AOTY 2023

Songs To Fight For

I’m starting a new series called Songs to Fight For where each day I will highlight a different track that I find worthy of discussion. Selections will range from deep cuts and hidden gems to misjudged masterpieces and forgotten favorites. Some you’ll know and hopefully some you’ll be discovering for the very first time.

Bran Van 3000 - Drinking in L.A.

Today I start with this electro pop classic that was Bran Van 3000’s only hit. I randomly came across Drinking in L.A. when downloading a bunch of Daft Punk off Limewire when I was in high school. I was instantly blown away by it and did some research to find out that this was definitely not a Daft Punk song but a random Canadian electronica group that never really made it. I chose this as the first song in this series because it’s one of those rare hit you right away tracks that is undeniable to anyone in its orbit. It’s the kind of song you play at a party and patiently wait for 3 different people to look over at you and say hey man what is this? If you’ve never heard it before, I hope you give it a listen. I’m willing to bet you won’t be disappointed.
Big Country - In a Big Country

Big drums, big guitars, big chorus. Pure 80s joy filtered through a sound and vocal delivery that is very Scottish. This is one of those songs that kind of lives in the back of your brain for years and then whenever someone plays it or you come across it randomly, you get an instant jolt of euphoria.
Jürgen Paape - So weit wie noch nie

One of the crowning achievements of minimal techno imprint Kompakt. This song is so gorgeous and so danceable and for my money, a top 50 song of the 00’s. I’ve heard this many times and it still amazes with each listen.
Low - Ones and Sixes

Track Review: Into You - 100

I don’t often hear this song talked about when the legacy of Low is being discussed and wanted to give it some love. It’s a simple song that features one of my personal favorite vocal performances of all time. Mimi Parker sings from a place of pure feeling. Forceful yet delicate. Her voice vibrates with emotion without ever breaking. I’ve had days where I’ve listened to this 10-15 times in a row.
Songs: Ohia - Didn't It Rain
Track Review- Blue Factory Flame 100

My personal favorite song Molina ever recorded. It sucks you into its dark orbit immediately with that first strum and the opening line of “when I die, put my bones in an empty street”. It then creeps through its 8 minute runtime with an energy that emotes deep sorrow while musically demonstrating the feeling of barely being able to keep going as each snare hit feels like a chore. This is not his most popular or best loved song but nothing sums up the power and sadness of this man’s work than that refrain of “paralyzed by emptiness”.
Oasis - Some Might Say
Track Review: Talk Tonight - 95

Talk Tonight is my favorite of the Noel sung b-sides. Inspired by a near breakup of the group, this acoustic ballad would have been a great argument for splitting up vocal duties on the main records. Though not as powerful or unique, Noel’s voice has a grizzled everyman sweetness to it that Liam can’t do. The difference here isn’t just the vocals. The melody and over all energy of the track feel much more American than anything else they did. It would be very easy for a casual listener to hear this and have no clue it’s Oasis. Anyways, I absolutely love this song and it’s a top 10 from them for me.
Grimes - Geidi Primes
Track Review: Rosa - 100

I’ll never forget the excitement of Grimes in 2011. I remember seeing the music video for Vanessa and then shortly thereafter hearing Oblivion for the first time. Her proper debut with 4ad was set to come out the following year but there were these 2 other albums out there that I needed to hunt down. Neither Geidi Primes or Halfaxa were particularly great albums, functioning better as building blocks of what we would hope to soon get on Visions. For me, nothing helped aid that excitement more than Rosa. It’s a song that feels so obviously home recorded you can almost see the red line moving across bars of green, purple and blue. The barely there vocal quality also lent a bit of mystery to this person we barely knew at the time, creating a rawness that was intoxicating. It becomes even more so as Grimes begins to layer her vocals with beautiful but perfectly lackadaisical harmonies that become hypnotic. The understated delivery and the songs unbroken kick snare backbone make for a dreamlike quality, causing it to seemingly finish just seconds after you pressed play. Even when that gorgeous solo comes in at 1:55, it seems to be over before it starts. Then Grimes repeats the chorus one last time, upping the energy level just enough to elevate the dream without waking you up. Then suddenly the song ends, the beat stops and all you can do is press that back button over and over and over to let it wash over you just one more time.
Radiohead - A Moon Shaped Pool

Track Review: True Love Waits - 100

In my opinion, this is not only the best Radiohead song but it’s honestly not even close. I said what I said.
U2 - With or Without You

It’s time. Forget about them putting that album on your phone without asking. Forget about how annoying Bono can be. Forget about the fact the their lead guitarist called himself the fucking edge. Forget about the fact that there’s nothing less cool in 2023 than saying you love U2. They were one of the most consistent bands for over a decade and this particular song is their apex. It’s still played a million times a day on local rock stations across the world and has been in 7000 different TV shows but it still stands tall. I still get chills when that guitar comes in at 1:52. Pop music does not get much better than this.
Adele - Chasing Pavements

Equally delicate and powerful with an absolute banger of a chorus. 15 years later and it’s still far and away her best song. A time before her voice just became an impressive yet empty instrument.
2Pac - Me Against the World
Track Review: Old School - 100

What makes this seemingly throw away shout out to the originators of hip hop so special, is the now almost mythical status that Pac has. He became so many things to so many people and died so young. Now when looking back, there’s something special about this particular song and I feel grateful that it exists. Over one of the more ethereal beats of his career, a man who hardly seems mortal anymore, affectionately and humbly spends 4 and a half minutes saluting all the people who made this art form so special to him.
Destroyer - City of Daughters
Track Review: You Were So Cruel - 100

A truly formative track for me that sort of adjusted how I looked at songwriting and what could be done with it. Destroyer gives what could be deemed a small moment the dramatic treatment it deserves, elevating how embarrassing moments can be as painful as anything else in the world when you’re still a young person. The story is simple. A girl at her own party comes down the stairs feeling herself and at some point someone snaps the straps on her dress, likely as a seemingly harmless prank. We as the listener can grasp the weight of what this person has done and Destroyer heightens the drama by employing his signature of repeating the thesis of the song throughout. You were so cruel…. And it was her house.
Pictureplane - Dark Rift
Track Review: Goth Star - 95

I honestly could have picked 4 out 5 songs of this record but decided to go with the Goth Star, the closest thing Pictureplane ever had to an underground hit. Listening to these songs now reminds of a really great time for independent electronic music, right before EDM and dubstep sort of broke the whole thing open. Super synthy with beefy beats and cut up vocal stabs that feel hand crafted. Along with artists like Araabmuzik, baths, javelin, nosajthing, Daedalus etc., Pictureplane was making electronic music that didn’t feel overly programmed or reliant on a build/drop.
Camp Cope - How to Socialise & Make Friends

Track Review - The Face of God - 95

RIP to one of the best new bands of the last 5 years. This song exemplifies what they did best.
The Psychedelic Furs - Love My Way

I remember wanting to get The Wedding Singer soundtrack on CD as a kid because it had the President of the United States of America’s cover of Video Killed the Radio Star on it. I’ll never forget putting it in my Walkman and getting to this song that I’d never heard before. I remember it vividly because we were on a road trip and I listened to this song as last 30 times in a row. It just seemed so much more serious and heartbroken than the music I normally listened to. When I told my dad it was my new favorite song at the age of 9 and he said really?, I felt like I was changing into someone they soon would no longer be able to understand. A perfect pop song.
Richie Havens - Live At The Cellar Door and at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium
Track Review: I Can’t Make It Anymore - 95

Written by Gordon Lightfoot and originally recorded and released on Havens debut at about half the length, this gorgeous live version is possibly the best thing he ever did. Havens has been someone who always fascinated me from a young age due to seeing him in the Woodstock film footage. Though he rarely wrote his own material, there was something so powerful and cool about him. I don’t know how large he was but he always seemed as if he were 7 feet tall to me. And I had actually never heard this version of I Can’t Make It Anymore until recently. It beautifully and frenetically escalates throughout its runtime starting with calm admission to resignation. And although it may really be more about the disintegration of a relationship, it eloquently if unintentionally describes what it can be to understand your own depression.
Lou Reed - Coney Island Baby

Track Review: Coney Island Baby - 100

So simple yet so grand in scale. From an assessment of everything you’ve ever done and ever been to the glory of love to being a young man wanting nothing more than to either be or be with the person that in your young mind, is the definition of masculinity. Lou’s sleaziness here, as it often was, is matched by his sweetness and vulnerability. It’s what made him so brilliant.
Rusted Root - Send Me On My Way

A precocious little girl named Matilda makes breakfast for herself and disappears into her own imaginative world once her family leaves for the day. Three unlikely cohorts band together to survive the ice age. An abused single mother takes a job as a maid and helps a hoarder clean her house. All of these moments are made infinitely more special by a song so joyous and sweet that even the hellish crowd at Woodstock 99 took a break from their chaos to embrace its magic.
Janet Jackson - Someone To Call My Lover

One of those samples that when you hear it, you think how did no one get to this before now. The carefree beauty of America’s Ventura Highway fits right in with Janet’s playful pop sensibilities. An excellent party playlist deep cut.
David Gray - Babylon

The kind of song Hesh was talking about on The Sopranos. Just an undeniable hit.
Sheryl Crow - Tuesday Night Music Club

Track Review: Strong Enough - 100

A beautiful snapshot of a time when a song could seem so adult and serious yet possess a tender and hopeful quality. The kind of song that can simultaneously appeal to a woman dealing with a tumultuous relationship and a 7 year old Andrew picturing himself as a grown man, thinking one day I will be, Sheryl.
12 RODS - Gay?

Track Review: Make Out Music - 95

A song meant to be played as loud as possible. I still feel it in my chest every time those chugging opening guitars lead into “I wish I didn’t grow up in the town I grew up in!”. A near perfect song from an EP that’s now sadly remembered for getting a perfect score that many feel it didn’t deserve.
細野晴臣 [Haruomi Hosono] - Philharmony

Track Review: Sportsmen - 100

I listened to thousands of songs new and old back in 2022 but this little 4 minute piece of pop perfection from 40 years prior was my top played song of the year.
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November Playlist