I wrote four blurbs for this list. I worked really hard on them, and it was a total joy to read everyone else’s work on the list because they had clearly done the same. I’m sure the forthcoming album list will uphold the same high standard.
David wrote a neat little post earlier today where he talked about the inspiration and social context behind his contributed blurbs, and I’d like to do the same, so I’m going to go entry-by-entry and talk about what I was trying to do with mine, what inspired them, etc. Think of it as some bonus commentary.
Caribou, “Can’t Do Without You” (#93):
This one was mildly tricky, I really struggled with finding the right imagery for the way the song swells and moves forward. Snaith is obviously a very smart guy who has put a lot of thought into both his growth as an artist and the sound of his songs, and I wanted to do that intelligence justice. There’s a density to the slow-motion drop that cracks this song open that remains irresistible to me. It feels like you’re plunging towards the core, towards another world.
I saw a few people poking fun at the concept of canonizing a song that’s not even a month old, cut from an album that won’t be out for another two, and I totally get that — I’m sure #201 or something close has been around for longer, is more influential, etc. But I think this’ll be revealed as a worthy choice in time, and in a much shorter time than people think. Its balance, its tenderness — those qualities are built to last.
Japandroids, “Younger Us” (#92):
This was the hardest blurb to write. I drafted maybe five different versions of it one after the other, something I almost never do; I usually pump out drafts of blurbs and reviews top-to-bottom in one sitting, and will very rarely scrap something and start from scratch. I was just having a lot of trouble capturing the way this song makes me feel in a way that could fit within the confines of a short blurb and make sense to other people. This song came out when I was still living in residence, spending my first year with the guys I would be inseparable from for all five years of our undergrad. I had just gotten a fake ID and we spent a lot of time in the plaza bars next to campus: Molly Bloom’s, Kickoffs, Outer Mongolia at the Mongolian Grill. It felt like this song was made for us; we were the kinds of guys who would always get out of bed to go drink, who would always be together starting shit and hanging tough. And of course now it’s been four years, and we’re all finished and in different places and connected by Facebook chat and Greyhound buses and planes, and I find myself having that “I want younger us” moment a lot. I call it a love story because that’s exactly what it was, what it is.
A few of us hung out last Friday on a rooftop with a gorgeous view of the Toronto skyline and I could feeling it flowing through my veins again, that kinship, that feeling. That’s the stuff that makes this song work.
Ciara, “Body Party” (#39):
Felt some pressure here to put together a solid blurb because this song has been written about by a lot of people, and well, and I wanted to find a perspective that could hang with what’s come before. I was also treading carefully because I don’t want to overstep as a man writing about a woman’s expression of her sexuality, even as a man who’s not attracted to women at all — I wanted to be respectful, but not joyless or clinical. I think it managed to squeak there, and I like the kicker a lot, it ties a nice little bow on Ciara’s career and the sound of this song.
Writing about sex is hard because it means different things to different people, carries different memories, generates different emotions — and there’s still a part of many of us, even the most liberated, who get a little nervous when the subject comes up. I think the most important thing about this song is that it glows with a confidence that feels enabled by a sense of security. You can’t sound or move like this unless you feel safe with someone, and it must be really hard to embed that kind of safety in a song, but it’s pulled off here.
Disclosure, “Latch” (#25):
Everyone knows “Latch” at this point, it’s insane; I was at dinner with some work acquaintances and all I had to do was croak the vocal sample to get a coworker who “knows nothing about music” to cry out, “I know that one!” So I had two goals with this blurb: I wanted to chart the song’s slow ascent and web of influence, and I wanted to suss out some of the elements that make it click and stand a cut above the contemporaries and imitators. It’s funny, the Disclosure boys are in some ways minor rockists — they’ve given a lot of interviews about wanting to bring “songwriting” and “soul” to dance music, which, oh brother — and I didn’t want to glorify that kind of flawed perspective, but at the same time this is a song that succeeds in large part because of its immaculate craftsmanship, the structure and the weird rhythm and the way it snaps together like K’Nex. I’m sure someone with a more deft touch could’ve walked that tightrope a little more easily but I don’t think it was an embarrassment by any means.
And of course I’ve known and loved this song for a long time, like many other people have — I remember hearing it in the last weeks of 2012 and having it creep onto my list posted here, an early micro-ascent up a North American chart — so there was a lot of time and history in that blurb, too.