the important and the not-so-important, horribly conflated.

20/10 (Best Songs 15-11)

In music on December 2, 2010 at 8:22 pm

15. How to Dress Well / “Decisions” – Musically, this slow jam has all the characteristics of a mid-nineties R Kelly serenade: a minimal, but insistent, kick and snare; string falls and swells; silky vocals. But HTDW’s lyrics are almost indecipherable; it’s soul music heard through a closed bedroom door. It’s kind of genius—leaving in all the R&B swoons, but eschewing the obligatory misogyny of  R Kelly’s usual jams, “Decisions” oozes seduction instead of sleaze.

14. Beach House / “Walk in the Park” – This Baltimore duo’s arithmetic for success never gets old to me: drum machine + synth organ + finger-slide guitar + smokey vocals is always >> than the sum of the individual parts. It might not hit you initially, but by the coda of “Walk in the Park”—a spurned lover’s lament that turns into a reluctant, but releasing revelation that “more” would’ve never been enough—you realize that two (!) people have crafted something more whole, and wholly beautiful, than even the best 5-piece bands out there.

13. Yeasayer / “O.N.E” – This song is ridiculously fun. If you aren’t doing the robot by the 4:16 mark, you have no soul. A lot of bands tried to fill the glitter-covered shoes of Michael Jackson this year, but no one embraced the weirdness of MJ’s pop quite like Yeasayer.

12. Liars / “Proud Evolution” –  Sisterworld, from which this track is pulled, seems like a meditation on insomnia—it sounds like a journey through a sleepless night, and you emerge from its 11 tracks with weary but wide eyes. Most songs are shot through with hot anger, but “Proud Evolution,” while retaining the uneasiness of its album-mates, seems to embrace the buzzing, shifting energy of that other, streetlamp-lit world we miss out on when we hit the pillow.

11. Sufjan Stevens / “Djohariah” – I admit it: I usually skip the first 9 minutes of this 17 minute Soof-fest. One can only take so much spastic, seemingly atonal guitar solos. But at the 11:00 mark, when trombones and snare drums trade off 16th notes, the bass loops through octave-jumping countermelodies, and a full choir chants the title character’s name, the listener is reminded that no one in contemporary pop music has the compositional chops of Mr. Stevens. And the final five minutes, in all their terrifyingly personal and undeniably gorgeous glory, represents the most heartfelt tribute to a sister since, well, Soof’s “Sister.”

**10-6 tomorrow.

  1. Totally agree on Walk in the Park – amazing, every listen makes it better. It was my favorite from the start.

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