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50


Talib Kweli “Hot Thing”


The supposed commercial/underground divide means nothing to any MC of significance. What matters is hip-hop: beats, rhymes and life. Each year the verbally dexterous Talib Kweli again demonstrates that he cares as much about what sounds hot as he does about ideas. “Hot Thing” is the especially body-oriented 2007 version. It synthesizes Kweli’s sensuous wordiness with will.i.am’s vision of taking over urban and suburban radios, making the world shake its collective groove thing. Dave Heaton


 

49


Jarvis Cocker “Don’t Let Him Waste Your Time”


Reclaiming a song he gave to Nancy Sinatra a few years ago, Britpop’s gawky bad boy may have found a third life in the form of a pop classicist. The thundering slide guitar hook (a distant cousin to Lennon’s “Bring on the Lucie”) introduces a taut verse/chorus/bridge structure, with Jarvis’ narrator giving the catchiest unheeded advice to an unavailable woman since “Let Him Run Wild”. Robert Short


 

48


The National “Fake Empire”


A few years ago, critics were complaining bitterly that Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, the National’s support act, were drawing bigger crowds than the “better” band. I never understood why they were so upset until I heard “Fake Empire”. Man, I love this song. If I ever get around to writing a novel, my characters will tiptoe through their shining city wearing diamond slippers; they’ll get drunk off spiked lemonade and lose each other falling through the sky. Forget the romance for a second, though, because the National have given us a bigger gift: “Fake Empire” is a perfectly constructed pop song. From the opening (turns out to be) syncopated piano riff through the pizzicato violin accents, the whole construction leads seamlessly from beginning to clattering climax. What better introduction to Matt Berninger’s lugubrious, insightful melancholy? What better introduction to one of the indie rock albums of the year? Dan Raper


 

47


A Place to Bury Strangers “To Fix the Gash in Your Head”


The last few years have seen a powerful resurgence of shoegaze influences in new rock music.  But where many recent releases have focused on shoegaze’s prettier dreampop side, A Place to Bury Strangers have the distinction of bringing back an abrasiveness that recalls My Bloody Valentine over Lush, injecting their tracks with chugging industrial textures and fearsome shrieks of their own customized distortion pedals.  Their self-titled debut is furious, seethingly noisy, and, thanks to thick basslines and pounding drums, consistently rigorous and imbued with momentum, never getting lost in pure feedback.  Add to this a compelling stage show with chopped, synced video, and a vocal delivery something like a more aggressive Jesus and Mary Chain, and the so-called “loudest band in New York” have positioned themselves at the very forefront of new shoegaze. Nate Dorr


 

46


1990s “See You at the Lights”


Young gang of Brit boys rip-off Kool & the Gang’s “Celebration” by stealing its insistent rhythm guitar, throw some arena-shaking power chords behind it and some “bah-bah-bah” vocals, thinking that they can somehow blend them all together to create the best six-string party-starter of the new millennium. Scary thing: they do. Bonus points for telling a stay-at-home girl to “get out like a blonde gets out of a car”; if that line doesn’t get her moving, then you’re simply with the wrong girl. Evan Sawdey


 

45


The Arctic Monkeys “Fluorescent Adolescent”


With catchy guitar lines and rushed verses, the sophomore single off the Arctic Monkeys’ sophomore album is an Armed Forces-style wordy reimagining of power-pop. Alex Turner bemoans maturity with lines like “You used to get it in your fishnets/Now you only get it in your nightdress” even as the band plays their most mature performance to date. After the hype/backlash of 2006, this band may have a career ahead of them. Robert Short


 

44


Patrick Wolf “The Magic Position”


“I’m singing in the major key,” Patrick Wolf repeats at the end of “The Magic Position”, apparently as surprised by that fact as we are. Gone is the gloomy minor key angst he’s known for, replaced by horns and handclaps, cheering children and verses about bluebirds and holding hands. Sure, we’ve heard plenty of songs about falling in love before, but this one’s played with all the fervour of the recently converted. Adam Bunch


 

43


Amerie “Gotta Work”


After the Cee-Lo-blessed “Take Control” failed to pop up on the mainstream radar, Amerie hit back with the palpitating “Gotta Work”. It showed that Amerie could still juggle brassy soul, crunch-funk, and guttural R&B without production from longtime collaborator Rich Harrison. Her voice may not be fine-tuned, but that’s what makes the track so raw. Her ferocity and off-key shrieks effortlessly charge the burning instrumental, allowing this feel-good gem to maintain its breezy potency long into multiple plays. Steven J. Horowitz


 

42


Dondolo “A Question of Will”


There are few who would argue against France being a breeding ground for up-and-coming electronic artists. Dondolo is no exception, as their newest album, Dondolisme, is chock full of synth-pop goodness. It is nearly ironic that the most guitar-centric track on the album is the most successful one, as “A Question of Will” reaps from swiftly executed guitar riffs and fast-paced vocal mumblings. Its embracement of new-wave and synth-pop makes “A Question of Will” one of the catchiest tracks of the year. Mike Mineo


 

41


Common “The People”


Did writing rhymes for clothing commercials alter the grass-rooted ego of Chicago emcee Common? Hardly. There’s no sign of compromise on “The People”, three intricately wrapped minutes guided by Common’s trademark flow of soulful socio-intelligent rhymes, witty pop culture punch lines, and a timeless chorus laid over the J Dilla-inspired beats and melodies of rapper/producer Kanye West. The year heard many odes to the late J Dilla and “The People” ranks among the best. Chris Catania

Video: The People

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