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Category: Song of the Year

When Vampire Weekend premiered the “Diane Young” and “Step” videos the public had only heard one song off the upcoming Modern Vampires of the City, a live version of “Unbelievers” that (naturally) fell flat on TV. I remember sitting in the music office and nervously watching. “Diane Young” worried me. The burning Saabs were visually striking and the song’s wacky production was intriguing but the song didn’t grab me. I hoped for more out of “Step.”

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Oneohtrix Point Never’s R Plus Seven is notable for its inclusion of highly conceptual ideas, rooted in science fiction, critiques of late-capitalism, and hyper-media, all while remaining a remarkable musical statement in its own right, removed from these outside aesthetics and concepts. While listeners might create their own narratives for the tracks on R Plus Seven, Daniel Lopatin, who thinks of himself more of a conceptual media artist than as a musician, has a very clear idea about what most of these songs are about. Most listeners might never know the meaning behind most of the songs on R Plus Seven. In an interview with FACT Magazine, Lopatin revealed some of the concepts behind the track “Americans”:

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I have better things to do on a Saturday night than to watch a mediocre-at-best, sketch comedy show – thus, a YouTube search of Arcade Fire’s performance of “Afterlife” came on a Monday afternoon. In the same vein as the clichéd “love at first sight” ideal, I had the kind of moment where you stop and try to revel in the glow of the first listen to that perfect song. It’s a moment that usually slips by unnoticed, a feeling that’s completely removed of the on-repeat, know every word love that you fall into months down the tracks – the affection of a head over heels crush that has you going on about Régine Chassagne’s vocal production to everyone you know. Instead, it’s a gradual realization, an almost an out-of-body, objective respect that let’s you know this song will show up on at least a couple of your car mix-CDs.

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Argument-starter/band Deafheaven are hard to pin down. They’re most commonly described as a mix between post-rock, black metal and shoegaze. I’d like to think that I know a little bit about all three of those genres (though according to some the fact I like Deafheaven means I know nothing about music at all) but truthfully, to me, a song like “Dream House” doesn’t sound like it would fall under any of those labels. It’s a cacophony of beautiful guitar solos, screamed vocals and empowering percussion breakdowns –it just sounds good. I know that kind of seems like a lazy thing to say when writing about music but when the discussion is so heavily muddled by genre nitpicking and superiority grabs it feels like a necessary statement.

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When it came to picking song of the year that I both enjoyed and felt that I could write about, I was torn between two songs from vastly different acts: “She Will” by the stark all-girl post-punkers Savages, or “Q.U.E.E.N” by funky android woman Janelle Monáe. Savages are dark and serious, while Janelle just wants to kick up a groove.  Savages are intimidating with their all black clothes and glowering stares but Janelle seems intimidating only because she’s probably way cooler and definitely a better dancer than you.

However, both songs are similar in their messages of empowerment and bucking societal regulations. “She Will” attacks puritanical restrictions of female sexuality and “Q.U.E.E.N” attacks restrictions of anyone who feels ostracized by mainstream society.

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