Monday, February 22, 2016

Top 100 Songs Of All-Time, 30-21

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

MC Paul Barman | Excuse You | Paullelujah | 2002

A tongue-in-cheek leftover from my early days of Rap exploration. For all the rough and rugged Hip-Hop I listened to in my early days I was able to find delight in the trials of a nerdy white rapper exploring the underground. Many sprung up in the early 2000's as absurdist comedy Rap, bouncing one-liners off each other like a stand-up comedian would who fails to ever take life seriously. MC Paul Barman's 'Excuse You' was, and still is, the best example of that. While rappers today can get by on nonsensical lyrics by approaching them with a hard edge, Barman was content in providing kooky, random mashups with a voice and flow that accompanies them jesterly. Throw in old doo-wop samples, a drum kit, and some eschew strings and you got a brew ripe for frivolous Hip-Hop that contests against no one and exists for the sake that it can. The many one-liners here are so corny that you can't help but fall laughter to them, as lame puns or self-depreciating humor would do. 

Geto Boys | Damn It Feels Good To Be A Gangsta | Uncut Dope | 1992

Yes I first heard this song in Office Space, sue me. One of the handful of Geto Boys' classics, 'Damn It Feels Good To Be A Gangsta' features one of the most laid back Gangsta Rap beats of all-time. Over it though, Scarface, Bushwick Bill, and J.Prince, the CEO of Rap-A-Lot Records, flaunt their inherent gangsterness with a calmness that'll refrain from you questioning their integrity. The song released at a time where Gangsta Rap seemed to be more concerned with looks and showing off than real, tangible street knowledge, a fact of the Geto Boys that rings most true here. Just hearing Scarface spout "all I gotta say to you wannabe, gonnabe, cock sucking, pussy-eating pranksters" over a deceptively calm beat provides a palpable contrast to their music and those of the more flaunting acts. The emphasis on the beat though, having it solely carry the chorus, is a move worthy of merit, being one of Hip-Hop's most classic beats. 

Tricky | Call Me | Juxtapose | 1999

For a relative unknown Kioka Williams absolutely steals the show on Tricky's 'Call Me,' a track that eases the mind and soul through her picturesque singing. For Tricky things tend to focus on overwhelming dread, as does much of Trip-Hop, but here things take a progressively light-hearted turn with an acoustic guitar setting the foundation. Williams though decries on the unsettling relational problems she experiences, all the while Tricky murmurs under her as a presence forever looming. In all, there's nothing remarkable about 'Call Me,' but everything it does is nearly perfect. The guitar is sublime, the added tension of noise and male vocals towards the end sees the other side of things, and Williams' first moments on the track, as her voice meets with the beat, is one of Trip-Hop's most pleasant moments. It's a track you can always put on, tune out, and drift off into the alleviation these artists present. 

clipping. | Dominoes | CLPPNG | 2014

Like most works that follow a coherent story, CLPPNG had a climax. And, by almost all accounts, those are the songs most revered and best remembered. See 'Sing About Me, I'm Dying Of Thirst' off good kid, m.A.A.d. city or 'Sprawl II' off The Suburbs. However, clipping. took this a step further, saving their best work thus far not for the climax, but for the downward spiral concluding it. 'Dominoes,' as the name implies, sees our character slipping into madness following the destruction of his home and death of his loved ones. The production engulfs Diggs as the beat collapses upon itself following every line, before attempting to reconstruct itself, a testament to the characters failures in re-gaining control over his life. Through three stunning verses Diggs recollects the life of our lead, from memories of his first schoolyard fight, to his adolescent years succumbing to the streets, incorporating stunted rhyming patterns that bounce off the beat, or what's left of it. 

Dan Deacon | When I Was Done Dying | Gliss Riffer | 2015

'When I Was Done Dying' was Dan Deacon's fullest realization, a culmination of his works that spanned the mountainous breadth presented on Bromst and the ambivalent adolescence featured on Spiderman Of The Rings. In fact, the song itself works as a shortened version of that latter albums standout 'Wham City,' just with some of the most eclectic production known to man. Deacon's vibrant take on post-life matter really drives home not just his zany message but also the Psychedelic production that twists, turns, and vibrates behind him. Above all else though, it's a magnificent beast of a fun song, one that never ceases in its relentless push to grab your ear and keep its attention long after you first hear it. The progression, the musical accompaniment, Deacon's perfectionist approach to his vocal outset all swells in creating a flawless piece of artistic enjoyment. 

Nice & Smooth | Sometimes I Rhyme Slow | Ain't A Damn Thing Changed | 1991

My adolescence growing up led me to some second tier Hip-Hop classics, Nice & Smooth's biggest hit 'Sometimes I Rhyme Slow' being one of them. Masked as a story of a crack addict attempting to rid herself of her afflictions, their Ain't A Damn Thing Changed single was more serious edge than one would readily see on the radio. Throw in a Tracy Chapman 'Fast Car' sample setting the foundation in not just tone but concept, and you have one hell of a song that doesn't spare any moment, executing everything it does to perfection. The irony of the title, in that they both end up rapping rather quickly, shows Hip-Hop in a more primitive stance, where reflection can be had on any phrase, as seen in the group's music video where they dabble despairingly over the character's crack addiction repeating the title over and over which, in hindsight, makes no sense. While Smooth comes fully doused in the story of Jane Doe, a nameless victim of the late 80's drug craze, Nice really steals the show with a quick-lipped flow that'll easily compete against the most technical rappers today, joining intricate lyricism and catchy one-liners together effortlessly.

Arcade Fire | Sprawl II | The Suburbs | 2010

Arcade Fire's best song. Sure, it narrowly beats out a handful of competitors from Funeral, their best album, but 'Sprawl II' remains the collective's crowning masterpiece, a song a decade in the making. I've made an entire editorial centered around this song and Arcade Fire's resemblance of Plato's Allegory Of The Cave, that's how awe-inspiring this song is. An anthem, if you will, for a generation stuck in their 9-5 jobs, a call for escapism, enlightenment, and originality. All of this reigning down in The Suburbs' penultimate climax, sung singlehandedly by Regina Chassagne through a ravaging 80's Glam Pop ballad. It progresses brilliantly, the metaphors are on point and sublime, the emotional singing rivals that of Funeral's most heart-wrenching moments. Above all else, the song itself is grand, catchy, and enjoyable, prime billing for a true generational song. While I may have been functioning under the same mentality Arcade Fire preaches here, it wasn't until I heard this song that I felt comfort in knowing others too believed, and accepted, the same thing.

Kanye West | Gone | Late Registration | 2005

It'll often be said, and it's mostly true, that Kanye's final verse here, after a climatic buildup or strings, horns, and drums, is his best. Technically, it's a masterpiece, much like the entirety of 'Gone.' It was Late Registration's send-off, a medley of orchestration West manifested through the creation process whittled down to a flurry of six minutes with hard-nosed street rhyming over it. And while those defiantly state West's best verse is on display here, something overlooked is that its Cam'ron's and Consequence's too, both bringing their A-game to a track they knew would be Late Registration's calling card. Throw in an Otis Redding sample sequenced brilliantly throughout the violins, pianos, cellos, and drums and you're set for a bonafide classic.

Röyksopp | Eple | Melody A.M. | 2001

For Downtempo music things usually reside in an emotionless pit, unwavering to either side of the needle, remaining neutral in its exposition to accept all, both those living in ecstasy and those flailing under agony. What makes 'Eple' special then is its commitment to bliss, a joyful romp that presses on all love triggers to create a memorable melody that doesn't stagger, deviate, or detour. The track also doubles as one of the best uses of synthesizers to date, a flurry of them scurry about, weaving in and out in a euphoric daze that immediately creates a lasting impact. The swirling sensation is only matched by its music video, a kaleidoscopic journey through pictures that perfectly represents the Norwegian beauty. The song itself was so good, so pristine, so original, that it spawned the duo to create an official remix, effectively turning it into a new song, entitled 'Happy Up Here,' once again conjuring up these same fleeting emotions despite the music's Downtempo origins.

Outkast | A Life In The Day Of Benjamin Andre | The Love Below | 2003

If it's incomplete Andre, finish it! It's been 12 years and the epic finale to The Love Below still hangs in the balance, working as the greatest summation of one's career while also leaving such a distaste in the mouths of the biggest fans, like a TV show ripely cancelled before the twist can be answered. While much of Andre's Neo-Soul album ventures out beyond the realm of his comfortable Hip-Hop life, the closer, a five-minute, one verse, monolithic track returns to his gritty Southern roots as he details the upbringing of Outkast over a haunting choir and desensitizing bass. In many ways, while it isn't formally known, this track largely inspired Kendrick Lamar's 'Sherane,' borrowing the same flow and opening with very similar lines. While Outkast, as my favorite group ever, did a lot of things right what they were maybe best at was storytelling, and Andre showcases that in spades here, breathlessly breezing through the verse, interchanging words with complexity despite still making sense. There's one-liners, eye-openers, and lyrical mastery going on here, ending 3000's criminally underrated The Love Below on a high, but depressing ending.

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

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