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20: The Juan MacLean “Happy House”
This isn’t completely interminable so perhaps this is why it was distinguishable from other house tracks. You could just check out to it, so I guess it works. Gets tougher and dirtier at the end, so it’s a little better. I fear now for UC’s safety.
UC’s take:: Shockingly, this song didn’t offend me to my core. I made it almost ten minutes before my head started to throb in annoyance. This could be in fact the greatest house track ever in the history of mankind. Meaning 4/10. Fine. Sigh.
19: Vivian Girls “Where Do You Run To”
I do think the hurricane around the Vivian Girls is odd, given the inoffensive nature of their album. I think the line needs to be “it’s not the band I hate, it’s their hype.” We joke about Marc with a C to tha H-O Hogan, but he’s got a good brain on him and we’ve noticed some astute emanations from his melon in this list and around the web lately [Ed- I mentioned this in my post earlier in the week]. I think this is P-fork’s worst list and it’s most cynical collection of songs. In this illuminating discussion with others, Hogan talks about the influence aping (which in general, we are usually fine with if the songs are there, because some sounds and genres we love) dominating the content and he is right. We’ve moved on from Baroque into Mannerism and for many of these bands, their execution of influence karaoke is excellent, and certainly takes skill but skill and talent are not the same. Are the Vivian Girls the touchstone for this argument because their influence skills and talent are so far apart. I found album disappointing because there are words and sounds that don’t stick because there’s nothing there. A lot of the influence spotters have named near forgotten 90s band Black Tambourine as the key reference for VG. I hadn’t heard them so I downloaded a BT anthology from emusic, and the difference between BT and VG is that BT had songs in addition to the sound. Some of the reason for this is that bands that do their own thing or more organically come into their own influences are subconsciously compelled to push themselves into a preexisting pigeonhole, they’re starting with the songs first while creating it the future pigeonhole at the same time.
UC’s take: Well I didn’t dislike this song as I thought I might, and I didn’t like this song as I hoped I might. Like Pinko said, it is pretty empty music. I could imagine listening to this song between the opening act and the headline act at a random club. It would fill in some time and not really bother anybody, but this song could never stimulate me to want to hear it again or to have any kind of intellectual or emotional response to it. Good starter music for a new garage band.
18: Women “Black Rice”
Trippily awesomely wonderful. Psychedelic retro beach boys hazy 60s perfection with every working part functioning in harmony rather than a grab bag of pastiche. UC will poop, then shoot. Excellent. I don’t understand how awesome this is on first listen, I didn’t have to think about it or be convinced, or wonder about cobag music dabbling, deduction from first principles, and teaching moments about crap-to-marginal electrosquirt neo-disco.
UC’s take:I think it’s interesting that this list starts with Girls and works toward Women. I’m wondering where the entry was for Chicks. I wish I could have loved this track more. The bells at the beginning are perfect and I really like how it worked into the melodic line. What the song was missing for me was tonal perfection. And it is probably the organic and un-touched-up-ness of this track that made it appeal to Pitchfork. I just found the singer to be out of tune at times, and it took me out of the moment. Don’t get me wrong, this song is wonderful and I think quite original. But I’m keep my poop inside my colon for now.
17: Wiley “Wearing My Rolex”
Fine to listen to once. I can’t even muster the effort to delineate why Tommy Ewing seems to be kind of a tosser sometimes, but he does some nice work on his blog and he loves music so in the spirit of love and happiness, we reiterate our lack of aforementioned mustering . This song comes off as a passable, yet boring novelty- I think T.E.’s just happy about the “classic” house sample.
UC’s take:Total novelty crap. Tommy Ewing seems to feel like the paranoia of the lyrics make this song compelling. I feel like the absolute uninteresting crapitude of the music make this song not compelling. I win, Tommy.
16: The Mae Shi “Run to Your Grave”
These guys showed up on the P-fork best videos list, and the song is fun, morbid. Kind of like a digital watch fueled neighborhood kid basement church group hand clap punk. Awesome. I mean it. Could possibly annoy you a la Polyphonic Spree- the song is relatively crunchyass with stuffed sinus nasal phrasing.
UC’s take:The two best parts of the song are the ending and when it’s over. I just wasn’t won over by the ‘shout it out when you know it’ feel of the song. Also, the rhythms felt artificial and cold to me. Not quite working, and certainly not top 20 for me.
15: Amadou and Mariam “Sabali”
Fun, poignant Texas Instruments Afro-space music. Joe Tangari’s description is pretty apt. I almost wish they took some of the beat off this and made it spacier.
UC’s take: Finally, a song that totally steals a Grandaddy synth line. I forgive it for any other shortcomings and every other feature that I didn’t initially care for. AWESOME!!! Pinko is right that spacier would be better. Also, this song should be 20 minutes straight of the 2nd half.
14: Lil Wayne “A Milli”
Lil Wayne comes off like he is totally crazy. I’m reminded of ODB on this. His flow is interesting and you are definitely on his every word, but then as usual comes the bitch, bitch, fag, bitch. blah blah blah. I’m big enough where I can respect some sort of talent here, but I can also respect my audience and not plop some tired turd couplets in the list. It was grating and tough with Ghostface two years ago, but some of that work was just so obviously a masterpiece where Wayne’s just playing as a lot of the shout outs look like he dipped into his early 2000s lyrical scribbles. Oh, Iooked back at last year’s, and the UGK song in a nearby spot was where I denounced the same old shit. [adding: and Lil Wayne last year as well- fuck Lil Wayne]
UC’s take: Pinko Punko is crazy! This is entirely a masterpiece, belonging alongside any Beatles song. Hell, it belongs in the Louvre of music. Oh who am I kidding. This was smelly bad. Lame. Puke.
13: Kanye West “Flashing Lights”
The strings on this remind me of Bernard Hermann (Hitchcock’s most well known film scorer during the top of his color game, plus Psycho) a little bit in the intro. Kanye seems more into the delivery than the actual words. He telling a story though rather than just lining up some killer lines. I think he’s not a very happy person. He gets murdered in the video and I think he thinks he kind of thinks that getting murdered is undeserved but maybe a little bit understandable for whatever romantic transgression he’s suffering on account. Yikes. Decently restrained on some of the production, it’s quite excellent for what it is.
UC’s take: Fine. I understand that it is crucial that Pitchfork place a Kanye song spaced every 25 songs apart, because I guess there were only like 10 CDs released this entire year. Way above average for the genre, and even above average for the Pitchfork selections. Way below average of almost every song on my iPod.
12: Cut Copy “Out There on the Ice”
Cut Copy is kind of an uptempo synthesis of refrigerated New Order and a bound-and-gagged OMD. I wish someone would kind of rework the below and slip it into the P-fork’s Folger’s Crystals, would they be able to identify the mid-90s also rans going through Depeche Mode’s garbage, or would they be caught with their pants down halfway through a Stuff White People Like-worthy mass hallucination wank?
You know like Ian Cohen does with the stupidest non-Grayson Currin written thing ever to appear in the English language- we’ll set the scene with a little dramatization:
“Dear Diary, it’s me, Ian. Remember how I wrote in P-fork that “Dan Whitford figured out how to foolproof dance music for rock kids who still want to get down but have no idea about the process. When Whitford sings “you don’t know what to do” during the chorus of “Out There on the Ice”, it’s unintentionally empathetic in this context.”? I was talking about my friend you know. Also, it’s just so obvious about the song. Poor rock kids. They are so lost when Felix plays that 20-minute version. I <3 Cut Copy. It's like I waited my whole life for this one night. Going to be me and you, diary, and the dance floor. 'Cause we've only got one night." I wonder if Diary knows that while Ian is donating community service to the Beginner's Clubbing workshop at the Learning Annex, or innoculating uncontacted Amazonian rock kid tribes with small doses of otherwise deadly dance music, he's cheating on Cut Copy with Chris Brown? This is color by numbers. O Meh D, indeed. UC’s take:This is more like Copy Copy Paste Paste. I just wish I could hit Delete. Or at least Edit this song out of my life. Ctrl-Meh!
11: David Byrne and Brian Eno “Strange Overtones”
Languid, subtle and expressive all at once, David Byrne’s voice is in a different place than it was when Pitchforkers parents were in their late 20s. I think this song is excellent, but wouldn’t appear on this list if this hadn’t been a Brian Eno collab. I have such little faith that I don’t think a DB album would have even merited a general listen from the tastemakers had he not resumed a famous working relationship with studio legend Eno.
UC’s take:’80s crap. This song sounds entirely generic, only because the original patent expired years ago. Maybe this song is a B-side to one of those collaborations over 20 years ago. Maybe they wrote it in an ancient time and its only significance is archeological. In fairness, while I was looking for the appropriate Mehtaphor for this song, it did stick in my head for a good 2 hours after listening to it, so it probably has some charms I didn’t initially realize.
10: Estelle [ft. Kanye West] “American Boy”
I hate the shit out of this song. Listening to this song about America is like reading about American sports in the Economist, or Ian Cohen on rock kids dancing. Not advisable. See you in the eventual article “Why Couldn’t Estelle Follow Up ‘American Boy’ in the US?” [filed under “her talent” next to “Liam Gallagher’s stage presence” in the “Marginal at best” drawer]. I could go on with an ever more strained hierarchies of filing but I won’t.
UC’s take:True story: This song was on the radio in the car last weekend, and I was asked if I knew who sung this. I replied that it is probably some piece of crap Kanye West song and it is so inanely bad that it will probably show up in the stupid Pitchfork top 100 list. At this point, I had listened to every track except the top 10, and I meant my comment in a more cruel-ironic way thinking there was no way this could end up in the top 10 list of the year. The joke was on me.
09: Portishead “Machine Gun”
I really hope Kanye West doesn’t ever listen to this album because then he’s not coming out of his depression. Icy and bracing, confessional yet unreachable. WIth its unorthodox rhythm it is hard to imagine doing much of anything while listening to this song. When the synths finally shade in at the end, it’s like a Rollerball funeral march and you don’t feel good about Beth Gibbon’s odds. It is a very good song.
UC’s take:Equally high quality to the other Portishead song on this list and equally harsh and bleak. Machine Gun is an absolutely inspired title for this song, as the ratatatat is still echoing through my now dark and hopeless psyche. Awesome music to kill yourself to…
08: Air France “Collapsing at Your Doorstep”
The kind of dance track I wouldn’t be unhappy about buried in the high 80s on this list as opposed to the shit buried there on this very dancy, and shitty list. Likable and good. Don’t be surprised if it isn’t a revelation.
UC’s take:Damn it, but Marc Hogan is not the biggest Pitchfork cobag of the year. I kind of like his review for this song and I hate admitting to agreeing with him quantitatively and qualitatively. Immediately after listening to this song, I listened to it a second time, and then a third time. It’s so good, it’s almost a revelation….
07: Cut Copy “Hearts on Fire”
There are some nice Jan Hammery/Tangerine Dream bits here, and I have to say it works, even with the oddly out of place almost Technotronic interlude. I guess they wanted complete pastiche. Even admitting that this works, the difference between the above’s hard working individuality within the usual dance music/electronic compartment. This Cut Copy track is a Cut Copy Paste construction paper monster of dance craft drawer scraps. Very cheap and easy. You manufacture the substance in your mind when you hear it, because they only suggested some in a cynical paint-by-numbers way. Illustrative of giant swaths of the list in its cynicism, a stand out for the fact that you might even like it or listen to it twice. The video of the sad sack with the personal rain shower kind of clinches it for a large percentage of the human feeling set.
UC’s take:Didn’t we just rip on Cut Copy like six songs ago? I can’t do this anymore. If it weren’t for the constant threats from Pinko about the loss of his oh so conditional respect, I would just quit now. I would listen to that last Portishead song and just hide in the dark. How can I endure this?
06: Deerhunter “Nothing Ever Happened”
Very good Deerhunter song, and their interpretation of a proggy/krautrock almost motorik outro is great. I love this, but feel like the ‘Fork assholes in the office felt they needed a Deerhunter song so they picked the one everyone had heard, rather than possibly the best one (“Little Kids”) on the album. There are no depths of hypothetical Pitchfork-related cynicism that I won’t plumb with my half-assed mind. Marc H. kind of proves it with “It’s the Deerhunter song you play for people who don’t think they like Deerhunter. ” Also, memo to Marc, the chorus on this isn’t “huge”, in fact it’s boring and it’s the part that makes you fear for the rest of the enterprise.
UC’s take:There’s no question that Little Kids is much better than this song. But in a list where mediocrity flatlines to the asymptote so quickly, there is scant dynamic range to distinguish these songs, therefore it’s fine in this token position. Pinko is entirely correct that Mark…j…i…h…g…f…e…d…c Hogan’s flukey song commentary generator totally shorts out on this review. The incredible musicality of the instrumentalists shine in the last half of this song, entirely independent of any chorus that may or may not be in this song.
05: M83 “Kim & Jessie”
Very “Heartbreak Beat” by the Psych Furs in the intro and through the chorus, although Pytlik notes a tiny bit of Thompson Twins and I think he’s noting the “If you we’re here, I would deceive you” one and I can dig that. Song is pretty good, but the video is so over-the-top with the 80’s romanticism, in the light of the rest of the constant barrage of band in a costume this year, I’m maybe a little sensitive on that account. Hard not to like, unless you never liked this stuff in the first place or you feel your childhood is being pillaged by cynical hipsters or worse, swooningly romantic Frenchies.
UC’s take:This worst-ever Pitchfork list is obsessed too heavily with two kinds of music – House or especially House derivative and ’80s. I generally
like M83, but this is pure ’80s in almost every facet. I don’t like that. I think the basic song and hook is pretty good, but the production annoys me. This isn’t the forward-thinking electo M83 that I almost started to really like. Also, Mark Pytlik, there is no such thing as vintage Thompson Twins. There is only excrement-filled Thompson Twins. Get it right.
04: Santogold “L.E.S. Artistes”
This song is almost a synth-lacquered Spoon track. Hear me out. The reasons it reaches excellence are subtle and hard-to-describe. It is neither over the top or cynically obvious, while remaining almost optimally expressing a difficult to elaborate individuality. “I can say I hope that it will be worth what I give up.” A perfectly turned and implemented phrase. Totally and obviously awesome, while not at first seeming apparent.
UC’s take:This is plain and simply boring. Also very ’80s-sounding, see comment above. I couldn’t wait for the track to end because I’m totally sure that all the remaining tracks will actually be from good artists like Fleet Foxes, Vampire Weekend, The Walkmen, Department of Eagles, Deerhunter, etc… Right? RIGHT??!!!!!
03: Hot Chip “Ready for the Floor”
Tries very hard to annoy, then goes through several phases and subtle transitions to the point where you forget what you wanted to feel about it initially. I think the way to get this across is as with most of these songs, if your music device of choice shuffled onto it, would you listen or skip. This would be a respectful, hesitating skip, and that is saying quite a bit this year. It is almost like an intellectually “good” but functionally “meh.”
UC’s take:According to my above rant, this track would cynically be expected to be some House crap. Well, close. It is just as boring and pointless. In the past, I had this recollection of Hot Chip being a little more minimalist and interesting. I didn’t realize that Dance music had gotten this bad.
02: Fleet Foxes “White Winter Hymnal”
I don’t love this until the “oohs” and guitar start. It is almost too easy and wonderful. I think there are other FF songs I like more, but it is good. The end of a long slog has rendered me even immune to the Fleet Foxes. I have no remaining powers to wax anything about music this year. I feel defeated by the yearly chore and the new found sadness that this year on the list is crappier than last year on the list.
UC’s take:Finally!!!!!!!!!!!!! A breath of competent goodness. While not the most exciting or entrancing track on the CD, it is a good enough representation of their sound. The gradual opening of of sound volume is somewhat reminiscent of The Shins at their best as is the tambourine and
bass drum percussions. This song starts off good and keeps getting better. Worthy.
01: Hercules and Love Affair “Blind”
So Antony could crap on a generic dance track and it would sound great, and he could do this every year and we’d just wonder when the indistinguishable tracks from year to year get different amounts of traction. Here he gets some champion backing. Blondie bass, Billy Idol “Hot in the City” 12″ mix synths, coupled with some Daft Punky bits, and the killer- the staccato trumpet playing the part of the canned disco strings, which instead are restrained. Great song, I wonder when we’ll be able to dance to it, having not exactly taken the appropriate pre-reqs as the Cut Copy class was full by the time the got to last name “P” registration for rock kid dance class.
UC’s take:The Pitchfork tradition of really bad #1 tracks continues with this clunker. I love Antony’s voice, but the cheesy and blah dance track
doesn’t move my feet to dance, but rather to flee. I don’t know what is good about this song. In the past I’ve whined about songs like My Love, but that song is thousands of times better than this. Why is Pitchfork trying to destroy my soul?