The Year In Music: Tracks Pt. 2

Welcome back! This right here is the second of five installments covering 50 standout tracks from 2014. Arranged in alphabetical order, this segment extends from Eagulls (no not those Eagles…) to Danish princes of punk Iceage. Click the track names for music videos and follow the link(s) at the bottom of the page for more aural/mind pleasure. Enjoy.

Eagulls | “Tough Luck”

TOUGH_LUCKThe year wouldn’t be complete without a story about some fresh young band armed with a couple of hot-blooded rock songs getting caught up in a scandal over some minorly embarrassing word vomit as they fast forwarded into indie music stardom. Of course, with a name based on a homophonic variation on a baby boomer rock icon, what could you expect? Eagulls deliver a refreshing blast of hooky punk with “Tough Luck”, a standout from their self-titled debut. What’s perhaps most respectable about Eagulls is how disinterested they are in playing the role of “band on the rise.” As compared to their eager contemporaries in Palma Violets, Eagulls seem content to rail against their hand selected targets with or without the attention of the international music press. “Tough Luck” contains plenty of arena-rock ethos though you can just as easily picture the band pounding it out inches above a sweaty basement moshpit. For all their unwillingness to pander, “Tough Luck” still comes on like a legend and it’s hard not to feel excited about this band’s potential. Here’s hoping they can keep their angst aimed outward and not disintegrate under the strain of the world stage.

Ex Hex | “Hot and Cold”

HOT_AND_COLDThe iconography of rock’n’roll is decidedly masculine. Think: Bruce’s butt or what made those fingers so sticky. On every page in the history of rock there are boys thrusting and humping, inducing hysteria with every bump and grind. For history’s favorite sons, clothing is optional, wild behavior is celebrated and no price is too high for the magic of music. For girls the story couldn’t be any different. Shamed and discouraged, the women of rock’n’roll (and music in general, for that matter) have never had the same permissions as their male counterparts. Last year there seemed to be a renaissance afoot. It was the year of Savages, Lorde, Perfect Pussy, Priests, Courtney Barnett and Beyonce, along with many many others. Yet, at the time it felt like there was a hesitation to celebrate. To call 2013 “The Year of Women” would have underlined the fact that women have historically been a minority in rock’n’roll, despite having played key roles in its various high water marks. And yet to deny the achievement seemed as unacceptable then as it does now. A year later, you can enjoy the infectious self-titled debut from Ex Hex, an all-women power trio fronted by Mary Timony (Wild Flag, Helium), without acknowledging the context in which it arrives. You can enjoy its sugary sweet kiss offs without recognizing that their debut is probably the best pure rock’n’roll record of the year. You can enjoy its confident craft without considering that it has invigorated a genre that many have been treating like a wounded animal since the guitar-driven glory days of the aughts. Yes, you could do all of those things but Ex Hex are just so good they’re liable to leave you wishing all your favorite bands would let go of their cocks and rock out like girls.

Flying Lotus | “Never Catch Me” ft. Kendrick Lamar

NEVER_CATCH_MEAnyone who’s wanted to share their enthusiasm for Flying Lotus but hasn’t wanted to burden unsuspecting listeners with the thousand-ideas-a-second aesthetic of FlyLo’s albums has been largely out of luck. Despite its quality, “Never Catch Me” works as an entry point to You’re Dead largely because it is the only track that can be gently pulled from its place without tearing the delicate, insanely intricate web that holds all of mastermind Steven Ellison’s work together. If Flying Lotus’ albums are mountain marathons (and I mean this in the best way possible) than “Never Catch Me” represents a moment to catch your breath. Of course, it’s all relative. Kendrick Lamar use the opportunity to demonstrate, via his rapid fire delivery over Ellison’s ludicrous BPMs,  that he is, above all, the most versatile high profile MC alive. Following the thematic arc of “i”, “Never Catch Me” finds Lamar between death and life. It’s a fitting space for him as he navigates his passage from urban poverty to super stardom. And he has found an ideal spirit guide in Flying Lotus who has always been above and beyond total comprehension. Together the two elevate each other’s powers and in doing so form a kind of mystical force with the power to stop time altogether.

The Fresh & Onlys | “Animal of One”

ANIMAL_OF_ONEAs a signifier, “San Francisco” has, in recent years, come to stand for a rather specific breed of psychedelic garage rock. At first glance artists and groups like Ty Segall, Mikal Cronin, John Dwyer/Thee Oh Sees/Castle Face Records seem to be mining a singular vision of Golden Era rock’n’roll. At the fringes of this vision there’s plenty of experimentation though it requires seeing past the Nuggets-biting guitar tones, major chord progressions and wailing blues riffs to recognize it. In these abundant times, The Fresh & Onlys saw fit to release House of Spirits, a record that was no less enjoyable for its eclectic tastes and came to feel like a welcome reprieve from the overdrive onslaught. That isn’t to say this record doesn’t kick ass. The rollicking “Animal of One” aptly demonstrates the band’s ability to write dynamic, captivating songs that use their enigmatic underpinnings to win your attention. “The point of forgiving is so you forget that being forgiven is all in your mind,” singer Tim Cohen intones wearily, the circuitous nature of his logic clearly getting the better of even his best intentions. But “Animal of One” offers redemption in the form of its weightless chorus. Cohen’s cooing blends with a snaky guitar, each climbing toward a state of sheer bliss. Though they may not exert their muscle quite as plainly as their peers, The Fresh & Onlys offer a transportative, “free your mind” take on garage rock that is San Francisco to its core.

Future Islands | “Fall From Grace”

SINGLES“Another synth pop band. Great.” is a sentence that can be read one of a few different ways depending on your tastes. Being a part of something popular is a double edged sword. You may want to be invited to the party but what happens when the party follows you around wherever you go? Some people are liable to think you’re a nuisance. Future Islands certainly benefited from synth pop’s surge in popularity during the last few years and while they may have elements in common with their peers (a predilection for romance, an ear for melody, a heartbeat-like bpm range), it’s their maturity and willingness to make gutsy but earnest diversions into less popular musical territory that set them apart. Samuel T. Herring’s vocals edge toward the darkly melodramatic more than once before he and his band arrive at “Fall From Grace” but there is no better place to appreciate the true dexterity of Future Islands. Lyrically residing in some dusty gothic hallway, the track smolders hauntingly before Herring unleashes a full throated wail. It’s a shocking turn, as unexpected as it is satisfying. After riding the crest of stardom elegantly this year (performing on The Late Show with David Letterman, opening for St. Vincent, landing a spot at Pitchfork Festival’s Paris extension), it is reassuring to know that the momentum that drove the band to their current success was not derived from the need to anticipate a perceived audience. The sincerity of synthpop can sometimes get overshadowed by its trendiness but there are deep layers of substance to Singles that are manifested in both subtle and bold ways. Future Islands are pioneers of nonconformity, addressing, by their very nature, the joys of abandon and the pleasures of personal truth.

Hamilton Leithauser | “Alexandra”

BLACK_HOURSThe Walkmen crooner stepped out on his own this year and the results were mixed in every sense of the word. Black Hours roams airily over the landscape of early pop (50s rock’n’roll, blues, easy listening) with surprising listlessness. Lead single “Alexandra”, a nugget of pure AM radio gold, proved sadly deceptive in this regard: little else on the album gets anywhere near its ecstatic buoyancy. Leithauser finds an unlikely muse in Vampire Weekend’s Rostam Batmanglij who lends “Alexandra” a hefty dose of charm and musical wit. Yet ultimately it’s Leithauser’s gifts as a songwriter, his crafty choruses and inimitable voice, that make “Alexandra” one of the most replayable songs of the year. If only he had employed the same level of genuine inspiration on the rest of his album, Black Hours may have emerged as a classic instead of a relic.

Hiss Golden Messenger | “Mahogany Dread”

LATENESS_OF_DANCERSThere are few things that have made me happier over the years than seeing success come to MC Taylor and the rest of Hiss Golden Messenger. The first album on their hometown’s most famous label, Lateness of Dancers builds on HGM’s increasingly excellent discography. The band’s intimacy and communion with the spirit of Southern music is only enhanced by the added production values of Lateness and “Mahogany Dread” easily fits in among their best songs. A beautiful accompanying music video reveals what any dedicated HGM listener already knew: family is everything for Taylor though things are never easy. Looking over Taylor’s lyrics since Poor Moon you can identify an increasing sense of solace in the struggle. “The mystery of love is a funny thing,” he muses, “the more it hurts the more you think you can stand a little pain.” Rich and mature, tinged with melancholy yet unsentimentally uplifting, “Mahogany Dread” is absolutely one of the best love songs of the year.

Hospitality | “Rockets and Jets”

TROUBLEAfter their promising twee beginnings, Hospitality took a beguiling turn on their aesthetically divergent second album, Trouble. Flitting from 60s folk to synth-infused prog, Trouble is certainly not without its pleasures. Among them is the longing-laced “Rockets and Jets”, a satisfying mix of what is now old hat for the band and their newer, sharper threads. The band is a shrewd packager of musical detours, often taking you places you might not expect from their outwardly sunny pop songs. “Rockets and Jets” momentarily disappears down a harmonic rabbit hole before emerging once again at the surface, changed in some invisible way. Many of the band’s assets have become more prominent: Amber Papini’s voice has increased its versatility, Brian Betancourt’s bass lines remain as memorable as ever and the songs on Trouble are undeniably ambitious even if they are not always cohesive with one another. The evidence suggests that while Hospitality may not always be consistent they will continue to surprise, which is, in many ways, a more hopeful prospect.

How to Dress Well | “What You Wanted”

WHAT_IS_THIS_HEARTAfter being saddled with the worst subgenre of the still-young decade, How to Dress Well’s Tom Krell has admirably overcome the cultural implications of PBR&B. Like his sonic peers (Drake, Frank Ocean, Autre Ne Veut), Krell works by layering passion and vulnerability, telling intricate and complex romantic tales. While How to Dress Well tends to fall on the ambient side, there is plenty on “What Is This Heart?” that bumps though the various build ups can sometimes be more than the casual listener may be ready for. “What You Wanted” is a perfect example: the track really kicks in only after 2 minutes of bubbly, sparse soul which outlines the eventual figure of the full bodied groove. The wait is worth it for Krell’s dissection of the unrelenting mystery of attraction and the bottomless pit of loneliness. Krell operates in a space within and outside of himself, able to see the faults in his character but seemingly unable to do anything about them. “I know it’s lame, it’s basic, childish, self-obsessed,” he rattles off, “but when I love it, I love it.” Wrapped in a haze that can sometimes feel impenetrable, How to Dress Well offers moments of ecstatic revelation, musically and lyrically.

Iceage | “Forever”

PLOWING_INTO_THE_FIELD_OF_LOVEIf one band truly represented the immortal spirit of “punk” this year it was Iceage. Their latest album, the simply staggering Plowing Into the Fields of Love, finds these Danish lads raping and pillaging their way through the annals of music history to often jaw dropping results. The band wildly mixes tradition with bold experimentation, keeping their own ideas so fresh and raw that many of these tracks feel ready to fall apart from exhaustion by the time they conclude. This is what historians may refer to as “genuine genius” and you’ll find little argument from anyone who’s watched these boys grow up. Take “Forever”: after a breathtaking bridge that finds Elias Bender Rønnenfelt intoning “Dive into the other like it was the ocean/caressed by its waters, I lose myself forever,” the song is ripped in two by a trumpet screaming across a choppy sea of strings and jangly guitars while thunderous drums and bass battle for rhythmic supremacy. It is one of many surprising, provocative and generally disarming moments scattered across the album. Iceage have been great since their inception. Now they have become masters of their craft, fearless pioneers of truth and terror.

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The Year In Music: Superlatives

In lieu of a traditional Top Albums of the Year list, Superlatives celebrates 2013’s many musical accomplishments with equally meaningless awards. Enjoy and don’t forget to check out What Cannon’s 50 Tracks of 2013. Links below. Thanks for participating in this little experiment. 

KANYE_WEST

Album of the Year (For The Haters)
Kanye West – Yeezus

You Read A Compelling Think Piece About…
Savages

Ambitious, Experimental Albums That Are Sometimes Indulgent and Sometimes Really Fun
The Knife – Shaking the Habitual
Justin Timberlake – The 20/20 Experience

Ambitious, Experimental Albums From Bands I Really Loved in High School…
…or What’s A Boy To Do When There’s No More LCD Soundsystem
Arcade Fire – Reflektor
Daft Punk – Random Access Memories

Play “Catch That Reference”
Action Bronson & Party Suppies – Blue Chips 2
Chance the Rapper – Acid Rap

ACTION_BRONSON

A Bromantic Excursion
Run The Jewels – Run The Jewels

P.O.P. (Pursuit of Perfection)
Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City
Chvrches – The Bones Of What You Believe

Most Well Deserved Overstatement
Drake – Nothing Was The Same

Three Jewish Sisters Who All Sound like Stevie Nicks Christine McVie…
…or Dreams Really Do Come True
Haim – Days Are Gone

HAIM_FLEETWOOD_MAC

All The Breath You Wasted on Miley Cyrus Could Have Been Spent Talking About…
Lorde – Pure Heroine

Really Excellent Folk Rock Albums With Really Long Titles
Foxygen – We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic
Neko Case – The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You

Best Deadpan Delivery
Courtney Barnett – The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas

The State of the Post-Punk Revival
Arctic Monkeys – AM
Franz Ferdinand – Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Actions

Where Were You In ’92?
Speedy Ortiz – Major Arcana

Best McLusky Reference
Anti Parent Cowboy Killers” – Joanna Gruesome (from Weird Sister)

JOANNA_NEWSOM

Is That You, Jai Paul?
Jai Paul – Jai Paul

The Crutchfields
Swearin’ – Surfing Strange
Waxahatchee – Cerulean Salt

The #1 Best Redundant Album Title of the Year Award
Pusha T – My Name Is My Name

A Snot Rocket Straight to the Heart
The So So Glos – Blowout

If Metaphors Were Dollars You’d Be Rich But Still Sad
Los Campesinos! – No Blues

Worst Album Art/Best Use of Gospel Choir
Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Mosquito

KURT_VILE

Sleepy, Sad or Just Stoned
Kurt Vile – Wakin on a Pretty Daze
Ty Segall – Sleeper

Successfully Completed Musical Grand Slam
Deerhunter

Least Google-able Band Name
Perfect Pussy

Millennial’s Anthem
Stoned and Starving” – Parquet Courts (from Light Up Gold)

RHYE

The Hopeless Romantic’s Breakup Record
Rhye – Woman

The One You Love
Eleanor Friedberger

The One Who Loves You
Torres

For My Memories of the South…
Hiss Golden Messenger – Haw

…And My Dreams of the West
Mikal Cronin – MCII

Brits Do It Better
Palma Violets – 180

SACRED_BONES

Top 3 Sacred Bones Releases
Var – No One Dances Quite Like My Brothers
Milk Music – Cruise Your Illusion
The Men – New Moon

Oldies
Creedence Clearwater Revival – Cosmo’s Factory

Late to the Party
Angel Olsen – Half Way Home
Waxahatchee – American Weekend
Miguel – Kaleidoscope Dream
Mac Demarco – 2
Andrew Bird – Break It Yourself
Matthew E. White – Big Inner

Don’t forget: every time you buy a record an angel gets its wings. If you like something you hear, buy it. Support independent artists.

What Cannon’s 50 Tracks of 2013…

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The Year In Music: Tracks Pt. 4

The fourth of five installments covering 50 standout tracks from 2013. Arranged in alphabetical order, this segment extends from trans-continental pop sensation Lorde to melancholy R&B enigma Rhye. Click the track names for music videos. Enjoy.

Lorde | “Royals”

ROYALSOnce I start, it’s very hard for me to stop talking about Lorde. In an article by Ann Powers of NPR Music, she compared the New Zealand teen to Kurt Cobain. While I still feel that these kinds of comparisons keep music criticism locked in the “it’s like ______ only with _______ instead of ________” mode that NPR is infamous for, I can pick up what Powers is putting down. “Royals” is easily the most inspiring earworm on the pop charts this year. While she may not have had the clout to compete with Miley Cyrus on the level of cultural ubiquity, Lorde inserted herself into the conversation about the state of pop and feminism in 2013 in much more effective, ingenious ways. This is the point where I usually say, “what can get lost in these kind of intellectual discussions is the actual quality of the music.” Luckily, that has not been as much a problem for Lorde as it has been for, say, Savages. With her vivid language (“tigers on a gold chain”) and her ability to channel the ennui and delight of adolescence, Lorde has captured something fleeting yet timeless. It is nothing less than youth itself.

Los Campesinos! | “Avocado, Baby”

AVOCADO_BABYGareth Paisey is indie rock’s unofficial king of figurative language. The lead singer and primary lyricist behind Los Campesinos!, Gareth’s metaphors are not only clever and highly original but also personally insightful and regularly packed with emotional roughage. “Avocado, Baby” derives its title from a comparison that you might have otherwise credited to Colin Meloy or Ben Gibbard. “A heart of stone/rind so tough, it’s crazy/that’s why they call me the avocado, baby,” Gareth hollers while fellow Campesino’s chime in about love so heavy that it explodes rib cages and breaks backs. Elsewhere Gareth brilliantly illustrates the terrible feeling of self-serious isolation and sadness when he casts himself as the host of a game show where the guests, all famous celebrities, won’t answer any of the questions. The punch line is just how important those answers are, signaling the crushing burden of feeling like everyone in your life is holding out on you. If metaphor, simile and poetry in general aren’t really your thing that, you might find comfort in Gareth’s promise that though things might not get better “that doesn’t mean it’s gonna get any worse.” A dour romantic, he still knows when to throw an arm around someone else’s shoulder if only to take his mind away from his own problems.

Marnie Stern | “You Don’t Turn Down”

THE_CHRONICLES_OF_MARNIARock goddess Marnie Stern makes metal for people who don’t like metal. Intricate guitar work balanced by sugar-sweet vocals, Marnie’s known for her dexterity if not necessarily her economy. This year’s The Chronicles of Marnia (the best-named album of the year) found her paring down her sound, stripping away a few tracks of guitar theatrics and focusing on atmosphere. Of course, if you’ve never listened to Stern and turn on “You Don’t Turn Down,” you might not immediately think “ah yes, this is frugal.” Kicking off with her characteristic string tapping followed by a cascade of drums and rugged guitars, “You Don’t Turn Down” contains several sharp changes of direction. It is a credit to Marnie’s improved songwriting chops that the different parts of this song don’t sound disparate. Rather, the entire song plays like a totally badass patchwork quilt of awesomeness. The problem with virtuosos is that they sometimes can’t write songs that deserve their own technical brilliance. With each new album, Marnie Stern’s songwriting is quickly catching up to her abilities as one of the best guitarists in indie rock.

Mikal Cronin | “Weight”

MCIIWhile Ty Segall took it easy this year with only two full length LPs (one solo, the excellent Sleeper, and the other as the drummer of side project #472, Fuzz), fellow San Fran collaborator and garage rock all-star Mikal Cronin released just one record, albeit a truly excellent one at that. “Weight,” the lead track from MCII, may have the same chord progression as and similar themes to Death Cab for Cutie’s “I Will Follow You into the Dark,” but it’s also one of the few stone cold classics to emerge this year. An infinitely replayable slice of exquisite pop bliss, existential doubt has never sounded this good. While nothing else on MCII quite reaches the same peaks, it hardly matters since “Weight” establishes the tone of celebration and reflection which permeate the entire record. While many people muse on their favorite tracks of a given album, in “Weight” you could find yourself arguing with a friend over the single greatest element of the song. Is it the pensive reflection in the lyrics that reaches down to the core of our uncertainty about our purpose, personal, artistic or otherwise? Is it the sweeping grandeur of the instrumental melody during the song’s climax? Is it the instrumental instinct that chose to start a garage rock stunner with cascading piano arpeggios? Ultimately, “Weight” is greater than the sum of all its impressive parts and demonstrates that while quantity can be a virtue, quality always takes the day.

Neko Case | “Nearly Midnight, Honolulu”

THE_WORSE_THINGS_GET“Nearly Midnight, Honolulu,” doesn’t resemble a single. For starters, it’s entirely acapella and its biggest moment contains a well-timed f-bomb. I suppose that hasn’t stopped other people. Still, the track was the first on Case’s latest album that really caught my attention. Neko is no stranger to original wordplay. Whether she’s taking a bus to the outskirts of the fact that she needs love or imploring God with candied fists, her lyric sheets read like songwriting guides written in a language only she can speak. Yet, “Nearly Midnight” stands out for how direct it is. Addressing the child of an abusive parent, she follows him/her through time in a wistful effort to ensure that they never silence their own voice. “But don’t you ever shut up/please, kid have your say/’cos I still love you/even if I never see you again.” Case hurls her powerful voice against the bottomless pit of time and space to reach her listeners. Whether or not she is the most humane songwriter living is not really for me to say. However, she is undoubtedly one of the great talents of our generation, a veteran who continues to inspire and amaze.

Palma Violets | “Best Of Friends”

BEST_OF_FRIENDSPalma Violets sound like a prep-school version of The Walkmen or maybe a Libertines cover band: snotty and romantic yet incapable of getting into real trouble. In a year of popular experimentation, Palma Violets debut 180 feels like going back to work after spending the weekend at Burning Man. To call it “safe” might sound condescending but next to albums by The Knife, Kanye West, Danny Brown, Tyler the Creator, Boards of Canada and Beyonce, Palma Violets seem positively quaint: rock crooners in the tradition of The Doors without the masochistic streak. The album’s high water mark, “Best of Friends” proves that there’s nothing wrong with reinventing the wheel. A rousing, dynamic love song about not falling in love, “Best of Friends” is one of the great guitar leather jacket rock songs of the year. If the existence and success of Palma Violets indicates anything it’s that, in these times of aesthetic abundance, clean and simple is sometimes the best way to get noticed.

Parquet Courts | “Careers in Combat”

LIGHT_UP_GOLDIt’s impossible to choose a representative song from Parquet Court’s outstanding Light Up Gold. While “Stoned and Starving” may be getting much deserved attention as the zeitgeist ennui anthem, Light Up Gold is, ahem, alight with brilliance that can be easily missed. Take for instance the 1:07 “Careers in Combat,” a surprisingly affecting reflection on what’s been lost in the digital dead sprint toward perfection. “There are no more summer lifeguard jobs/there are no more art museums to guard,” singer Andrew Savage intones before adding, “there are no spots left for park rangers/cos there are no more bears to save you from.” If all that has you feeling a trifle nostalgic don’t worry because there are still careers in combat, my son. Like LCD Soundsystem before them, Parquet Courts are informed by a number of disparate musical genres. They fill those gaps with intelligent, insightful lyrics that reflect a deep, unwavering sympathy for humanity and all its lost causes. Parquet Courts may become the next “cool” indie band to straddle the underground and mainstream music worlds (whether there’s still a distinction between the two has yet to be decided) but it’s not likely to change anything for them. You simply do not arrive at a record like Light Up Gold by giving even a single fuck about who does or does not like you. Like their music, this attitude doesn’t come from a place of superiority or tired ambivalence but rather utter certainty and conviction: the essence of punk rock. Matching confidence with excellence, Parquet Courts are poised to take over the world or maybe just go grab a snack.

Phoenix | “Trying To Be Cool”

TRYING_TO_BE_COOLPerhaps the most ill fitting name for a track by the suave European pop gurus, “Trying To Be Cool” is the standout track from Phoenix’s follow up to 2009’s excellent Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix. So much of the storied difference between these two records is in their cover art. Wolfgang embodied its cover’s bright pop art bombs in radio-ready hits “1901” and “Lisztomania.” Meanwhile, Bankrupt! is frequently as dull as its still life fruit and grey matte. The new album lacks the experimental streak of Wolfgang while missing the pure pleasure of It’s Never Been Like That (2006). Phoenix essentially excels at two different styles: the red lining electro pop of “Entertainment” and the restrained swagger of “Trying To Be Cool,” which matches musical left turns with hip-shaking grooves. Though I’m sure it wasn’t meant as a mission statement, when Thomas Mars kicks off the song by pointing out that “city and desert coexist/depending on the things you’re wearing,” I can’t help but wonder if he knows that his band is at its best when persistence and pleasure co-exist in their music. Bankrupt! is a little overripe as a whole but “Trying To Be Cool” definitely achieves its self-declared goal.

Pusha T | “Numbers On The Boards”

NUMBERS_ON_THE_BOARDSFull disclosure: I’m still not sure what “trap” is. But if it’s anything like Pusha T’s “Numbers On The Boards,” I may have found my new favorite subgenre. My Name is My Name, Push’s second major label release, follows on the heels of Wrath of Caine, a quickie mixtape from earlier in the year. Where that album featured the Rick Ross-assisted “Millions,” an ode to “dope boys and stash spots…that energy,” according to Push, “Numbers On The Boards” successfully demonstrates the difference between mixtapes and records. Not a banger in the conventional sense, “Numbers” finds Push boasting like the best of them (“Givenchy fitting like it’s gym clothes”) over a thick, insistent beat from Don Cannon and Yeezy. Amid a torrent of impressive wordplay, Push references Michael Jordan’s legendary slam dunk contest win in ‘88. But if you think about it, that couldn’t have been the first time Jordan attempted the feat. Like most impressive acts, it had to have been rehearsed obsessively so that, when the time came, there’d be no mistakes or false starts. That is the real difference between Wrath of Caine and My Name is My Name, “Millions” and “Numbers on the Board,” and those that want to be great and those who are.

Rhye | “Open”

OPENRhye’s Woman feels like the bookish cousin of Autre Ne Veut’s lovesick party starter/tanker Anxiety. When details regarding the project were slight there was some confusion as to whether the singer was a man or woman. Even when the identity of the duo was later revealed, the enigma surrounding Rhye persisted. The androgyny and melancholy of singer Milosh’s delivery finds its match in the sensuality of “Open.” Bristling with warmth and sexuality, the song implores its “faded” subject to “stay open.” Orchestrated with restraint and performed with tenderness, “Open” has all the earmarks of a love letter never sent. It’s personal yet ambiguous, bittersweet and resigned to a life spent wondering “what if.”

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