Feature: 2018: Favorite 50 Songs

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Hello again, dearest readers, and welcome to The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year™, wherein we here at TMT™ proceed to systematically overwhelm you with such devastating displays of our collective musical taste buds’ complete and utter Un-Fuck-With-Ability™ throughout the past 365 days that you have no choice but to capitulate, agree with, and retweet everything we say. Oh, how we’ve been looking forward to this!

The latest in our power-mad agenda is this genuinely infallible list of our Favorite 50 Songs of 2018, which revisits all of the choice jams and non-jams that made the year 2018 so indisputably GREAT for EVERYONE in EVERY COUNTRY on EARTH, bar none! But don’t worry: because we know that your powers of retention are kinda feeble compared with ours, we’ve decided once again to make it a little easier for you to digest all of this next-level information by dividing it up into five separate themed mixes that we’re rolling out each day this week, titled GYM, VOID, CLIFF, ALLEY, and COUPE.

Now, this isn’t to say that you can’t enjoy our list of GYM songs while driving your COUPE off of a CLIFF or whatever; it’s just that we’re really, really desperate to control every aspect of your psychology, and we thought that sorting all of these fantastic 2018 highlights according to a few completely subjective and impressionistic “moods” would be a great way to do that. I mean: who the hell are you to argue, right? Right!

Happy holidays, everyone. Let’s get listening.


GYM · VOID · CLIFF · ALLEY · COUPE

Today’s GYM mix features 10 ridiculously brawny jams from the past year, guaranteed to increase your VO2 max, even if you’re lying under the covers with your basset hound and smartphone right now. From powerlifting heavyweights like Ms. Boogie and DJ Koze to lithe and agile entries from W00dy and Charli XCX, all of these entries are sweaty, swole, tight, and chiseled like washboards.

PART 1: “GYM” mixed by C Monster


W00dy

“Catharsis”

[00:16]

[Self-Released]

“Catharsis” was the sound of a million MIDI-triggered samples shooting into an anti-gravity chamber at lightspeed. Once W00dy threw a new, brightly-colored element into the mix, it didn’t stop for a second, bouncing off other components instead, creating increasingly chaotic yet ultimately deterministic complexity akin to a double pendulum. The Philadelphia producer is one of few artists in the deconstructed club scene breaking apart traditional club elements while simultaneously keeping the dance floor moving. Fitting that her tagline is: “Attempting to bring absurdity 2 the dance floor.” Close your eyes, find something to latch onto, don’t let go for seven minutes.


Kyary Pamyu Pamyu

“きみのみかた (Kimino Mikata)”

[07:54]

[unBORDE]

“Kimino Mikata” was a gift. I mean that literally. Given as a birthday present to Kyary Pamyu Pamyu from producer Yasutaka Nakata, the track erupted with a sparkling onslaught of hyaluronic J-pop melodics and sprightly bass throbs, proving how a culture of cuteness doesn’t have to be a market of infantilization, even if the Harajuku star uses the track to sell skin-renewing face masks dipped in liquid essence. While the song touted uncharacteristically serious subject matter — the search for allies in the face of alienation and Fake News — “Kimino Mikata” was also about replenishment and renewal, about perseverance and the refusal of the human spirit to submit.


Ms. Boogie

“Morphin Time”

[11:27]

[Self-Released]

Over the most killer bass line of the year, darkly elastic and building with sinister synths, Ms. Boogie spat and purred. “Morphin Time” read as a celebration of transness as transition. Rather than an end product based on a normative idea of what a woman or man should be, she celebrated a process of becoming that was full of contradictions. And if that sounds a bit heavy, it was accompanied by references to the titular Mighty Morphin Power Rangers (the metaphor should be obvious), a delightfully dirtied-up J-Lo line, a queered Sisqo, Wakanda’s Black (power) Afrofuturist Vibranium, and vogue/ballroom culture. Ms. Boogie is stepping into her comfort zone, and “Morphin Time” was a bangin’ly seductive introduction to join her there.


Channel Tres

“Controller”

[15:00]

[Godmode]

As sensual as lip-wet whispers and a voice so sexy even the sax shudders while flirting with such deep gentle resonance. And the beat bounces! Swathing Moodymann’s blues with purple light, pink sound. While the sun shines. And it’s all just so… comfy! Yet, however seduced, we can’t lie in languor, so now we move all flash and flourish, like fingertips light on the keys and tip toes on warm pavement and hip, those roses strewn in the street. A daze for days, though eyelids low still eyes sparkle; this beat kept us cool.


Bad Gyal

“Internationally”

[18:36]

[Puro/CANADA]

GYM! GYM! GYM! I do not go to the GYM anymore. They tried to kick me out for “lifting weak-like, dancing way big, a spectacle.” They wanted to revoke my membership! But then I asked the GYM people if they’d ever felt their whole hearts melted into rainbow chasm? If they’d ever heard a whole planet reflected in that space, a bopping neon liberating and loving all their bodies? And they said no they hadn’t! So I let them drink from my headphones that effervescent trap gospel of Bad Gyal. And the GYM people asked me, “Will this free us?” So I shrugged! And now we all dance, membershipless, “INTERNATIONALLY,” thinking, maybe it will.


Ploy

“Ramos”

[21:59]

[Timedance]

This year, Ploy gave us the answer to a question we didn’t know we’d been asking: what happens when you take the current strain of post-hardcore continuum/bass music (?) emerging from labels like Timedance and combine it with the sound of one of those springy door stoppers being thwacked? You get something like “Ramos,” this year’s consensus pick for track most likely to make you grin in the dance. Over nearly seven delirious minutes, “Ramos” rolled and gasped, spitting out words (“Selektah”) and parts of words (“tah, tah, tah”) before juddering to a halt, ready to be rewound and set on its merry way once more. Sing it with me now: “Selektah, tah, tah, tah.”


Charli XCX

“Focus”

[28:34]

[Asylum]

It would be nice to believe that it’s enough in the era of chronic distraction to momentarily narrow your field of view to something sensual and human. Charli XCX’s “Focus,” an alloy of unadulterated desire and satisfaction, embodied the simple dream of embrace without interruption. If pop generally finds the essences of music synthesized into overcompressed clods of pleasure-forward sound, “Focus,” with its crystalline synths and calibrated melodies, was its apotheosis, a song so fixed to the ethos of pop escapism that the attention-deficient world outside of it languished in plain, loveless monochrome. It was a diamond among infinite interference, contact in the cold.


DJ Koze

“Pick Up”

[31:57]

[Pampa]

House music’s endless pulse continues to transform as the decades march on, but DJ Koze cut straight to its core this year with his album-minted version of live favorite “Pick Up.” True to the genre’s form, the song did as much as it could with as little as possible, consisting entirely of a sample from Melba Moore’s 1970s disco single “Pick Me Up, I’ll Dance” mixed in with the occasional refrain from Gladys Knight’s “Neither One of Us (Wants to Be the First to Say Goodbye).” It was a hi-def take on the classic sound of 90s techno (which was, itself, standing on the shoulders of those crooning soul singers of days past), all brought back into focus for a late-2010s world that’s begun to rediscover dance music for itself. Between its vintage sparkle and bassy punch, “Pick Up” reached for timelessness in an age where nothing seems to last for more than a few seconds, gazing to the past while capturing a tangible slice of the neverending present. It was bittersweet in the same way that looking through old photographs is, reminding us that while it’s true we can never go back, just look at how far we’ve come.


Valee

“Womp Womp” (ft. Jeremih)

[38:21]

[G.O.O.D. Music]

Here at TMT, we like to think that we often “womp” our readers with site content. This might not make any sense to you, so here’s a favorite song of ours by Valee and Jeremih, titled “Womp Womp,” to show you what we mean. Hear how Jeremih is womp-ing at the beginning of the hook, and you don’t really understand it, but you like it? That’s the womp factor. Then here comes Valee (a Chicagoan who made big moves in 2018 by signing to G.O.O.D. Music) like halfway through, sauntering up to the mic with aloof detachment, present but removed, his flow a sigh in concert with cool animation: that’s also the womp factor. They perfectly tag-teamed the womp throughout and struck a fine balance over the filthy womp-worthy beat; by the end, they were just having fun passing the baton back and forth, womping and womping. Delightful! What else can be said? You’re right: womp womp.


Marie Davidson

“Work It”

[42:29]

[Ninja Tune]

For the high-functioning Type A in your rolodex: “Work It” was retro-dance fetishism in function and in form — business and pleasure with elite performance. It exploited the shared jargon of the office and the nightclub in solidarity with the corporatized center of modern dance music. Consider the idea of mobility: capitalism is, like, so obsessed with the illusion of the corporate ladder, and the liberational movement of dance, co-opted so gracelessly away from its roots, inches ever toward dancefloor meritocracy. At this point, all you can do is monetize your existence like everyone else.

Come back tomorrow to hear the “VOID” mix by Evan Coral.

Music Review: DJ Koze – Knock Knock

This post was originally published on this site

DJ Koze

Knock Knock

[Pampa; 2018]

Rating: 4.5/5

In a 2013 interview with FACT, DJ Koze said that he’s “turned on by melancholy.” To hear a techno artist who plays to sold-out nightclubs, Ibiza beach parties, and crowds of nocturnal dwellers say something of the sort was initially confounding, but hearing his music, it’s easy to see how DJ Koze’s iconoclastic output of electronic music is equally ready for both blown-out soundsystems and lonely, tangled pairs of headphones. Hidden in the corners of the club are intangible bubbles, mixed bags of feelings, waiting for the right drop to burst. And who better to move that process along than Stefan Kozalla? The looming monolith of techno always loomed over creators far and wide, but Koze had different plans. His welcoming, genre-agnostic self could suddenly help 88 BPM feel as much at home as 130 always had.

2013’s Amygdala may have been one of the most intriguing and criminally overlooked electronic albums that year. From one vibrant, pulsating composition to the next, DJ Koze encapsulated the joys and pitfalls of being human with a treasure trove of sample-heavy deep house. A world of guitar strokes, earth-shattering bass, and relentless movement stood shoulder to shoulder with everything from the dissonant refrains of “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” to the mournful vocalizations of Hildegard Knef. Add stellar guest appearances by the likes of Matthew Dear, Milosh, and Caribou and it became apparent that Amygdala was an exciting in-depth investigation of emotion, whose kaleidoscopic sensibilities and pastel-colored melancholia stayed true to the album’s namesake.

If his previous full-length was a shade too blue to be a “true” techno album, Knock Knock is Koze’s beating heart of a record with the vitality of a child refusing to sit still. Wondrous and touching, the album bears little resemblance to Koze’s techno and house peers. Rather, it sits in a bold corner of its own, drawing inspiration from the disparate galaxies of dream pop, crackling funk, angular trip-hop, and ASMR-inducing ambience. And while much of the album finds Koze re-adopting some of the tried-and-tested methodologies of blissed-out electronica, he doesn’t compromise on keeping things constantly engaging, thanks to a relentlessly imaginative approach to genre blending.

Devoted Koze-heads will relish in tracks like “Pick Up,” which are instant throwbacks to the luxurious, balearic vibes of Andrés and Pepe Bradock. Sibling cuts like “Seeing Aliens” wash over with an effortless, open-armed embrace. For those less engrossed with the world of Roland 808’s and breakdowns, it’s each sticky melody, crooning vocal ditty, and uplifting string section that pulls you deeper into the record’s warm, inviting environment. Kicking things into high gear, second track “Bonfire” deliciously manipulates a sample of Bon Iver’s autumnal “Calgary” into a head-nodding delight. The early placement of the track serves as Koze’s aesthetic statement: a truly extraterrestrial kind of house music that’s not quite right for a deafening dancefloor, but perhaps for the sound system inside a car speeding past it in the dead of night.

Lying underneath the balmy sheen of this entire record is the core personality of a pop music lover; the tumultuous journey toward shining, glorious melodies is one that must be achieved here, regardless of the vehicle. And so, things also take a moody turn quite often; Róisín Murphy’s enigmatic vocal performances throughout are placed atop understated nocturnal shuffles; if songs like “Moving In A Liquid” reflect the glory of a perfect sunrise, deeper cuts like “Scratch That” are the unsettling sunsets that precede them. The pensive cloudiness of “Muddy Funster” contrasts nicely against the twinkling refrains of the cleverly titled “Baby (How Much I LFO You.)” Even “Music On My Teeth,” which sounds like a customer-support-please-hold music-induced psychedelia, bursts with understated color.

Vocals, both sampled and performed, play a critical role in constructing the album’s sound. Breaking down the complex layers of gospel vocals and Sophia Kennedy’s emphatic phrasing is a legitimately difficult task, as words and sentences bleed into each other to create sprawling, expansive chaos. Both her and the aforementioned Murphy bring charismatic performances that feel tailor-made for Koze’s psyched-out compositions. And when you see Kurt Wagner on the guest vocal roster for a deep house record, you know you’ve struck gold.

And then we have “Planet Hase,” which plays host to an undeniably creepy surprise in its final minute: a fuzzy, voicemail tone-like voice singing “He’s got the whole world in his hands” in no discernible key. But this moment is no more surprising than a reverb-drenched lap steel on top of a sawtooth bass line, an acidic keyboard lead dotted by a glockenspiel, and a million voices singing in wildly ecstatic harmony. Knock Knock is full of surprises, and Koze is floating, in a meditative stance, watching over your shoulder as you revel in its resplendent glory.