The Year In Music: Tracks Pt. 4

Almost there! Here’s the fourth of five installments covering 50 standout tracks from 2014. Arranged in alphabetical order, this segment extends from roving stoners Parquet Courts to the white boy/girl soul of Slow Club. Click the track names for music videos and follow the links at the bottom of the page for more aural/mind stimulation. Enjoy.

Parquet Courts | “Instant Disassembly”

SUNBATHING_ANIMALParquet Courts are moving backwards and forwards concurrently and like most things they do its awe-inspiring and a little nauseating. They’ve cast off the cloak of myth they wore throughout the length of last year’s blistering Light Up Gold. But underneath that tattered cape was something weirder still: chops. Sunbathing Animal is a pummeling excursion through the roots and limbs of punk rock. This band is no stranger to krautrock but blues? “Instant Disassembly” doesn’t exactly swagger like Jagger or spill it like Dylan. Instead, it moves queasily through the steps of a half-remembered dance. The song’s subject, an otherwise unnamed beauty, is a poetic figure of some significance. She is savior and assailant simultaneously, at least in our messenger’s mind’s eye. “Instant Disassembly” is a disarming detour, something so commonplace yet so bizarre when placed in this context. Like a pizza in a lion’s cage. What’s enviable about Parquet Courts is how this brilliance just seems to slide out of them and, as such, Sunbathing Animal is a convincing self-portrait of modern day slacker genius.

PAWS | “Erreur Humaine”

YOUTH_CULTURE_FOREVEREverything you need to know about PAWS is made plain by the 30-second mark of “Erreur Humaine,” the opening track on their aptly titled Youth Culture Forever. Then again, their last album was called Cokefloat so chances are you knew what you were getting yourself in to. Either way, after a sulky opening the track explodes into a fist shaking, floor stomping, self-mutilating ballad of unrequited love. Like their emo predecessors, the band’s virtue is in their ability to go from the guy huddled in a corner at a house party sucking down Miller High Life to the same guy smashing a hole in the wall after a heated exchange with his ex during the same party. Youth Culture Forever contains plenty for the romantically unhinged human to relate to and even offers some pearls of wisdom to see you through your dark days the most important of which may be this track’s insistence that “one should never go back and fuck with the past.” Amen.

Perfume Genius | “Queen”

QUEENI’ve always appreciated Perfume Genius’ delicate beauty. Mike Hadreas’ permanently damaged voice pairs undeniably well with a simmering piano or shaky guitar. Hadreas has this sound down to a science, writing one quietly devastating song after another holed up somewhere in his hometown of Seattle. Perfume Genius underwent a profound transformation, sonically and emotionally, between Put Your Back N 2 It (2012) and this year’s Too Bright. “Queen” is the sound of that deeply self-conscious boy in the dark hoody putting on sequins and a little rouge and stepping out, unafraid, into the world. Hadreas’ music has never been totally defined by his sexuality but “Queen” is ruthlessly defiant in its queerness. In a country that is still largely torn up over a person’s right to marry someone of their own gender, Hadreas offers up a wrenching, funny and brilliant counter offer to homophobia and transphobia. “No family is safe when I sashay,” he promises triumphantly. Better run for the hills, haters.

Robyn & Röyksopp | “Do It Again”

DO_IT_AGAINWhat is it about Scandinavia that produces such genre-defying work. Consider the psychic similarities between Ingmar Bergman and Lykke Li, Swedes who reflect(ed) on the burdens put on us by others and those we hang on ourselves. There’s a clearly traceable lineage between The Shape of Punk to Come and Plowing Into the Fields of Love. And then there’s the inexplicable, singular artists whose very existence defies convention. And to top it all off, those of the frigid Northern lands seem to know how to make danceable pop music better than anyone else. After collaborating on her Body Talk series, Norway’s Röyksopp and uber-famous Robyn reconvened this year to put together some formidable dance music. The title track, five minutes of searing, in-the-red synths and bass is as addictive as you’d imagine. The real surprise is how strange the rest of the album is. The decision to bookend the EP with ten minute avant garde odysseys (the first of which closes with a two minute saxophone solo) recontextualizes “Do It Again”, its carnal pleasures lent a sense of urgent necessity. It also helps justify Röyksopp’s decision to break up, having capped their career with some of their best work in years. And yet with all this philosophy and history in mind let us not forget that this is music for the the body, the id and, most of all, the dancefloor.

Run The Jewels | “Early” ft. BOOTS

RUN_THE_JEWELS_22014 will be remembered as the year of Michael Brown, the militarization of police, and the point where the conversation about racism in the 21st exploded on a national scale. The victims of police brutality have many high profile supporters from Rand Paul to Lebron James. Perhaps the most outspoken has been rapper Killer Mike, who’s been trampling the hip-hop world as one half of Run The Jewels, his fruitful collaboration with veteran MC and producer El-P. The duo represents one of the most unlikely success stories of the decade thus far and they put their visibility to good use on Run The Jewels 2, the follow up to their excellent debut. A mid-album highlight, “Early” contains one of the best expressions of universal hopelessness pressed on wax this year. “I feel like the life that I’m livin’ man, I don’t control like everyday I’m in a fight for my soul,” Mike starts out, the sentiment to be echoed later by El-P, before exploring a tragically relevant and depressingly common scene of violent abuse of authority. While Mike’s storytelling on “Early” may lead you to believe that that his loss of faith in the law happened relatively recently, Mike and El-P’s disdain for the police is well documented. The night the St. Louis Grand Jury handed down their decision not to indict officer Darren Wilson, Run The Jewels took the stage at the Ready Room in St. Louis where Mike opened the show with an impassioned speech. “These motherfuckers got me today,” he cries, stunned by disbelief. In a genre that frequently sees real tribulations collide with ambitious visions of glory, Run The Jewels come down firmly on the side of the Real. In the words of Mike’s other half: it ain’t a game if the shit don’t pause.

Rustie | “Attak” ft. Danny Brown

GREEN_LANGUAGEAfter producing three tracks on his most recent album, Old, including “Side B [Dope Song]” which kicks off the album’s decidedly uptempo second half, it seems Scottish wunderkind Rustie decided it was time to turn the tables on rapper extraordinaire Danny Brown. As a producer who knows how to craft a pop song (his work with AlunaGeorge makes particular sense in this regard), Rustie is no stranger to working around the talents of another artist. But even the bangers he’s gifted Brown in the past can’t prepare listeners for “Attak”. Rustie declared early on that he wanted to do something “more serious” with Green Language and his collaboration with Brown is evidence enough. “Attak” represents the difference between producers who write for rappers and producers who write for themselves. In that regard, Rustie is closer in spirit to RJD2 than DJ Khaled. Still, it doesn’t keep him from enhancing Brown’s fire-hot spit, letting loose lines like, “I’m a maniac, brainiac when I’m aiming at/knock your brain out your hat when I cock that/you can’t block that it’s just brain out hat,” with such slippery ease you can imagine him out pacing most rappers in his sleep. The rest of Green Language has to work hard to overcome the historical levels of hype found on “Attak” and, to his credit, Rustie does an admirable job though without Brown things tend to feel only half done.

ScHoolboy Q | “Collard Greens” ft. Kendrick Lamar

COLLARD_GREENSOne of the more disappointing releases of the year, Oxymoron, ScHoolboy Q’s followup to Habits & Contradictions, did give the world “Collard Greens”, a showcase for the boy’s gifts as a party starter and justification for his unofficial title as second in command at TDE. Of course, “Collard Greens” also benefits from a verse by Kendrick Lamar in full on renaissance thug mode (“And I’m more than a man, I’m a God, bitch touche, en garde”). Still, this is ScHoolboy Q’s joint and his gummy flow proves more than adequate, mirroring the track’s bouncy bass. Even if he never seems to rise above sex, drugs and cups of lean, ScHoolboy Q is a solid, often unpredictable force to be reckoned with.

Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings | “Making Up and Breaking Up (And Making up and Breaking up over Again)”

GIVE_THE_PEOPLE_WHAT_THEY_WANTThe pride and joy of Daptone Records, Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings have been spearheading a soul revival that is authentic without being overly tied to formalites. If anything, Jones and company’s enthusiasm for a specific period of American soul and funk, one that is no more or less popular now than it was when the group first got started last decade, frees them up to experiment with the sonic toolkit of the most famous studio innovators of the late 60s and early 70s. Recorded on tape, mixed with the kind of aural precision that will leave any audiophile salivating, the band’s newest, Give The People What They Want, falls somewhere between D’Angelo’s Gladwellian chops and Slow Club’s studious, note-for-note take on classic soul. Even when she slows down to lament her own heartbreak, as on “Making Up and Breaking Up”, Jones’ confidence is abundant. The Dap-Kings follow her lead with playful arrangements and clever variations on soul archetypes. Though Jones and her band are blessed with having little to prove, they still rise to the occasion by paying tribute to an era of American music that, like Jones herself, becomes more vital with each passing year.

Sisyphus | “Lion’s Share”

SISYPHUSThe union of Serengeti, Son Lux and Sufjan Stevens was unexpected to say the least but the end result proved enjoyable and occasionally inspired. Split between Serengeti’s vivid stream-of-conscious and Sufjan’s new age flourishes, their self-titled debut can occasionally feel like switching between wide-angle cinemascope and telephoto close up without much warning. There are moments throughout their debut where it seems the collaboration was not only fun but beneficial for its participants. “Lion’s Share” finds Sufjan reining in his maximalist approach and Serengeti giving himself space to think about things like verses and choruses. Sacrificing the airless atmosphere of his solo work, Serengeti’s tale of Banks and Conley (“the two greatest outlaws America’s ever seen,” apparently) is little more than a quickly paced outline of a jailbreak thriller. But Sufjan’s breathy hook and Son Lux’s slinky funk fill in the cracks in this abridged tale. Though it eventually devolves into booty talk (it somehow always does with Serengeti) for a blissful moment the disparate trio works in total synchronicity.

Slow Club | “Not Mine to Love”

NOT_MINE_TO_LOVEThe glut of 90s-indebted indie rock bands made up of dudes who were barely in grade school by the time that infamous decade came to a close goes a long way toward proving our current cultural obsession with decade fetishizing. While the sun shines brightly on all things grunge and the current San Fran-centric garage rock scene continues to spread out across the US, there are other genres and movements waiting (eagerly? in dread?) for the constantly roving searchlight of discovery to land upon them. While Sharon Jones, Charles Bradley, Lee Fields and the whole of Daptone Records are pushing the revival out of “soul revival” through truly progressive arrangements and performances, England’s Slow Club delivered the year’s most shamelessly straightforward homage to classic soul. It’s uncanny to the point of being occasionally comic how the formulas and elements of soul are so carefully and intentionally arranged. In that regard, Complete Surrender can sometimes feel like homage by numbers. “Not Mine to Love” is as straightforward as heart broken ballads come though Slow Club commits to its mechanics admirably. Rebecca Taylor represents the better vocal half of Slow Club, though she can’t quite harness the raw power of her forebearers. Still, the track’s arrangement more than compensates for her lack of presence and the band’s focus on sonic authenticity does pay off. Though they feel implacable in the 21st century, Slow Club, like so many backwards-gazing bands before them, serves as a thoroughly enjoyable introduction to the real thing.

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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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