Archive for the ‘Music…Music’ Category

Best Music of 2016

January 2, 2017

Being a dad means less time listening to music. Well, that’s not true, I listened to the “Busy busy busy busy/there is so much to do” song on my son’s Stand and Play table about 500 times this year. Definitely my most listened to track. The music below is what I had time for and enjoyed, in between that song and all the nu-metal I listened to over here. I echo similar sentiments from people like Al Shipley and Steven Hyden with my list this year. I didn’t get to hear as much as I wanted to, and sometimes even then I didn’t get to listen to some things more than once. As a snapshot of my 2016 listening experience, this is pretty accurate.

ALBUMS

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  1. The Life of Pablo by Kanye West
    This has been a trying year for us Kanye-Stans. We’ve had to weather the outbursts and the delays and the album rollout and the Trump supporting statements and then actually meeting with Trump; it almost broke us. But we still had these songs. As an album it is certainly Kanye’s messiest since Late Registration but the peaks are so high, and the lows aren’t really that low at all. I ride for “Facts”, but hey, I’m a Kanye-Stan.
    p.s. The Pablo tour was flames before it imploded.

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  2. A Seat at the Table by Solange
    I never thought I’d become obsessed with a Solange album but 2016 was a year of surprises both good and bad. Solange finally crafted a piece of work that felt distinctly her own, not cribbing from obvious sources, instead fueled by a passion and point of view that is shatteringly personal. All of Solange’s previous work never sounded like it was necessary, while A Seat at the Table sounds vital and needed.

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  3. Atrocity Exhibition by Danny Brown
    Danny Brown reviews always talk about how he’s melting down and his songs show a side of him that is wild and off kilter. I certainly see that, but I think the great thing about his albums is that the dude is just rapping hard. Front to back, his albums are just power raps, mowing down the competition. And I don’t even care about the competition. Beats: fire. Lyrics: crushing.

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  4. Crazy Eyes by Filter
    Filter frontman Richard Patrick has been rotating and replacing bandmates pretty regularly since 2008’s Anthems For the Damned with mixed results. The albums were never terrible, they just sounded patchy and conceptually weak and with 2013’s The Sun Comes Out Tonight, I was convinced that I could expect about half an album of solid tracks with a decent amount of filler every couple years and I was totally fine with that. Patrick got his groove back with this one, you guys. Basically front to back fury, with Patrick indulging in dance floor grooves, industrial blast beats and that wonderful strained yarl that all us Filter-heads live for. Easily their best album since 2002’s The Amalgamut.

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  5. SEPT. 5TH by dvsn
    I heard a lot of R&B this year that either was too sleepy and languid for my tastes or too indebted to old sources without adding anything new. dvsn was the group that really surprised me, with a strong, passionate and seductive sound that I hadn’t been hearing in these other albums. The vocal on “Try” is some oh shit oh shit level quality.

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  6. Power Under Control by Islander
    I first heard of these guys while researching bands that are considered to be nu-metal in 2016. They have co-signs from P.O.D. and Korn, but their sound is a mix of the hard charge of nu-metal with the melodic lightness of pop-punk. I know, I was skeptical too. This is Islander’s second album, their first falling into that emo/punk sound with little need for strong hooks. In between albums the lead singer basically ditched the whole band and started again from scratch. They’re now in that P.O.D. lane of being almost explicitly a religious band with songs like “Beelezbub” but they mostly stick to kick riffs on “Bad Guy” and “Better Day”. Terrible haircuts tho.

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  7. We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service by A Tribe Called Quest
    No one expected this album and I don’t think anyone expected it to be pretty great when they found out about it. But Q-Tip is some kind of casual genius and having everyone record in studio together clearly worked, because this album is alive and vibrant. That said, there are plenty of albums made by people in different rooms who never meet, but let the mystique be. Having the title be something that Phife liked but never explained to anyone is the perfect ending to it all.

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  8. Dangerous Woman by Ariana Grande
    We’re now three albums deep into Ariana Grande’s career and each album is better than the last. She packs it with a couple of all timers (“Into You”, “Touch It”) and just creates a real fun, high energy pop package that isn’t dumb or embarrassing. And girl can sang.

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  9. Into the Vanishing Light by Night Verses
    I found out about these guys because famed nu-metal producer Ross Robinson worked on and produced this album, one of six(!) albums he did this year (his work on De La Tierra’s II is also a highlight). For whatever reason, Night Verses and their emo/post-hardcore sound resonated with me this year, and Ross did a great job organizing the cacophony of their sound and having them branch out into other areas as well, like prog and shoegaze. I guess this one was divisive in their fan base, which could mean their next record is some “back to basics” BS. I hope not.

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  10. The Serenity of Suffering by Korn
    While I was definitely excited to hear this new Korn album I don’t think I expected it to be this good. It’s not even like it’s the best album they’ve ever done, but it is certainly the best album they’ve made in at least 13 years. The band members hyped this thing up as a back to basics, let’s just rock record, and the fact that it actually is the thing they said it would be is pretty mindblowing. 11 tracks, just Korn being Korn, big hooks, crunching riffs, no complaints from me!

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  11. Gameshow by Two Door Cinema Club
    These guys came back real strong after their second record turned out to be an actual sophomore slump. Dedication to light, fun dance pop/rock and good hooks make this the kind of breezy listen that sounds too easy, though I’m sure it was hard as hell to make.

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  12. Operator by MSTRKRFT
    MSTRKRFT’s last album Fist of God is an all timer for me, a front to back album of hard dance bangers, released in 2009 just as the whole blog house sound was dying out(much to my chagrin). They have let a couple trends come and go and come in the time since that record, and with Operator they sound like they’re in a transition mode of still knowing how to do the big hooks if they want to, but burying them in distortion and punk screams. It was initially disorienting but it is a definite grower with plenty of bangers to be found.

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  13. Prima Donna by Vince Staples
    Vince is the realest, and he sounds so disdainful half the time, and I love it. I listened to this the same week as that Travis Scott album and it only cemented the fact that that album is a piece of trash.

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  14. Cashmere by Swet Shop Boys
    Swet Shop Boys had the best song of 2014 and they now have an album that is almost as good. Heems continues his post-Das Racist run of success with more sharp/lazy sounding rhymes while Riz MC has apparently gotten even better and is spitting with a venom that is invigorating! 30 or so minutes of fire right here.

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  15. Anti by Rihanna
    When this came out, the talk was that Rihanna had finally made a cohesive album and not just a playlist of singles, which is the kind of thing you say when an album doesn’t sound like it has any big hits on it. I think this is about as consistent as Loud or Rated R, but without a big monster dance floor number, instead you have “Work”, which still sounds dumb and unfinished to me but I’m not upset about it. Most of the album is great moody numbers like “Needed Me” and “Kiss It Better”, and if I don’t think it is that much different from her other albums, it at least feels confident for an album that was being pushed back and retooled for over a year.

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  16. Hit Reset by The Julie Ruin
    It would be a shame if the only thing people remembered about Kathleen Hanna this year is that terrible song she put out with a (briefly) reunited Le Tigre. Thankfully, history should record this excellent Julie Ruin album, filled to the brim with strong rockers about standing up for yourself, getting over your past wounds and kicking ass.

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  17. Beyond the Fleeting Gales by Crying
    Writer Ian Cohen put these guys on my radar when he tweeted an enthusiastic endorsement of their first single from this album, “Wool In the Wash”. He said “Van Halen” and I’m always dying for more vintage Van Halen so I did not walk, I ran, to hear this band. And y’know, at first I agreed with a lot of the internet people who said that making the Halen comparison did not do this band any favors, because your mind goes to David Lee Roth in a codpiece doing kick flips, not a soft voiced woman singing over guitar solos and enthusiastic keyboards. But the guitar is shiny and glittery, the riffs are potent and the momentum never lags. It sounds like the future.

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  18. Lemonade by Beyoncé
    I think this is only her fourth best album, but it’s still pretty good and the visual element is an all timer. I also believe that the whole storyline is just for the album and has little to no actual basis in fact. I will accept the facts as they are presented.

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  19. Gore by Deftones
    Has a fair share of rippers along with the spacey, sensual stuff that I always expect from Chino. I’d say it’s a lesser work by them after the great run of Diamond Eyes and Koi No Yokon but it still crushes where it counts and the finale is a classic.

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  20. A New Wave of Violence by Head Wound City
    I have spent a lot of time listening to the Johnny Whitney post-Blood Brother’s projects but this was the first Jordan Blilie and Cody Votolato project I checked out, and I am glad I did because it is 24 minutes of fury, the closest to Blood Brothers we’re probably going to get. Along with members of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Locust, and produced once again by Ross Robinson, A New Wave of Violence is thrashing guitars and screeched vocals in the Blood Brothers vein, but with a punk efficiency. One story about Ross Robinson is that he likes to throw things at the bands while he records them, to get them to be alert and awake in the moment. Head Wound City sound like they would be ready to throw something right back.

SONGS

1. Crying: “Wool in the Wash”
2. Ariana Grande: “Into You”
3. Primal Scream: “Where The Light Gets In” (feat. Sky Ferreira)
4. Kanye West: “Father I Stretch My Hands Pt. 1”
5. Filter: “Nothing In My Hands”
6. Kwesta: “Ngud'”
7. Tegan and Sara: “U-turn”
8. Deftones: “Doomed User”
9. Beyoncé: “Formation”
10. Tokyo Police Club: “PCH”
11. Islander: “Bad Guy”
12. Chance the Rapper: “All Night” (feat. Knox Fortune)
13. A$AP Mob: “Yamborghini High” (feat. Juicy J)
14. Noname: “Diddy Bop” (feat. Raury and Cam O’Bi)
15. Chance the Rapper: “No Problem” (feat. Lil Wayne & 2 Chainz)
16. Justice: “Randy”
17. Desiigner: “Panda”
18. Korn: “Take Me”
19. Rae Sremmurd: “Black Beatles” (feat. Gucci Mane)
20. John Mayer: “Love On the Weekend”

Spotify Playlist

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Music Journal, June 6th 2016

June 5, 2016

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Islah by Kevin Gates

The great contradictions of a person make them interesting, like when Vin Diesel goes to give a woman a kiss. Kevin Gates is the greatest embodiment of contrast, with moments of real empathy and openness right alongside tracks where he goes on and on defending his decision to assault a fan at a show. The music is good to great across the board, lush and full without being overproduced, the beats aren’t particularly showy but never generic. Islah has Gates offering footrubs while his lady talks about her day, juggles his two phones(business and pleasure) and he loves to fuck. He can also rap, sing the hook, and eschews guests. Kevin Gates is too real.

Ξ by The Toxic Avenger 

The overhanging menace is a bit much. No attempts to dance. I think there is a GG Allin sound bite. A good reminder that blog house is dead too. Closing track “Together” aspires to some kind of lights in the sky, hands up in the air losing it moment but that dark menace, for whatever purpose it is supposed to lend, just sucks the air out of the room. This is so tasteful it might as well be hors d’oeuvres tray.

The Things We Do To Find People Who Feel Like Us by Beach Slang

The lead singer has that nice grit in his voice that makes guys like Ryan Adams and Walter Schreifels so appealing. The majority of these tracks rip it up, and “Dirty Lights” might be the rippiest of them all. My favorite part is this line in “Ride the Wild Haze”:

Get really high
Stay up for days
I come back down and somehow things are all the same

That’s fucking life, man.

The Life of Pablo by Kanye West

7 for 7, or 8 for 8 if you count Watch The Throne. For all the mess of the release and the fact that you still can’t buy it unless you have a Tidal account, TLOP is a winner. I’ve been listening to it incessently and it’s one of my favorite things he’s ever done, just like Yeezus before it. Kanye doesn’t seem interested in being a rapper anymore, and his twitter bears this out, but his curating and production abilities are still without peer. Is this a mess? I feel like Late Registration was a messier album, plus it had those terrible skits. TLOP doesn’t have any skits, it does have more prayers but it also has the drops and misogyny and that certainly gives you whiplash but that’s every Kanye album.

Post Pop Depression by Iggy Pop 

Iggy has made hints that this is a retirement record and it sounds like it. More subdued than one would expect considering the Josh Homme assembled band, Iggy Pop gets some jabs and wails in but he mostly sounds like someone who is tying up loose ends. A nice record to go out on, just don’t expect him to tear the world down around him while he exits.

Don’t You by Wet

This album is boring and sucks.

Majid Jordan by Majid Jordan

This is nice and pleasant and then you’ve fallen asleep on the couch.

Hotel Paranoia by Jazz Cartier

Fake Drake songs bump into fake Meek Mill songs into fake everybody else. Guy has no personality of his own. He is sure of himself though, so shouts to his self esteem.

I Don’t Think It Is by Say Anything

This is the worst album Say Anything have ever made. The production is either purposely bad or they literally had no budget. I kinda think it’s the latter. Max Bemis does more of the same from the last couple Say Anything albums, but with weaker hooks and a thin sound. I would say it’s a cry for help but every Say Anything album is a cry for help. This one just sounds more desperate.

Khalifa by Wiz Khalifa 

Wiz Khalifa is the owner of the most bored tone in rap, maybe tied with Big Sean. He just never sounds that interested in anything he is saying. The production on this one is not bad, always good to see Lex Luger getting a check. Strictly for the die hard Wizheads, or whatever they’re called.

10 Ways to Steal Home Plate by Wolfgang Gartner

We’re ten years removed from the Summer of 06, the beginning of the blog house era, an incredible time to be alive and have an internet connection. We’re now in a sort of post EDM era, so guys like Gartner, who as recently as 2011 were dropping mega opus albums with 8 minute tracks, are turning around and making 3 minute pop tracks featuring rappers. Not complaining, you have to work hard to put food on your family. 10 Ways gets the job done.

Views by Drake

I guess I’m back off the Drake train again. After the back to back delivery of Nothing Was The Same and it’s run of all timers (“Worst Behavior”, “Hold On We’re Going Home”) with 2015’s If You’re Reading This Its Too Late I figured Views would be a slam dunk. But instead Drake has delivered his first dirge record. Rapping at a minimum, singing and whining cranked up to 11, all over 40’s “The fridge is running” production soundscapes. No one needs these cold bummer tracks for such a hot summer.

Anti by Rihanna

It is easy to declare “Best Rihanna Album” on first listen. It seems so cohesive! I went back and listened to Rated R, Loud, Unapologetic and Talk That Talk just to be sure and those albums basically have the same success/failure rate as Anti, though Anti has less obvious A&R trend chasing.  Without any bangers, much of Anti’s runtime is given over to moody midtempo slither. “Needed Me” and “Kiss It Better” have a simple majesty and as a singer Rihanna has never sounded better and maybe one day she’ll make a true front to back burner. “Work” still sounds like RiRi’s “The Lady I Know” and that Tame Impala song is now a Rihanna song, sorry, no take backs.

Hymns by Bloc Party

A couple years ago I went to my cousin’s high school graduation party and I happened to mention an upcoming Bloc Party concert. “No one cares about Bloc Party anymore”, my cousin informed me. Hymns will not change that view. The title is taken in a literal sense, with endless soft paeans to a higher power that have no interest in strong hooks or melodies. Now running without Matt Tong’s iconic drumming or Gordon Moakes bass work, Bloc Party has taken on the guise of one of front man Kele Okereke’s tedious solo records. This guys used to be the jam. A real bummer.

Transmission by Death in Vegas

Richard Fearless is now partnering with Sasha Grey on his ventures as Death in Vegas, and while it’s a better album than 2011’s endless drone Trans-Love Energies it doesn’t play as much more than extended interludes. Grey doesn’t add much to the mix besides some monotone vocals, and besides functioning as a kind of white noise, I’m not sure what anyone is supposed to do with this music. It never elevates to the point of interesting art and instead functions as elaborate “on hold” muzak.

Coloring Book by Chance The Rapper

I still can’t take Chance’s voice for too long. Too thin, always sounds like he’s on the verge of a gasp or a crack. And if he tries to sing, it’s even worse. Sorry Chance, you’re no Kevin Gates. Still, Coloring Book has his best songs so far. “No Problem” has an incredible hook and some pretty good verses from 2 Chainz and Lil Wayne and “All Night” is the kind of party banger that you have to put on repeat because 2 minutes and 21 seconds isn’t long enough. Chance says his favorite Kanye album is The College Dropout and Coloring Book is slathered in it’s influence. Not a bad place to start.

 

 

 

Best Music of 2015

January 14, 2016

2015 went in directions I never could have anticipated. Here is what I loved this year.

Best Albums of 2015

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1. Sleater-Kinney – No Cities To Love

What a triumph. After an almost ten year hiatus, to return and be this great? Sleater-Kinney are one of the greatest bands to ever exist and No Cities is chokablock with burners. Corin Tucker still wails, Carrie Brownstein is still a guitar god, and Janet Weiss is still one of the greatest drummersalive. This album is so powerful and true, it crushes and makes my heart ache with joy. Album of the year, band of your life.

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2. HEALTH – Death Magic

Like being engulfed in a supernova but you can hear a tender voice whispering sweet nothings as the flames consume your body. Imagine the noise of a collapsing building restructured with a melody. The proper follow up “Die Slow” demanded.

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3. Madeon – Adventure

Dance album of the year. Finally someone makes the sequel to Discovery that Daft Punk couldn’t be bothered with. Adventure has about five peak moments and never lets up. My most listened to album of 2015.
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4. Carly Rae Jepsen – E•MO•TION

Jepsen is now two for two for great albums that were ignored by the general public. Like KissE•MO•TION is front to back pop bangers, impeccably produced and performed. Jepsen is over here making fucking albums, ALBUMS! and people don’t even care. Hope she never stops, “Run Away With Me” and “Making The Most of the Night” already classics.

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5. Capsule – Wave Runner

Yasutaka Nakata first came on my radar when I was advised by many a twitter denizen to listen to Perfume’s 2013 album Level3. That album sounds like being executed by a thousand lazer synths at once. It’s incredible but eventually overwhelming. Nakata produces for Perfume but Capsule is his main band and he has a long career of various pop and dance meldings and experimentation. Wave Runner is actually straight ahead dance pop for the most part, but it’s more aggressive than what I am used to hearing. Every song sounds like it was made for a space launch.

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6. Drake – If You’re Reading This Its Too Late

I keep thinking I don’t like Drake that much and then I listen to this repeatedly for a month.

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7. Daniel Johns – Talk

The surprise of the year was the r&b album from the former lead singer of Silverchair. Mostly midtempo, Talk isn’t going from some white guy lover man schtick, instead displaying a wounded vulnerability that Silverchair tended to overpower with it’s alt rock thud. Johns is a confident crooner, and the production is wonderfully varied and unique.

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8. dumblonde – Dumblonde

The production shimmers and it sounds like the vocals were chopped and filtered and sprinkled around the tracks like ornaments. Danity Kane is the worst thing that created the best things.

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9. Vince Staples – Summertime ’06

A double album without the feeling of being worn down by the length. Staples raps with fury and with a smirk and the beats are undeniable.

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10. Local H – Hey, Killer

Local H are one of my all time favorite bands. They are responsible for two of my all time favorite albums and their live show is without peer. Hey, Killer is a better than solid collection of crushers, peaking with “John The Baptist Blues”, which has one of those riffs that makes life worth living.

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11. Future – Dirty Sprite 2

Can a mumble and a gurgle be profound? I say yes. Future raps of opulence and excess overwhelmed by sadness. Is this guy ok? Someone check on Future!

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12. Janet Jackson – Unbreakable

One of the greatest to ever do it, still doing it. This is one of those front to back, bring a smile and bring a tear kinda albums.

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13. Girls’ Generation – Lion Heart

The accusing tone of “songs made by committee” holds less weight to me than say, a film made by committee. A great pop song can be written by someone alone, just flowing out of them as the muse hits. Or it can be made in the lab, tinkering so that the chorus is bigger and the verses are tighter and the whole package races out the door like a spaceship at lift off. That is what this album delivers, carefully crafted and molded pop/dance without a speck of dust or grit. In a way, it is perfect.

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14. Failure – The Heart is a Monster

My senior year of college I became a Ken Andrews obsessive after hearing the album Make Believe he released under the On moniker. I went back and got all his other shit, did an embarrassing interview with Andrews for my college radio station(the recording is in my basement somewhere, safe from us all), devoured his other solo and side project work (Year of the Rabbit is a used bin staple, but it rocks), and of course meeting other Ken Andrews fanatics in my travels. The uniting principle for all of us Andrewsheads is his first band Failure and their 1996 opus Fantastic Planet, one of those cult pieces that burrows deep inside a small audience and has them still talking about and obsessing some 20 years later. The Heart is a Monster is a direct sequel to FP and it ended up being even better than anyone could have hoped. For the hardcore Andrewsheads it is a fulfillment of long held hopes and dreams.

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15. Fall Out Boy – American Beauty/American Psycho

FOB’s strange pop comeback barrels on, and for every strange left turn decision that I have trouble reconciling (Big Sean on the last album, the Munster’s sample on this one), they still deliver some career best work(“Jetpack Blues”, “Fourth of July”) and make a song with SebastiAn (“American Beauty/American Psycho”) that sounds just a like a SebastiAn song. So, good. And the remix album for this was not half bad either.

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16. Empress Of – Me

This one reminded me of when Bjork made albums with beats and melodies you could dance to and play over and over again.

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17. Destroy This Place – Animal Rites

Not to discount the previous Destroy This Place albums, but this is the first one that sounds like a real, fully fleshed out Band. The influences are obvious but the tracks aren’t boneheaded, and if you thought the last Foo Fighters album was a dud this one picks up the slack. “No Apologies” is a particular triumph as it is one of the great closing tracks. Great closing tracks are so few and far between! These guys are on a roll.

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18. Dr. Dre – Compton

Dre didn’t owe us shit but he dropped this anyway. I guess there is a backlash to this album but it knocks and I didn’t think Dre was into knocking anything anymore.

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19. Neon Indian – VEGA INTL. Night School

This thing has a weird gurgle sound on the keyboard for the first half but the songs themselves are solid and the back half is all hits. Best thing Alan has done since “Parking Lot Nights”.

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20. Eagles of Death Metal – Zipper Down

My kneejerk response was too slight, but it has grown on me with repeated listens and the riffs are strong. I was also foolish in not realizing that “I Love You All The Time” is a new one for the canon.

 

Honorable Mentions

Grimes – Art Angels
John Carpenter- Lost Themes
Shamir – Ratchet
Jack Ü – Skrillex and Diplo Present Jack Ü

 

Best Songs of 2015 

Cool For The Summer

 

 

  1. “Cool for the Summer” by Demi Lovato: “Cool for the Summer” was my most listened to song this past year. It is a perfect piece of pop design, with the kind of blow-out-the-speakers chorus that Max Martin has become the master of creating. Demi Lovato imbues the track with the obvious sexual fire but also a yearning humanity that I don’t get from someone like Katy Perry. Other artists perform, but Lovato owns this track. There are many ways to sell the “bodytype” line, Lovato made it legendary.
  2. “Back Together” by Robin Thicke featuring Nicki Minaj: Robin Thicke is the most hated man in pop music, and all he did was be kinda skeevy and have a drug problem. In comparison to Justin Bieber and R. Kelly, he’s practically a saint. So this comeback track failed to do just that, but it still stands a supreme piece of production and writing by, yup, Max Martin. My wife and I listen to this song a lot.
  3. “A New Wave” by Sleater-Kinney: This is the feeling of infinite possibilities, set to music.
  4. “Run Away With Me” by Carly Rae Jepsen: Jepsen bringing that sax fire. Bowie would be proud.
  5. “Cool On Fire” by Daniel Johns: The best groove on the album.
  6. “10 Bands” by Drake: Fuck it, let’s not even discuss it, man.
  7. “tender green life” by dumblonde: The vocals are pitched up almost to a chirp, and the coo over the chorus is inspired. The whole thing sounds like “You know what would be crazy? If we did THIS!” But 11 times.
  8. “John the Baptist Blues” by Local H: Monster riff milked for 6 glorious minutes. Rock n roll heaven.
  9. “L.A. LOOKS” by HEALTH: The closest HEALTH will get to being poppy, and the closest to a love song. “It’s not love but I still want you.”
  10. “Sign” by Girls’ Generation: On an album of pop perfection, this one is the most perfect.
  11. “Solid” by Ty Dolla $ign featuring Babyface: No drums! Just the guitar and that hook. When the notes go higher and then ring in unison, ohhhhhhhhh baby.
  12. “Keep Searchin'” by R. Kelly: R. Kelly is probably a sexual predator. That said, he still possesses one of the greatest voices on the planet. It’s tough. His new album is ok, but this bonus track is some wonderful throwback shit. Almost sounds like Michael Jackson near the finale. Oh, Michael was problematic too.
  13. “To Ü” by Jack Ü featuring AlunaGeorge: Best drop of the year.
  14. “Wolves” by Kate Pierson: Kate Pierson has a hall of fame voice. Her work in the B-52s is peerless. Her solo album is a fun jaunt, and this track is it’s peak.
  15. “All Day” by Kanye West featuring Theophilus London, Allan Kingdom and Paul McCartney: The definitive version is live with flame throwers, but the studio version is also fire.
  16. “B Boy” by Meek Mill featuring Big Sean and A$AP Ferg: What? Big Sean on a good song? 2015 was out of control. Best song that Meek Mill kept off his album.
  17. “Coffee” by Miguel: I thought the new Miguel album was a disappointment(Please no more California Songs) but “Coffee” was a strong single and closest to the sound I loved on his last album.
  18. “Right Here, Right Now” by Giorgio Moroder featuring Kylie Minogue: Moroder dropped the ball on his album but “Right Here” is a flames collaboration with Kylie, who tends to pull greatness from her producers. If the rest of album wasn’t a stinkfish I’d say make a whole project together.
  19. “Nightclub Amnesia” by Ratatat: Every Ratatat album has a song that makes you forget that Ratatat albums are largely boring filler.
  20. “Dreamin’ Boy” by CAPSULE: “Are you ready?”

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Music Journal, December 10th, 2015

December 10, 2015

 

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Confident by Demi Lovato

My beloved “Cool for the Summer” is one of the few bright moments on this surprisingly serious album. In fact, “Cool” is an outlier thematically, with just about every track branching from the title song’s empowerment message of confidence against naysayers and heartbreak. Lovato is coming from a real place, and I commend that, but by the time you get to the ode to her dead father* you’re going to be scrambling for something more upbeat, like say one her early albums. Great voice but this just isn’t much fun.

*Songs about Demi Lovato’s father are an expected feature on every album, like how every U2 album features a song about God.

 

Revival by Selena Gomez
Great production, terrible lyrics. Gomez has a nice husk to her voice even though she packs more groaner lines than I thought imaginable. Much of the time, Gomez sings the way Bjork talks, if you can imagine that. Selena Gomez might just have a really interesting, strange album in her just yet.

 

E•MO•TION by Carly Rae Jepsen

This one was a real grower, every listen getting better and better. It has more in common with 2012’s Kiss than anyone wants to admit. That album was a rock solid pop record, and this one is even better, though “I Really Like You” turned out to be a big whiff. “Run Away With Me” is an instant classic, “Boy Problems” sounds like Taylor Swift shade, the whole thing is a blast. A lot was made about working with supposed left field indie producers like Dev Hynes but this album doesn’t sound that different, production-wise, from other pop records. If anything, it sounds better than I expected considering that she didn’t work with Max Martin and his ilk. Saying you didn’t work with those people like it is some sort of badge of honor makes no sense. Those guys make great hits! But I digress, this album rules.

 

Big Grams by Big Grams 

Great for Phantogram’s career. Not for anyone else. Was going for chocolate + peanut butter, ended up with vinegar chips and vanilla ice cream.

 

I Changed A Lot by DJ Khaled

Come for the Future features but leave before the reggae dancehall track. These albums are consistent to a fault. By track ten it feels like the production is stomping on your face with a steel toe boot, leaving a “We The Best” imprint in your cheek.

 

As If by !!!

!!! are now eight years and three albums removed from their career peak, Myth Takes. That album sounded like a band opening their arms and letting in the world, while subsequent recordings Strange Weather, Isn’t It? and THR!!!ER have ended up sounding reserved and almost conservative. As If is no Myth Takes Part 2 but it is a step in the right direction. It struts harder, gets weirder, and seems just on the edge of really, truly losing it right as it closes. Don’t stop, you guys.

 

Purpose by Justin Bieber

Justin Bieber is an uninteresting vocal presence. On Purpose, Bieber sings nearly the entire album in a flat stage whisper and when he does aim for a high note, it ain’t much to tell your friends. The production is consistent with the Diplo/Skrillex/Major Lazer sound of the summer, repeated and remixed until it all starts to sound like the same chirpy bird sample has taken up residence in your ear canal.

The promo cycle for this album was all about redemption, but for most of Purpose Justin Bieber sounds unrepentant and passive aggressive. The first line of “Sorry” is “You gotta go and get / Angry at all of my honesty / You know I try but I don’t do too well with apologies”.  Way to put it all on us, Bieber. This woe is me theme pervades the album. On “I’ll Show You”, JB pulls the old poor little rich boy line. “Sometimes it’s hard to do the right thing / When the pressure’s coming down like lightning / It’s like they want me to be perfect / When they don’t even know that I’m hurting”. Wow! The lack of self-awareness is about the only thing I can recommend about this album. Song after song of this shit. The gall!  When Justin Bieber isn’t apologizing while knocking bowls off the table he’s worried about the children of the world. I know this because he seriously, truthfully, I am not fucking kidding, starts a dance track(!) with the lyrics “What about the children?” I’m kinda in awe.

But seriously fuck this guy.

 

Get Weird by Little Mix

This is what kids in 3rd grade call “edgy”. Terrible album.

 

Bang 3, Pt. 2 by Chief Keef

Chief Keef is actually an incredibly consistent artist. Bang 3 was fire, this is fire, Chief Keef is forever on fire.

 

Unbreakable by Janet Jackson

Janet Jackson is a legend. Her career was sadly derailed by prudes, but the quality of the work never really dipped. Damita Jo is flames! Now with Unbreakable, Jackson delivers more wonderful songs, perhaps not as sexually driven as previous albums, but still undeniably personal. Working again with Jam & Lewis, Unbreakable is a front to back album, not a dud to be found. We are not worthy.

 

Vega INTL. Night School by Neon Indian

The first half of Vega INTL. Night School sounds like it was recorded underwater. The synths bloop and bleep like they’ve been submerged in goo and are trying their best to make a sound. I hated it on the first listen and it has grown on me but a version without the bloopy soaked effect would definitely sound better. The latter half of the album is pretty much fire, best thing Neon Indian has ever done, still not as good as the old Ghosthustler tracks and demos this guy started with, but that is my problem.

 

 

Best Music of 2014

December 30, 2014

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2014 felt like 2009, a year with a couple stand out records but an off year since we didn’t have any new Kanye. So goes Kanye, so goes the year.

I listened to as many albums as I could get ahold of this year and even as it ends I’m still finding stuff I missed or should have spent more time with. Much love to Rich Gang, Guy Gerber and Puff Daddy, Charli XCX and A$AP Ferg.

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1. Death From Above 1979 – The Physical World

I just wrote and then deleted a long autobiography about my relationship with Death From Above 1979’s first album, about the mythology created about the band with my wife and my friend Lauren, about the times that Sebastien was a jerk and Jesse was the coolest dude ever. But I don’t want to bore you. Death From Above 1979 are back, and this album rules. The production is cleaner but the songs are still brutal, ferocious, and instantly danceable. A joke we make is that Jesse’s bass is tuned to “awesome” at all times. I mean that in the truest sense. This band inspires awe in me. This record leaves me awestruck. It is a triumph and I am so happy they’re back. 10 years was worth it. Sebastien is still a jerk but that is why we love him.

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2. Keys N Krates – Every Nite

Trap dance? I don’t know the official term but Every Nite is all bangers.

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3. Duck Sauce – Quack

Another long wait that was worth it. A-Trak told a podcast in 2011(!) that this record was done and mixed and it finally came out this year. A-Trak is the partner that Armand Van Helden has needed his whole career. Van Helden has certainly created some masterpiece singles in his lifetime but a full cohesive album? Not until Duck Sauce. A-Trak is a people pleaser and he works well to accentuate Van Helden’s strengths and keep all his goofing around contained in the skits. This is dance floor nirvana.

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4. The Afghan WhigsDo to the Beast

Greg is back and he brought tunes. This is a divisive record since Rick McCollum isn’t featured on it but it still sounds like the Whigs to me and Greg is in fine form. In the sea of reunion cash ins, this is a record with purpose and spirit.

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5. Mastodon – Once More ‘Round The Sun

After the slump of 2011’s The Hunter, …Round The Sun is a nice return to form. Killer riffs abound and these guys still know how to write a hook. Standing ovation.

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6. Run The Jewels – Run The Jewels 2

El-P made me a believer with his production on Killer Mike’s 2012 R.A.P. Music. I didn’t exactly see the light on the first Run The Jewels but the sequel definitely hit my sweet spots. The raps are vicious and the beats are there to match them.

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7. Brody Dalle – Diploid Love

Brody Dalle’s post Distiller’s career has been largely silence, with the exception of the Spinnerette project, which took a promising EP and expanded into a disappointing album. Diploid Love is a total success, with Dalle playing nearly everything and just rocking faces. Dalle’s voice still retains that trademark rasp and she sounds like a Beast.

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8. Klaxons – Love Frequency

Is this really the last Klaxons album? Bummer. This one is more like the Myths of the Near Future with laser synths and less guitar. Rachel thinks it sounds like 2007 which is great! 2007 was great!

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9. Sloan – Commonwealth

Sloan seem to be on an every other album thing with classics at this point in their career. After roaring back with Never Hear The End of It in 2006 they released the short and relatively subdued Parallel Play. That record is mad underrated. Then in 2011 they dropped The Double Cross which is a fucking masterpiece so it makes sense that Commonwealth would be more chill. Of course, it only takes a couple listens to realize that Sloan still have it and will always have it, that their songs will imprint into your mind and you’ll be singing them forever.

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10. Skrillex – Recess

He could have just made 11 bangers and said “That’s a wrap” but instead he sought out some interesting collaborations, and just tried to see what would stick. Not as hard hitting as Bangarang, this would be the thoughtful Skrillex album. Still has some dance jams but he is in a headier place. If this one left you wanting there is always the Dog Blood stuff which are all face melters.

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11. Ariana Grande – My Everything

I was hoping for this to be 2014’s Kiss and while it didn’t quite get there it still has plenty of jams. Songs with Zedd, The Weeknd, A$AP Ferg, all fire.

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12. Stars – No One Is Lost

Despite their claims, I thought Arcade Fire really shit the bed with their “dance music” attempts on Reflektor. Stars made similar claims on the run up to No One Is Lost but hey, they came through. Only the title track and the closer have that club feeling but the rest of the album is a more than solid collection of indie rock jams, and as someone with little stomach for indie rock these days that is saying something.

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13. We Are Scientists – TV en Français

I’m a We Are Scientists fan for life so every record goes into immediate rotation. This one is more chill with less rockers but these guys still know how to crafty punchy tunes. I’ll take it!

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14. Slipknot – .5 : The Gray Chapter

My expectations were low to non-existent for this album. Paul Gray dies, they kick Joey Jordison out of the band, the last record was just ok, was this album even going to exist at all? I should have realized that nothing gets a metal band invested like the death of bandmate. Like Back In Black and Down III.5 is all righteous fury and chewed anger. And they have “Custer”, which is an immediate instant classic. I read they’re closing their shows with it now.

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15. DJ Quik – The Midnight Life

DJ Quik is a legend and genius and all of his albums are great. Same with this one.

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16. Spoon – They Want My Soul

Spoon are so good at this point that it is easy to underrate them or just plain take them for granted. This album is more top quality Spoon for us Spoon loving masses.

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17. Todd Terje – It’s Album Time

This album sounds like these weird instrumental albums my dad used to play when I was growing up. I think they were like new age or something like that. Listening to this reminds me of being 10 years old but not in any specific way. I say this because I can’t describe the feelings this album elicits any other way. It’s really good and it makes me feel like a child.

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18. YG – My Krazy Life

As I type this I read that YG and DJ Mustard are feuding. If so, get this last document of their fruitful collaborations.

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19. French Montana – Coke Boys 4

I joked in January that this was the best album of the year but then I kept listening to it and I guess I love French Montana?

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20. Katy B – Little Red

I don’t think this record caught on because they waited over 2 years to captialize on the excitement of “Aaliyah”. Drop this album in Spring 2013 and you might have had something. That said, it still has plenty of fun dance cuts and hey, they included “Aaliyah”!

Best Songs of 2014

  1.  Swet Shop Boys “Benny Lava” Heems of Das Rascist drops of one off EP with the jam of the year. I heard he’s quit music and working in an office now which is total bummer because dude has bars.
  2. Federal Reserve featuring Cam’ron, A-Trak, Juelz Santana & Dame Dash “Dipshits” This promised a Dipset return that didn’t happen but while you play the track you feel like Cam and company are set to take over the world. Dame Dash with best spoken word outro of the year. Also A-Trak!
  3. Death From Above 1979 “Virgins” The first 10 seconds of this song are the greatest 10 seconds of your life.
  4. Keys N Krates “Are We Faded” Yes.
  5. Death From Above 1979 “Trainwreck 1979” The comeback single that said that everything will be alright and the boys are back.
  6. Stitches “Brick In Your Face” This was the year of Stitches. He has a gun tattooed on his face and he loves cocaine. Also video of the year.
  7. Future featuring Pharrell, Pusha T and Casino “Move That Dope” Pharrell has the best verse on this track and there are a LOT of great verses on this track.
  8. Bobby Shmurda “Hot Nigga” Free Bobby.
  9. Duck Sauce “Time Waits For No-One” This is the great sequel to “U Don’t Know Me” that we’ve been waiting 15 years for.
  10. Dej Loaf “Try Me” The nicest song about murdering your enemies.
  11. Hercules And Love Affair “Do You Feel The Same?” These guys can’t make a full record but they’re usually good for one jam and this song is a JAM.
  12. La Roux “Uptight Downtown” La Roux followed up a five year absence with 9 songs, 1 of which was this one, totally great, and then eight forgettable whiffs. But yeah, this one rules.
  13. Ariana Grande feat. A$AP Ferg “Hands On Me” These two sound absolutely jubilant about having sex.
  14. Drake “0 To 100” Swap in “We Made It” or “6 God”, Drake dropping loosies and still running shit without an album.
  15. A-Trak & Lex Luger “Ohmygosh” A-Trak also also worked with Lex Luger this year and made some bangers so basically A-Trak was running shit in 2014.
  16. Drake “Trophies” More Drake.
  17. Brody Dalle “Don’t Mess With Me” Noted.
  18. The Afghan Whigs “Algiers” This sounds a lot like the True Detective theme song which is also a pretty good song and hey a not bad show have you watched True Detec-
  19. Kylie Minogue “I Was Gonna Cancel” This Kylie album felt slight but had a few wonderful moments, this Pharrell production being the highlight.
  20. Designer Drugs “Crystal” BANGER BANGER BANGER BANGER BANGER!
  21. Young Money featuring Tyga, Nicki Minaj and Lil’ Wayne “Senile” This beat is insane and I can’t believe they let Tyga rap on it but Nicki and Wayne drop flames and thus it is a classic.
  22. French Montana featuring Jadakiss “88 Coupes” Harry Fraud needs to do a Ghostface album, stat.
  23. Run The Jewels featuring Zach De La Rocha “Close Your Eyes (And Count To Fuck)” As a longtime Rage Against The Machine fan, I was excited for this and the fact that it actually delivers on it’s song title is remarkable.
  24. Basement Jaxx “Never Say Never” The Jaxx have been just ok since crushing shit on Kish Kash in 03 and Junto is a nice return to form. “Never Say Never” is their best single since “Good Luck”.
  25. Nick Jonas “Teacher” I’m as surprised as you. The rest of the album is a snooze though.
  26. Nicki Minaj featuring Beyoncé “Feeling Myself” Nicki Minaj released “Only” as a single instead of this and I just can’t wrap my mind around it.
  27. Sloan “You Don’t Need Excuses To Be Good” Chris Murphy is a golden god.
  28. Slipknot “Custer” New classic.
  29. Beyoncé “7/11” The self titled album ended up on my list last year but this track is as good as about half the songs on that one.
  30. Disclosure featuring Mary J. Blige “F For You” Disclosure are inherently boring but Mary J. Blige makes this a first class banger for the ages.

Lorin’s Favorite Music of the year 2013

December 30, 2013

2013 turned about to be the year when every major artist in the game dropped a big album and maybe half of them were any good. For every triumph like Yeezus or Hesitation Marks you’d have a disappointment like Magna Carta Holy Grail or Random Access Memories. I could write a whole thing on the let down albums this year. Nah. Too easy.

20) Stay Trippy – Juicy J

Those Rubberband Business mixtapes were my shit and Stay Trippy was a long time coming and totally worth the wait. All bangers about strippers and drugs, which is what we as human beings want from Juicy J. “All I Blow Is Loud” and “Gun Plus a Mask” are instant classics and “The Woods” is probably the best thing Justin Timberlake did all year.

19) Heartthrob – Tegan and Sara

“Love They Say” is pure beauty and sadness. So is “Closer”. Whole thing has this weird mix of happy/sad going on. I’ve never really cared for Tegan and Sara before this album and I know there was talk about Heartthrob as some kind of craven grab at popularity but these songs sound real good, and real true. Getting a budget doesn’t mean you can’t still be true! And everyone wants to be popular! Who are we to tell Tegan and Sara they can’t put food on their families?

18) Blurred Lines – Robin Thicke

If this guy could dance he would have the world on a string. Still, everything on this album is better than both those bloated 20/20 thuds. Breezy and fun, done in 40 minutes.

17) Trap Lord– A$AP Ferg

All you need to know about this album is that the chorus to “Dump Dump” is

“I fucked your bitch, nigga, I fucked your bitch

I fucked your bitch, nigga, I fucked your bitch

She suck my dick, nigga, she suck my dick

She suck my dick, nigga, she suck my dick”

16) Artpop– Lady Gaga

Lady Gaga is overstudied and not nearly as good as she thinks she is. And yet, this album is fire. So many bangers, just vicious shit. Purposely ugly in all the ways that appeal to me, yet with these huge neon hooks. The hook for “Sexxx Dreams” is like a laser to the face. “Aura” is a monster.

15) B.O.A.T.S II: #MeTime – 2 Chainz

2 Chainz goes front to back here, just casually dropping bangers and classics like it is just the most natural thing in the world.

14) Save Rock and Roll – Fall Out Boy

Fall Out Boy are one of my favorite bands. Their three album run in the mid 2000’s is some hall of fame shit. They don’t get any respect though because their audience is largely girls and old men like to write rock history. Save Rock and Roll is weird and actually doesn’t have a ton of guitars on it, but it still has great hooks, fantastic singing from Patrick Stump, and a song about masturbation. The boys are back.

13) Nothing Was The Same – Drake

2013 was my year of Drake. I know why people don’t like him and sometimes I still don’t like him but I think he has more songs I like than dislike and Nothing Was The Same is pretty good. I think it could have used a couple more bangers like “Started From The Bottom” but that wasn’t what he was feeling at the moment. But did you hear “Trophies”? Shittttt.

12) Excuse My French – French Montana

This may be the last we hear from French Montana. The album flopped and people have already moved on but this album has tracks. Hot fire all over and these beats, son. Diddy paid good money for these beats and it would be a shame for all of us to ignore them. Also, the ignorance of “Pop That”, “Marble Floors” and “Ocho Cinco” all on the same album is awe inspiring. May French continue to be worried about nothing.

11) Dynamics – Holy Ghost!

The first three songs are kinda eh but then it makes a huge jump in quality and you can forgive those first tracks and come to like them a little bit. I saw these guys live this year and they aren’t very interesting performers but the songs sounded good and while they can’t really pull off their ballads live, those tracks are the best songs on Dynamics. “I Want To Be Your Hand” is an instant classic.

10) Matangi– M.I.A.

This album should have been called Bangers. M.I.A. never fell off, really. I’ve gone back to MAYA a few times and it is still hit and miss but who doesn’t have a moment like that? We keep giving Jay-Z second chances. Matangi is easily M.I.A.’s best album, no contest. The production is vicious, she still doesn’t give a fuck, and unlike her other records it isn’t back loaded, it’s just loaded.

9) My Name Is My Name– Pusha T

I still listen to Hell Hath No Fury all the time. I bought Till The Casket Drops even though the reviews were bad. I listened to No Malice’s solo album(terrible, btw). I rocked that Play Clothes mixtape for like half of 2009. I’ve listened to the Re-Up Gang record at least 4 times. I really really like The Clipse. My Name Is My Name is largely flames, Pusha T goes hard, Kanye hooked him up with some hot beats(“No Regrets” oh shit), dude is back. I wish The Clipse were back but this is great. Best Pusha track of the year is “Millions” off of the Wrath of Kaine mixtape.

8) Hesitation Marks – Nine Inch Nails

Nine Inch Nails have never made a bad record. This is a fact. Look it up. Every album is good to great, though us hardcore Nailheads can argue over which is which. (Year Zero is my shit). Hesitation Marks isn’t a return to form, thank god, it’s just the next step. There are dancey songs and funky songs and songs that are slow like “Hurt” and it is all fine and good.

7) Black Panties– R. Kelly

What do I do with you, R. Kelly? How do I reconcile your past actions with the music you made and continue to make? It’s tough. And tougher for the victims of your crimes. Black Panties is a really good album. The track with Future is next level. “Legs Shakin'” is bananas. “Every Position”, totally nuts……Man. I dunno.

6) Long.Live.A$AP – A$AP Rocky

A$AP Rocky is a cool dude. That’s what he sells, being cool as shit. The first half of this album is like riding in a haze of cool(and weed smoke). Then he drops “Fucking Problems” and “Wild For The Night” and your heart level jumps up and you freak out and start breaking things and then you simmer down again. Then “Ghetto Symphony” comes on and you level a city.

5) Old– Danny Brown

If you ever bad mouth Danny Brown on Twitter, Danny Brown Stans will come out of the darkness and flood your mentions with anger and vitriol. “Danny Brown is the truth!”, they will scream. “Danny knows what is going down in these streets!” He does! I agree! This album is great, leave me alone.

4) Beyoncé– Beyoncé

Like the rest of you, I’m still digging into this one, but it’s highlights are plentiful. “Drunk In Love” and “Blow” were early favorites, and “XO” gets better with every listen. I was rocking “Bow Down/I’ve Been On” since January so “***Flawless” is of course my shit. Frank Ocean is still boring, though.

3) Yeezus – Kanye West

I like how nothing is going right for him in “I Am A God”, which everyone seemed to miss. Oh well, Kanye foreverandeverandeverandever.

2) For Professional Use Only – Araabmuzik

Araabmuzik got shot this year by some guy trying to steal his chain. Araab lived, dropped a sick remix album, kept on keeping on. Plus, you’re asking for trouble trying to rob the guy who made “This For The Ones Who Care”.

1) Paramore – Paramore

I started to like Paramore a lot after those two guys left the band and some astute blogger somewhere pointed out that all the songs on their last album were about how those two guys were just a bunch of assholes. That they quit because they were concerned about “keeping it real”, whatever that means in the pop/punk scene, which is the phoniest scene around. This album is a great rebuke to those guys, and really anyone who shit on this band, because the songs are sooooo good. Songs about being adults, and moving forward, and living your life after hard shit happens. I listened to this album a lot, and it was a no brainer when I had to pick my favorite of the year. “Ain’t It Fun” is a nice final “fuck you” to those guys who quit, but it could also just be about lazy people. There are levels to this shit.

Best songs of 2013
1) “This For The Ones Who Care” – Araabmuzik

2) “Fo Real” – Future featuring Drake

3) “Do What You Want” – Lady Gaga featuring R. Kelly

4) “Hold On, We’re Going Home” – Drake featuring Majid Jordan

5) “Fucking Problems” – A$AP Rocky Featuring Drake, Kendrick Lamar, & 2 Chainz

6) “Suit And Commercial” – The Hood Internet (Daft Punk/Justin Timberlake)

7) “Higher” – Just Blaze x Baauer featuring Jay Z

8) “All You’re Waiting For” – Classixx featuring Nancy Whang

9) “Going With You” – Sebastien Grainger

10) “I Told Em” – French Montana

The Best Music of 2012. Sorry for the lateness. (I’m not sorry)

February 5, 2013

I have been messing with this list for so long that I almost let 2013 pass me by. 2012 was good. I saw The Afghan Whigs live. I started doing improv which has completely changed my life for the better. I celebrated a year of marriage to the love of my life. THE RAID: REDEMPTION came out. Banner year all around. Let’s get to the tunes!

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25. Rufus Wainwright – Out of the Game
I’m not a hardcore Wainwright fan. I like his upbeat stuff more than his ballads, I don’t have any interest in his reenactments of Judy Garland concerts. His last album was horribly self indulgent but this Mark Ronson produced record is Rufus taking the hint to have fun, be loose, and sing songs about Rashida Jones. I’m at the point in my life where the artists who once sang of wild nights and hedonism now sing songs about island vacations with their husband and kids. That album title is heavy.

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24. 2 Chainz – Based on a T.R.U. Story
I think we all inflated our expectations for this album. 2 Chainz was murdering guest appearances all over the place, being the best part of every song he popped up on. A whole album of 2 Chainz? Yes please. The highlights tend to be the guests like Drake on “No Lie” and Kanye West on “Birthday Song” but 2 Chainz has charisma and a knack with hooks so you have a pretty fun ride. Delete the Mike Posner track on sight.

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23. Blinker The Star – We Draw Lines
90’s could-have-been drops a sleeper. Is this alt or indie? We Draw Lines is super hooky and well produced, which I guess means it isn’t indie. With so many 90’s groups returning with absurd twists on old sounds and songs, Blinker The Star came out with just great tracks that manage the trick if being reminiscent of the old sound without being derivative.

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22. Usher – Looking 4 Myself
“Climax” is great and we should be happy just to have that. That the rest of Looking 4 Myself turned out as well as it did is kind of a miracle. Usher doesn’t strike me as the best barometer of taste, and I still recall how bad “Love In This Club” and “Moving Mountains” were, so the style experiments that work on this are nice surprises. The two Swedish House Mafia tracks aren’t mindless EDM like “O.M.G.” and most of the lyrics on the album are introspective in ways I never would have predicted. “What Happened To You” is a particular higlight in this regard. At the same time, the sexual confidence of Usher is largely unfettered and very hilarious. I think we’re like one album away from a song that will have the subtext of “I sexed her so hard she died. My bad.” Can you keep up with Usher sexually? He is doubtful.

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21. R. Kelly – Write Me Back
Dude can’t stop. Write Me Back falls right in line with 2010’s Love Letter. Good to great throughout, with the exception of two songs that you can delete from your iPhone like I did. “Feelin’ Single” is one of the greatest songs R has ever written, and “Share My Love” endorses impregnating as many people as possible. See you in July, Robert!

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20. A-Trak – Tuna Melt EP
Four bangers and then he steps back to let you collect yourself. A-Trak is one of those “genius takes hours of practice” kind of guys and his time and effort shows on this pretty flawless little EP. I think this bodes well for the years of classic bangers to come.
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19. Gucci Mane – Trap God
Gucci Mane also dropped Trap Back last year but Trap God  is just a little bit better. I’ve finally come around on Gucci’s mush mouth style and I like it quite a bit. Of course it’s best when coupled with someone frenetic like Waka Flocka Flame, who elevates a track like “Rollies Up” to classic status. Also, do you guys know how much a rolex watch costs? A lot! Having multiple rolexes seems financially irresponsible. Plus who owns a watch nowadays? The time is on your phone, Gucci!
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18. Katy B – Danger EP
It only took a year and change for all the dubstep people to switch up their style to actual danceable EDM and what a joy it is to behold. Apparently just a teaser EP for an upcoming full length, B sets the bar high. Even the ballad is good. True story, I listened to “Aaliyah” four times the first day I heard it.
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17. Waka Flocka Flame – Triple F Life: Friends, Fans & Family                          

 It is tough to follow a classic. That’s right, Flockaveli is a classic. Deal with it. Triple F can only pale in comparison but Waka still brought the heat. “Lurkin” is an instant classic and “Candy Paint and Gold Teeth” is laidback fun. “Rooster In My Rari” is the kind of crazy fierciness I expect from Waka out the gate. I’m not entirely on top of the vernacular but I’m pretty sure “Rooster” is about getting head a in Ferrari. I COULD BE WRONG.
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16. G.O.O.D. Music – Cruel Summer
Hey, I know there are a couple crap songs on this, but it also has “To The World”, “Clique”, “Mercy” and “New God Flow” right in a row at the beginning. And that Cudi song ain’t bad either. “Cold” is fire. Every Kanye verse is a career highlight. This thing is great! Great! (I deleted “Sin City” off my iPhone long ago)
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15. Skrillex – Bangarang
I don’t think I’ve come around on dubstep so much as the artists who know what they are doing have managed to make dubstep’s more abrasive elements more fun and listenable. So Bangarang is just uptempo bangers, with very little of that that slowed down drop garage that was the Skrillex calling card on previous releases.
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14. TNGHT – TNGHT
Someone somewhere pointed out that this album is just trap beat instrumentals. Good description, person I can’t give proper attribution. Every beat knocks, 16 car shaking minutes.
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13. The Presets – Pacifica
This is actually a heck of a lot like the last album by The Presets, Apocalypso. Best tracks are in the middle, kind meanders at the end, fun experiments all around. They do seem more earnest now. Hey, we all get older. It’s fine. “Fall” and “Promises” are dance songs with real emotion within them.
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12. Gossip – A Joyful Noise
This is the best Gossip album, full stop, no debate. Total dance party, great production, and Beth Ditto sounds amazing. Worst album art of the year though.
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11. Japandroids – Celebration Rock
This album took me a couple months to really start digging. These guys rock faces and do that “Whoa oh!” singing that is a lot of fun to sing along with in the car. “Continuous Thunder” is a great closing track which is saying something since most rock album closing tracks are total bummers. You know who knew how to close an album? Rage Against The Machine. The last song on their first album is “Freedom”, which is a balls out classic. End with a classic. Make me happy I stuck around til the end.
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10. Death Grips – The Money Store
I’m not going to lie to you, some of this album is terrible. But it is mostly awesome. The drums and the synths will suddenly merge out of their isolated chaos and sync up into a joyous union of laser anger. That is a pretty accurate way to describe “Hustle Bones”. The guy can’t really rap and the lyrics make no sense but it all comes together on “Hacker”, which goes all disco ball synths out of nowhere and reminds us that angry punks still like to kiss girls.
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9. Vitalic – Rave Age
Vitalic drops some hall of fame bangers on this one. “No More Sleep”, “Stamina”, “Next I’m Ready”, all monsters. No one has dropped an all banger, all monster tracks dance record since the duel headed releases of MSTRKRFT’s Fist of God and The Bloody Beetroot’s Romborama in 2009 but this comes pretty close.
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8. Future – Pluto/Pluto 3D
You can listen to either version of this album, I’ve just been listening to the 3D release because it has the “Same Damn Time” remix on it and Diddy’s verse is amazing. Also I think having “You Deserve It” as the first actual song is a better look. Future is a hook machine and all of his tracks are hits or hits to be. Like Waka, he knows how to make his guests shine, like T.I. on “Magic” and especially R. Kelly on “Parachute”, where Robert basically hijacks the album to tell all his haters that he is back and better than ever. Truth.
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7. DMX – Undisputed
Got intensely into DMX in 2012. It started when i caught his appearance in the concert film Backstage where he suffers no fools, leaves it upon his wife to properly greet Chuck D and answers Chuck’s question about the tour experience saying that every moment not spent on stage is pure misery. Then I watched DMX in Belly and my mind was blown. This guy is too real. I believe everything he says. It isn’t always nice(it is never nice) and it is frequently ugly and it is riveting. DMX is an amazingly consistent artist. His discography is largely dud free and his previous two albums have an incredibly high ratio of bangers to not-bangers and while Undisputed is more 50/50 bangers to not-bangers, X stays X. He’s passionate, he’s angry, and he has a great ear for beats. Swizz Beatz stays DMX’s greatest collaborator. “Y’all Don’t Really Know” is an insta-classic X/Swizz collaboration.
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6. Hot Chip –In Our Heads
Such beautiful songs. Hot Chip at their most sincere, at least to me. I haven’t watched any of the videos off this album but all the videos for their previous albums seemed to undercut the emotional sincereity of the songs, like Hot Chip were worried about being too real. These songs sound like they come from a pure place, like they’re talking and “it’s just me and you”. (h/t Kanye) Closing with the one-two punch of “Let Me Be Him” and “Always Been Your Love” is an emotional wallop.
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5. Torche – Harmonicraft
It’s all about the tones, man. I don’t know how to play guitar so I don’t know if they’re tapping, plucking, or flicking the strings with a guitar pick but it sounds majestic. And powerful. And delivered with a brevity unseen in metal. Next song! Next Song! Is this metal? It seems too poppy and clean, yet it roars. I’ll leave that for someone else to worry about.
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4. Carly Rae Jepsen – Kiss (Deluxe Version)
I still don’t care for “Call Me Maybe” and that horrid song with the Owl City guy but just about everything else here is fantastic. A couple club bangers(“Tonight I’m Getting Over You”, “Wrong Feels So Right”), great pop tracks(“This Kiss”, “Hurt So Good”, basically every other song) and nearly every single one is about forbidden love or risky romance. I think at least a quarter of these songs are about the queasy feeling you get when you first develop feelings for someone, and the rest are either about hooking up with someone even though Jepsen’s character is involved with someone else, or in the case of “Tonight”, dancing away the pain of a breakup. All produced to glistening perfection. Shit’s great. I also deleted all the ballads long ago. We are truly in the future.
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3. Deftones – Koi No Yokan
Is this the best Deftones album? Maybe. These guys just keep getting better and Koi No Yokan hits all the sweet spots and never falters. This is easily the best collection of Deftones midtempo slow burn ballad monsters that they’ve been trying to perfect since the self titled album in ‘03. If “Entombed” doesn’t become a metalhead wedding staple I will be very surprised. It still has plenty of blazing riffs but it’s pretty great to hear these gorgeous ballads, with Stephen Carpenter’s guitar just wailing into (what I imagine is) the night sky.
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2. Killer Mike – R.A.P. Music
“Oh!”
“Whoa!”
“Oh man!”
“This album ain’t kidding around.”
“Seriously? SERIOUSLY?!?”
“C’mon, that isn’t fair.”
“…..shit.”
– Me listening to this album the first time.
My reactions haven’t changed. Killer Mike and producer El-P go hard for the entire running time, with Mike covering Reagan’s poisonous legacy and telling enjoy stories about Jojo’s conversations with a phantom Ghostface. El-P’s beats are across the board hall of fame shit and “Big Beast” is the kind of monster track that is so perfectly constructed and powerful with two great guest spots from T.I. and Bun B that continues their tradition of being better on other people’s records than on their own.
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1. Miguel – Kaleidoscope Dream
Kaleidoscope Dream is the best album of 2012 because it is infused with joy and ingenuity. Miguel is locked in to what he wants his music to sound like and he doesn’t chase any trends, he is undeniably himself. The production is lush and expansive but the focus is always on Miguel’s voice and his lyrics, which are really good. I love The-Dream but the guy traffics in a kind of smart-dumb style, same with R. Kelly at times. Miguel writes himself characters and scenarios that are interesting and funny and sad. “Pussy Is Mine” manages to sound like the deepest lark ever made. “Oh, I was just messing around in the studio on this heartfelt paeon to a woman who I think is going to leave me. No biggie.” Anyone else get goosebumps from the first 30 seconds of “Don’t Look Back”?

Best songs of 2012

1. “New God Flow” – Kanye West, Pusha-T, Ghostface Killah
2. “This Kiss” – Carly Rae Jepsen
3. “Feeling Single” – R.Kelly
4. “Sweet Life” – Frank Ocean
5. “My Life” – Rich Kidz feat. Waka Flocka Flame
6. “Big Beast” – Killer Mike feat. Bun B, T.I. and Trouble
7. “Climax” – Usher
8. “I’ve Seen Footage” – Death Grips
9. “Don’t Look Back” – Miguel
10. “Aaliyah” – Katy B x Geeneus x Jessie Ware
11. “No More Sleep” – Vitalic
12. “Birthday Song” – 2 Chainz feat. Kanye West
13. “Lurkin” – Waka Flocka Flame feat. Plies
14. “The House That Heaven Built” -Japandroids
15. “Snakes Are Charmed” – Torche
16. “Hacker” – Death Grips
17. “Bad Girls” – M.I.A.
18. “Bangarang” – Skrillex feat. Sirah
19. “Fuckin’ Problems” – A$AP Rocky, Drake, Kendrick Lamar, 2 Chainz
20. “Hot Cheetos & Takis” – Y.N. RichKids

The Best Albums of 2011: A list

January 20, 2012

Do you need an introduction? Well, I liked all these albums.

20) Patrick Stump – Soul Punk

Fall Out Boy stan for lyfe. Stump has his Timberlake moment and he nails it. The lyrics are cheesy but that’s because he has no time for winks and artifice. Dude wants to dance, girl.

19) Wild Flag – Wild Flag

Carrie wanted to rock again so she assembled a wrecking crew and done wrecked some shit.

18) Spank Rock – Everything Is Boring and Everyone Is a Fucking Liar

Spank Rock has important things to say and ideas to relate but thankfully he still makes booty jams. Go with what you know.

17) Foo Fighters – Wasting Light

In the Foo Fighter’s documentary Back and Forth, Dave Grohl points out that it was miraculous that There Is Nothing Left To Lose won a Grammy and it was recorded in his basement. He was equally incredulous when Wasting Light was nominated this year since it was recorded on tape in his garage. For his next one he should put Butch Vig in his pantry and Pat Smear in the laundry room.

16) Mr. Muthafuckin’ eXquire – Lost In Translation

A really good rapper who loves to rap about being under appreciated and getting head. Well, someone appreciates you, eXquire.

15) Beyoncé – 4 (Deluxe Edition)

The regular version is fine but you need the deluxe version for the song where she convinces her companion (Hov one presumes) to stay home from the club and makes the point that if he stays home he gets to have sex with Beyoncé. Well played, B.

14) Rival Schools – Pedals

Walter still sounds tougher than he looks and Ian is still a casual guitar god.

13) Justice – Audio, Video, Disco

In a way, Justice are taking a piss. But their interviews are so sincere and they say things like “My favorite book is the Bible” and aren’t kidding. They already did their half ass version of Don’t Look Back and now they’re doing a variation on Boston, except their spaceship crashed.

12) Cut Copy – Zonoscope

Divisive, this one. If In Ghost Colours cured cancer than this one took care of scoliosis.

11) Limp Bizkit – Gold Cobra

Wes Borland saved up all his best riffs and didn’t even use them in his own fucking band. It’s like he knew one day he’d want to put on the ol’ body paint and play “Break Stuff” for the millionth time. Fred Durst is now full on hilarious and lacking in apparently any self awareness, naming a song “Douchebag” and taking it’s chorus to homoerotic realms previously unexplored. He also refers to himself by the name “Polar Bear”, as his rhymes are indicative to the native climate of Siberia.

10) DJ Quik – The Book of David

DJ Quik is the kind of guy who will brag about things that no one else brags or even necessarily cares about. But that’s because Quik only deals in tangibles. He really does play piano, write his own rhymes, and once pistol whipped his sister for black mailing him. Also he still has all of his hair.

9) The Rapture – In The Grace Of Your Love

Jesus saves? Alright, just this once. Seeing as you brought all these jams with you.

8) Win Win – Win Win

Banger city, population: these guys. The Glenn Beck parody is on point too and I don’t generally fux with skits.

7) Das Racist – Relax

They’re still funny but most importantly the beats are fire. I’m not mad they put “Rainbow In The Dark” on it since “Rainbow In The Dark” rules so who gets mad when a good song comes on? Not me, that’s for sure.

6) SebastiAn – Total

SebastiAn took his time putting out his debut album, some might say past the sell by date of this particular sound and style of music, in this case ’07 era blog house filter disco. But that stuff is great! And unlike dubstep you can dance to it. Everybody still likes to dance, right?

5) Lady Gaga – Born This Way

What a thrill to have Lady Gaga finally take her philosophy to making music videos and applying it to her music. That philosophy of course is more, more, more, steal, steal, steal. Love it. Her videos are still shit though.

4) Fred Falke – Part IV

Daft Punk make boring soundtracks now and Mylo won’t come out of his house except to yell at Kylie Minogue so Fred Falke rolled up his sleeves and did the hard work for them. I don’t want to say Fred’s a genius or anything but this thing is front to back bangers so maybe he is. Have him take a test and get back to me.

3) Sloan – The Double Cross

Sloan are great. They made another great album. They’ve taken Diddy’s words to heart.

2) Jay-Z & Kanye West – Watch The Throne

The first time I listened to this album I thought it was good. Then I listened to it again and I thought it was still good but maybe had some other issues. I went back a third time to check out those issues but also to listen to the three song stretch of “Niggas In Paris”, “Otis”, and “Gotta Have It” which is the best 9 minute stretch of any album this year. I went back a fourth time and really started to enjoy the new lyrics on “That’s My Bitch”. The fifth time through I was in traffic and just kinda vibed with it. The sixth time I listened to it I had taken a break so it was all fresh and new again. Definitely started to appreciate Jay’s fire on “Why I Love You” but had started skipping “Made In America” at this point. On my seventh listen I was more amused than irritated by “Lift Off”, which only exists because Kanye was dying to use that NASA sample. On my eighth listen I pondered why they didn’t figure out some way to work “H.A.M.” into the equation instead of as a bonus track. On my ninth listen I was sure that someone should have told RZA to calm down with the ghostly wails on “New Day” so we could actually hear all of the lyrics. That said, just hearing these guys say “Me and the RZA connect” is treat enough. On my tenth listen I reconciled the fact that even if “Who Gon Stop Me” samples dubstep these guys at least take it’s bludgeoning sound to a logical conclusion and take that shit all the way over the top with Holocaust references, since dubstep is sorta the Holocaust of music scenes.  I just listened to Watch The Throne for fun after that. Good album!

1) Friendly Fires – Pala

Friendly Fires are too pure for this world. Even their sad songs are iridescent dance jams. Ed MacFarlane sings like he might die tonight and we’ve got to make the most of it, right now. “Are you ready, there’s not much time.” “Where are we going?” “I don’t know, but we’re going to dance the whole way!”

20 Songs I liked in 2011

December 28, 2011

Just the other day someone told me that they think I just hate everything. Strong words with just a touch of hyperbole and a basis around the fact that the new albums by Common, Young Jeezy and Drake are some lame horseshit. Well, the Jeezy album is more boring than terrible. But that Common album. Oh my lord. But if you go through the archives on this very blog you’ll find that more often than not the compulsion to post to the internet was to shit all over something like Law Abiding Citizen(which I’m discovering has it’s share of defenders) or Transformers 3 and not sing the praises of, say, Drive. A valid criticism. So in a show of acknowledgment to my critics here are twenty songs that I enjoyed in 2011. I’m sure you’ll be kind in the comments.

20. Cher Lloyd – “Swagger Jagger

Apparently a celebrity in the U.K., Cher Lloyd is repeatedly stalked by critics, haters and sycophants. To combat them, she made this song where she cutely raps about how they can’t get enough of her because they be jealous and are simply jocking her steez(Or swagger jagging) and then she sings the chorus over a pulsing electro beat that rocks so hard the ground shakes in the video. This dumb thing stole my heart.

19. Rihanna – “Where Have You Been

No Rihanna, where has this song been? I know it’s made up of other songs and it’s not really all that original but it’s a fucking banger and anyone who knows me knows I love fucking bangers. She’s screaming “Where! Have! You! Been! All my liffffffeeeee!” and synth lazers are firing under her and then the world explodes. Oh, production by Calvin Harris? That makes sense.

18. Mr. Muthafuckin’ eXquire – “The Last Huzzah!” feat. Despot, Das Racist, Danny Brown & El-P

The beat to “Huzzah” is hot as fuck so Mr. Muthafuckin’ eXquire invited all his bestest friends over to rap on it. And rap they do. El-P spits fire, Danny Brown makes me reconsider everything I’ve ever said about him, Das Racist kill it as usual and this Despot guy is pretty good too. eXquire gets the last word because hey, it’s his song. Necro produced this? Thrilled I can enjoy something he has created that isn’t sad or disgusting.

17. Rival Schools – “69 Guns

United By Fate was my shit in 2002. This was unsurprisingly my shit in March.

16. Justice – “Helix

My favorite song on that new Justice album everybody didn’t like. I don’t fux with 70’s radio rock but I enjoy Justice’s decision to smash and chop it into danceable guitar solos. Y’know, like Daft Punk used to do. Remember them?

15. Young L – “Bottle of Rose’

Sifting through the myriad of hip hop mixtapes that come out every two days is worth it for those moments when some marginally talented misogynist gets ahold of a wrecking ball beat and kills that shit dead. Really, what would you say over a beat this sick? Nice things? No you wouldn’t.

14. Foo Fighters – “Rope

This band has three guitarists now. Three! I think they all get to do something fun here.

13. Limp Bizkit – “Why Try

In which Fred Durst spends the entire first verse and chorus literally killing you only to have you come back to life in the second verse just to get killed all over again. Nothing if not thorough. Wes Borland approximates an actual buzzsaw guitar, everyone else does their job and I pretend I’m in 11th grade again.

12. Beyoncé – “Love On Top

Listen, I like “Countdown” just fine. More than fine actually. But when it comes down to it, I will always pick the songs that choose Off The Wall as their inspiration.

11. Lady Gaga – “Bad Kids

I have to say that the bad behavior displayed in the track is pretty benign. Much like Lady Gaga in general, best to just move on and not dwell on it. But the Hi-NRG meets hair metal tableau works, despite the horror that is hair metal. I won’t call it magic. Maybe luck?

10. SebastiAn – “Kindercut

For everyone who was disappointed that the new Justice album didn’t sound like the old Justice album, SebastiAn has a banger for you.

9. The Rapture – “How Deep Is Your Love

Five years gone The Rapture pop back in with a straight up disco floor filler, acting like they haven’t been gone a millisecond. Good work, gentlemen.

8. DJ Quik – “Ghetto Rendezvous

Only DJ Quik would air out his grievances with his sister on a beat this funky.  Enjoy the groove while DJ Quik tells his sister she has a yeasty vagina.

7. Das Racist – “Michael Jackson

I feel you. Holla.

6. Sloan – “The Answer Was You

Picking a standout from an album of standouts is a challenge (a delightful challenge) but hey, Jay is on fire here. His best song since “Don’t You Believe A Word”.

5. Spank Rock – “Race Riot

XXXChange is my dawg 4 lyfe. I’ve been eagerly awaiting an actual recording of this song since seeing Spank Rock perform it live four years ago. Worth the wait, Spank Rock and XXXChange channel the Yoyoyoyoyo era with blaring horns and cowbell. Of course the centerpiece is the “Shake it till my dick turns racist” instruction. Yeah, this is a song about cumming.

4. WIN WIN – “Interleave With You” feat. Alexis of Hot Chip

Hey, it’s XXXChange again. The guy is great. Alexis has a great, sad vocal here but the MVP is that distorted bass synth line that creates a subtle background melody. You know the one. This is the song you play at your cyborg wedding AFTER you play “All Is Full Of Love“. Respect.

3. The-Dream – “Body Work/Fuck My Brains Out

Originally a teaser for the now set for release in 2012 new The-Dream album, “Body Work/Fuck My Brains Out” is a nine and half minute career high. The first half all midtempo slow grind, The-Dream yowling and moaning out his desire, stopping and starting the beat at his discretion for emphasis and to do one his trademark “Ohhhh”‘s. So intense is his obsession for this woman at one point he admits he can’t even defecate if she isn’t around. Damn. “Fuck My Brains Out” is the raunchiest earworm this side of Prince’s “P-Control” and it’s “Listen to me baby” line has become a personal lyric meme between my wife and I.

2. Friendly Fires – “Hurting

Is it going to hurt some feelings if I say that “Hurting” is Friendly Fires best song? The truth hurts.

1. Jay-Z & Kanye West – “Niggas In Paris

They did this song five times when they played Pittsburgh but I certainly could have heard it a few more times. Basically, Jay-Z starts off killing it, Kanye comments that Jay just killed it so hard that it’s kinda crazy, then Kanye kills it, more affirmation of said craziness, then the world explodes. Let’s do that again! My wife played this in the car about five or six times in the last two days, and it was the first song that played on random when she drove to work this morning. THIS MEANS SOMETHING. What it means is that this song is great and we listen to it all the time.

On Take Care, Fear of God II, Camp and Talk That Talk

November 16, 2011

The problem with Take Care is that Drake’s honesty is boring. Love or hate his decision to write songs about drunk dialing ex-girlfriends and this self involved “fame is hard” narrative, he fails to be interesting lyrically and musically. Take Care‘s 17 tracks of maudlin pity parties feature the kind of bland pronouncements just about anyone could convey. The act of a great artist is to make the mundane interesting, to present the human condition from an angle not always considered. The Drake on Take Care appears lucky instead of talented. Drake presents his scenarios in a unadorned and straightforward manner with little word play and a confessional style reminiscent of over hearing someone else’s conversation involving people you’ve never met. Unlike Kanye West, who is a mess of doubt and hubris and quite obviously a little crazy, Drake is pretty simple, a rich guy who fucks a lot of women. “Marvin’s Room” might be based on a real ill-advised drunk dial but is Drake any different on this track than any other where he’s telling women “they can do better”. There is a cloying sexism to Drake with his “Take care” and “Make me proud” sentiments that feel jerky and condescending. Drake’s party line would be “Had a lot of sex, made plenty of money, not bragging just saying, feels empty”, delivered in that same plain spoken style, artless and often tone deaf. Drake’s lyrics on his first album  and his mixtapes were kinda corny but that corniness was endearing (Heck, I made sure “Best I Ever Had” got played at my wedding) and to abandon those attempts at lyricism for dull statements is a strange decision. Also, what is this; “Don’t listen to those lies/I swear they’re all lies“. This is Drake 2.0 so he’s not trying to be funny.

The beats on Take Care rarely ascend above a plodding midtempo so you can’t even dance to this shit. Just Blaze shows up at one point and straight up kills it but Drake doesn’t help by literally rapping about going through a girls phone and turns what should be a swagged out jam into another pity party. Oh well, I’m just glad to see Blaze back in the game. That dude has still got it. Finally, I don’t know what to make of the choice of turning “Back That Ass Up” into a ballad, but rest assured it was a bad one.

What must it be like when an artist or creative type realizes that their glory days are behind them?  Pusha T solo stuff remains a mixed bag of decent spitting on top of whatever beats that is solidly OK, which for anyone would be fine but this is one half of The Clipse, the guys who did this and this and THIS. The beats are never out and out bad but like I said, just OK. The best tracks are the Juicy J feature “Body Work” and the Neptunes production “Raid”. “Body Work” is your standard “we kill people” track and those are usually pretty good and hey so is this. “Raid” has a great beat and inspired verses from Pusha and 50 Cent of all people but strikes out with a particularly grating Pharrell hook which, y’know, hey, they can’t all be winners. The most exciting moment on the album is when Pusha promises a new Clipse record during the outro. Don’t forget to call the Neptunes when you’re making that one, Push.

I was about four tracks into Camp when I realized that I didn’t like any of the Childish Gambino mixtapes and that Camp is just more of the same, frantic rapping with pop culture references but no strong hooks. Obviously Donald Glover wants to be taken seriously as a rapper which means no funny business but Childish Gambino just gives me a “Party All The Time” vibe, Glover playing against his strengths to deliver “serious” hip hop that no one would ever put on at a party or dance to yet is the essence of what type of music he is clearly trying to make. There is no arrogant foolishness or wild eyed frenzy because Glover is so intent on being taken seriously that there is no room to breathe. Watch the video for “Freaks and Geeks“, where Glover raps his heart out with rhyme after rhyme of references and word play but it isn’t exhilarating, only exhausting. It’s a shame that the album title refers to this instead of this.

Talk That Talk has the most good songs by Rihanna in one place at least until her inevitable Greatest Hits album. The ballads are still dull and the sex talk awkward and unconvincing but there are some bangers which I didn’t really expect. Loud did a bait and switch with “Only Girl In The World” and with Talk That Talk‘s lead single “We Found Love” I figured that would be the album’s peak, much like how “Rude Boy” was the shining moment of glory amongst Rated R‘s crappy rock songs and dubstep. Imagine my joy and surprise upon hearing “Where Have You Been”. A straight up monster, “Where Have You Been” is a future Hall of Famer which is surprising since part of the vocal steals it’s melody from a Johnny Cash classic that I wouldn’t think to nick from when crafting a dancefloor jam. The hook is pure butter and proves that Rihanna is at her best when she abandons the ice queen style that she tends to fall back on and embraces being a human being. Most importantly, the beat is fucking sick as hell. Elsewhere, Talk That Talk is about what one could hope for from a Rihanna album with an obligatory Jay-Z verse on the title track that I enjoy in spite of the fact that I find Hov unconvincing in his pose as a man who is still actively pursued by groupies. Over 40 and about to be a father I can’t believe Jay-Z would spend any time interacting with anyone he talks about on the track. The-Dream and Tricky Stewart contribute of course but for some reason their track “Birthday Cake” fades out before it even becomes anything. The dubstep track is relegated to the deluxe version so small favors there. At this pace, Rihanna will make a half way decent album by the time she’s thirty. Just keep making those club bangers, girl.