Friday, January 30, 2015

Hot Mix 2014: #20 - 11

Hello everyone. Welcome to our Top 20. Nice of you to join us. This is gonna be fun.

| Hot Mix 2014 on Spotify |

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

20. PC Worship “Baby in the Backroom”
"We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold." Sometimes it's better to just release control and just let everything happen around you. And perhaps the anti-solo in "Baby in the Backroom" is where you'll be led, into a kaleidoscope of multiplying soda cans leaning into single guitar strings suspended in the air, getting plucked by twenty different hands that are now possibly surrounding all 360 degrees around you. It's strangely the moment of zen within PC Worship's Social Rust - the center of that album's see-saw. The off-pitch vocals on either side of this solo represent the human element, so flawed and mesmerizing and genuine. Dean from No Age lamenting over One Foot In The Grave's crustiest moments.

19. Palberta "Susan"
Rare breed: An experimental rock band with three vocalist-songwriters who not only all switch off guitar, bass, and drums (in addition to whatever other odd sounds they might be throwing into their records) but who also present themselves as a true singular unit. Granted, thousands of high school bands can say the same. But there's 2 key differences: #1, Palberta is deliberate and self-aware - lofi, but NOT outsider-music. And #2, most importantly, they fucking slay. As noted earlier, they also insert recurring themes into their songs, like when the first minute-and-change of "Susan" reprises "When I Come" (off their 2013 cassette My Pal Berta). By the time it's done, "Susan" may have revealed itself as arguably the most disorienting rock jam of 2014.

18. Ariana Grande featuring The Weeknd “Love Me Harder”
Bieber, Tay Sway, 1D, Selena G. They've recently been joined by Ariana in that special millennial category of "perpetual teens." When "The Way" debuted back in Summer 2013, she was playin' up that "wholesome kid next door" thing. And not even a year later, she's already flashin' the vag. Kind of an absurdly quick turnaround. "Love Me Harder" seems like her official "sexualized" rite-of-passage moment into "maturity," which really wouldn't matter to us at all if the song wasn't jam-packed with hooks galore. We never expected to hear this much Max Martin on the radio so far into the game. Whenever it seems like Max and his boys are about to fall off, they're right back at it, pumping out more hits than ever, to the point where he was recently crowned The 3rd Most Successful Songwriter of All Time (after John Lennon and Paul McCartney). We think Max and Ariana really got something here. More jams plz.

17. Freddie Gibbs & Madlib "Thuggin'"
"Swiftly 'bout to stick a sweet dick in your sweetheart / Then get some groceries off my geeker EBT card." Okay, so we're actually confused by this one line because the only dinner groceries Gibbs could buy with a junkie's stolen EBT card would be like a box of Mac & Cheese, or something that can be cooked on the stove, unless the girlfriend just wants like some Reece's Eggs and Pringles, in which case he's all set. "And it feels so good, and it feels so right." We thought he might be expressing sarcasm here, as if he's been in the game so long and knows thug-life backwards but also "getting too old for this shit" like Danny Glover in Lethal Weapon. Either way, Gibbs remains on-point all throughout Piñata, rivaling the finest cash flow generators in the trap game. The same goes for Madlib, still the best producer within soulful sample-based hiphop - still just as fresh as he sounded a decade prior on Madvilliany and equally as relevant as hitmakers like Mike Will Made It or DJ Mustard. Anyone calling this album "outdated" needs to wake the fuck up. No other 2014 rap LP's came close to sounding as thoroughly fresh.

16. Charli XCX “Doing It”
A recent track review on Pitchfork boldly groups "Tik Tok," "Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)" and "Party in the U.S.A." as the megahits that "Doing It" aspires to keep in its company. Can the powers that be please allow this to happen? Honestly, we don't expect this song to achieve world domination, although weirder things have happened. But it's a stretch, which sucks because Top 40 so desperately NEEDS a song like "Doing It" right now, way WAY more than it needed Meghan Trainor. Charli XCX needs it to counter-balance her image as the "Boom Clap" girl - a great song that superficially could be perceived as a civil-war-wave derivative. Charli needs her "Say You'll Be There." She's a punky Spice Girl at heart. In the new "radio" edit, Rita Ora re-sang the 2nd verse. She's apparently very famous in Europe and sings like Shakira, which doesn't really fit the atmosphere of the song, but whatever. At least they get to high-five in the video. Girl power n stuff.

15. Grass Is Green “Big Dog Tee Shirt Birthday Weekend”
You know when the fuse on a stick of dynamite is long enough that you can watch the sparks as they make their way up to the explosive kaboom? That's basically the first 15 seconds of this song. Dope vocal effects and nicely toned distorted bass ride out the verses as they lead in and out of the noisefuck choruses. We spoke briefly with Devin and Andy from "The GIG" to discuss arguably the most immediate moment on Vacation Vinny.

Devin: "That one's a good one. It's got the baritone. It's a little more gruff. It's good. Big Dog tee shirts are where it's at, ya know, where they're like 'Be Tough Or Go Home.'"
TMK: Or sometimes it's like The Rock, or a basketball player.
Devin: "Yeah, Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson."
Andy: "It's just like an overall mood."
TMK: We were told the title originally had your name in it.
Andy: "Yeah, it was originally called 'Andy's Birthday.' We played a show with a comedian dude [Ethan Marsh], and it was that guy's joke. The Big Dog tee shirt. The title was based off his joke."

14. Warpaint “Love Is To Die”
Face the portal. An entry into the unknown. Step inside. Stand still if you'd like; the conveyor belt will do the walking for you. As chain smoking Sam-Well Jackson in Jurassic Park would say, "hold onto your butts." If the walls start moving around, stare at them longer. Shit gets darker and darker until it's pitch black, and then the chorus hits. Suddenly, the surrounding tunnel turns neon dark-green with pink and yellow flying everywhere. Don't go in too deep though. It's possible that this whole time you were driving in the summer rain at 3AM. Or maybe that's the only part of this that ISN'T real. Whatever you do, don't wake up.

13. D'Angelo “Really Love” / D'Angelo “The Charade”
Remembering the first time we saw the album cover of Al Green's Greatest Hits (reissued on CD, over 20 years after its release date). We couldn't help but ask outloud, "What the fuck ever happened to guys like this?" D'Angelo seems to have agreed with this sentiment. It wouldn't be untrue to call Black Messiah a handbook of soul music history written by D'Angelo himself, taking each of those giants and expanding on their sounds - sometimes combining two giants into one song, but also presented in a fresh light that's entirely starring D'Angelo. "The Charade" and "Really Love" are the calm after the storm closing Side A (along with "Sugah Daddy"). It's the section of the album that feels most similar to Marvin Gaye's What's Going On or Al Green's Call Me. "Charade's" closing harmonies are the second coming of Prince and the Revolution. (Or it's the closest we've come ever since.) After years of floating around online, the final version of "Really Love" came out gorgeous enough that it was completely worth all the wait, without a single wasted moment in its 2-minute solo-guitar intro.
Really Love:
The Charade:

12. Disco Doom "Rice & Bones"
The car's facing the edge of the cliff. Does he shift to drive? Does he hit the gas? "Rice and Bones" is Disco Doom's finest exercise in restraint, slowly and painfully building into a Mogwai-style wall of blazing chaos. It's a 5-minute structural palindrome of sorts. Starting quietly pensive, it slowly builds without revealing too much, with appropriately few lyrics sung quietly from Gabriele De Mario, until it reaches the inevitable devastatingly crushing center. There's some more lyrics here also, but the blaze is so high that his voice is lost among the wreckage. It grows, it peaks, and then it fades again, returning to normalcy, never deviating from its 5-bar chord structure. It's so strange how simplicity can sometimes transmit universal emotion so effectively. The picture speaks a thousand words.

11. Future featuring Pusha T, Pharrell & Casino “Move That Dope”
In case there was any doubt, Skateboard P wins this contest. "Frequency high, like a spaceship." Pharrell, don't you dare ever hold back on those references to aliens and outer space. His verse is so good that it's almost unfair, making the surrounding verses seem comparatively embarrassing. Casino takes a distant 2nd place, closing out the song with some amusing hype-man insanity. Future's verse is basically all feeling and rhythm. It might take the average listener MANY attempts before deciphering what mush-mouth might be attempting to articulate. Pusha T enunciates well enough, but by the time he's done it starts to feel phoned-in. (No worries though. Pharrell steers us back on course mere seconds later.) Had it not been for the glaringly uneven vocal performances, "Move That Dope" would have been a safe bet for our Top 3, despite that it's very easy to overlook this flaw thanks to Mike Will Made It's ferocious beat (possibly the sickest of 2014) and that brilliantly contagious hook. Shit's unstoppable.


| Hot Mix 2014 on Spotify |

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

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Hot Mix 2014: #30 - 21

Updated: | Hot Mix 2014 on Spotify |

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

30. Aphex Twin “180db_[130]”
Insane David Lynch Posse. Flat Eric probably loves this song. If you don't know who Flat Eric is, then just imagine a room full of sock puppets and hand puppets headbanging as hard as the human wrist will allow. If you've seen Wrong Cops, it sounds like some song they would dig. Guess that means it sounds like Mr. Oizo. But wait - no, what we really mean is that it's a bizarro-reality version of pop music from some decade (one that wasn't the '90s) that never actually happened. Or the next '90s - the one that will take place post-apocalypse after we rebuild the internet and everything progresses almost the same way as over the past 100 years. Also hugely disorienting if you're not careful. Just headbang. It's fun.
[Couldn't find this song or really anything else from Syro on Youtube, but here's a live version of one of them:]

29. Usher "Good Kisser"

Usher reclaims the "MJ with classiness" throne back from J-Timb - not like it was hard after the ball-drop that was 20/20 Experience. Usher is def beloved, although few stars are as beloved as JT who can get away with releasing subpar fluff like "SexyBack" and "Suit and Tie" even though they're not nearly as good as "Good Kisser" or "She Came to Give It to You." Or "Climax" or "Love in this Club" - did everyone already forget these? That said, Usher's earned some underdog appeal. He's still the man and current champion of the post-MJ game.

28. Palberta “Store” / Palberta “All the Way”
Palberta has lots of songs about going to the store. Two of these are tied here. This makes us wonder, what exactly is going on at this special "store" that keeps them coming back for more? Is it a product or a person? Is it neither? Is it both? It's all very cryptic and mysterious. One might notice the triangle in their live presentation suspiciously resembling the Illuminati symbol. The looseness in their musicianship seems to drastically counter-balance and mask meticulous craftsmanship. We refused to believe all those minor-2nds and diminished triads just miraculously ended up in their songs by accident, as if mom dropped them off at daycare that morning and within seconds they all looked at each other and decided "let's do a band" and all at once they ran into the kitchen pulled out some pots and pans and Marshall halfstacks and started screaming "I WENT TO THE STORE" in unison. They won't even crack a smile within their live setting - not unless it's been written into whatever song they're playing. And they have choreography! We usually hate choreography in rock music, but Palberta is the exception. Go team dissonance.

27. Two Inch Astronaut “Black Fridge Area”
Breaking news: We got the final word from Sam Rosenberg, Matt Gatwood and Andy Chervenak about "Black Fridge Area." What we learned may shock you.

Matt: "I got really drunk at a party on St. Patrick's Day 2013, and their refrigerator was black."
TMK: Whose refrigerator?
Matt: "Her name was Rachel, I think. And I don't really know how it came about, but Sam started videotaping me, and he asked me a question, and I didn't really answer his question, but I said something about being lost inside of the black fridge area. And then Sam and Daniel and this guy Aaron made an 8-minute video involving this. So I was shown the video later, and the video based on that video, but I didn't remember any of it."
TMK: Are you guys gonna make an official video for this song? Because it sounds like it's already done.
Matt: "Well, there's a video without the song."
Andy: "'Black Fridge Area' makes me really hungry for black forest ham."
Sam: "It's about NyQuil."
Andy: "And black forest ham in my tummy."
Sam: "It's when you go to Subway and you get the BMT. What is a BMT again?"
Andy: "Bacon, meat and tomato? Is that what it is?"
TMK: Okay, anything else?
Sam: "Uh. Colesville. Free Adnan. Trumbull."
TMK: Cool. Thank you.

26. Geromimo! “Spitting in the Ocean”
We're bummed that it took us until this far down the road to realize that the title of Geromimo!'s demo cassette series Buzz Yr Girlfriend refers to a quote from Home Alone. Little did we know that we figured this out past the point when we might ever get to see them play again, since last October when they broke the news: The seven year itch is a real thing. They've already completed their final US tour. They have one more EP, a split 7-inch with Ovlov, and a final few shows in Chicago planned for 2015 before calling it quits. Even with one more fresh batch of music on the horizon, the recent news gave Cheap Trick the feel of a swan song, with their announcement aligning with the bittersweet atmosphere of "Spitting in the Ocean," the jam that seemed to resonate with more than a few fans as one of the true rock anthems of Summer 2014. Kelly and Ben from Geronimo! lent a quick word:

Kelly: "'Spitting' is about a falling out with a friend that you had a close relationship with. Missing that person but knowing the feeling is for naught. Not knowing if things will change but ultimately reconciling those feelings."
Ben: "I think we were sort of going for an Archers of Loaf vibe. Especially with the gang vocals towards the end. It came together pretty quick."
TMK: I love how it has those stabbing harmonics in the intro, almost like a Jimmy Eat World song.
Ben: "Haha, man, I never listened to them, but I know Kelly was into them back in high school. I was into way cooler stuff like, um, *cough* Less Than Jake."

25. Miguel “nwa” / Miguel “Coffee”

We're a little scared including these, since they don't seem to be the complete versions that will ultimately be included on some forthcoming Miguel full length. Especially "Coffee" which just kinda ends abruptly. We're scared because the future versions of these songs will probably surpass their already dope freshness. Although "Gravity" was dope as hell and wasn't included on Kaleidoscope Dream, so maybe they're intended as stray jams, in which case we're off the hook. Who really knows, but in either case we're pumped as hell for more of Miguel's 3-song mini-mixtapes in 2015.
Might as well just post the entire mixtape here:

24. Migos featuring Young Thug "YRN"

These guys are having the greatest time pretty much ever, playin' around with rhyme games in some metaphorical yacht party drinking metaphorically extravagant beverages in fancy glasses. The band they'll be rapping over at the lounge party only does Chuck Mangione and Herb Alpert covers. No problems here. Just fugger/thugger. Favorite scream-along lyric: "I'm in love with Benjamin Frank-a-lins!"

23. Ex Hex “Don't Wanna Lose”
After Mary Timony spent decades dabbling in ass-kicking renaissance-influenced math rock, who knew she had it in her to dream up so many flawless power-pop gems? Did Mary even know? We sometimes get the impression that she doesn't know her own strength. Her latest batch rivals all the giants of late '70s garage and power-pop: The Undertones, Blondie, Joan Jett and Buzzcocks. It's been years since THIS kind of album has sounded THIS good. Track 1, Side 1. Start with the big hit. "Like Motown used to do." (Wasn't that in the liner-notes for Something/Anything?) We spoke with Mary and Betsy Wright from Ex Hex who were kind enough to offer some insight:

Betsy: "It's a pretty simple song. Mary wrote it before I met her, and I feel like she was trying something fun that had some punch to it, like with the reverb-y hits at the beginning."
Mary: "Yeah, I think I wrote it before the band formed. The pedal that I used sounds big and crazy, but it's actually a really shitty VOX delay pedal, and I was kinda like 'I can't believe we actually used that.'" The verses are very garage-rock, kinda like 13th Floor Elevators or something."
TMK: Is there a key-change in the chorus, or does it just sound that way without modulating?
Betsy: "No, it doesn't really modulate technically. The only song of ours with a proper modulation is 'Hot and Cold.' But I want to try more of those - a song with 2 or 3 modulations, when you have really simple chords but then you bring it up a half-step and then again and again. It takes you into another universe."

22. Charli XCX “Boom Clap”
"What's that one that's like 'Bang Clang Pow?'" "Boom Clap" initially felt lost in the haze of faceless summer hits not long after it got linked into the promotion for that terminal-illness related teen romcom thing. Sucker changed all that, drastically refreshing its appeal thanks to the rejuvenating energy of its sister jams. Even that one she co-wrote with Rivers Cuomo is kinda sorta decent, and that's saying a lot. In this context, "Boom Clap" is Charli's "Karma Police" - the ubiquitous hit that always sounds great on the radio because you know it's representing a great album. X-Mas shopping at Dollar Magic and Family Dollar was actually not so bad this year, partially because of how much "Boom Clap" kept getting spun on the muzak. Thank you Charli.

Also, a quick special message to those jerks who are all like "does everything really have to be a Radiohead comparison?" Thanks to your efforts, Hot Mix 2014 now has more unnecessary Radiohead references than ever before. We're new and improved.

21. Pile “Special Snowflakes”
It might not be fair to tag "Special Snowflakes" as Pile's "Stairway to Heaven." We'll instead reserve that honor for "Prom Song" - the Side A closer from 2012's Dripping with the closest thing to "the Jesus of guitar solos" anyone's pulled off in the 2010s so far (by a long shot). "Special Snowflakes" seems comparatively obscured and mysterious. In the quiet parts, the upright piano reveals some psychedelic tendencies. For a minute, we thought it might be their "No Quarter," but the entirety of Houses of the Holy might make more sense, since the song breezes through nearly an entire album's worth of ideas in just over 7 minutes. But its most impressive feature is the honing of its structure. It's not easy to effortlessly craft that many ideas into one song without resorting to Mr. Bungle levels of chaos. Try closer to Faith No More, Black Sabbath, Meat Puppets, Mudhoney. But a version of these that sounds both crude and graceful.

| Hot Mix 2014 on Spotify |

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

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Hot Mix 2014: #40 - 31

We forgot we were supposed to keep doing this. Whatever, we're still way ahead of schedule compared to last year.

| Hot Mix 2014 on Spotify |

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

40. Ovlov “The Great Ohmu”
One of our favorite stray '90s jams happened at the end of 1995 when Pearl Jam's "I Got Shit" hit #7 on the Hot 100. "Shit" is an anomaly for PJ, mostly because singer and guitarist Eddie Vedder is the only band member who actually plays on it. The rest of the band is comprised of Chili Peppers' drummer Jack Irons, producer Brendan O'Brien doubling as bassist, and Neil Young (yes, that Neil Young) on lead guitar. As a result, "I Got Shit" also has its own specific atmosphere, separate from the rest of their music. We're gonna guess that Ovlov probably isn't into Pearl Jam, but we couldn't help ourselves from noticing an easy, cheap comparison.

"The Great Ohmu" is also a one-off with different musicians. Alongside "The Great Crocodile" and "Ohmu Shell" (both performed by the same lineup they've had since 2012), they form an unofficial trilogy of monsters that appeared on three split releases in the summer and fall of 2014, causing at least one confused fan to ask, "Why didn't they just release an EP?" Ovlov were unavailable to comment (as they're currently touring Canada), but we think we hear the reason for this in the songs themselves: They each generate their own specific energy that feels different from any other release they've had so far, which is especially true for "The Great Ohmu." In addition to the one-off line-up, it's the only Ovlov track we've ever heard that sounds like Neil Young (yup, Neil Young again - with Crazy Horse's vocal harmonies, of course) shredding over one of Uncle Acid's more grotesque creatures. It's one of those "Godzilla knocking down buildings in slow motion" type jams that are like catnip for people like us. Again, we couldn't find Ovlov in time for this, but recording engineer Julian Fader was available to speak about the "Great Ohmu" session:

"That's me. I'm drumming. Jesse Paller is playing bass. He's our intern and biggest Ovlov fan. Jesse was shitting himself with happiness. We did it live, and then Steve [Hartlett] didn't want me to mix it. So we just used the rough mix, pretty much. I guess I'm glad about that because I probably would've fucked it up."

39. Disco Doom “Dead Eye”
"Dead Eye" is the song we would play for someone if they asked "what does Disco Doom sound like?" It's probably the quintessential DD-moment of Numerals, a wildly inventive record showcasing their mastery for restraint and appropriate placement of weird noises, a psychedelic approach to noise-rock. This is no hippie bullshit. "Dead Eye" includes a quick theme-and-variation, with the theme established in the first minute and change (the section with the lyrics and words). It's this launching point that frames the canvas with Disco Doom's dependably delicate chord structures, a subtlety often masked by meticulous selection of effects pedals, not unlike similar heroes of '80s underground rock - Dinosaur Jr and Sonic Youth. It gets trippy and trancey, but it's also a 4-minute song that easily could have expanded to 15-minutes in the hands of some self-indulgent art-rock bros. Sorry Boomers. The '60s sucked. Get to the money shot, and move on.

38. Jute Gyte "Semen Dried into the Silence of Rock and Mineral"
There's not much more we can say about this song that we didn't already say about "Mansions of Fear," even though we were determined to fit two Jute Gyte songs into this list so we have no one else to blame but ourselves. There's only so far you can go when describing microtonal math-rock influenced blackmetal. But that's okay because instead we'll use this as an opportunity post the "Ants In My Eyes" Johnson commercial.

37. Mac Demarco "Passing Out Pieces"
What's the name of that sci-fi movie from the late-'60s or early-'70s where they're like "in the year 2014" and everyone's wearing aluminum foil suits and a song not too unsimilar from "Passing Out Pieces" is playing on the radio in the opening scene? It's not A Clockwork Orange, although the Moog synths easily project the same warmth as Wendy Carlos' soundtrack (or any of the keyboard solos on Abbey Road). And also what's that goofy, quirky indie film from the late-80's or early-'90s about apathetic slackers where something that kinda sounds like the more experimental half of Salad Days plays during the panning of the landscapes? Maybe it was all a dream. The more unconventional half of Salad Days serves a necessary layer of wholeness and completion, with the lo-fi warmth sent from the same universe as 2 and Rock & Roll Night Club. AM sunshine. AM radio. Where's that limited edition 8-track re-release? Our $34 is ready.

36. Schoolboy Q featuring Kendrick Lamar “Collard Greens”
Increased pulse. Breathe in, breathe out. A more fantastical person might associate this with Jack Bauer - always on the move - or possibly paranoia if they're the one being sought. For those who enjoy fitness, a good run in the park or a weight training never hurt. But our guess is that the manic urgency of "Collard Greens" refers to something a little raunchier than this. We had to Google it, and our suspicions were close: "Curly greens" is in fact a euphemism for a little of the ol' in-out-in-out. A quick one before the elevator reaches the top floor. We also hear buried references to about 9 other hiphop songs, including Kanye's "The New Workout Plan" (duh), but also "Get some dick tonight" from "Ass (Dance)" and "Freak the freckles off your face" from "Molasses." Mysterious skin.

35. Ariana Grande featuring Zedd “Break Free”
“Problem” isn't bad, but it always sounded to us like a puzzle that was pieced back together incorrectly, whereas “Break Free” sounds a little more complete and satisfying as a whole. Max Martin's touch is obvious in the layers of vocals that get added as the song unfolds, leading up to the EDM-coda - the literal moment of breaking free from its previous structural elements, basically presenting the key to the whole song. A declaration of freedom. “Fuck everyone, I just wanna eat molly and dance forever.” Oh yeah, also this was the one where she got pissed about the lyrics because homeschooling never taught her about poetic license. "Now that I've become who I really are." "I only wanna die alive." It's not like they were titling the song something egregious like "I Gotta Feeling." She wasn't into it though, busting into the studio and giving everyone a mouthful. "Yo, I don't think so. You can't make me. I'm cute Ariana, ya heard?. Homie don't play that." And she was all cute-pissed with her head moving back and forth. Max Martin just smiled and shook us head and made a "talk to the hand" motion and was all like "pppppsssshh bish pleese."

34. Ava Luna "Daydream" / Ava Luna “Sears Roebuck M&Ms”
We had to tie tracks 1 & 2 for this entry because how could we separate those guys? They just seem to like each other so much. Acid-rock filtered through funk-punk steeped in No New York with a twist of Remain In Light. That's some mmm tasty shit. Where's Julian Fader? We haven't heard from him in a minute:

"We recorded those update on our friends' farm. We just went and lived up there for a while and recorded. I remember when we recorded 'Daydream' everyone was dancing, like everyone who wasn't playing on the rhythm tracks. They were just like leaping up and down."

33. YG featuring Drake “Who Do You Love”
Shimmering grit. Grit that shimmers. A little too much shimmer on that 5-note e-piano loop. Imagine the dopeness if it were instead sampled RZA-style, lofi from an acoustic piano. Close enough though. DJ Mustard reinforces the darkness and minimalism, joining Gravediggaz' 6 Feet Deep with "New Slaves" from Yeezus. That creepy slowed-down voice from the outro of Warren G's "This DJ" makes a quick cameo after two decades of silence. (This is actually our favorite part.) Halloween jam. Also, sorry about before when we mistakenly thought we had a Drake-less Hot Mix. We forgot he was on this because his verse is kinda not memorable at all, but at least it isn't distracting in any sense.

32. Alex G “Serpent Is Lord”
Yes, we know that's a cobra and not a serpent, but it's Master Shake's tattoo, so just leave it already. There's a couple Alex G songs where the first 20-30 seconds (before the vocals enter) kinda sounds like the intro of "Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm" by Crash Test Dummies, a frequent MTV hit from the winter of 1994 that nobody really talks about anymore (and one of the least-remembered of Weird Al's parody videos). With or without that context, "Serpent Is Lord" still projects adolescent, contemplative introspection, alone in the bedroom with the door locked, headphones on, with a sign on the door telling your parents to stay the fuck out. Or like that movie Son of Ranbow where those kids in the '80s make their own version of Rambo using shitty Super 8 cameras. DSU is an album full of gentle ballads like these, intimately nearby the trudges through childhood's trials.

31. Hospitality "It's Not Serious"
NBD. No gimmicks here. Just flawlessly structured songwriting and musicianship, warm and understated - the type that we wish would come around more often these days. Seriously, this could have been on Dusty In Memphis. It even has a bass solo! Plus, a clever little coda section. Slap a Burt Bacharach or Jimmy Webb jam on the b-side and we got ourselves a winner here.

| Hot Mix 2014 on Spotify |

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

Too Many Grandpas

Faster grandpa! Grandpa's gainin' on us!

Love these dudes so much. The video got posted last week, but then removed from Youtube within hours. However, we didn't realized it resurfaced just a few days later on the B-Boys Youtube account. It's like nothing changed. Fucking coolest.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Monkeywrench Radio '98

Hell yeah. We found a Youtube video of Monkeywrench Radio that's embedded below.

For those like us who were listening on the East Coast, this radio show took place on a Saturday night - January 31, 1998 - starting somewhere around 10 or 11PM, and it was finished probably between 2 and 3AM, early on February 1st. (The satellite feed was live from Seattle, so everything on the West Coast was 3 hours earlier.)

For some reason, our post about Pearl Jam from 4 years ago receives more views than most of the stuff we post on here. But in that post, we briefly discussed Self-Pollution Radio, a 4-hour simulcast from Eddie Vedder's basement in January 1995 that included 15-20 minute sets from Pearl Jam and their friends' bands (like Mudhoney and Soundgarden among others), as well as discussion about social issues, interviews with weirdos like Mike Watt, and lots of records. 90% of what they played sounded like it was spun from a single turntable hooked up to a soundboard, although there might have been a second turntable. It sounded like they had a lot of fun putting the whole thing together, and they expressed interest in doing more of them.

The only other basement simulcast like this happened three years later. Self-Pollution Radio took place fairly close to the peak of Pearl Jam's popularity, while Monkeywrench Radio - essentially the sequel - took place well after that point. By then, Soundgarden had split up, and the weirdo college-rock crossover singles that once infected stations like New York's Z100 between 1994-1995 had been supplanted by safe VH1-friendly alt-rock.

While Self-Pollution Radio was pretty heavily advertised and discussed on MTV News, Monkeywrench Radio didn't receive nearly as much buzz prior to the broadcast. It's possible that a lot of people who would have been interested in listening simply had no idea that it was happening. So basically, it's a little harder to find a copy of this one.

Within the past few weeks, someone uploaded their cassette-taped-off-the-radio copy of this to Youtube. It's probably not that difficult to find the actual soundboard recording if you dig far enough, but Youtube is so much more convenient and less time-consuming. The entire broadcast is not here though... Only what this guy was able to fit onto 2 90-minute tapes, which is actually more awesome in a way, even though it's cut short by the time Stone Gossard gets around to spinning records from Missy Elliot and Timbaland.

One amazing moment from the "Part 2" video is revealed during Mike Watt's long-winded interview, when he mentions that the simulcast on LA's KROQ was pulled after in the middle of Krist Novoselic's weirdo rant that included the entirety of The Beach Boys' "Wouldn't It Be Nice." And we don't mean "weirdo" in a negative way. There are very few moments throughout these two tapes that are anything less than incredible, serving their purpose of presenting these rock legends as just normal homies hangin' out and doing their thing.

This is definitely the kind of video that could easily get removed from Youtube at any time. (They already forced the uploader to mute The Ramones' "Rock N' Roll Radio.") So enjoy it while it's available.

Here's the playlist pulled from a version that was distributed on CD:

Disc 1:
01. MW
02. Sonic Youth - Teenage Riot
03. The Ramones - Rock N Roll Radio
04. Stereolab - Noise Of Carpet
05. Pearl Jam - Do The Evolution (live)
06. Pearl Jam - Given To Fly (live)
07. Pearl Jam - Pilate (live)
08. Pearl Jam - Wishlist (live)
09. Pailhead - Don't Stand In Line
10. The Presidents of the USA - Bath Of Fire
11. Ani De Franco - Fuel
12. Zeke - Unknown (live)
13. Zeke - Twisted (live)
14. Zeke - Highway Alter (live)
15. Zeke - Wanna Fuck? (live)
16. Zeke - Chiva Knievel (live)
17. Zeke - West Seattle Acid Party (live)
18. Zeke - Easy Rider (live)
19. Zeke - Unknown (live)
20. Sleater Kinney - Dig Me Out

Disc 2:
01. Ed Talks With Gloria Steinem
02. Ed Talks With Corin Tucker
03. The Need - Unknown
04. Mudhoney - Editions Of You (live)
05. Mudhoney - Oblivion Into Infinity (live)
06. Mudhoney - Real Love Vibe (live)
07. Mudhoney - Have To Laugh (live)
08. Wellwater Conspiracy - Sandy
09. Lukin's Phone Message
10. Ed Talks With Steve Turner
11. The Sonics - He's Waiting
12. Kent 3 - DJ New
13. Pearl Jam - Brain Of J (live)
14. Pearl Jam - In Hiding (live)
15. Pearl Jam - Spin The Black Circle (live)

Disc 3:
01. Soundgarden - HIV Baby
02. Ed Talks With Krist Novoselic
03. Beach Boys - Wouldn't It Be Nice
04. REM - Live For Today
05. Tuatara - Saturday Night Chruch (live)
06. Tuatara - L'Espionnage de Pomme de Terre (live)
07. Tuatara - Serengeti (live)
08. Tuatara - The Streets Of New Delhi (live)
09. Chris Cornell - Unshower
10. Ed Talks With Mike Watt
11. Mike Watt - Pedro Bound

Disc 4:
01. Brad - I Don't Know (live)
02. Brad - Not Too Late (live)
03. Brad - Buttercup (live)
04. Hifi Killers - Unknown
05. Hot Chocolate - You Sexy Thing
06. Timbalind & Magoo - Luv 2 Luv You
07. Miss Elliot - Beep Me 911
08. YaYa's - Long Ways
09. Pearl Jam - Nothingman (live)
10. Bill Clinton Speech
11. Hovercraft - Unknown
12. Legion Of Doom
13. Ed Takes A Call
14. Louis Armstrong - What A Wonderful World

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Hot Mix 2014: #50 - 41

Updated: | Hot Mix 2014 on Spotify |

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

50. Avey Tare's Slasher Flicks "Little Fang"

Springtime. Smiley sunshine pop. Authentic '70s AM Gold not intended for mainstream consumption. Lindsay Buckingham & Donald Fagen had twin babies and one of them got lost and ended up in a psych ward after swallowing too much acid and he turned out to be Ariel Pink, but the one they raised properly wrote and sang on "Little Fang."

49. Two Inch Astronaut “Part of Your Scene”
We were pretty psyched after we saw T.Scene burnouts Dead Wives getting cited by Two Inch Astronaut as a reference point for "Part of Your Scene." However, due to beer consumption, we embarrassingly ended up asking Matt Gatwood and Sam Rosenberg about this a few months later.
Matt: "'Part of Your Scene' is our Smashing Pumpkins / Foo Fighters homage."
TMK: I guess that makes a lot more sense than Dead Wives.
Matt: "Well, Dead Wives has some Smashing Pumpkins sounding songs."
TMK: True. Was the Dead Wives citation a joke? We were pretty proud of that.
Sam: "No! It wasn't a joke. That was the way it happened. Daniel [Pouridas] and I were trying to impersonate other bands. I think we tried to do a Roomrunner one too, right before trying out the Dead Wives impression that resulted in 'Part of Your Scene.' Just going through impersonations of other bands. None of them were very accurate, but we liked [how that one sounded]."

48. Flagland "Not a Joke"
While Kevin Smith was compiling the Mallrats soundtrack, Doc Brown paid him a visit from the year 1985 (after returning from 2015) and he was like "Morty! I mean Marty! I mean Kevin Smith. Come back to 1985 with me." So Kevin Smith went back to 1985 because who the fuck wouldn't, but all that Doc Brown wanted to talk about was the vinyl resurgence of the 2010s and Flagland's Love Hard LP. Kevin Smith was like "Oh cool, I guess I'll just be on my way then. Hey what's that over there?" and that was his way of distracting Doc Brown while he stole the time machine and went to 2015. Doc Brown was like "cool, well like don't die or anything because I kinda need that thing." And Kevin Smith was like "no worries, I'm just gonna real quick just check out the Flagland album on Bandcamp and then I'll go to the Silent Barn and buy the Flagland LP on vinyl." And so he went to 2015 and did all of that and returned the time machine to Doc Brown who was pissed at him, and he didn't say anything. He just dropped off Kevin Smith back to 1995 and peaced. But then Kevin Smith was all like "oh fuck, I guess I can't put 'Not A Joke' on the Mallrats soundtrack because I totally forgot that vinyl isn't cool yet and none of my friends have turntables and they don't know how to use download codes. So I guess I'm gonna have to wait a few years until I can buy a turntable from Amazon.Com. I also find it strange that snotty vocals and mid-tempo songs with loud guitars are basically all it takes to get 2015-era interviewer blogger dudes to think that all you listen to is Last Splash and Siamese Dream. I wonder if the Mallrats soundtrack will ever be pressed to vinyl for Record Store Day."

47. FKA Twigs “Two Weeks”
Janet Jackson's "Any Time, Any Place" mashed with something from Portishead's Third. This wasn't as raunchy as The Weeknd's "Wicked Games," and it sounds way better. Using the excessive, whispered "fucks" and "mothafuckas" to more of a sensual effect, the dirty words end up kinda pulling in the listener super close. And before you know it, boom - the chorus is stuck in your head (probably for about two weeks). More fun facts: Her face looks like how people's faces look when you're on acid. Also, she's ok at dancing. No big whoop:

46. Lil B “Fuck KD (Kevin Durant Diss)”
The surprisingly solid NBA-themed concept mixtape Hoop Life not only turned out to be Lil B's most #BASED since God's Father but also represents the culmination of Lil B's most notorious Twitter feud.

***Taste My Kids Presents: A Brief History of Lil B Vs. Kevin Durant***
  • MAY 2011: Kevin Durant tweets "I listened to Lil B and I can't believe this guy is relevant." Shots fired. In response, Lil B tweets "Kevin Durant will never win the title after he said Lil B is a wack rapper." This was immediately observed by fans as Lil B's curse.
  • SUMMER 2012: KD and Lil B occasionally tweeted back and forth about planning a one-on-one match. Lil B claims to be an amazing point guard, and says KD should be scared. Unfortunately, the game couldn't be planned before the summer's end. Despite this, Lil B lifted the curse, albeit temporarily. Not long afterwards, the feud was back in action.
  • March 2014: Lil B's "Fuck KD" video premieres on Youtube. “I like Roc Nation and I love Jay Z / But on West Side, I’m screaming ‘Fuck KD.’”
  • SEPT 2014: KD and Lil B claim to be on good terms.
  • OCT 2014: KD is injured on the court and benched for a month. Lil B responds: "I THOUGHT THE CURSE WAS OVER BASEDGOD! PLEASE I NEED TO TALK TO "THE BASEDGOD" I THOUGHT THE CURSE WAS OVER! (SCREAMING) - Lil B"

    45. D'Angelo “Ain't That Easy”
    Black Messiah was introduced to the world with a jam that was meticulously planned to sound completely unplanned, spontaneous and unlabored. When those hasty first-pass write-ups started arriving in the hundreds during the AM of 12/15/14 (It's really only been one month?), many early reviewers immediately cited There's A Riot Goin' On for its similar effortlessness, even though it's the only time Black Messiah sounds this way. The long journey that D'Angelo & Co traveled to deliver Black Messiah seemed to pay off the most within that first moment. Playful, smiling and nodding in the jam session with Q-Tip.

    44. Freddie Gibbs and Madlib featuring Danny Brown "High"
    The Biggie sample introduces the first hit, right before Madlib's beat kicks in. "High" is about the following moment, the euphoria that seems infinite even though IRL it might only last 3 minutes (as long as the song itself). Danny Brown enters the room with confidence during verse three, only moments before the "wtf just happened" crash and burn within the last 25 seconds. Smoking the dipper only makes matters worse as everything comes down (a strange turn not usually taken within hiphop). There isn't even time for a victorious third chorus before reality settles in. Some people's faces hover overhead. "Are you ok? God bless, man."

    43. Nick Jonas “Jealous” / Taylor Swift “Style”
    Who exactly does Taylor Swift subtweet when she debates "evil pop" vs "smart pop?" No one can be sure, although two points are certain. #1: She regards her own album 1989 as "smart pop." And #2: Even though she doesn't name names, odds are stacked in favor of her arch-nemesis Katy Perry's album Prism regarded "evil pop." This would be kinda fascinating if true, considering that Max Martin co-wrote and co-produced 10 of the songs on Prism and 9 of the songs on 1989 (and that Martin's three #1's from 2014 were "Dark Horse," "Shake It Off" and "Blank Space"). Basically, Taylor's buds are "smart," but the kids like Miley who laugh at Taylor while her back's turned are "evil."

    As the current greatest savant of fan engagement continues encouraging her million-plus disciples to side with "smart pop," most fans have nitpicked her body language enough to deduce that she's remained on good terms with The Jonas Bros since her split from whichever one of them used to dig her out back in the day. So this probably means that Taylor calls Nick Jonas' self-titled "smart." We should hope so at least, since "Jealous" and "Style" are so uncannily similar sounding: Same key, same tempo, same drum beat, etc.

    We slightly prefer "Jealous" (a non-Max Martin jam) over "Style," despite the silly lyrics ("Puffin' my chest" lol) which are kinda NBD because the rhythm of the lyrics kinda roll off the tongue nicely. (And also it sounds kinda like "Adorn" by Miguel which is also same key & tempo.) She's too sexy/beautiful. And he STILL gets jealous - meaning he's felt this way on-and-off for a while, which means he's prolly a controlling/dick BF. We'd like to think he might be playing a character here.

    42. Vertical Scratchers “Way Out”
    Like Ween's Pure Guava or Dark Side of the Moon or your favorite mixtape, Daughter of Everything is one of those perfectly sequenced records where the segues and transitions get just as ingrained as the songs themselves. You'll be minding your business one day and realize Track 1 is stuck in your head. But not long afterwards you'll realize that Track 4 is stuck only seconds before also realizing that the entire album has been playing in your brain for the past 10 minutes. (The quick intro song "Wait No Longer" came onto a mix the other day, and it was def unsettling hearing it lead into anything other than Track 2.) So yeah anyway, the moral of the story is that "Way Out" is dope enough that it actually works on its own. It's also the one that probably sounds most like The Kinks.

    41. Richard Dawson “The Vile Stuff”
    Enormous and minimal. After one of the most impressive solo guitar intros we've ever heard (lasting almost 4 minutes - almost as if it's a separate song), the groove locks and the whole thing just dives head-first into a head-nodding, meditative trance. Everything sounds so exposed and live and one-take. #RARE #Magic There's a couple verses, some bridges, and choruses, so its structure actually isn't that strange except for the fact that it's a 16 minute song that feels closer to 6 minutes. Bad History Month should tour with this guy.
    Here's a version that removes most of the dope intro:

    | Hot Mix 2014 on Spotify |

    | #100 - 91 | #90 - 81 | #80 - 71 | #70 - 61 | #60 - 51 |
    | #50 - 41 | #40 - 31 | #30 - 21 | #20 - 11 | #10 - 1 |
  • Wednesday, January 14, 2015

    Hot Mix 2014: #60 - 51

    This is a weird page. They're probably all going to get weirder from this point forward. We've been saying that literally anything is ok to say about these songs as long as it takes up space, and so at least one of these descriptions ended up being absurdly long for no apparent reason, and another one is just like quoting a bit from a stand-up CD - one that's kind of embarrassing but at the time it felt right. Also, we broke our stride due to laziness stuff. But whatever. We're halfway done. 50 more songs after this...

    | Hot Mix 2014 on Spotify |

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

    60. Nicki Minaj featuring PTAF “Boss Ass Bitch (Remix)”
    Pitchfork likes this one enough that it placed decently well on their 2014 faves. The blurb writer's approach shouldn't have surprised anyone considering P4k's more recent slant towards feminist music criticism: "It’s likely that many dudes who came around to Nicki early this year have already lost interest, having deduced that The Pinkprint won’t actually be Illmatic With Tits." Likely, sure, and obviously sad if true. As the past year of news feed algorithms continued their bias towards feminist essays, we found it upsetting to witness non-feminist circles watering down the term's true impact, until it was eventually trending with enough hashtags that someone working at MTV was influenced to have Beyonce sing in front of 30-foot letters spelling "feminist" in all caps.* (Hah, you actually thought that was Bey's idea?)

    The louder perspective in our heads is always the one that recognizes Nicki Minaj as the most exciting and best current lyricist in hiphop. And we shouldn't have to follow that up with the phrase "regardless of gender" because that phrase sucks.
    This was the first new song we heard in 2014 way back on 01.01.14. "Boss Ass Bitch" arrived with an immediate impact courtesy of the sample's crushing minimalist attack (doing wonders for our New Years hangover). This not only inspired a few lyrical peaks in the "badass" category but also showed her artistically turning to a new chapter. Frequent homages to Biggie weren't just limited to "Four Door Aventador" (reviewed a few pages back), but at least one web source also noted the first 3 of her "10 Boss-Ass-Bitch Commandments" (with #4-#10 coming soon, hopefully). The song also kicked off Pinkprint anticipation. Throughout the year, the gusto in her guest-verses felt supplanted by sadness, which only made the 11-and-a-half month waiting game seem even longer. But now it's here, and for the moment it sounds like it might be her most consistent record. The lows aren't nearly as low, but also the highs aren't as high, making it also her least impressive. But either way, her genius is present enough that it still has a very strong shot at placing in our (eventual) top 20 of the year.

    And rull quick before we close the door on this one, here's some excerpts from probably our favorite Rap Genius annotation of 2014:
    - "Good pussy is pussy that is warm (hot) and wet, which describes a tropical environment, which is where Nicki wants to vacay to."
    - "You hoes need to get vaginal rejuvenation on your pussy to make it tight again!"
    - "The line is too long to get with Nicki’s pussy, so you should make a reservation."

    (*On a personal note: As someone who has a phobia of signs with large scary letters, I found it horribly frightening and difficult to watch.)

    59. Angel Olsen “Hi-Five”
    In the January 1999 issue of SPIN, Sasha Frere-Jones described Rufus Wainwright as "a singer/songwriter, in that order - a rarer animal than you think." At least one good example of this arrives every few years, but rarely with Angel Olsen's overwhelmingly intense sadness. And it's not like her songs aren't awesome. But Jesus... Not many recent songwriters express as much pain in their hearts simply through singing, an element that sets her apart from Laura Cantrell or Lucinda Williams. She's actually a lot closer to the elite inner circle with homegirls Patsy Cline and Tammy Wynette. "Hi-Five" might be the one song that made it toughest to keep from filing her album under "alt-country" (as opposed to "indie-rock with C&W vox").

    58. Grass Is Green “Scattering Ram”
    TMK: Tell us a little about "Scattering Ram."
    Devin McKnight: "That's a J.Weiss tune. A lil' Jesse Weiss: The man, the myth, the legend."
    Andy Chervenak: "'Scattering Ram' is sort of kinky for some reason. It's about some weird dude and a sexual repression kinda thing."
    Devin: "It's got my Talking Heads solo at the end. It's a complete ripoff. I didn't mean to."
    TMK: You think so?
    Devin: "Well, Jonah from Krill was like 'what is that from?' And then, Luke from Krill figured it out and verified the song."
    TMK: Which song is it from?
    Devin: "I don't remember what it's called, but it's got this guitar part with a harmonic thing and this whammy bar thing. I knew it was from something. It makes me feel good that I was mistakenly referencing something that's widely known."

    57. Schoolboy Q “Break the Bank”
    Even if the title of the song wasn't "Break the Bank," the music already sounds suspenseful enough to soundtrack the perfect heist. You know how every time you watch the movie Heat, you're like "I wanna do that!" You just wanna be runnin' down Main Street with an AK47 screaming "WHERE'S THE VAN? THE VAN WAS SUPPOSED TO BE HERE." That guy on the computer is like "Gimme a minute. Dude, I need one more minute to hack into the mainframe." There's always that guy on the team who's a last minute replacement. He's not one of the original gang, but one of the other guys vouches for him. "Dude, trust me. This guy's cool. He's solid and he's cool." But he's not cool. He doesn't really say anything ever, and then at one point he's like "Let's kill these bitches." (This is a way better bit than we remembered.)

    56. Dej Loaf “Try Me”
    Viral-crossover jams are injecting a freshness into hiphop stations unlike any other point throughout the 2010s. Radio programming hasn't felt this adventurous in at least a decade, even pushing a song as weird as OG Maco's "U Guessed It" to #90 on the Hot 100. Does every generation of hiphop radio get the "Funk Dat" it deserves? And should we expect more of them to sound like a prank from the OFWGKTA kids?

    Hailing from the freshly non-bankrupt mean streets of Detroit, Dej Loaf ultimately became the most beloved of the 2014 crossovers, even encouraging Buddyhead (of all places) to reserve some web space for expressing their appreciation. Aside from Pharrell and Pusha T, it's the only hiphop review they've written in almost two years. (The website's not quite as active as it was 10 years ago, but honestly we're just pumped it's still around.) The review's actually pretty informative. Apparently, "Try Me" was discovered after Drake quoted a line on his insta, ultimately leading Dej Loaf to a multi-million dollar deal with Columbia Records, enabling her to quit her job as a janitor at "the Chrysler plant." Dream big.

    55. Aphex Twin "minipops 67 [120.2] [source field mix]"
    This is the song that gets stuck in the heads of every character in David O'Reilly's The External World, including the enormous penis that ejects from the fax machine. It sounds like little anthropomorphic dudes being bizarre and very matter-of-factly, as if it's the way things should be. A few noted the '90s-ness of Syro, which can really only be attributed to how strongly RDJ's music is connected to that era despite resting outside of the range of decade-association; "Girl/Boy Song" is somehow both a distinct product of 1996 while also otherworldly enough to leave a blurred timestamp. "minipops 67" might sound ok on an album sequence alongside "Ventolin" or "Come to Daddy," but it just wouldn't be the same. There's one part in this that sounds like "Love Bites" by Def Leppard.

    54. Katy Perry featuring Juicy J “Dark Horse”
    In August 2013, two lead singles from two of the music's biggest names debuted very nearby each other. Accordingly, a PR strategy involving friendly competition was set in motion, including performances of Katy Perry's "Roar" and Lady Gaga's "Applause" at the 2013 VMAs. A few weeks later, the numbers returned with Katy hitting #1 while Gaga stalled at #4. This marked the start of a solid year where Katy found herself alone at the top with no actual competition, crowned with the heavyweight title of "biggest U.S. Top 40 singer" (up until she was dethroned in August 2014 when "Shake It Off" conveniently coincided with the the end of Prism's promo cycle). Katy Perry is now the only artist who's had the biggest song in the country at least once a year since 2010.

    Despite Gaga's commendably tireless edginess, "Applause" exemplified a disappointing deficit of freshness that casual fans might have been expecting after Artpop failed to ride the momentum of her earlier megahits. Her efforts to set trends were never as sure of a bet as riding those that had already been set in motion, a large part of the formula that Max Martin and Dr. Luke have exploited to help ensure Katy's success for the past 7 years. She's not a chameleon so much as a conformist. She's all things to all people. Her hits are never behind nor ahead of the curve, frequently hitting while their trending elements are about 70% through their shelf life.

    So now we're imagining a hypothetical scenario where Teenage Dream was released in 2008 and Prism in 2010. If the writing and production techniques on these albums were far less tired in those days, would these records be considered critical favorites? Would the hits from these albums have performed nearly as well 3 years earlier? Are we wrong to suggest that their success can be entirely attributed to timeliness? Is it possible that the success of these songs has anything to do with listeners growing accustomed to ephemeral trends?

    Regarding that last question: It's entirely plausible that Dr. Luke and Benny Blanco collaborated on Ke$ha's "Tik Tok" right around the same time as what was considered its sister-jam, Katy's "California Gurls." And yes, Katy got stuck as the scapegoat. "Tik Tok" was released first to test the waters and also to introduce Ke$ha to the world with a fresh-sounding single, hitting #1 at the very beginning of 2010, while "California Gurls" hit #1 six months later. If "Tik Tok" hadn't been a success, "California Gurls" might not have been the album's lead single.

    This special combination of safeness and freshness leads the list of reasons why "Dark Horse" was the quintessential 2014 pop song, molded by the cookie cutter of the year's trends more than any other. The minimal trap beat - sonically resembling Mike Will Made It - frames a robotic and lush chord progression in a minor key, vaguely resembling recent hits from Drake, M83 and Rihanna's "Diamonds" (another Benny Blanco hit from months prior). Juicy J was summoned for a cameo not long after the 8-minute "Bands a Make Her Dance (Chopped & Screwed)" went viral. This familiar combination of elements may have played a part in why "Dark Horse" has started to feel like it's been lingering around Top 40 and hiphop stations for the past 3 or 4 years.

    These elements - the "safe" and timely ones - are actually not why it's one of the best songs of 2014. "Part of [Max Martin's] genius is knowing that little thing that takes a song from 80 percent to 100 percent." "Dark Horse" is all about the subtleties, the moments that revealed themselves months after the song's debut. Some of these occur within the vocal performance - tiny inflections that were probably not an accident, but could have been. The vocals in the verses are accompanied by little more than drums and a 4-note keyboard melody, leaving the chord structure to to the imagination of the listener, a technique that Jermaine Dupri used in Ghost Town DJs' "My Boo." These deep glimmering moments form the basis of the song's transcendence, outliving the shelf life of its trendy sheen.

    53. Charli XCX “Gold Coins”

    Ohhhh, we get it now. Gold coins as a METAPHOR, like when Waka Flocka says "I'm so hood rich" - although probably not as rich as that distorted acoustic guitar tone. Scrooge McDuck probably likes this song and pumps it while he goes for a dip in the money bin. Check out her Nardwuar interview: Adorable.

    52. YG featuring Kendrick Lamar “Really Be (Smokin N Drinkin)”

    We haven't seen YG in a Hot Mix since like 2010's "Toot It and Boot It," and he's still got those horrifying body tats. The "James Bond segue" chord makes an appearance (on what might be a Fender Rhodes), assisting the mysterious noiresque production in the verses. It sounds like Portishead's best impression of a Dirty South or a Ludacris beat.

    51. Guerilla Toss “367 Equalizer”
    G-Toss played about six bands before the close of SUNY Purchase's Culture Shock concert back in April, prior to both Lil B and Lightning Bolt. About 5 minutes into their set, it seemed like the majority of the audience had just started peaking on molly or some combination of uppers and hallucinogens. And without warning, shit got fucking INSANE. We don't remember if they played "367 Equalizer" at this show, but it's likely since it premiered online only a few weeks later. Either way, it exemplifies the effect they had over everyone in that enormous room, encouraging movement from all 5 senses at once, potentially inducing convulsions and wild fits. They are a 10-speed blender, and their favorite margarita mixes the first Liars album with the PCP freakouts from Black Dice's Repo. Whereas hot jams like "TV Spell" and "Smack the Brick" are on the smoothie or shake setting, "367 Equalizer" chops up the tiny ice cubes for the frozen drink setting. (We're not sure what this means, but we're leaving it.)

    | Hot Mix 2014 on Spotify |

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