|Pretension Paradise! Or A Yeti 2010. |
Was a great year for muzaks -- I procrastinated far too much -- Especially on this -- Don't think I forgot anything -- ilu guys and have a great 2011 -- jyeah.
|100|| ||Gil Scott-Heron|
I'm New Here
The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.
The Bad Wife
I've come around to this a bit. It's not Arular or Kala for that matter?2/3 of it is stronger than most of what I have heard this year. Teqkilla especially oh my.
|97||The Gaslight Anthem|
Heard once, thought it was ok.
Heard again, much better.
|95||David Byrne and Fatboy Slim|
Here Lies Love
Half this album is great and ?Solano Avenue? is easily one of my favorite songs of the year. Too bad the concept is foolish and at two discs with only an albums worth of quality material it runs dry. But the good is damn good.
|94||The White Stripes|
Under Great White Northern Lights
An intimately provocative look at some of the last true rock stars we have today. I may not be the biggest proponent when it comes to their recordings but never would I question the skill and devotion of Jack & Meg White. Outside of White Blood Cells and Elephant being some of the finest records I've come in contact with the Band itself live and breathe rock 'n roll. And truthfully what is more rock than packing up for a sprawling tour through an enormous country you were once refused entry to? The visuals may produce the greatest lasting effect (Meg & Jack performing for a group of Inuit elders in the far reaches of the Nunavut Terr. Is nearly as tear-jerking as it is heart-warming) but the music is nothing to be trifled with. Where this band has slacked in the studio is quite honestly never apparent when performing live. And on record they've never sound as energized and vital as they do bringing their tunes to frigid northern villages and bum-fuck towns on Under The Great White Northern Lights. Also you don't get much more baller than driving a classic Rolls between venues.
|93||The Black Keys|
bass bass bass bass bass
While this record has nothing on The Old Prince it was still a great return after three years of wait.
90s vets come back in top form.
I Speak Because I Can
I'm in love.
|83||Chicago Underground Duo|
Cover art ftw.
|81||Ghastly City Sleep|
I place this here in hopes Alalalalachol is pleased.
|79||Waka Flocka Flame|
While I don't necessarily disagree with the negative press or net-hate this kid garners I also kind of crack a smile every time I read a glowing review of Flockavelli. Being that on surface level (or, like, if you're a woman) Flocka can seem like nothing more than some other dumbass getting on the radio screaming some played-out gangsta shit we've all heard screamed at us by a myriad of other dumbasses on the radio. Yet if nothing else the dude is surprisingly faithful to his aesthetic. Like when he's bellows: ?Waka Flocka Flame one hood-ass nigga? 80 times on the excellent ?Hard In The Paint?-- the dude ain?t fucking kidding. Whether it's because of his history (honestly don't know how ?hood? Waka is) or just overall dedication to the craft (yes I do mean craft) he takes that single note he plays (see previous Waka-statement if you're curious as to what this note is) and squeezes every single bit of juice out of it. Flockavelli is one angry, violent, misogynistic, adeptly rapped and expertly produced motherfucking banger of a record. And while Waka may need to vary things up a bit should he hope to continue his career this debut of his is packed with enough genuine personality to keep you tied over for now.
|78||The State Lottery|
When The Night Comes
It's kind of like Titus-Lite but I love those fucking horns.
Str8 Killa No Filla
Freddie Gibbs is probably the only rapper alive I'm legitimately afraid of.
+ the Valusia EP: I'm more in love.
About as gay as Rudy Klapper
|74||Veil Veil Vanish|
Change in the Neon Light
Mike Allen spends a year recing Yeti a record.
Yeti buys then remembers why he trusts Mike Allen.
|73||Belle and Sebastian|
Write About Love
Belle & Seb hit the smoky lounge for a distinctly different yet innately similar ride through their usual brand of heart-on-sleeve chamber pop. While their last record may be the second best thing they've ever put to press Write About Love is certainly anything but inadequate?albeit slightly disappointing.
King Of The Beach
Eat shit this album is summertime compacted into twelve fuzzy tracks with the accompanying miller high life 30rack.
|71||The Radio Dept.|
Clinging To A Scheme
Ok once it snowed this compact little slice of heady pop became much better than it was during the previous months. Plus the cover rules. Thanks Sweden.
|70||Male Bonding |
London fuzz-rockers break through post-blizzard as well. Quality lo-fi from a band worth keeping your eye on.
Beneath This Burning Shoreline
Four More Years
Pop producer throws together a collection of dance-floor oriented dream pop that sounds a bit like Washed Out dipped in LSD.
You Never Did Anything Wrong To Me
+ Subsequent EP Celebrate What You Can't See ex-M83 man Nicolas Fromageau and buddy Christophe Guerin make an album's worth of fuzzy pop in the vein of Fromageau's opus Dead Cities, Red Seas and Lost Ghosts. Cannot wait for the obviously impending full-length.
Blonde Redhead continue to march further into the dream-pop maelstrom but take a decidedly somber route and while their destination is somewhat lackluster the scenery en route is gorgeous.
|65||Pantha Du Prince|
I don't know what to write about this. I just get all warm and fuzzy and shit when I hear it.
Not a return to form per say. Really it's kind of their worst album; save like Danny The Dog OST but we don't count that. Anyways Heligoland was less a return to their past and more a resurgence of urgency and legitimacy. For a while there I kind of look like the band was plagued to inner turmoil, arrests and poor output. And while their catalog had more than enough to keep you tied over for a lifetime?it always felt like Massive Attack just didn't go out right. They deserved better. Not to piddle out into relative obscurity; a fire doused to smoke. While it may not be the best album recorded under the Massive moniker but it sure as hell was the spark needed to catch the flame once more.
|63||Oh No Ono|
|62||Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse|
Dark Night of the Soul
R.I.P. Mark :' (
|61||Toro Y Moi|
Causers Of This
Chill-wave continued it's absurd winning streak in 2010 with this North Carolina native's lazily serene debut of woozy electronic pop. Packed with enough deep beats and pillow-soft melodies it's almost hard to recognize just how intricately woven his layers of sound are. At least at first but eventually Causers Of This expands from a dainty bed-room pop album to an undaunted saga of dreamy synths and momentous hooks.
Queen of electro-pop returns with a 2-part EP collection that culminated into this excellent slice of futuristic dance tracks that are as blisteringly catchy as they are full bodied. Twitchy pop with killer bass.
Broken Dreams Club
Girls return in 2010 with a late year reminder of just how good these two guys are at crafting all at once intensely personal yet universally catchy pop tunes with no real applicable genre tags save ?really good.? Plus it's 30+ minutes long.
|58||The Besnard Lakes|
The Besnard Lakes Are The Roaring Night
No nearly as good as Are The Dark Horse but this record is perfect once it's pitch black outside.
In Evening Air
Still the voice gets me every time.
|56||Dum Dum Girls|
I Will Be
Taking seemingly each and everything done wrong by the new crop of skuzzed out surfer kids California's Dum Dum Girls effortlessly play the delicate balance between girl group glamor and classic punk defiance.
Dreamland EP: Marimba and Shit-Drums
SPENCER KRUG MAKES FREE MUZAK.
Tomorrow, In A Year
Album is almost the definition of hard-earned pay off. I cannot listen to it much, but when I do the gravity of the whole thing pretty much does me in, leaving an ear to ear grin on my face.
Album is probably better than I'm giving it credit for here.
Ardour may require a bit more than a causal sit down for a full spin (album is long as fuck) thankfully Mtendere Mandowa crafts enough sumptuous bass lines and psychedelic flourishes to keep you more than attentive.
Portland based bedroom pop outfit returns with a sophomore release that goes electric. The once acoustic A Weather adapt more than adeptly to their desired aesthetic as their intimately woven tunes, self described as: ?things that stuffed animals might tell you if they?d had a few too many? translate near effortlessly from acoustic strums to reverb friendly pop.
Wolf Parade stop fucking around.
|48||The Morning Benders|
Big Echo is such a complete record. I'd been waiting years for these guys to finally live of to their potential and the sun-drenched beachy pop of Big Echo is anything but a disappointment.
Amazingly eccentric Brit Pop from a group of Welch kids who've seemed to have spent maybe a bit too much time smoking pot and watching Python's Flying Circus. Wait...who am I kidding? That would never get old.
I couldn't stop playing this song.
One of Labrador record's finest bands continues to showcase themselves as the premier torch-bearers for twee pop. Adopting a big band sound reminiscent of the 1920's influences seen on last year's My Maudlin Career by fellow poppers Camera Obscura. European is an enthralling trek through classic chamber pop yet it plays like a spirited homage as opposed to a blatant rip off. Once the phenomenal opener ?Stranded? picks up and it's coy piano melody erupts into a barage of drums and then a full band; European effectively takes off. The destination? Where do you think.
S-M 2: Abyss in B Minor
Norwegian dream pop heavyweights return after far too long with an excellent follow up of adrenaline injected shoegaze with more than enough pop savvy to keep you coming back for more. ?Reprobate!? is also easily one of the year's finest.
Crystal Castles II
Another in the long line of 2010 records that were significantly better than their predecessor. Canadian acid-soaked electronic maniacs return with an absurdly titled mind fuck of a record. Assaulting the listener with glitchy chirps and drones producer Ethan Kath molds his experimental 16-bit epics around the banshee howl of vocalist Alice Glass. Now while Kath is more certainly integral, it is Glass who's monstrous presence on record is the crux. Her elegant croon (or ear splitting bellow, ya know, whatever) is a pitch perfect tool that bounces effortlessly thought the mounds of bass presented to her by Kath's sinister beats.
|42||Broken Social Scene|
Forgiveness Rock Record
It's almost annoying to sit back and recount the years I spent waiting for this record. Their sophomore release an album I hold in very high regard is a benchmark of modern pop music that they're doomed to be held in the shadow of. Thankfully Broken Social Scene are usually more than capable of delivering. Following a string of successful ?solo? records the Scene reunites (mostly) and carve out another unique space for themselves. Once more building upon their massively anthemic indie rock yet unlike Forgiveness Rock Record's self-titled precursor it's not presented on a grandiose scale. While BSS have certainly not gone dainty, Forgiveness Rock Record is a more subtle Social Scene. They play with synths more, less bombastic jamming more controlled pop music. Much like their compatriots The Arcade Fire, BSS return with a maturation and a record that reflects their growth as musicians and people.
|41||More Than Life|
Love Let Me Go
Finest hardcore punkage of this year without question. Probably the best I've heard since Defeater in all honesty. But I'm no expert.
Pilot Talk II
I've debated combining this and the first Pilot Talk into a single listing but upon further assessment feel that this is not only a completely different record from it's blue-ribbon namesake but a worthy follow-up deserving of its own spot.. Without question the man is talented, but to produce 2 perfectly paced and surprisingly consistent full lengths in the same year is bordering on the ridiculous. Thankfully Spitta is happy to oblige yours and his own wild streak promptly pushing out LP #2 in one hell of a year for Hip Hop. Pilot Talk II is to Pilot Talk what an understated after-party is to a fucking rager. Ski Beats provides the jazzy-yet-soulful production work, posturing himself for claims of ?Illest producer working today? which are wholeheartedly deserved. Had this been 2009 Curren$y probably would have had 2 albums in my top 25. Michael Knight indeed.
|39||Cee Lo Green|
The Lady Killer
smoothest fat man on the planet. With a balladeers pen and a velvety croon Mr. Cee-Lo Green solidifies that he is in fact the soul machine.
|38||Ted Leo And The Pharmacists|
The Brutalist Bricks
Ted Leo and his Pharmacist follow up a string of lackluster releases with one of the years finest no frills rock records.
|37||A Sunny Day In Glasgow|
While no where near as accomplished as their phenomenal sophomore release Ashes Grammar, their new LP reads more a hefty exhale. Exhausting the abstract dream pop adopted for their last record yet not in a laboring sense. Autumn, Again is effectively a continuation of LP 2's fractured, bass-driven hazy pop. Yet it feels more compact, less complacent and less hectic. More of a band's fully realized follow up. Which if nothing else is comforting as Ashes was conceived in such turmoil (band falls apart omg). Granted it could have been just that which had led to the album's excitable nature. One that Autumn, Again doesn't lack but instead employs through filter of sorts. Which leads to a more structured, less complicated mess of haze but damn do those hooks still pop.
Album Of The Year
While many miss the gritty, mechanical production of Detroit's Black Milk, I for one welcomed his foray into soulful, horn laden beats with open arms. Furthermore feel like he was album to overcome every underwhelming aspect of Tronic without losing sight of his initial cause.
Summer Heart LP
Best Chillwave this side of Wild Nothing. San Francisco native Mikey Sanders draws influence from surf-pop, R&B, IDM, Trance and bedroom dream-pop culminating into basically what is a singles compilation. A compilation that also happens to be an extremely chilled out and infectious debut that's one of 2010's best.
This Is Happening
While I can understand the hate LCD main man James Murphy had thrown his way after their heralded-yet-lackluster debut and furthermore the ushering of 'dance-punk' into our musical lexicon one thing I've never been able to grasp: The vehement fervor with which his detractors hurl their ?bratty? and ?pretentious? jibes. Those two descriptors seemingly being the go-to by any and all looking to crucify him as the unequivocal king-o-hipsters (as though it were a legitimate insult.) Yet in reality not only is the man exceedingly intelligent but he usually comes off as quite humble-- if not a little confused. His music essentially mixing the new-wave ambitions and eccentricities of Talking Heads with the punky nature of Pavement and funky pop sensibilities has always come off as more than a sum of a its parts. Doesn't hurt that Murphy is a phenomenal producer and his work behind the boards more often than not can make a record. But its his intimate nature and insightful observations that are converted to fist-pumping anthems sopping with hooks that has propelled Murphy as the figure-head of his specific brand of funk. The elongated jamming of ?Dance Yrself Clean? ?Drunk Girls? and ?You Wanted a Hit? sit brilliantly juxtaposed against the confessional likes of ?I Can Change,? ?Home? and album stand out ?All I Want.? Yet it is in these ballads that Murphy always finds his greatest strengths. His delicate croon, infectious bass lines and ability to differentiate his music 76` from his press (good or bad) affords Mr. Murphy and co. yet another stellar release from what's looking to be one of the strongest 3-part discographies in recent memory.
|33|| ||Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti|
This album is rly rly good y'all.
The ArchAndroid (Suites II and III of IV)
I would marry this woman. No questions. No second thoughts.
Helps that she makes absolutely killer music.
Maybe I've spent too much time between the release of their exceptional debut Future Perfect and this follow-up listening to said first record. Maybe I just have a unquenchable love for all things Dream Pop (most likely). But from the moment I was given LA based ?super group's? much anticipated sophomore release I couldn't put it down. After about a month or so of intense listening and countless spins the luster started to fade a bit. Yet after a few weeks of abstaining from the ease of just playing Transit Transit over and over I couldn't help but fall right back into the rigid song writing, obtuse guitar buzz, angelic melodies and subdued pacing. And while all of those previously mentioned adjectives could be seen as negative aspects to nearly any other record?Autolux have never trekked along that path. Future Perfect's cold robotic heart and penchant for walls of distortion were at the time unheard and quite jarring. Transit Transit looks more towards chamber pop ala K Records forcefully attaching the band's nihilistic music to a warm vessel with which to deliver their copious hooks. And from where I'm sitting I couldn't have asked for anything more.
Following up one of last years most promising Eps with one of 2010's most unique albums the duo of Derek E. Miller (formerly of Poison The Well) and Alexis Krauss (HHHOOTTTT) rightfully earn their explosion onto the music scene (and TV commercials) with Treats. The bombastic dance-punk meets riot grrl fervor of this debut is all at once appealing, invigorating, infuriating and infectious. Krauss' beautiful-croon-to-gut-wrenching-yelps is nearly as volatile as Miller's punk meets trash-compacter guitar work. The two, who seem like their personalities (musical at least) have no business being grouped are essentially a match made in heaven. The grungy dance-rock of ?Infinity Guitars? or ?Crown On The Ground? to the groove-centric chill that is ?Ril Ril? to the straight unreserved irony of ?Kids? Treats is a winner. But what grants Sleigh Bells such staying power, besides the entire album being absurdly listenable, is their ability to attach themselves so completely to their aesthetic. Krauss, a former teacher finds nearly as much enjoyment in her vocal performances as she does delivering quick, insightful quips on the facade of fame and Laissez-faire aptitude of Generation P4K. And while these lyrical gems maybe buried under mounds of distortion, banging bass and killer guitar licks (not to mention satire) are just like everything else about Treats?they're worth the time spent digging.
Split The Atom
Deviant: Hey guys got a sweet DnB album for everyone.
Sputnik: Oh is that so?
Deviant: Yeah may be the best DnB record I've heard. The mix palpable bass lines with wide-screen ambitions to create a singular atmosphere unseen on nary another electronic record in years.
-Yeti Falls In Love-
So here it is. That album where the loopy avant-pop of Atlas Sound finally catches up to the reverberated fervor of Bradford's other band Deerhunter. And rather than being either a foolish marriage between the two or a heavy handed misstep the Atlanta based fuzz-kings find a delicate medium between. Offering heady psychedelia with their dreamy buzz-rock Halcyon Digest sees the band mature from the frantic punk rock of their earlier records to a more subdued, pop outfit. This is no Cryptograms II. Yet nor is it an equivalent to what was (so far) their blatantly apparent masterpiece Microcastle. Halcyon Digest is more of an accessible progression. A moment in time completely intact and fleshed out?stripping the band of their previous inhibitions towards the dainty and fastidious in favor of simply making great pop music. The only issue is: at the end of Halcyon Digest, everything is almost too apparent. Unlike previously where each subsequent Deerhunter related release had some air of spontaneity attached to them. Halcyon Digest cannot help but feel all too calculated. Like no matter how good (or at times boring) the record can be--we saw it coming, Whether it be Cox's adoration for all things ambient with his side projects or the band's equally as intense appreciation of Brit Pop. Something about Halcyon Digest just seems to fit. Yet what was always so appealing about Deerhunter in the first place was their ability to forge their own location in rock music. Forcefully fitting their circle into a square peg. And while Halcyon is at its best emphatically arresting. It is at times almost too deliberate.
In an attempt to blend disco, new wave, minimalist house and funk Dan Snaith returns with yet another distinctly different record that equals out to more than the sum of its parts. Once again mixing the use of live and fabricated instruments but leaving nearly every other aspect of his previous records behind Snaith sets out to create ?dance music as heard from under water? and succeeds to a great extent. Once more adapting seemingly every noise-maker within arm's reach Swim is a swirling apex of sound that?s one part club friendly bump,one part IDM, another trance and all bass-heavy, hazy dance music. Yet Swim's payoffs are equally as rewarding whether heard while shaking your ass or lying down for a quick snooze. It's this one-on-one nature that's always been a bit of a trump card for the Ontario man. His music is just as intimate whether being blasted from 10 foot tall speakers or in between your headphones.
Couldn't stand this band in high school. Now I almost couldn't go a week without their specific brand of eccentric sludge punk. One of 2010's most surprisingly fun and complete records and a great sign that even after a would-be career ending break up (Fang Island anyone?) there's still plenty to be found up Daughter's sleeve. Keeping Rhode Island noise rock alive?even if Lightning Bolt and Arab On Radar (kind of) are still around.
Stuck On Nothing
Seventies inspired indie rock with enough stadium aspirations its almost nauseating (except apparently they don't?) With killer production work from LCD mastermind James Murphy PA rockers Free Energy offer up an intelligent slice of nostalgia nearly as poignant as it is catchy.
Out of nowhere this London based trio go about recording a heavy-hitting debut packed with trippy beats, dub step womp, brooding synths and a exquisite female lead. Equal parts Portishead and Autechture Condors is yet another notch in ?UK dubstep's? long running victory lap. (yes this technically dropped in 2009 but US release 2010 uh-huh.)
2009 saw ?chillwave? begin its assent to blog-genre-du-jour and yet with 2010 it may have seen its legitimacy affirmed. And while many would be quick to deem LA fuzzy-expert Ariel Pink as the King-o-Chill I propose a different point of view. While Pink's career is almost too vast to really consider him part of the chill-wave ?movement.? While up-and-comers like Memory Tapes, Washed Out, Blackbird Blackbird and Toro Y Moi all have ample quality Eps and full-lengths under their belts. But it's in Virginia native Jack Tatum that chill-wave has unequivocally found its voice. Tatum's appreciation for a pre-internet world where every place you'd need to go could be reached easily by bike. Where Sarah and K Records made all the music you'd ever need. When John Hughes' movies could change your outlook on life. This encapsulation of the youthful essence is what grants Gemini its strength. It's not so much that the album is harkening back to a white-picket, idealized 80s America as much as it's an homage to the times in our lives where each frivolous little thing was all the mattered. Through half-whispered croons Tatum expulses day-in-the-life anecdotes. Reminiscing about youth, tribulations of growing up and away from home and the realization that the world can never be as gilded as it was during childhood. But his airy dream pop is so damn effective at transporting you back. And really, beyond anything else, this is the aspect that makes Gemini such a rewarding, worry-free listen from front-to-back each and every time.
Atmospheric indie rock with enough pop savy, grit and honest-to-goodness skill to merit the two years of wait and endless mounds of hype that proceeded it. The LA quartet play a serenely frightening line between classic chamber pop, brooding post-rock build ups and girl-group harmonies adeptly. And while the album may lack a bit of the same wow-factor the ladies' Esquisite Corpse EP had in droves The Fool takes their reasonably unique sound and builds upon it. Nary a track is shorter than 4 minutes and these women would much prefer to build their songs in a logical progression as opposed to just coaxing you down with infectious hooks delivered via angelic voices (don't worry they still do.) But Warpaint understand the payoff from elongated builds and each song on The Fool has its moments that induce insatiable salivation while carefully digging those hooks deeper and deeper into your psyche. Afford The Fool its time to sink in and a line like ?Now I've got you in the undertow? sounds less like a coy come-on and more of a statement of purpose. One The Fool delivers on en mass.
Group of Florida townies take their distorted ambitions and reverb dreams straight to the stadium stage?well kind of. In what looks to be an attempt at taking the intimate bed-room pop leanings of indie-rawk figure heads like MBV, Pavement and Dino Jr directly to the big stage. Yet what Surfer Blood are able to do much more effectively than some of their peers with similar desires (i.e. Kings Of Leon ? Interpol ? Death Cab ? et el.) is keep the roots intact. Astro Coast is so ample for airplay because of the music, not the artistic misgivings. Rather than attempting to coax listeners into a false sense of familiarity by sounding resoundingly like U2 (or any number of other guys who ?made it.?) Surfer Blood carve their own anthemic niche. It's not so much that they are doing something new (they aren't really) but more so how honed the whole package is. ?Floating Vibes,? ?Harmonix,? ?Take It Easy? and ?Twin Peaks? sound like they'd be just as much at home during a subdued acoustic set as a sold out stadium. The inherently grandiose ambitions of distorted indie rock is played to its fullest strength while their penchant for island pop, surf-rock melodies and slide guitars not only grant them an independence of sorts?but more importantly trumps nearly every other person in the myriad of artist who've recently become infatuated with 60s beach pop.
How I Got Over
Well shit. Here The Roots go again. ?Hey guys! We're the most consistent hip-hop group of the past 20 years!? ?Yo everyone. We're continuously re-inventing ourselves for the better!? We've heard it all before. Thing is though, unlike a lot of other artists laying claim to the name The Root's cries of legitimacy are not half-ass or unwarranted. Years of touring and a discography to be reckoned with (save the 1 HUGE misstep) not to mention a sweet gig on late night TV have cemented their ability to all but the most foolishly jaded. It's just, well: Black Thought. ?uestlove. We kind of already fucking know. What I mean to say is: It's hard to be underrated when everyone already agrees you are the best. But what keeps The Roots vital, special, is their constant ability to adapt. The band has never strayed from it's initial upbringing of chill-out jazz influenced, full-band hip hop if only because The Roots create and define their own brand of funk. The Roots do The Roots and nary a single person does it better. An album that by any other artist would be a late career victory lap. But for The Roots? It's just another record. Aint no thing.
Probably have made my affinity for house well-known enough by this point so I'll save that for another day. An album that populated nearly every day of summer and plenty of raucous nights is also surprisingly consistent come the fall and winter. Delorean's Balearic beats and island pop influences mixed in with piping hot bass is a near perfect soundtrack for a blustery leaf riddled day of vibrant oranges and yellows. ?Stay Close? and it's driving beat fitting seamlessly with the heartbeat of a city on a damp walk home. ?Infinite Desert? able to highlight a blanket of snow. Freezing cold? By the time the beat kicks in on ?Real Love? you're liable to have all the warmth you'll need. While Subiza works particularly well while lounging on the coast; I'm pretty confident in saying these Barcelona natives may just play strongest once winter has come.
At times it almost seems frivolous to try and compare Portland based Menomena's albums to one another. Between 'I Am The Fun Blame Monster,' 'Friend and Foe' and now 'Mines' there is enough infectious groove-centric avant-rock sopping with hooks to warrant ?How good can they get?? discussions. Really between the three excellent discs it's almost a question of aesthetic, as the three albums, while different, offer up similar levels of quality. 'Mines' fist and foremost etches its place out solidly as somewhat of a subdued affair in the world of Menomena. While the album is most certainly the most solid concerning song structure, it's also probably their safest album yet. But in truth, Menomena don't really play all that safe. The album is still crawling with creepy melodies, foreboding bass lines, epic build ups and hooks upon hooks. ?Killemall? may also be their best song yet.
Cameron Miesrow transforms her interesting-albeit-goofy Garage Band singles into a sprawling, melodic, intricately woven showcase for her beautiful voice. And in the process crafts one of the finest debuts of the year. Her devilish orchestral leanings grant Ring a grandiose air, even as most of the instrumentation is obviously electronic. The entirety of Ring emits a theatrical ambiance. As though a stage piece were crafted to follow in Rings emphatic pacing. Cameron's brooding voice and sinister instrumentals creep along during the record's run time. From moments of sheer ecstasy to deeply felt heart-break, Ring is a roller-coaster through the mind of a very talented woman. One worth keeping your eye on. It's not every day an intensely beautiful nightmare comes to full fruition. Thankfully this time we've been given Ring which resoundingly fits the bill.
So before we get to this album I have a bit of a confession to make. Nothing of real purpose but I feel as though it plays greatly into any distaste I'd have for this album: I have never lived in the suburbs. While I agree it's no make-or-break situation or anything it lends to my overall distaste for the compact, complacent, sepia toned suburbia. One Win Butler and co. seem damn obliged to wax poetic on in length (13 tracks is better than 16 guys.) My life has gone by way of city street to dirt road and subsequently back to the city once more (though I suppose all of Rhode Island is considered a suburb of Boston...) Anyways when The Suburbs isn't wowing me with its beautiful allegories to growing up, loss of innocence and maturation into adulthood?I'm fucking snoozing. Or skipping ?Month Of May,? I suppose. Point is: While the album is unequivocally gorgeous, instantly infectious (god damn those first six.) and superbly pertinent?it's also kind of hard to sit through. Now in a live setting this shit booms and bombasts with the Fire's best, but the record seemingly crumbles after ?Month...? Which is somewhat disappointing considering how well it fares when cut up into pieces (seriously 5-5-6 way to slice it.) Worst part is the final three songs may be the best part of the whole thing. This 16 is the place holder for how I believe I'll feel in 2 years looking back. Fuck you Win Butler, I love you guys.
Now while I don't discount the possibility of the stereotypical Guido being an avid fan of London electronic producer Guy Middleton and his soulful brand of dub step?but I wouldn't say they're a-typical. In any event, the man has thrown together a ramshackle masterpiece of spacey soul, big band jazz, airy vocals and some serious womp-womp. Middleton transcends any and all ?video game music? tags he's unjustly accrued with a debut that resonates heat. Anidea may be electronic in nature but at its heart is a living, breathing monster of bass. Outside of the records penchant for earth-shaking beats Guy (or the Italian equivalent ?Guido.? Go figure) but his production tweaks with his vocal guest, woozy synth lines and commendable balance of brass and strings with his minimalist trance grant him an air of freshness?that and the album is compulsively repeatable.
Dexterous New Orleans rapper drops his proper ?debut? to less of a bang than it was warranted. Not only did he follow up this record with a sequel of similar quality in the same year but Pilot Talk (and pt. II) are without question some of the finest hip hop records released in the past few years. Shante Franklin's syrupy flow matched with the laid back, jazzy production work of Ski Beatz is a particularly rewarding record indeed. Not to downplay the quality of the guest stars, many of which kill it, mind you?but Spitta steals the spotlight. After years of label disputes, departure from his home town's two most widely known label crews (No Limit & Young Money) and excellent mixtape after excellent mixtape he's finally given his due.
Expecting mediocre output from Damon Albarn and his Gorillaz project has been a futile objective since their debut. Their cartoon band of epic proportions has since reach their apex (Demon Days) but that's not to say presumable last album (as each one before was) and the island utopia fantasies of Plastic Beach aren't up to par. If anything this is the most ambitious Albarn and artist Jamie Hewitt have ever been. Mixing equal bits new wave, island pop, hip hop and brit pop Albarn and co. deliver on all the promises of their previous records by finally ditching the cartoons. Or at least any attempt to make Plastic Beach sound like some focused output of four talented artists. The album sounds like the brain child of a musical dynamo left with almost too many instrumental toys to play with and enough friends to fill two albums with guest spots. Yet the record doesn't suffer a bit for it. Every bit of Plastic Beach is crafted under the carefully astute gaze of Damon Albarn and this maestro does not lead his flock astray. Maybe it's this singular focus that adds so much heart, almost a completeness to Plastic Beach. As though it could be nothing but a swan song, the final record. Thankfully for all of us, the Gorillaz decided to go out with a huge bang. (or in retrospect really didn't)
Everything In Between
LA fuzz punkers follow up a relative shit-heap of a debut with a lush, expansive record packed full with hooks, gorgeous instrumentals and more than enough youthful vigor. Guitarist Randy Randall and drummer Dean Allen Spunt are (presumably) at the top of their game through most of Everything In Between's run time. Their previously dirty audio aesthetic is still held intact as most of the record still sounds raw as fuck. Yet with Everything In Between they make time for psychedelic flourishes, pop melodies and serene beauty. Building on whatever hope Nouns possessed Randall and Spunt return with a heartfelt, fully realized and delicately crafted ?sophomore slump? for the ages.
There Is Love In You
Lush instrumentals mixed with just enough cold electronic grandeur and legitimate soul to produce an excellent onset to a new decade that's additionally a perfect wrap to the previous one. Making a distinct turn from the warm, airy sound of his previous records and almost adapting the inherent chill of buddy Burial. There Is Love In You presents a distinctly different form of Four Tet?yet the beating heart is still there. The record's minimalist structure adheres brilliantly to the ebb and flow of the track listing. Each song finding its own singular groove and progressively building it in a post-rock fashion to grandiose finishes. Save album closer ?She Just Loves To Fight? which serves as a breathing point, a set piece in an adept display of craft and grandeur. Unexpected and wholeheartedly endearing.
Founded in New York City, transplanted to Berlin, then back home and now to the sun bleached streets of Los Angeles spastic art-punkers Liars return from 2008's self-titled victory lap with what is easily their second best record yet. Sisterworld is a particularly peculiar mix of tried and true post-punk experimentation, poppy hooks and SY progression. And while this may be the most subdued the band has sounded since their 2004 triumph Drum's Not Dead?at least as far as standard song structure is concerned?Sisterworld suffers little for it. Where their previous effort faltered at times when it tried too hard in delivering seemingly delectable hooks?they essentially suffocated the songs, not allowing them to build properly. Liars have always been about timing, both good and bad, with Sisterworld though, they've finally found that balance between their eccentric envelope pushing needs and ability to craft infectious punk rock. ?Scarecrows On A Killer Slant? and closer ?Too Much, Too Much? are perfect examples of Liar's ability to balance their raucous punk leanings with spacey pop music aimed straight for the stars. Their tendency to browse the outer reaches of pop music with their catchy hooks and intricate harmonies was certainly at its most accessible with their last LP. But with Sisterworld they have honed the sound. to it purest form?inherently oddball yet insatiably infectious and if nothing else furthers your reasons to continue being excited about this band who's talent only grows and they mature.
Romance Is Boring
Brilliant album from a band who have seemingly an endless wealth of catchy while astute punk rock tunes. Aleks you will be missed.
So when we all look back on those albums we never thought would intimately catch fire like they did Cosmogramma will probably stand tall as my go-to example. At least as far as personal example. If asked last year ?Will you be blaring a Flying Lotus album consistently throughout these next twelve months?? I probably would have laughed. But in the plainest sense the man, Steven Ellison, brings it. I can't think of a time really where I've been so infatuated with an instrumental hip-hop album. His brilliant balance of IDM eccentricities, Dub-Step thump and hip hop vigor all held under a robotic guise is almost always breath taking?if not incredibly infectious.
Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty
Ok everyone. Lets get something straight from the get-go: all the ?insightful? observations coining this record as an ?astonishing confirmation of Big's solo ability? are as useless as they are asinine. If I remember correctly Antwan Patton solidified himself as a solo-artist seven years earlier with Speakerboxxx. I mean seriously did anyone really need a confirmation on Big Boi's significance and talent? Did we need a follow up to SpeakerBoxxx, easily the better half of his former band's 2-part epic? Well if Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son Of Chico Dusty is any indication: yes, yes we really did. Maybe not for any confirmation in any way but as a canonization of sorts, for Boi and the blissfully soulful sound he, Andre, Organized Noize and Goodbie Mob cultivated. The distinctly Southern yet innately infectious bit of starry, funky 808 onslaughts that culminated into a number of classic records. Yet with this album Big is seemingly at his most elevated spacey haze yet. Sir Lucious seems the most foreign visitor we've had yet in the Outkast catalog. But from the classic Dungeon Family jams (?Fo Your Sorrows? & ?Turns Me On?) to the jittery brilliance of ?Shutter Bug? and Andre 3000 produced ?Aint No DJ? down to one of 2010s deepest bass lines (?Shine Blockas?) the album is stellar. Hell even the Lil Jon produced Jamie Foxx hooked ?Hustle Blood? is shit-hot. But more importantly Big is on display (save a few stand out guest spots from Yela Wolf, T.I. & Janelle Monae) and the man can still carry a record. The dexterity in his rhyme schemes is still nearly without peer and unlike a lot of 90s vets who ?made it big? he hasn't lost sight of his artistic ability. Sir Lucious is a sweeping record full to the brim with soulful passages, clever word play, intricate rhymes and hooks piled on top of more and more hooks. It's also a victory lap for one of Hip Hop's most deserving Kings and an amalgamation of a brilliant career?ripped up and compacted into album form for your convenience.
Up until the release of Lisbon The Walkmen were one of those bands I found myself listening to a lot, but more often than not it would be a collection of different songs from each of their albums. As a complete front-to-back experience though I had always found their records to be a bit lacking. There's was always some hiccup, some bump in the road that would have me clawing at the skip button. Yet with this, their fifth proper LP and easily strongest to date, the NYC based band have found a serene balance between their fuzzy, experimental tendencies and penchant for classic pop (Lounge, Motown and otherwise.) And formulate it into a supremely infectious, melodic brand of chamber pop. Granted the albums best song "Angela Surf City" is the most punk these guys have sounded since "The Rat" came blaring out of the streets of Brooklyn. But it is the delicate ballads and soulful, almost drunkard croons of front man Harrison Leithauser that propel this album into the stratosphere. Beyond simply being accomplished technically Lisbon totes something nearly each of their other albums cannot attest to: a full bodied theme and logical progression from opener "Juveniles" all the way to the closing title track. That and every bit of Lisbon is catchy as all hell.
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
Front-to-back blazingly hot and engrossingly intimate Kanye sheds nearly every negative aspect about his musical persona from the last five years and formulates a surprisingly hard-hitting coup de gras. Almost uni formally separate from almost any record in recent memory yet unequivocally Kanye, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy manages to walk a thin line brilliantly. This divide between artistic excess and confessional insanity is crept over with tipping toes. Ye's balance between his own absurd ego and new found maturity is nothing new (see: Album 1 & 2) but this may be the first time it's truly merited. "Hard to be humble when you stuntin on the jumbo-tron" is a line hard to dispute, but this one on one relationship Kanye presents with his on record persona is always been a strong point of his?if not a saving grace. First and foremost Mr. West always offers up all of himself in the booth and few that have followed in his footsteps are hardly as adept at martyring themselves as Kanye. With Kanye though, he's able to make himself less of a martyr and more of a good-natured heart trying to make it in a nefarious world of celebrity. Not to underplay the man's numerous fuck ups but as usual once Kanye moves himself back to recording he's quick to squelch the noise as we concentrate on the music so ferociously. And few albums of this year, or any, have been so delectably, compulsively listenable as My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.
My exact words delivered bitterly to a mighty Swede:
?knowing how I am tho, by the end of the year this will crack my top 5, and I'll end up loving it.?
Lame shortened words aside: WHAT THE FUCK? It took a while (a February full of record snowfall) but Teen Dream clicked like no other. By the time I saw them at the end of the summer I was skipping half a Pavement set to catch their final few songs because there just couldn?t be enough of Victoria Legrand's austerely gorgeous voice matched with her infectious keys and Alex Scally's deceptively fierce guitar work. I knew Walk In The Park and 10 Mile Stereo were great right from the start but damn me for not falling for Silver Soul's lusciously grand hazy melody. Or Norway's vibrant backing synths and Better Time's surfy guitar lines and elegant vocals for that matter. While Alex is no slouch by any means (library of effects pedals on stage) it's in Legrand's Stevie Nicks' croon that Beach House have found their stride. No longer layered as a slight coo behind walls and walls of dreamy fuzz. She is now allowed to float in and out of dreamy pop verses and engulfing hooks effortlessly. Which helps on an album so delightfully melancholic. Teen Dream is accentuated throughout with an air of catharsis and longing of sorts for the past. But this burgeoning purification--from the misguided entitlement to a simple, happy life and true love we have in our youth (or the Teen Dream)--is the crux which the album rests upon. It may have taken three albums to get here. And at this point I certainly am eating my own foot. Luckily with Teen Dream though: it still just tastes so good.
Oh Matt Berninger, how much I used to despise you. Whether it be through a soured friendship with an avid fan (probably) or my general disposition to being a hater (equally as probable)-- for like six to eight months I couldn't listen to this band. In all truth I wasn't a huge Boxer fan (really still not) o for a while it was easy for me to deem them One-Note after the superb Alligator. Oh How The Mighty Have Fallen. Not only has the drunken sap won me over but his band mates have damn near impressed me to the point of salivation. Devendorf is arguably the most consistently brilliant drummer in indie rock, the guitar lines and pedal work is as imaginative as it is infectious and my god the bass tones. All of these things of course chock them selves up to a great mix--which High Violet has. Every mumbled turn, every loose promise and flagrant introspective accusation thrown my Berninger is at the forefront. His distinct baritone carrying most of the load is not to be taken lightly. Not that it ever has, but the distinct post-punk leanings and minimalist orchestral work and general lack for their usual mopey instrumentals seemingly breathes him new life. He transitions gracefully into middle age and High Violet is that much better for it. Matt's intimate confessions on his distaste for divorce, grips with return to an estranged home, lack for a life-savings and general woes and ?oh no's!? are at their worst clever drunken spouts while the best are sweeping poetic gestures. The band has been together for a while and it's all the more apparent with their accomplishments on display with High Violet. Which is, in my opinion, their best record to date.
While I'd love to sit here and pin-point for you the exact reason why this record is so good. I very rarely will illicit more to the query than to smile big and wide. I love this record with an almost dumbfounded fervor and not the fapfapfap kind; the shitty I-have-nothing-to-say kind. But by the time Patrick Flegel utters "I feel the public strain" behind walls and walls of beautiful effects pedal play on understated opener Can't You See I'm hooked. Yet it's the understated which the Calgary quartet handle so adeptly. Penal Colony for example is a pristine-paced slice of bedroom pop heaven held up by only a handful of chords and wayward distortion. But this is Women's playground; a landscape of vibrant noise pressure-cooked into seamless melody who's closest relative is The Beach Boys (or any number of knock-offs.) Women on the other hand take that sun-shiny, sugary-sweet pop and send it through a meat-grinder. Out comes the lingering guitar work of Bells, the jangles of Heat Distraction or the driving beat of China Steps all awash with just the right amount of fuzz and experimental diligence. But it's through their embrace of the dirty, the grimy that these exceedingly talented musicians find a distinctly discordant beauty all their own.
Really it doesn't seem like there was ever a time this was not #1. Endless able quotes aside The Monitor is a force to be reckoned with. Whichever side of the ravine you're on, whether you relish in Patrick Stickles self-deprecating, yet astutely observant diary page expulsions via frantically aggressive vocals or just plain hate them. the band clearly has some fucking balls. Ambitious civil-war rooted yet presently affixed themes, delivered from a drunkards wail to tirades of a bitterly complacent nationalist all but ready to die. Yet Titus Andronicus have never been more alive and Patrick Stickles is no fool but a Wolf, dressed like a fucking hell hound. From his chest cavity bellows a raspy brogue, one which can turn from a soft, broken quiver of a voice to an enraged, blood-curdling scream in a moment's notice. Yet for all intents and purposes Stickles has a god-awful voice; but that has always been these NJ native's strength. Beside their blatant talent (the guitar licks on this record, oh my) they've always carted a seemingly fuck all aesthetic when it comes to recording. On their debut An Airing Of Grievances this translated to an absurdly distorted sound with Stickles yelps and yearns being essentially buried under the fuzz. With The Monitor though, it's less of a sense of serious disregard for recording techniques and more of an "eat shit" hurled at 2-Chord punk progression and the 'get in, get out' routine of 20-minute hardcore punk albums. Titus are more concerned with pressing boundaries (with every single instrument handed to them), crafting epics (Brilliant 13 Minute Closer) and are out for fucking blood.