It's Really About Me Loving to Dance
2012 YEAR-END BALLOT1. “Driftin’ Back,” Neil Young & Crazy Horse: I hadn’t planned on buying Psychedelic Pill-- hadn’t bought a Neil album close to its release date since Trans (not even Freedom or Ragged Glory, coming as they did after those Geffen monstrosities)--but I was in a used record store before a movie one night, and a couple of minutes of “Driftin’ Back” changed my mind. That’s as much as I had time to hear; I of course had no idea it went on for 27 minutes, and probably would have been less receptive if I had. Twenty-seven minutes is a lot of room for bad ideas to creep in, reminders that this is now and not then. I’ve still only gotten through the rest of the album once (“Walk Like a Giant” goes right past me, except for the whistling, which I hate), but I played “Driftin’ Back” on endless loop for about three weeks in the car. I’d put it right up there with “Cowgirl” and “Cortez” and “Over and Over” as Neil’s greatest long-player ever. I was a little surprised when the Neil claque on I Love Music wasn’t as rapturous as I was. The lyrics seemed to be the issue, and indeed, the elliptical Neil of 1970 is long gone; “Driftin’ Back”’s litany of complaints is very specific and (to put it mildly) somewhat not in the here-and-now. You don’t, for instance, hear a great deal about the Maharishi these days, and those Apple ads were several lifetimes ago. I’m not sure what a hip-hop haircut is--Kid ‘n Play, maybe, I don’t know. None of which is a problem for me. The words melt into everything else that’s going on, and I sing along happily. A song about drifting back ought to be a little random anyway--in the course of a day, my mind drifts back to stuff much sillier than the Maharishi. So I do understand. 2. “Take Care,” Drake & Rihanna: I like the Miguel and Frank Ocean songs I’ve heard, but I don’t think they have the pitch-perfect calm found here. I had to teach dance to my grade 6s this year, which basically amounts to a couple of classes spent twisting and frugging and hitchhiking, then they get into small groups and come up with their own dances. Four of my girls chose “Take Care” for their music, so thanks to them for making sure I didn’t miss this. I don’t have any more interest in Rihanna’s ongoing dramas than I did when I voted for “Cheers (Drink to That)” last year, no more than I once did in Madonna’s, or Mary J. Blige’s, or Emi- nem’s, or whomever’s. (Don’t mean to sound callous--I realize Rihanna’s were triggered by something qualitatively different.) But they’re there, on “Cheers” and again on “Take Care,” where her opening line (about knowing when people have been hurt by the way they carry them- selves) seems made to order for Hugh Barker and Yuval Taylor’s Faking It, which I finally got around to reading. Maybe that line was written specially for her, and maybe that’s the first thing most listeners will remember about this song, if they remember anything at all. But without the expert contribution of the Canadian childhood TV star she’s paired with (whose background seems eminently middle-class to me, although his Wikipedia entry tries hard to blur that), and especially without the studio hands who provide all the atmospherics, it’d just be words on a page that I probably wouldn’t even notice. 3. “New for U,” Andrés: As majestic a trance-out as “Driftin’ Back,” though you could fit five of these into one of those. No words to complicate things--well, two or three, over and over (“Time for love”?). If Neil and I didn’t have a history, I’d be happy to make Andrés my #1, and part of me thinks I’d do well to take a year off from every kind of music except stuff like this--which, far as I can tell, hasn’t changed a bit in 25 years, and hopefully never will. 4. “Pizza King,” Wussy: Not a good year for pizza kings. One wanted to be president (not really, just play along), but he had a past, and sometimes he’d forget his lines. A couple almost had their businesses run into the ground by a rogue Supreme Court justice and the selfishness of sick people. Another made it to the World Series, but ran into funny-looking round man and got swept in four games. No idea who Wussy are singing about, but well timed anyway. 5. “Inspector Norse,” Todd Terje: The wiseguy in me recognizes this as just an arted-up “Pop- corn” (Hot Butter, 1972--we’re probably past the point where I can assume such a reference means anything), but there are also a bunch of little Mogwais running around in there who love pretty sounds in any configuration and just want to do the Stereolab. (Almost voted for Perfume’s “Point” for much the same reason.) The Mogwais always get final say. 6. “Don’t Know How You Do It,” Imperial Teen: I pretty much reserve a spot on my year-end lists for anything new by Wussy, Yo La Tengo, or Imperial Teen. I know that’s not how you’re supposed to do it, but seeing as I only vote for songs, invariably there’s one or two I love on every album, even when it's only one or two. So I hope all three keep keep at it forever, although, in Imperial Teen’s case, I suspect they’re at that sobering middle-ground stage-- not old enough to be venerable, like Yo La Tengo, but neither still waiting around hopefully for someone outside of Robert Christgau’s comments section to notice, like Wussy--where they’re making music for me and a few thousand faithful. 7. “Sore Tummy,” Paws: The guitar at the beginning is right out of “You! Me! Dancing!”, and that’s a good place for any song to start. The rest is a sprightly diatribe against doctors who don’t know anything, all of it possibly connected to drug withdrawal. My favourite power- pop blog, Take the Pills, went under this year, so I’ll have to figure out some other way to keep up with the Cheap Tricks and the Big Stars. 8. “Blessed,” Schoolboy Q, and 9. “Ima Read,” Zebra Katz & Njena Reddd Foxxx: I won’t embar- rass myself trying to grapple with these two songs the way I used to with “Fantastic Voyage” and “People Everyday”--if you’re a middle-aged white guy who’s out of the loop on this stuff, that would surely amount to high comedy in 2012. I did do a little reading on “Ima Read”’s backstory, and of course (I suspected as much) it’s not at all what it seems; it’s also the only song I think I’ve ever heard that mentions proofreading, and, having once spent two years proofreading Woolco-Woolworth’s advertising flyers, I’m very excited about that. “Blessed” has that beautifully forlorn little keyboard flourish (or sample, or something-- I never know) the whole way through, so I whistle along with that and leave the words to Schoolboy Q. “Last of a dying breed,” says Schoolboy Q--perhaps. I won’t put my Top 10 on the blackboard this year the way I sometimes do. Eleven-year-olds do not gravitate towards backstories, and I don’t really want any parent phone-calls. 10. “Devastating Bones,” Shrag: Doubt that I’d like this without the British accents--there’s a certain kind of song that depends on a British accent, and I think this is the first one I’ve voted for since “Stutter.” (There are many other kinds of songs where a British accent is like the ultimate red flag.) Not sure if I’m hearing correctly, but “I think you might need those knees for kneeling” is an excellent, vaguely disreputable line that makes me think of John McGiver in Midnight Cowboy.