Best of 2011 (So Far!) According to Tumblr: An 8Tracks Mix
I was going to do a Spotify playlist, but people chose too many mixtape and unofficially-released tracks for that. So here are the thirty-two songs everyone eventually suggested, along with my thoughts on them after having listened to this mix five times over the last three days. Running order is the order they were suggested according to my Tumblr notifications. (If I have your name wrong or incomplete, let me know!)
1-2. JoJo, “Marvin’s Room (Can’t Do Better)” and EMA “California” (suggested by Jonathan)
A great downbeat one-two to start with, moving from JoJo’s late-night spite to EMA’s apocalyptic deathwish as if Jonathan had had sequencing in mind. I already knew and loved JoJo’s Drake cover/genderbend (miles ahead of Drake’s original, and in fact it’s pretty much the real one to me now), but I think I’d heard “California” only once before. Every time I listened to it this week, I heard more, the way it hangs nearly structurelessly in the air like stormy weather, a hurricane of bad vibes and ill feeling. All solemnized and made transcendent — for me anyway — by the Stephen Foster quotation. (N.B. Sam also suggested “California.”)
3. Nicki Minaj “Super Bass” (suggested by Kallen)
Five months and who knows how many hundreds of listens later, I still grin and try to dance whenever I hear it. Don’t you hear that boom-ba-doomp-oom boom-ba-doomp-oom bay-y. (N.B. Lex also suggested it.)
4-5. Tove Styrke “High and Low” and Metronomy “The Bay” (suggested by Sally)
One of the most interesting things about listening to a mix like this is getting hints of the personalities behind the picks — inhabiting, at least imaginatively (I don’t claim psychic powers) the ears of a particular, not-mine sensibility. Both of these are songs I’d heard before (they came up on the Jukebox, I believe), but I dismissed them unfairly as slight, unmemorable, or perhaps too removed — and next to some of the flashier or at least louder tracks on this mix they might seem a bit pale or reserved. But I think I see what Sally’s getting at here: attention to detail, to craft and to emotions plainly, even coolly, spoken but deeply felt, is a virtue, and by the last listen I was singing along in the fragmented way I do when I haven’t quite learned a song yet.
6. St. Vincent “Cheerleader” (suggested by openapplev)
I respect Annie Clark more than I listen to her, which means that every time I do listen to her I end up feeling like an idiot that it took me this long. “Cheerleader” doesn’t grab me the way “Surgeon,” off the same record, did, and I’m far from feeling like I quite grasp what it’s about, but again it has me thinking in terms of weather: big billowy gusts of emotion that cerebral rhythms, carefully constructed, convert to usable energy.
7. King Louie “Too Cool” (suggested by David)
I know nothing about regional rap — I’m all about the charts — so I only know that King Louie is out of Chicago because Google told me so. This mixtape track may be a great example of a specific brand-new (or decades-old, I’m ignant) scene, but I spent my first listen trying to adjust the treble and bass settings on my car stereo before slowly realizing that it was supposed to sound like that, the bottom-end hits fritzing out everything so that even Louie’s voice bursts into digital shards. The production is full of buzzing, tonic electronic sounds that might (or might not) be sculpted out of the soundtracks to eight-bit video games, and if they overshadow the lyrics to a degree, that’s only because they’re pretty standard party-anthem stuff.
8-9. Delilah “Go” and Low “Try To Sleep” (suggested by Ian)
On “Go,” I’ll refer you to my Jukebox blurb, and note that time has only added to its minimalist heft. Low are another of my manifold blind spots, not so much disliked as almost completely unheard, and “Try to Sleep” reminds me weirdly of the Webb Brothers’ 2000 Maroon (not gonna claim it’s an unheard classic, just one of the albums I happened to pick up that year). It’s pretty and twinkly and even lullabyish, but I kept waiting for something more to happen, and it never did. Maybe you have to like Low already.
10-11. Tyler the Creator “Yonkers” and Fucked Up “Serve Me Right” (suggested by Sam)
Coming into this, I was much more familiar with the discourse surrounding Goblin and David Comes to Life than I was with either record — in fact this marks the first time I got all the way through either of these songs. I like Tyler more than Fucked Up because I like listening to rapping more than I like listening to punk screaming, but I’m not particularly fond of either. I can appreciate Tyler’s mordant, wordplay-heavy misanthropy and Fucked Up’s extravagant, self-lacerating emotionalism, but they’re not worlds I care to spend much time in, perhaps because I already do and don’t need musical accompaniment to get me there.
12. Diddy-Dirty Money ft. Swizz Beatz “Ass on the Floor” (suggested by Zach)
Every time this started up I thought it was either “Beat of My Drum” by Nicola Roberts or “Girls (Run the World)” by Beyoncé. Which speaks more to the recent omnipresence of the “Pon de Floor” beat than to my paying-attention bona fides; but I also like Nicola’s and Bey’s songs better than this. And I like this quite a lot! I still haven’t listened to Last Train to Paris all the way through, but on the strength of this and “Coming Home” Diddy has evolved into maybe the most honest, perceptive chronicler of the inner life of the super-rich and mega-famous, while remaining true to the dance needs of the working class. Kanye who and Jay what?
13. Soulja Boy “Juice” (suggested by Kat)
A few years ago I had a theory that Soulja Boy played roughly the same role in hip-hop as, say, the Kingsmen or the Troggs did in rock & roll: producing loud, noisy, teenage music whose stupidness was a feature, not a bug. “Juice” is more of the same, a mixtape track that is basically an ode to lean, but without Wayne’s sonic trickery (a single slowed-down bar hardly counts) or inventive wordplay: he means what he says, and he’s said what he meant, our Soulja’s still Soulja, one hundred per cent.
14. The Lonely Island ft. Akon “I Just Had Sex” (suggested by Tal)
This was the second song I put in my “2011” iTunes playlist in January, right after DJ Earworm’s mashup of 2010. I first heard it as an interstitial song on the Comedy Death-Ray podcast, and as soon as I got home I pulled up the SNL video and watched it again and again. Without getting too whatever about it, it’s one thing to make a song parodying hip-hop celebrations of getting it on: it’s another to make the choice to present it from the viewpoint of an excitable thirteen-year-old boy. Sure, sexual boasting contrasted with sexual inexperience is as dependable a comedy trope as there is, but what makes the song repeat listening for me is the soaring joy of the chorus, complete with big-ass key change: a reminder that despite the all the intricate emotional, political, and psychological complications detailed in much of the rest of this mix, fucking is still pretty amazing.
15. DJ Khaled ft. Drake, Rick Ross & Lil Wayne “I’m On One” (suggested by a different David)
I don’t know that I’d ever sat down and listened to this all in one piece before; usually I catch it on the radio, and as with most Khaled productions, check out what’s on the other stations before being driven back to it by commercials. I’m not a fan of Drake’s pity-party rap, so while this goes down easy, there’s a bit too many of his droning hook(s) and not enough Weezy, though he gets off the best line: “the feds listening/what money?” (I also enjoy hearing Rawss’s “Call Marc Jacobs” as “Karl Marx Jacobs” every single time before the actual line reasserts itself in my head.) But everything else, from the descending synth figure which anchors the production to Drake’s pointless lean fixation, just sounds exhausted to me.
16. Lady Gaga “Marry the Night” (suggested by Katherine)
I hadn’t actually heard this one before; though my province is generally big-budget lady-driven dance music (favorite records of 2011 so far: 4, Femme Fatale, Miss Little Havana), I’ve never been as into Gaga as the discourse surrounding her would suggest. I admire her attempt to mix arena rock and club thump more than I actually care to listen to it, and her conceptual babble tends to alienate me more than more straightforward declarations of love and loss. All of which is to say, I like “Marry the Night” more than anything else I’ve heard from Born This Way (the title track, “Judas,” “Edge of Glory,” “Yoü and I”), because the Springsteenisms are incorporated into the Pennistonisms instead of just sitting awkwardly alongside them. Actually, the production is remarkably subtle, something I only noticed when listening to it on headphones instead of in a car with the windows down or out of my phone’s tinny speaker (oh I know I am such a philistine don’t even start), with gradual shifts behind the arena-house thump that gives her vampire-glam mythologizing unexpected emotional weight. I still don’t know that I’m fully invested in Gaga’s music, but I’m glad to have heard something that sounds like it’s progressed from “Bad Romance.”
17. Beyoncé “Love on Top” (suggested by Jamieson)
Although the sequencing of this mix was essentially random, I like several of the transitions here. This one echoes the one on 4, where “Love on Top” is preceded by the raging “Start Over,” and the slinky hi-hat intro in both cases provides a sort of psychological reset. This is an obviously great song, a disco throwback that provides Beyoncé a chance to show off her pipes in a series of leaping key changes; in the context of the mix, it marks a sort of cooling-down point; at least once while listening, I fell asleep around here. (Yes, I went back and listened again, and then again until all plays were equalled out. I’m nothing if not OCD.)
18. Phoenix “1901” (suggested by Jhe-An)
This is from 2009, but I don’t mind; I never felt like I gave Phoenix a fair shake at the time, and while this is pretty much everything I remembered it being — power pop filtered through a Strokesy new-wave chassis — it’s pretty and zippy, a palate cleanser before heading into more unfamiliar waters.
19. Ke$ha ft. Andre 3000 “The Sleazy Remix” (suggested by Erika)
This is familiar, of course — I’ve loved “Sleazy” forever, and while I’m not as enthused about the remix as some people (Andre’s verse is great, I just don’t get the point of tacking it on the front of the song and changing nothing else), I’m definitely in favor of the increased attention/possible respect it’s garnered Ke$ha from corners suspicious of brash, electronic dance-pop. The beat still bangs.
20. EMA “Marked” (suggested by Nathan)
One of only two artists to have multiple songs nominated, EMA is doing her best to convince me to listen to all of Past Life Martyred Saints, which has been sitting on my hard drive waiting for me to get to around to it. “Marked” isn’t as immediately overwhelming as “California” was, but its cloudy production, punctuated by guitar scrapes and unidentifiable sounds, is deeply immersive, and the refrain “I wish that every time he touched me left a mark” is shudderingly profound, so much so that it can be hard to listen to in certain moods.
21. Tanya Stephens “Shame on You” (suggested by Rob)
I have Rob and his Dancehall Queens tumblr to thank for introducing me to much of the best Jamaican music I’ve heard this year, and I love this even more than Tanya Stephens’ previous claim on my affections, the slow-burning soul anthem “These Streets.” This is lighter, as much soca, or even zouk, as reggae, and while I immediately went to Susan Cadogan’s classic “Shame (Shame on You)” when I saw the title, this might be even better; airy without being gauzy, with lots of stellar percussive elements and Tanya’s rubbery, expressive voice keeping the focus on the central conflict; the music suggests joy, but she knows better.
22. Royal T “Cool Down” (suggested by Nick)
I don’t have the sort of listening instincts that make a song like this jump out at me (I had to check the Pitchfork review of the Tropical 2 album just now to orient myself; apparently this is an outgrowth of dubstep?), which doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy it while it happens. I am, unfortunately, a song-oriented listener, and while I can appreciate, on an intellectual level, the orgasmic rush produced by mixing and matching sounds here, all the various “cool”s and “down”s cascading over each other in a blissful rush, I can’t help wishing there was a personality out in front, instead of just behind the boards.
23. Rebecca Black “Friday” (suggested by yet another David)
Post-post-post-ironic appreciation circles back around, eats its own tail. The mp3 I downloaded from somewhere surprised me with a production that sounded fuller than I remembered from the viral video, but maybe I had just never turned it up so loud before. It’s — astonishingly — a good song, aware of its silliness but committed regardless. Rebecca Black’s nasal, machine-assisted squawk hits a weird midspace between Professional Singer (which she’d never be mistaken for) and Real Teenage Girl (which, since I’m a grownup, is just as mediated a concept as any other for me now). If the worst music is music that sounds like it could be made by anyone, music that is undeniably, even horribly, sui generis is its own form of brilliance. I mean, not to invoke the specter of the Shaggs, but… you know?
24. Jens Lekman “An Argument with Myself” (suggested by Tyler)
It is driving me nuts trying to remember which Ghanian highlife song the opening guitar figure reminds me of (“all of them” is not a valid answer), or maybe I’m thinking of Dominican bachata. Either way, it provides a cute counterpart to Lekman’s equally-cute monologue about a night going wrong in the middle of what Google suggests is probably Melbourne. I enjoy the grace notes, the one-sided dialogues, the sudden outbursts, but I can’t help thinking I might have liked it better as a staged piece, or even a Tumblr post; as a song, it’s insubstantial, a little too twee to fully embrace.
25-26. Beyoncé “Countdown” and The Pains of Being Pure at Heart “Heaven’s Gonna Happen Now” (suggested by Isabel)
I’m already fully on board with “Countdown” (cf.), so I’ll talk about the Pains of Being Pure at Heart, who I’m pretty sure I thought were a mall-emo band right up until the point where the vocals came in. (In my defense, they have a seven-word name.) But this sounds surprisingly like 80s British jangle-pop, Orange Juice or the Bluebells with a fuller production, and as someone who has spent long periods binging on as much 80s British jangle-pop as he could get his hands on, I’m all about it. At least for the space of the song — one of the deep pleasures about a mix like this is that there’s so much variety I can’t get bored with a single style even if I tried to. (N.B. Lex also suggested “Countdown.”)
27. Little Richard “Don’t Deceive Me” (suggested by softcommunication)
I know this wasn’t a real nomination (SC just wanted to give me some good mountain-driving music), but I put it in the mix anyway. It’s from Little Richard’s 1967 album The Explosive Little Richard, on which he incorporated Southern soul and blues into his highly-charged piano-driven rock & roll; this was originally a Dave Bartholomew-written Fats Domino song, but it was an R&B standard by the time this was cut, and Richard’s interplay with Johnny “Guitar” Watson, who plays lead on the record, is very fine. It’s a shame that Little Richard’s soul period wasn’t more successful; he’s as great a soul singer as he was a rock shouter. A lovely interstitial before we head into the downslope: only five more songs to go.
28. Selena Gomez & the Scene “My Dilemma” (suggested by thehotflash)
I’m conflicted about Selena Gomez: I think she often has great songs, and even better productions, but her habit of injecting a little too much “emotion” into her vocals is grating. But where cooler, more detached performances could launch cheerful songs like “Love You Like a Love Song” or “Naturally” into the stratosphere, that vocal tic works excellently on “My Dilemma,” because of the more conflicted lyric, and the result is excellent teenpop, maybe the best teenpop song since “You Belong to Me.”
29-31. Farewell Fighter “Growing Pains” and Anathema “Thin Air” and Algernon Cadwallader “Pitfall” (suggested by Andrew)
My listening habits only rarely coincide with Andrew’s, but I respect the hell out of his taste, his analytical ability, and his intellectual honesty (of all the music writers I follow regularly, he most consistently follows the grade-school mathematics admonition to Show Your Work). I haven’t listened to guitar bands, particularly guitar bands that are popular with teens, since I was a teen myself (lol Nirvana), and on first listen, I in my ignorance mentally categorized all three songs as “emo,” and grumbled that they all sounded the same But subsequent listens revealed much different textures and sensibilities at work in the three songs; ultimately I think I like “Growing Pains” best (perhaps because it sounds most like the yearning, earnest Christian rock I grew up with), but the still, haunting quality of Anathema (who are closer to gothic metal than emo) and the unembarrassed yelp of Algernon Cadwallader have their appeal too. I’m pretty sure the attractions of these songs for Andrew are embedded in their lyrics, and I haven’t listened to them/Googled enough to suss out what they are, save for a few repeated phrases, but purely as sonic texture, they provide enough of a rawk balance to the rest of the mix that by the most recent listen I was actively looking forward to hearing them. Which, for me and modern rock, is huge.
32. Britney Spears “How I Roll” (suggested by Jacob)
I was so, so happy that this came up last. For about a week there during the summer, I listened to a playlist that consisted only of this and “Countdown” on repeat, because they were the two most purely joyous songs I could think of. It might be my song of the year — or at least tied with “Countdown” and “Super Bass” — and I have a whole half-formed essay about how it combines what were in 2001 considered polar opposites (the sonic texturality and vocal manipulation of Kid A and the gleaming pop vixenry of Britney Spears) mushed up somewhere in my head, but mostly I just want to jitter, croon, and shimmy shimmy ya along with it, the greatest pure pop song of the year, possibly of the decade, possibly of the millennium. Joe Meek and Phil Spector and Berry Gordy and George Martin and Serge Gainsbourg and Todd Rungdren and Björn & Benny and Nile Rodgers and Teddy Riley and Timbaland and Max Martin were all working towards this. Only being a little hyperbolic.
Thanks, everyone! This was awesome, and it’s definitely gotten me in the mood to be exploring the rest of 2011’s music. I’m not much of a critic, and never less so than in my attitude towards keeping up (basically “you can’t make me, nyahh”), but for the first time I’m looking forward to all those year-end lists.
32b. Drake ft. Nicki Minaj “Make Me Proud” (here)
Not sure whether my distaste for the condescending “I’m so proud of you” hook is due to my distaste for Drake or my barely-adequate feminism, but this surprised me by how propulsive it is (uptempo Drake songs always do). Nicki is of course the highlight, but she hardly gets to do anything.
32c. Kurt Vile “Baby’s Arms” (here)
Indie rockers too often can’t win for losing with me, as I’m equally likely to turn with a shudder from snotty, snarling punk as I am to roll my eyes at the somnolent classicism they get up to when they’re not being abrasive. I know nothing about Kurt Vile, but I was expecting (and I don’t know why) abrasive punk; while this shimmering country-rock lullaby is much nicer than that, it’s still too navel-gazing and lazy (really, that’s your chorus?) for me to really embrace it.
32d. The Weeknd “Loft Music” (here)
The first three minutes are a nice half-baked version of The-Dream; the ambient, wordless croons of the second three minutes are pretty to listen to, but unless I’m supposed to be engaged in specific activities with this as the soundtrack, he’s kind of lost me.
(Edit: Ugh, this is why I listened to the original mix several times over the course of several days. I’m way too quick to dismiss on first listen.)
35 Notes/ Hide
- serverdatarecovery reblogged this from jonathanbogart and added:
- serverdatarecovery likes this
- vestidos-2012 reblogged this from andrewtsks
- vestidos-2012 likes this
- softcommunication likes this
- elleowlathene likes this
- deanvannguyen likes this
- deanvannguyen reblogged this from jonathanbogart and added:
- ourcatastrophe likes this
- imathers likes this
- sallyo reblogged this from jonathanbogart and added:
- sallyo likes this
- semipoplife reblogged this from jonathanbogart
- hyenabutter likes this
- unbornwhiskey likes this
- isabelthespy likes this
- mollypeck likes this
- thevidsarealright said: Also THIS: poptrashaddicts.blogspo…
- printedinternet likes this
- andrewtsks reblogged this from jonathanbogart and added:
- ley-lines likes this
- katherinestasaph likes this
- screwrocknroll likes this
- eush likes this
- jamiesoncox likes this
- carbide likes this
- carbide said: My #1 so far is local and I felt silly mentioning it, but: ginnels.bandcamp.com/tr…
- hndrk likes this
- t33j likes this
- mindyourownmusic likes this
- jonathanbogart posted this