New year, new group of songs to enjoy and dissect. This very first High Five of 2014 is a joyous affair. From Painted Palms' eruptive jingles to Linnea Olsson's taut cello work all the way down to Danny Brown's unexpected, wide-eyed earnestness, 2014's music thus far seems to portend good things.
Painted Palms -- "Here It Comes"
"I do too many things just to ease my mind," Christopher Prudhomme warns us, beatifically and effervescently, near this track's outset. And as if offering up a parallel admission, the instruments beneath him skip along at a Xanaxed clip, all jingle bells and eagle-screech synths. There's stuff about not "trusting a single thing she says," and finding it "hard to explain/Just how I feel," but the overall impression here is hardly ambivalence; rather, it's something closer to pure joy -- an ecstatic eruption that tries, and fails, to keep its own poker face un-rumpled.
Drake -- "Trophies"
Drake is just one man, but there are really two Drakes at work here. First on the scene is The Big Bad Drake, chest a-puff and shouting pecuniary exaggerations ("Anything I got is not a rental/I own it motherfucker;" or "House so big I haven't seen them boys in two days;" or "Bitch, I use a walkie-talkie just to get a beverage"). You know this Drake. He is the egotist behind "Headlines," "The Motto," and "Started From the Bottom." Then, (and, in this case, as suddenly as jumping from an ice bath into a hot tub), you get Tender Drake, the moodier, introspective lothario. "I'm just trying to stay alive and take care of my people," he assures us. "And they don't have no reward for that." By now, we should all have come to know and love these hyperbolic mood swings, these pitter-patter tantrums. They are the stuff of a boy king: a sweet cocktail of regality and food-coloring juvenilia. They are, basically, what makes Drake Drake.
Linnea Olsson -- "All 4 U"
There's a thrilling density to "All 4 U," despite the fact that its sole textures are cello, handclaps, and an airy falsetto (and, presumably, a well-worn delay pedal). For a song whose thematic core is losing one's cool in the face of a newfound love, ("My legs started trembling/I was helpless/As I walked towards you"), it's surprisingly bulletproof -- a meticulous, tightly wound three minutes of technical and aesthetic virtuosity.
Exmag -- "We Run Shit"
In these uncertain times, aren't we entitled to the odd dose or three of buttery and unapologetic space funk? Listener, you heard it here first: "We Run Shit" is the exact medicine you require. Guitar lines are plunked and thwinked sexily. Clavichords quack shamelessly. The word "baby" is uttered here and there, often with the assistance of some baroque and robotic pitch-shifting technology. There's something to be said about the tightness of the groove and the finicky nuances of the arrangement here. But all of that is less important than closing your eyes, licking your lips, and nodding along.
Vampire Weekend, Ft. Danny Brown, Heems and Despot -- "Step" Remix
We thousand monkeys with typewriters employed here at the High Five have a kinda-sorta policy about reviewing remixes -- mostly that they comprise a giant, black rabbit hole we'd rather not dive into But since we are also believers that rules (especially those as arbitrarily established as our own) were meant to be broken, we now present you with this peculiar gem from Vampire Weekend, Danny Brown, Heems and Despot. Tough to say what's more peculiar: the fact that the original arrangement now seems so ripe for remixing, or the fact that Danny Brown's verse is far and away the most tender thing he's ever put out. He likens a woman to the "sugar in my Kool-Aid," and he's quick to discuss he and his "shorty spending more and more time." The experience is somehow kitschy, gratifying, and deeply perplexing all at once.