Thursday, December 29, 2011

2011 Year-End Lists

TIME!  I went to the wire listening to everything of note that I could get my ears on.  I listened, documented, re-listened, ranked and now summarized all things significant (at least to myself, and hopefully fellow readers) in the world of music over the past year.  These lists are merely meant to provide insight into art maybe you've missed and should consider, or to potentially reconsider.  At the very least, I hope to provide some amusement as I try and document the year in music for myself and others.  Enjoy!

Top 25 Albums of the Year

1. The Weeknd, House of Balloons

Abel Tesfaye introduced a whole new sound and, in my opinion, a whole new genre, single-handedly.  I haven’t heard anything that’s so original, catchy and encompasses such a particular mood all at the same time since the xx’s debut.

standout: "Loft Music"

2. Drake, Take Care 
This is a terrible hip-hop album and an even worse R&B album.  But if you go into it without a genre expectation as boundaries, you will be rewarded with musical aesthetics that are matched perfectly with thematic songs full of emotions from loneliness to braggadocio, all fighting ferociously against a well-grounded tether.  It’s no coincidence that both the Weeknd and Drake had two of the best albums of the year.  They created a brand (OVOX’O) based on a sound that no-one can resist: glass-candy-induced sexiness.

standouts: “HYFR”, “Make Me Proud”

3. Big K.R.I.T., Return of 4eva (mixtape)

With one fell swoop Big K.R.I.T. drops an album that hip-hop heads have been waiting for since '96 and adds some new soul, from an old soul.

standout: “The Vent”

4. Kendrick Lamar, Overly Dedicated (mixtape) 
Kendrick Lamar is the emcee I was most excited to discover in 2011.  His range of topics is broader than any artist I can think of: from the on-going gang violence of Compton to internal dialogue of choosing a life of drugs to relationships to racial divides...

standouts: “The Heart Pt. 2”, “Cut You Off”, “Ignorance Is Bliss”, “R.O.T.C.”

5. Nikkiya, Speakher (mixtape)
Nikkiya is the protégé of Will “Supahotbeats’’ (Yelawolf’s main-producer-credited with most of Trunk Muzik).  And boy did he pick the right woman to work with.  At times her voice sounds like the late Amy Winehouse, but at the same time can ride a beat with the sing-songy ease of Lauryn Hill.  With an R&B artist, Will is able to expand his production repertoire into dance and even dubstep-esque tracks.  This mixtape has a little bit of everything and nearly avoids a misstep with the consistency of the overall sound.  Unfortunately, they squeezed a promo track (“It’s In The Game”) made for videogame developer, EA Sports.  This mixtape is only one skip away from being the best R&B album I heard all year.

standout: “Favorite Things”

It seems like anyone can produce a dubstep and/or post-dubstep album that people will fawn over.  The ease of production and the lack of discerning taste has created two polarizing camps of people: love or hate.  I fall in the middle because I can tell the difference between some kid having fun throwing as many off-kilter drums and random bass wobbles as possible versus carefully crafted sonic landscapes.  And that is exactly what Aaron Jerome has done on what I’d put a flag in as the standard of the post-dubstep genre.

standout: “Never Never”

7. Lykke Li, Wounded Rhymes
My favorite Swedish import now darker, more grown up and still sexy as ever... summed up by the fantastic video for “Sadness Is A Blessing”.

standout: “I Follow Rivers”

8. Low, C'mon
One of the best opening tracks to an album with “Try To Sleep”.  Can you be broody and bad-ass while a banjo plays in the background?: “All you guys out there trying to act like Al Green… you’re all WEAK!”  Yes!  An incredibly strong album that runs out of character and whose pace slows around “Majesty/Magic”

standout: “Witches”

9. Girls, Father, Son and Holy Ghost
To follow up 2009’s near-perfect “Album” is quite a challenge.  I think they had the expectations in mind when they released the “Broken Dreams Club” EP last year to cleanse our palettes, help to shift the fans’ ears to a slight change in sound and to hopefully avoid the dreaded ‘sophomore slump’.  Master plan or not, they successfully dodged the industry curse and went on to produce an album lyrically and sonically much more mature than the myriad of hipster bands enjoying their fifteen minutes of fame.  I see Girls' career lasting many more albums and those albums making many more Best Of lists.

standouts: “Saying I Love You”, “Alex”

10. Adele, 21
5.7 million records (and counting) can’t be wrong.  (400k Xmas week!)
standouts: you've heard them all
11. Foster The People, Torches
Definitely the summer anthem… not just “Pumped Up Kicks”, but the whole album.  These guys did what Free Energy did last summer on an exponential scale.  Hook after hook with Mark Foster’s high-pitched, lo-fi vocals becoming instantly familiar with everybody’s inner youth.  It’s an album that lives up to its hype.

standout: “Helena Beat”

12. Danger Mouse and Daniele Luppi, Rome
I don’t know much about 1970’s Italian film scores, but this album transports the listener through time and space to something at once nostalgic, yet so authentic.  Norah Jones refreshes herself and captures the attention of a completely new generation by trading in her sterile lab coat for elbow gloves and a boa in a smoke-filled piano bar.  And Jack White does what Jack White does best.  The fact that these two stellar singer/songwriters aren’t the highlights of the album proves how well-orchestrated the artists are at painting a picture with classic instruments.

standout: “Two Against One”

13. Hunx & His Punx, Too Young To Be In Love
50’s punk-pop with the tongue-in-cheek flair of gay lead-singer Seth Bogart.  Absolutely faaabulous fun!

standout: “Too Young To Be In Love”

14. Black Milk, Sean Price and Guilty Simpson, Random Axe 
Gutter at its finest.

standout: “Monster Babies”

15. Booker T. Jones, The Road From Memphis
Booker T. Jones + B3 organ + Sharon Jones + Questlove + Lou Reed = easy

standout: “Representing Memphis”

16. Malcolm and Martin (DJ Revolution presents), Life Doesn't Frighten Me
standout: "Win Or Lose"

17. Prof, King Gampo
standout: "On My Way"

18. Astronautilis, Our Science
standout: "Secrets On Our Lips" 

19. Sims, Bad Time Zoo
standout: "LMG"
20. Blood Orange, Coastal Grooves
standout: " Sutphin Boulevard", "S'Cooled"

21. Tron, Tron: Legacy Reconfigured
standout: "Derezzed (The Glitch Mob remix)"

22. Com Truise, Galactic Melt
standout: "Brokendate", "VHS Sex"

23. Layer Divide, Bodice Ripper
standout: "Labrador"

24. oOoOO, oOoOO
standout: "Hearts"
25. Shabazz Palaces, Black Up
standout: "An echo from the hosts that profess infinitum"

*Diamond Rings, Special Affections
*Toro Y Moi, Underneath The Pine
*Danny Brown, XXX
***Common, The Dreamer, The Believer
***Black Keys, El Camino 

*of note
***not listened to, but likely have a shot at the Top 25:

Top Album Art of the Year

Worst Album Art of the Year
Best Music Videos of the Year

The 2011 Doe Bay Sessions - Kelli Schaefer from Sound on the Sound on Vimeo.

Lykke Li - Sadness is a Blessing (Director Tarik Saleh) from Lykke Li on Vimeo.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Friday, December 16, 2011

Sleigh Bells, "Born To Lose"

Still loud, still fuggin' fuzzed-out guitar, still industrially large drums... still AWESOME!Reign of Terror is due February 14th you love-birds.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Drake x Lil Wayne, "Hell Yeah Fucking Lollipop (B-Rock blendit)

Drake x Lil Wayne - Hell Yeah Fucking Lollipop (B-Rock blendit) by DJ B-Rock

One of my favorite tracks off of the surprisingly excellent new Drake album is HYFR.  The problem is that it's hard to DJ it out since it starts with such a weak verse.  So I used a go-to, Lil Wayne's "Lollipop", that happens to also be in the same key in replace of the first verse and kept the anthemic chorus.  Enjoy!

Team Ghost, "High Hopes"

With melodies and cotton-y vocals reminiscent of the xx combined with raw, fuzzed-out guitar licks and red-lining effects ala Sleigh Bells, Team Ghost has me hooked.

Celebrate what you can't see by TeamGhost

Monday, December 5, 2011

Sleigh Bells - Reign of Terror (teaser trailer)

Sleigh Bells' debut record was one of my favorite records of 2010. When asked about their sophomore record, they claim it to be "louder." Due 1st quarter of 2012.  Can... not.. wait!

"Infinity Guitars" video