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The Sun’s Top 10 Songs of 2016

In a great year for rap, hip-hop and emo, The Daily Sun’s Arts & Entertainment writers came together to name the 10 best songs of the year. 

10. “(Joe Gets Kicked Out of School for Using) Drugs With Friends (But Says This Isn’t a Problem)” — Car Seat Headrest 

Steve Jobs once said that hallucinogens reveal another side to reality, but in “Joe Gets Kicked Out Of School” — written about an acid trip taken by Car Seat Headrest frontman Will Toledo — the revelations aren’t so pleasant. On acid, Toledo sees himself and his friends as “filthy people,” hedonistic pleasure-seekers with no meaning or purpose. Good thing the song is so fun. The band’s album, Teens of Denial, builds huge, operatic epics from the building blocks of indie rock, and “Joe” is a perfect example, a seven-minute journey that begins with Toledo strumming an acoustic guitar and develops into a foot-stomping breakdown.

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TEST SPIN | We Got It from Here… Thank You 4 Your Service

The last time A Tribe Called Quest released an album was 18 years ago, when I was just learning to crawl. Now, they have released their much anticipated sixth and final album, We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service. The quartet consisting of Q-Tip, Phife Dawg, Ali Shaheed Muhammad and Jarobi White began work on the album earlier this year in secret after Q-tip and Phife repaired long standing damage to their relationship. During the production of the album, Phife Dawg lost his battle with diabetes at age 45 following ongoing health issues.

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Americana in Punk Society: John Doe Delivers a Wild Gift at the Haunt

“What are the young people doing here?” a friendly Ithaca local asked me at The Haunt this past Friday night. The crowd, mostly 45-65 year-old Ithacans, was there to see John Doe, the now 63-year-old front-man of the 80’s LA punk band, X. My answer was that I was curious about what he’s gone on to produce as a solo artist. John Doe has come out with six records in the past decade, each far different from those produced by X. His most recent album, The Westerner, was released just this year and features some Western-inspired, psychedelia-tinged, Americana rock. The older artists get, the bolder they get. They write for themselves.

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More Tricks Than Treats?: Pianist Tamara Stefanovich at Barnes

Toward proving that “solo piano” is a misnomer, I might present Friday night’s recital by Tamara Stefanovich as my Exhibit A. Stefanovich knows that the piano is more than a single entity, that the trials of other composers and performers before — if not also echoes of those after — graft their own wires into its evolving circuitry. Not only did she seem to make reference to these histories, but also created an alternative one of her own. Her program was a formidable one. Titled “35 Études,” it brought together knuckle-busting pieces of varying temperament. By way of Frédéric Chopin’s “Étude in F minor (Op.

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TEST SPIN: The Radio Dept. — Running Out of Love

Swedish, indie pop-rock group Radio Dept. walks the line between complacent and passionate. Their sound in Running Out of Love, released this October, mixes easy to listen to harmonies with fast paced, energetic beats and shocking lyrics. The three merge to unpack social frustrations. With an eerily calm tone, their lyrics call to mind serious issues and leave them unresolved.

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TEST SPIN: Jimmy Eat World — Integrity Blues

Jimmy Eat World’s newest release, Integrity Blues, weaves its way through nearly every subgenre of alternative in 11 songs. It’s got a little bit of progressive rock, a chunk of emo, a healthy dose of pop and a block of dark electronic. It’s diverse, well rounded and flows pretty well. It’s not completely cohesive, but moves through its different phases as gracefully as possible. The first phase is poppy and catchy.

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Let’s Talk About Our Feelings: Brand New, The Front Bottoms and Modern Baseball at Ithaca College

For those who don’t know, the revival of emo is upon us. In a recent article titled “Modern Baseball and How Emo Grew Up,” Pitchfork’s Dan Caffrey describes how a torrent of bands have emerged over the past few years who bear the influence of the emo acts of the ’90s and 2000s, while eschewing the lyrical immaturity, and bitter misogyny characteristic of those earlier waves. These bands sound far less like the “emo” bands that are freshest in our memories — mainstream acts like Fall Out Boy, Panic! At The Disco and My Chemical Romance whom genre purists wouldn’t consider emo in the first place — and much more like their more indie-influenced predecessors. How appropriate it is then, that two prominent bands of this resurgence — Modern Baseball and The Front Bottoms — have joined emo veterans Brand New on their final tour?

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TEST SPIN: Leonard Cohen — You Want it Darker

For the most part, I feel that the recent clown scares across multiple states are harmless but creepy. The motivation for dressing up as a clown and, in most cases, simply loitering, confuses me. What interests me most about the whole trend is not the faux-clown’s compulsion but the “real” clown’s indignant reaction. Both characters merely dress a part. But, the “real” clown feels a right to their act and a justification in accusing their counterpart of cheapening their jolly role.

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Bull In The Lo-Fi Rock: West End China Shop at 660 Stewart

When I stooped into the basement of 660 Stewart on Saturday night to catch the debut performance of Cornell’s own West End China Shop, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Going to Fanclub Collective and Ithaca Undergound shows, one sees their fair share of lo-fi rock bands. While there are many standouts, far more common are the acts which are perfectly forgettable. Would West End China Shop be yet another half-serious, irony-soaked project by a group of 20-somethings who, at the end of the day, probably had something better to do? Another whiney, soul-bearing emo band?

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Spinning Singles: Pusha T, “H.G.T.V.”

Rap’s John Grisham, El Presidenté, Blowbama — these are just a few of the titles that Virginia rapper Pusha T appoints to himself on his latest single, “H.G.T.V.” Those last two, in particular, feel like a coronation years in the making for the 39 year-old MC, who just last year became president of Kanye West’s label, G.O.O.D. Music. Braggadocio and cocaine puns have anchored Push’s brand of rags-to-riches lyricism since at least the early 2000s, when he first garnered widespread attention as one half of Clipse — the now defunct rap duo formed with his older brother. But unlike his contemporaries from that era, the rapper born Terrence Thornton has only gotten better with age, showing time and again his ability to work with this week’s in-demand producers while making music that is distinctly his own. “H.G.T.V.” continues that hot streak, condensing plenty of quotable Push-isms into a single verse over menacing, bass-heavy production. Last year’s Darkest Before Dawn featured some of the weirdest beats on a major label rap album in recent memory, with known quantities like Timbaland mining for left-field samples to operate in Push’s gleefully menacing orbit.