speed of the pittsburgh sound’s Top Tracks of 2009 continues with tracks 30-11. Check the list after the jump.
30 “I Knew” – Lightning Dust
Plumbing the depths of a classic rock lineage can be a some what thankless task. If you’re influenced by the Rolling Stones, Zeppelin or the Who and break those bands down to their essentials, you’re basically influenced by rhythm and blues more than anything. Vancouver’s Lightning Dust (Amber Webber and Josh Wells of Black Mountain) however, manage to turn this classic rock revival on its head by smearing the bluesy heritage across a canvas of a New York, late 70’s avant garde, no-wave aesthetic.
“I Knew,” off the band’s latest Infinite Light, merges the proto-techno synth lines from Suicide’s “Ghost Rider” with a fast paced, toe tapping r&b romp that evokes an other worldly sense of cohesion. Familiar and alien in the same breath, Webber and Wells mash up the two genres so well they are hardly separated by song’s end. “I Knew” quickly makes a case for some revisionist history, an alternate universe where the Stones or Zeppelin could have collaborated with Alan Vega in some dirgey basement in the Upper East Side circa 1978, backing up all that hedonistic rock god fury with some petulant, confrontational nihilism. Sounds a little too heavy? Let Lightning Dust handle the big questions, its easier said than done.
29 “Searching” – Speech Debelle
28 “My Bodie’s a Zombie For You” – Dead Man’s Bones
27 “Paddling Ghost” – Dan Deacon
26 “Hellhole Ratrace” – Girls
25 “Lust For Life” – Girls
24 “Lalita” – The Love Language
23 “Little Secrets” – Passion Pit
22 “It Ain’t Gonna Save Me” – Jay Reatard
21 “Be My Girl” – The Smith Westerns
20 “Percussion Gun” – White Rabbits
19 “Halo” – Beyonce
“Halo” is practically transcendent. Yes, obviously there are religious undertones with a song named after a part of an angel’s anatomy, but even the hand claps and subtle strings that hang in the background for most of the track begin to evoke gospel music’s strong emotional center, something inherently missing in traditional catholic or protestant hymns. Beyonce, more than any vocalist in the world right now, can handle that emotional workload with the devoted attention of a woman completely compelled by her faith, embodying a spirituality that is completely and utterly sincere.
But yes, it is a pop song, a staggeringly epic one at that. Hearing this song pour out of a car radio was one of the true pleasures of my morning trysts with top 40 radio. As cliche as it sounds, this song really is like a magic fucking ray of sunshine, showering any shitty mood or terrible day in a hopeful glow of positive energy. “Halo” flaunts that hazy moment in pop music when a particular song has a mood or feeling or gesture that makes you realize the best things in your life really are the best things in your life. Transcendence, Beyonce, transcendence.
18 “Basic Space” – The xx
17 “Daylight” – Matt and Kim
16 “Raindrops” – Basement Jaxx
15 “Walkabout” – Atlas Sound ft. Noah Lennox
14 “Deadbeat Summer” – Neon Indian
13 “Glory Gongs” – Forest Swords
I’ll admit that Ennio Morricone’s famous scores to Sergio Leone’s spaghetti westerns are a particular weakness of mine, so anytime an anonymous dub-step grime producer from Liverpool coolly combines shadowy, down-tempo glitches with a marching guitar line on par with “The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly,” I’m paying attention. With that said, Forest Swords’ “Glory Gongs” sounds like its from another planet. Between the ominous, almost monastic chants in the back of the mix and the cut up vocal segments that hinge on indecipherable, this is the soundtrack to a night of dancing, drugs and surrealistic danger. Basically Liverpool as Polanski’s Repulsion.
Anonymity is a favorite pastime of underground UK garage DJ’s (Burial being the most mysterious of them all) and Forest Swords’ sole member, known simply as M. on his MySpace page, takes full advantage of his shadowy persona. Dark, cryptic and almost terrifying, Forest Swords should be making some major waves in 2010.
12 “Dominoes” – The Big Pink
11 “She Wolf” – Shakira
Frankly, the reason why I find Shakira’s “She Wolf” so damn appealing is its extravagant weirdness. The soft little wolf howl that perks up mid chorus is the cherry on-top of the freak-disco sundae, illustrating just how unique Shakira’s pop sensibilities prove to be. Okay, yes, she isn’t on Lady Gaga’s level of strange (an artist hellbent on taking electroclash to the mainstream) but her chief attribute, her voice, has a nasal, quivering quality to it that some how becomes endearing AND sensual. It’s unstable but limber, and amidst the perfect, and I mean perfect, nu-disco production splashes (the Bootsy Collins guitar riff, the “5th of Beethoven” strings, the wah-wah sway of the electro-hump beat) Shakira’s vocals seem more dynamic than could have possibly been imagined.
It doesn’t hurt either that she embraces Latin belly-dancing in her choreography, twisting and gyrating in ways that are seriously foreign to American audiences. Basically, “She Wolf” is the whole package, a strange, sexual, italo-disco mindfuck that will never lose its power.