Friday, February 1, 2013

Hot Mix 2012: #10 to 1

After re-arranging the top 10 in 3,262 different ways, we've settled on this... We don't actually think these are the best songs of 2012. The top 5 are all definitely in the actual top 10, and 6-10 are all in the actual top 20, but the ordering is weird. It's approximate, and just felt correct, essentially the same reasoning for choosing Jay-Z & Kanye as #1 in 2011, Arcade Fire in 2010 and Animal Collective in 2009. It's becoming more difficult for some reason. (Our last definite untouchable no joke #1 was "Teen Creeps" from No Age in 2008.)

"Best albums" and "ultra-vomit" lists should be arriving soon... If you'd like us to quit the internet, please leave comments and say so.


| #100 - 91 | #90 - 81 | #80 - 71 | #70 - 61 | #60 - 51 |
| #50 - 41 | #40 - 31 | #30 - 21 | #20 - 11 | #10 - 1 |

10. Mystikal “Hit Me”
We were sitting there all bummed after hearing the new Big Boi album, when suddenly, all of the sudden, out of fucking nowhere, guess who decides to exhume himself from the grave carrying a huge MC Hammer sized stadium in his back pocket? (No dingbat, not PSY.) Even the white people say “Wow.” Strangely enough, the white women in this song have names like “Helen” and “Judy,” which are the types of racially-nonspecific names Richard Pryor or Eddie Murphy might have thrown into their “white people” impressions back in the day. In one especially poignant statement, Mystikal equates “diamonds” to “Madonna’s designer’s iguanas,” and “Rihanna’s vagina’s piranhas.” The bullseye doesn’t stand a chance. Mystikal’s not only fully exhilarated and psyched as fuck about making music again, but was also affected by the loss of his idols J.B. and Michael J, enough to put together a full band and record the best tribute for either singer since their passing. Somewhere, Mr. Dynamite and King of Pop are all like “fuck yes” and high-fiving.
| Youtube |

9. Sky Ferreira “Everything Is Embarrassing”
Spacious verses sound like a distant playful memory. But when the heavy synths all hit at once during the chorus, the weight matches that of darker times. “Putting the past behind us” is now more impossible than ever, as a result of the digital social network’s constant reminders. A simple matter of preference separates “Everything is Embarrassing” from its sister-song, Solange’s “Losing You,” both produced/written by the artist formerly known as Lightspeed Champion, now known as Dev Hynes. Neither song charted, but both derived from EP's, received heavy rotation on MTV-U and placed in the top 20 of Village Voice’s Pazz & Jop 2012. Kids are aware of these songs. Also, neither Sky Ferriera nor Solange seem to be filling a crucial void with their respective voices or presence. We don’t find either singer to be especially offensive or necessary as of Winter 2013. And as far as we can tell, these are both singers’ best songs. Out of the two, we prefer Sky Ferreira’s for its stronger vocal melody and for sounding more like a “soundtrack to our lives” type of jam. We’re guessing Solange’s song grabbed slightly more critical attention because her name has been around longer.
| Soundcloud |

8. Frank Ocean “Bad Religion”
This is not the kind of song we’d typically place in our top 10... It’s way too dramatic for our tastes. However, Frank’s missive from July of this year created some context that we were unable to overlook. We really like Frank Ocean. We think he’s incredibly badass. We like his singing and his pop-star presence (as a person) better than his album. It's been years since someone with his charisma has just arrived out of nowhere. Nothing would make us happier than this guy recording the next Innervisions or Songs In The Key of Life. So our viewpoint may be the result of some bias. On its own, the first 30 seconds of “Bad Religion” are shitty Bruno Mars bullshit... But within the context of the entire song and Channel Orange, it’s a delicately confessional moment of vulnerability. At the end of the orchestra chorus when he sings “love, love, love” over and over with a minor-third after the music’s already transitioned back to the major-third, it’s yet another fragile moment. Frank’s not ready to switch back. He’s stuck and fixated. “Don’t curse me.” “Boy, you need prayer.” Tension builds, but it never resolves or climaxes. There’s no Coldplay-explosion. Life doesn’t always lead in that direction. Fender Rhodes adds soulfulness to the last 45 seconds before it all disappears. It’s a pretty fucked up song. Worship, addiction, confusion... It’s the heart of the album. (“Thinking About You” was one of 2012’s definitive jams and deserves Top 10 as well, but its original demo version already appeared in Hot Mix 2011 (at a depressingly low #69) and we’re kinda against the idea of having songs appear two years in a row.)
| Youtube |

7. Taylor Swift “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together”
Taylor Swift is bigger than any of her songs, for better or worse. The marketing team was able to set it up so that “which songs were written about who” became a priority topic that radio DJ’s are forced to discuss ad nauseum to help boost music sales. She is very big business. One section of “We Are Never” includes a sarcastically spoken lyric regarding “some indie record that’s much cooler than mine,” which likely refers to the lamestream definition of “indie-cool.” Was she all up in Mumford & Sons or Imagine Dragons or like Ed Sheeran? Or maybe Taylor Swift was actually dating someone from a “cool” rock band. As if TMZ is really gonna report “Tay Sway was spotted with Stephen Malkmus within viewing distance of Britt Daniels at the AMA’s last night. Here’s hoping Ash Bowie never EVER gets word of this news. Man, Bob Pollard’s gonna be PISSED.”
| Youtube |

6. Kendrick Lamar “Backseat Freestyle”
Following the standard format of a shitty drama film or an E! True Hollywood Story... Before everything comes crashing down, there must be a “top of the world” moment. If this were an actual movie, “Backseat Freestyle” might have been a flashback sequence with the words “Los Angeles, 1995” scrolled across the bottom of the screen, and then we see carefree 8-year-old Kendrick chillin’ in the backseat of whatever car he happens to be riding, with California sunshine pouring from everywhere (not unlike the opening scene of Get Rich Or Die Tryin’ or 8 Mile, two movies starring dudes whose careers also launched with assistance from Dr. Dre. Hmm.) OJ Simpson and Adina Howard are name-checked in order to establish 1995 as the timestamp moment. We misheard the intro lyric as “All my life I want money and parties,” which actually seems far more naïve and appropriate than wanting “money and power.” It’s the kind of jam for those kids who say amazing things like “when I’m president, everyone’s gonna eat free pizza everyday.” “Damn, I feel amazing.” It’s actually a sad song within the context of the album.
| Soundcloud |

5. Beak> “Egg Dog”
Floating underwater endlessly... Waiting for anything. Watching overheard and observing the surroundings. “Egg Dog” is probably every colossal squid’s favorite stoner jam. While the Tago Mago and Neu! comparisons are glaring, “Egg Dog” is probably the first Beak> jam to reveal hidden worship of Velvet Underground, David Bowie and Brian Eno in a lot of the same respects that Radiohead were influenced for Kid A. Also, watch out if you’re not ready for it, but “Egg Dog” is a serious-ass earworm. And strangely enough, it’s not so much the underwater vocals that will follow you around everywhere for months on end, but rather the creepy-as-fuck 50’s-horror-movie organ pattern. As for drums, the mic placement and tone define perfection, not to mention an incredibly restrained playing style. “Less is more” is the ultimate understatement. 10 out of 10. You cannot fuck with the drums on this album. (And possibly recorded so well that the LP was never mastered?? That’s how it sounds to us anyway.) As far as kraut goes, >> surpasses Cave’s Neverendless, Liars’ They Were Wrong So We Drowned, the latest from Moon Duo, and pretty much all the best krautrock since the mid-70’s. No joke.

4. Miguel “Use Me”
We feel like we’re copping-out labeling Miguel as someone who’s on the verge of filling a crucial void in pop music, but seriously, the world could use a new Prince. We think Miguel is the man for the job. While he’s far more grounded than Prince, Miguel is the only R&B singer we can recall from the past 10-15 years whose packed such density into a 40-minute album. Whether it’s our favorite of 2012 is yet to be determined, but we definitely love it more than the two most heralded LP’s of 2012, Channel Orange and good kid, m.A.A.d. city (partially because it’s 20-30 minutes shorter and doesn’t include any 9 or 13 minute epics). It’s one of those that reveal a new favorite song every few days, with “Use Me” as the jam we’ve been reviewing most often. Serious-ass compression and mastering are normally associated with Daft Punk or dubstep, but their usage here instead simulates a close, whispering aura. Chugging electric guitars recall Depeche Mode’s dark-as-fuck Violator LP, while Miguel’s “pride is waving a white flag,” allowing himself to be used - a receiving partner - without the confident arrogance typically associated with R&B (i.e. “you just lay that sweet ass down, daddy’s gon’ make ya feel real good, mmmhm, don’t you worry suga”). The powerful rush of a first encounter. Immersion. Eyes wide shut.
| Soundcloud |

3. Nicki Minaj “Stupid Hoe”
We were planning on quoting from an interview with that main dude from Dirty Projectors who we assumed stated something along the lines of “Stupid Hoe is the most important song of the past 10 years,” but after actually reading the quote this is not exactly what was said. ...That idea of the disco smile, where there's lots of high frequencies and then lots of low and not much muddy, shitty, rocky middle-- and then just making that into this digital cavern where it's just noises. I remember thinking, "Where can you go from ‘Milkshake'?" But then you listen to "Stupid Hoe" and you're like, "That's where you can go." Well in any case, Lil Kim done fucked up rull good. As far as diss tracks, this is the best one that’s happened since the death of Notorious B.I.G. and we state this with no exaggeration whatsoever. It’s yet another one of those multi-section jams that are like capnip for us. After getting bored of Gaga’s “Bad Romance” within a year of its release, “Stupid Hoe” became the most recent of these to resonated with us. An insanely coked-up and blistering cannon blast, the beat down of “Stupid Hoe” remains relentless. “Hey yo, Baby Bop, fuck you and your EP. Who’s gassin’ this hoe? BP? Hmm... Thinks. 1, 2, 3 do the Nicki Minaj blink.” The “u mad bro?” moment culminates in its final 25 seconds: “You’re a stupid hoe” purposely sung and screamed out of tune over and over. She doesn’t give a fuck if you’re a hater; she’s already won.
| Youtube |

2. Mac DeMarco “Ode To Viceroy”
In the fadeout, a pitch-shifted voice (presumably Mac DeMarco) says “There really is nothing quite like it,” followed by inhaling and coughing, which is as good as any description for what this song is really about. Smokin’ cigs can represent lots of things: A temporary refuge from stress, a satisfying moment of fulfillment, a simple object of consumption, an unhealthy addiction. Mac also sings “Don’t let me see you crying,” and “Don’t take me for a fool now,” leading us to believe the smokes may also equate to something or someone who feels like a part of us even though we recognize that they’re slowly killing us inside. Kurt Cobain, who famously chain-smoked throughout Nirvana Unplugged, borrowed a similar cliché for his song “Swap Meet” (“keeps his cigarettes close to his heart”). Quitting is essentially amputation. “Honey I’ll smoke you ‘til I’m dyin’.” Viceroy itself is a curious choice - an old-timey brand recognized more often by older folks, and their ads never stopped using 50’s-nostalgia. Smokers often like to stick to their brand for life. The word itself, “Viceroy,” sounds far more linguistically pleasing than “Parliament” or “Camel,” initially tricking unfamiliar people to believe he’s singing to a person rather than a product. Not just a bad habit, but one that's lasted for decades. Mac’s guitars and singing sounds pensive, contemplative, melancholy and dreamy, as if he recognizes the dangers but has no problem ignoring them. Also, we fucked up and forgot to include this in our “best videos of the year.”
| Soundcloud |

1. Japandroids “The Nights Of Wine And Roses”
So now there are two songs from the 2010’s that we desperately want Andrew WK to cover: “Friday” and “The Nights of Wine and Roses.” The lyrics in the chorus section of “The House that Heaven Built” are still great, but Japandroids didn’t receive enough credit for sustaining the celebration scream-along for an entire song. Let’s break-it-break-it down:
-“All lit up tonight.” “Lit up” could allude to fireworks or that Buckcherry song where he sings “I love that cocaine, I love that cocaine.”
-“Still drinkin. Don’t we have anything to live for?” So they’ve been drinking for a while, and unsure for a second, due to impaired judgement, if this is one of those cases where they should just put their head down on the bar and say “fuck it all to hell.”
-“Well of course we do, and it’s gonna come true, we’re drinking” That split-second when clarity ignites. The lyrics sheet suggest they’re actually singing “and until it comes true,” which makes more sense than what we thought it was. The future looks bright.
-“Still smokin.” And repeat everything else with “smokin” in place of “drinkin,” so that stoners can be included alongside the drunks.
-“We don’t cry for those nights to arrive, we yell like hell to the heavens.” Followed by the whoooa’s and whoa-oa-oa-oa-oa’s. We’ve noticed a growing trend in the past 2-3 years where “whoa’s” and “hey’s” and other filler nonsense words are currently more uninspired in radio-pop (Bruno Mars, Train, etc) than at any point since probably the 1950’s. However, the “whoa’s” in this song are completely necessary. This is the sound of hell yelling at the heavens, a salute to the nights that will change everything, whether they’re tomorrow or years from now.

| #100 - 91 | #90 - 81 | #80 - 71 | #70 - 61 | #60 - 51 |
| #50 - 41 | #40 - 31 | #30 - 21 | #20 - 11 | #10 - 1 |

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