December 22, 2011

11 Songs From The Year Before The End of The World

Trying to map out the territories covered by that meaningless sobriquet “indie” dead-ends in the same way demarcating the parameters of what “alternative” was did, back in the 90s. It’s really just old wine in new bottles. I’ve always been ecumenical about it myself, and given how “indie” subgenres have been blurring and bleeding into each other these last few years, that seems appropriate. This year’s list of tracks, not singles, although some of them are, takes in my usual mutant derivatives of punk and folk and hip-hop and R&B and electronica, and my usual mixture of giddy optimism and languid melancholia, or languid optimism and giddy melancholia, if you will. Same difference. It’s the end of the world as we know it, why fix what isn’t broke?

#11 Lock The Locks by The Streets with Clare Maguire

The last track on their last record is a last goodbye to the pop life, evoking the weariness Mike Skinner claims is his urge for leaving, buoyed by the certainty of his departure and the smoky way Claire makes that torchy chorus stick. As wistful as it is unrepentant, as wry as it is poignant.

 

#10 The Armoire by Owen

The center not holding, when home grows clammy with un-belonging, is a hurt that’s hard-up for solace, and in using junk furniture to articulate the displacement that comes from it, Mike Kinsella doesn’t offer any but does one-up his own tiny gift for quotidian minutiae.

 

#9 Considerate by Taken By Cars

The perk up its sleeve are those roller disco synths, which signal a loosening up that’s not really long in coming but if there’s a band of indie artists that need to loosen up some, it’s this one. Bliss is what happens when they do.

 

#8 Bats In The Attic by King Creosote & Jon Hopkins

There’s always room in my repertoire for a folk ballad of regret over a passage of time you could do over if you could. “ . . . growing silver in my sideburns, I’m starting to unravel . . .”  The fatigue in King Creosote’s voice can melt you.

 

#7 Are You . . Can You . . .Were You? (Felt) by Shabazz Palaces

“ . . .my mind hides behind the music . . .”  If this is indeed MC Palaceer Lazaro a.k.a. Digable Planets’ Ishmael Butler’s manifesto, the music’s just the thing for that:  the beats stretching out and spacing out into a stoned soul fugue. Nocturnal, obscure, sexy.

 

#6 Know This, We’ve Noticed by An Horse

Their Sleater-Kinney auras disperse a little here, but not my much, and not that it needs to. I’m thinking it has a shot as being this year’s “Our Deal” even if it lopes rather than smolders, if only for how emotive the rah-rah in its chorus gets and for how it invokes Dusty, at least spiritually.

 

#5 Queen of Hearts by Fucked Up with Madeline Follin

Pried loose from the massive punk rock opera it’s embedded in, you do get a sense of autonomy that gathers its own brunt without sucking at the teat of the big picture. Riffs with traction catchily pile-drive the song to its own blaze of pop rapture, and being  the part where boy first meets girl, the shaft of light near the end when indie artist Madeline from Cults opens her mouth makes both narrative and aesthetic sense.

Watch official music video: Fucked Up – Queen Of Hearts

 

#4 Honey Mine by Korallreven with Victoria Bergsman

The irresistible shimmer of the host record finds its most coherent, and most seductive, pop shape here. Victoria from Taken By Trees helps immensely, even if the timid verging on trite lyrics sometimes threaten not to.

 

#3 Drunk On Love by Rihanna

Its melodrama, and that is in no way a dis, and subsequently, its grandeur, hinges on how Rihanna gushing all over that wholesale sample of the XX’s “Intro” clicks into place with such inevitability it’s as if it completes a meld we didn’t know wasn’t there all along.

 

#2 Especially Me by Low

Having been a fan for so long, I never doubted their capacity for beauty. But this ghostly? This majestic? And this attuned to the truth?  ” . . . ’cause if we knew where we belong, there’d be no doubt where we’re from, but as it stands, we don’t have a clue, especially me and probably you . . .”

 

#1 Two Cousins by Slow Club

Sorrow wrung through music quivery with hope has always been the Slow Club dynamic but where they used to embody the twee in their pop, here they supersize with a bright palette of new sonic colors. Lush, sad, joyous.  No three words sums up the song more perfectly. And the year.

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