conradtao
Conrad Tao
Emeritus

Reviews 60
Approval 98%

Soundoffs 39
News Articles 6
Band Edits + Tags 5
Album Edits 77

Album Ratings 514
Objectivity 66%

Last Active 09-22-12 1:03 am
Joined 11-24-09

Forum Posts 75
Review Comments 2,090

 Lists
07.09.13 2013.5 11.22.12 Conrad's Top 50 Albums Of 2012
06.15.12 2012.5 03.23.12 2012 Q1: The Unsung (and The Less So)
03.19.12 Conrad Made An Album. 12.07.11 conrad presents 25 from 2011
06.11.11 The 2011 List You Probably Haven't Hear 05.01.11 Fuck Elitism.
01.19.11 Albums That Changed The Way I Listen 12.08.10 Conrad's 2010: Top 25 (with Description

Conrad's 2010: Top 25 (with Descriptions!)

Self-explanatory. I don't know why I spent as much time as I did writing this.
25Deerhunter
Halcyon Digest


The lyrics center around Bradford Cox's predictable themes of isolation and religion, but Halcyon Digest sounds warm and welcoming despite being a largely brooding affair. Knock "Desire Lines" up a few notches and it'd be a dead ringer for an Arcade Fire track (except it'd be better than anything off of The Suburbs, excepting maybe one or two tracks). Indeed, Halcyon Digest is the sound of a band growing and improving with every drum-machine beat, every dreamy guitar strum, and every pained-but-forgiving vocal.
24Marnie Stern
Marnie Stern


Marnie Stern is sick of your shit. Marnie Stern is going to go out and have a great time shredding with her buddies while you?re stuck at home listening to records in that old Metallica t-shirt you bought at the thrift store and are now wearing ironically (?cause, you know, Metallica suck). But Marnie Stern is going to be sad while doing it. Because her boyfriend died. Because she can't seem to believe in herself. But she does.
23Gonjasufi
A Sufi and a Killer


Gonjasufi has a versatile croak of a voice that he melds with below-fi loops and unsettling percussion. Songs like "DedNd" sound as if they're trying to break out of some sort of sonic cage, while "Kowboyz & Indians" somehow manages to combine what sounds like Jůnsi doing an Arabic chant with the title phrase repeated over and over again. It's ugly, at times even repulsive, but I can't tear myself away from it.
22Phantogram
Eyelid Movies


Phantogram's immensely likable debut, Eyelid Movies, isn't particularly ambitious or unusual. But it is effective, providing something for pretty much everybody; existing primarily in a late-'90s trip-hop vibe, songs like "You Are The Ocean" resemble the sort of songs that would have snuck their way into the charts a little over a decade ago. Sarah Barthel's voice resembles a toned- down Karen O, and Josh Carter - well, he tries his best.
21Das Racist
Sit Down, Man


For a group that made its name on a dumbly funny song called "Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell" (sample lyric: "I'm at the Pizza Hut / I'm at the Taco Bell / I'm at the combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell"), Das Racist became pretty damn smart on Sit Down, Man. I mean, there was always a suspicion that "Combination" wasn't actually about fast food franchises, that there was something distinctly meta underneath; here, they capitalize on that promise and make good on it.
20The Books
The Way Out


The Books are probably the funniest band around right now. Not "funny ha-ha", per se, nor "liekomg this is s0 funny" irony-laden humor, but quiet, knowing humor that strikes the right balance between being tongue-in-cheek and completely earnest. Hearing a kid threatening his playmate, "I could probably kill you by cutting your toes off and working my way up...towards your brain!" is both unsettling and adorable, and The Books take that delicate balance and dispense with it.
19Janelle Monae
The ArchAndroid (Suites II and III of IV)


One of the most self-assured and ambitious debuts of any year, Janelle MonŠe's The ArchAndroid is delightfully promiscuous, dabbling in traditional rhythm-and- blues, funk, electro-pop, whatever the hell of Montreal thinks they're doing at the moment, and orchestral jazz. It would be showing off, if MonŠe didn't knock it out of the park nearly every time. She flits ably between different genres, allowing them to mold around her, and the result is stunning.
18The Tallest Man on Earth
The Wild Hunt


Kristian Matsson's voice is a magnificent thing, at once grabbing you with its urgency and captivating you with its raw emotion. Matsson's songs are similarly impressive, his lyrics evocative, his melodies immediately familiar and not. The Wild Hunt is loaded with great songs, with nary a misstep in sight (except the piano-driven closer, which hews a little bit too close to Elton John for comfort).
17Beach House
Teen Dream


Teen Dream is full-blooded yet distant; on songs like "Norway", Victoria Legrand's voice takes on a haunting, otherworldly quality, giving the soaring "Norway-ay-ay, ay-ay-ay-ay" chorus a jolt of ethereality. The production is crystal clear, allowing the band's full color palette to shine, and the songs - oh, the songs. That soaring "in a matter of time" in "Walk in the Park", that incredible chorus in "10 Mile Stereo"? Yeah. Fantastic.
16How to Dress Well
Love Remains


On paper, Love Remains is one of the most self-indulgent releases of the year. On first listen...it's also one of the most self-indulgent releases of the year. Tom Krell's brand of reverb-soaked dream-pop is devoid of fidelity entirely, leaving his weightless voice as an anchor for his songs' intangible qualities. As a result, we're left with nothing but sound. It's immense and intimate, cold and beautiful.
15Four Tet
There Is Love In You


Whoever thought that Kieran Hebden's most accessible album would, in some ways, be his most controversial? There Is Love In You has been subject to discussion about whether or not it is a "real" Four Tet album as opposed to something else, about whether or not the straight-forward beats constitute it as "dance music" or...something else. One thing, however, has been glaringly left out of these conversations: how beautiful this album actually sounds.
14Yellow Swans
Going Places


Beauty cannot exist without ugliness. On Going Places, Yellow Swans' final album, the boundary between these two extremes is often broken, if not disregarded entirely. The band piles layers upon layers of sound, building up an intense wall of sound that is as cathartic as it is unsettling, immediately beautiful and hideous at the same time.
13Sufjan Stevens
All Delighted People EP


No song made me cry as much as the original version of "All Delighted People", so that alone would have given the 60-minute All Delighted People EP a spot on my top 25. But then there are gems like "The Owl and the Tanager", incomprehensible but absolutely gorgeous, and "Heirloom", a simple, heart- tugging wisp of a song that insists, "Oh no, I never meant to be a pest to anyone this time." The Age of Adz was in serious need of an editor, but with this EP, we really saw Sufjan bare all. "I love you from the top of my heart" is going into my greeting cards for at least the next year.
12Joanna Newsom
Have One On Me


"In California" is the best song J-New has ever recorded and it comes back at the end of the record with "Does Not Suffice" and god damn it why is this album so fucking long
11Robyn
Body Talk


Much has been made about Robyn's empathetic lyrics and how she is the antithesis of the modern-day pop star, but you know what? Fuck that. I'm convinced that Robyn doesn't have any qualms about her music being "serious" or otherwise, whether or not it's grouped with Rihanna or Fever Ray. Body Talk transcends discussion by simply existing, by being as universal as it is. "We dance to the beat of unrecognized genius," Robyn says icily. Indeed, but elsewhere, she's dancing on her own, cracking Back to the Future references, watching stars on the hood of her car, and telling the Vatican that they need a black pope, and she better be a woman. Oh, damn!
10Big Boi
Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty


Big Boi spends most of his proper solo debut rapping about how great a lover he is, but he's so damn likable while doing the whole thing that you can't help but agree. And come on, you can't deny that Sir Lucious Left Foot is one of the most aerodynamic hip-hop albums in years; I dare you to not bounce up and down to the opening of "Daddy Fat Sax". But in the end, it's not the killer singles that stay with you (although Big Boi miraculously manages to get Scott Storch to not suck absolute bollocks on "Shutterbugg") - it's the subtle moments like when the beat of "Turns Me On" flips backward momentarily as "from the back" escapes Boi's lips before righting itself again. It's a stroke of genius, and it passes by so quickly that you'd miss it the first time around. Which is why Sir Lucious Left Foot is so great; it's kaleidoscopic and groundbreaking while being straight-up fun.
9Owen Pallett
Heartland


"Pathos is borne, borne out of bullshit." Heavy-handed, perhaps, but you can't deny that he's right. On Heartland, Owen Pallett (previously known as Final Fantasy) pulls out all the stops, employing full orchestras to help flesh out his songs. And oh, what songs they are. If Pallett's lyrics occasionally border on the melodramatic, they're also endearingly confessional. The melodies are gorgeous, the orchestration is predictably excellent (while retaining an appealingly rough- edged quality), and the self-consciously epic structure works, mostly because Pallett is willing to make fun of himself. Yet Heartland is most successful when it gets excited; when "Lewis Takes Off His Shirt" climaxes with an ecstatic, "If what I have is what you need / I'm never going to give it to you!" there's a palpable sense of urgency that hits hard.
8Emeralds
Does It Look Like I'm Here?


Ambient music is typically less concerned with melody than it is with, well, ambience. But Does It Look Like I'm Here?, the best album in Emeralds' ridiculously vast discography, is unabashedly tuneful. That isn't to say that the trio don't create gorgeous ambient spaces; they do, and they do it very well. But listen to "Genetic" and tell me that it doesn't sound like Pink Floyd decided to throw out their guitars and just fucking jam. Indeed, for every track like the stunning "Goes By" there's a restless one like "Double Helix". Emeralds infuse their music with a distinctly dark undercurrent, yet their sound is at once calming, perhaps even beatific. It's this tension that makes Does It Look Like I'm Here? as superb as it is.
7Sleigh Bells
Treats


Okay, I'm just going to go out on a limb and say it: Treats is, almost without exception, the same song over and over again. Except that that one song is the most exhilarating thing you've ever heard, no matter how many insane songs you've ever heard. "Hollaback Girl" with a shit ton of distortion and a healthy dollop of actual fun and some real musicality (sorry, Gwen, but that shit isn't B- A-N-A-N-A-S, it's just that, S-H-I-T), bleachers crunching, a six-string exploding in flames, Alexis Krauss's deceptively sweet voice, and, well, yeah, that's pretty much it. Oh, and I guess it sounds like a Honda CRZ as well?
6M.I.A.
Maya


The hive mind hath spoken: M.I.A.'s newest album is bad. We all know the story - the once-excellent artist thrust into sudden fame lets her ego get the best of her, tweets a journalist's phone number in response to an unflattering feature, starts spewing bullshit like "Google and Facebook were invented by the C.I.A." and releases a record that's nothing but self-aggrandizing noise. Except that // / Y / is so much more than that. The beats are sparse, the production clatters and buzzes woozily, the vocals are chopped up and thrown into a blender, and the result is nothing short of gripping. From the jarring drill-and-bass (literally) of "Steppin' Up" to the deliriously catchy stoner-rap of "Teqkilla" to the achingly beautiful electro-pop of "Space", everything here grabs your attention and doesn't let it go. Yeah, she isn't exactly subtle (opening skit "The Message" pretty much guarantees that this whole "Google connected to the government" thing isn't going away anytime soon), but did we ever listen to M.I.A. because of her politics? The answer to that is an unequivocal "no," which is why the discussion over whether or not M.I.A. is "authentic" is absolute rubbish. She fights the ones that fight her, defensive as ever, holding up the digital ruckus that she simultaneously condemns and embraces (uh, hello, her Twitter) as a shield. It might be ugly, but it's blisteringly real, even when it isn't.
5The Knife
Tomorrow, In A Year


It's not surprising that Tomorrow, In A Year was ultimately an album left to gather dust on the shelves of those listeners that put it momentarily atop the Billboard Electronic/Dance charts. A follow-up to Silent Shout this is not. And on first listen, it's easy to dismiss this "experimental opera" as a faux-intellectual artistic endeavor, just as it's easy to dismiss The Knife as two batshit siblings who just needed a few more hugs from Mommy and Daddy. But Tomorrow, In A Year isn't just a vanity project; it's every bit as fully formed as the acclaimed Silent Shout, if not more so. The music, taking inspiration from Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species, literally evolves over the course of 90 minutes, from the drips of the introduction to the blissfully unkempt pop of the title track. Alternately maddening, beautiful, impressive, confusing, or all of the above at once, the record is the sound of music disintegrating, reintegrating, and reinventing itself. "Variation of Birds" trips over itself countless times before finally settling into a groove, like a baby learning to walk; you're waiting with bated breath for it to find its way, wondering if it ever will - and then it does, and that moment is supremely gratifying. No, it isn't easy listening, but it's ultimately very rewarding.
4LCD Soundsystem
This Is Happening


James Murphy doesn?t really understand anything about the world, but he knows this, and he knows that you don?t either. So when he?s rapping about Obama and sounding like a dead ringer for David Byrne or when he?s putting weird synth noises on ?Somebody?s Calling Me? to shamelessly ape Iggy Pop, there?s a reason for it. He?s referential and derivative and original and lyrically lazy and lyrically brilliant and fantastic and useless, but he isn?t pretentious. Because yeah, he?s sort of a dick to write a song that?s ostensibly about how awesome it would be to write a song about drunk girls filing complaints, but at least he owns that, you know? And on This Is Happening, Murphy isn?t just smugly self-aware ? he?s disillusioned too. He doesn?t want to be your baby anymore. All he wants are your bitter tears. The record ends in resignation: ?Look around you / you?re surrounded / it won?t get any better.? All of which makes this album sound like a real drag?except that Murphy's too good a producer to let his album dissolve into mindless solipsism. This album sounds pristine, everything placed just so, which makes Murphy?s navel-gazing all the more poignant. That ridiculous moment where your speakers blow up in ?Dance Yrself Clean? is framed by the line, ?Don?t you want me to wake up?? In the end, This Is Happening sounds like music to dance to, but it feels more like an intimate manifesto.
3Women
Public Strain


If Flying Lotus seems to defy categorization, Women fit neatly into a category precisely in order to break down its walls. On the surface, Public Strain is an archetypal indie rock record; there's virtually no bass in the mix, the fidelity is ridiculously low, and the reverb is piled on liberally. The whole album reads like one big love letter to the Velvet Underground. But there's something insistently sinister happening underneath all of those superficial genre trappings. You can hear a bass pedal squeak in "China Steps", the mix going into the red on "Untogether", and you can hear pure, unadulterated beauty in "Penal Colony". The time signatures are ever so slightly off balance, the guitar work is subtly intricate, and the production, initially ugly, utterly compelling, and spacious, is the sound of music breathing. It's fitting, then, that Women end this magnificent album with "Eyesore", the sound of every indie-rock trope collapsing upon itself with a heaving sigh. To call it indie rock would be a disservice. Public Strain is music, stripped of all ornamentation, left utterly naked.
2Flying Lotus
Cosmogramma


At once denser yet more accessible than Los Angeles could ever hope to be, Cosmogramma is Flying Lotus's most cogent statement yet; every idea is presented clearly, perfectly, beautifully, and smoothly. No album this year flowed quite like this one; hell, no album this year sounded quite like this one. Forget trying to categorize it. Cosmogramma isn't dubstep or (ugh) IDM or (double ugh) "electronica". It's everything you'd expect it to be and more, which means it's nigh-impossible to describe; it's a free jazz space opera, the stuff that'll be playing in speakeasies a hundred years from now (hey, everything blends together with the sheen of antiquity), a fusion of perhaps every awesome thing you've ever heard - or even perhaps things you never even thought were awesome (ping-pong balls, anyone?) - into one blissful 45-minute trip.
1Kanye West
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy


You know, before this, I never gave a shit about Kanye West. To me, he was just a gigantic douche who had a knack for producing maddeningly catchy (and occasionally really great) singles. But this.. this is so great, so self-assured, at once hugely ambitious and knowingly over-the-top, without sacrificing an ounce of the pop charm that made Yeezy such an enormous celebrity in the first place. "They said I was the abomination of Obama's nation/well that's a pretty bad way to start a conversation," he says -- is he poking fun at his own ridiculous disposition or is he really angry? Does it even really matter? "Everybody knows I'm a motherfuckin' monster" isn't exactly the most, ahem, subtle statement ever made, but it does reflect on West's obscene stardom in a fairly poignant manner. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is as meta as a Kaufman screenplay and as theatrical as a Fellini film, but it never feels self-indulgent. West is an egomaniac, but at least he's an earnest one. And that's what makes all the difference.
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