Thursday, December 15, 2016

The Annotated Beukemix, 2015

Year-overdue liner notes!

1. Let 'em Say - Lizzo ft. Caroline Smith
Lizzo was our guest for Show X a couple years back, and was delightful. This collaboration with Caroline Smith is about living your life despite the chorus of voices trying to beat you down. I've found myself singing "I wanna look like my mother / five foot two and a natural woman" to myself semi regularly since getting into this song. Video stars the singers and Minneapolis' East Lake Street as itself. (TC, synth HC)

2. i - Kendrick Lamar
A deeply positive cut about self respect in a screwed up world, featuring a Isley Brothers hook (rerecorded by Ronald Isley for Lamar) and a jazz bass freakout. Felt especially vital in 2015. (HS)

3. Two Weeks - And the Professors
The band's "Turn-of-the-Century Recycling Blues" was my favorite song of 2014. After picking up the album early last year, this was another standout for me. Builds to a great string-backed guitar solo. (TC)

4. Something from Nothing - Foo Fighters
I already liked the song before watching the first episode of Dave Grohl's "Sonic Highways" documentary series on a plane to Seattle last spring. In each episode, Foo Fighters visits notable musicians of various backgrounds in a given city, then collaborates with some of them to produce a track inspired by the interviews. This one, made in Chicago, references Buddy Guy and Muddy Waters, and features Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick as one of - I think - four guitars.

5. Chandelier - Sia
It was early 2015 that Sia was on the performance circuit with this song and dancer Maddie Ziegler. Apart from the song itself, a confession of a party girl coming undone, the various dance performances, including one at the Grammys also featuring Kristen Wiig, were great.

6. Bury Our Friends - Sleater-Kinney
I missed the Sleater-Kinney boat in the 90s. Happy to get on it now. This was a good rock album, with several selections that could have fit this spot.


7. Daffodils - Mark Ronson ft. Kevin Parker
Love that fuzzy bass line. Almost put "Uptown Funk" on here, but since I assume you've been in a public space that plays music sometime in 2015, you probably didn't need it again. I should really dig into Tame Impala some more, considering how much I like Parker here and the handful of their songs I've heard. (HC)

8. Let Me Tell You About My Operation - They Might Be Giants
TMBG are great at wrapping sorrow in glee, as in this jazzy number that could be a tonally-inappropriate exposition for "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind." Saw the band in concert for, I think, my sixth time, in a fun mid-year First Ave show, and this was a standout at that gig. "Glean," its source album, is my favorite new record from the band in a couple of decades. (HS)

9. Tune Down - Chris Joss
Funky cop show music from the first season of "Better Call Saul," for a heist scene starring Jonathan Banks as ex-cop Mike Ehrmantraut. (HS)

10. Supersonic Rocket Ship - The Kinks
Always on the look out to broaden my exposure to The Kinks, I was very pleased when this song closed out the first season of "Last Man On Earth." Fantastic horns on this one. (HS)

11. Go - The Chemical Brothers ft. Q-Tip
"Featuring Q-Tip" is usually a good indicator of whether I'd like a song, and him teaming up with the Chemical Brothers, as he did on 2005's "Galvanize," a song I love, is an even better sign. Though this one takes second place behind their earlier collaboration, it's another driving, hypnotic success. 

12. Bird of Prey - Natalie Prass
It took me a bit to get past my initial reaction to Prass' thin soprano and accept its smoothness. The gorgeous string and horn arrangements on this certainly help. The cheerful, colorful video is distinctly at odds with the lyrics, about trying to get away from a relationship with an obsessive partner. (HS)

13. Husbands - Savages
Relentless and powerful. Was already on my list before I watched "Ex Machina" at the end of the year, which used this over the end credits.

14. At The Zoo - Simon & Garfunkel
"Bookends" is one of the handful of albums I have on vinyl, and I was playing some songs for Max after finally getting a turntable for my birthday. Finding this song, I played it for him in anticipation of chaperoning his summer day care trip to the MN Zoo the following week. He immediately asked me to add it to his mix on my iPod, which means I've now listened to it 63 times since then. Seems low. I love how Simon kind of cracks himself up at one point.

15. Control - John Mark Nelson
The restless opening drum work and subsequent bass thrum and organ foundation hooked me in. Every year there's a song that I hear on the Current and immediately add to the Beukemix before the album is even out, and this was it. The instrumentation and falsetto vocals make it feel like a missing song from the second Broken Bells album, which I also loved. (TC)

16. Shades of Cool - Lana Del Rey
Lana Del Rey's spacey Southern CA noir music feels like a pre-qualification for future David Lynch or James Bond soundtrack work. Very cinematic, all mood. Her boyfriend in this song sounds like a dick. What sold this song for me, beyond its atmosphere, was the jagged guitar solo by the Black Keys' Dan Auerbach, very reminiscent of his similar work on Valerie June's "Pushin' Against a Stone."

17. I Won't Let You Down - OK Go
Liked this one when I first heard it on the radio early in the year. The relationship of the strings to the song reminds me a lot of ELO. Sometime in late summer, around the time Margot was born, Max became interested in videos of domino setups and Rube Goldberg devices, which led us to OK Go's videography, and to this song, its video remarkably filmed at half-speed by a drone in a single take and without any kind of digital manipulation, even of the cast-of-thousands-as-LED-message-board at the end. (HC)

18. White Lines (Don't Do It) 7" Edit - Grandmaster Flash & Melle Mel
My personal standout from the songs that Pitchfork's Top 200 Songs of the 80s list brought more to my attention. I'd forgotten about its role in "Shaun of the Dead." The linked video is more than twice as long as the 7" edit I picked for the mix. (HC)

19. Pedestrian at Best - Courtney Barnett
Barnett was inescapable on The Current this year, and grew on me. This song's my favorite of hers.

20. Yama Yama - Yamasuki
21. California Dreamin' - Bobby Womack
(HS on the latter)
We finish with two selections from season 2 of the Fargo TV adaptation, which was one of my favorite seasons of any show ever, and full of wonderful musical selections. The first cut, a Japanese-language funk march by the (French) father of one of the Daft Punk droids, was used in a menacing opening montage of one episode. The latter comes in quietly, sadly, and beautifully, in a moment of defeat for one character in the finale. Read more about the show, and its many sideways connections to the Coen Bros' oeuvre, including many of the song choices, here.

And that's it! See you next year.

Key and final score:
HS - horn section - 5
TC - Twin Cities artists - 3
HC - hand claps - 3.5