Thursday, February 27, 2014

Hot Mix 2013: #30 to 21

| 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 |

30. Liars “I Saw You from the Lifeboat”
We hope these guys never disappear. The lengthy introduction section of “Lifeboat” reminds us of an industrial factory assembly line. But once the vocals enter, the narrator admits that he's somehow managed to escape, rescued from his monotonous situation, while his former cohorts remain trapped, perhaps indefinitely. “They can't get out.” New Liars LP is expected to drop in the next few months, and this single's gotten us especially pumped for more brooding drone.

29. Potty Mouth “Damage”
As a song title, “Damage” might suggests various shades of deterioration: confused and pissed off, chaos and punk rock. Abby's vocals project a nonchalant and subtle coolness, no fucks given while watching the fire destroy something from the past, with her delivery of “now that you're gone” especially maximizing the “fuck you” quotient. The buried isolationism within Phoebe's surfer-girl guitar fills stay very much in character with the best of Potty Mouth's repertoire. Our favorite element is Ally and Victoria's engine room, as they continue bashing down its walls with baseball bats, feeding the momentum provided by such a brilliantly deep and driving guitar riff. Fresh CPR breaths provide new life to punk rock with songs about destruction. Oh, the irony.

28. Sebadoh “Beat”
While many of Lou Barlow's recent contributions to Dinosaur have strongly shone as standouts, Jason Loewenstein's most recent Sebadoh jams may have outdone Lou's just the same. To Lou's credit, he has more outlets for songwriting, whereas Jason may have been holding onto “Beat” since a few years ago. It's definitely their best recent song, and among Jason's crunchiest and most cathartic, securing his placement as Sebadoh's secret weapon, just the same as on albums like III and Bakesale all those years ago. Some things never change.

27. Trinidad Jame$ “Givin' No Fucks”
So many questions in this life. Trinidad closes his Don't Be S.A.F.E. mixtape with a pensive downer. His flow is still tight as fuck and he still recognizes his freshness, but the struggle for perfection in the most valuable areas can bring down even the most talented MCs. “It always surprise me how the realest niggas be the fakest, man, and the underdog be the greatest, man...” Our only gripe is that it ends slightly too early, and we wish he had returned to the chorus just once more before the abrupt outro.

26. Ovlov “Where's My Dini” / “Moth Rock”
It's too tough to choose between Am's two drop-D bummers. We couldn't help but notice some vague resemblance between Steve and Sadie's shaky-hand boy/girl unisons in “Where's My Dini” and the child voice actors from An American Tail who played Fivel and Tilly, specifically during saddest-song-ever candidate “Somewhere Out There.” We're imagining a similar scenario: Gazing into the sky miles apart, wondering where their loved one might be, seeking comfort in the possibility of wishing upon the same star. As a muse, “Dini” seems to represent something larger than a single instance, as the song's crushingly overwhelming sense of longing strikes a universal chord. The same goes for “Moth Rock,” expanding on a classic metaphor: “Like a moth through a flame, burned by the fire, my love is blind, can't you see my desire...” And yes, we really did just compare Ovlov to Janet Jackson.

25. Gunk “Ice Cream”
“Ice Cream” is basically a caricature of any drug sequence music from a Hollywood movie. Its quieter A-section establishes an absurdly catchy vocal melody that might fit on a record from Donovan or maybe Syd Barrett. The B-section releases inhibitions, expands consciousness, stimulates the nervous system, and intensifies sensual experiences. By the time the A-section returns, a balls trippin' sound collage has entered the picture, not sounding all that far from the stranger moments in “Revolution 9” or “I Am the Walrus.” Also: Earworm alert.

24. J. Cole featuring TLC “Crooked Smile”
We're counting this among the year's finest '90s-throwbacks, which could feasibly have been a mid-decade West Coast jam, or maybe even a '98-era Atlanta jam. Plus, it supplied us with a preview of TLC's well-timed resurrection. “It makes me excited for the next TLC album,” says Sadie Dupuis, who we asked for some quotes, because we're lazy and can't think of shit to say. “Macklemore sucks hella, despite trying to deliver a positive message, but J.Cole actually is delivering a positive message in a way that I like, because he's actually a good rapper and his production isn't cheesy. This song makes me want to spend less time in the bathroom so that my roommate won't be like 'why you gotta take so long?'”

23. Sky Ferriera “I Will”

We're not exactly sure how this album turned into such a big deal. Aside from a few scattered moments of dopeness, nothing matched or surpassed “Everything Is Embarrassing,” although her TV On The Radio tribute “I Will” comes closest. Its similarities to “Wolf Like Me” are a huge part of the reason why we dig it so hard.

22. Krill “Theme from Krill”
Far past their eponymous anthem, Krill's catalog boasts a trove of gems now cherished by the diehards who might resent anyone choosing “Theme” - now probably their most popular jam - to represent Lucky Leaves or their music as a whole. While it's not their absolute career highlight, it's still probably their quintessential jam, combining all their best elements into a neatly packaged anthem: Tight songcraft with finely tuned arrangements, yelps and voicecracks, bombastic musicianship, and self-deprecating sense of humor, combined with one of the year's finest drunken singalong choruses. For the same reasons, we'd likely have no problem eventually settling on “Theme from Krill” if we were forced into the impossible task of crowning Boston with an “Anthem of the Year 2013.”

21. Kurt Vile “Never Run Away” / “Girl Called Alex”

It might be tough to dissect or explain the dopeness of this album without alluding to weed, but its importance shouldn't be undersold. Stoned wisdom often triggers quick flashes of unexpected nostalgia, sometimes leading to memories that may lead to some intense longing. “I think about them all the time.”

| 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 |

Hot Mix 2013: #40 to 31

| 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 |

40. Doe B featuring T.I. & Juicy J “Let Me Find Out (Remix)”
Pour one out for Doe B. Hazy sadness permeates the hiphop community mourning what may have evolved into a much larger career. A string of remixes and mixtape cuts followed in the aftermath of “Let Me Find Out (Remix),” supplying the proof that he was worth such a tribute. Social media provides immediacy in our recent discoveries, although Doe B, T.I. and Juicy J concern themselves with dark discoveries that might be revealed in person (or through texting): “Let me find out you puttin' molly all in that champagne and she don't even know” implies the lowest scum. The unfortunate realities of trap life don't always reveal the lightest subject matter.

39. Kanye West “I Am a God”
In Groundhog Day (directed by the late, great Harold Ramis), Bill Murray struggles to grasp his overwhelming superpowers: “I am a God. I'm not THE God - I don't think - but I'm A God.” Kanye seems far more comfortable with his similar position of power, approaching yet another item to cross from his extensively absurd bucket list: standing elevated in New York City above a mile-deep crowd and screaming “I am a God" through a PA system. This might imply the logical continuation that began in 2010 with “No one man should have all that power.” “I Am a God” signifies the moment when someone realizes they might be uncontrollably drunk with power, recognizing the bizarre reality of their existence. Beyonce experienced a similar fate, probably around the time where she admitted via Youtube, "I am more powerful than my mind can digest or understand." The video may have been yanked, but she's clearly in the same boat (or yacht, whatever).

38. Jute Gyte “The Haunting Sense of an Unrepeatable Unidirectional Vector”
A math rock band who used to worship Drive Like Jehu discovers Satan. The results are otherworldly - a creepily warped or even psychedelic version of hell . Descending dissonant chords emit the aura of dark, confusing chaos. Atmosphere aside, the songwriting on this record displays nothing less than killer craftsmanship, with “Haunting Sense” ruling hard as the feared dark lord within its universe. Thou shalt sacrifice a goat on the sixth hour of the sixth day in the sixth month. Victory is ours.

37. Joanna Gruesome “Wussy Void”
“I think it's kind of a ripoff of a Mannequin Pussy song,” admits Owen Gruesome, guitarist from Joanna Gruesome and songwriter of the sludgy and pensive “Wussy Void,” one of the defining slacker-anthems of the year. A few nights ago, we sat down with Owen, lead vocalist Alanna McArdle and lead guitarist George Nicholls, prior to a recent sold out UK concert, for our big exclusive interview:
Alanna: “['Wussy Void'] was called 'Dave' for a really long time.”
Owen: “And then it was changed to 'Davey von Bohlen.' After it was recorded, we changed it to 'Wussy Void'. We don't have many slow songs, so it's like our ballad.”
TMK: Is that why you don't play it live as much?
Owen: “We don't play it much because it's got a more complicated structure than any of our other songs.”
Alanna: “Well it was my favorite on the album, but then Max [their bassist] just said he didn't know it, and that was the end of that.”
Nicholls: “But it's only three chords?”
Owen: “He only plays one string on it.”
TMK: Are you especially psyched that you've recently added it to your live repertoire?
Alanna: “Actually no, because now that we have played it, I realized that I can't sing that high anymore and it's really embarrassing for me. I think I'm out of tune the whole time.” [She def wasn't.]
Nicholls: “But also we can now play a complete set of songs.”

36. Bad History Month “Sad History Month, January 2012”
What might have been intended as Fat's swansong turned into a new era for Jeff Meff. "Sad History Month" boasts closer production value to Fat's pre-hiatus LP, thanks to Philly's most badass sound engineers Dan Angel and James Ryskalchick. But the song's first half is injected with so much sludgy drone and teetering distorted piano octaves that one might not decipher any difference from their earlier self-produced material. Halfway through a particularly rough hospital visit, overbearingly chaotic brain chemicals surge. Devastatingly gothic drones give way to a sunrise that doesn't signal a new dawn. The sun is completely up in flames as a pensive morning arrives. The previously painful stabbing piano re-enters with clarity, but slowly builds in intensity. Curious grinding noises emerge within the final few seconds before an abrupt cut to silence.

35. Juana Molina “Sin Guia, No”
We forgot where we heard this quote, but a wise man once noted that the scariest moment in a suspense thriller isn't when the monster or killer is slicing and dicing, but rather the moment of anticipation. It's that gripping moment just as the door handle starts to turn in slow motion. With that said, “Sin Guia, No” could have easily fit onto the soundtrack of a suspenseful 60s spy movie (or in a vaguely similar art-house film like Blow Up or something). The atmosphere surrounding Juana increases in intensity throughout the song's 5 minutes. As the enemy suddenly catches onto our hero's scheme, sexy-spy will need to think fast in order to avert the situation.

34. Queens of the Stone Age “My God is the Sun”
Did we mention yet that this was the first Queens album with no re-recordings? In its place, they've cranked the “David Bowie” knob far louder than on previous releases, although certain circles may have noted a sudden resemblance to Pile's Dripping LP from 2012. The entire calendar year of 2013 progressed with no new music from Pile, who have since admitted strong influence from Josh Homme and Dave Grohl, fused with their own personalized flair. Perhaps coincidentally, this flair appears generously within “My God is the Sun,” perhaps the biggest hit song Pile never had. Is it possible that Grohl places Kris Kuss among his drumming contemporaries? Does Josh Homme's current phase of songwriting include Pile among his same echoes of influence that Brian Wilson offered Paul McCartney, in turn offering influence to Brian Jones and Keith Richards? And most importantly, when will the QOTSA/Pile tour pummel across the United States and beyond? All this and more will be answered in due time.

33. Jackson Scott “That Awful Sound”
Dreamy teenage-slack and slo-mo weed haze saturates Jackson Scott's 2013 output. His one-man-band uses home recording equipment in a similar style to Mac Demarco's first 2 albums, striking his instruments very quietly and compressed with just enough reverb to evoke gentle dreamy immersion. Even the nearly whispered double-layer vocals don't know their own strength, as if they may push over large furniture without really trying. He should also be commended for the best usage of Christmas bells since prior to indie-rock's hokey 2007-era fascination with glockenspiel. “Evie” and the unfortunately titled “Sandy” are his catchiest early standouts, while “That Awful Sound” may best represent Jackson's charmingly lazy naivety.

32. Kurt Vile “Wakin on a Pretty Day”
Nigel Godrich's contributions to Pavement's Terror Twilight seem especially prevalent in the pristine clarity of “Wakin' on a Pretty Day,” the ultimate wake and bake jam of 2013. The atmosphere strongly evokes clear summer morning skies accompanied by the satisfaction one may receive from a morning coffee and/or cigarette (or in Kurt Vile's case, the stoned-wisdom perspective). Forget about your cellphone for a few hours. Step away from immediacy and urgency. Allow the next two minutes to feel like 20 and simply enjoy the feeling of being alive in a perfect moment alone.

31. Connections “1980 Called”
We'll have to apologize for indulging yet another Connections/Bob Pollard comparison, even though nothing else on their LP raises more suspicions than “1980 Called.” We'd like the think the song title partially disses the overwhelmingly pushy marketing tactic of equating modern music to previous styles or eras. The differences are both subtle and crucial: Connections slightly buries their lyrics in delay, while Pollard typically pushes lyrics closer to the forefront, emphasizing melodic hooks alongside enunciation. The next great Ohio band has arrived.

| 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 |

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Hot Mix 2013: #50 to 41

| 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 |

50. Swearin' “Mermaid”
One of the weirder aspects of this long-predicted "90s revival" thing that we hadn't anticipated lies within the degree of deliberate intent. Are these bands sounding 90s on purpose, by accident, or somewhere in the middle? And do they even sound 90s in the first place, or only to the ears of untrained critics who associate any loud-guitar music with "the 90s?" Most of this can often be accurately assessed on a song-by-song basis. In the case of "Mermaid," the mastering job sounds like 2013. The verses kinda sound like Bossanova, and the guitar solo kinda sounds like Pod. We like the few moments on this Swearin' record when the male-vocalist creeps out of the shadows for some creepy quickies.

49. Yuck “Middle Sea”
We're not usually into rock trumpets. But if lesser-appreciated late-90s jammer singles like Dinosaur Jr's "I'm Insane," Sloan's "Everything You've Done Wrong," Supergrass's "Going Out," or Ben Folds Five's ode to Kermit T. Frog "Don't Change Your Plans" have taught us anything, tasteful brass might occasionally get used to suggest standing tall despite the elements. "Middle Sea" introduces trumpets in a slightly different more subtle context, as a single element within an otherwise triumphant and comforting Bob Ross portrait. (P.S. Drummer bro kinda sorta looks like Bob Ross.) They decided to take a similar lyrical approach to the first Yuck LP where a lot of the same lines are repeated (like on "The Wall" and "Holing Out"), driving home the main points: They don't want to wait forever for someone who's "across the ocean." The trumpets arrive halfway through as a support mechanism.

48. Migos “Versace”
We're assuming lots of kids like to sing along to “Versace,” which is not so much a tribute to Gianni himself, but rather an indulgence, milking hiphop's lame current obsession with designer threads. Kids might hear this and subconsciously fixate themselves with material values, but they probably would just prefer to enjoy the dope hiphop and indulge in the far more enjoyable trend of pointlessly repeating the word's phonetics ad nauseam. 20 years ago, it was “hey ho, hey ho...” Today, it's “Versaceversaceversaceversace...” Warpy sounding intro and outro sections seal the deal.

47. Roomrunner “Wojtek”
Problem Child 2 had a character named "Voytek," whose big scene includes his interruption of a date between his estranged wife and Little Ben Healey (played by John Ritter). We assumed "Wojtek" was pronounced the same way, but it's actually "Vo-tek" according to Roomrunner's Denny Bowen. In our exclusive interview, Bowen reveals: "It's not about the bear. Okay, it's slightly about the bear, but it's mainly about the Czech hockey player. He was playing on the Washington Capitals [at the time the song was written]." Roomrunner are yet another victim of 2013's rock-journo fixation with equating '90s-nostalgia to any modern loud guitar rock, which was not our intention when noting the guitar feedback's resemblance to dialup modem noises. Denny explains, "it's supposed to sound that way," with the feedback chords occurring by virtue of random simultaneous dissonance.

46. Pretty & Nice “Mummy Jets” / "Money Music"
As we've often mentioned in the past, multi-segment pop gems are kinda like our personal catnip, the ones structured in a far more complicated manner than verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus, often including intros, interludes, codas, and mutli-part verses, choruses and bridge sections, seamlessly constructed so that a casual listener won't realize they're invested in something so wildly progressive. "Mummy Jets" infuses the Kevin Barnes prog-leanings with Elvis Costello's thick confidence. For some reason, it also reminds us of Odelay-era Beck or Self. We were hoping to separate our two personal highlights of P&N's latest collection until we realized we've been feeling both jams for the exact same reasons.

45. Unknown Mortal Orchestra “One at a Time”

(Unknown Mortal Kombat? Whatever, we're too lazy to think of anything better.) While the overdriven snare sound is gettin' kinda tired since its overuse over the past few years, its fusion with autowah upper-fret bass licks was enough to make up for "no new Dungen LP in 2013." This is also probably UMO's catchiest and groovin-est track so far. Here's hoping they continue in that direction.

44. No Age "I Won't Be Your Generator"
Every No Age album is a grower. You might grasp a handful of its jams immediately, but it might not grip as a whole until weeks or even months later. With each release, they seem to be sinking deeper into a brooding droning quicksand. Their self-proclaimed description as "dream-punk" connects lively concepts, the dreamers and the punks, staring out the window, rebellious and free. An Object sounds like songs from dudes whose spirit isn't yet broken, but it's getting there. With only their wits to protect themselves, unexpectedly hidden breathing holes supply jams like "I Won't Be Your Generator" with just enough life to exude gutteral desperation. They're still one of the best bands in the world, and we see An Object signifying a transition.

43. Earl Sweatshirt featuring Frank Ocean “Sunday”
Some dude knew all the words to this one last night. Earl and Tyler's rapping styles have grown more interchangeable, with Earl coming across as far more charming. He's matured since his otherwise brilliant naive self-titled mixtape (still our favorite of 2010), with all the hotness of his ingenuity remaining intact. Frank remains the only other member of Odd Future whose truly pulled his weight since their breakthrough. While a few standout jams from Tyler's 2013 LP (Wolf) were worth occasional Spotify playlist appearances during those long summer drives, Earl and Frank have produced the only truly brilliant records of this era. Now that “Sunday” and “Super Rich Kids” have proven their undeniable chemistry, an entire Watch The Throne-style collaborative LP would be worth considering. We predict both artistic and commercial domination.

42. Tony Molina “Don’t Come Back”
“Dissed and Dismissed,” a phrase announced by Usher over the school intercom in the movie She's All That, supplies the mantra for Tony Molina's loudest brief statement since the hiatus of his band The Ovens. 12 songs in 12 minutes, all packed with the sludge and yearning desire of Dinosaur Jr's early releases (back when they were simply called Dinosaur) fused with the emo-hooks within Rivers Cuomo's early demos (back when he was a direct disciple of Brian Wilson). Basically, “early” is the key word here, suggesting big things to arrive 3-4 years from now. As he places emphasis on the strength of hooks and the structure of solos (never improvised, unlike J Mascis), “Don't Come Back” might be his current peak of craftsmanship.

41. Beak> “Kenn”
Beak>'s second LP collected the soundtracks of baron, faraway landscapes, under the sea or on another planet altogether. When the bass breakdown arrives halfway through “Kenn” (the b-side of a 7-inch released late in 2012), we're imagining this as the soundtrack to the dirtiest of dirty alien sex. This breakdown suggests a heightened sense of paranoia, appearing after the drunk, muffled claustrophobia of its A-section, sounding a lot more similar to an outtake from their sessions with Anika. Barely audible vocals, fuzzy drums and disorienting hallucinations seem to arrive out of nowhere. They may be the bravest of the new krautrock bands, since they're the only ones who reach into these dark areas that everyone else in their game are too afraid to explore. It gets dark and dirty, and what they reveal may shock you.

| 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 |