In this edition, Kanye reacts to a broken heart by putting tarps on all his furniture, Pitbull steals an Italian techno track and makes it even better, Chad Vangaalen lets his freak-folk flag fly, The Streets returns with a delicate ballad, and Brightblack Morning Light whisper something about the spirit of the Buffalo, or something.
1. Kanye West – “Love Lockdown”
I’m not immediately loving this song like I (and everybody else) did with “Stronger” and “Good Life,” for instance, but I’m definitely fascinated by it. Musically, this is about as minimal as possible, just three tuned bass drum noises, joined later by simple piano chords and what sounds like African percussion. It’s nowhere near as leftfield as M.I.A.’s triple-time African drum tribute, “Boyz,” but it’s still pretty crazy, and the video’s dreamlike imagery only adds to the strangeness.
2. Pitbull – “Krazy”
Didn’t I write a while back about how dance beats are taking over hip-hop? Well, this is the most extreme example yet: a few years back, Italian producer Frederico Franchi put out a storming track called “Cream,” whose simple, wobbling melody and thudding breakbeat made it totally infectious. (It was one of the first tracks featured in an epic Simian Mobile Disco DJ set I wrote about last year.) Along comes Miami rapper Pitbull to put some raise-the-roof lyrics over the top, and you’ve got one of the most fun (and unlikeliest) hits of 2008.
After the jump: Canadians croon, Mikey Skinner hits the skids, and hippies hypnotize me.
3. Chad VanGaalen – “Willow Tree”
This Canadian singer-songwriter made one of my favorite albums of 2006, Skelliconnection, a diverse collection of intricate tunes, some delicate, some psychedelic, and some rockin’. This track from his upcoming album Soft Airplane definitely falls into the first category, with VanGaalen pushing his voice into the upper register and plucking a banjo like he thinks he’s Neutral Milk Hotel or something.
4. The Streets – “Everything is Borrowed”
When UK rapper Mike Skinner said his new album would be called “Everything is Borrowed,” one could be forgiven for assuming he was talking about sampling and artistic collage. However, according to this video, he’s talking about, er, mortgages. Somebody tell him about McCain’s new idea!
5. Brightblack Morning Light – “Hologram Buffalo”
This New Mexico-based combo put out an album that ended up even higher on my 2006 best-of list than Mr. VanGaalen. They make fuzzy, freaked-out blues so hypnotic you can almost ignore the hippie-dippy lyrics. Their new album, Motion to Rejoin, is, if anything, even weirder than the last one: “Buffalo” features a horn section that seems imported from 1925, and the lyrics don’t even start until over two minutes in, at which point they seem to whisper something about teepees and rainbows. And if I, avowed hippie-hater, can get down with that, you know it’s got to be good.