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 Kanye West, Lykke Li, Blur, Tame Impala and Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti. (Click on the arrows to navigate through the songs.)
Kanye West & Pusha T: "New God Flow" (1 of5)
Kanye West used to drop new jams churned out of his production factory GOOD Music on the regular, sometimes on Twitter, with little ceremony, but his latest single “New God Flow,” a collaboration with Pusha T, apparently merited a little more buildup, and with good reason – it’s one of the best tracks we’ve heard from the label or even from West himself in a long time, what with that forceful, pounding beat and scathingly witty wordplay as Pusha and Ye sum up exactly what it means to be living the rap dream (Pusha’s all about the Balmain rhyming with Grand Marnier; Ye insists on remembering where one came from; somehow it works out). The whole thing ends with a schoolyard-y chant over a massive drumline beat, but it’s that first line that’ll stay with you: “I believe there’s a god above me, I’m just the god of everything else.”
Lykke Li: "Silver Springs" (2 of5)
We’ve always loved Lykke Li’s torch songs – tracks like “Little Bit” and “I Follow Rivers” are haunting in their minimalistic vulnerability, unforgettably gorgeous, and almost painfully sincere, and the same is true even when she’s not performing her own music – evidenced here in her cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Silver Springs,” an outtake from their classic 1977 record Rumours that she interpreted for the upcoming tribute record Just Tell Me That You Want Me. Li imbues the confessional intimacy of Fleetwood's original with an incredible, chilling massiveness that makes Stevie Nicks’ heartbreaking and confrontational lyrics – “my voice will haunt you, you’ll never get away from the sound of the woman that loved you” – sound threateningly, gut-wrenchingly, beautifully ethereal.
Blur: "Under The Westway" (3 of5)
As much as we’re hoping Blur’s soaring piano ballad “Under the Westway” isn’t one of their last two songs released ever, it’d serve as an incredible final memory of the classic ‘90s Britpop band. Damon Albarn’s lucid and haunting science fiction visions of the modern world, pounding drums, distorted, crashing guitar chords, a piano line probably engineered in a lab to induce tears – it all adds up into an endlessly relistenable, stunningly gorgeous example of how to write the best pop-rock ballad ever that, with its jumping time signatures, never feels at all predictable. It fits with Albarn’s dystopian lyrics that “Under the Westway” began its life as a fan-shot, terrible-quality youtube video, but it’s also indicative of the song’s ultimate revelatory feeling that something with such auspicious beginnings ended up so powerful.
Tame Impala: "Apocalypse Dreams" (4 of5)
At their best, Tame Impala sound like they’re making their music inspired by a few classic psych and guitar pop 45s they dug up out of record store wreckage post-apocalypse and recorded on similarly scrounged-up equipment. Make up your own teen-novel backstory for their new single, premiere Lonerism cut “Apocalypse Dreams,” and its wailing guitars, echo-laden piano, exhilarating midway-through tempo change, and epic fadeout – a record player running on an unreliable, pieced-together home generator? A tape malfunction during committal to cassette? Faulty transmission back from the future? Anything works, and “Apocalypse Dreams” gives you six minutes to daydream.
Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti: "Only in My Dreams" (5 of5)
2012’s the year of unrequited love: Grimes came at the tough subject from the future, Kitty Pryde from the zeitgeisty universe of Tumblr rap, and now Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti are tapping into a still-rich ‘60s-esque vein on “Only In My Dreams.” With its hypnotic, meditative guitar bubble chiming like a sitar and sun-soaked layered vocals, you could’ve heard this one at Woodstock or Golden Gate Park way back in the day, and girls would have swayed in long skirts to it, and it would’ve bounced around the world on fuzzy AM airwaves until it wound up on your parents’ old mix cassettes. Now it’s an indispensable addition your downer Spotify playlist.