Saturday, April 19, 2014

Hot Mix 2013: #10 to 1

| Hot Mix 2013 on Spotify |

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

10. Pusha T “Numbers on the Boards”
Kanye's sees what's been going on with Pusha T as he's been forced to reckon with some extreme wackness over the past few years. And we don't think we're giving Kanye too much credit to suggest that he can examine beats that Pusha responded to most efficiently, like the dark, sinister shit in "Grindin'" or "Wamp Wamp." Kanye then extracts the elements that will respark and fuel Pusha's ferocity while adding a personalized flair of dopeness. His beats are never the same twice, and certainly understated when he compared to recent mindfucks like Yeezus or "Mercy." Density is wisely emphasized as well; if it's a 3 minute song that feels like 5 minutes, it's because Pusha and Kanye cut out every last ounce of bullshit, responding to internet immediacy's recent influence on concise brevity. 1997-era Jay-Z makes a quick cameo: "Mothafuckas can't rhyme no more / About crime no more." Clipse's mismanaged estate has forced them back into the crack game so frequently over the past 10 years, keeping them hard out of necessity. They had no other choice.

9. Janelle Monae featuring Miguel “Primetime”
It's not exactly the quiet storm it might be aiming for, but in between its flaws rests a glimmering allure, compellingly gorgeous enough to yield an irresistible gaze. While guitar solos in modern R&B can be as unstable as walking a tightrope (such as the guitar tone in TLC's “Red Light Special”), Monae's flashy guitar-god throws it behind his head and plays with his teeth Hendrix-style as Janelle and Miguel watch from across the studio nodding and shaking their heads in unison. It's still a flawed moment but a similarly glimmering one, fitting as a proper coda to its dreamy, familiar chorus. Miguel is the found last puzzle piece as he discovers his niche, fitting as a co-songwriter and singer just as well as on “#Beautiful” and more efficiently than on any of his hiphop collab's from pre-2013.

8. Kanye West “Bound 2”
What initially appears as a deceivingly easy and playful scenario quickly dissolves into intense mind games. For some, its infamously bizarre video and various parodies may have burnt out the appeal of “Bound 2.” But from our end, they've only helped to widen our perceptions. It speaks volumes as the concluding chapter of Yeezus, intensifying the depth that flows in between each lyric and “uh huh honey.” Kanye's love song doesn't necessarily need to be written by and for the rich, famous and powerful in order to transcend as brilliantly framed storytelling, somehow conjuring a confusing and wildly intricate scenario reminiscent of a Charlie Kaufman narrative (possibly Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) where love hangs by a thread and the lines between dreams and reality rest upon an unreliable auto-focus lens.

7. Ovlov “The Well”
Inserting earplugs at their live shows may help, but guts are typically no match for Ovlov. You will feel Ovlov in your gut. While Mike Thomas's overdriven production on Am achieves an outstanding job of capturing the Ovlov earthquake in all its glory, it wouldn't be worth as much without the initial axis-shift in the songs themselves. Daniel Johnston once sang about dropping your last dime in a wishing well with nothing left to lose. However, Ovlov maintain that no magical forces played a part in the story. Boner explains: "It's about a well. A real well. Non-fiction shit." Steve Hartlett agrees and had actually inserted real life events into the lyrics: "The second verse is about losing my cat Steve. The neighbors could afford canned food for him." We asked if this event was also the inspiration for the non-album track "Wet Food / Dry Food" which is due to be released on a split sometime in 2014. "Yeah it is, but it's just not as clear in 'The Well.'" 2013 was also the year that Ovlov were partially responsible for the success of Fort Flesh, a now-defunct house venue that hosted about 10 of the most lively and intense rock shows in New Haven's recent musical history, every one of which were completely devoid of the arm-folding wallflower nature of similar DIY spaces from that area.

6. Jai Paul “Crush”
Jai Paul's leaked demos sound a lot closer to the “singer-songwriter-producer” genre than straight-ahead R&B or chillwave despite the obvious influences pulled from both. His presentation as an elusive laptop genius sticks out among pretty much everything else happening in music right now, disregarding 2013's emphasis on immediacy and instead adopting a marketing package that cherishes the shroud. Whether this presentation was intentional or accidental is up for debate. As a would-be third or fourth single from this collection, “Crush” specifically falls in line with this mystique and carefulness. Initially titled on Bandcamp as “Track 7,” the jam's spacy jumpiness, sparking vague memories of Moon Boots commercials, might take some time before it reveals itself as a cover of Jennifer Paige's long-cherished classic from the early days of TRL when the show was merely called Total Request and featured Carson Daly with no live audience. It's not exactly the flavor-of-the-moment 90s-nostalgia jam that a TRL-era cover song would suggest in writing, an interpretation that leans heavily toward suggestions for the future of electronic music. And watch out for our favorite part: That shred solo in the coda arrives like a paintball shot out of nowhere, with all the same pummel, urgency and fun that Paul McCartney once tore into his solos for songs like “Taxman” and “Good Morning Good Morning.”

5. My Bloody Valentine “Only Tomorrow”
No matter how good it sounds, no album has ever been worth waiting 14 years or 22 years or however long it took for MBV, or The Detox, or Chinese Democracy, or that long-promised Hendrix-influenced D'angelo album, or whatever Lauryn Hill's been up to. For whatever reason, the past year or two of music has served more long-awaited surprise records than probably any other era of pop music. But unlike The Pixies' bafflingly off-course Indie Cindy LP, MBV is no square peg among the rest of their catalog, maintaining all their orbit-shifting enormity, with “Only Tomorrow” acting as the rocket ship itself, bridging the 22 year gap in a single 6-minute-long trip. (Imagine if The Phantom Menace had been as amazing as the anticipation surrounding it.) The grandiosity of its guitar tones are perhaps the best preserved element from their previous records, evoking a combination of drugginess and lethargy risen from the euphoria of only the heaviest hard drugs coursing and working their magic. And in that instant, “Only Tomorrow” joins the exclusive trove of MBV's signature collection. Maybe we'll receive another one of these 22 years from now.

4. Trinidad James “All Gold Everything”
2013's finest anthem for living well was first discovered by our staff on MTV-U in January 2013, where Jame$'s appearance - fresh and fly as fuck - worked amazingly to perfect his first impression as we shouted outlandish statements of awe at our TV screen (probably something to the effect of “Holy fucking shit this guy is amazing”). Repeated listens did follow: It took a few weeks before the GoldenEye sample and “Gold all on my chains, gold all on my rangs, gold all on my watch, don't believe me just watch n********************” finally became unstuck. Meanwhile, “Pop the molly/I'm sweatin'/WOO” had already broke as the sickest catchphrase/meme/whatever of late-2012/early-2013. By the 50th listen, its magically infectious dirt became unshakable, with at least 5 or 6 more classic lyrics scattered throughout. It's unfortunate that many initial reviewers didn't give it much time to burrow like a summer tic, since it's basically infused within our DNA at this point. But it's not like Jame$ really cares: “Who's hatin' on you this summer? Fuck 'em.”

3. Kanye West “New Slaves”

There's a lot to be said about “New Slaves,” with the critical focus mostly surrounding its lyrics, less often opening discussion on its unconventional structure and Kanye's mostly gothic preferences in keyboard patches. It's a curious backdrop for his societal frustration. If one of the most famous and richest rock stars in the world wants to start a clothing line in 2014, why shouldn't he be able to? While it's the type of argument that only the upper tier of the world's 1% should be able to empathize, we still say “fuck it.” Give the man what he wants so that he can flush the toxins it out of his system and move onto the next episode. But he can't, because corporations are enslaving all of us, including Kanye West himself. The exceptionally long coda section may be offering a glimmering ray after drudging through an exceptionally well cushioned and air-conditioned tunnel.

2. Kurt Vile “Was All Talk”
Spring is here again, tender age in bloom. We wish drum patterns like those on “Was All Talk” could more frequently accompany relaxingly rich and layered detail, along with the nuances and fluctuations in Kurt Vile's delicate vocals. Its construction appears to have been an effortless endeavor, enough that Kurt has no problem admitting “Makin' music is easy; watch me.” One of the most amazing things about this song is that it could have very easily been victimized by its New Age tendencies - not quite entering the realm of Pure Moods but not out of place if used to assist in relaxation therapy. Clouds, waves, wind, spacious nature, clear-headed, sober, traveling into the future, moving forward from something worth forgetting.

1. Mariah Carey & Miguel “#Beautiful”
No one else among the past 25 years of pop music can truly realize the power of the summer song like Mariah Carey. 2013 was no exception as she added “#Beautiful” to her wall of platinum records, joining a proud gathering of past carefree #1 summer jams like “Dream Lover,” “Fantasy,” “Heartbreaker” and “We Belong Together.” An instant fan favorite, it seemed ripe for a month or two of consistent radio domination that unfortunately never happened, stalling on the Hot 100 at the curiously low #15 position. This low placement may indicate a recently strange evolution of modern Top 40 radio; its nostalgic, timeless and dreamlike aura seemed almost too perfect and may have owned in any other summer. But as she's clearly outdone herself in the degree of summeriness, the record was instead swept under the rug as an afterthought. Similarly breezy nostalgia jams like Ariana Grande's “The Way” and Bruno Mars' “Treasure” charted slightly better, but the official sound-of-yesterday summer jams were ultimately chosen as “Get Lucky” and “Blurred Lines,” with Miley Cyrus's unexpected crash landing seeming almost like a forced act of exhibition - an unavoidably intense scream for attention. The competition was anything but breezy, and the US charts may have finally found its own equivalent of UK's Christmas #1. As for “#Beautiful,” we have stronger longterm predictions for the understated sleeper hits. Its indescribably magical allure hasn't been as frequent since the days of Kylie's “Love at First Sight,” Amerie's “1 Thing” or Annie's “Heartbeat” - jams that transcend chart success, shooting for the stars. We're almost certain that “#Beautiful” is our current choice for “song of the decade.”

| Hot Mix 2013 on Spotify |

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

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