4. The World's Greatest - "Greatest Trick"
Veiled by dreampop optimism, "Greatest Trick" is a fistful of unidentifiable emotions, individually-wrapped and spooned into a mixed-bag like the pieces of saltwater taffy that inevitably make their way into your plastic trick-or-treat pumpkin: oblong, pastel paint swatches, ambiguously flavored. A layer of gluey suburbanite disappointment, their consolidated flavor lingers on your unbrushed palate. This is the last Halloween you'll don a mask and trespass on neighborhood porches. There's nothing particularly satisfying about those cellophane-swaddled candies you just ingested, but they must be consumed on principle. You stuff yourself with the mysticism your young imagination can afford you before the dregs of the tank dry up. Halloween excursions once seemed like they lasted for hours. Time is beginning to pass more regularly for you now: no hour is privileged.
"what a beautiful day..."
Rising from the charcoal ashes of your backyard's tripod grill, Maryland's Teen Suicide has transformed into The World's Greatest - an expression of unabashed self-confidence that paints over the lo-fi collective's former sense of snide nihilism. Sneaking some Pavement guitar twang into the jangle-pop warmth of a Sarah Records 7", the band's first release under their new moniker is just immersive enough to crawl into on all fours. The fireplace has been courteously pre-lit. A comforter is neatly folded, resting against a leather couch's armrest. Leave your Vans Sk8-his at the door and grab a pair of slippers before sinking into the sofa.
"Greatest Trick" is pure hospitality.
3. Promnite x Denzel Curry x Nell x JK The Reaper x Twelve'len - "Gunsmoke"
Occupying the sparsely-populated boundary space between more technical, traditional measures of hip-hop proficiency and the fauvist expressions of 808-infused emotion espoused by fellow XXL freshmen Desiigner and Lil Yachty, Denzel Curry and his Miami-based C9 collective have carved out an alluringly timeless sound within the rapidly-evolving sphere of Soundcloud rap. Capping off a year's worth of sinister, visceral output is the Promnite-produced posse cut "Gunsmoke". Bouncing off of trampoline-taut percussion, Curry and former SpaceGhostPurrp protege Nell trade rapid-fire couplets against sampled shakuhachi trills. Each brings out the other's best: Denzel is as multi-syllabic and agressive as ever; Nell flows with pliant grace, cross-hatching swooping brushstrokes that vary greatly in shape and size. JK The Reaper and Twelve'len contribute brief interludes that act as sonic subheadings - the initial peal of thunder that signifies the lightning storm.
At a tidy three minutes and fifty-three seconds, "Gunsmoke" is crammed to maximum capacity with fresh ideas and raw emotion. Like Souls of Mischief's "93 til Infinity" before it, C9's group effort juggles humor, narrative, and aesthetic appeal with ease.
In an ocean of internet waves, Denzel Curry's tides pack the most potential staying power. A fixture on my previous Top 10 lists, the 21-year-old shows no indication of slowing his ascent from underground dominance to mainstream recognition.
2. Wild Nothing - "Life of Pause"
Wild Nothing's Life of Pause finds frontman Jack Tatum shedding the layer of anorak urgency that so signified his earlier twee-pop discography. If 2010's Gemini was an aimless weekend drive taken to survey the neighborhood's Christmas lights - fluorescent reds, greens, and the occasional flash of dish-detergent blue seeping into the absorbent night - then 2012's Nocturne was the post-drive thaw, its 70s soft rock revivalism melting into nu-gaze dreaminess like purple hands that loiter about q space heater. On his latest, Tatum pours himself a mug of chamomile while spinning old Italo-disco records before hauling himself to bed. There may not be anything particularly fresh or innovative about Life of Pause, but the album more than makes up for the familiarity with polish and skilled songcraft. Most impressive of Pause's 11 cuts is its title track - celebratory synths flash in pyrotechnic patterns to the nocturnal groove of Tatum's rhythm section. Equally drowsy and lively, the tune is a runner's high of sorts: the final stretch of awakeness before calling it a night.