Year-in-Review: Singles with Matt Monta and Dustin Meadows

Andy Downing, Columbus Alive

Earlier this year, musician Matt Monta and comedian Dustin Meadows shared the stage at Backstage Bistro, belting their way through a carefree cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Lookin' Out My Back Door" as a means of distracting the audience from a country gone to hell, as Meadows eloquently explained in introduction. With 2016 winding down, and a populace still in need of escapism, we sat down with the pair to break down some of the year's best tracks.

Beyoncé: "Formation"

Dustin: This is a good one. This is the one with the line about taking their asses to Red Lobster. Such a simple beat, too. It's really minimalist. I've never been super-rabid about Beyoncé, but every time she drops a single like this, I get it. I get why people put her up.

Matt: It's something that's so different. I don't want to say it's avant-garde, but it's not a traditional structure or composition. It's very unique. Beyoncé's one of the best performers of our generation. She dances her ass off and sings her ass off. People will dog on her, like, "She didn't write these songs," and they'll put these memes up like, "This is what real music is!" And it's like, guys, you're missing the point.

Dustin: Also, Eric Clapton wrote all his own songs, and you know what, fuck Eric Clapton.

Matt: It's tough as shit, too. One time I wondered what it'd be like to hang out with Nicki Minaj or Beyoncé. It'd probably be terrifying.

Dustin: How do you mean?

Matt: They're so intimidating.

Dustin: They're empowered, bro. It's 2016, Matt.

Matt: It would be intimidating to be around them. What would you say? What could you possibly say to Beyoncé that wouldn't make you feel like a total idiot the minute after?

Andy: Hello.

Dustin: That's a good start.

Anohni: "Drone Bomb Me"

Andy: This used to be Antony from Antony and the Johnsons, but she changed her name to Anohni.

Dustin: I feel like if you dropped the vocals out this would sound like something from the "Blade Runner" soundtrack.

Andy: It's a dance-pop record, but it touches on all these political themes, like the environment and drone attacks.

Dustin: Like if Neil Young's [The Monsanto Years] had electronic drums. This sounds like something that a lot of girls … who had one-night stands with me would have been into, which is a very specific subset of girls.

Matt: Because it's a hypothetical subset.

Dustin: No, no, no. There are some. Dustin Meadows has been in some ports in some storms. And they were usually into weird, ambient shit.

Kanye West: "Ultralight Beam"

Dustin: I remember seeing him do this on "SNL," I think it was earlier this year, and I remember not being that into this song. This album has been really hard for me to get into.

Matt: It almost sounds like he's aping Drake on this, just with that half-mumbled talk. What I love about Kanye … he draws in stuff like this Southern gospel and lot of musical elements and does it in a way that's clever and catchy.

Dustin: This is good, but I feel like nobody utilizes a choir in songs better than Outkast. C'mon, man,Stankoniadid it better.

Chance the Rapper: "Blessings"

Matt: I like his Kit Kat commercials.

Dustin: He's very crisp on his enunciation. I feel like it's so hard to do a slower vocal delivery and still have it sound good. Usually when someone does hip-hop lyrics slow it's like, "Oh, they just can't rap quickly." But this dude, there's a confidence behind it.

Matt: What's exciting to me, as someone who prizes lyrics over music, is that artists who are becoming big now have really good lyrics. They're really good writers. Like Kendrick Lamar. And this is excellent. That's really exciting because I think there's been a real drought lyrically. … It's been tough to look into mainstream stuff and be like, "Yeah, there's something mysterious and cool and interesting about this."

Rihanna: "Work"

Dustin: [Laughs] I can't hear this song anymore without immediately picturing the video of that little pot-bellied pig dancing to it. That's where my brain always goes. If someone plays that video for me it's like, "What bad mood?"

Matt: I always had trouble getting into Rihanna … because, to me, it's like she just says one word for like an entire song. So it's taken me a while, but I appreciate what she does.

Dustin: Who's on the track with her? Is that Drake?

Matt: If it's a slightly Auto-Tuned baritone it's always Drake.

Angel Olsen: "Shut Up Kiss Me"

Dustin: I recognize the name from Spotify playlists. I think I have to come to terms with the fact that I'm that guy now. Like, everything can't be Bad Religion or whatever else I listen to. I'll see the custom Spotify playlist they throw up on there and it's like, "What is Charli XCX? I don't know these things."

Matt: I heard this on CD102.5 last week, and what's cool about it … it's catchy, but it's not perfect, and it hits pretty hard. It feels like you'd be in a small club like, "Holy shit. This is rocking my face off." There's a lot of intensity in it. It reminds me of first getting into songs as a little kid, like, "Where the fuck did this come from? What is this?"

Car Seat Headrest: "Fill in the Blank"

Matt: This is great.

Dustin: I'm always impressed when bands can do the start-stop thing. This is fucking catchy. Even that guitar line, I was like, "I'm into this."

Matt: There are no weak links. You can get bands that write musically like this, but then the lyrics are garbage. Or you can have really good lyrics and maybe the arrangement is not so hot. With him, it's all strong. He's like the male Courtney Barnett.

Rae Sremmurd: "Black Beatles"

Matt: Did he say "fresh shrimp"?

Andy: No. Rae Sremmurd. It's the word drummers backwards.

Dustin: I've seen that written out and was like, "I don't know what this means."

Matt: There are a couple things I don't like about this. One is the vocal delivery. It's just this lazy, sing-song flat style, like Fetty Wap or Big Sean.

Dustin: It's a bummer because I like this beat, but I second Matt's take on the vocal delivery. It sounds like there's no weight behind it. I feel like I could take this vocal delivery in a fist fight.

Matt: It becomes two-dimensional. The difference between this and Chance the Rapper … is that there was a lot of metaphor and deep imagery [in Chance], where this one is, "We go to the club." Sure. That can be fun, I guess.

Andy: Isn't that like comparing Kiss to Leonard Cohen? They each have their place.

Dustin: I think that's a fair assessment.

A Tribe Called Quest: "We the People…."

Dustin: Aww, yeah. This one I know.

Matt: They're nasty, man.

Dustin: This album is fucking great. It was insane seeing them and [Dave] Chappelle on "SNL," both of them on television making a live comeback. The first "SNL" after Trump is elected, and Chappelle right off the riff has something to say, and then these guys do their performance - in the year that one of them passed away, no less (member Phife Dawg died in March due to complications resulting from diabetes). After that, they still put this out. This is one of the only albums from this year I'm familiar with, and it's easily on the shortlist for one of the best albums of the year.