sleigh bells

2012: The Year in YOLO

I gave in this year to pop music and am not at all ashamed to admit my “best songs of 2012 (The Big List)” features a number of songs that are unapologetically pop and (to my ears at least) awfully good.

Maybe it’s having young kids who listen to the radio All The Time, maybe it’s because there’s an unusual quantity of good pop songs out there, maybe this is just another manifestation of my own contrariness. But I find myself wondering again and again: What’s Not to Like?

So, yes! yes! to Taylor and Carly Rae and P!nk and Xtina and Psy and Pitbull and Adam Levine and Kelly and Ke$ha and on the country side, that Little Big Town is pretty freaking catchy. I never thought I would like a song so good that name-checks Coors, but there you go. Perhaps I have been living in the South for too long.

For those whose tastes are so refined, they simply can’t abide listening to things enjoyed by the rabble (you know who you are) I have made a slightly condensed playlist that cuts out the pop mega-hits. It’s still a good list.

But I felt I had to go ahead and choose my favorite songs of the year. Hell is other people’s playlists, a wise person once said, so here, for better or worse, a dozen or so good tunes from YOLO Year of Our Lord 2012.

Ke$sha haters can suck it. This is an instant classic. It makes me wish that she would have made Warrior more along the lines of her original (stated) intent: more sleazy 70s rock, more guitars, less pop, fewer synths. As the man in A Hard Day’s Night said, perhaps this is “an early clue to the new direction.” I can only hope. “Sweet-ass mullet,” ftw.

The Youtube vid for “Everything is Embarrassing” has just surpassed a million hits, so this treads perilously close to Too Mainstream, but  the timelessness* of this song  can’t be denied.
*or perhaps perfect evocation of 90s production values

Apparently I am a sucker for songs with “Everything” in the title. Hard to separate the song from the beautiful video.  Old School in the best sense.

A duet teaming a young rappper born and raised in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, and Kurtis Blow, the Bronx.  I love this. Why isn’t this getting ten million hits on Youtube??

Pure pop confection that sounds even more ethereal in Japanese for some reason.

Feisty, sexy, funny–three things you really don’t expect from mainstream country these days.

Seems like this song has been around for more than a year. Never get tired of it, though.

The reissue of “Pearl” came out in 2012, in case you wonder why this song makes the list. Janis’ crazy cackle shows she knew she blew the take right at the beginning. But on and on it goes, and the world is better for it. The ad libs are absolutely priceless. Amy Adams to star as Janis in a movie coming soon? Don’t quite know how I feel about that.

My son’s gang posts videos of their trampoline tricks online. His friend used a Brother Ali song in one. Instead of getting a cease-and-desist from a company lawyer, he got a “cool, bro” from Brother Ali himself. That prejudices me in the man’s favor but this entire album is great. Angry, political, intensely human.

In awe of this entire thing. Sixteen definitely ain’t enough. “How’s he God if he lets Lucifer let loose on us?”

As though someone discovered a cassette featuring Gram Parsons gigging with the Dead, circa American Beauty.

The most YOLO song of a YOLO year.

Girly Show: My 2010 Best Of music list

This whole Best of the Year thing strikes me as a little contrived.

As with any year, my ITunes was as likely to be playing Serge Gainsbourg or June Christie, Johnny Burnett or Wynn Stewart, as anything released in the current year. But for some reason, in 2010 I got to sample what Everyone Was Talking About. Thank the Internet, my Emusic subscription (still *this* close to canceling – as ever), worthwhile music sites like Stereogum and Music For Ants mixtapes, not to mention Amazon’s selling many of the year’s top albums for $3.99 or less for a few weeks before Christmas. (For that last counterintuitive marketing ploy, thanks and praise to the vanity of musicians obsessing over units sold, regardless of price).

Anyway … no! I am not a professional music critic, if such a profession still exists–nor do I play one on TV. But here are 10 or so good songs and/or albums, just in case you’ve run out of lists to scan.

This is the first time I’ve compiled such a list. And attention, Jezebel editors! Nearly all of my picks feature women! Either as singers, distaff halves of duets (not sure I used “distaff” right there), or … um … bands with girl bass players. I mean nothing by this, or I don’t think I do. (And my record collection in high school was, like, ALL dudes. So maybe I’m evolving.)

Herewith, in no particular order, a mix of song choices and album choices with a couple of just-because-they’re-cool-videos at the end.

PJ Harvey, The Last Living Rose. I love the video as much as the song, ever so English and elegaic. Another new direction for the mercurial Polly.

Cradle, The first of two in my series featuring Welsh women of song, from the aptly named Joy Formidable!

… and the second, Marina and the Diamonds. This is probably the least watched of Marina’s many videos this year, and perhaps not the best song from her altogether amazing album … but this video! Lingerie! Zombies! Thriller homage!

Matt & Kim, AM/FM Sound. I very much enjoyed the Lessons Learned video, where they frolicked naked through Times Square. (“Tourists walk through Times Square inappropriately dressed for the weather.”) Just in case they are stuck for ideas: DO THAT ONE AGAIN!

Best Coast, I Wish I Was Your Boyfriend. I liked some other songs from Crazy for You better, but what a sweet video! The album is great top to bottom, and for me stayed that way for many months after I first heard it. Very high concept, though. As with Sleigh Bells, I imagine there will be whisperings about what they will do for an encore. As with Sleigh Bells, I think it will be something terrific.

Arcade Fire, Sprawl II Mountains Beyond Mountains. OK. Everyone liked this one, but occasionally everyone gets it right.

Superchunk, Digging for Something. Liked ’em, but didn’t love ’em in their heyday, but I played this song more times in my 1995 Camry Wagon this summer than any other except for Rill Rill. Seriously LOL video.

Cults, Go Outside. Ew, that icky Jim Jones intro–what is the point of that?–but what a beautiful tune. More cowbell? Nay! More GLOCKENSPIEL!

‘Allo Darlin’ – I adore the self-titled album as a whole more than this, or any, particular song. Unashamedly emotion-laden, a tad on the twee side, and wise beyond their years. I am also in love with the singer’s Queensland inflections. Lips. Silly. Telephone. Teddy Bear. Bondi Beach and Coogee Bay. (“I like the sound of their names”). I also turn slightly morose at an earlier song of theirs, a simple uke-strumalong called Tallulah. “I’m wondering if/I’ve already heard /All the songs that’ll mean something.”

You should not be thinking such thoughts at such a young age. And the answer is no.

Lykke Li, Get Some. At first underwhelmed by the line “I’m your prostitute. You’re gonna get some.” But then just gave in to the thumping drive of this song, her awkward yet intense body language, and the way she bites her lip with such determination. This girl is scary talented. A whole album coming this year!

Sleigh Bells, Infinity Guitars. I’ve seen a few reviews stating that the Sleigh Bells sound is not a lot more than an audacious, jokey gimmick, but the staying power of that sound is impossible to overstate. Favorite album of the year.

Weepies, Please Speak Well of Me. Special guest appearance by a pair of grownups. Gorgeously understated, modest in scope and sentiment, this song resonated hugely with me in a year where I had to deal with some major people in my life not being there anymore. That might not entirely be what it’s about, but I took it that way….

Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffitti, Round and Round
. The only dude singer in this whole bunch, and it would have to be a guy who elsewhere sings “Make me maternal, fertile woman/Make me menstrual, menopause man/Rape me, castrate me, make me gay/Lady, I’m a lady from today.” This song diddles around for nearly two minutes, then becomes a thing of beauty. The two-minute mark is also where this inspired unofficial vid kicks into high gear.

Bonus videos:

Scissors Sisters, Invisible Light.
Dream logic writ large. Buñuel-esque. Memorable jodhpurs.

Yeasayer, Madder Red.
This will gross you out a little, and might make you cry. It also might give you newfound admiration for Kristen Bell’s acting chops.

Songs of innocence and experience

The other day I decided  Sleigh Bells had come up with the greatest song ever, and I made a point of doing errands that required lots of slow driving with the window down and the car stereo cranked. I slunk down a bit in the seat, head back,  rocking steady to “Rill Rill.”

Right? Truly, it’s a perfect song for that kind of thing. But today I’m a little sheepish. Don’t know if anyone I knew saw me, but … a 51-year-old man in a 15-year-old station wagon cruisin’ to a song made by and for twenty-something hipsters….

… I’m thinking I should maybe groove out to that sort of music in private. Or out in back of the house.

But the good thing about getting old is that you can choose to enjoy Sleigh Bells’ apocalyptic thrash with a layer of sugar on top. Or not. And you have the Weepies too, who released their first album in four years yesterday. Which is positively thrilling to  me. The young folks, I’m not so sure not all the young folks get the Weepies.

Deb Talan and Steve Tannen are the Weepies. They both had solo careers, then they got married. To each other. They have a son they took years off touring to have and raise.

Their music could only have been made by grownups. It’s got real wit and occasionally bizarre imagery, but to me it’s a lot about the thick and thinnin’ of married life. Dealing with commitment and contentment and little pleasures without making the listener feel brain dead.

Here is the first song from “Be My Thrill”:

Wise. Warm. Modest. Wry. Polite. Grammatical. “When I’m gone, Please speak well of me.”

Note the “please” and  “well,” kids.

(Also, I still love Sleigh Bells).

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