Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Kevin's Top 20 Albums of 2011

Since I am leaving for Florida to celebrate the New Year's, I felt it was about time to put up this post. It's only been, what, six months since our last post. You never know, this might light a fire under us for 2012. Before putting together my list, I wasn't sure that 2011, musically, was so great, but going back over the year I found it to be 1) more interesting than I first remembered and 2) it was actually harder to put together my list than I thought it was going to be. This is probably subject to change as time marches on, but I think, for now, I believe I have it nailed down. Without further adieu:

20) Phonte, Charity Begins At Home
Phonte was one half of the duo that was known as Little Brother until they went on indefinite hiatus. Phonte whether alone or in a group as always brought it. He really is an underappreciated and criminally unheralded lyricist, check out this one line from the first track on his album, "Dance In The Reign", "Flow so addicting it’s like habit forming
Flow so hair-raising it’s like rabbit farming"
I had to rewind it the first time I listened to it, because it's so amazing, and that's just the first track.

19) Doomtree, No Kings

Doomtree is a new(ish) collective of MC's and singers from the Minneapolis/St. Paul area. They come here with 12 tracks of give-and-take hip hop, in that there are never fewer than two MC's on a track, and three tracks feature all five. The interesting thing is there are no stars here, and they all work to make the others looks as good as they make themselves, if that makes any sense. I won't go so far as to compare this to the original Wu Tang, but, in a way, it seems to be what they are striving for. This is definitely their bombastic statement of purpose. Frankly, they deserve to be bigger and more popular than Odd Future. Maybe it's because they are from the Midwest and more polite?

18) We Were Promised Jetpacks, In The Pit Of The Stomach

More goodness from Scotland. This was a grower for me, I found it to be a lot like their first album, These Four Walls, except this time darker and louder, which is just fine with me.

17) Le Butcherettes, Sin Sin Sin
Amazing, fiery garage rock that sounds like Bikini Kill and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs had a baby.

16) Action Bronson, Dr. Lecter
Pat O'D hepped me to this Bronx native earlier in the year. He sounds like Ghostface and sort of looks like me. But it reminds me, well, of basically where he is from, he definitely has this old school, raw, East Coast vibe (sort of like Mista eXquire from across the river in Brooklyn) and he drops a lot of old school wrestling lyrics into his raps which also goes a long way for me.

15) Wild Flag, Wild Flag
Wild Flag reminds me of Sleater-Kinney and that's a good thing since, well, a lot of us miss Sleater-Kinney. I'm not sure of that's just Carrie Brownstein's influence or what. Keep doing what you're doing because it is working.

14) Parts and Labor, Constant Future
This is actually their sixth full length album, but it was the first time I had heard them and, obviously, I like what I hear. From what I understand, they've upped the ante in that they have added an electronic element (maybe just keyboard) to their art punk sound, and well, like I said above they should keep doing what they are doing, it's harsh, but melodic, a catchy as all get out.

13) Mastodon, The Hunter
The first, maybe, truly fun Mastodon album. I really like them, and I like the fact that they are such weirdos, and this delivers all these goods in spades.

12) Frank Ocean, Nostalgia/Ultra
To me, this, so far, is the greatest member of Odd Future. He's also the one who has managed to get the most work this year. This album (actually a free mixtape-he released on his own after getting the cold shoulder from Island/Def Jam which signed him a year earlier) He's not only a great singer, but an off-kilter song writer as well. One of his pop "remakes", "American Wedding" (he uses the Eagles in the background" has this line, "“thesis on islam…virgin brides and arranged marriage. Hijabs and polygamist husbands… those poor unamerican girls.' He might just be the best lyricist.

11) The Roots, Undun
This is odd but only because this is the first of two concept albums on this list, not that the Roots are on here, because The Roots consistently put out good to great material. But even this is on another level, I mean, it's kind of crazy, a concept album following the life and death of a street hustler, which sounds small but the album is really ambitious, it pretty much broadcasts it's intentions from the mountaintops. It shouldn't work out so well, but the focus is so tight and well executed, it works so much better than it seems like it should. 

10) Lykke Li, Wounded Rhymes
This is much different than her debut album, Youth Novels, and it seems in the interim between album releases someone really broke her heart. Compared to that first album this is much darker than that. It's unfamiliar territory to her but it's new for us, and we get to meet her all over again.

9) Das Racist, Relax
Even with their copious free mixtapes they released it took me a long time for me to get into Das Racist. There was some mental block there. But then around the time Relax came out, I started reading more about them and listening more to their music, actually listening, and it's interesting, being so prolific you can see them become more assured of themselves musically even in the short year or two they have been releasing stuff, and I think Relax for now, is the culmination of that. Their beats and their lyrics have progressed in such a positive direction in that they are much more focused then they used to be. Actually they've always been really good lyricists, I think their beats have become more tight. However, you want to cut, it is pretty great. "They say I act white, but sound black
But act black, but sound white
But what's my sound bite supposed to sound like?
I think I sound aight
I sound tight
They might be the next step in the evolution of hip hop. Or they might burn out, who knows?

8) Radiohead, The King Of Limbs
While maybe not the left turn that people were expecting from Radiohead, but, I mean, what could people really expect from them anyway? I guess everyone has to answer that themselves. Me? I like this somewhat bare, minimalist album.

7) M83, Hurry Up, We're Dreaming
Maybe a little overlong, but Anthony Gonzalez took three years to just put layer upon layer on everything in sight. Mostly he goes for big, synth show stoppers, which will either appeal to you or grow tired really quickly. I'm not sure if it is even my favorite M83 album and maybe I was just excited that a new one came out, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

6) The Joy Formidable, The Big Roar
Just, a big, loud, soaring record that hits my sweet spots. Truth in advertising from the album title there.

5) Iceage, New Brigade
Showing what the young people can do, four guys from Denmark who are barely of drinking age put out a pummeling debut that's barely 25 minutes of Scandinavian hardcore and gloomy, post-punk. It's pretty sweet destruction.

4) Lady Gaga, Born This Way
Simply put: the best pop album that came out this year.

3) Wugazi, 13 Chambers
I'm not sure if this actually counts as a proper album, it being a free mash-up mixtape, but few things have brought me as much joy as 13 Chambers did this way. Combining Fugazi and the Wu Tang Clan seems like a dubious proposition, but it turns out that done right it can be two great tastes that taste great together (ugh). This could have been really half assed too, but these guys did a tremendous job, not only crafting unique beats out of Fugazi songs, but finding outtakes and alternate lyrics from Wu Tang songs, and coming up with actual, new songs. No matter what Joe Lally says, this was a really fun accomplishment, and I thought they did a great job.

2) TV On The Radio, Nine Types Of Light
TV On The Radio, to me, is much like The Roots above, where they are on this really unbelievable streak of releasing good to great albums. Nine Types Of Light seems like an ideal followup and even continuation of that they started on Dear Science, in which they make music that makes you want to both dance and fight the power.

1) Fucked Up, David Comes To Life
And finally, here is our second concept album of the bunch. This album is just as ambitious as The Roots's concept album. Fucked Up’s epic tells a story of love,loss,and guilt put across by lead singer's Damian Abraham’s relentless shout and by guitars that range from punk-y grind to classic rock. Also, the best show I saw this year.

Runners Up:
Monotonix-Not Yet
Absolutely-Learns To Love Mistakes
Mr. Jason-Mr. Jason Presents: Frankensteez
OFF-First Four EP’s
Mr. Muthafuckin eXquire-Lost In Translation
Owen Hart-Earth Control
Veronica Falls-Veronica Falls
 Maritime-Human Hearts
Beastie Boys-Hot Sauce Committee Part Two
Kanye West & Jay-Z-Watch The Throne


1 comment:

  1. Nice to see a blog post here. Thanks for the list -- not a lot here that I've listened to ...