So while I was mixed up in an orgy with half a dozen white Russians, the dude was busy making his list and checking it twice. It’s an awesome thing, nothing like mine, and evidence my ass needs back in chair, writing now that Christmas vacation is no longer the excuse. More than a little bothered I’ve already covered the eight of my top ten favorite albums (confirmation bias, anyone?) - and that I abstained for the love of Yeezus only because that shit’s hard to defend as a moral document (though I have my theories). We’ll save that for later, if ever. Anyway, here it is:
1. Yeezus - Kanye West (17)
2. Pura Vida Conspiracy - Gogol Bordello (17)
3. Modern Vampires of the City - Vampire Weekend (13)
4. Acid Rap - Chance the Rapper (13)
5. Old - Danny Brown (7)
6. Marshall Mathers LP 2 - Eminem (7)
7. because the internet - Childish Gambino (7)
8. ARTPOP - Lady Gaga (7)
9. An Object - No Age (6)
0. Uncanney Valley - The Dismemberment Plan (6)
I’m prouder and have more left to say of the singles’ list, in part because I love love love these tracks and also because they’re a derivative bunch - picked largely from the bowels of ten very different albums. Not to keep mining the same vein, but these choices are probably symptomatic of the broader millennial condition: I haven’t turned on a radio in three or four years; if we’re not talking “Blurred Lines” and “Get Lucky,” you can trust I don’t know your song is a single. I mention near the end of What I Hear But Can’t Know I may someday defend the contra to physical music ownership, and here’s the first advantage I’ve managed to think up since then: without expectations primed to a certain pitch and yaw by a lead single, I’m perfectly able to hear new albums track by track - on their own terms. My folks bought me Bon Jovi’s Crush in 2000 on the strength of “my favorite song” at the time, “It’s My Life.” Do I have to tell you the majority of that (any) Bon Jovi album was an atomic dumpster fire? Never again.
1. It’ll Get You There - Rilo Kiley
Already gave this track a whole post - in which I try to supplement the best singing and best guitar playing on the year (ahem, decade) with a tribute. But let me add: rkives revives that great annual debate: should we include old material newly-released on year-end ballots? While I haven’t taken a clear position one way or the other - this song transcends the question. It was the best song the year it was written, the best the year it was cut, the years it was stowed away, and now - the year of its, let’s say, emergence. It would be the best song in 1976, 1962… pick one. And if someone tells me “It’ll Get You There” cracks the top 40 next year in, say, the Bangor, Maine market - I’ll Pazz it again.
2. Good Ass Intro - Chance the Rapper
I voted for this little dweeb four time: his album, this lead track, and two cameos. Do I need to say it? 2013 was the year of Chance - and let’s call this ditty his mission statement. Colorful, asynchronous, self-referential, irreverent, boastful, virtuositic, the cartoon squee of the lead clashing against orchestration - this is the right song at the right time, a loose distillation of the year’s sounds, dreamed up by a wiseass 19 year old. And that flow! In March, I was accepted into Brown’s Graduate department, and yet consider 2013’s greatest achievement memorizing the first verse. I’m still working on the second. If 2014 is too soon to beg for a debut proper, than expect a list-topper coming your way 2015.
3. I. the worst guys (feat. Chance the Rapper) - Childish Gambino
I’ve listened to this song maybe twenty times, each to make sure that Chance’s only contribution is the goofy “all she needed was some” hook. It is, but what a hook! Loaded with the innocence of wide-eyed self assurance and that cartoonishness he ought to trademark, it plays perfect off the deadpan asshattery of Danny Glover - who for his part says a bunch of clever things between choruses, and plays us out with a Van Halen imitation I’m not certain he didn’t steal from someone else who stole it from Van Halen in the first place.
4. You Song (feat. Chance the Rapper) - Lil Wayne
Can we have some more of this, please? The only guest Tunechi’s featured in three years that’s challenged him is also the only one in five years to melt his heart a little. Not mutually exclusive achievements, I promise - not when matters are left up to Chance, who is challenging to the hip-hop establishment because he’s sincere, and can afford to be sincere because he sounds better than your fake gangsta ass doing it. So, yeah - he’s at least a little responsible for Weezy’s best lyric ever: “And when you say I love you, I stutter “I-I-I love you too” /It’s Wayne’s world, she say “what is this world coming to?” / And she know me and whoever together, she hope we come a loose / She told if she ain’t the one, she gon’ throw up the deuce / I laughed at her, we took a bath together and splashed each other / Then she got serious, she said “Tune I gotta ask you something / Do you really love me?” I tried to change the subject / So I said some crazy shit to her like: “what if you and I were just letters? / That be unfortunate we’d have to rob a fortune teller / But I swear I think I love you, fingers crossed in my pocket / Okay that’s a dead subject, you bring it up that’s a zombie / You remind me, of my memory ain’t what it used to be” / She said she ain’t tripping, I know cause / I move my feet / And when she figure out that she been swindled / I’ll be cleaning that love bird shit off my window / I-I-I love you too…”
5. Black Tambourine - Withered Hand
Alright, so this is a single. And I am primed for New Gods because of it. You should be, too. This guy wants to be a rock star, despite the fact that he’s first and foremost a twee who sings about God and masturbation. Hm… I guess this makes him a little like Eminem. The difference, of course, is this song is better than anything Shady did this year. And Good News, his debut, is better than anything Shady’s ever done. Check that out. Then listen to this. Again and again and again. It is a single, after all.
6. I am a God - Kanye West
The bonafide sequel to “Hell of a Life,” a song title you take literally after you first recognize it as a cliche: the heavy breathing that plays us out renders all the porn star braggadocio moot - and you’re asked to sympathize with a guy who hasn’t had a real human relationship in six years. This time, matters are even worse. You think Ye proclaims himself a God, but (should) note by song’s end he’s been deified by the rest of us. What kind of God screams at the top of his lungs as he’s running away from the mic?
7. Bad Guy - Eminem
Another sequel, this time to “Stan” - probably the most ill-advised music decision ever to turn out perfect in spite of everyone, even the artist himself. “Irony’s spectacular, huh?” his captor proclaims, right after the abductee blows your brains out through your ears with genuine irony: Em isn’t stalking and killing Kim - it’s Stan’s little brother Matthew, the kid who stood out in the blistering cold for four hours before Mr. I’m Too Good To Call Or Write My Fans says no. The outro gives me goosebumps: a drowning artist out Tyler’s Tyler with a creepy Devil Voice that actually knows how the hell to spit some fire.
8. Poor Musicians - Hot Lil Hands
As I said to the guitarist himself, this is the best 90’s one hit wonder never one hit outside the 90s.
9. Wild for the Night - A$AP Rocky
Little annoyed I have this git on my list, when in fact his song kicks out the jams because Skrillex is the best rock thinker currently not playing a guitar. I can’t tell you any of the lyrics - I’m too busy dancing to the only non-Leaving Skrillex romp of the year.
0. G.U.Y. - Lady Gaga
Speaking of Skrillex, this song is impossible without him. Also: the sexiest song of the year is the most mainstream to do a little gender-fucking. I’d be her G.I.R.L. any day.