Monday, February 29, 2016

Top 100 Songs Of All-Time, 20-11

Music has rapidly become the most important thing in my life, and only partly because of the rise of this blog. It provides me with inspiration, sources of understanding, contemptment, etc., you name it there's a track, an artist, an album that gives me that feeling. Along with the rise of my musical interests came an increasing habit of creating lists, rankings, ratings, and everything that makes the creative force that is music mundane. Regardless, doing said analysis leads me to developing further understanding of each aspect of music as I typically provide write-ups to each piece. In comes my top 100 tracks of all-time. Updated yearly, this list gives my fellow readers a perfect sense of how my musical scope has formed, the sporadic nature of its evolution, and the diversity it further engulfs itself in. Each Monday I'll post one part of this ten part series, leading up to my overall top 10. 

100-91 | 90-81 | 80-71 | 70-61 | 60-51 | 50-41 | 40-31 | 30-21 | 20-11 | 10-1

Outkast | Chonkyfire | Aquemini | 1998

Years later many found, awesomely so, that the last track on Outkast's first four albums sequenced flawlessly into the next one. While 'D.E.E.P.' off Southernplayalisticadillacmusik might have been the most obvious, 'Chonkyfire' was the best, the most clear, and the most stylistically engulfed. Unbeknownst to the listeners in 1998, 'Chonkyfire' was a living, breathing teases of Stankonia, a vicious finale that sees one of Big Boi's greatest verses over luscious pianos, electric guitars wailing about, and orchestrated violins meandering in the background. It played with the typical structure of Outkast and Hip-Hop so astoundingly, flipping second tier instruments into the forefront, bringing an edge that started to emerge from Andre 3000 in the likes of Jimi Hendrix and Prince. And yet, despite how gargantuan the song is, and how many people tend to dislike Kast skits (myself included), the most memorable portion of the song is witnessed as its winding down. Taken from the 1995 Source Awards where Andre and Big Boi took home the Best Rap Group, much to the chagrin of the West and East coast. It's a moment in Hip-Hop infamy, where, in Andre's words, "the South got something to say.” 

Tyler, The Creator | Yonkers | GOBLIN | 2011

The track, and more likely the music video, that launched Tyler, The Creator's career. Ignoring the cockroach, grainy black-and-white look and a hung rapper, 'Yonkers' as a musical piece is disruptively visceral. Tyler's noted production style, bare bones, crunchy, and forthright, comes to a collision here where the classic phrase "less is more" is predominantly apt. Nothing more than a stingy keyboard riff and hollowed out drums, hard wired to the bones of the track, exists here, allowing to spew agitated rhymes about personality complexes. To any old Hip-Hop head it's ludicrously, a butchering of the genre. To new heads though, more specifically teenagers around in 2011, it was a calling card, a rapper associating beliefs to Emo whilst retaining that cool facade. Sporting his own style, behavior, mannerisms, and not afraid to lash out at those usually sanctified, Tyler's 'Yonkers' was a tour-de-force of Internet rap. Lyrically, while it's a bit corny, the verses, one-liners, and phrases retain their lasting impact years down the road. From "I'm a fucking walking paradox" to "green paper, gold teeth and pregnant gold retrievers, all I want, fuck money, diamonds and bitches, don't need 'em" 'Yonkers' is a colossal showing of a track that has lasting impact due to the impact it wants to force. 

D.J Shadow | You Can't Go Home Again | The Private Press | 2002

While not as emotionally-drenching or atmospherically contained as anything on Entroducing....., DJ Shadow's best song progresses into rabid Breakbeat, effortlessly gliding between movements to create a monumental track that excels at progression. While Shadow has never been one to slack, often time pouring over tracks with obsessive tendencies, the simplest of his songs still contain enough variation to short-circuit any competing DJ. So while 'You Can't Go Home Again' doesn't sway from its formulaic foundation, what's nauseatingly layered on top is a swelling assortment of instruments, samples, and synths. Tracks like this, ones that follow a set structure that builds and builds, are often seen as huge risks, they're either forced and predictable or remarkable and jarring. The finale to The Private Press was the latter, where around every corner, with each corner seconds away from the next, a new vision appeared complimenting the sound to perfection. All of it centered around hardened Hip-Hop drums that fragment, stitch together, and re-compose the sounds around them, best seen in the sensational closing minutes as guitars, chimes, and more drums collide into a big, beautiful, organic mess. 

Busdriver | Imaginary Places | Temporary Forever | 2002

Oh my virgin days of Hip-Hop, seeing with my own eyes what was being held in the underground. While I started my journey into Hip-Hop's lore on solid footing, with Outkast, I still failed to realize the breadth of creativity going on all around, namely with artists that consider their work art and failed to get recognition for it. Bring in Busdriver and his quick-lipped, flute-ridden 'Imaginary Places,' my first true look into the underground through none other than Tony Hawk's Underground. It was a bizarre track, one that dazzled me in not just lyrical complexity and rhyme density, but beat structure, forgoing consistency for a mid song switch up that reared on mental brainwashing ("kids! If you want to piss off your parents..."). But 'Imaginary Places' had a lot more depth than Driver's typically nonsensical approach, throwing some heavy-handedness into the mix with talk of death, religion, and how the two intertwine whilst here on Earth. It tip-toed on controversy, and given a bigger audience it likely would have, ridiculing many religious zealots as being conspiracy-raving lunatics ("all my friends are secret service agents") but presented the knowledge with Farquhar's centralized complexity, masking it in a goofy track spitting fun over flutes. 

P.O.S | The Brave & The Snake | Never Better | 2009

P.O.S' finale to the underrated Never Better is a whirlwind of emotions. Rather than showcase a plethora of them, the rapper leaves only black and white, as subtle, melodic movements slam up against reckless verses and chaotic drums. It makes for a perfect first experience, where the unexpected lies around every corner. Even the intricacies are complex, like how the first verse is virtually the same as the first half to the second but slight word changes adjusts the entire concept of it. In fact the second verse, a long winded flurry of panic-enduced paranoia is P.O.S' best, and one of the best in Hip-Hop's underground ever. It's a lofty statement that's potential ridicule gets thrown to the wayside the second Alexander gears up to beat his final verse into oblivion. It makes for a phenomenal closer that takes the Punk Rock elements fostered throughout Never Better to extremes, pivoting them with soothing passages that play out as the inhale to P.O.S' earth-shattering exhale. As the world around him begins to crash down, the emcee outrunning the apocalyptic conclusion under him, he lets out his last breaths, repeating "to the great escape" eight times before he finally gets engulfed and taken under. All that lies in its wake is silence and a track that leaves a lasting impression. 

Fatboy Slim | The Rockafella Skank | You've Come A Long Way, Baby | 1998

Fatboy Slim's singles often levitated above his albums, and with due reason. Electronic works that tend to focus on repetition stagnate over the course of an hour, but given seven dedicated minutes, as is the case with 'The Rockafeller Skank' and you'll see that Fatboy Slim's able to conjure up inventive Big Beat beats that'll wreck houses. Picking and choosing selective samples was his bread and butter, and no where was that showcased better than on his crowning jewel, as multiple vocal samples layer over each other to create a piece that not only sonically makes sense, but conceptually as well. 'The Rockafeller Skank' quickly asserts its dominance, offering up slices of the past through Surf Rock, crackling vocal sections, and distorted beat switches, mashing into a free-for-all of Dance music that's relentlessly enjoyable. It may go long and divulge into some truly absurd speed dynamics, but the track itself offers up enough variety to dispel any stubborn fan into tapped toes and nodding heads.

Gorillaz | All Alone | Demon Days | 2005

I don't know most of what Roots Manuva is saying, but what I do know is that it's good. Like really good. The beat is a hectic mess, one filled with drums bouncing off one another, spiraling synths, and that incredibly catchy keyboard melody. It's usually the vocalist which brings things into perspective, but here Manuva actually heightens the tension ten fold, slithering through the sounds to fill the empty spaces, leaving no room to gasp for breath throughout this speedy minute. Thankfully though, following a return to Albarn's simply-sung chorus, Martina Topley comes in to breath a sigh of relief, lifting the sounds off the soundscape, drifting off into space. The immediacy of Gorillaz though wouldn't allow that, forcibly bringing her down towards the finale of her bridge. Her voice trailing off, the drums, the panic, the cacophony all comes hurdling back in one moment. Throw in some varied drums and guitar riff's at the end and you have a track that acts like it's eight minutes despite encompassing all of about three. Gorillaz are always at their best when they incorporate vast swamps of influences into their work, 'All Alone' is no slouch in this regard, throwing the kitchen sink at its listeners, knowing every part will land.

Outkast | The Whole World | Big Boi & Dre Present... | 2001

Thee song that got me into music. Period. 11 years old I still remember where I was when I first heard Outkast's 'The Whole World,' or saw it rather, as the music video aired in front of my awe-strucken face on MTV. Little did I know Outkast would lead my charge into the genre I hold dear, blossoming out to every corner of Hip-Hop with their all-inclusive music. It's not their best work, and one of their more straight forward pieces, but the place it holds in my heart can't keep this out of the top 10. It wasn't until later, when my musical taste buds started fortifying, that I realized the song was made about the attacks on the world trade center on 9/11. They're subtle and most utilized in Andre's voice-crackling chorus, but they're their and the overall tone with it. But rather than reap in somber Outkast, as forward-thinking as they are with tracks like 'B.O.B.,' turned it into a dance track, taking the losses and shoving it in the oppressors face. Each rapper, Killer Mike included, slaughter their bars, turning flows that glide off the beat with ease, while the two Kast members critique on the surface of our culture, from medicinal problems to political rife to airplane dilemmas. As with much of Outkast, especially their post-2000's work, there's a lot of depth to be hidden beyond the addictive choruses, rousing trumpets, and head nodding beats.

De La Soul | Eye Know | 3 Feet High & Rising | 1989

Hip-Hop's happiest song, and it's not really close. Sure, later attempts can and will be made from the likes of Pigeon John, K-os, and Chance The Rapper, but nothing compares to the unbridled joy of love and commitment De La Soul foster on 'Eye Know.' Typically in Hip-Hop, through its braggadocios artifice, you find emcees who force personas, to be more tough, sexual, loving, humbling, etc, than they really are, but with 'Eye Know' you see a sincerity, bringing the rapid decline of the D.A.I.S.Y. age into question. From Posdnuous' opening lines ("greetings girl and welcome to my world of phrase, I'm right up to bat") with Steely Dan's sampling and textural drums, things rapidly ascend into pure bliss. Just look at the music video, with the rappers gallivanting on their own album cover, filled with pink's, yellow's, and green's, the drastic shift De La took in regards to Hip-Hop's hard edge will never be forgotten. The whistling, the DJ scratches, the guitars, the trumpets, the lyrics, everything about 'Eye Know' brings a smile to one's face upon contact.

Animal Collective | Fireworks | Strawberry Jam | 2007

Animal Collective's best song, and with good reason. It has everything that makes the group notorious; progressive instrumentation, nimble melodies, a nostalgic aura, introspective lyrics, and Psych-gone-Pop hooks and choruses. In conjunction with its younger brother 'For Reverend Green,' these two behemoths make a case for one of the best back-to-backs of all-time, and yet maybe not even in 2007 due to LCD Soundsystem's 'All My Friends' and 'Someone Great.' But the point is mute, how these two Strawberry Jam songs seamlessly transition between one another is flawless, as those whimsical 13 plus minutes pour out such intense feelings running the gamut of emotions. But really, while each section of 'Fireworks' is grand in its own right, from the janky keyboards, the drilling drums, and the claustrophobic synths, what really steals the show is Avey Tare and his delivery, lyrics, and tone. Often times Animal Collective lyrically remains unsure about its purpose, whether to speak in bursts or not speak at all, whether to be light-hearted and joking or deathly serious through grave poetry. But why 'Fireworks' remains so special is due to this perfect mix, a well-oiled breed that hollers like a child while crying over the ill-wills of losing said childhood. The awe of those late night fireworks in the baby's eyes only forces Tare to think of himself, as life has made him prone to do, a sentiment far too true in a society obsessed with itself.

100-91 | 90-81 | 80-71 | 70-61 | 60-51 | 50-41 | 40-31 | 30-21 | 20-11 | 10-1

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