As the new year draws closer, we’ve decided to take a look the music that’s gotten us to where we are today. So in an effort to broaden our musical horizons and our understanding of contemporary artists, we’re counting down 2012 by counting up from 1952, taking a look at a handful of songs from a different year every day until January 1st. You can find the full list here. Today we’re heading back to 2004!
Arcade Fire – “Rebellion (Lies)”
Win Butler says he feels like the pied piper when he sings this song, trying to lead kids away from all of the bullshit and lies they’re fed everyday. That’s pretty punk for all those baroque strings. But really, it’s just about the most charming little uprising I’ve ever heard; “Don’t Let The Bastards Get You Down” turned into a schoolyard song. “Rebellion (Lies)” is precisely the kind of doe-eyed expression that has won the Arcade Fire fans everywhere.
Animal Collective – “Who Could Win a Rabbit”
In the video, Panda Bear and Avey Tare give a revisionist telling of “The Tortoise and the Hare.” This time the tortoise tricks the hare, wins the race, and then chows down on the rabbit. A fitting twist, because there’s nothing “slow and steady” about “Who Could Win a Rabbit.” It’s got the melodic zig-zagging of a Brian Wilson composition, but it’s stuck in a fast-forward gallop.
Britney Spears – “Toxic”
Five years after “…Baby One More Time,” Britney isn’t playing the high school sweetheart anymore. She’s traded in her kilt and kneesocks, for a catsuit and a red mane, embracing a new identity as the full-on dance club darling. “Toxic” is the death knell of the late-’90s bubblegum through which Britney introduced herself – there’s barely a trace that sound here, with the electro-pop production nodding at grimier places, like acid house and ’60s surf rock.
Kanye West ft. Syleena Johnson – “All Falls Down”
On The College Dropout Kanye West struck a different pose for hip hop. While gansta rap had been extolling the spoils of hustlin’, dreaming of a big house and fine cars (the trappings of financial security), West emerged as the dream realized. The son of an English professor and a photojournalist, he represented a Civil Rights success story, and a privileged generation that, prior to, couldn’t have been. On “All Falls Down,” Kanye takes upward mobility, upper-middle class values, and the general idea of “keeping up with the Joneses” (now Kardashians) head-on. Oh, how times have changed.
Joanna Newsom – “Peach, Plum, Pear”
Newsom’s debut The Milk-Eyed Mender is like a tsotchke from your grandma’s mantlepiece — overly cute, whimsical, and painted a little garishly, but something you’ll want to hold close for a long time. Each song is a new nursery rhyme, an endearing little fantasy rolled out in Newsom’s trademark shrill. On “Peach, Plum, Pear,” she hammers at the harpsichord as wildly as she wails, and in her abandon, belies the complexity of what she’s doing.