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2017. január 14., szombat

30 trax / Pitchfork: The 100 Best Songs of 2016

Selection from Pitchfork's The 100 Best Songs of 2016


In 2016, everything felt more intense. The most visible pop music was also some of the most political. The saddest songs came from people who passed away days after releasing them. Debut singles from some of the most anticipated releases sounded broken. One of the best songs of the year received its studio debut 15 years after a live version was released. Insanely catchy, meme-driven hits reached new levels of ubiquity. This is our attempt to make some sense of it all. As voted by our staff and contributors, here’s our list of the 100 Best Songs of 2016.



Leonard Cohen - You Want It Darker 4:44
But from the opening seconds of “You Want It Darker,” the title track of his forthcoming album, the synagogue choir that animates Cohen’s new single seems to know that this tune won’t be turned into a heavenly petition quite so easily. The bass groove that accompanies the world-weary chanting is too brisk to be mistaken for a profound elegy. Cohen’s wizened voice and sharp lyrics aren’t in the business of uplift, either. The narrator’s gaze at mortality here is a welcoming one: “I’m ready, my Lord.”

Radiohead - Daydreaming 6:24
...It should not be surprising then, in “Daydreaming,” a gorgeous ballad released to coincide with their long-awaited album announcement, how little actually happens. There’s a simple, sad piano motif; some spooky backmasked vocals; and, of course, Thom Yorke’s devastated wheeze floating above it all like an omniscient narrator...

Bon Iver - 33 ‘GOD’ 3:33
...Among the songs that have been released from Bon Iver’s upcoming 22, A Million so far, the surfaces have been cool to the touch, alien, yet phantasmagoric with lush electronic sound. In “33 ‘GOD’,” Vernon has crafted a piece that lives within contradictory states of privacy and open-hearted bombast...

David Bowie - Lazarus 6:22
...There is no resurrection in “Lazarus.” The song arrives as a moment of tension: a lumbering melody tugged along by mournful saxophones and guitars that sound like heavy doors slamming shut. In it, our narrator finds himself in danger. He drops his cellphone and heads to New York City, desperation never too far behind. He has a fleeting vision of himself in the not-so-distant future: “I’ll be free, just like that bluebird.” After a chaotic squall—the kind of wild, jutting rhythm that Bowie used to ride toward the heavens—things abruptly fade, giving the song an eerie, elliptical end...

Esperanza Spalding - Earth to Heaven 3:49
This latter quality manifests beautifully into sounds reminiscent of mid-‘70s Joni Mitchell and Steely Dan, particularly in the rhythm section, on “Earth to Heaven.” But it’s Spalding’s view of faith's uncertainty and morality's virtue that makes the song her own. There’s a playful push and pull vocally that mimics her philosophical back and forth on matters of heaven and hell, bright flourishes underscoring weighty questions over man’s quest for salvation. In her most poetic verse, she sings of kings who “die ringed in gold” while “slaves die consoled,” surmising, “On the other side/ A meek’s reward/ Is better/ Like a pearly resort/ Except without a report from hell/ How on earth can you tell…”

Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds - I Need You 5:58
“I Need You” is the stirring core of the Bad Seeds’ devastating new album, Skeleton Tree. Here, Cave is at a loss for words. “Nothing really matters,” he repeats, leaning on the hard R of “matters,” as if to further pronounce the distinct lack of poetry in the phrase. The words bend and break the more he uses them; Cave continues saying more with less, the tenderness in his voice filling all the negative space. “Nothing really matters when the one you love is gone,” he sings at one point, honing in on the song’s gravitational pull: the void left when our love is no longer directed at a living thing but rather at a memory. Though just a moment later, Cave subverts that notion as well: “We love the ones we can/Because nothing really matters.”

Radiohead - True Love Waits 4:43
...Gone are Yorke’s vehemently strummed chords, replaced by a duo of pianos that reinterpret the melody in a meandering, nearly polyrhythmic fashion. Whether purposeful or not, this new slowed-down, swirling direction speaks to our sense that an older, wiser man is singing “True Love Waits.” Perhaps he’s lost a little of his fight, or he knows now that the youthful plea that typically accompanies an earnest acoustic guitar line is not how one wins a battle of the heart with this much history. This doesn’t suggest that the song’s narrator means it any less; I almost believe him more now that he seems resigned to haunting the afterlife, eternally longing for the one who didn’t care to weather the storm together...

David Bowie - I Can't Give Everything Away 5:47
It was the shortest Bowie or his followers ever reveled in one of his mysteries; two days after Blackstar’s release, he passed away. And so we learned that this beguiling, openhearted performer had created a gracious farewell with his final album, and particularly this song—the last this shepherd of the fringes would ever sing to his flock. It’s a gentle confirmation of what we knew: that he still had worlds within him, and that he would never have time to express them all. Because every time the song ends, Bowie is gone again.
Cass McCombs - Bum Bum Bum 5:00
...But “Bum Bum Bum,” from his just-out album Mangy Love—another opening track, another point of surpassing language—could be a new McCombs go-to. His current band helps epitomize the low-key, lived-in luxuriousness of his sound, with neatly polished electric guitars and burbling organ streaked here by an occasional zap of synth, while the cryptic singer who once proclaimed that “pain and love are the same thing” manages to sound simultaneously laid-back and seized with logorrhea. Syllables collide as McComb somehow ever so calmly issues prophecies about topics gleaming with grim sociopolitical intent: rivers of blood congealing, “whitebread artists,” letters to Congress, the Ku Klux Klan...

Savages - Adore 5:03
..."Adore" creaks like a colossal ship, and spends most of its first three minutes pooling in dark circles; it's closer to post-rock than any of Savages' prior frenzied assaults. The spartan sound offers a chance to see the four-piece's stirring dynamic as if through a microscope, as Gemma Thompson's guitar, veering between tremulous and stormy, creeps around Ayşe Hassan's funereal bass like algae on an anchor. Thompson's instrument rises to a dirge in the choruses, where Beth's tone turns triumphant and operatic—bringing an unexpected Queen influence to Adore Life, and underscoring the raised fist on its cover—only for it to all fall away again....

PJ Harvey - The Wheel 5:38
...The first song to emerge from her long-awaited ninth LP might illuminate the intention. In "The Wheel," some 28,000 children have disappeared, and all we do is watch. We see them play and die violent deaths, witness their public memorial, and "watch them fade out," as Harvey sings over 20 times at the end. The figure has no attribution: a crass search of "28,000 children disappear" brings up figures pertaining to gun crime, child street labor in Kabul, or the number of NATO troops initially sent to Kosovo in the late 1990s. The wheel turns and one tragedy swiftly replaces another, seizing air-time and attention...

Car Seat Headrest - Fill in the Blank 4:04
...Toledo’s first lines cut straight to the heart of the matter: his frustration with himself and the world around him. You can practically hear an apathetic eye roll in his voice as he dryly explains, “If I were split in two I would just take my own fists/ So I could beat up the rest of me.” Others tell him he has “no right to be depressed,” that he manifests his own unhappiness with unjustified world-weariness. After yelping his way through a full cycle of resistance, realization, and rejection, Toledo howls out “I’ve got a right to be depressed!” amid a rush of driving guitars and banging percussion. You might not believe in yourself by the end of “Fill in the Blank,” but you will certainly believe in Car Seat Headrest...

Pinegrove - Old Friends 3:27
...Pinegrove’s lineup shifts depending on time and place, but frontman Evan Stephens Hall remains at its core. "Old Friends" finds him dipping in and out of his head, his footsteps breaking up "solipsistic moods." Led by a lumbering bass offset by the faint twang of a banjo, "Old Friends" evokes early Wilco, post-Uncle Tupelo, with an emotional directness. Over sprawling electric guitar, Hall reflects, "I knew it when I saw it/ So I did just what I wanted… I knew happiness when I saw it." Pinegrove straddle a fine line between country revival and sunshine pop, between melancholy and optimism, but their focus is strong: a sweeping heart...

Frankie Cosmos - On the Lips 1:49
...“On the Lips” finds Kline believing in something as illogical as a David Blaine stunt: love. “Why would I kiss ya?/ If I could kiss ya?” she wonders, questioning the existential purpose of touching lips. As usual, the songwriter instinctually deflates her big ideas, sounding both over it and into it all at once. A grand lyric like “sometimes I cry cause I know I’ll never have all the answers” is not played to dramatic effect with strings and swells. It is stated plainly, accompanied by simple strums and the faintest hint of heavenly synth, and followed by a line about the modest woe of New York City subway transfers. For Kline, the prospect of an underground kiss and the mysteries of the universe belong in the same breath. As they should...

Cate Le Bon - Wonderful 2:36
...It's an anxious caper, all twangy guitar and skittish marimba, where Le Bon grasps at memories and tropes that remind her of a failing romance—red letterboxes, bad television, 10 pin bowling—only for the pace to lurch and stall when she confronts the extent of her scrambled senses. "Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful…" she muses, sounding distracted and adrift as a saxophone unleashes an ominous squall. Perhaps Le Bon's knack for precision isn't so far in the past: It's easy to make music that sounds chaotic, but rare to capture the sense of disintegrating stability as acutely as she has here...
Anderson .Paak - Am I Wrong 4:13
Dancing and self-consciousness make for one of the uneasiest combinations in music. But Anderson .Paak makes it work on “Am I Wrong” by sneaking it in under the cover of a supremely self-assured performance, shooting off about free time being precious and social effort not going to waste. As far as deflections go, Schoolboy Q playing retro-disco “Love Boat” guest star is a major one; you'd be excused for thinking it's the heart of the track, all no-worries party liberation. And that electric-piano glow sparks daydreams of unheard circa-In Our Lifetime Marvin Gaye/Donald Byrd collaborations, but still pulses like it’s too wavy for ’80. ..

Kendrick Lamar - untitled 02 | 06.23.2014. 4:18
..."Untitled 2" feels of a piece with To Pimp a Butterfly: It exists in the same interior world, where the lights are low and we can’t always tell up from down. Success, fast money, lost time, God, drank, women, self-love—the images chase themselves through "Untitled 2" with dream logic. The music, meanwhile, pushes determinedly further into jazz and away from commercial rap...
A Tribe Called Quest - We the People... 2:52
...Tribe are political rappers the way New Yorkers are political—matter-of-factly, and between and among the business of living. They love to talk, but they don’t love to hear themselves talk, a minor but massive distinction. “All you Black folks, you must go/All you Mexicans, you must go/And all you poor folks, you must go/Muslims and gays, boy we hate your ways,” chants Q-Tip sadly in the chorus, not sounding like a protester as much as someone on the neighborhood corner, repeating what they can’t believe they’re hearing...

Solange - Don’t Touch My Hair [ft. Sampha] 4:17
...Having your hair touched may seem like a microaggression to some, especially in proximity with the other mentioned gestures. But for black people, and black women in particular, it is rooted in the same ideology that treats black as ‘other’ or worse—as lesser. It is an attack often launched subconsciously, an act that alienates and also devalues black space. Plus, it’s just plain rude. Solange’s “Don’t Touch My Hair” can be read as an explicit rejection of this behavior, as a simple establishment of boundaries, or as a powerful pledge of personal identity...
Blood Orange - E.V.P. 5:43
...Dev Hynes might as well be a poster child for the city as far this goes. The precision with which he renders his adopted home is one of the many things that makes Freetown Sound so remarkable. If the rest of Freetown Sound explores New York’s alleyways, clubs, and parks, album centerpiece “E.V.P” looks out from the observation deck of the Empire State Building. On it, he flashes his uncanny ability to make disparate elements gel. “E.V.P”’s hook is among his catchiest—and yet, were it to formally break out, it would be one of the most melancholic choruses on pop radio...

Moses Sumney - Lonely World 4:47
...At first, “Lonely World” seems to fit this pattern. There are the strums, the echo, the hesitant ache. “And the sound of the void flows through your body undestroyed,” he muses, as if he’s the last astronaut looking back at an imploding earth. But suddenly, he’s no longer alone. A bass drum starts to thump on time. Hi-hats flare and flutter. Pointillistic synths and guitars whirl. Thundercat’s bass pushes ahead. Then Sumney’s voice refracts into an endless mirror and starts to chant the word “lonely,” making it sound anything but. Everything crests...

Whitney - No Woman 3:57
Max Kakacek and Julian Ehrlich, both formerly of Smith Westerns, left Chicago last year and decamped in L.A. to record their debut as Whitney, a sly retro outfit they started after their old band dissolved. Their lead single, “No Woman,” is a gooey and aching country ballad that meditates on one of dad rock’s most hallowed themes: the melancholy of crossing city limits to escape everything about your old life and old loves. Ehrlich, who's also done time in Unknown Mortal Orchestra, sings in an unvarnished falsetto that carries this drifting song. The reticent piano, trumpet, and strummed guitar begs you to close your eyes and let Ehrlich sadly whisk you away: "I left drinkin' on the city train to spend some time on the road/ Then one morning I woke up in L.A."...

Noname - Yesterday 3:09
Noname is here to remind us of Chicago’s most lasting hip-hop tradition, one that provides a throughline from Chance to Kanye to Common to No I.D., leading all the way back to the city’s history as an incubator for jazz and soul. Her debut mixtape, Telephone, hearkens back to these roots; its sound is warm and sepia-toned. Fittingly, the album’s opening number, “Yesterday,” is all about remembrance. Noname memorializes a departed grandmother and brother, longs for her own childhood, and wonders who will remember her when she’s gone...

Parquet Courts - Human Performance 4:15
Most of Parquet Courts' songs are about some kind of disconnect: between expectation and reality, social pressures and priorities. But seldom have we heard them shoot so directly at heartbreak, every other songwriter's favorite rupture. The title track of their forthcoming album finds Andrew Savage in the wake of a break-up, wracked with self-doubt. He's singing as we've never heard him before, reeling in his usual jut-jawed bark and coming out with a surprising, blunted croon that recalls Orange Juice's Edwyn Collins. Its art brut quality makes the unusually childlike, simple rhymes of "Human Performance" feel all the more canny and affecting...

Porches - Be Apart 3:05
...As Porches, New York's Aaron Maine typically writes from the perspective of a sordid loner. Right on cue, the hook from "Be Apart," off his upcoming LP Pool, goes, "I want to be apart of it all." It's very much in character, and it subdues any speculation that his Domino debut might be a starmaking endeavor. Thematically, "Be Apart" seems to contradict its form—a synth pop song mixed by Chris Coady (Tobias Jesso Jr., Beach House, Future Islands) in L.A.—but it's still 2-D, nearly monophonic. This is a mockup of dance music made on Mario Paint for people whose dance moves have as much rhythm and range of motion as those of Toad...

Maxwell - 1990x 4:44
...As “1990x” quietly peaks, the music's slow-burn aligns with the pointed lyrics. “We will climax with reason cause we’re grown and we own it,” Maxwell croons.  On “1990x,” he yearns not for the spark of initial romance so much as the day-to-day familiarity of something that, with patience and commitment, lasts. And in the final minutes of the song, it becomes apparent that Maxwell is singing not of a steady love he has, but rather, about a steady love that he wants. Ultimately, “1990x” is less about a single moment than a series of repeated ones—which make for the most perfect moment of all...

Olga Bell - Randomness 3:26
...But one of the things that makes "Randomness" so charming is the way it deviates from its inspirations. Where '90s dance-pop was sleek and efficient, "Randomness" is a little bit clunky: Its piano-house chords sound dissonant and a little drunk here, and the sawtooth bass melody is just a hair more boisterous than is called for—particularly when matched with Bell's own quiet, conspiratorial coo, and the silvery trance arpeggios that bring to mind the Knife's Silent Shout. The song sounds a little like a tribute to early '90s dance-pop written by someone who hasn't actually heard those songs in a long time—like a copy based on the memory of a memory. It's a strange, fanciful kind of mutant pop, with the most fortuitous kind of randomness built right into the equation...

Deakin - Golden Chords 6:29
...It’s a record not without controversy, creative blocks, and self-imposed hardships. Like most artists finding both themselves and their footing, one suspects that Dibb was getting in his own way. “Golden Chords,” though, is disarming in its honesty and beauty, his voice finally heard away from his more famous band. While the backdrop sounds like field recordings from his travels in Africa from many years back, there’s an intimacy here that’s immediate. Dibb seems to be looking at his own reflection: “You’re scattered ever lonely buddy but so full love/ Please stop repeating your terror you choose what you see/ It’s always 'what if?' and 'why not?'/ Man you gotta just be.”

Aphex Twin - CHEETAHT2 [Ld spectrum] 5:53
...The title of his latest, Cheetah, turned out to be a wonky pun, one that “CHEETAHT2 [Ld spectrum]” masterfully delivers from the start. This lumbering creature won’t chase down any antelopes; the Cheetah in question instead is a retro synth with a reputation for difficulty, and the synthesizers here have an appropriately queasy, mutant feel. The result, though, works seriously well, strutting along in a vaguely unwholesome way that surprisingly evokes not only ’80s goth-pop but also a genre that itself began as a joke: chillwave, y’all? Even when Aphex Twin is at his most restrained, he can’t seem to restrain himself...

Huerco S. - Promises of Fertility 6:55
...It's easy to imagine “Promises of Fertility” playing during the fashion exhibit instead of Eno, or in those films and commercials. The pieces share a similar quality of beautiful sadness, the type of music that is appropriate to play at a wedding or a funeral. Does that say more about the music, or about those emotions themselves? How can simply feeling deeply be represented by one type of sound? What power do long tones contain? In the hands of most musicians, these ideas are about as boring as they sound, which is why so many people keep reusing Eno's music. Hopefully they'll find Huerco S soon...





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