Tag Archives: song of the year

Song of The Year-Blue Trash by The Dead South

Song of The Year-Blue Trash by The Dead South

by Dan-O

The Dead South are Canadian Bluegrass. If you’ve ever listened to Bluegrass you know that the instrumentation is at the core of its success. Everything grows out of the rhythm  and dexterity the banjo and the bass establish. The Dead South add gloriously to that tradition. Erik Mehlsen is basically the Lebon James of Cello. The lyrics that Nate Hilts sings on their new album ,Sugar & Joy, are stranger than Richard Nixon’s ghost. The groups fourth project is named after a lyric from the song Fat Little Killer Boy about a cannibal kid baking people into cakes. The group has been around since 2012 crafting this sound and Sugar & Joy marks the transition where they went to Muscle Shoals and did whatever felt good. They took what was already weird and spackled it with more weird.

Blue Trash comfortably navigates three different paces. I used the song to explain musical tempo to my six year old son. You can’t miss it. Trust me, if you read this blog I know your playlist doesn’t have a lot of banjo in it but lucky for all of us a little goes a long way. Just listen to Blue Trash a few times and see if your not singing along and looking for more songs. Sometimes it takes seven years to find the quintessential album that nails a bands mission statement but Sugar & Joy does. Let this music drive you like it does them and we’ll all stay alive together for a short while.

 

Song of The Year-Shake It by Charli XCX featuring Big Freedia, Cupcakke, Brooke Candy and Pabllo Vittar

Song of The Year-Shake It by Charli XCX featuring Big Freedia, Cupcakke, Brooke Candy and Pabllo Vittar

by Dan-O

Without question XCX is my favorite pop entity. She is as dedicated to what was considered tawdry or profane as she is dance pop. As a creator she greatly enjoys lulling you into a trance and breaking that trance whether through jarring feature, insane production, or weird hook.

Her talent is the kind that can recognize other talent and enhance it. She gave hits to Iggy Azalea, Camila Cabello, Selina Gomez and more. Her pen is restless.  On top of albums she pumps out loosies that bang as hard as any lead single (See: After The Afterparty featuring Lil Yachty). No one at her level of exposure could put Freedia and Cupcakke on a track comfortably with no fear of getting owned. Big Freedia makes huge N.O. Bounce music, Cupcakke is a scientific genius of sex lyrics who is only not featured by more rappers because of straight up fear.

This song starts with jarring sounds: water swishing, reverb, heavy breathing before the finger snaps give the beat permission to drop. Charli’s heavy breathing then becomes a melody as it slips into the roar of Big Freedia. This might be a strange song for you to listen to if your not familiar with these artists. You may not be used to beats switching every few seconds, dropping out coming back in, voices sneaking up on you and whispering rap verses. At some point it sounds like a pot is being hit with something in the background. The first few listens you’re just going to be stuck in the world of this odd thing. What will endure most from Charli XCX’s new album Charli is her musical IQ and the pure effort she put into the vocals on this album. Her voice has never been better executed better than it is on this album. You can feel the focus and its contagious.

 

Song of The Year-Wolf Mode by Chris Rivers

Song of The Year-Wolf Mode by Chris Rivers

by Dan-O

When talking about Noname a friend of mine made the argument that while her follow up album was very good(Room 25), she will likely spend her career measured against the song Casket Pretty from her first album (Telefone). This isn’t about producing an insurmountable hit. Casket Pretty is a hushed poetic eulogy to all the people who shouldn’t have had to die. It’s succinct, dynamic, and gripping. That song will be something a lot of people never ever forget and when her name comes up that song will be the first reply.

I mention this to say Wolf Mode is that song for Chris Rivers. His whole career has been building to it. Wolf Mode is what makes hip hop more than a financially successful genre it can act as a method of group therapy. He combines multi-speed raw flow excellence with an ease in discussing mental illness that few have. He chides someone for never giving love unconditionally and then hopes they die, and pretty immediately admits he has attempted suicide. This isn’t a sad song where the piano helps us cry with him. This is a bass heavy chant about how tough are skin needs to be, how the trials we have been through have built us scar and scab by scar and scab. With under a minute to go Chris double times “I’d rather have the hard truth than a sweet lie because the hard truth still apply to me…” and he’s nailed it. The gorgeous glimmering jewel that sits in the genres heart. This space is where you can tell it how it really is. The Jonas boys make fun music but you’ll never know if they battled sobriety.

I remember watching the documentary and seeing Big Pun hit his wife with a gun while a room of his associates bowed their head and said nothing. This is the guy who gave me the best hip hop album of all time(Capital Punishment, no arguments). As Rivers came up I always wanted to ask him how he balances those contradicting ends of his fathers legacy. This many years later to have his son spitting about self love and forgiveness, mistakes and how the deep scars mean the most has been therapeutic for me. I’m sure many have “canceled” Pun based on the documentary but River’s new album G.I.T.U. makes an important case that a person with a good heart can fix themselves if they have the time. Pun was robbed of that. I’m so glad Chris hasn’t been.

Stream or download G.I.T.U. below:

https://mellomusicgroup.bandcamp.com/album/g-i-t-u

 

Song of The Year-Palmolive Featuring Pusha T and Killer Mike produced by Madlib by Freddie Gibbs

Song of The Year-Palmolive Featuring Pusha T and Killer Mike produced by Madlib by Freddie Gibbs

by Dan-O

In 2014 when Madlib and Freddie Gibbs produced Pinata I thought the two were magnificently matched. A song like Deeper is just not possible without the mutilated soul Madlib feeds Freddie. For some rappers soul sample based beats (Madlib, 9th Wonder) push them into a gentler, reflective place. A chance to put the teeth away and show another side; for Gibbs it is very much not like that.

You can tell because on Palmolive, one of two epic posse cuts on the new Madlib x Gibbs album Bandana, Gibbs starts his verse with “Kane season/F_ing my pastor daughter in two Jesus pieces/Dropping this blow on the basement floor/My Yeezy’s squeaking” all while the bridge to the Sylvers song Cry Of A Dreamer gets the falsetto pulled out and stabbed then kicked behind Freddie to sound like the spooky painful cry that inspires his seething darkness. How bleak is Gibbs? Am I exaggerating? He doubles his own vocals so he can comment on what he is saying and the conversation he’s having with himself is brutal PTSD recollection. “Fernando said they used to move chickens in the Noriega days(Yeah)/ I disrespect his name and he signed my face with a razor blade (True story, N_).”

This song is the perfect meeting of seething darkness. Killer Mike’s chorus carries that bullish swagger, that evil sneer daring you to challenge or doubt the truth of this song. Pusha T doesn’t just understand what Palmolive wants to do, he helped build the model for it. He begins speaking so specifically that it is chilling and he does it all in code you might not understand if your not combing through. When he says “PTSD from what I weighed on the digital,” a casual fan could get lost. My favorite is “The love of your life rap n_ wear fake watches/ the serial number don’t match the gift boxes.” This dude is rapping about knock off watch serial numbers! Push doesn’t care who understands or don’t he needs to speak to his audience on this song. When Push asks the audience if they are Alpo or Mitch it’s a more important question than you might understand. Mitch is dead and Alpo is in witness protection. The question brings the darkness center stage. Are you a traitor? Will you be the end of me? Where in this world can I be safe, if not for the rest of my life for a little while to just get my head together?

The other collaboration is the second to last song called Education. It has Yasiin Bey and Black Thought throwing 100 mph while Freddie does the same but it’s not Palmolive. This one is for fans like me who have Raekwon lyrics tattooed on their soul. If I am ever listening to Palmolive and someone robs me I’ll shrug and think “makes sense.” It’s the most desperate jagged lyrical diamond of 2019 and that spares no one from the conversation. Give me Bandana and keep the rest.

Song of The Year-Speedboat by Denzel Curry produced by Rugah Rahj

Song of The Year-Speedboat by Denzel Curry produced by Rugah Rahj

by Dan-O

Very few people do what Denzel Curry does. That is what struck me when I listened to his new album ZUU and heard him rapping with Rick Ross over a crunchy jagged industrial beat. If you are an old school hip hop head you should rep Curry. He can rap. On that Ross collab the Florida MC says “My pastor making dollars like he’s Eric Sermon,” which is a heady EPMD reference. He knows the culture, can rap with anyone, and what he gives is not just a finished product but one with dynamic individual characteristics.

Speedboat is the best. It is crazy fun to listen to and exhibits impressive melodic and lyrical work. The bridge that leads into the chorus is

Pre-Chorus]
Jesus, please deliver us from evil
Please pray over all my people
What you see in life’s illegal
I don’t wanna use my Desert Eagle

The pauses he makes between each word adds even more gravity to the paranoia and violence PTSD discussed. Now check out the 2pac-esque chorus to go with it.

[Chorus]
Big talk, speedboat (Speedboat)
Pray to God I don’t get repoed (Repoed)
Didn’t go to college for a free throw (Swish)
People gettin’ killed through the peephole (Blah)
Have your money up before you go to war (Hmm)
Put the mask on like a luchador (Hmm)
My dawg didn’t make it to 21, so I gotta make it past 24
Big talk, speedboat (Speedboat)
Pray to God I don’t get repoed (Repoed)
Didn’t go to college for a free throw (Swish)
People gettin’ killed through the peephole (Blah)
Have your money up before you go to war (Hmm)
Put the mask on like a luchador (Hmm)
My dawg didn’t make it to 21, so I gotta make it past 24

Think about how much is discussed in that chorus? We talk about college scholarships, robbery, mortality ages in bad neighborhoods. You can feel it all coming after you(hence the 2pac comp). ZUU belongs on the year end lists because Curry is Floridas shining hope for the future. Not that the state doesn’t have talent but Denzel Curry has star power. When he raps it is important every time. That is an important distinction.  Curry can shout, rap, or compose a hook with equal dexterity and he doesn’t owe anything to a co-sign. No movement has him hanging onto it. His work and his voice got him here.

Song of The Year-Whipped Cream by Ari Lennox


Song of The Year-Whipped Cream by Ari Lennox

by Dan-O

I’m impressed with Dreamville. It’s a talented roster of artists from J.I.D. to Cozz to Bas and Ari Lennox but talent is all over the place. Talent doesn’t surprise me.  Any rap label headed by an artist runs into the same problem: ‘you can be big but not bigger than me’.  J. Cole struck gold with J.I.D. and struck harder with his next album(Dicaprio 2) giving him full spotlight. It takes a real emotionally intelligent person to understand those ‘Is J.I.D. Better than Cole?’ headlines are working In your favor. It is a deeply talented roster but more impressive than that, one where all the artists are growing in different directions together. Not many labels can lay claim to that space and growth at the same time.

The new Ari Lennox album Shea Butter Baby is a masterstroke. When I recommend it to people they snap their fingers and say ‘I heard of that…’ because the title track was on the Creed II soundtrack(I feel like it featured during the sensational sex scene. TESSA THOMPSON IS THE G.O.A.T).  The album itself is brilliant because executive producer (producer or co-producer of 8 out of the 12 tracks) Elite figured out that this album shouldn’t sound hot, fresh and new. Ari Lennox needs to feel like someone you’ve spent your whole life listening to. The kind of soul that always lives in the grooves of your bones and just needs to be let out. By the third listen of the album I felt like it will be playing in the background at a BBQ for my birthday in ten years. That’s the kind of music this is, thick bass horns keyboards and lots of stage for our star to perform on.

Whipped Cream, specifically, is what resonates. Her hooks are always very specific and strange. To start the song with the hook and have the first lines be “I’ve been eatin’ whip cream, having vivid dreams of your face…” differentiates the Lennox experience while the music sounds like the definition of the genre. Shea Butter Baby is classic but it is very now. The short interludes at the end of songs speak about abusive relationships and perceptions of yourself through others eyes. She manages to be funny, sexual, and human at the same time. My favorite part of Whipped Cream is when she says, “Your deceivin’ receivin’ not givin’ head @$$.” She sings it too quickly to fully grasp then sings it again. You can hear the smirk as she mocks this ex but also the real hole that hasn’t refilled. Ari Lennox has songs about making love but none that are frivolous. Everything she sings is part of a three dimensional balance she seeks to achieve. Even as she sings about his inability to give oral pleasure she’s not venomous. She wishes she didn’t care but she does and it’s because that’s who she is. I love this song but if you listen and love it you need to do the whole album. You need to hear how happy she is to be naked and alone in her new apartment on New Apartment. You need to hear how Whipped Cream’s end feeds into the triumphant saxophone that begins Static.

Song of The Year-Cuz I Love You by Lizzo

Song of The Year- Cuz I Love You by Lizzo

By Dan-O

This is my favorite first song of the year (it’s from the self-titled album). Sure, Lizzo has a show stopping voice of the kind I would stab an alien for. That is not the most exciting thing about Lizzo. I can’t get enough of how totally reckless and bonkers she is. Her uncontrolled energy bursts in all directions on the title track produced by Ithaca NY rock band X Ambassadors.

I’m sure a lot of people are writing how great this album is from a body positivity standpoint; that it is great to have more vibrant black female voices. Problem with those takes is they come out of a jar ready to be spread out to fit anybody from Janelle Monae to Cardi B etc etc. Artists are specific not general so criticism should be specific.

While listening to the song you can find yourself asking questions: who would hit the high part of their register this much?! Who would open their album laughingly calling themselves a former ho?! When Pitchfork reviewed Cuz I Love You they pointed to ham fisted lines and awkward images as tough to swallow. Lizzo just doesn’t have the time or energy to go Fiona Apple with the lyrics. Her strength is that she doesn’t carry the fear a lot of us do. She’s not afraid to belt so hard she has to catch her breath, and let you hear, not afraid to say something we all know is corny like “I would do it for you all my friend, ready baby?! Will you be my man?” The desperation in the delivery and pulverizing honesty in the lyrics take center stage even as X Ambassadors fill the track with high energy pro-wrestling rock entrance music. Musically she’s so wild she’s free to be honest and in a world this deceptive and artificial it feels so good to hear.