As I give my creaking knuckles calisthenics, I’m reminded of how great 2013 was for music. There were a lot of great releases, and I think that a few of my selections might shock a few people this year, but it’s necessary to give credit where it’s due. Leave your comments in the C-Section below, and let me know how you feel.
Archive for the Year in Review Category
Top 10 Albums (no particular order)
Kendrick Lamar: Good Kid, m.a.a.d. City
“Swimming Pools (Drank)”
Kendrick Lamar has the Outkast factor. I can listen to his songs, intently focusing on the lyrics while getting lost in the scenes he vividly describes, or I can zone out, not pay attention to what he’s saying and dance to the beat while singing along with the incredibly infectious hooks. GKMC feels like 3 Stacks and Big Boi rolling through Compton with Caine and O-Dog from Menace II Society.
Standout Tracks: Money Trees, Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe, The Art of Peer Pressure, Swimming Pools (Drank), The Recipe Continue reading
Is it really that time of year again? I have no idea where 2012 went; it seems like it was just January a few short months ago. In this seemingly short year, there has been a slew of superb releases – especially in the Hip-Hop realm. Like I’ve always said, making a year-end list is no simple task, and it’s inevitable that someone (or a lot of people) will disagree with my choices; however, opinions are unique to each individual, and we are all entitled to our own. If you feel the need to voice your opinion, leave a comment in the C-Section.
Another year is over, I’m still alive; and not only that, there seems to be an exceptional amount of awesome, noteworthy stuff going on in my life. Outside of a crazy school and work balancing act, I’ve still been busy having fun with many other things, but nothing has gotten in my way to enjoy an enormous amount of amazing new music this year. In fact, I would say that my love for all music (especially metal of the psychedelic/extreme variety) has been ignited even more than ever by an unbelievable, ever-surprising regional live music scene during 2008. Accept them or not, I stand by them; here are my picks for best music from the year 2008:
Favorite Metal Albums of 2008
Nachtmystium, Assassins: Black Meddle Part I
Nachtmystium put themselves at the forefront of underground metal this year with an album that I could not stop coming back to. Assassins is an album with an eerily classic vibe, beautiful production, and some of the most memorable songs I heard all year. After the epic Worldfall EP release in the beginning of the year I had an idea of what Blake Judd and friends were brewing up, but nothing could have prepared me for the behemoth mindtrip of venomous hate that Assassins embodies. Half of the beauty of the album is its successful implementation of the meandering experimental jazz structures (which are also prominent on the Pink Floyd album that inspired the concept) and the other half is in the sheer brutal, epic, headbanging collections of riffs that this release features. From anthemic black metal to epic psychrock to acidic punk rage, Assassins shows the band lining with the stars to create an album of the most soul wrenching metal songs of the year. Clearly, the USBM scene has been a breeding ground for some of the most interesting innovations in metal over the last few years, and with releases like this continuing to crush conceptual and musical boundaries, it will only be a matter of time til this band and its peers get the respect they deserve. With Assassins, Nachtmystium have created the perfect vehicle to deliver an American wave of raw hate and reality to the rest of the world.
On Smile, Boris have found their most enjoyable phase of their ever-shifting psychedelic metal sound thus far – at least that’s my opinion. Tonally, the album is gorgeous, and Wata’s out in full display with an arsenal of riffs the makes me quiver every time I listen (I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that the ghost of Hendrix teaches her how to play guitar in her dreams at night). The sludge and solos are convincingly emotional and imaginative, and the whole album is tied together by lo-fi interludes and psychedelic jams that evoke a peculiar sense of innocence. Smile is an album that sees the band finally achieving a balance between the wide array of noises they have perfected along the way. In the Boris fashion, fuzzy stoner epics and spastic thrash anthems feel perfectly at home next pretty acoustic interludes and pop hooks. Doom/stoner metal is not an easy genre to make “fun”, but Smile’s uninhibited metal jams allow Boris to make an album that does just that. Put the album on, look in the mirror, and you’ll see it lives up to its name.
Every twist and turn of obZen is chaotic and unpredictable; riffs that seem like they could shred flesh command across a backdrop of some of the most rhythmically challenging percussive pieces ever written. While it would seem contradictory, Meshuggah is more in control of their sonic circus than ever. The song structures are all extremely unfamiliar and complicated – even for death metal – but the emotion of the album is confident and focused. With each successive track, we are witnesses to spectacular feats of cohesion and power. Although it might feel like a rollercoaster that is about to go off the rails and crash at times, obZen is an unstoppable beast – solidly, steadily barreling along like a high speed, hot-rod modded steamroller to hell. As with past albums, the mind bending experimental flourishes are the root of Meshuggah’s appeal, but obZen’s true power lies in its full force its brutal attack.
Gojira, The Way of All Flesh
With the high expectations preceding this release, there was no telling whether the French progressive death metal quartet Gojira would attempt to return to their heavier, traditional death metal roots or proceed on with their ambitious mind-expanding conceptual ways. As the followup to the highly praised From Mars to Sirius, The Way of All Flesh is an album that satisfingly/amazingly accomplishes both. Death and thrash with an intricate, wicked percussive section is still the driving force, but they’re pushing boundaries even more this time around – especially on mindtrips like “A Sight to Behold” and “The Silver Cord”. In truth, Gojira has created an album that might be hard for them to top or perfect upon. Their progressive conceptual basis hits closer to home than on any previous release, and meanwhile all I seem to care to do is thrash violently and headbang to the infectious chaos that unfolds around me with each fresh listen.
Cursed, III – Architechts of Troubled Sleep
It’s almost as if they knew their days were numbered when these songs were put to tape. Cursed’s final album, III: Architechts of Troubled Sleep, features the most riff heavy, “pedal-to-the-fucking-metal” hardcore of the year. Their Entombed meets Converge meets Amebix assault of fast and furious dirty hardcore has never sounded more pissed off, and thus appropriate. As their final farewell, this album leaves a refreshing sting. Truly, this IS the loudest band in Canada, and III is an album that boldy and violently shreds any illusion that you might have that your world is safe.
Krisiun, Southern Storm
How is it possible that a trio can sound so intimidatingly massive and powerful? When its comprised by the Brazilian death metal brethren known as the Koleshen brothers, there’s no debating the scale of attack! Much of the album is powered by the artillery-heavy blastbeat attack that Krisiun is known for, and these riffs are fucking heavy. Songs like “Slaying Steel”, “Combustion Inferno”, and “Bleeding Offers” command rage like no other death metal this year. However, this time around, the bands brand of vicious death metal is inexplicably both more precise and head-bangingly enjoyable. The riffs breathe and move with a kind of ferocious freedom that evokes a beautiful sense of real fear on songs such as “Minotaur”, “Contradictions of Decay”, and “Sons of Pest”. Not to mention, great production too! When this comes through Minnesota live with Destruction in March, I hope to see the most brutal pit imaginable!
Harvey Milk, Life… The Best Game In Town
For anyone who hasn’t noticed, heavy rock is back in a big way this year. I don’t really know what has caused it (..Guitar Hero, most likely..), but either way, I’m not complaining about the sudden influx of authentic ass-kicking riff-heavy rock that has reared its head lately. With that said, Harvey Milk’s Life.. The Best Game in Town is the most awesome and enjoyable album that could possibly fall in this classification this year. Life is an ambitious album of Harvey Milk’s heaviest tunes yet. From bluesy bass lines to infectious, boot-stomping riffing to drugged-out unearthly epics; its a bewildering ride that you’ll be glad you took.
Cavalera Conspiracy, Inflikted
Perhaps it was purely my aforementioned love of Brazllian death metal that drew me to this release. After all, the core of this band – the Cavalera brothers – comprised the heart of the prodigal early 80’s Brazilian death metal band known as Sepultura; a band that would help to ignite a pride for death metal throughout the country and change the way the world saw extreme metal from that point on. Either way – all past grievances aside – it’s great to FINALLY see Max and Iggor jam together again, and having Joe Duplantier (of Gojira) and shredder Marc Rizzo at their side doesn’t diminish the bands’ appeal to me, either. This album is as raw, brutal AND (most importantly) fun as it was presented. Max and Iggor are together again, and while it’s not called Sepultura, is a brilliant listen that indicates an impassioned and bright future for the brothers.
Rotten Sound, Cycles
If you asked yourself where all the sick and twisted grindcore bands were at this year, it’s probably because most of them were probably hiding in shame from the firestorm that is Cycles by Rotten Sound. The album is an aggressive display of the most visceral blasting noise of the year. On Cycles, Rotten Sound are masterfully churning a brutiful molten metal stew from genre luminaries such as Napalm Death and Nasum and their own injection of Finnish grit and grime. Perhaps the reason that I loved this record so much is that its a grindcore album that plays more like a rock album. The dynamics are a step above any grind I’ve ever heard before, and as such I’m replaying this album more than any other this year.
Cult of Luna, Eternal Kingdom
Sweden’s Cult of Luna have really upped the ante with their newest album, Eternal Kingdom. Much heavier than their previous release, this is an album continues to greatly improve on their impeccable brand of post/doom experimental metal and hardcore. Ambitiously abstract and surreal, Eternal Kingdom is an organic album of nuanced experimentation that is everything we could hope for from the band.
Runners up of 2008
Testament, The Formation of Damnation – Forget about Metallica, this is 80s thrash the way it is meant to be heard.
Blacklisted, Heavier Than Heaven, Lonlier Than God – While Pitchfork, the AV Club, and many other media outlets lead you to believe that the new Fucked Up is the only hardcore album worth listen to this year (..or according to some dumbfucks, the decade), it isn’t quite. Hardcore has been a slowly dying genre for nearly two decades now, with only a few bands remaining to carry the torch, but nevertheless, hardworking, progressive bands have kept the scene alive. In my opinon, Blacklisted has stepped to the forefront of the pack with HTH, LTG to take on the duty. Anthemic, memorable, gritty, raw, and straight-to-the point, this is a vicious release that demands to be heard.
Krallice, Krallice – New York black metal band featuring shredders from Behold… the Arctopus and Orthrelm has created the most incredible display of metal guitar talent this year.
Fucked Up, The Chemistry of Common Life – While Fucked Up doesn’t have my vote for best hardcore album, that’s only because it can barely be considered a hardcore album. This is a visionary release that steps outside of traditional genre walls. These guys are prolific as hell too, so who knows what else they have up their sleeves.
Bloodbath, The Fathomless Mastery – In a year or many, many great brutal death metal albums, this album was probably the funnest to my ears. Songs like “Mock the Cross” and “Iesosus” are honestly full of some of the greatest, angry, headbanging riffs be put to a blastbeat in history. To be clear though, this music is definitely not for the meek. Bloodbath are still savagely violent, but on The Fathomless Mastery they’ve created a beautifully riff-laden death metal album that I think could help outsiders realize why we love our shit heavy as lead!
Enslaved, Vertebrae – It took me a while to come to terms with the fact that I’m leaving this off of my Top 10 list. The fact is that I still haven’t had enough time to listen to it and let it sink in; either way its a very awesome album of epic progressive black metal.
Cynic, Traced in Air – This album gained my love for several reasons, cheif among them being that it simply sounds different than any record I’ve ever heard. Super slick transitions and electronic mastery are what makes the album so alluring, and the heavy foundation give it weight and maximum replayability. From seemingly out of nowhere, Cynic is back and (dare I say?) better than ever.
A Storm of Light, And We Wept the Black Ocean Within – Josh Graham’s new band rewrites the post-metal formula with a captivating, bleak outlook and an innovative sonic vision.
Hellhammer, Demon Entrails – Whereas Enslaved and Nachtmystium seem to be writing the blueprint for the future of blackened extreme metal, Demon Entrails shows us where it all began. This ravenous collection of early recordings is a must-own for any fan of extreme music. Cold and unforgiving, these original demoes still shock 25 years late. While I’ve been hearing the influence of Hellhammer’s music constantly for many years, it’s very satisfying to finally have my hands on these seminal recordings.
Favorite Metal Songs of 2008
Most Brutal Video of 2008
Behemoth – “At The Left Hand Ov God”
Best Live Metal Concert of 2008
All things considered, we were plagued with some very awesome metal tours this year; At the Gates and Carcass both reunited, Metal Masters 2008 united some of the best names in classic metal, and plenty of smaller bands were on tour to satisfy my tastes (including an unspeakably awesome post-Pitchfork showcase show with Nachtmystium, Torche, AND Boris). However, I’d be lying to myself if I denied the honor of best show of the year to the reunion of Max and Igor Cavlera. I was giddy as a schoolboy when I found out that they had reconciled their differences and reunited, and watching their show in Maplewood sidestage next to Dillinger Escape Plan was the highlight to my year. For the entire night, the Myth was moving in a circle, and for good reason. After two months on tour, Max and Iggor had coalesced into their impeccable groove machine and hit the stage with seemingly more fire than ever. The twenty one song set was anchored by 12 of the best Sepultura tracks known to man; Refuse/Resist, Biotech, BTR, Arise, Propaganda, DEC, Troops, Territory, Roots..peppered throughout by choice cuts from the new CC album. What more do I need to say? On this night, Cavalera Conspiracy showed that heart of Sepultura still beats strong, but it’s only that it’s been transplanted to a new body.
Heavy Music Split Release of 2008
Two great gritty bands team up for an exciting two track LP that showcases their strengths. A great listen for anyone who a) enjoyed Disfear’s newest raw release of d-beat noise rock B) is interested in what a new Doomriders 2009 album will sound like (hint:\m/ DOOMROCK \m/) or c) needs an introduction to either of these awesomely heavy bands.
Favorite New Band in 2008
Tombs caught me completely off guard earlier in the year during a performance with Rosetta; next to the other bands that night, I was amazed how alive and maniacal the power was behind this trio’s noise. After the release of an LP and split that take post-metal in a darker direction, I’m very happy for their signing to Relapse this year and am really looking forward to their 2009 debut (tentatively titled Winterhours) with the label.
Favorite Area Metal Albums of 2008
|Høst, Høst (2008 album released under band name Hennes Siste Høst)
Black metal band from North Dakota with a raucous, progressive, and unpretentious new album of majestic wizardry that connects the dots between Sonic Youth and Emperor. Expect to hear much more from them in the future.
|Ambassador Gun, When in Hell
Minneapolis grindcore trio who have carved out their own niche of headbang-inducing, fist-pumping grind ‘n’ roll. A new album released this year is their most impassioned and enjoyable yet.
|Gay Witch Abortion, Maverick
A hard-fucking-rocking Minneapolis duo with a multi-faceted, amazingly innovative approach to their craft. It’s chaotic punk-infused noise metal that you can’t help but dance to. Think, if Lightning Bolt grew up playing Slayer, AC/DC, King Crimson, AND Bad Brains covers…
Metal’s Biggest Disappointment of 2008
Metallica, Death Magnetic – Really, I’ve never been a huge Metallica anyway, but the huge amount of good hype that was surrounding this release honestly had me believing that it might actually be worth something. Unfortunately, I shouldn’t have wasted my time. While some riffs are interesting, there’s way too many cliches and missteps to justify the status its been given as a “return to their roots” (muchless to justify me wanting to listen to this rather than an other album that made my list). Not to mention, the production is godawful.. fuck.
Most Missed Metal Band in 2008
There aren’t enough words to express how sad it makes me that Vitek and Decapitated were taken away from me and so many other adoring metal fans last year. With hindsight to aid my perspective, Decapitated really was the most promising death metal band in existence. Considering the band averaged about 20 years of age at the time of their crash, it becomes even more clear how badly the metal community and the rest of the world were robbed on the day that Vitek was taken from us. Rest in peace, brother; your blastbeats will give me strength til the day I pass on, as well.
These are the bands who called it quits this year that I am particularly sad to see go. It seems like the perils of the world have taken a hard toll on a lot of bands this year; from high gas and food prices to increasing competition for young fans, underground bands have suffered. However, in the future we’ll hopefully be seeing members from these bands surface in other projects, and I’ll have my fingers crossed for inevitable reunion shows. Heck, I already found out that one of my favorite local bands (Blue Ox) has absorbed Logan from Dead to Fall, so I’m optimistic about the possibilities.
Most Anticipated Metal Releases of 2009
Tombs, Winter Hours
Mastodon, Crack the Skye
Snapcase, TBA (retrospective dvd)
Napalm Death, Time Waits for No Save
The Crinn, Dreaming Saturn
…did I hear Sacred Reich are back together?
Favorite Non-Metal Albums of 2008
The Dodos, Fools
Atlas Sound, Let the Blind Lead Those Who Can See but Cannot Feel
Jay Electronica, What the Fuck is a Jay Electronica?
Tobacco, Fucked Up Friends
Grails, Doomsdayer’s Holiday
Favorite Non-Metal Songs of 2008
Best Live Non-Metal Shows of 2008
Rage Against the Machine (acapella RNC jam at the Capitol)
Favorite Local Non-Metal Albums of 2008
Vampire Hands, Me and You Cherry Red
Lullabies from paradise, this music is! No doubt, Vampire Hands’ new album is the most enjoyable rock ‘n’ roll album I’ve owned from any location in quite a long time. This Minneapolis group excels in blissful, uplifting, psychedelia and unsettling ambience that soothingly eases that body and mind.
The whole Doomtree clique was on fucking fire this year. Seems like everyone was releasing solo albums even during the midst of their amazing new collaborative album and some incredible live shows. With groups like this continuing to push limits, Minneapolis will remain an underground hip hop hotbed until the rest of the world truly wisens up..
Top 10 Hip-Hop albums of 2008 (in order from 1-10)
I really want to start off this post for the people that said that there wasn’t anything that special in Hip-Hop this year… My question to you is where the hell were you when these albums dropped?
Black Milk – Tronic: It’s been one hell of a year for Black Milk. He produced and featured on an album with Fat Ray, He produced the great majority of Elzhi’s debut album The Preface, put out a mixtape with Bishop Lamont entitled Caltroit and put out his newest album Tronic. It’s really nice to hear a cat like Black Milk, he is putting the D back on the map and giving the city some recognition like it deserves. This guy has some of the best production around right now and may be one of the best producing emcees I’ve ever heard. The thing that makes this album different from his freshman outing Popular Demand, is that Black really elevates his rhyme skill on this album and it makes for one hell of a showing. This album also features the best front to back production you will hear all year.
Evidence – The Layover EP: When you work as hard as Evidence does, you are bound to turn some heads no matter what the issue. This guy has been working his ass off the last two years, he released The Weatherman LP (one of the top 3 of last year) last year and the LAyover Mixtape as well as the LAyover EP this year. All of the aforementioned material is leading up to the release of his second studio album Cats & Dogs. EV has been putting out some of the most consistent Hip-Hop that heads have heard for a long time. Putting out two albums of straight fire material is getting him the name that he deserves. I can honestly say that out of all of the albums that are on this list, to me this album has the most replay value attached to it. 10 straight bangers for your Hip-Hop loving soul.
Jake One – White Van Music: I wasn’t really familiar with Jake One before I heard White Van Music. I didn’t really know who he was, although I had heard some of the beats that he had done in the past for artists (at the time I had no idea it was him), I hadn’t heard a good collection of his material. The thing that is great about this album is that for the first time in his career, Jake is making beats for his own album and not a project for someone else. All of the artists that are on this album (for the greater majority) fit the beat that is provided. Some of the standouts are Black Milk, Royce Da 5’9″, MF Doom, Elzhi, Brother Ali & there really are many others. This is a great example of a producer doing an album with emcees that he thinks fit the build for his beats. Jake doesn’t rap, but if he did he would have some of the sickest beats in awhile to rap over.
Elzhi – The Preface: The funny thing about this album is that most people don’t know who Elzhi is, but when they realize who he’s affiliated with it’s a different story. Elzhi has been a member of the Detroit collective Slum Village since 2001 (when Jay Dee left), and has put out a few mixtapes in the interim but nothing more than that. The Preface is almost entirely produced by Black Milk (so you know the beats are top notch) and features some great heavyweights from the Detroit scene (Royce Da 5’9″, Guilty Simpson, Phat Kat, Fat Ray and others). Not only does it have great production and great guest appearances, but it shows how versatile and brutal Elzhi is when he is in the booth. El uses simple words in a complex matter and the outcome is utter bewilderment. Elzhi is quickly on his way to becoming one of the best emcees of his time.
eMC – The Show: This album came out towards the beginning of this year, and right away I knew that it was going to hold true for the rest of the year and stay on my top 10 list. Of course, that probably could be the assumption when you have Masta Ace, Punchline, Wordsworth and Stricklin all on one album, not to mention some of the best production in the game. These 4 emcees compliment themselves so well that it sounds like they are almost brothers. The Show follows the same structure that most Hip-Hop concept albums take (A Long Hot Summer, Disposable Arts) and to be honest it was hard for me to put it even this low, because this is one of the best concept albums I’ve ever heard.
The Roots – Rising Down: The Roots Crew has been a pivotal vessel for the Hip-Hop culture for 20 years now. Following the great (but gloomy) 2006 release Game Theory, The Roots took a step in the electronic direction that might not have been expected by a lot of their fans. The result is sheer genius. All of the beats on this album are high quality, and as usual Black Thought uses his “God emcee” skills and dishes us large slices of reality “Between the Greenhouse gases and Earth spinin’ off it’s axis/ got Mother Nature doin’ back flips/the natural disasters/it’s like 80 degrees in Alaska…”. This might be the most political album from The Roots to date, but it’s definitely another very solid outing from the Illadelph 5.
Pete Rock – NY’s Finest: There really isn’t a whole lot I can say about Pete Rock the guy is a Hip-Hop legend. He is easily one of the top producers of all time, and is recognized as the best (he was Dilla’s mentor). I heard a lot of people criticizing this album earlier this year and honestly I think it received some pretty harsh reviews. People were talking about how Pete’s rhymes and cadences were off, I really don’t know what the were talking about, please listen to “Till’ I Retire” (not to mention Till’ I Retire is one of the best beats this year) or “Best Kept Secret” and tell me that to my face. I may call you a complete Douche fearing that you know nothing about what you speak.
Buff1 – There’s Only One: This is the third Michigan native to make this list and to be honest it really doesn’t surprise me one bit. Buff1 is from Ann Arbor, Michigan and he is currently a member of the Athletic Mic League and There’s Only One is his second album. I found out about Buff1 this year when I stumbled upon Pure which was his solo album that dropped last year. Let me tell you something, this guy is something else, he can rhyme his ass off and he’s very catchy. The production on this album is handled for the most part by 14KT who is part of the Lab Techs (a highly underrated production collective) and Black Milk ads his production for a track on the album. I also want to point out that 14Kt is one hell of a producer and he can really cook up some phat ass beats.
Flying Lotus – Los Angeles: When you are being compared to the likes of J Dilla and Madlib, you have to assume that you are doing something right. Even though many would call Flying Lotus Electronica I am going to include him in Hip-Hop. Flying Lotus (Steven Ellison) is known for his hazy spaced out beats and the way in which he layers and produces his music. This is his second album and he has 3 or 4 EPs out at the current time. Fly Lo is going to be someone to watch for because frankly the music that he is making right now is already amazing. I can’t wait to see what kind of elevation this guy can take Hip-Hop and Electronica to in the next few years.
Q-Tip – The Renaissance: Chances are if you can withstand the test of time, you are going to be considered a legend and innovator by many people. Q-Tip was part of one of the most popular collectives in Hip-Hop history (A Tribe Called Quest), put out an acclaimed solo album (Amplified), had a solo project shelved… and now nine years after his first solo release comes his Sophomore album. A renaissance is defined as: a renewal of life, vigor, interest etc.; rebirth; revival. That is exactly what this album is all about as Q-Tip breathes a little bit of funk-disco groove into Hip-Hop’s soul with this record. Tip handles all of the production on the album by himself except for the track “Move” which is produced by the late great J Dilla.
Top 5 Non Hip-Hop Albums (In order from 1-5)
Most people that read this blog on a daily basis know that Hip-Hop is pretty much my heart and soul but I do love other types of music as well (just not on as big of a scale). Here is the highlights of this year.
Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend: Have you ever listened to an album that was just plain ole’ fun? That is what I think of when I listen to Vampire Weekend’s debut album. Vampire Weekend is formed in New York and I feel that they are bringing a great deal of flavor to the genres of rock and indie rock with their melodic upbeat music. Ringing in at just over 34 minutes long their debut album has the quality that most 70 minute albums don’t come anywhere close to. Songs like “A-Punk“, “Oxford Comma” and “Walcott” give meaning to happiness, and songs like “The Kids Don’t Stand A Chance” are so beautiful they almost make me cry. I can’t wait to hear more from these guys.
The Black Keys – Attack & Release:I found out about The Black Keys earlier this year. I had a good deal of people telling me that Attack & Release was where it’s at. To be honest I slept on this album really hard and the only conclusion I can come to after listening to these guys, they can tear shit up. The group is a duo from Akron, Ohio, that’s right just a drummer and guitar player. The Black Keys have a heavy blues sound and boy can they make some amazing music. It really can’t hurt if Dangermouse is doing all of the production on your album either. The thing that makes this album a little different from the rest of the Black Keys’ albums is that it almost parallels a Trip-Hop feel on some tracks.
Tv On The Radio – Dear Science: TV On The Radio has been tearing up the critics’ charts for the last few years, and this year is really no different. Dear Science is truly a masterpiece that can not easily be explained. There are many different feels on this album, but each one of them seem to work so well for these guys. After releasing an album like Return to Cookie Mountain most people would imagine that it would be too hard to release an album just as good or, even harder,a better album. “Golden Age” is the lead single on the album and it almost has more of a funk disco feel to it and then you have tracks like “Family Tree” (please note that the link is for the amazing viedo and the song is absolutely beautiful) that are very slow and sentimental.
Stephen Malkmus & Jicks – Real Emotional Trash: Stephen Malkmus was part of one of the biggest underground alternative collectives ever (Pavement). For that alone I will love every piece of music that this man makes because he is a fucking genius. He is with a new band now, and it’s a whole new bag of tricks. This is the fourth album that he has played on with them and this album is very solid. I have to say this is some of the heaviest guitar material I have heard Malkmus play on since Terror Twilight, and I also have to admit that his apparent “guitar god” ambitions are incredible. This might be some of the best guitar playing you will hear all year. If you don’t think that’s possible take a listen to “Dragonfly Pie” and be amazed.
Four Tet – Ringer EP: I have been in love with Keiran Hebdan’s (Four Tet) music ever since I heard Rounds for the first time. I then found out that Dilla did a remix of As Serious As Your Life, and though if Dilla thinks that this guy is good, he has to be. Ringer shows Hebdan departing from his cut and paste method of Jazz, Hip-Hop, Electronica and folk and going more towards a straight techno feel. This EP is just over thirty minutes in length and it’s definitely a treat to hear Four Tet doing something different.
Top 5 Mixtapes of the Year (In Order from 1-5)
In a year that has seen the economy at all time lows, who doesn’t like to see free mixtapes? Here are my favorite mixtapes of the year.
Jay Electronica – What the Fuck is a Jay Electronica?: I want to start off by saying that this guy needs to get a proper release out there because he is the future of emcees. This guy is one of the most venomous socially conscious emcees I’ve heard in a long time and he has some of the biggest talent I’ve seen. If you take a listen to “Eternal Sunshine (The Pledge)” or “Renaissance Man” it will send shivers down your back when you realize how good this guy is. He utilizes samples of movie dialogue and even raps over movie scores. All of this culminates with the fact that Just Blaze is taking this guy’s back as well as Erykah Badu, he must be something special.
Elzhi – Europass: To be honest, in my opinion Europass may have been a little better than The Preface and that’s not taking anything away from The Preface. Europass is a mixtape that is laced with super hot beats (by Black Milk & DJ Dez) and Elzhi on his best lyrical tip. If this was an actual album release there is a chance that it may have had album of the year honors. You don’t usually get to see an emcee shine on a mixtape like this. This mixtape also featured my favorite track of the year “Fire”.
Evidence & DJ Skee – The LAyover Mixtape: Like I’ve consistently said Evidence is a hard working dude. He put this mixtape out before his EP came out this year and it’s 20 tracks long. Some of the tracks are from the LAyover EP but the majority of them are tracks featuring other artists, remixes and tracks over mixtape beats. The track “Letyourselfgo (Remix)” features Phonte of Little Brother and is absolutely insane. Phonte absolutely tears the beat apart and Evidence spits his lazy flow to create an instant classic. EV keeps putting out classic material and to think this was just some material to hold us over…
Black Milk – Elec: This is a good collection of music that featured Black Milk (production and rhyming) from his last release Popular Demand up until the release of Tronic. This has tracks from everywhere in the game: GZA, Elzhi, Bishop Lamont and many more. This mixtape shows just how diverse Black can be in his production for other artists as well. With all of the appearances on this mixtape it makes it really hard not to have in constant rotation.
Clipse – Road Till The Casket Drops: If there is one thing that I’ve learned from Terrance and Gene (Pusha T and Malice) Thornton, it’s that you can pretty much incorporate “baking pies” (cooking crack) into rhymes very easily. I mean shit, it makes me want to go into the kitchen and fuck with pots and pans every time I listen to these guys. They have some of the catchiest and funniest rhymes I’ve ever heard. Over the past two years all of their production has been incredible (Neptunes), and I can see why Pharrell signed these guys to Star Trek right away. Watch out for their new album When the Casket Drops which is coming out next year.
Top 5 Songs of 2008 (In order 1-5)
These tracks were pretty much on constant rotation throughout the year.
“Fire” (Original Song) – By Elzhi (from Europass)
“To Be Determined” – By Evidence (featuring Elzhi and Aloe Blacc) (From LAyover EP)
“The Matrix” – By Black Milk (featuring Pharoahe Monch, Sean Price & DJ Premier) (from Tronic)
“I Know The Secret” – By Buff1 (From There’s Only One)
“Motown 25” – By Elzhi (featuring Royce Da 5’9″) (from The Preface & Europass)
Album that I love this year that came out last year
Every year it seems like I end up finding out about an album that came out the previous year that I fall in love with. Here is this year’s album.
Evidence – The Weatherman LP: Unfortunately I didn’t find out about this album until January of this year. The Weatherman LP is one of the most solid albums I’ve heard in years, and this was just the beginning for Evidence (as a solo artist) (talk about one hell of a beginning). This album has some of the most impeccable front to back production I’ve heard as well and as usual EV kicks his lazy flow over some amazing head noddin’ beats. I can honestly say that this album might be one of my favorite albums of the last 3 or 4 years. This album did not leave my heavy rotation for the entire year, and to be honest I’ve probably listened to it a good 50 times this year (not being sarcastic) and I don’t see it getting old to me anytime in the near future.*
* Side Note: I listen to the track “Chase The Clouds Away” just about every day when I wake up, I feel as though it’s the only good way to start off my day.
Rookie of the Year
All of you must understand that out of the two candidates that I was considering neither of them are technically “rookies” to the game (I’m sorry I don’t really care for Wale) but this was based on debut album.
Elzhi: There really isn’t much that I can say besides what has already been stated. This guy is one hell of an emcee. Elzhi embodies what most emcees wish they could be. I am telling everyone that reads this blog that I wouldn’t be surprised if Elzhi makes everyone else’s top ten emcees list in 5 years or less. When you can take seemingly simple words and make them sound so complex and rhyme using the same scheme as well as internal rhyme, your shit is going to be crazy. Elzhi already has an entire album produced by Black Milk (who is already on top of the Hip-Hop game right now), who knows what the future holds for this flame thrower from the D. If you haven’t heard anything by Elzhi my advice to you is get either Europass or The Preface and put either one on constant repeat. After a nice session with either of these albums I think you are going to be looking at your favorite rapper much differently. Like I said before Elzhi really isn’t a rookie, but his debut album came out this year and that’s why I’m giving the honor to him. I really can’t think of anyone more deserving this year.
Producer of the Year
This award holds very true to me because I love production, I mean music wouldn’t be half of what it is without sound production right? I have to tell you this was a very tough decision for me, Dangermouse almost got the nod but someone else stole the spotlight this year as well…
Black Milk: What can I say positive about Black Milk? I could use pretty much any adjective you could think of that is a synonym for greatness. This guy is pumping out a signature sound that can’t be paralleled right now by anybody in the game. When you are doing your thing on the boards and getting comparisons to J Dilla, you know that you have to be doing something right. Releasing two highly critically acclaimed album is no easy task, unless you are Black Milk. On top of being one of the best producers in the game right now he is climbing his way up the latter with his elevated rhyming on Tronic. You could also make the claim that Black is one of the hardest working producers in the game right now, he released his solo debut last year, a new album this year, a collaboration with Bishop Lamont last year, a collaboration with Fat Ray this year… the list seems to go on and on. Please do yourself a favor and take a listen to Hip-Hop’s prodigal son.
Biggest Dissapointment of the Year
I know I am probably going to get crucified for this one, and you have to understand that I’m not saying this is a bad album at all it’s just nowhere near what I expected and for that reason alone it’s a huge dissapointment.
Foreign Exchange – Leave It All Behind: As I mentioned above I’m not saying that this is a bad album at all, but it’s nothing like what I was expecting. When I heard that Phonte and Nicolay were putting out another album I was ecstatic. Connected is one of the most refreshing albums that I have ever heard, and I might even one up my feelings on Connected and say that I like it more than any Little Brother album that was put out. Phonte and Nicolay have a rare chemistry that is seen, similar to a Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth, they just mesh together perfectly. I just don’t really get into them doing more of a soul and R&B record, don’t get me wrong Te is a good singer and Nicolay’s beats are nasty as usual I just don’t see them as an R&B group.
Who Do You Want To Look For Next Year?
This is the cat you want to be looking for next year but also in the near future…
Jay Electronica: This guy is the future face of Hip-Hop. Erykah Badu said that she first thought that Jay was an alien the first time that she met him. Just go on the Internet and search Jay’s name and you will be able to find him spitting over numerous Dilla treats or over a movie sample or score. This guy has so much talent that I really don’t know if the world is ready for someone like Jay Electronica. He has a debut album due out sometime in the near future entitled Abracadabra: Let There Be Light that is going to change the way that people think about Hip-Hop. I have also heard wind of digital EPs with Guilty Simpson and 9th Wonder, but then again that’s all here say so I can’t get my hopes up. Jay Electronica is that cat that you don’t know about, but my god you sure as hell want to know who he is.
That’s all I have for this year. Please give me some feedback and let me know what you think. Are there categories I could put in next year? Do you disagree with what I have written? Let me know… PLEASE!
In a year that brought us the Olympics (Michael Phelps is just starting to dry off I think), a new President Elect (please get rid of the BCS like promised), and endless amounts of slightly above average rap music (yes little wayne, that means you), I present to you the most definitive end of the year list, EVER!
TOP TEN ALBUMZ!!!!!!!!!!!!
Cut Copy “In Ghost Colours”. In a year littered with disappointing releases from formerly impressive acts (see Cold War Kids and Kings of Leon), Cut Copy managed to resurrect their careers with the stellar release of In Ghost Colours. Not that the act was dead, it is just that Cut Copy hadn’t released an LP in years and seemed destined to fall off the map, but they’ve managed to do just the opposite in 2008. Touring around the globe and making people of all ages dance with their 80’s styled synth pop music, Cut Copy is here to stay. Highlighted by booming tracks like “Lights and Music” “Unforgettable Season” and “Hearts On Fire” In Ghost Colours makes a lasting and overwhelming impression on the listener. It’s hard to say enough good things about an album this polished; all that’s really left to note is that if you have not yet heard In Ghost Colours you are either 1) foolish or 2) in denial for not admitting to option one.
Vampire Weekend “Vampire Weekend”. Can Vampire Weekend save American Music? Well it’s hard to say if it actually needs saving, but the boys from out East do a mighty fine job of making sure we have some great music to listen to. From first track to last, the debut effort is the easiest to sing-along to, easiest to bob your head to, easiest to love album of 2008. Accessible and appreciated by people who don’t usually cross into the “indie” genre, this album was probably the most listened to of any on the list. A perfectly tight live performance and some enjoyable b-sides floating around the internet, Vampire Weekend made more headlines than most acts this year…and for good reason.
Hercules & Love Affair “Hercules & Love Affair”. It’s hard to write a summary about an album that just so weird, well, as far as genre goes. This, let’s call is disco-pop, album surprised many fans of their two track ep released a long year before this self-titled debut. Adding vocals, minimal yet effective samples, and an overall tempo much higher than that of the 45, Hercules & Love Affair delivered a delightful and exotic mix of dance and minimalism. Singles like “Blind” and “You Belong” are immersive tracks that repeat while at the same time build and end up exploding in the listeners ears. The opposite of Vampire Weekend, Hercules & Love Affair may be the hardest to love, but it’s certainly worth the trouble of getting use to this fine wine.
Of Montreal “Skeletal Lamping”. I’m not gonna mention the album here, okay I lie. The album is great, go listen, yadda yadda. Praise needs to be given; however, to the work that Kevin Barnes has put in surrounding the album. As I write this I’m wearing an Of Montreal t-shirt, no big deal, except for the fact that this was my Skeletal Lamping album too. The insane packaging offers that Of Montreal did for this release was a fun and different take on the usual four page booklet and otherwise boring cd case. As Barnes suggested, the listener can “wear” the album around, and I’m doing just that. Along with an Album release comes touring, and the Skeletal Lamping tour is nothing short of absolute madness. From faux-gallows to giant nerd rope looking characters, the show is a non-stop romp though the new album, old favorites, and tones of covers (I never live “Smells Like Teen Spirit until the played it for an encore). So yes, Skeletal Lamping is an amazing album that again adds to OM’s expansive and impressive catalogue, but this time around it’s everything else around the release that impressed this listener.
Girl Talk “Feed The Animals”. Any passerby may mistake a Gregg Gillis ran concert for plenty of other shows. I’m willing to bet Kelly Clarkson never had as many people screaming “BUT SINCE YOU’VE BEEN GONE” at one of her own shows as this summer when Girl Talk took the stage of various music festivals. But If that same person gets stuck on the corner of a street waiting for a light to change he might also note the immediate change in tune, the obvious draw for this mash-up masterpiece. Feed The Animals is more of a lesson in musical history than it is anything new persay, but that doesn’t mean it deserves any less credit. I have been waiting all my life to hear “I wish that I had Jesse’s girl” and “but I’d rather get some head” plastered together, and the day has finally arrived. Sure, a bit unconventional and what many people consider a complete sham of what real music is, Girl Talk delivers one thing that no other band on the list can: pure, and often (thank god) excessive fun.
Department of Eagles “In Ear Park”. Never a fan of any Grizzly Bear effort, I was skeptic before I first played Department of Eagle’s In Ear Park. The Second the album ended however, I immediately opened my MacBook, opened iTunes and easy and conveniently accessed the iTunes Store (pay me Apple, you owe me big) to try and find more material from this group. The first four tracks off of this album are the most carefully sounding songs I’ve heard in along time. Perfectly hollow and echoing music is accompanied with a scratchy vocal lead that makes for a song that could seemingly transcend time. “Teenagers” is the perfect example of this, with the slow strings, mellow piano, and vocals that can easily be confused with a sample from any early twentieth century song. The perfect record for this time of year, In Ear Park is like carefully knitted scarf around your neck- warm and immersive.
Fleet Foxes “Fleet Foxes“. High hopes from the Sun Giant ep, Fleet Foxes did not disappoint on their first full length album. Fleet Foxes features the sounds of four perfectly harmonized, beard adorning, flannel loving Seattle natives. The record can go by fast if you don’t pay attention, especially in the early-going when album highlight “White Winter Hymnal” builds more a mere 2:27 before faintly turning into the expansive five minute “Ragged Wood.” More surprising than the achievement of this great album may be the live sound these guys create. Seeing them this summer at Pitchfork Music Festival I was weary of the terrible acoustics of an outdoor show on a rainy day dragging down their beautiful sound, but Fleet Foxes still delivered and amazing performance, showing the truly unending potential this group has.
Dr. Dog “Fate”. Fate may be the forgotten, or rather the undiscovered, great album of 2008. Taking from the play book of many sixties and early seventies era rock bands, Dr. Dog put together a sound that’s not too Rock and not too Indie but is instead a perfect blend of music and vocals. “The Breeze” barely missed by top tracks of the year list thanks to the layered music, clever vocals, and effective use of those wooden block instruments you always use to use in grade school and thought were probably pointless. That aside, the Fate of this album has already been decided (terrible pun, my bad), people who don’t know about these guys already didn’t seem to hear much of this album in 2008. I hope to see Dr. Dog on plenty of year end lists, gaining exposure for this excellent record.
The Walkmen “You & Me”. Styled much like the already mentioned Department of Eagles album, the Walkmen’s “You & Me” is an empty and yet beautiful lp. When used effectively, You & Me is dominated by guitars that sound miles away, and drums that come to the foreground and paint a picture of fall evenings done by. Look no further than “On the Water” and you will hear exactly what I mean, the guitar draw out and the music all slows while the listener is engulfed by the echoing cymbals. This formula is used on most every track for this album, not necessarily a bad thing for how well it is executed.
MGMT “Oracular Spectacular”. The Justice of 2008, MGMT have been remixed, edited, and covered by more acts than anybody else this year. Not a big surprise though for any listener of Oracular Spectacular. Tracks like “Electric Feel” and “Time To Pretend” just beg to be chopped up, and praised by all patrons of the dance floor. Plenty has already been said about this duo, but I’ll just have to reiterate what the world has already agreed upon- MGMT pretty much rocks, on tons of levels. Oracular Spectacular never lets up from the first synth hit to the last drop, and the countless number of re-works won’t allow for this album to be forgotten anytime soon.
Top Five Tracks Of This Glorious 2008
“No One Does It” by Department of Eagles off of In Ear Park
“Lights and Music” by Cut Copy off of In Ghost Colours
“Everywhere (Fleetwood Mac Cover)” By Vampire Weekend off of any blog you can find
“Electric Feel” By MGMT off of Oracular Spectacular
“You Belong” by Hercules & Love Affair off of Hercules & Love Affair
Biggest (good) Surprise of 2008
Peter, Bjorn, and John – “Seaside Rock”
Favorite New Band Not Featuring Kids From Cape Cod
Great album of 2007 I Finally Loved In 2008
Panda Bear- “Person Pitch”
Lifetime Achievement Award
Beck – “Modern Guilt”
Best Live Performance I Saw In 2008
(tie) Girl Talk and Animal Collective. share the honor guys.