Spectrum Culture (also) did a 100 Best Songs of the 2000s series this past fall. Find my contributions below.
At The Drive-In | “Hostage Stamps”
Third single from in·ter a·li·a is less arena-ready and radio-friendly than previous ones, and is also the strongest by keeping the nervous, itchy guitar and tense rhythm section. Meanwhile, Cedric Bixler-Zavala’s lyrics continue to be so dense, they’re practically word salad: “Slid down the bank, choking on sherm/ A new tactile cremation attested/ To opaque spurs, contemplative Mayhem keeps us together”. You get used to ignoring what he’s saying after a while anyway when the music is this good.
Mutoid Man | “Melt Your Mind”
Mutoid Man is a lotta fuckin’ fun and just as on their debut LP, “Melt Your Mind” is heavy, psychedelic, spastic, and catchy. Actually, it’s the catcheist thing Stephen Brodsky has written since Cave In’s “Anchor”. Add oddball lyrics about not letting stress get to you (I think), and you’ve got a real winner here.
Gorillaz feat. Pusha T and Mavis Staples | “Let Me Out”
Fatalism envelops the paranoid production here, including a typically great Pusha T where he sounds like a cornered animal (“Tell me there’s a heaven in the sky where there is peace/ But until then, I keep my piece in arm’s reach”). It’s been a long wait for Gorillaz’s return, and Humanz is shaping up to be their (his?) best record yet.
Kevin Gates | “What If”
I guess prison makes every rapper a naval-gazer; naturally, then, Kevin Gates uses a a hazy trap beat that interpolates Joan Osbourne’s “One of Us” in an attempt to explain his lifestyle with his ear candy, sing-songy flow. But this is KG we’re talking about, so he imagines that if God were one of us, he’d be “making calls to the plug like one of us”. The song is a tad cartoon-y, yes, but any KG is better than no KG.
DREAMCAR | “Born To Lie”
“Born” is the second single from a supergroup comprised of the members of No Doubt not named Gwen with Davey Havok in her place. Much like “Kill for Candy,” this is so ’80s, the 7” comes with coke residue. Havok’s goth-drenched kabuki theater posturing (“I watch you tearing the place apart/ Tell me if you see my heart”) is perfect for the dark crevices of new wave. Talk about playing to your strengths. Think The Cure if they decided to rip off Erasure and you’re close.
Lana Del Rey | “Love”
Her comeback single is about as LDR as you can get: a sweeping, cinematic arrangment; left-of-center, yet relatable, thoughts on life (“Look at you kids with your vintage music/ Comin’ through satellites while cruisin'”); dreamily hushed singing; and a me-against-the-world urgency. Basically, you’ll know before you hear this if you’re gonna like it. And you should, as it might be the best thing she’s ever done. Hell, that bridge alone is worth the price of admisson.
Spoon | “Can I Sit Next To You”
Given the title track and this new one, Hot Thoughts looks to be Spoon’s funkiest album to date. It’s an interesting shift, as their last record had some of the most beautiful music of their career. But as I’ve said before, no songwriter can do more with less than Britt Daniel so it all works out. Spoon have few weak songs in their catalogue – every great band does – but this ain’t one of ’em. I once called Spoon “maddeningly consistent”, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.
At The Drive-In | “Incurably Innocent”
17 years later, they haven’t lost the ability to write and play arena-ready post-hardcore. Similarly, Cedric Bixler-Zavala is still using technology-as-metapor as a jumping-off point; thankfully, it isn’t impenetrable here: “A blank tape that couldn’t remember/ But you can never erase the hurt”. Much like previous single “Governed By Contagions,” “Innocent” is closer to Relationship of Command than Acrobatic Tenement in sound and structure, so don’t expect anything too wild or too raw from the forthcoming in•ter a•li•a LP.
The Chainsmokers & Coldplay | “Something Just Like This”
Kudos to this pairing for creating what might be 2017’s most numbingly milquetoast EDM pop single. The Chainsmokers continue to cynically mine the Top 40 for ideas (even recycling their own), and Chris Martin continues to draw from his seemingly inexhaustible well of lyrical vapidity. None of this, however, will stop its preordained success. Ugh.
Arca | “Piel”
You know going in that this is gonna be weird. “Piel” (Spanish for ‘skin’) is eerie as fuck, especially that vocal melody. No one makes music quite as mood-perfect as Arca, and no one can soundtrack a nightmare quite as effectively, either. How many producers can make a song that’s fascinating during the day and terrifying at night?
Seether | “Let You Down”
The lead single from the post-grunge stalwarts’ seventh* album sticks with Isolate and Medicate‘s return to their heavy side of the 2000’s (especially the bridge). The seasick swaying riff is memorable enough and the melody works, but the title alone indicates they have no desire to swim in uncharted waters for any meaningful amount of time, musically or lyrically. Call it a wash, I guess.
Art of Anarchy | “No Surrender”
Fact: any guitar-based music Scott Stapp sings over will never not have at least a passing resemblance to Creed. So, here we are with Stapp replacing the late Scott Weiland for AoA’s (likely heavier) sophomore LP. On the one hand, he seems more interested in the project than Weiland did. On the other, it’s Scott Stapp fronting a WJJO-approved rock band. Meh.
Gucci Mane & Nicki Minaj | “Make Love”
Oh, what a joy this song is. You got classic battle rap Nicki trading bars with singsong Gucci over a sub-zero Casio trap beat. It’s hard to pick a favorite line, but here are two of the best: “She ain’t eatin’ but I swear she got some bum-ass taste/ Text her man like, ‘Dawg, how that bum ass taste?’/ Pay your rent! And stay in your bum-ass place” (Nicki), and “Damn, who colder than me?/ You think he colder than me?/ You more bipolar than me” (Gucci). More of this, please.
*It’s actually their sixth album, but Disclaimer II is counted as it own thing for some reason.