Some Songs Considered #032: Music that deserves to be on your “Best of 2015” list
Welcome to Some Songs Considered, a column that recognizes they can’t all be zingers and truly appreciates the ones that are.
As more and more “Best of 2015” lists come out, we’ve noticed a few deserving albums and tracks getting the cold shoulder. Here are a few that we think deserve the Some Songs Considered bump.
Dan Deacon – “When I Was Done Dying”
by Lindsay Hogan (@LindsayHogan88)
The varying absurdity of Dan Deacon’s work has never overtaken his ability to create complex, amazing music. Since he first began crafting adrenaline-filled electronic experiments in his unapologetically weird early albums Meetle Mice and Silly Hat vs. Egale Hat to the handful of succeeding albums that have shown his unlimited creativity and maturity in longer instrumental works like “America” and “Bromst”, Deacon has strived to create music that is equally as thoughtful as it is frantic. And his latest album, Gliss Riffer, is his most thoughtfully frantic experiment yet.
It sees a continuation of Dan’s unique adrenaline-fueled production, but with a new found focus on lyricism, and the album’s more formulaic, pop-structured songs allow for accessibility without compromising Dan’s trademark frantic, electronic creativity.
The album’s opener, “Feel the Lightning,” provides a cheerfully measured introduction into the pop/experimental line that Dan Deacon so giddily walks, blending the lyrical pop structure with a dash of nu-disco and Dan’s trademark sonic absurdity.
And yes, the female vocalist on this track is also Dan Deacon.
Thematically, much of the album picks apart the nature of anxiety and the struggle to work past the binary of absolutely failure vs absolute success — something Dan has expressed through many of his releases yet never been able to fully communicate — but it’s “When I Was Done Dying” that is its singular highlight, meshing his textured, danceable otherworldliness with a new level of emotional relevance. In an unceasing stream of consciousness (that is a feat to pull off live), Dan fleshes out the existentialism that previously was only inferred in his layered instrumental tracks. Playing with a cyclical narration of birth, death, purgatory and re-birth, the song incorporates the narrator’s paltry human fears, doubts and flaws.
Individual Dan Deacon tracks rarely make it into year-end “Best Songs” lists, but this one deserves it.
Dan hardly takes a breath throughout the lyrically-dense 4 and a half minutes, finally concluding his fable with the verse:
And the earth looked at me and said “wasn’t that fun?”
And I replied “I’m sorry if I hurt anyone”
And without even thinking cast me into space
But before she did that she wiped off my own face
She said better luck next time don’t worry so much
Without ears I couldn’t hear I could just feel the touch
Unlike most trips through existentialism, “When I Was Done Dying” is relatable and reassuring in its display of these trivial human fears amidst the crushing weight of eternity and existential uncertainty, so as we approach “Best-of” season, I beg the list-makers not to ignore Dan Deacon’s push toward increasingly-accessible song structures and creative storytelling all while refusing to sacrifice his unmatched and untamed electronic compositions.
His music has always been fiercely original, but Gliss Riffer is some next-level Lewis Carroll shit.
Don’t Sleep on ‘Em: Ghost Culture, “Depreston,” and Rihanna
by Justin McCarthy (@JustinSMcCarthy)
Since there are “Best Of” lists for albums, songs, and artists, I thought I’d highlight one of each that I think people are sleeping on. Don’t sleep on ’em!
The Album People Are Sleeping On
Ghost Culture — Ghost Culture
Year-end rankings of music are invariably biased by timing, with songs and albums birthed to the world in December and January at a severe disadvantage.
Consider the case of Ghost Culture, the eponymous debut album of 24-year-old electro-techno-ambient-IDM-pop whiz James Greenwood. Not only was it released in early January, it also sounds like early January. Its grooves are chilly and deep, its hooks freeze to you like soft rime on a tree branch, its rhythms are the transfixing patter of your own footsteps when no one else is out. It won’t be the capital-B Best of 2015, though best it may well be.
With a youthful application of old-guard underground sounds, Greenwood is channeling the spirits of European dance music from Kraftwerk to New Order to Jamie xx. But Ghost Culture is a process, not a moment; it’s the world churning, aching, fighting to live, damn it, with only bass synths and anxious arpeggios and Greenwood’s languishing cyborg-Eeyore voice to spur it along.
Best of lists are nice, but Ghost Culture may save your life this January. How do you rank that?
The Song People Are Sleeping On
“Depreston” by Courtney Barnett
You won’t be able to throw the proverbial rock in any music site’s direction this December without hitting Aussie garage rocker Courtney Barnett’s first album Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit.
The singer-songwriter captured the ears of critics everywhere this year with an album that happens to be pluralistically influenced, well–paced, well-played, and absolutely covered in bankable hooks. Unfortunately, you might not get that impression from listening to the lead single, “Pedestrian at Best,” which kind of sounds like The Vines fronted by an Australian version of Kathleen Hanna on Ambien (and I don’t mean that as a compliment). And yet, it’s inexplicably showing up on all the early “Best Tracks of 2015” coverage.
Basically, I’m asking you to please not listen to that song. At least without listening to “Depreston” first, the album’s best song and one of my favorites of the year.
What seems like a loose alt-country sketch at first is gradually revealed to be the sonic dressing of one of those perfect, vivid short stories that end up orbiting your brain forever. When you realize that this album is really a lyrics-first affair, it suddenly starts to sound like no guitar-based music you’ve ever heard. The fast track to that realization is “Depreston.”
The Artist People Are Sleeping On
A billion streams. She beat Ariana Grande. She beat Nicki Minaj. She beat (I can’t say it because they’ll come for me, but you know).
So her long-awaited, long-promised eighth album Anti didn’t drop this year as planned. So what. Queen Ri Ri has been plotting on us this whole time, laying in the cut, firing warning shots on Insta, going Sofia Coppola meets David Lynch on us with the ANTI diaRy#, passing us the album art like a note in class, and most importantly, letting the most important single of her career, “Bitch Better Have My Money,” simmer in the cast iron skillet that is pop culture with the patience of Rick Rubin and Phil Jackson playing mahjong at the DMV.
“Bitch Better Have My Money” is nothing short of a masterpiece. In a vacuum, it’s sheer pop mastery; unforgettable hooks, undeniable charisma, uncut energy. In the context of Rihanna’s career, it’s like “there should be a 33⅓ book about just this one song” good. It takes you from “this is Rihanna now?” to “I am an official Rihanna Stan, when is the next meeting I will bring a veggie platter” in under a minute. It was in the clubs all year. Your car all year. And definitely Spotify all year.
Most importantly, Rihanna is a millennial hero. She has complicated relationships with media, and weed, and Travi$ Scott. She knows she isn’t perfect, but she’s trying. And she wants her money. So pay her what you owe her.
Don’t act like you forgot.
Kanye West – “Only One”
by Bryce Rudow (@BryceTRudow)
As Justin mentioned above, “Best Of” lists are inevitably weighted to the more recent months of the calendar year. And that’s understandable. We’re bombarded with so much new information each day that to try and compartmentalize a whole year’s worth of music almost feels like a fool’s errand, so we lean on the more freshly-wrinkled parts of our brain when concocting our existentially trivial rankings at the close of every year.
However, on December 31st of 2014 — which for all intents and purposes is 2015 — Kanye West and Paul McCartney, two of the most popular musicians of all time, released a little song called “Only One” that should trump all psychological manipulations.
Harkening back to 808s & Heartbreak — a seminal album that is aging fantastically — “Only One” is a tribute to Kanye’s daughter North sung from the perspective of Kanye’s late mother, Donda. With the auto-tune in full force and over a signature McCartney keyboard riff, Kanye crafts a multi-generational lullaby that I’m man enough to admit has brought a tear to my eye on more than one occasion.
Yes, it might have been announced with one of the most pretentiously spiritual press statements you’ll ever come across…
When they played back the recording afterward, something remarkable happened. Kanye sat there with his family, holding his daughter North on his lap, and listened to his vocals, singing, “Hello, my only one . . . ” And in that moment, not only could he not recall having sung those words, but he realized that perhaps the words had never really come from him.
The process of artistic creation is one that does not involve thinking, but often channeling. And he understood in that moment that his late mother, Dr. Donda West, who was also his mentor, confidante, and best friend, had spoken through him that day.
…but I don’t know if enough people remember the context of this song’s release.
This was the first song Kanye had released since Yeezus, an album appropriately described as “punk hip-hop” and which featured song titles like “Black Skinhead” and “I Am A God.” Its most recent single, and the taste that was left in our collective mouth, featured a topless Kim Kardashian saddling a motorcycle in its music video#.
And then, seemingly out of nowhere, he drops “Only One,” a sonic curveball and reminder that Kanye is about more than just middle fingers and buzzsaw synths. Recorded in a large house in Mexico — “The back of the house had no walls and no doors; it was just open [and facing] the ocean. You would think he would want the mic enclosed and all that but we just had the doors open, and it came out perfect” — the song debuted at #35 on the Billboard Hot 100 and, fun fact, marked the first Top 40 hit for McCartney in over 25 years. But more importantly, it made us, again, reevaluate Kanye West the artist, just when we really thought we had him pegged.
For some reason, “FourFiveSeconds” (a song that is essentially built around people’s love of hearing Rihanna say the phrase “FourFiveSeconds”) has been the Kanye track, if any, that outlets have given the “Best Of” nod to, which is a damn shame. In five years, no one is going to remember “FourFiveSeconds,” but every Kanye retrospective from now on is going to include “Only One,” the song Kanye’s mom wrote for his daughter and sung through him.
Not to mention, it’s Kim’s favorite…
People always ask me what my favorite Kanye song is and it's Only One. Kanye feels like his mom sang thru him to our daughter.
— Kim Kardashian West (@KimKardashian) January 1, 2015
Like what you read? Share it.
(That helps us.)
Love what you read? Patronize Lindsay Hogan.
That helps us and the writer.
What is Patronizing? Learn more here.