In this episode we check out new tracks from Steve Gunn, Serengeti, Run the Jewels, Jason Isbell, and Pharmakon. As always, we check out a Bob Dylan track, this time from his underrated religious album, “Slow Train Coming.” Check it out HERE or subscribe on iTunes (keyword: BDWPS).
Steve Gunn “Water Wheel”
Serengeti “Lazer Tag” and “Crush ‘Em”
Run the Jewels “Christmas Fucking Miracle”
Jason Isbell “Elephant”
Pussy Riot “Like a Red Prison”
Bob Dylan “Slow Train”
I told myself all year that I wouldn’t create a “Top Songs” list for 2012. In years past, I’ve invested massive amounts of time to create what had over the years turned into a list of the Top 100 (!) songs, a list that pretty much no one every read or cared about (here’s last year’s list!). I decided this year that my time was better spent focusing solely on my albums list. Then again, as the month of January has crept forward, I kept getting the itchy typing finger to still throw a list of songs together. I’m not quite sure why I ever made a song list considering I’ve always been an “album” kind of guy. Then again, there are always those tracks that stand out and get revisited when I’m not listening to an album in its entirety. Most commonly my favorite songs from the year are found on mediocre albums that I’m not interested in revisiting in their entirety, but you will also find familiar tracks that can be found on my definitive “Top 40 Albums of 2012” list. What you read below is far from definitive. Simply put – it’s a collection of songs that you may enjoy as sweet little morsels of dessert to follow my 40-course meal of albums.
A few days ago I posted the first 20 in my Top 40 Albums of 2012 (check it out here). The first half of the list is always easier to compile than the final 20. With this, the top half of the list, I find myself swapping albums from one spot to the next, trying to refine my list to the perfect order. Of course, this “perfect order” is never truly found. On one day I’d much rather listen to my number 17 than my number 5 and vice versa. I can promise you, all of these albums are fantastic. In order to come up with a definitive order, I took into account the overall significance of an album, not just which has the best collection of songs, but which is the perfect album – the themes, the order of the songs, the cultural significance. Within those parameters, I had no doubt what would be the number one album of 2012. But I’m getting ahead of myself…
This year in music reminds me of the 2011 NBA Draft. There hasn’t been any stand out stars in the releases thus far, but there are a lot of quality albums on the cusp of greatness. Last year, I had no doubt about what albums would make my top five for the mid-year list, but this time around, I moved albums up and down the list indecisively for days, finally settling on the order below. My point: there could be a lot of shuffling when the real list comes out in December. Before getting into 20 albums that you shouldn’t miss out on, here are six honorable mentions that could easily end up being this year’s Jeremy Lin.
[Williams Street; 2012]
To open the final track on “R.A.P. Music,” Killer Mike lays out his mission statement: “I’ve never had a religious experience in a religious place. The closest I’ve ever come to seeing or feeling God is listening to rap music. Rap music is my religion.” The song goes on to pay tribute to the history and power of hip-hop, and while it makes for an epic finish, it could easily serve as a prologue to an album that is from start to finish a sermon on how rap music could (and should) be an influential force, enlightening the listener rather than promoting ones self. Mike follows this statement with a flow that reveals the care put into each and every word he spouts: “What I say might save a life / what I speak might save a street.”
Over his ten-year career that began via collaborations with Outkast, Killer Mike has always approached his lyrics with a vicious drive that is fueled by both passion and intellect (a style he describes as “elegance in the form of a black elephant”), but on “R.A.P. Music” his diatribes take on an even more menacing shape. Last year, I thoroughly enjoyed his album “Pl3dge,” but whenever I listened to it, I always felt it just needed a little something more to make it really pop. It seems that Mike has found that secret ingredient in the form of producer El-P. On this full-length collaboration, the duo combine their talents to create an album that is packed with emotional hills and valleys that will take you through the landscape of rap music over the past three decades.
You are about to read through what I deem the top 60 tracks of 2011. Yes, 60. For some reason, lists need to fit within the confines of the top 100, top 50, top 40, Top 20, or Top 10. Any other number seems arbitrary. I had the same uncertainty with the number 60. When I first assembled my list it consisted of 87 songs. I had a decision to make: force 13 more songs onto the list and create another monolith like I did last year (it was a lot of work by the way), or attempt to whittle the list down to 50. I went with the latter, but when finished, I found I still had 67 songs. I struggled and struggled and eventually had it to the number we have now: 60. At this point, I couldn’t remove one more song. None of these songs could be tossed aside, each holding a special meaning, memory, or melody that helped me through another year.