Tracking 2012's Best Songs #10

This week on Tracking––a weekly series in which we discuss our favorite songs of the year––you can listen to additions from Animal Collective, Fiona Apple, Jai Paul, Twin Shadow and Grimes.
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This week on Tracking––a weekly series in which we discuss our favorite songs of the year––you can listen to additions from Animal Collective, Fiona Apple, Jai Paul, Twin Shadow and Grimes.
Tracking

This week on Tracking––a weekly series in which we discuss our favorite songs of the year (you can check out the official list as the year progresses)––you can listen to additions from Animal Collective, Fiona Apple, Jai Paul, Twin Shadow and Grimes. (Click on the arrows to navigate through the songs.)


Animal Collective: "Honeycomb" / "Gotham" (1of5)

Animal-Collective-Honey-Comb

As mind bending as Animal Collective's most recent work has been (the visual record ODDSAC and the performance piece Transverse Temporal Gyrus) it is always welcome to hear their experiments within a proper song structure. “Honeycomb” and “Gotham” are the first tracks to come out of the recording sessions for an album to be released later this year. They are both excellent and distinctly Animal Collective, meaning unlike any other music made by humans. “Honeycomb” opens with an unintelligible sample (what else) and some quirky synth work before the melody drops and Avey Tare begins to lead us down the rabbit hole. It is a dense track, with any number of sounds being produced at once, but it has strong harmonies and a clear focus. The members join voices near the end for a Beach Boys moment and, with that, AnCo are back in our lives.

“Gotham” is as close to a slow-burner as Animal Collective gets. It opens with hints of Pink Floyd, which is fitting considering both bands are pioneers of psychedelic music. However, as much acid as that band took, I don't think they ever envisioned the types of soundscapes that Animal Collective are able to create. “Gotham” is anchored by a meandering pop melody but that is only the spatial center for a swirling cloud of echoing guitar, soaring vocal harmonies, and myriad electronic adornments. I recommend trying to mentally chase down every little synth stab, every guitar note that worms its way through the track and then leaves again unnoticed. It is a futile yet fascinating exercise; and it will leave you with an appreciation for just how impossibly creative these four men are. –– Drew Malmuth



This week on Tracking––a weekly series in which we discuss our favorite songs of the year (you can check out the official list as the year progresses)––you can listen to additions from Animal Collective, Fiona Apple, Jai Paul, Twin Shadow and Grimes. (Click on the arrows to navigate through the songs.)

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Fiona Apple: "Every Single Night" (2of5)

Fiona Apple

Almost seven years after Extraordinary Machine, Fiona Apple is back with an unassuming, virtuosic, and disturbing single. If you take “Every Single Night” as Apple’s version of a “How I Spent My Summer Vacation” assignment, we can surmise that her artistry has reached an apex, along with her anxieties. On “Every Single Night,” Apple’s thoughts (“white-flamed butterflies in my brain”) turn her stomach and then spawn an evil twin. Mind and emotion turn to flesh and then go to war. Her mind is the enemy, and Apple roots for her desires: “I just want to feel everything,” she sings again and again. She invites her twin to dinner. Her heart is the main course, an omelette for the two to choke on. Mutually assured destruction.

Extraordinary Machine opened with a title track pruned to bonsai spareness. The Idler Wheel... begins with “Every Single Night,” equally exacting and elegant but packing an atomic wallop. Apple whispers and wails with skeletal support: a brushed snare drum, a standup bass heartbeat, some cymbal taps, rolling tom fills, and precious toy-piano tinkles. Its dramatic moments (her battles with her brain) are heightened by little more than Apple’s vocals, doubled into a BOOM.

Fiona Apple’s return warrants parades and cannon fire. And we get it, in her own way, with a deceptively simple yet devastating lullaby, sung into a mirror. –– Peter Tabakis


This week on Tracking––a weekly series in which we discuss our favorite songs of the year (you can check out the official list as the year progresses)––you can listen to additions from Animal Collective, Fiona Apple, Jai Paul, Twin Shadow and Grimes. (Click on the arrows to navigate through the songs.)

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Jai Paul: "Jasmine" (3of5)
To say that Jai Paul had a lot to live up to after las year's "BTSTU" would be a huge understatement. He memorably opened his debut single with that angelic falsetto of his––quite possibly the highest dance pop has heard since Passion Pit's Michael Angelakos––singing "don't fuck with me, don't fuck with me." All that followed was universal critical acclaim and ubiquitous covers and remixes (tributes, if you will). Naturally, this line also struck a chord with prominent figures in hip hop like Drake, Pusha T and Beyoncé. Several weeks ago Paul broke his year-long silence and uploaded "Jasmine" on Soundcloud. It has since been updated with the all-important tag "(Demo)." And indeed it is a demo, its edges are rougher than that of "BTSTU," its synth planes less brilliant, its vocals less piercing. But what is on display here, however, is Paul's undeniable pop songwriting acumen. In fact, I'd say that in mere demo form "Jasmine" is already more immediate than its predecessor. It's dazzling. It's also very bold of Jai Paul to release a song as fully formed as "Jasmine" and label it as a demo months, maybe even years before the final "(Edit)" is released. (History lesson: "BTSTU" first infiltrated niche music blogs all the way back in 2007, also labeled as "(Demo)." It was then noticed by certain influential DJs in 2010 which ultimately led to Paul being snagged up by the wise XL Recordings and "BTSTU (Edit)" was released in April 2011.) When it comes down to it, "Jasmine (Demo)" is a glimpse of Jai Paul's future, and the best part is that it sounds exactly like that –– the future. –– Luis Tovar

Jai Paul


This week on Tracking––a weekly series in which we discuss our favorite songs of the year (you can check out the official list as the year progresses)––you can listen to additions from Animal Collective, Fiona Apple, Jai Paul, Twin Shadow and Grimes. (Click on the arrows to navigate through the songs.)

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Twin Shadow: "Five Seconds" (4of5)
The fresh new single from Twin Shadow's sophomore full-length, Confess, literally starts out with a bang. The quippy track gives a quick shot of the what the new album has to offer. A running drum beat underlines sprawling synths in this anthem-like track that, fittingly, repeats the same five seconds over and over. Yet, this results more in an addictive new wave throwback than a monotonous track as George Lewis varies each reiteration with a different combination of timbres. Pulling it all together are unexpected guitar riffs that highlight an infectious hook, all of this adding up to a cut that makes it extremely difficult to stay still. –– Denise Lu

Twin Shadow Confess Album Art


This week on Tracking––a weekly series in which we discuss our favorite songs of the year (you can check out the official list as the year progresses)––you can listen to additions from Animal Collective, Fiona Apple, Jai Paul, Twin Shadow and Grimes. (Click on the arrows to navigate through the songs.)

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Grimes: "Nightmusic" f/ Majical Cloudz (5of5)

GRIMES VISIONS

Grimes’ Visions is an album full of great songs, so saying “Nightmusic,” Grimes mastermind’s Claire Boucher’s collaboration with labelmate Majical Cloudz, is probably its greatest song is no small honor. From its opening seconds, in which Boucher yelps like an actual alien over what must be a choir of elves or something, to the moment that hypnotic metronome starts ticking like a strobe light or a heartbeat, to those incantation-like, incomprehensible lower-pitched versions of Boucher’s voice that bubble up out of the haze every once in a while, “Nightmusic” is so good because it’s so Grimes – sexy, creepy, dark, otherworldly dance music that’s so catchy and irresistible it might as well function as witchcraft. –– Genevieve Oliver


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