SPECIAL: Feed The Dog’s Top Albums of 2015

carly-dish

So these lists are always late, but this is the latest they’ve ever been posted. I have my share of excuses – major life events (good and bad) occurred one after the other during the months of November-January when I am usually focused on getting these ready. I debated taking a page from Matthew Berry and writing several paragraphs about those life events before getting to anything music-related – and while that may have even been a good idea, as usual, I find myself completely exhausted at the end of this thing, so I can only half ass it. I’ll just say that if I took the time to explain it, you’d say something like, “Oh, well, no, of course you couldn’t possibly have completed your lists sooner if you were dealing with all of that.”

The very few people who read these posts know what I go through to create these lists each year, but I’m not sure I’ve ever written it out on the actual blog, so here goes: the first time I ever attempted to name my own Top Ten albums of the year, I quickly realized how stupid it was. When I would compare the list to those on popular music sites, I would realize how little of the music being lauded I had even heard. My list could never be presented as the best albums of the year, it could only be the handful of albums one person listened to the most, partially because those albums were great, maybe, but also partially because those happened to be the records that found their way into that person’s life. A few months later, I’d find five albums I forgot to put on my list, and five more that I was only just discovering halfway through the following year, and my original list was at once meaningless.

In my own twisted mind, this meant if I wanted to make a list, any list at all, it would have to be as back-breakingly thorough as humanly possible. I would have to listen to everything. All releases, big and small, across all genres. And over the course of the next several years, I honed in on a process that now has me listening to playlists of every single new release of every week of every year and putting them into other playlists that slowly get whittled down into a list of about 200-300 albums that I will sit down and go through, track by track, and drop into a ranking, one by one. At the end of the year, I’ll also add from other people’s top lists, and I’ll sort through all the music outside of Spotify that I’ve been putting off putting on. Repeat all of this for songs, too. And I still miss stuff, and it still makes me upset, but all I can do is tell myself that I’m covering as much ground as I can reasonably expect from myself.

This, of course, is insane. It takes literal months to complete. I will refuse invitations to go out and spend much of the holiday season ignoring my girlfriend, my friends and family, to work on this list. When I’m done, I post them on a blog that was never widely-read and at this point exists for no point beyond containing these lists. I’ll get something like 30 views per article. Less than 10 Facebook friends will actually be interested in the result, and some of them won’t even catch it appearing in their feeds. Sometimes it elicits a handful of five-minute conversations with a few of these friends. I get some sense of relief that it’s done, but then I have to immediately start getting into gear for the following year. I mean, it’s 2016, I have a new Kanye record to listen to.

Consider also what this means for my listening habits. I never listen to music more than a year old. Keeping on top of all new music means never getting nostalgic, never diving into a moment in music history decades past, never even continuing to enjoy an album that came out only a couple years ago. Once an album is posted on this list, I may never listen to it again.

The problem is… when I debated not going through this exhaustive process this year, I realized I was trapped. My whole way of listening to music now revolves around this process. I was letting records by some of my favorite artists pile up without playing them because I knew I would eventually listen to them when I did my rankings. I’ve gotten addicted to being up on everything, so I know if I take a break or say, listen to music more casually, I’ll be back to missing things. That shouldn’t be such a big deal, but it scares me. I know deep down this somehow has something to do with my fear of death – that I know there’s more hours of music to listen to than I have hours left to live, and every day there’s even more being released, and for some reason, even though I know it’s actually impossible to ever keep up, I believe that if I don’t try as hard as possible to hear it all anyway, I might as well be dead.

At least 2015 was a pretty great year for music. In all honesty, it was one of the best years for music ever, especially if you were me. I don’t know that hip hop has ever been braver, more creative, more diversely talented (hip hop makes up more than 1/3 of this list, including eight in the top 20). My favorite rapper released the best record of his career, three times. My favorite DJ released the two best albums of his career within a span of a few months. I’m once again overjoyed and excited by the direction of dance music, propelled by nightcore and future bass. Pop music’s golden era of the 10s is plowing forever forward. The genre-singularity is practically upon us. Grimes. Psychedelic rock. So many amazing records.

My number 1 is bound to be met with some eye-rolls, but unquestionably, my most controversial ranking this year is putting Kendrick Lamar at #51. And allow me to say this – yes, Kendrick Lamar is one of the most talented, creative, intelligent rappers making music today. Yes, To Pimp a Butterfly is an ambitious masterpiece of art and black culture. It is thoughtfully conceived and a true accomplishment of purpose, a powerful, cohesive statement, in ways few albums ever are. But here’s the other thing – this album is chock full of a few of the worst traditions of American music of all time, namely slam poetry, spoken word, and free jazz. In the contextual web that Kendrick weaves, their inclusion makes sense – they are signifiers to black musical history and culture and are part of the story he tells. So as much as I can admire the decision to put these elements onto his record, I do. But I still have to listen to it. I can’t rank an album in my Top 10 if I can’t resist skipping through large sections of it.

If I were a real music critic, maybe I’d feel like it would be “important” for me to recognize the brilliant work of art that To Pimp a Butterfly is. But as a regular old music listener, wanting to actually listen to your record comes first. None of these critics riding Kendrick’s jock would ever even think about putting on an album of any of these styles of music Butterfly pays tribute to. Nobody fucking likes slam poetry, and nobody likes free jazz. They are entire genres of garbage music, and I can’t stand for it.

Onto the list. As always, you can stream (almost) the whole thing on Spotify. Not included on Spotify are a few great records from Young Thug, Migos, Towkio, Lil Wayne, T-Pain, Tory Lanez, and iLoveMakonnen.

 

1. Carly Rae Jepsen – Emotion

carlyrae
2. Young Thug – Barter 6

barter
3. Grimes – Art Angels

grimes
4. Jack Ü – Skrillex and Diplo present Jack Ü

jacku
5. Major Lazer – Peace Is The Mission

majorlazer Continue reading

Advertisements
Posted in Columns | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

SPECIAL: Feed The Dog’s Top Songs of 2015

young-thug-wallpaper-hd.png

I’m saving my wrap-up thoughts on 2015 in the albums post, so I’ll keep it brief here.

List is limited to one-song-per-release, but I cheated in a few places where I let two songs tie for a spot. You can find (almost) the whole thing on Spotify right here. As we mention every year, there are a number of great tracks in this year’s rankings that you can’t find on Spotify, including awesome songs from Young Thug, Migos, Towkio, ABSRDST, Lil Wayne, Tory Lanez, and some lovely K-Pop.

1. Young Thug, Birdman – “Constantly Hating”

2. Jack Ü, Justin Bieber – “Where Are Ü Now”

3. Tory Lanez – “Say It”


4. Fetty Wap – “Trap Queen”


5. ABSRDST, Diveo – “We’re Beautiful”

Continue reading

Posted in Columns | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

SPECIAL: Feed The Dog’s Top 10 Young Thug Songs of 2015

youngthug-nyt

Image cred: Chad Batka, NYT

2015 was the year of Young Thug. I’ve been following the young man’s career since I heard him on Gucci Mane’s 2013 banger “Chasen Paper” with Rich Gang cohort Rich Homie Quan. He broke onto the scene last year with Birdman’s Rich Gang project, showing off his unpredictability and versatility moving from harder trap beats to the poppier piano melodies of favorite producer LondonOnDaTrack on tracks like “Lifestyle“. In 2015 the evolution was complete, with Thugger diving further into his own weirdness in his major label debut, Barter 6, as well as two stellar mixtapes, Slime Season 1 & 2. Thug gets plenty of Future comparisons, which are apt, given a penchant for similar melodic trap beats and indescernible Auto-Tuned mumbling. But I would argue Future is a formula while Thug is chaos. Future is a great artist, but Thug is a movement.

I have two favorite explanations of Young Thug – the first, from a Pitchfork review of Barter 6: “everything here is a hook, from the ad-libs … to the individual bars to the empty spaces.” When you listen to a Young Thug song, rarely do you get verse-chorus. You get several different pieces with unique rhyming patterns and melodies that could each stand to be the hook of a great rap song. As an artist, you’re lucky if you have five or six great ideas across an album – Young Thug crams that many great ideas into a single 3-minute track.

My other favorite Young Thug explanation is this story from producer and collaborator Dun Deal:

Deal: “…and the way he [Young Thug] used to write his music was pretty crazy. He would just draw what he wanted to do on paper. That’s how he used to record; he would draw, like, a picture.”

Interviewer: “What kind of picture?”

Deal: “Weird signs and shapes. He’d be in the booth looking at the paper, and one day I went in there and looked at it and said, ‘You didn’t write any words down.’ He [Thug] looked at me and said: ‘I don’t need no words.'”

Reimagine this scene playing out in the studio when listening to any of these incredible songs from Thugger, Feed The Dog’s Top Ten favorites.

 

  1. Young Thug ft. Birdman – Constantly Hating
  2. Young Thug – Dream
  3. Jamie XX ft. Young Thug & Popcaan – I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times)
  4. Young Thug – No Way
  5. Young Thug ft. Jacquees – Amazing
  6. Young Thug – Halftime
  7. Young Thug – Mine
  8. Young Thug ft. Young Ralph – Rarri
  9. Young Thug – Check
  10. Young Thug ft. Shad Da God – Don’t Know
Posted in Columns | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

SPECIAL: Feed The Dog’s Top Ten Nightcore Versions of 2015

Neon.Genesis.Evangelion.full.1142247

For the uninitiated, I highly recommend Nest HQ’s Guide to Nightcore which defines the genre while going into its history and phases… but here’s the short version: nightcore is basically sped-up dance and pop music that sounds sort of like happy hardcore (which, for the unitiated, is an old genre of house music which sounds exactly like you’d think it sounds). Typically, the songs being remixed are upbeat, bouncy, climactic tracks, which when sped up take on a kind of trance-y vibe. There are a number of artists who are writing their own original songs in the nightcore style, but a majority of the tracks you’ll find online are edits of existing pop songs. These days you can find a nightcore version of almost any song. Just google the name of the song and the word “nightcore” and you’ll almost always find something on YouTube.

About half of this list is songs I got directly from Nest HQ’s playlist. The other half are songs that, after hearing the original version, I hoped there would be a nightcore version, googled it, and there it was. If you’re like me and believe every song would be better at 160 BPM, I highly recommend doing the same thing whenever you’re enjoying a banger but wish it were faster.

The rankings below reflect not only how great these remixes are, but also how elevated they are from their original versions.

1. Syron – All I Need (Nightcore version by babeisland)

2. JoJo – When Love Hurts (Nightcore version by Nightcore Universe)

3. Major Lazer – Lean On (Nightcore version by tacoemoji)

4. Megurine Luka – Just Be Friends (Nightcore remix by JACK GUY of JAPANET)

5. Park Kyung – Ordinary Love (Nightcore version by raddisson x)

6. The Veronicas – Cruel (Nightcore version by Red Nightcore of NightcoreReborn ß)

7. Grimes – Kill V. Maim (Nightcore version by XP Nightcore)

8. Zedd ft. Selena Gomez – I Want You To Know (Nightcore version by FAN FICTION)

9. Marina and the Diamonds – Froot (Nightcore remix by wet lil squish)

10. Jamie Foxx ft. Chris Brown – You Changed Me (Nightcore version by Nightcore Akihora)

Posted in Columns | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

SPECIAL: What I Missed in 2014

waveracer1.png

Yes… I know how late I am with these. More on that in the main post.

Before we get into the proper lists, it is important for me to look back and recognize the great releases of 2014 that I didn’t get a chance to fall in love with until 2015. Here are those great things:

1. 813, Wave Racer, and Trippy Turtle

In 2015, I finally learned the name of the genre of electronic music I was becoming obsessed with – future bass – and quickly discovered what everybody had been doing for the past couple years. The artists I couldn’t stop listening to were these three, along with ABSRDST, who I was a bit better on top of last year. 813’s XOXO EP and some singles and remixes from all three artists would likely have made 2014’s lists if I had heard them sooner.

813:


Wave Racer:


Trippy Turtle:

2. Rich Gang – Rich Gang: Tha Tour Vol. 2

I kind of disregarded this when I became aware it was a thing – I’m not ever sure how official this “official mixtape” is, but in the beginning of 2015 when I was anxiously awaiting Barter 6 I absorbed all the Young Thug / Rich Homie I could get my hands on, and discovered this record is full of hits. “Ain’t Trippin'” in particular was one of my most-played songs of the year.


3. Carpainter – “Saltflake Snow”

This song was my jam in 2015. Sort of an outlier – I haven’t loved too much of Carpainter’s other music, but this track gives me a lot of hope for the future. His track with Maxo, “Amazing!!!” is somewhere towards the bottom of my top songs for 2015.

Posted in Columns | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

SPECIAL: Feed The Dog’s Top Albums of 2014

arianacropped

YES ARIANA AGAIN GET OVER IT

Wrapping up these top lists, here are the Spotify playlists again:

Top Albums
Top Songs
Top Ariana Grande Songs
What I Missed in 2013

& some final musings on 2014:

– I am so glad that twenty years post-O.D.B., the weirdos have finally taken over hip hop. Young Thug and Rae Sremmurd topped the hip hop charts. A$AP Ferg popped up on tracks from Ariana Grande and HAIM, then dropped a mixtape. I Love Makonnen became an overnight sensation, I’m hoping Rome Fortune is next. We even got some promising Lil Wayne verses. I expect this trend to continue and could not be more excited about it.

Anyone remember that summer Jay-Z and Beyonce showed up at a Grizzly Bear concert, and it was a really big deal? Then that was made an even bigger deal when they asked Jay-Z about it, and he basically said (and I’m paraphrasing), “We need indie rock to start inspiring hip hop artists to make better music.” For whatever reason, I thought that was a pretty big deal when Jay-Z said that, and it really spoke volumes of the quality of indie rock (amazing) and hip hop (terrible) that was coming out at the time. And I think it’s finally happened. Mainstream hip hop was terrible enough for a long time that it had to be saved by the innovators — and suddenly it feels like we’re in a new Golden Age of hip hop.

And beyond all the weirdos, we have DJ Mustard. I don’t think anyone has had the year DJ Mustard had in the history of time. On top of putting out his own impressive album, he produced YG’s and a good amount of Ty Dolla Sign’s and Kid Ink’s and had a track on just about every major release of the year. Most importantly, along with YG, he brought G-Funk back. I’m not even waiting for the third Dr. Dre album to drop anymore, I really don’t care, because there’s no way its going to be better than My Krazy Life, an album that completely satisfies my decade-long craving for new G-Funk that had nearly gone dormant.

– In regards to the sentiment that 2014 was a lousy year for music, I will admit that the indie rock crop wasn’t that strong. There were definitely fewer truly great rock records this year than there have been the last couple years. But that said, there were a bunch of pretty good rock records. So Cow, Late Bloomer, Gold-Bears, and Cymbals Eat Guitars are some that come to mind.

But, hey! Music critics! That doesn’t mean we just give the trophy to the best contender in the shittiest category! The War On Drugs and St Vincent records were so boring! I will go on record as saying that Sun Kil Moon is total garbage, and that douchebag behind it basically ruined my summer by dominating the indie news cycle with his incessant “beefing”. I hope he eats some bad sushi and dies.

I know why all the critics’ top lists were so terrible, as well — fear. It’s obvious. The War On Drugs is the most beautifully understandable and placeable album of the year, for sure. It’s influences are referenced SO TASTEFULLY. The whole thing is SO GODDAMN EARNEST. And apparently every music magazine exclusively hires the type of grizzled, aged white boy hipster whose idea of musical perfection is Tom Petty and the Heartbreaker’s Damn The Torpedoes.

The War On Drugs is safe. No one listens to that record and gets pissed off, like what the fuck is this!? St. Vincent, FKA Twigs, and Run the Jewels are also safe. St. Vincent is safe because she has reached Beygency levels of unquestioning admiration, FKA Twigs is safe because if you don’t like it you just think you don’t “get” it, and even Run The Jewels are safe because they’re associated with a political movement and harrowing events in our society that make us feel all the feels. No one has the fucking balls to come out here and say that The War On Drugs are fucking boring, and Ariana Grande, the Nickelodeon starlet, the girl who looks way too young to be showing me all that leg, put out the best record of the year and one of the best pop records in a decade. Luckily, I don’t really do this professionally and have a readership smaller than a public school English class, so I’m happy to be the brave one.

If there’s anything this whole exercise has taught me, and continues to teach me every year, it’s this – you gotta get creative in the ways you seek out music. You can’t just follow the critics, follow the headlines, follow the charts (though at this point, the charts might be doing a better job than the critics). If you do that, you will never give the teeny bopper pop stars a chance. You will never discover a magical, moving record of vulnerable indie rock from a band out of Kansas City with fewer than 2,000 Facebook likes, who also happened to put out the 4th best album of the year. You will just read through what everybody else thinks instead, and come away thinking, Man, 2014 just wasn’t that good of a year for music. I think I like that FKA Twigs album, I dunno. I guess I’ll just start making another high school nostalgia playlist.

1. Ariana Grande – My Everything

 

2. Hospitality – Trouble

 

3. Isaiah Rashad – Cilvia Demo

 

4. Shy Boys – Shy Boys

 

5. YG – My Krazy Life (Deluxe Version)

 

6. Charli XCX – SUCKER

 

7. White Lung – Deep Fantasy

 

8. Alvvays – Alvvays

 

9. Tinashe – Aquarius

 

10. Skrillex – Recess

Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

SPECIAL: Feed The Dog’s Top 10 Ariana Grande Songs of 2014

funnyhat

photo cred Austin Hargrave, Billboard magazine

Bonus list!

I cannot stress just how much Ariana Grande killed it this year. I don’t understand why almost every critic is ignoring this. Ala DJ Mustard, she was everywhere, too, popping up on a new hit every month. To recognize these brilliant accomplishments, and to have an excuse to share that incredible image above, and to help me cope with having to choose only one song from My Everything to include in my Top Songs, I present to you the Top 10 Ariana Grande Songs of 2014.

Spotify playlist here.

1. Ariana Grande – Problem (feat. Iggy Azalea)

 

2. Ariana Grande – Break Free (feat. Zedd)

(editor’s note: HOLY SHIT HOW AM I JUST SEEING THIS VIDEO FOR THE FIRST TIME. MODERN DAY OOPS I DID IT AGAIN.)

 

3. Ariana Grande – Break Your Heart Right Back (feat. Childish Gambino)

 

Continue reading

Posted in Columns | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment