Thursday, January 28, 2016

Hot Mix 2015: #40 - 21

More delays as usual. But there's some good news: Somehow the new format has made this year's list a lot less of a burden than during previous years. So if there's a Hot Mix 2016, we'll probably continue doing it like this. The bad news is that we probably won't be able to finish this up by the end of January.

Time flies. But also it doesn't.

| Hot Mix 2015 on Spotify |

| #200 - 166 | #165 - 131 | #130 - 101 | #100 -71 | #70 - 41 | #40 - 21 | #20 - 1 |

| All 200 Songs |

40. Earl Sweatshirt “Mantra”
"Mantra" gives us hope for a future Earl & Miguel collab. The beat suggests a painful struggle with intimate exploration. With Miguel, this would entail a more sensual (sexual) journey, while Earl's is entirely introspective - a drug song. Starting at 2:40, the warped coda sounds like the chemicals are finally starting to work their magic. By 3:20, Earl is painless and catatonic while the intro of a far more relaxed and polished beat slides its way into the picture.

39. Surface To Air Missive “Who Do I Think You Are”
The classic rock radio backlash continues growing. Its irrelevancy remains more obvious than ever not just because of their stubbornly unchanging playlists, but because once upon a time it seemed like rock stations cared about their audience. Today, the listener is treated like nothing more than an unwitting consumer, whereas the GM's and PD's of 20-25 years ago put actual effort into engaging their listeners. This became painfully obvious on December 4, 2015, and then again on January 11, 2016 when approximately zero commercial stations in the NYC area paid any type of death-date tribute to Scott Weiland or David Bowie, respectively, instead opting for a few extra spins of "TNT," "Rock N' Roll Hoochie Koo" and "Heartbreaker" segueing into "Livin' Lovin' Made." (It might just have been in our area - between New Haven and New York City - but we heard similar reports from the Baltimore/DC and Atlanta markets.) Rock radio is obviously in a very different place than where it was on the afternoon of August 14, 2002 when our local modern rock station played two hours of deep cuts from Drowning Pool (a band remembered for literally one song) following the announcement of their singer's passing (during the rush hour commute).

On the opposite end of that conversation, the years since Napster have shown an upsurge of appreciation for '70s rock bands who weren't nearly as overplayed as Side A of Led Zeppelin IV but were just as deserving. Back in 8th grade, I assumed none of my friends would ever obsess over Todd Rundgren's Something/Anything during my lifetime, but this surprisingly changed over the past few years. It's not nearly as difficult to find a Big Star or T.Rex t-shirt as it used to be. Badfinger's "Baby Blue" received a sudden increase of Spotify spins after its inclusion on the series finale of Breaking Bad.

Many of 2015's singer-songwriter-based projects like Surface To Air Missive are just as much a reflection of this shift in perception. "Who Do I Think You Are," an immediate standout from their third LP, borrows many of the same guitar tones, analog warmth, thematic and structural aesthetics once brilliantly exploited within the early years of power-pop: Rundgren, Alex Chilton, Emitt Rhodes, Cheap Trick. Hopes are up for more like this in 2016 and beyond.

38. Little Mix “Black Magic”
“Take a sip of my secret potion / One taste and you’ll be mine.” We hate to break it to you, but what people call "love" is just a chemical reaction that compels animals to breed. It hits hard, and then it slowly fades leaving you stranded in a failing marriage. Little Mix are just a bunch of creepy creep-persons throwing around their roofie-juices. But if their witchery is good for anything, it’s passing down the classic formula once perfected by The Girls of Spice: Each group member takes a turn during the verses, and then everyone joins in for the singalong chorus. There haven’t been many truly outstanding songs in the past ten years to follow this method, although approximately one-thousand J-Pop and K-Pop groups have tried. But tried and true is nothing when the hooks aren’t instantly memorable like they are in “Black Magic.” As far as Girl Groups or Boy Bands in the 2010s, it’s the only truly great single for this decade so far.

37. Dilly Dally “Purple Rage”
Despite popular belief, there's a lot more Frank Black than Kim Deal injected into "Purple Rage," a jam that might have been the most perfect traditionally structured loud rock song of 2015. There's even a breakdown after the second chorus, plus plenty of opportunities for audiences at their shows to scream "YAAEEEEEEAAAAAA" while throwing their fists in the air. Slack is back - with a vengeance.

36. Kamasi Washington "Re Run Home" / Kamasi Washington “The Message”
Not gonna lie here: We don't know enough about jazz to correctly identify which sections of The Epic sound closest to John Coltrane or Chick Corea. But we listen to Miles Davis's On The Corner a lot. It's probably our favorite '70s fusion record. Disc 3 is probably the one we like the best because it sounds closest to On The Corner with its wah-organ and mild drugginess. And it might contain the album's catchiest hook. However, the solos in "The Message" - the album's closer - are probably our personal highlight. Soulful guitar solo between 1:40 and 3:20. Wait for it: Kamasi's sax solo climaxes with a intense eruption right around 5:50. It's been a while since we've actually enjoyed any song with a drum solo. Again, we're not really in a position to pretend we know what we're talking about. With that said, in the same way that Black Messiah was a handbook for soul music history, we'd like to think The Epic acts as a handbook of '60s and '70s jazz history fused with plentiful soul elements. If anyone's had the mildest interest in '60s and '70s jazz but hasn't been sure where to start looking, this record would be a very appropriate introduction.

35. Stove “Dusty Weather”
We found two other online reviews of Stove Is Stupider that individually note the ignition of the Big Muff in "Dusty Weather's" outro as an album highlight. And while we're inclined to agree, the preceding 3 minutes and 20 seconds of quiet restraint are equally crucial. Within the album's sequencing, it's the first moment on this record that doesn't rest comfortably on the line between Ovlov and what happened afterwards. The Stove era feels more introspective than ever, and possibly as a consequence, slightly more aligned with the textures of Jimmy Eat World's Clarity and The Get Up Kids' Something To Write Home About (both from 1999). But what's truly remarkable is that any randomly chosen song from Is Stupider might actually prove itself just as timeless as almost anything from either of those albums.

34. Dornik “Stand In Your Line (Single Edit)”
This refers to the 3:34 version posted to Soundcloud back in July and (for some reason) only available for streaming from its Stereogum review. (We can't figure out how to embed this link so a slightly longer 4:35 edit has been posted below, which is still an improvement from the "bloated with bonus interlude" 6:19 album version.) Dornik might be the most unfairly unsung of the modern day disciples of MJ. In a year with no new music from Justin, Usher or Ne-Yo, a freshly subdued reflection of this style might have considerably livened Top 40 or R&B stations beyond what The Weeknd was able to accomplish.

33. Ava Luna “Billz”
Sources have reported that Ava Luna's creative process involves brainstorms and organization so extensive that their notepads might be incomprehensible to average humans. Whenever any band does a song about money or bills, we always say it's "their official commentary on the nation's economic climate," and we're usually half-kidding. But in this case, Ava Luna seem to have sonically captured a frustrating balancing act between responsibility towards both money and relationships. The complexity in the lyrics reflect its "mini-symphony" arrangement, soulful vocals that wouldn't be out of place on a Hall & Oates record, and drum mics pushed into the red. Its arrangement seems oddly balanced as well, with an earwormy singalong chorus that doesn't return the same way twice.

32. Philadelphia Collins featuring Ellen Kempner "Sofa Queen"
We regret not throwing together a few interviews for this year's Hot Mix. In this instance, it might have been helpful to know if "Sofa Queen" was remotely composed, like that Postal Service album. In either case, we stand by our initial assessment that we've probably already drunkenly confessed to the three musicians involved: "It sounds like Ellen singing on a Grass Is Green song," which for us is a "Breaking News" headline worth far more than "Check Out Josh Homme and Dave Grohl's New Band." You know those instances of big business collaborations where the headline is worth more than the actual music? Dave Grohl is usually involved in a lot of these. "Check Out Kanye and McCartney's New Single On Tidal." You get the point.

In a way, we agree with whichever reviewer stated that Derp Swervin' functions as an EIS sampler of sorts, but it's also its own separate entity. There's definitely a specific juxtaposing atmosphere that connects the 5 songs on this EP resting outside of anything else Devin or Theo have played on (bearing in mind that we haven't heard literally everything they've played on). It's kinda slacker and stoned, but also so precise. Mathy, but never labored. Once it's over, it feels final and complete but leaves the listener wanting more.

31. Nicki Minaj featuring Drake & Lil Wayne “Truffle Butter”
Fact #1: As an official Beyonce-dubbed title, "The Queen of Rap" is still an understatement. Nicki is the indisputable No. 1 rap icon of this decade. Fact #2: "Truffle Butter" was originally intended as a throwaway - one of a small handful among The Pinkprint's iTunes-only bonus tracks (technically a lower tier than the 3 bonus tracks on its "Deluxe" edition).

With these 2 facts in mind, and with utmost respect for our favorite rapper, "Truffle Butter" includes an unfortunate example of "time to rap about my easily Googleable sales stats," a.k.a. Nicki's least flattering indulgence. It was endearing and logical within the context of "Come On A Cone" ("Pink Friday, 2 milli / Super Bass, triple plat") whereas in "Truffle Butter" ("I'm still the highest sellin' female rapper, for the record / Man, this a 65 million single sold") it seems like she was running low on different ways to say "I'm the best out there." We'll give benefit of the doubt: Who could have forseen an iTunes bonus track dominating hiphop radio for 7 months? And either way, her swag still radiates with conviction (as usual).

However, Lil Wayne and Nineteen85's production steal the show. It's Wayne's best radio verse since Carter IV, and a sad reminder of how long we've been waiting on Carter V. For a minute, it seemed as if Wayne was considering retirement after this album's release. So in a way, Birdman's reluctance to oblige Wayne's demands resulted in a rejuvenation of his creativity, releasing Sorry 4 The Wait 2, Free Weezy Album and No Ceilings 2 all within the next 12 months (probably his most productive calendar year since 2007).

30. Kanye West featuring Theophilus London, Allan Kingdom & Paul McCartney "All Day"
2015 may have been "the year of lead singles from promised albums that never got released." While Missy's "WTF" and Rihanna's "BBHMM" were among the most notorious, many Kanye fans must have been tipped early on that the odds of these McCartney collabs ending up on Swish were just as likely as "Mercy" or "Clique" winding up on Yeezus. All three songs arrived within the first 3 months of 2015. By the time October arrived, it was pretty certain that Kanye had moved onto other things. A lot of fans couldn't help noticing the similarities between the intros of "All Day" and "Black Skinhead" - loud, ugly, dirty, catchy as fuck, and possibly the year's #1 riff most worthy of a singalong from Beavis and Butthead. With its verse's disorienting beat, it's the only song he released in 2015 that might be considered quintessential 2010s Kanye. We're skeptical of Paul's "involvement" with this one. It sounds more like a leftover from the Yeezus sessions with Paul's eight bars hastily inserted. [Note: This was written when Kanye's album title was still Swish.]

29. Krill "Tiger"
On their tour following the release of A Distant Fist Unclenching, Krill would frequently close their setlists with a strategically placed emotional earthquake: "Brain Problem," "Infinite Power" and "Tiger" were not always played in that exact order. But sure enough, all three of these songs did appear within the final 20 minutes of Krill's very last show in October 2015 (along with a surprise throwback encore featuring Frankie Cosmos' Greta Kline). "Tiger" always felt like the fiery epicenter of not only this trifecta but also the whole of Distant Fist, starting with just an innocent spark from Ron Ratoff's guitar intro and eventually spreading to its apocalyptic coda. We know it's not the last song from their last record, but it was sequentially the last song from their last record to be played at their last show. It feels like it should be their literal swan song.

28. Alex G “Kicker”
Our favorite moments on Alex G's last few records are the darker, more bizarre moments, if only because they're always more unexpected among the larger, more traditional fraction. The oddities have been showing up more frequently since 2012's Trick. "Salt," "Look Out," "Brite Boy" and "In Love" might be the weirdest, darkest and arguably best sequence on any of his albums so far, while the more traditional singer-songwriter parts of Beach Music are as strong as ever. There's a very good possibility that it's his best album yet. The quiet dissonant guitar feedback in "Kicker" suggests a madness creeping underneath all the coolness. "Big plan for a big man / Tough change for a tough guy." A definite album highlight.

27. Carly Rae Jepsen “Run Away With Me”
Here's a great example of visuals in a music video capturing the essence of a song. The Youtube viewer gets to literally run away with Carly Rae as she escapes to Paris, NYC and (possibly) Tokyo. The production elements and sax riff help it to fit within the current fake-'80s trend (M83's "Midnight City," Taylor Swift's 1989, Hotline Miami, Moonbeam City) while still maintaining accessibility and Top 40 crossover potential. We're interested in seeing if the massive love "Run Away With Me" received from 2015's end-of-year lists has any impact on its radio spins like how it helped "Midnight City" a few years back.

26. The Internet “Get Away”
"NOW she wanna fuck with me...". She sounds like she's dealt with this many times before. This lyric accompanied by a abruptly warm and dark introduction kicks off an otherwise outstanding 4-song front-load and the year's most sadly unheralded song sequence. If '90s nostalgia is still considered hip, then Ego Death arrived just in time for what appears to be a brief revival of neo-soul. Syd Tha Kid's understated coolness recalls Amel Larrieux's vocals on Groove Theory's "Tell Me," while the verse section of "Get Away" almost brushes against the slow-crushing subtitles of NIN's The Downward Spiral.

25. Homeshake “Heat”
Homeshake is a home recording project of Mac Demarco's former rhythm guitar player. The sleepy, melancholy aura within "Heat" somehow aligns pretty well with its unauthorized cut-up of a late '70s episode of The Dating Game. We were unsure why at first, but the answer occurred to us a few days later. "Heat" sounds like Winona Ryder and Ethan Hawke having a heart-to-heart in bed while stoned out of their minds on some of that purple kush. It's a weed song.

24. Vince Staples “Norf Norf”
In October 2014, we were fortunate enough to visit the Odd Future store on Fairfax Avenue in Los Angeles (which closed down the following January). The items were a bit pricey, but Devin bought socks, and we picked up some "GOLF" bumper stickers. It was pretty empty with the exception of 1 or 2 clerks and 2 or 3 dudes at the front of the store who were loudly playing FIFA 2014 on XBOX. And by "the front of the store," we mean you had to walk right past them since the TV was above the entrance. And by "loudly," we mean they were laughing and yelling expletives at each other creating a less-than-typical environment for a retail store. And if memory serves correctly, there was no music, so these FIFA dudes were the only audible sounds throughout the entire time you were there. We'd like to think that those 2 or 3 dudes were employees who were paid to help generate an OFWGKTA-approved atmosphere.

We're not sure why "Norf Norf" reminded us of the O.F. store, but those dudes reminded us of Odd Future's rambunctious early years. When we think of Vince, we can't help but still think of the "bodybag" verse from 2010's "epaR", a song which has almost no thematic connection to the bulk of Summertime '06. Vince's beats still sound equally as musical as they did 5 years ago, but the immature horror-core nature has been replaced with depth rooted in eeriness, mystery and paranoia.

23. Palehound "Healthier Folk”
Palehound's knack for strong melodic hooks is probably the most obvious attribute at the heart of "Healthier Folk's" dopeness, alongside their excellent usage of careful restraint. But the structural twists and turns are what might make this their quintessential jam. Like the finest Simpsons episodes, it "wraps up in a neat little package," effortlessly flowing despite concluding in a different area from where it started. Because sometimes that's what happens. We're led to some unexpected areas throughout the journey.

22. Janet Jackson "No Sleeep"
A welcome inclusion to any of her future Greatest Hits packages, "No Sleeep" chronicles Janet's sexual excursions confined within some lavishly decorated house or apartment throughout a rainy 48 hour period - one in which Janet and the object of her desire receive no sleep despite surrounding themselves with very soft and comfortable beds, couches, blankets and pillows. It sounds like they start to run out of steam around 2:51 as the beat switches back to the heartbeat-sounding kick drum from the intro. Janet starts to doze off here, but then gets awakened for another round. "No Sleeep" might also a strong candidate for the "fade out hall of fame" (alongside Aaliyah's "One In A Million," Beck's "Loser," Bowie's "Space Oddity") as the heartbeat resurfaces throughout its final 15 seconds. (Sadly, this is the portion of the song that J. Cole raps over in the album version. But fortunately, R&B radio has avoided this version.)

21. Rihanna "Bitch Better Have My Money"
We may have blown our #BBHMM load on our blurb about the video. But there's one crucial aspect of this song that critics and fans may have overlooked: If she had sang this song in the same style as "What's My Name" or "Umbrella," it simply wouldn't have worked. If Beyonce or any other ubiquitous diva had sang this, it just wouldn't have been the same. The minute inflections make all the difference. If it hadn't been for such an inspired performance we probably wouldn't give a shit about this song or its video. She's a better vocalist now than at any point in her career so far, and for the first time ever, we're actually anticipating a new Rihanna LP - one that might actually challenge her fans, functioning far beyond a showcase for 2 or 3 mega-huge Top 40 hits. I mean come on... It's called Anti. If there was ever a time for her first huge statement as an album artist, this is that moment. [Note: ANTI coincidentally dropped just a few hours ago, well after this blurb was finished.]

| Hot Mix 2015 on Spotify |

| #200 - 166 | #165 - 131 | #130 - 101 | #100 -71 | #70 - 41 | #40 - 21 | #20 - 1 |

| All 200 Songs |

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Hot Mix 2015: #70 - 41

Welcome back to the countdown. After some consideration, we liked how the "30 songs on a page" thing looked, so it's happened once again.

| Hot Mix 2015 on Spotify |

| #200 - 166 | #165 - 131 | #130 - 101 | #100 -71 | #70 - 41 | #40 - 21 | #20 - 1 |

| All 200 Songs |

70. Janet Jackson “Unbreakable”
“It’s been a while. Lots to talk about. I’m glad you’re still here.” Wait, so she's singing to the listener? Hey, that's pretty cool, although it might be less awkward if we pretend she's still singing to that dude from the "Anytime Anyplace" video. P.S. Her best Diana Ross tribute since "Doesn't Really Matter."

69. I Hate Sex “I Fucking Hate Sports”
An extreme juxtaposition: On one side, this is an incredibly musical punk song with an intro that sounds like it might be paying homage to The Smithereens or Marshall Crenshaw. Nine seconds later, all hell will break loose. *SCREEEEEEAM.* Don't get it twisted: "I Fucking Hate Sports" isn't rage based around misplaced teen angst. It's a depressingly intense frustration with an inability to find a place that fits. And yes, catharsis helps.

68. Carly Rae Jepsen "Making the Most of the Night"
Hey, Carly Rae likes you. She really, really, really, really likes you. She told us. And her smiley repetition isn't just confined to single word mantras. "One more time" singalongs strategically recur throughout E•MO•TION, and the "Making the Most" instance is probably the one where we wish she had opted for a hint of variance. It feels like 80% chorus, but it's perfectly structured otherwise: The bridge builds to a grand slam, representing the pinnacle of Carly Rae's big night. The last 15 seconds utilize "the ominous minor-key outro" motif, a cue that may or may not have derived from "Lovefool." It goes by quick, but it might be the most mysteriously satisfying moment from any recent pop record.

67. Kamasi Washington “Isabelle”
SPIN's 90 Albums From The '90s from August-ish 1999 included Sonny Sharrock's experimental-jazz record Ask The Ages at #59. It wasn't an especially high profile release at the time, but it's probably the last instance when we can recall a jazz record receiving an "end of year" or "end of decade" placement that came anywhere near what The Epic has been experiencing. It's no surprise that the strength of an event album like To Pimp A Butterfly assisted musicians like Thundercat and Kamasi Washington with generating some crossover branding. While it's refreshing to finally see a jazz record receiving high praise of this type, the excitement can only lead its fans to wonder what other recent jazz releases might have been equally worthy.

66. Dej Loaf featuring Big Sean “Back Up”
We couldn't think of anything so here's this:

65. Rihanna, Kanye West & Paul McCartney “FourFiveSeconds”
How exactly did this song generate such a viciously negative reaction? Are we crazy? Was this the No Jacket Required of 2015? As a standalone single without the context of the three names attached, there's really nothing objectively shitty about it. Had it been sung by Taylor Swift or that Shotgun Annies thing (or whatever Miranda Lambert's group is called), it would have been heard by completely different people, framed in a different context and thus judged as a song instead of a headline. And besides, we'd rather hear Rihanna sing something like this than almost any modern country singer. It's probably the only recent simple-guitar-&-vocals jam we can recall with so many buried weird noises.

64. Kendrick Lamar “The Blacker the Berry”
Initial critical evaluation seemed to immediately tag this song as a thematic sequel to "i" from Fall 2014. "The Blacker The Berry" and "i" both worked well as standalone singles but somehow seemed so much more explosive within the context of To Pimp A Butterfly. Its third verse might be the album's strongest with its themes of pride, violence and protest all accentuated by its gnarly beat and eerie subtleties.

63. BEAK> "The Meader"
We have no "Best shows we saw in 2015" list this year. But Beak> in Bristol would have been an easy #1. We imagine this show had almost nothing in common with Portishead's show accompanied by the NY Philharmonic aside from Geoff Barrow, who excused himself to "go take a wee" after 6 songs, leaving Billy Fuller awkwardly unprepared to "tell some stories" that didn't go anywhere. They got drunkenly (playfully) heckled by the hometown crowd (a lot). And so naturally, they drunkenly (playfully) fought back with expletives (a lot). Matt Williams chugged two Coronas during "Eggdog" while continuing to play the keyboard with his free hand. Who knew these guys were so much fun?

62. Kurt Vile “Pretty Pimpin'”

KV finally dusts off his copy of The Moon and Antarctica.

61. Mac Demarco “Another One”

Salad Days threw listeners some sonically unexpected curveballs. On Another One, this was not the case. Rather, its most surprising attribute lies within Demarco's ability to secure a handful memorable hooks on every release while sticking so rigidly to the structural confines he's built for his songwriting.

60. Aphex twin “diskhat ALL prepared1mixed 13”
The version on Soundcloud is apparently different from the EP version, but we can't tell the diff.

59. Alex G “Thorns”
Sigur Ros goes pop. Slow motion playgrounds. 55 degrees. Overcast skies. Beach Music sounds very "rite of passage." "Thorns" specifically is the earliest point in someone's life when they can observe a sunset or a cloud formation and perceive it as a perfect gift. The song's cryptic lyrics and title suggest an allure that leads to prickly stings.

58. Erykah Badu featuring Andre 3000 “Hello”
Winner of the "Best Song Called 'Hello' of the Year" Award. Without releasing any new albums or singles of his own between 2004 and 2009, Andre 3000 remained the grand champion of guest rappers. His effortless flow assisted jams like "I Can't Wait," "Bubble Pop Electric," "Walk It Out (Remix)," "International Players Anthem," and "Royal Flush" to immediately secure a spot within the best singles of their respective years. Since the turn of the decade, however, his panache seems downgraded to "phoned in" status. While "I Do" and "Party" are both pretty great songs, they aren't nearly as indebted to Andre's genius like his late-2000s output. "Hello" marks a refreshing recollection of his glory days, possibly signaling a guest-dominance comeback with his best verse since "Royal Flush." Erykah's lullaby also notably includes "idunno idunnoidunnoidunno" intertwining with "elloello hey hello hello" and the best Todd Rundgren interpolation since Neon Indian's "Deadbeat Summer."

57. Jute Gyte “Machinery That Renders Debt Infinite”
Jute Gyte's impressively prolific catalog of free Bandcamp releases focuses on two genres: Blackmetal and ambient. The whole of his blackmetal catalog resembles a balloon with a diameter of several lightyears infinitely expanding far past what was previously deemed imaginable. In this case, it's the first noisy blackmetal on our radar that features a creepily sped-up series of music boxes played simultaneously, with rhythm and atonal dissonance occurring by virtue of controlled chaos.

56. Redman “***** Like Me”
"Sour diesel" refers to a weed strain. Thank you Rap Genius. When old people complain "there's no good rap anymore," please remind them that Redman still fills his albums with classic-sounding jams, just as high quality as his radio hits from 1995. Some artists prefer to change with the times, while others aren't finished exploring the sounds that earned them their original fanbase. The video shows Redman somewhere in the southwestern part of the United States hanging out at a weed greenhouse, which reminds us that we haven't seen How High in about 12 years and this needs to happen again soon. "I figure if I study high, take the test high, get high scores! Right? Right."

55. Palehound "Easy"
Earworm alert: That 16-note intro tends to stick. Class of 2015’s singer-songwriter VIPs not only fuel our hope for the future of this genre but lead the pack with a notable lack of pretention unseen since at least 15 years ago. Out of all of them (which includes names like Alex Giannascoli and Taylor Ross), Ellen Kempner’s songwriting development - dating back to Kempa, the early Palehound singles and the Dry Food LP - might present the most potential for some type of enormous creative breakthrough over the course of the next couple albums. Also, excellent move getting mega-talents like Jesse Weiss and Gabe Wax on board.

54. Lumpy & The Dumpers “Flush Em”
Gags and puke are always helpful, but that keyboard run is so spot on. We don't know why, and it's best to not think about it. Best punk A-side of the year.

53. Drake & Future “Big Rings”

What a time to be Godiva. Referring to the candy, of course.

52. Deerhunter “Snakeskin”
RIYL: Disco T.Rex with a psychedelic outro section or In It For The Money-era Supergrass.

51. Carly Rae Jepsen “Emotion”
The vocals seem vulnerable to analog peaking upon entering the red. We highly doubt any of the music on E•MO•TION was taped, but this one aspect (also obvious on a few other songs) raises our suspicions. Also, the Rap Geniuses revealed that two of this song's co-writers were formerly in Boston's own The Click Five, who along with Fountains Of Wayne's Adam Schlesinger are responsible for "Just The Girl," quite possibly our guiltiest guilty pleasure single of the 2000s. And this fun fact might have contributed to our brain chemistry dividing Carly Rae's song between teen-pop and power-pop.

50. Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats “Slow Death”
The waging war in this humble place against the forces of darkness where Satan's seed is, the zip code of this evil place is the mark of the beast: 666. The ritual begins slowly, working around the circular room. After all 33 candles are lit, the dark spirits may receive the signal to enter. A slow, dark mass fills the atmosphere, overtaking everything in its path with spirits working their way in and out, left and right. There's no escaping it. "Slow Death," The Deadbeats' finest epic, is the opposite of an exorcism. It invites the demons in. [Note: The song is actually so satanic that it's one of the few jams on Hot Mix 2015 completely unavailable outside of legal streaming services.]

49. Trust Fund “Dreams”
Make way for Bristol's smiley-est rock band as they challenge the punk aesthetic and stretch the rules of what to expect from a punk 4-piece. Their records proudly insert elements from not only UK-punk but also power-pop, grunge, and campfire singalongs. The key-change in "Dreams" is one of their catchiest moments, kinda like how Ash used to do it back in the mid-'90s on singles like "Jack Names The Planets" or "Kung Fu." Also if Hollywood ever decides to remake Angus, this is definitely the #1 choice for the band that should play in the high school dance scene. Trust us on this.

48. Tenement "You Keep Me Cool"
A good old fashioned punk-rock double LP finally graces its presence upon the 2010s. Forgive us, but records like Screaming Females' Ugly from 2012 always kinda felt more like a CD-length album expanded to 2 LPs, while Tenement's Predatory Headlights actually feels like a sprawling magnum opus a la Zen Arcade complete with odd experiments and a well-paced tracklisting. It's a grand and impressive complete statement, which might be why we've yet to notice many reviewers cherry picking their own personal stand-outs. We're nerdy for singles though, and plus we still make mixtapes. Gravitating towards the late-'70s Americana of "You Keep Me Cool" was def a cool selection for some fiery summer mixes. Or wait, maybe it was a hot selection for some icy mixes?

47. Vince Staples “Get Paid”
Thanks to "Get Paid," fans of 1998's "bounce rap" trend might be more hopeful than usual for its big 2016 comeback. Sources have speculated that Jay-Z's forthcoming 2016 hit single "Can I Get A (Part 2)" will include the lyric "Can i get a part two?"* while Mariah Carey plans to revisit her "evil bizarro" counterpart previously featured in the video for 1999's "Heartbreaker."* Rap and pop might actually get fun and adventurous again. Also we thought Vince was saying "pocket fulla lean" which is a phrase that apparently doesn't mean anything, but it sounded cool at the time.
[*Note: Possibly not true.]

46. Faith No More "Superhero"
"With an 'S' on your chest / You're feeling like a God." Political or no? Or maybe it's about Anthony Kiedis? You decide. There have been plenty of "why did they even bother" type of reunion records in the past couple years, with Indy Cindy and now Compton as two of the most baffling offenders. Sol Invictus (along with Failure's album released around the same time) was this year's rare instance of a "'90s reunion" record that didn't allow an extended hiatus to stain their nearly flawless discography. Overcoming the odds seems to be a huge factor in these reunions. So now, what's gonna happen with Mr. Bungle? Bare in mind that Trey Spruance DID in fact join FNM to perform King For A Day in its entirely back in 2011, somewhat increasing the almost non-existent odds that a Mr. Bungle reunion might ever happen within our lifetime.

45. Alex G “Salt”
The salt imagery feels closely related to its album title, Beach Music. So it's possible that "Salt" is the key to this entire record, tying together its surrounding jams with its hugely nostalgic slow-motion cascades of rhythm and melody. Tween-life is when innocent crushes might feel the scariest. It's when friends ride bikes through the woods or down narrow alleys. It's the thrill of discovery and uncertainty and videogames and touching boobs. Not necessarily summery, but definitely full of memories and the creation of future memories. Alex G's records are all the better for including his atypical curveball jams, and "Salt" might be among the very best of those.

44. Stove "Jock Dreams"
Congratulations to Stove, recipient of our coveted "Most Amazing Song Intro of 2015" award. Who knows what was contained within those libations, but the song's fire seems indebted, somewhat mirroring its themes of "wondering if you've made the right choices" and "deciding if it's too late to change" (not too far off from what might have informed Stove's recent re-branding). It doesn't matter if it's called Stove or Ovlov or McGuirk or Guitarmageddon, as long as it's got that smooth Stove seal of approval. That's how you know you're fucking with a quality-ass product. "Jock Dreams" highlights a very strong Side B with all those classic Stove moves you've grown to love over the years.

43. Waka Flocka “Ask Charlamagne”
This contains possibly the darkness beat of 2015, sampled from The Velvet Underground and Nico of all places. But even with that in mind, the most surprising aspect of "Ask Charlamagne" is that Waka Flocka hasn't released a truly great song in over 5 years. We were certain that he had quietly retreated to the has-been camp, content with his unremarkable mixtapes and the millions of dollars he earned from "Hard In The Paint" and "No Hands." His official comeback begins now: "Ask Charlamagne" might be the best song this dude's ever laid to tape, his flow and swagger seemingly reinvented. It's the sound of someone who's had enough of wackness and fakeness, desperate to break away from a trap of cliches, no longer mired in self-parody. We're suddenly (shockingly) very excited for Flockaveli 2.

42. The Internet “Under Control” / The Internet featuring Vic Mensa “Go With It”
Track 3 is called "Under Control," while the chorus of track 4 includes the phrase "lose control." So it's possible that these two songs represent the ying and yang of Ego Death, one of the most oddly slept-on releases of 2015, front-loaded with 4 of the absolute best soul jams of the 2010s so far. The sensuous and sultry "Under Control" might have the record's best-sounding live instrumentation, while "Go With It" is anchored by one of the year's best basslines, recommended for any fans of Big Boi & Andre's "Royal Flush."

41. Babysitter “Hard Times”
Halfway through "Hard Times," Babysitter uses the song's solo section to feature analog-tape-manipulation, specifically the jolt of the "play" button as 4 or 5 additional reel-to-reel machines slowly contribute more and more guitar feedback and noise into the mix. "Warped and lofi" is the best combination for punk rock. Butthole Surfers, Ween, The Dead Milkmen, The Frogs, Eric Gaffney's contributions to Sebadoh. There are way too few current bands who have willingly embraced this category. Perhaps inhalants aren't as popular as they used to be. [Palberta might be the only other current band who fits into this. Do FNU Ronnies fit? They might be more "noise" than "warped." Lil B and Ariel Pink are both weirdos, but not really punk per se. My Dick, The Purpletraitor and Farrah Abraham were more like one-off novelties. But no matter the category, we're grateful for each of them.]

| Hot Mix 2015 on Spotify |

| #200 - 166 | #165 - 131 | #130 - 101 | #100 -71 | #70 - 41 | #40 - 21 | #20 - 1 |

| All 200 Songs |

Friday, January 8, 2016

More Good 2015 TV

We regret the error, but we forgot that the Bob's Burgers water balloon fight episode was amazing and totally should've been in our TV Moments of the year. That's what happens when the list gets hastily thrown together in under 20 minutes. FUCK.

[We've already fucked up "Hot Mix" and forgot to tie in Radiohead's previous Bond-theme cover of "Nobody Does It Better," so we're really on a role here.]

Also Neon Joe and Making A Murderer have been cool, although entire seasons of TV shows arriving all at once during mid-December shouldn't really count as 2015. That's just not playing fair (whereas random tracks arriving on Xmas Day are ok because they take far less time to consume).

Monday, January 4, 2016

Hot Mix 2015: #100 - 71

We purposely wait until people are totally sick of year-end lists before posting all of this. Enjoy it.

| Hot Mix 2015 on Spotify |

| #200 - 166 | #165 - 131 | #130 - 101 | #100 -71 | #70 - 41 | #40 - 21 | #20 - 1 |

| All 200 Songs |

100. Major Lazer featuring MØ & DJ Snake “Lean On”
We're proud of ourselves for figuring out how to do that "O" with the line through it. Not sure who MØ is, but their name is very hard to type on a traditional US keyboard. Annoyingly catchy chorus becomes less grating after the rest of the song reveals itself. Hiring Eric to do their videos was a very good move.

99. Janet Jackson “2 B Loved”
It's surprising that TRL/Y2K-era isn't a more frequent target for '90s throwbacks. In "2 B Loved," we hear Jordan Knight's "Give It To You" from summer '99. Wikipedia reveals Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis were the masterminds behind BOTH. Well of course they were.

98. Leapling “Flesh Meadows”
Cars drive by at night. Headlights slowly work their way across the walls. There's a lot of subtle texture to sort through on Leapling's Vacant Page LP, all of it anchored by careful, delicate restraint. The most immediate tracks - including stand-out "Flesh Meadows" - bordered on the quieter moments from Radiohead's My Iron Lung EP.

97. E-40 "Choices (Yup)"
Huge congrats to E-40 for honoring the song's video with a 1-second cameo from Dr. Ruth among a cast of hundreds including Snoop Dogg, Busta Rhymes, and possibly MC Hammer at 3:35.

96. Philadelphia Collins "Dogsbody"
White Pony sped up to 45rpms. Word up to drummer Theo Hartlett for such a ferocious performance. We badly wanted to tie this with "Scuttlebutt" from Theo's other 2015 project Spook The Herd, but unfortunately we had to pass due to a certain band closely associated with this website who appears on the B-Side of their split. (We'll embed it below and throw it in the Spotify playlist anyway. Let this be our little secret.)

95. Radiohead “Spectre”
Less bleeps and bloops than usual. Perhaps this is an indication of what to expect from Radiohead's next record, although it needs a lot more Colin Greenwood. TURN UP THE BASS. [Edit: Can't believe we missed an opportunity to tie in their cover of "Nobody Does It Better." HUGE fuck up.]

94. Failure “Hot Traveler”
Fun anecdote time: People might not remember this so well, but it was kinda difficult to locate Failure CDs way back in 1997/1998. We special-ordered Magnified from Sam Goody one summer. And then every two weeks we returned and asked them what was taking so long. Months later, we finally got an upsetting phonecall telling us the CD was out of print. It was rough times. Eventually, college started right around the advent of Scour Exchange and Napster. And the rest is history.

Our first experience with new dope Failure songs in 15 years did a decent job of transporting us back to the 11-Gig HD Compaq Presario days. "Stay up late with me." Yeah, that's basically what we used to do. We would stay up until 4AM waiting on the progress bar of On's "Your Sister Says John" to reach 100%. [In our opinion, this is one of the best cases in favor of legal substitutes for Napster such as Spotify or Youtube. Without them, it's possible bands like Failure would have never been able to build a following strong enough to return for another record.]

93. Big Neck Police “Detritus Man Around”
Sometimes bands get too intimidated to re-record older stuff since it often sacrifices the nuances and subtleties of the original lofi demo. However, BNP's new version of their mathy/angular/weirdo single from 2014 sounds better than ever. RIYL Meat Puppets II. (Also check out their split with Dog.)

92. Weezer “Everybody Needs Salvation”
We didn't realize it at the time, but Weezer's last album was actually ok enough for us to consider updating our nerdy fanfic bizarro discography from almost 3 years ago. It's been very easy to stay skeptical of their newer releases, especially since they're almost all publicized with taglines such as "a return to form," or "in the style of Pinkerton." In the fanfic version, Rivers Cuomo objectively understands that albums 5 thru 8 should be released under a different name (like when Mascis released 2 albums using the name J Mascis + The Fog instead of pretending that it still felt like Dinosaur Jr). The new 2016 addendum to our fanfic include 2014's Everything Will Be Alright In The End as the official long awaited follow-up to 2002's Maladroit. It's not as good as that album, but it feels more similar to Weezer's first 4 records than anything during the 2004-2013 era.

"Everybody Needs Salvation" was demo'd during those 2014 sessions and was released as a proper fanclub-only single back in April. Despite the ridiculous coda section, it's still within their handful of recent jams that felt quirky and wild enough to heed fans who miss old Weezer. 2014's "I've Had It Up To Here" is another one of these. "Do You Wanna Get High?" from earlier this year is actually worthy of the tag "in the style of Pinkerton" since it REALLY sounds like "Pink Triangle." These are definitely the weirdest songs they've released in a VERY long time. We're down with weird. Even Bob Dylan had a mid-career slump during the '80s and early '90s before his unexpected comeback album, 1997's Time Out Of Mind. Perhaps Weezer are capable of something similar. Are they back in the shack? Well, sort of! Let's see where this takes them.

91. J. Stalin featuring L-Jay “Bye Felicia”
For some reason, "the kids in 2015" got into the phrase "Bye Felicia" (a random quote from Ice Cube in the movie Friday). We don't really get it, because we're old. (Ke$ha tweeted it at some point over the summer. Over the past 18 months, at least 4 other tracks and a Jordin Sparks mixtape were released with this title. KnowYourMeme claims it was one of the topics discussed in the Straight Outta Compton film.) Yeah anyway, we wouldn't have known about it if this song hadn't grabbed our attention. The beat reminds us of "Juicy" or Reasonable Doubt-era Jay-Z. Also for a minute, we thought they were singing "five foot leesha."

90. Gemma “As Ever”
We promise this was a coincidence, but Felicia also just happens to be one half of Gemma. (See above.) The title track from their As Ever LP arrives abruptly with odd hiccups and sci-fi patches, anchored by a calming Wurlitzer and a classic '60s-style vocal melody reminiscent of Smokey Robinson's best A-sides.

89. Wilco “Random Name Generator”
Hardcore fans knew this already, but their bassist John Stirratt (one of the 2 OG's along with Jeff Tweedy) has been responsible for Wilco's signature octave-vox. By all accounts, this guy should be considered "the secret weapon" - or their Michael Anthony, if a Van Halen comparison might suffice. Somebody send this man a beer.

88. Diddy f/ Pharrell “Finna Get Loose”
This is probably what James Brown's big 2015 album would have sounded like.

87. D.R.A.M. "Cha Cha (Original version)" / Drake “Hotline Bling”
These are tied up because some people think they sound suspiciously similar. Drake's loop of "Why Can't We Live Together" was one of the more inspired choices for any of 2015's actual hits. The original version of "Cha Cha" sampled Koji Kondo's "Star Theme" from Super Mario World for SNES (which was a slowed down version of the 3-second loop played when Mario collects the invincible-star in the original SMB). Perhaps some cease-and-desist action went down, since the sample was changed prior to its availability on legal streaming services. (Granted, this new less-interesting version does actually sound like "Hotline Bling.")
"Cha Cha (original version)":
"Hotline Bling":

86. Dornik “Drive”
Dornik's LP wasn't afraid to pay homage to Michael Jackson's infrequently-referenced late-period records like History or Invincible. "Drive" and "Mountain" (a calming "Human Nature" influenced send-off) were probably the best examples.

85. Timbaland featuring Aaliyah “Shakin’”
Timbaland loves bacon. He says so right in the song.

84. Palm “Doggy Doctor”
At long last, the Hot Mix finally gets down with some Palm, the 4-piece from Philly who are responsible for the most hypnotic rock album of 2015. Is it "rock" though? Despite their gtr/gtr/bass/drums/vox instrumentation, few (if any) of its songs adhere to traditional rock structure, instead immersed in unpredictable experimentation and loose theme-and-variations not unlike 20th-century classical composers. One of the most engaging live acts of the moment.

83. Mastery “V.A.L.I.S.V.E.S.S.E.L.”
This is the opening 17-minute track from the most absurdly chaotic blackmetal album since Mortician's late '90s stuff. (It's actually more insane than that Agoraphobic Nosebleed record from the late 2000s.) Its Pitchfork review accurately claimed, "To call this music "dense" would be an understatement." David Lynch should consider this for the Wild At Heart 2 soundtrack.

82. Faith No More “Separation Anxiety”
FNM's split happened so suddenly and abruptly after the release of 1997's Album Of The Year that their career arc felt unresolved despite the Abbey Road-style finalizing. Sol Invictus provides their long-awaited epilogue. It almost seems like these ideas had been brewing in their subconscious for 13 years, as if it would have sounded exactly the same recorded in 1999 or 2002 instead of so far into the future.

81. David Bowie “Blackstar”
The boomers and Jann Wenner want another Hunky Dory, and Bowie finds this all very funny. We're hoping the next record is entirely 11-minute Scott Walker jams. (Also, we love that the song had to be shortened to 9:59 due to Soundcloud restrictions.)

80. Babysitter “Hippy In The City”
The drums, sax and vocal parts do not coincide or flow with any specific key (except for the female vocalist, who sounds sorta lined up with the bass). What puts it over the top is the sarcastically absurd dissonance between the guitar and the bass. A giant, depressed fuck-you rage. There's nothing positive about this world at all. It's just chaos, and our lives contain no meaning whatsoever. There's no point of attempting to blend in the traditional sense. We wonder if any commentary on gentrification is intended here. "Hipsters in the city?" Pushin' out the poor people and make room for more coffees with the white hearts on top? Where Brooklyn at?

79. Tähtiportti “Poikarakkaus”
One thing everybody knows about kids these days is that they LOVE industrial darkwave. So obviously everyone should expect Tähtiportti to be opening for Ed Sheeran as early as Spring 2016. Get pumped!

78. Alessia Cara “Here”
Fun fact: It's not a Portishead sample, but rather both jams sampled "Ike's Rap II" by Issac Hayes. The more you know. For your health.

77. Ciara “All Good”
Over the summer, we were kinda desperate for summery-sounding summer jams, and this one ended up getting spun a lot. This is the 2nd Ciara album in a row that saves its best song for last, and neither jam was a radio single. What's the deal?

76. Wilco “Cold Slope”
A few of these finger-pick solos sound like Nels Cline is pulling the guitar strings right off the fretboard. Or like Jerry pulling out Tom's whisker. *yoink*

75. Rob Crow's Gloomy Place “Business Interruptus”
Rob Crow is back! Back to music, AND back on Twitter. Double-dope. He's never toured for any of his solo albums (as far as we know), so the title of this new project provides hope that he might be preparing live arrangements of stuff like "Prepare To Be Mined" or "Taste" or "I Hate You Rob Crow." [P.S. The storm trooper works pretty well next to both Wilco and Rob Crow. We swear that was a coincidence.]

74. Beauty Pill “Drapetomania!”
Beauty Pill is more rock than indie despite their bizarre instrumentation and song structures, far closer to Self's Breakfast With Girls or Soul Coughing's Ruby Vroom than Beirut. (No ukeleles in sight.) "Drapetomania" kicks off the party by setting up the scene with one of its record's catchiest jams.

73. Ava Luna “Coat of Shellac”
There's countless arty weirdo shit in Brooklyn at any given moment, but Ava Luna are continuing to hold down their position as Brooklyn's strangest and most off-balance rock band. And we know that's an odd claim since their songs are inherently catchy, danceable and hugely accessible, yet so compelling eccentric. If a modern day Talking Heads exists, Ava Luna is that band. We know they just happened to begin a hiatus as of this past weekend, and we're hoping they plan on returning soon.

72. Gunk “Hippy” / Dungen "Sista Gästen"
Our Top 2 "drug sequence jams of the year," or "jams for The Dude from The Big Lebowski while floating in outer space." And here come the rainbows. The sun is shining. It's Woodstock 1969. We're so happy Gunk returned after their brief hiatus, and super unexpectedly. Our verbatim reaction was shouting "THERE'S A NEW GUNK???!" seconds after the message dropped in our inbox. (The message was "Greetings, RANCH just released Gunk by GUNK.") And we're equally pumped that we still have no idea what Dungen is singing about. Passing a tab of acid from one foreign tongue to the other.


71. Ringo Deathstarr “Heavy Metal Suicide”

Ringo goes grunge. YES. Elliott and Alex are pulling off a fantastic Staley/Cantrell impersonation. The rest of Pure Mood is just as fantastic, sounding like a return to the nastiness and floaty textures from 2011's Colour Trip.

| Hot Mix 2015 on Spotify |

| #200 - 166 | #165 - 131 | #130 - 101 | #100 -71 | #70 - 41 | #40 - 21 | #20 - 1 |

| All 200 Songs |