Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Tom's Top 50 Singles of 2004 - Part 3

30. The Walkmen: The Rat. Rising and falling chaos of guitars and organs and drums, like U2 if they were in Total Recall when the dome broke and they had to hold on to keep from getting sucked out onto the surface of Mars where their eyes and tongues would bug out and they'd suffocate, except they're playing at the same time. "When I used to go out, I'd know everyone I saw / Now I go out alone if I go out at all": oh man, yeah, I feel that. Hamilton Leithauser strained drunk gravelly croak screech, sound like the guy from Spoon after the fifth consecutive hangover, yeah, I feel that too.

29. Usher feat. Alicia Keys: My Boo. It's funny; on the Nelly remix, Nelly sounds way less convincing than Alicia Keys on the "I don't know about y'all but I know about us" part. I love the understated seesawing strings and the baby "ahh ahh" samples, timed just perfectly with the heartbeat drums. I love the singing, of course. It's just beautiful, of course. And the climax: "My oh my oh", shit, I know what it's like to be in love. You know?

28. Wiley: Wot Do U Call It? Timbaland woke up for work late this morning, groggy as shit. So he slurped down five cups of coffee real quick, and he's not groggy anymore, but his heart is beating all fast and his hands are sweating and he keeps jerking his neck and so he makes this track. I love how Wiley takes the Tim burble-rumble-snap and twerks it up until it's a jumpy, twitchy, tourettic mess. And plus it's fun to make up your own dance to the "Go that way, go that way" part.

27. LCD Soundsystem: Yeah (Pretentious Version). HFS used to do this dance-music show on, I think, Saturday nights (they might still do it), and I was super into it when I was in middle school and they were playing the Prodigy's "Out of Space" constantly. I'd never listened to electronic music, and the main pleasure I got out of it was the way the track would play for like four bars and then another thing like a little lazer noise would come in, and then something else, then something would drop out, then something that had dropped out would come back in. It was so fun to listen to, like "oh, there's that noise again!" It was clean and clinical and, like, mathematical, while at the same time being hard and dense and propulsive and awesome. This track gives me the same kind of pleasure, except that all the elements are total cheesed-out disco signifiers, like burbly Bee Gees bass and fizzy snyths and conga breakdowns, but still arranged like a Prodigy track. It's really fun. People seem to like the Stupid Version more. I don't get that.

26. Shawnna feat. Ludacris: Shake Dat Shit. Perfect timing. Shawnna is a great rapper, using her voice just right, working it up and down the beat, slamming the syllables down at just the right moment with just the right inflection. Totally ballsy. Did she learn from Luda how to clamp down on every syllable like a hungry pit bull? Or did Luda learn that from her? Timbaland's Chinese guitar is impossibly lush and full, the best guitar sound on any song this year. The drums have that great little clip-clop skip bubble to them. Man, I wish everyone still loved Tim as much as I do. Luda nails his cameo on the hook, but I'm sort of glad he doesn't have a verse, though maybe this track would've blown up if he did.

25. Franz Ferdinand: Take Me Out. This has become the go-to song (this and fucking Modest Mouse for some reason) for people trying to prove alternative rock's not dead blahblahblah. Why are these people trying to ruin this song for me? Why can't they just be like, "Good song, awesome!"? Man, the way the beat slows down after the intro and the drums kick in and that riff rings out, well, it's beautiful. It reminds me of The Name of This Band is the Talking Heads: lively, fluid arrangement, a singer who knows he's not great but knows he's having a good time, messy but totally on beat, full of life.

24. T.I.: Bring Em Out. Some people were pretty amped when I compared this to B-More club in Pitchfork. I was on to something! It's like my first original music insight ever! These are amazing drums: dip, clap, jump. Whistles, screams, horns, Jay-Z saying the same thing over and over again, hands in the air now: total chaos! It's great! It sounds like it's going to fall apart any minute! T.I.'s voice is awesome. When he has boring cripsy generic southern beats, he can be totally nothing. But this big ungainly behemoth beat reigns him in and keeps him on, and he sounds cool and arrogant and totally controlled.

23. Jay-Z: Dirt Off Your Shoulder. Man, that part of Fade to Black where Timbaland is playing beats for Jay and the "Dirt Off Your Shoulder" beat comes on and Jay freezes with this total shock on his face and Tim starts giggling like "I'm the best there is", I love that. The riff on this beat reminds me of the later Godzilla movies, when he's good and he's just about to face off with Mechagodzilla or Gigan or whoever for the last time, facing each other accross mountains, making eye contact, Godzilla staring him down like what. Jay hears it too; jumping right inside this is beat like he lives there: I'm a hustler, homey, you're a customer, crony. He's exhilarated! "Dirt Off Your Shoulder" sounds exactly like what it is: a collaboration between the best rapper in the world and the best producer in the world, both of them totally on top of their games.

22. Usher feat. Lil Jon & Ludacris: Yeah. Right after this came out, before top 40 radio and VH-1 found out about it, there was this crazy guy on the bus in the morning, big dude, maybe 40, dirty sweatpants, gray hair. Possibly a Vietnam vet, I don't know. And he had headphones on and he was like "Rewind it back!" "Got the beat to make your booty go!" "Yeah yih-yeah yeah!" Screaming this stuff in the back of the bus. It was awesome. I wanted to high five him, but you don't high five people on the bus.

21. Lil Scrappy: No Problem. The sun rises, throwing jagged harsh angular light over a dessicated landscape. The city looks dead, but things are moving in the shadows. All of a sudden you realize: while you were asleep in your bed, the world ended. Your family and friends are probably dead. It's going to take all you have just to stay alive until the end of the day. When you jump into your car and head out, looking for food, weapons, anything, this is the song playing.