Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Top 100 Songs Of All-Time, 40-31

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

Tricky | Veronika | Knowle West Boy | 2008

Sure, Tricky's attempted comeback to his Trip-Hop roots on Knowle West Boy was largely forgotten for its simplicity, there was a few bright moments on it, namely the Veronika Coassolo assisted 'Veronika.' It was carried by a ferocious beat that hinged on an anthemic drum line. Coassolo's vocals, dark and seemingly emotionless, coalesce with the apocalyptic background to surround the atmosphere with a gloomy presence. The lyrics matched perfectly with this feeling too, but on a personal level, with vengeful verbal attacks lunged at a character, directly called out by you, whose wronged the lead in the song. It's fairly impressive that for how blunt and forceful the production is it's nothing more than some dreadful drums, the impact they have best seen when everything, including Coassolo, drops out into multiple instances of seconds long silence, the looming trepidation further building. Whether it was done intently, considering they both came out as revitalizations in 2008, 'Veronika' and Portishead's 'Machine Gun' bear resemblance in their patterns for inculcating sonic fear.

Fatboy Slim | Demons | Halfway Between The Gutter & The Stars | 2000

The hate for Fatboy Slim, or late House in general, I see often but is, to me, rather unfounded. For what it lacks in addictive catchiness, it makes up for with inventiveness as it tried to supplement its somewhat narrow foundation with more genres to welcome. While Halfway Between The Gutter & The Stars include more conventional House, it procreated a more developed form which aimed to move past the repetitious nature of the genre. The crowning jewel of that was 'Demons,' prominently featuring Macy Gray at her Pop height. But rather than gleam in sultry Contemporary R&B, Fatboy Slim took her to meaty depths slightly resembling Trip-Hop with traces of Gospel. His cluttered, crunchy base allowed Gray, and some background singers, to see of a life without the negative connotations attached to it. It's remarkable that for Fatboy's lauding production Gray steals the show towards the end, hollering out in an act of defiance against the aggressors, a moment that mirrors the reborn nature of the track.

Kanye West | Runaway | My Beautiful, Dark, Twisted Fantasy | 2010

In many ways 'Runaway' is seen as the pinnacle of modern day Hip-Hop. It's a lofty statement but one that resonates through the genre post-2010. In many ways too, that divider isn't solely because of a new decade, it's because of My Beautiful, Dark, Twisted Fantasy. Whereas the 2000's saw dozens riding Hip-Hop off as dead while simultaneously announcing the end of the album era, Kanye West did away with all of that, making the most expansive, elegant, beautiful Hip-Hop album known to date, with this nine-minute opus standing as its centerpiece. Try searching for a long track sandwiched in between a Hip-Hop record prior to MBDTF and you'll have a hard time, look only through the couple years after though and you won't have any troubles. While at its core 'Runaway' isn't anything remotely experimental, its defiance to stand against the genre, while also bringing new flavors into it, laments it as a prime indicating point to Hip-Hop's recent acceptance of going against the norm. And as expected with Kanye West, I didn't talk at all about the actual track. But who am I kidding, we all already know it and everything it aims to accomplish. 

DJ Shadow | Midnight In A Perfect World | Entroducing..... | 1996

On the surface 'Midnight In A Perfect World' is nothing special. That would, of course, be ignoring the fact that everything phenomenal about it lives bubbling underneath in the deep, dense, fog-lit underbelly. Sounds sway in and out of focus, swirling around the leading drums with their harsh, emotionless drive. It's really the samples though, and not just the vocal ones, that make D.J. Shadow's masterpiece a sight to behold. If one were to drift off, as the song intends for you to do, you'd easily avoid hearing the nine samples scouring the sound waves. Even the DJ scratching of said vocal samples feel ethereal in their placement, as if something's off with every lucid encounter. The song itself is also a triumph of evocation, the likes of which Hip-Hop has not since realized. The title, indicated clearly by the sample leading it ("Insight, foresight, moresight, the clock on the wall is a quarter past midnight") couldn't have possibly been a more perfect heading, a song so incredibly expressive of eery, smoke-filled rooms where the slight glint of a passing moon comes through the blinds.

Boards Of Canada | Roygbiv | Music Has The Right To Children | 1998

There is no other artist who, to my knowledge, has created a world for themselves so unmatched by any of their competitors than Boards Of Canada. The duo mastered a feeling not contained by the five senses; nostalgia. 'Roygbiv,' the small, unassuming staple on their magnum opus, Music Has The Right To Children, perfects this sensation unlike anything put to record. As would be expected, it's hard to describe the two and a half minute journey, but in doing so words like warmth, joy, transparency, and awestruck would arise. Most shocking of all is how this pure bliss starts, with a brooding synthetic bass and rigid drums that aims to foretell a different conclusion. And yet, one of the song's most prominent stories attached to it, sees a child muttering "yeah" in reverse, bringing with him a wave of relaxation that soothes the commandeering sounds into euphoric submission.

Gorillaz | Clint Eastwood | Gorillaz | 2001

Thanks to Del The Funkee Homosapien 'Clint Eastwood' is how Damon Albarn's Gorillaz career got off the ground. As a lead single, radio-destined Rap song it couldn't be more erratic. Speaking through the ghost of a member, Del riddles off his bad habits and complications with his own ego, all the while Albarn spouts lyrical anomalies that'll suggest heavy drug use. The paradoxical approach the track takes helps to illicit the gloomy atmosphere it brings about, with leering drums, swirling synths, and spectral voices all clamoring for the spotlight. The song itself is claustrophobic. Highly condensed, drowning with lyrical wizardly, 'Clint Eastwood' sets exquisitely to record what their visual band is all about. In the decade plus since Gorillaz's creation no song they've put out has topped Albarn's immaculate chorus, coming across instinctually as banal and corny, but containing rich imagery of a drug addict struggling with the feelings his own life consumes. The long, drawn out instrumentation carrying 'Clint Eastwood' to its conclusion helps to drive home this by persisting with a forlorn dread that fails to dissipate. How a song this impenetrable reached the Billboard charts is beyond me.

Fatboy Slim | Right Here, Right Now | You've Come A Long Way, Baby | 1998

One of the earliest origins of the 'drop' that caused a later revitalizing in Dubstep a decade later. Rather than used as a shoe-in gimmick, 'Right Here, Right Now' was engrained within it, the earth-shattering bass on bass brought upon a new flavor in music that used repetition with purpose. The beat, brought upon by harmonizing synths and bombastic drums, is one that nestles into the ears of those who come in contact, a late night in a rave was the perfect place for this apocalyptic anthem. It'll never process to me why people appreciate Daft Punk despite their minimalistic vocal sampling, yet antagonize Fatboy Slim for the same thing. The vocals here, two to be exact, add to the allure while stating the intentions. One repeats the title like a chanting ritual, the other a highly diluted scratch set that muffles out some gargled nonsense many come to think says "waking up to find your love's not real." Whatever it says, the moments in which it arises split up the insanity fluidly and add to the track's overwhelming dominance.

Chance The Rapper | Pusha Man | Acid Rap | 2013

My bonafide song of the year for 2013. Chance's best showcasing yet of his audacious mixing of bouncy Neo-Soul Hip-Hop with a Conscious edge. In the seven-minute epic Chance journeys through a typical Chicago day, from the breezy summer days where drugs rule the streets, to the evening as paranoia sets in, and then the night as shots ring out but there's no help to be found. Nosaj Thing's frantic, sporadic beats concluding the track sets in a paranoia which the second half is aptly named after. Chance's rhythmic dribbling's spill onto the dreamy beats, as his awakened eyes scurry to find peace in a world surrounded by darkness, both literally and metaphorically. Lyrically 'Pusha Man / Paranoia' is some of Chance's best work, speaking with a striking clarity that witnesses both a complex imagery and an emotional reveal, the Chicago emcee begs for help while begging those causing the issues to subside during those hot summer nights.

Outkast | Ghettomusick | Speakerboxxx | 2003

Once the official split happened between Dre and Big Boi the result was a two half double album doused in luscious love and Southern grit Speakerboxxx's first minutes introduced trunk-rattling bass and wirey synths, welcoming in a new era of Southern sounds that didn't hinge drastically on the low end. Still, the best showing of that was 'Ghettomusick,' an electronic beat box chorale bouncing through movements with orchestrated sporadic chaos. It emphasized the South's trademarked bass with some new wave synths, along with some Soul sampling Patti Labelle's 'Love, Need, And Want You.' In other words it was a collision that shouldn't have worked, but succeeds in spades, taking full advantage of new breath with structure that never staggers or repeats. Intros, instrumental breakdowns, hooks, choruses, bridges, and pre-hooks all center around one stunning, speed-ridden Big Boi verse that comes in like a fire storm never failing to subside.

Groove Armada | At The River | Vertigo | 1999

Being that this is my Top 100 list it's bound to have tracks where I instantly fell in love. And while the rest of Groove Armada's discography hasn't hit me in such ways, 'At The River' floored me in multiple. It starts as a promising downtempo beat, with drums leading the way before a crackling vocal stutter slides in through the seams for a moment. All the sudden the track drops out, switching place with a harmonic choir, before returning and then colliding with said choir to make for a truly impressive foundation. Upon first listen my heartbeat was gathering storm as each passing moment indicated further that this would be one of my favorite's ever, with the staple being a melting trumpet that drains me of my energy. All this before the song, to many, even starts. That moment resides in Patti Page's whimsical voice gliding over the song, her warmth of the beaches and salty air breathes life into a track that's already brimming with it.

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

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