Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Best 25 Songs of 2007

While the HowsThePie staff is busy working on our highly anticipated ;) end-of-year albums list, I ranked my favorite 25 songs of the past 12 months. While I titled this the best 25 songs of 2007, let me emphasize the fact that they are my favorites and that years (or even days) down the road I could stumble upon a worthy gem. Usually, the indie community forms a concensus of sorts regarding the year's best records, but appreciation of songs is so totally subjective that I decided to post this one solo. DECEMBER 17 at the latest for that albums list, though, so keep your eyes peeled, folks, and enjoy the following indisputably brilliant cuts, counted down from 25. to 1. As usual, any mp3s will removed upon request.

25. "Superstar," Lupe Fiasco featuring Matthew Santos

The grim metaphors that characterize The Cool (according to Lupe himself) are nowhere to be heard on single "Superstar." Essentially, this is Lupe's "Heard 'Em Say": infectious hook from Adam Levine sound-alike, laid-back, easy-to-follow yet impressive ryhmes (certainly better than Kanye's), and a gentle piano backdrop (this time around matched with pleasant synth work). "Wanna believe my own hype but it's too untrue," Lupe spits. Aww, don't be so modest.

24. "Stronger," Kanye West

Before Kanye's Graduation highlight became uber popular and wore out its welcome, it was pretty damn awesome. Sure, the Klondike/blonde dyke line is cringeworthy, but Kanye takes Daft Punk's "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger" (a classic in its own right) and transforms it into a K. West digital epic...the K. West digital epic, actually, as Kanye masterfully pushes the envelope of mainstream hip-hop (and his own music) once again.

23. "From Here We Go Sublime," The Field

I sorta cheated by putting this one on the list, considering its greatness can only be truly observed within the context of the whole record. After nine (lengthy) ambient pieces, the faint doo-wop sample of "From Here We Go Sublime" hits every corner of your brain like a Gatorade hits every muscle in your body after a marathon. Around the halfway point, Alex Willner allows the doo-wop to stand naked, free of slicing and dicing, before slowing it to a crawl and, during the final stretch, simply destroying it. A perfectly weird ending to one of the year's best records.

22. "While We Go Dancing," White Rabbits

The opening drum beat may not suggest greatness...hell, the verses aren't even that brilliant. However, the guitar flies in during the prechorus and then...BOOM! One of the year's catchiest chorus rampages shamelessly, the climactic "There is something that you want to say/I'm not asking" soaring over a rising piano progression. My personal track favorite from my favorite indie rock debut of the year.

21. "Int'l Players Anthem (I Choose You)," UGK feat. Outkast

I actually didn't have the guts to tackle the massive 26-track comeback album Underground Kingz, but there was no escaping "Int'l Players Anthem" in 2007. The jubilant horns of Willie Hutch's "I Choose You" provided the perfect launching pad for UGK's return to hip-hop, and this successful re-emergence only makes Pimp C's death more tragic. R.I.P. Pimp C.

20. "Winter Wonderland," Animal Collective

I really could have put every Strawberry Jam track on the list, but I managed to restrain myself to two (sorry "Fireworks" and "Cuckoo Cuckoo"). "Winter Wonderland" is AC's simplest new track, and stands with "Who Could Win a Rabbit?" and "Grass" as the band's purest pop moment. Where other moments of Jam excellence thrived on their precise, dynamic arrangements, "Wonderland" is a refreshing, unabashed blast of "ooh-ooh"-ing, clocking in at under three minutes yet leaving the mark of an odyssey.

19. "All I Need," Radiohead

One great strength of In Rainbows is its tight sequencing: 10 songs, 42 minutes, no bullshit. At the same time, there isn't any one clear standout; asking ten different fans about their favorite track could get six or seven answers. For me, only "All I Need" manages to establish both "Fake Plastic Trees"-type drama and "Kid A"-type eerieness, fitting perfectly with the Head of old and the Head of new.

18. "The Greater Times," Electrelane

Oh Electrelane, we never knew ye! Actually, I really didn't know the now disbanded prog-tinged indie rockers until their good (if slightly monotonous) No Shouts, No Calls dropped earlier this year. "To The East" was showcased as the single, but opener "The Greater Times" provides the record's wonderfully melodic focal point. The organ hook consists of no more than three chords (possibly even two, not sure) and the vocal melody, though equally simple, is unforgettable. You say you don't know what love means anymore?

17. "Now Now," St. Vincent

I have heard the opening track from Annie Clark's fantastic Marry Me 20 times, and the way she sings "I'm not one small atomic bomb" still gets me every time. The "any-any-any-anything" chorus is still delightful, the crazy "Day in the Life"-type build-up still juxtaposes the song's delicate first half perfectly, and the album that ensues is still one of the year's most overlooked.

16. "Winged/Wicked Things," Sunset Rubdown

Krug crooning, "Chaos is yours/...and chaos is MINE!" 'Nuff said.

15. "Wet and Rusting," Menomena

That this song (and the whole album) was recorded on a labtop still baffles me: this is one of the most emotionally gripping tunes I've heard this year. "Muscle 'N Flo" and "The Pelican," good as they are, couldn't possibly prepare the listener for this, the constantly shifting somber centerpiece of Friend and Foe. When the drums explode a minute and a half in, stand back and watch this thing go, moving from a tricky little piano line to acoustic guitar to the colossal, free-for-all conclusion.

14. "20 Dollar," M.I.A.

For all of the moments on Kala in which M.I.A. goes postively bananas, the most "accessible" track is my favorite. I love "Bamboo Banga" and "Paper Planes," but laying down the "Blue Monday" bassline and singing the chorus to my favorite song of, like, ever scores some points with me. The socio-political themes of the song make it all the more potent, packing more heat than an AK-47 (ok, bad example).

13. "Say Hello," Jay-Z

DJ Toomp didn't deliver another "What You Know" this year, but he came damn close with the sweeping climax to Jigga's fantastic American Gangster. The swaying strings and triumphant horns display why Toomp is one of the hottest producers around, and Jay-Z's flow displays why he's the one getting the hottest producers: "Only he without sin/Can tell me if my means justify my ends/...When Jena 6 don't exist/Tell them that's when I'll stop saying bitch/BITCH!"

12. "Golden Skans," Klaxons

I'm really not the biggest fan of Klaxons, likely due to my non-Britishness. However, "Golden Skans" is one hell of a pop song. Don't call Klaxons' material dance music, because this is indie rock through and through, and "Golden Skans" makes the inferior material of the rest of Myths of the Near Future all the more disappointing. We could have it so much better.

11. "1234," Feist

Oh my, the power of the iPod. "1234" actually hit Billboard's top ten for a week (!), but the song is wonderful outside of Apple commercials and its colorful choreographed video. For me, parts of The Reminder just lacked a certain luster (maybe I expected a little more BSS and a little less Cat Power), but "1234" struck a perfect balance, captivating the 30-something mom and the indie community at once, launching Feist to stardom and a new level of critical acclaim without breaking a sweat.

10. "Yolanda's House," Ghostface Killah feat. Method Man and Raekwon

Wu-Tang may not be as "forever" as I had hoped, but Ghostface may very well be. "Yolanda's House" is Rehab's finest, playing like a mix of traditional rapidfire Wu storytelling and a musically legitimate "Trapped in the Closet." Believe or not, Method Man upstages Ghost on this one, as he expresses irritation at Ghost for drawing him into legal trouble and for, uh, ruining his sex. I mean, in Meth's defense, she is asthmatic, and Ghost did laugh.

9. "Bros," Panda Bear

Hey man, what's the problem? In Person Pitch's hazy, dreamlike reality, nothing much: everyone converses in pure harmony, gets stoned, and lays back to asbord the sunny light eminating from Noah Lennox's reverb-drenched vocals. And on "Bros," we get a full 12 minutes of this paradise. Woo-hoo!

8. "Someone Great," LCD Soundsytem

Oh my, did James Murphy learn how to write songs or what!?! He recreates some of his debut's sneering dance punk on Sound of Silver, but ultimately, the tables have been turned: the beats don't steal the spotlight this time around, but rather are simply the propulsive backdrops for LCD Songwriter. On "Someone Great," Murphy operates with a vocal and lyrical quality never even hinted at on LCD Soundsystem, penning heart-wrenching, grief-ridden verses and hurling every ounce of his soul behind them in the studio. Can electronic music get any better than this? Hmm, keep going....

7. "It's the Beat (single version)," Simian Mobile Disco

The condensed version of "Beat" fits better into the full record, but the intial single version kicks ass for a full six and a half minutes, giving SMD time to build up twice the momentum before lauching into the song's blissful synth trip (also twice as long here). The contrast between the jolting, acidic squirming of the Ninja (of Go Team!)-sung sections and the weightless, airborn climax sparks the type of magic that makes non-dance kids (cough, me) slaves to the beat, even if we don't actually wanna dance to it.

6. "Reverend Green," Animal Collective

The guitar buzzes, then fades, then buzzes again, then a different, glittering guitar line slowly creeps forward, soon the two join in perfect unison, and Avey Tare comes in and absoutely blows shit up. "I think it's alright to get together now!" he hollers on the best track from AC's masterpiece Strawberry Jam. "Reverend Green" showcases just how perfect a frontman Avey Tare has become, and it almost seems weird to think of the Here Comes the Indian days, days when Tare would bury his vocals within AC's tribal singalongs, acting simply as another instrument alongside the nature-sampling ambience. Oh, how far we've come.

5. "My Piano," Hot Chip

One of those songs that I proudly proclaim as the Greatest Song of All Time while I'm listening to it, and then come to my senses after its over. It's easy to get swept up by this shit, and even after the post-listening comedown, it's impossible to deny Hot Chip's uncanny ability to craft incredible electro-pop when the hit the mark. Here, they nail the mark. While it doesn't possess the enveloping sentimentality of Hot Chip's 2006 wonder "And I was A Boy From School," the core piano hook and "It's my piano!" chorus are almost unrealistically catchy to the point where I occasionally must listen to this song for like an hour straight (not kidding).

4. "He Keeps Me Alive," Sally Shapiro

A cover of Swedish twee poppers Nixon, "He Keeps Me Alive" was one of three new tracks added to Disco Romance for its stateside release. I cried the first time I heard it...and the second...and I still kind of get teary-eyed when I hear it. You know what, I'm perfectly fine with that, because this song (and Shapiro's mind-blowing 2006 tracks "I Know" and "I'll Be By Your Side") sparks emotions I didn't even know I could feel. "Heavenly" and "angelic" are really the only two adjectives that properly describe the beauty created between Shapiro's elegant, delicate voice and the heart-breaking disco paradise I modestly refer to as a "beat." If this song doesn't tear out your heart, you don't have one to begin with.

3. "Dumb It Down," Lupe Fiasco

"Dumb It Down" is good for its DJ Toomp-style dramatic synth, and for its explicitly anti-commercial rap chorus: "We ain't graduate from school nigga (Dumb it down)/Them big words ain't cool nigga (Dumb it down)/...You'll sell more records if you (Dumb it down)." However, "Dumb" is great not for when Lupe talks the talk, but rather when he walks the walk: the tongue-twisting verses. Lupe never mocks his "dumb it down" critics on the verses, opting instead to essentially rap about nothing just to show he can. The five-senses-conceit just gives Lupe a chance to show off, and implicitly proclaim that when you're flow is this disgustingly agile, clever, and relentless, to suggest dumbing anything down is pure blasphemy.

2. "Is There a Ghost," Band of Horses

Though two minutes or so shorter than "The Funeral," "Is There a Ghost" is the song's rightful sequel, just as epic as the original, and ultimately just as good. Though the lyrics do not necessarily align, one could interpret the title as a bit of self-referential sarcasm from BoH: okay, so now that the funeral is over, is there a ghost that exists beyond the grave? In other words, can we replicate the majestic sweep of "Funeral" (and Everything All the Time as a whole)? "Is There A Ghost" provides an emphatic yes, a song so simple in structure yet so massive in scope, one that is almost impossible to downplay.

1. "All My Friends," LCD Soundsystem

A truly amazing song. Just two piano chords act as the only driving instrumental force throughout the entire song, and yet its always gaining momentum: a little guitar here or there, some synth work on the dramatic chorus. Of course, James Murphy's vocals blast this thing to monumental levels of emotion, singing nostalgiac lyrics with such unrestricted force that we know this is personal, not the arrogant put-on of Murphy's debut that alienated many listeners. Literally every lyric seems to push the song to new places, exposing some new sentiment of its creator, all building up to the wholly satisfying "If I could see all my friends tonight!" climax. A song everyone should here (and, preferably, should sing) before they die.

1 comment:

D-Ford said...

Could you please remove the Stronger mp3, for if i hear that song one more time, i fear the person closest to me will pay dearly...