Hey, everyone. RobBarracuda here, and it’s time to talk about stuff. What kind of stuff, you might be wondering?
That’s right: music stuff. The subject for today is going to be the first entry the now six-year-strong tradition of the Adult Swim Singles Program. First started in 2010, the Singles Program offers a distinct grab-bag of tunes from artists all across the music spectrum. Rap, country, electronic, indie, metal: you name it, it’s more than likely there. It’s the kind of eclectic mix of artist and styles that no doubt perfectly appeals to the eclectic taste of Adult Swim’s fanbase, so let’s take a look at the 2010 Adult Swim Singles Program and see where this wonderful tradition got its start.
Week 1: Matt Sweeney and Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy – “Love In The Hot Afternoon”
The first track on the compilation is a collaboration between two different artists of similar creative sensibilities: guitarist/producer Matt Sweeney, and folk music artist Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy. The two have worked together several times in the past, having released an album, an EP and a couple of singles. The song they contributed is a cover of the 1975 hit “Love In The Hot Afternoon”, originally recorded by country singer Gene Watson. The original is about what you’d expect from a country song from this time: pianos, violins, and the most basic percussion possible as Gene sings a tale of, well, falling in love in a hot afternoon. The cover version takes the original and makes a much more dynamic song out of it, even switching the vibe to make it sound more mournful and somber in comparison to the lighter feel of Gene’s original recording. This version is made to sound more retrospective, like the narrator is near the end of life and is reflecting on this experience while sitting by a pond deep in the woods. The best way to illustrate the difference between this cover and the original is, if you’re familiar with the discography of Johnny Cash, to think of the difference between Cash in his prime and Cash when he was nearing death. It’s not one of my favorite songs in the world, but it’s solid enough for what it is.
Week 2: Madvillain – “Papermill”
The second song comes to us courtesy of one of the numerous collaborative efforts of rapper MF DOOM, in this case from the Madvillain project featuring himself and fellow hip-hop producer Madlib. “Papermill” is the only bit of original material released by the duo outside of their hit 2004 album Madvillainy. The song’s beat is built off a sample of an old jazz-rock song called “Irgendwie” by Blonker. “Papermill” slows down and deepens the sample which gives it a more Caribbean rock-inspired feel, and the song is completed by DOOM’s verses, laying down some awesome but cryptic as FUCK lyrics with his signature deep-ass voice. Short, sweet, and awesome: nothing but the best from hip-hop’s greatest supervillain.
Week 3: Mike Bigga (Killer Mike) produced by Flying Lotus – “Swimming”
Killer Mike, as you should know by now, is a rapper based out of Atlanta who’s been active since the early 2000’s, getting his big breaks thanks to collaborations with OutKast and is currently blowing up the rap world as one half of Run The Jewels. His contribution to the compilation is “Swimming”, in which he raps over the song “Camera Day”, taken off of Flying Lotus’ Pattern+Grid World EP. It’s a good beat to use as it really conveys the feeling and sensation of swimming, and the rapping and singing from Mike help add a soulful and oddly romantic edge to what is essentially another “I get laid a lot” song. This normally would bother me, but the wordplay and genuinely romantic vibe go a long way in making up for it, although it does that weird thing that’s come up a lot in rap recently where the rapper says a setup and then a punchline without a clear transitional phrase. In this case, “I’m a boyfriend’s nightmare, Wes Craven”. I’m sure that a “call me” could have been worked in there somewhere, but that’s just a minor nitpick for an otherwise good song.
Week 4: Washed Out featuring Caroline Polacheck – “You And I”
Washed Out is the stage name used by chillwave producer Ernest Greene, and as the genre tag implies, he crafts a lot of extremely relaxing electronic music. You might recognize one of his songs, “Feel It All Around”, as the opening theme of the IFC network series Portlandia. “You And I” is a good example of his general style, a song which also features guest vocals from Caroline Polacheck, the singer from synthpop group Chairlift. The song is all about enveloping you in a dream-like atmosphere, with its melancholy somber melodies and ambient soundscapes surrounding the listener. The sound of “You And I” is quite typical of what people would come to expect from Adult Swim, sounding like it could serve as music for one of its various network bumps. It’s a very emotionally-stirring song, and a quite enjoyable one.
Week 5: Black Lips – “Before You Judge Me”
Black Lips are a lo-fi punk band from Georgia whose sound, as is to be expected with a genre tag like that, is very low-key and not overly produced: the kind of music you’d probably expect to hear played with great frequency on a college radio station. “Before You Judge Me” is typical of their sound, a song whose production has an undeniably live feel to it, like it was recorded on the patio stage of a pub venue. The guitars aren’t very effects-driven, the vocals are quite rough, and the drums are kind of drowned in the mix and even sound a little off-the-beat in spots. The song as a whole is quite rough-sounding, including a couple of off-key guitar solos just to round everything out (there’s a reason this style is also known as garage punk). You can practically picture the whole scenario in your head: sitting at the bar, getting a couple of drinks, turning your head every now and then to see the passionate group on stage having a good time playing music they like. “Before You Judge Me” is a typical-of-the-genre but still enjoyable tune.
Week 6: High On Fire – “Speak In Tongues”
After the disbanding of influential stoner metal group Sleep around 1998, all the members went off to join or form various other musical projects (seriously, you could play Six Degrees of Separation with every band the members of Sleep have ever been associated with). Arguably the most successful of these projects was the one founded by guitarist Matt Pike, who took up guitar and vocal duties for a new band he formed called High On Fire. This group adopted many of the same heavy stoner vibes as Sleep, but the songwriting when in a much more intense, fast and groovy, almost thrash-like direction. “Speak In Tongues”, which came out on this compilation several months after their album Snakes For The Divine, makes a pretty good index for their general sound, and it’s without a doubt my favorite song on the compilation. Everything about it is so gloriously intense from the rough and gritty vocals to the technical and pounding drum work, and the pre-verse segments containing arguably one of the heaviest grooves ever written in metal. “Speak In Tongues” as a whole is just the best kind of absolutely monstrous metal track, and I think I just like the way Matt Pike goes off in the chorus. “Crush their skulls and make my war, I’ll speak in tongues, I’ll speak out” is just a fucking badass line to wail on in this kind of song. One last note: the song also appeared in their main discography as a bonus track on their 2012 release De Vermis Mysteriis, so you should probably get to finding a version of that album with that song. …And maybe every other High On Fire album while you’re on it. They had one out this year called Luminiferous, and it was so damn good! … I really like High On Fire, okay?
Week 7: LCD Soundsystem – “Drunk Girls (Holy Ghost! Remix)”
LCD Soundsystem was a one-man dance/alt-rock musical project: the brainchild of singer-songwriter James Murphy, who was also one of the co-founders of the label DFA Records. His musical output varies primarily between standard alternative rock jams and highly catchy dance tunes. “Drunk Girls”, originally off their third and last album This Is Happening, falls into the former category: a fun alternative song that’s sure to get a party going. It’s kind of a cheesy song, sounding like the music you’d hear in commercials for a prime-time sitcom, but it’s a decent kind of cheesy. The version presented here is a remix by Holy Ghost!, an indie dance group who also happen to be signed to DFA Records. These are guys who know how to craft great dance beats, and the remix proves that, creating a song that is arguably better than the original. “Drunk Girls”, while solid enough, kind of suffers from feeling like 3-4 songs jammed together without any kind of strong foundation. The remix preserves James’ quirky and offbeat singing, but builds an upbeat dance tune off of it. This remix actually gives the song a consistent feeling and is more focused than the original, making it much more enjoyable. This is the kind of song I can imagine playing at a club in a fictional futuristic world like Futurama or Space Ghost. One of those rare instances where a remix is better than the original song, and my second favorite track overall.
Week 8: Cults – “Oh My God”
Relative to the all the other artists on the compilation at the time of its release, Cults were very much the newest group featured. Cults was formed in early 2010 by singer Madeline Follin and instrumentalist Brian Oblivion, released their first EP shortly after, and managed to receive a fair bit of hype thanks to praise from Pitchfork. “Oh My God” was the second single from their self-titled debut album which was released in 2011. As you can imagine, being a band this new and already getting a boost from a well-known television network like Adult Swim is a huge deal. Getting into the song itself, “Oh My God” is… kind of lame in my opinion, and that mostly has to do with the melody. The song has some really cheesy twinkling and singing to it that makes it feel less like an indie rock song and more like the opening theme of Sesame Street. It’s not a good kind of quirky vibe to put on, and while it’s not really a good song, it’s not terrible by any means. If you can deal with the cheesiness of the beat and the melody, then you’re likely going to enjoy this.
Bonus: Freddie Gibbs – “On One”
Despite initially advertising itself as an 8 song compilation, the folks at Adult Swim decided to spring a 9th bonus track to round out the compilation. The featured artist is Freddie Gibbs, a rapper who’s been active since 2004, releasing several mixtapes and a handful of EPs before finally releasing his first official studio album in 2013. His style is most comparable to the kind of rap that was popular in the early 2000’s, with the closest inspiration being DMX, especially with that same kind of rough tough-guy flow. “On One” gives a good indicator of his style: a brag rap about how awesome he is, with some decent wordplay and solid flow to actually elevate the song into something better than just average and stereotypical.
So that was the 2010 Adult Swim Singles Program. Overall, it’s a decent compilation, with 5 good songs that I would say are worth listening to undeniably (Swimming, Speak In Tongues, Drunk Girls, Papermill, You And I), and the other four which range in quality from decent to a tad lame. Despite that, it’s still an interesting mix of songs and gives a good baseline for what to expect from future entries: a musical playground/laboratory where anything can happen, from covers and remixes to unexpected musical team-ups and even boosting the profile of up-and-coming music artists. I’ll no doubt be looking at the other singles compilations at some point later down the line, so stick around for those. If you wish to own these songs for yourself, click the link here to go to the 2010 Singles page.
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