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5



Plan B
“Ill Manors”


Taken from his soundtrack to his debut film appearance, “Ill Manors” is a furious attack on the media portrayal of working class, predominately black, youth in the UK, or “chavs” as they are dismissively called (think trailer trash in America). While Plan B venomously spits out the verses, it’s the breakdown and chorus that provides the emotional intensity to the song. The use of strings add to the sense of portentousness and violence that is captured on screen as real life images of police violence and youths rioting are intercut with fictional scenes from the film. This is tough, frantic British hip-hop/rap at its best. Plan B is developing in to Britain’s very own Eminem. Jez Collins


 

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Fiona Apple

4



Fiona Apple
“Every Single Night”


As the lead single and opening track on Fiona Apple’s fourth album The Idler Wheel…, “Every Single Night” functions as a raison d’être for the project. Lyrics like “every single night’s a fight with my brain” and “I just want to feel everything” set the tone for the album, and the instrumentation feels appropriately novel while still retaining her signature Jon Brion-esque carnivality. Vacillating between quiet and loud, the music echoes Apple’s mood, as she grapples with and ultimately embraces the dualities of her approach to songwriting and interacting with the world outside her brain. The song makes clear that, while she may only release an album once or twice each decade, the battles that she chronicles in her music happen nightly. Fortunately for us, every so often, she lets us see what’s going on in there. Matt Paproth


 

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Frank Ocean

3



Frank Ocean
“Pyramids”


For all the buzz around Channel Orange, most of the album’s pleasures are sneaky and quietly ambitious. “Pyramids” is the exception, for its length, content and split personality structure. He spends the half singing (dreaming) about Cleopatra cheating on him and being taken away, while cheetahs and thieves abound, and the second half waking up to sing, as a pimp, about the prostitute he’s in love with. Musically it’s as split: an almost dance track, with interruptions, and then a more downbeat slow jam. There’s fantasy in the story and music, yet in both halves it’s clear the man is building a mythology around a woman he doesn’t really know. You’d think by now artists would have exhausted prostitution as a metaphor, but here it’s, fresh. Dave Heaton


 

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Japandroids

2



Japandroids
“The House That Heaven Built”


If we were building a case for the reemergence of authenticity, Japandroids could be the subject and “The House That Heaven Built” could be the thesis. Alternating between unmatched exuberance and a lyrical refrain to “tell them all to go to Hell”, the Vancouver duo crafted the biggest threat to melancholy this side of Iggy Pop’s “Lust for Life”. It’s not just a song with a great chorus that you absolutely should scream along to on your way to your miserable job; it’s also an admission of hope, an assurance that everything will work out, and moment of pure uninhibited ache committed to tape. Sorrow, you’ve just been put on notice. The rest of you need to put your fists in the air and start building your own heaven. Scott Elingburg


 

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Grimes
“Oblivion”


Though it wasn’t the lead single from the Artist Also Known As Claire Boucher’s 4AD debut Visions (that was “Genesis”), “Oblivion” might as well have been, for this nouveau dream pop triumph is surely the album’s calling card, the definitive encapsulation of everything that makes the record (not to mention the musician behind it) so beguiling to listen to. Boucher’s helium-light voice darts along like a precocious youth over a squelching synth figure, and her gossamer background harmonies glide about and intertwine with one another as much as they rise and fall in sing-song fashion. Lyrically “Oblivion” is wracked by anxiety over the dangers of walking alone at night, and though the earworm melodies and tinkling textures put a carefree face on the circumstance, hearing Boucher sing “And now another clue / I would ask / If you could help me out / It’s hard to understand / ‘Cause when you’re really by yourself it’s hard to find someone to hold your hand” breaks the heart, as it candidly communicates how vulnerable she truly feels. By the time the last bottom-heavy tones of the track finish winding down, it’s unclear if she ever found someone to dote over her health after all—or if she even made it home. AJ Ramirez


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