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 2007!
Justice – “D.A.N.C.E.”
Justice’s 2007 debut † brought the full-on rock aesthetic to EDM, foreshadowing today’s bro-step. With the raw power of AC/DC and enigmatic iconography, their brand of pop-sensible house music fondly reminded everyone of another much loved Parisian duo who had gone quiet. “D.A.N.C.E.” is the group’s tribute to Michael Jackson. Sure, the track name checks “P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing),” “Black or White,” and a few other MJ goldies, but it makes good on updating that vintage Jackson 5 soul sound; now, cut into a series of stabs and bottom-heavied with club-ready bass.
Feist – “1234″
It would have been so easy to make “1234″ a cloyingly sweet lollipop of a song. Instead, Feist is reserved, her smoky voice sets in at a conversational tone. She sounds warm and wise, a friend at the ready to soothe your troubled mind. On the surface, “1234″ operates like a teeny love song, just one notch above nursery rhyme, but underneath it gets at the melancholy of leaving our teenage lives and loves behind. It’s bittersweet, that is until bursting into that indie-darling-does-John-Philip-Sousa outro. A moment to celebrate knowing better.
UGK ft. OutKast – “Int’l Player’s Anthem (I Choose You)”
At a time when Southern hip hop played huge on the radio, three of the biggest duos from below the Mason-Dixon got together to scrawl a declaration for players everywhere. Over Three 6 Mafia’s sample of Willie Hutch’s triumphant “I Choose You,” UGK and OutKast get dirty about their free-wheelin’ lifestyles. André’s verse is love drunk. He’s fallen for somebody and ready to hang up his lady-playing sneakers, but like real bros, UGK and Big Boi rush in to set him straight. Once Pimp C and Bun B lock in, “Int’l Player’s Anthem” becomes a slick beatification of the pimp game. Pimp C died the year this came out, but he left this immortal document just in time.
Battles – “Atlas”
“People won’t be people when they hear this sound,” sings Tyondai Braxton at the open of “Atlas.” To be certain, there’s a bunch that doesn’t quite seem human about this track. Braxton’s squealing, alien vocals march overtop Ian Williams and Dave Konopka’s factory sounds of clanking metal, conveyor belts shuddering forward, pneumatic hisses, and other mechanical wails and groans. It’s the sound of a machine shuttling onward devoid of anything recognizably human. The future? Scary. But, then, there are John Stanier’s drums. The tom beat is primal, echoing the racing heart — the kind of animalistic rhythm I could imagine ancient humans playing some 30,000 years ago. It’s from that tension, the mechanical and the primeval, that “Atlas” draws its considerable power.
M.I.A. – “Paper Planes”
All she wants to do is take your money (though, depending on how you read those gunshots, she might want to kill you, too.) But this isn’t gangsta music. Instead, M.I.A. subverts the notion of hustling. Here she earns her money by making fake visas for immigrants. I think that chorus is saying, “take notice: the impoverished peoples of the world want their fair share, and one day, they might just come get it.” It’s a track about global inequity delivered with hard-as-hell rap over a Clash sample.