
Vampire Weekend - Giving Up the Gun
I'd like to personally wish everyone a happy 2011. We'll be back soon, kids. Until then.
Friday, December 31, 2010
Thursday, December 30, 2010
We'll continue our top 25 countdown with songs #10 through #5.
#10: Runaway - Kanye West (ft. Pusha T)
Kanye's had more profound moments in his six year career than "Runaway," but its hard to say he's ever been more endearing and earnest than during this nine minute epic. For a genre and an artist that cultivates so much on self-induced spotlight and showmanship, "Runaway" is Kanye's greatest weakness. The intertwined single-key piano loop opens to depths the artist hasn't had the nerve enough to explore until now: that he isn't as self-enclosed as his detractors may say, and that he's "a jerkoff" sometimes, but we've grown attached to it.
Kanye West - Runaway
#9: Not In Love - Crystal Castles (ft. Robert Smith)
The third official version of "Not In Love," originally from 80s new wave group Platinum Blonde, was reworked with the help of Robert Smith to realize its true potential. Crystal Castles's first cover, featured on Crystal Castles II, was a quieter, more ethereal take on the original with Alice Glass' subdued, electronically dulled vocals spilling over a beating synth pulse. With Smith, "Not In Love" is perfectly akin to the days of the Cure, evoking the unhinged, almost eerily perfect vocals transposed in front of Ethan Kath's ghostly production.
#8: I Can Change - LCD Soundsystem
With the release of This is Happening, most LCD Soundsystem fans went immediately looking for James Murphy's follow up to 2007's "All My Friends," Murphy's all-encompassing single that ended up being one of the best songs of the 2000s. "I Can Change" attempts to lampoon that three-year void, coming almost close enough to rival it. It's a demoralizing love tale, professing that "love is a murderer" without an ounce of dry, boring execution.
#7: Bloodbuzz Ohio - The National
The National have cultivated years of success chiming into to a fan base's disheartening interest the solemn solidarity of despair, illusion and tearful loss. Without it, Matt Beringer and the group cease to be what they truly are, something "Bloodbuzz Ohio" highlights significantly -- a collective movement to find the sordid beauty in everything we may hate to understand.
The National - Bloodbuzz Ohio
#6: Bushwick Blues - Delta Spirit
Delta Spirit may be going through more creative growing pains than I may admit, but "Bushwick Blues" is an epitome of what they can accomplish at their best; roaring, almost undoubtedly epic rock-blues. The earthy love story of a young-hearted, weak and lonely man actually seems profound enough to here to project an image of unrequited retribution - the feeling all of us are able to feel, but never capture quite so well.
Delta Spirit - Bushwick Blues
Stay tuned, we'll return tomorrow with songs #5 - 1.
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
We'll continue our top 25 countdown with songs #15 through #11.
#15: Zebra - Beach House
The lead track off of Beach House's third album Teen Dream, "Zebra" perfects the Baltimore duo's ephemeral pop-scoping dream, collectively tying any of the looser knots heard on their 2006 self-titled debut and 2008 LP Devotion. While "Norway" and "10 Mile Stereo" may have been the beneficiaries of more word of mouth, "Zebra" is Beach House at their core; wildly impossible and poignantly conscious of what they do at their best - endlessly ethereal dream-pop.
#14: Ready to Start - Arcade Fire
"Ready to Start" isn't The Suburbs most defining moment. With what the album is, as a whole, it seems like "Ready to Start," is a bit of a misnomer, fitting beyond the group's three studio albums. It doesn't conjure the unbridled joy of "Wake Up," the childlike mystery of "Rebellion (Lies)," or the ascending propose of "Intervention," but what it first brings to the band's catalog is the idea of relentlessness - that a band so cued for for tight orchestrations and breathtaking execution can actually sound eager and engaged, and capable of so much more.
#13: Cold War - Janelle Monae
Janelle Monae's critically acclaimed debut The ArchAndroid brought a bevy of welcomed new approaches for the tiny contemporary pop starlet, namely Monae's casually unnerving approach for bigger and brighter sounds without compromising the integrity of simplistic perfection. "Cold War," behind the "Bombs Over Baghdad" drum roll, evokes strength in Janelle's apparent personal weakness. "If you wanna be free / below the ground's the only place to be," may be a bit bleaker than it sounds coming from Monae's soft, yet booming voice, but that's what sense comes here - the ability to transpose all those ideas in a tight, confound space, brilliantly pieced together.
Janelle Monae - Cold War
#12: Lovesick - Lindstrøm & Christabelle
This? It's the song from that commercial your not sure of that you think you might like. Maybe it's for a phone, I'm not sure, and at the rate that I write these, looking it up is a waste of both of our time. Regardless, "Lovesick" is one, for lack of a better term, one of the sexiest songs that is actually executed without throwing innuendo in the listener's face. Lindstrøm's well-spaced compulsion of sound, mixed with Christabelle's slow, whispery vocals connect to form a valiantly paced three minutes that end up sounding like it drifts infinitely.
#11: Power - Kanye West (ft. Dwele)
"Power" was most fan's first listen to My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Kanye West's magnum opus album that would later dominate all others in 2010. It's a collective bash of the enigmatic march of "Jesus Walks" with a profound majesty that Kanye has been able to finally manipulate eight years into his notorious career. "Power" is a smack in the face, rather than that breath of fresh air that listeners always ache for, with it's tight-fisted blasting beats and menacing snarls, touching base on death and the delusion of power in the grandest of scales.
Kanye West (ft. Dwele) - Power
Stay tuned, we'll return tomorrow with songs #10 - 6.
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
We'll continue our top 25 countdown with songs #20 through #16.
#20: On Melancholy Hill - Gorillaz
Damon Albarn's return to the studio as cartoon band frontman for Gorillaz yielded "Melancholy Hill" on an album that, more often than not, showcased the talents of others: Bobby Womack, Mos Def, Snoop Dogg, etc. The song stands alone on Plastic Beach as Albarn's highest achievement because it's only him. Aside from the plush synth drives, Albarn showcases what so many Blur fans remember from the 90s; a solemn and lonely voice that drives toward subtle beauty.
Gorillaz - On Melancholy Hill
#19: Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains) - Arcade Fire
"Sprawl II" is, in a way, the furthest departure Arcade Fire have ever taken from their coined sound. Regine leads the bass-heavy and synth-driven charge of an Earth catapulting spring that invokes her to scream "sometimes I wonder if the world's so small." It should be taken with a grain of salt, because there have been few times that Arcade Fire have sounded bigger
#18: I Think Ur a Contra - Vampire Weekend
Contra, as Vampire Weekend's second studio effort, came off to some fans as a bit more bumpy and rushed as its self-titled preprocessor - but that argument always seems to follow any band that explodes off a debut (Strokes, anyone?). However, "I Think Ur a Contra," and it is spelled that way, is, for a moment, cold and sad. There have been very few, if any moments in Ezra Koenig's short career that he has sounded so warm that even his minuscule heartbreak seems distant from "Contra's" wintry beauty.
#17: Rill Rill - Sleigh Bells
Oddly enough, Sleigh Bells softest moment from their ear-bashing (in a good way) debut Treats proved to be the record's most endearing track. The jagged guitar, borrowed a bit from Funkadelic, turns away from the group's typically bombasting approach, to turn on sly, jubilant and - most important here - catchy rhythm that escalates into a drifty high school daydream.
#16: Yulia - Wolf Parade
Wolf Parade, the now either defunct or on indefinite hiatus band, hasn't gotten their fair share of compliments since their 2005 debut Apologies to the Queen Mary. With what may have been the band's last work, Expo 86, the group produced "Yulia," a harrowing and true song about Soviet cosmonauts from the 50s that were lost in space to drift along through eternity. But focusing on the bleakness, and in a way, Wolf Parade's departure, takes away from the stark love song that "Yulia" turns into. Indeed, its face front value is something completely different, but here it can't stop from sounding so engrossing and tearful.
Wolf Parade - Yulia
Stay tuned, we'll return tomorrow for songs #15 - 11.
Monday, December 27, 2010
Greetings. Now that the Northeast, particularly New Jersey, is covered up in a invariable snowstorm, keeping most of us housed up indoors, this seems more than the perfect time to unleash Bears and Bullets annual list of the Top 25 Songs of the Year. Last year Grizzly Bear's "Two Weeks" ended up toping our list in a year that seemed sweltered by indie music's perennial power houses, like Phoenix and Animal Collective. So this year may be a bit more refreshing, considering 2010's somewhat unpredictable month by month catalog of new music.
As with last year, lets clear up the two rules that qualify music for the list: first, the song must have been released during the calendar year. Second, songs heard prior to 2010, such as Yeasayer's "Ambling Alp" are disqualified because it had been out for a much longer period of time, even though it was released on the band's album Odd Blood, released earlier this year.
So, lets begin.
#25: Stranded - The Walkmen
The first listen to Lisbon yielded "Stranded," an achingly sad and mature bar tome brimmed with some of the most harrowing and enchanting horns heard from the Walkmen in years. Lead-singer Hamilton Leithauser's now well-known voice, once detached and coarse from 2004's "The Rat," seems calmed and skimmed, but still powerful enough to make plaster wilt in "Stranded." The band's work, and specifically Leithauser, always seemed to overflow with stern honesty, but here, as the band continues to grow, it begins to sound too beautiful to capture. Almost.
The Walkmen - Stranded - MP3
#24: Round and Round - Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti
I may still be somewhat amazed at Pitchfork's decision to place "Round and Round" at number one on their songs of the year list, but that doesn't take much away from it. It's a deceivingly well-crafted five minutes staunchly brewed with a buzzing rhythm, sparse sound clashes splashing in the backdrop with Ariel's constantly changing approach. The chorus, where the ghostly tone goes by the wayside, is huge and clamoring, preceded at the end with a high-pitched "sentimental/everything is my fault," is where "Round and Round" stands tallest, before blending backward to its creative axis. Na Na Na Na.
Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti - Round and Round
#23: Post Acid - Wavves
At some point, Wavves must have gotten tired churning out buzzy, lo-fi, messy songs about Mickey Mouse and pot when they made "Post Acid," a quick, almost clean bursting pop-punk protocol with an eschewing chorus that deserves shrill yelling. It's painlessly fun, but not as drab and callously single-minded as most of Nathan Williams' work. In another word, you can enjoy it without trying.
Wavves - Post Acid - MP3
#22: Wreckin' Bar (Ra Ra Ra) - The Vaccines
When we first heard the Vaccines back in October, "Wreckin' Bar" immediately jumped out (and was good enough to make the Our Newest Obsession series). It's a short, endlessly joyous minute and a half surf rock jangle that keeps spinning on constant repeat, much like "Post Acid," but with more of shiny punch. It always happens since I've begun making these year-end lists; that a song like "Wreckin' Bar," with only a little recognition to its name and even less word of mouth claws its way in, and deservedly so.
The Vaccines - Wreckin' Bar (Ra Ra Ra) - MP3
#21: Vultures - The Pass
The list's first official dance track (or easily danceable track) came up a few months ago after the Pass entered their video for "Vultures" into a blogger contest. While the video, with all of its indie blogging references (again, we go unnoticed. Sigh), is pretty enjoyable, the song should truly stand out. It's an infectious dance rock track in a year where the subtle sub genre went largely unnoticed. Oddly enough, when you're listening, it ends up feeling "like the first time," no matter what it was for. The better songs, in the end, usually have that effect.
The Pass - Vultures
Stay tuned, we'll return tomorrow for songs #20 - 16.