Best albums (i.e. my favorites) of 2012

Whenever I take a break from listening to Massive Attack (so… much… trip-hop…), I find myself wanting to listen to new music, and hey, look at this: albums are coming out this year! Like every year! But this year had something that past years didn’t for me: I actually used Spotify regularly, rather than just on occasion. I wouldn’t describe myself as a music afficianado in any capacity: I have my weak points (full disclosure: I kinda like Coldplay). Now, however, I have listened to a great deal more albums within the year of their release than I ever have before, and so I feel far more confident that this list is a an arguably “good” list… or at least something that I can back-up when someone starts heckling. So heckle away, you hecklers. I’m ready.

Also, you may notice that my music taste is somewhat far ranging which will make this list not terribly cohesive for any one particular genre. Consider yourself warned. And there’s a senior-superlative-style flair to the Top Ten, which is more fun than useful.

THE HONORABLE MENTIONS (in no particular order!)

Artist: Grizzly Bear

Album: Shields

Genre(s): alternative rock, psychedelic rock, etc.

Artist: Jack White

Album: Blunderbuss

Genre(s): rock, blues, country

Artist: Metric

Album: Synthetica

Genre(s): electronic rock, new wave

THE TOP TEN (!)

#10

Artist: Japandroids

Album: Celebration Rock

Genre(s): [celebration] rock, garage rock

Superlative: Most likely to save rock’n’roll

Japandroids are fast, loud, and brash, and “Celebration Rock” isolates what worked best from their debut album and knocks it out of the park. With fireworks bracketing eight airtight tracks, you begin to realize that maybe you don’t need all that fancy production to make great rock music. Maybe stripped down, raw, and bare is what rock really needs to be: take the first track, “The Night of Wine of Roses,” which sounds off with exploding fireworks and rising drums, which are swiftly followed by a full-fisted punch of gritty guitar that keeps the pressure on through “Fire’s Highway” and into the rest of the tracks. And at merely 35 minutes, it’s over quickly enough so that you aren’t worn down by the relentless intensity and energy they pour into it. It’s reflecting on the past and the sheer joy of being alive that permeate the album, and you can’t help but feeling that you too should be throwing your fist up and cheering.

#9

Artist: Godspeed You! Black Emperor

Album: ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!

Genre(s): post-rock, ambient, etc.

Superlative: Most fitting album art

“With his arms outstretched, with his arms outstretched…ok? Can you see him? Can you get him?” Thus you enter into “Mladic,” the first of two 20-odd minute pieces of Godspeed’s new album, which are interspersed with two shorter droning, ambient tracks. This is truly the best that long-form post-rock has to offer, with moody, subtle builds and fiery pinnacles. Dynamism is was Godspeed does best, and “’Allelujah!” is awash with it, with a absolute plethora of instruments feeding off of one another, ascending, surging, soaring, (insert awe-inspiring gerund here), etc. The most remarkable thing about all this is that this album has been concocted 10 years after their previous studio effort, and thank goodness they’ve still got it. So go ahead: shut your eyes, don’t bend, and ascend.

#8

Artist: Passion Pit

Album: Gossamer

Genre(s): electropop, synthpop, etc.

Superlative: Stuck in my head the most album… ahem, often

“Gossamer” is the album I dreamed Passion Pit was capable of when I first heard “Manners” a few years ago. “Manners” was great, but it didn’t move smoothly from track to track, and although it had a few very good songs (“Little Secrets,” “Sleepyhead,” etc.), it didn’t fully grab me. But “Gossamer” fixes all that. It’s better, it’s slicker, and more experimental: it is Passion Pit working it at their very best. The triple-threat right at the beginning of “Take a Walk,” “I’ll Be Alright,” and “Carried Away” are absolutely irresistible, with other great tracks including “Mirrored Sea,” “Hideaway,” among others. The lyrics are crushingly depressing if you really pay attention, the antithesis of the hyper-bright instrumentation behind them, making the whole deal more impressive. But try to get “Take a Walk” out of your head once it’s in there. Just try. Good luck.

#7

Artist: Rush

Album: Clockwork Angels

Genre(s): progressive rock, hard rock

Superlative: Best old man rock album

Face it kids: Rush may be thirty years past its prime, but no one told the band that when the boys threw together this album. Many older bands will just concoct another album just for the sake of another album, but not Rush, no sir. “Clockwork Angels,” as an album, is every bit as much of an over-the-top, pseudo-futuristic space opera as some of their most classic work (“2112” comes to mind). Here is where Geddy and the gang have finally come around full-circle, returning to their roots while incorporating some decidedly modern influences: e.g. the guitar parts at the beginning of “Headlong Flight” sound a heck of a lot like the Foo Fighters, for what’s it worth. The vast majority of the songs flow together, with call-backs to other parts of the album, the most obvious being “BU2B” and “BU2B2” being the 2 and 10 songs on the album, respectively. And at over an hour, it’s an awesome ride. So if you ever liked Rush, or need to listen to some top-notch hard rock done by the best, “Clockwork Angels” delivers.

#6

Artist: John Talabot

Album: Fin

Genre(s): electronic, house

Superlative: Most likely to convince me that house music is a real genre

This is point where I admit that I like runway music. Kind of a lot. It’s really catchy, OK? The best way to describe “Fin” is as organic house music, where many natural sound effects are incorporated into the tracks (give “Depak Ine” a spin and come back to me). There’s a solid mix of instrumental and vocal-part songs, with the longest at the beginning, the aforementioned “Depak Ine,” and smooth sailing through “Destiny,” with “El Oeste” being more a palate cleanser before the way darker “Oro y Sangre.” Talabot is a Spanish DJ with a penchant for kicking backbeats laced amongst airy synths and heaps of other instruments. The music is arguably simple, but it’s super catchy, so no faults there. For the full runway experience, check out “When The Past Was Present,” and get instantly launched into the late ‘80s.

#5

Artist: The Shins

Album: Port of Morrow

Genre(s): alternative rock/pop

Superlative: Most consistently good band.

Admittedly, this album kind of snuck up on me: I really didn’t expect the Shins to be able to craft such a mighty fine construction as “Port of Morrow” after a five-year hiatus between studio albums, but I should have been able to predict this. The Shins are good. They continue to be good. This is a really good Shins album, if you’re into that sort of thing. All the songs are good. It’s just good. It’s really quite boring how good they are when you get right down to it: they’re consistent, they throw no curve balls, and if you want to kick back and enjoy a swell alt-rock album, well you can’t get much better than this. The fact that they named the single “Simple Song” only emphasizes it all, but if you want a real Zoolander-esque headbopper (“orange mocha frappuccinos!”), check out “Bait And Switch.”

#4

Artist: Pallbearer

Album: Sorrow and Extinction

Genre(s): doom metal

Superlative: Dude… the fuck was that? I need to listen to it again…

The best way to introduce Pallbearer is to list the five songs on “Sorrow and Extinction,” which are as follows: “Foreigner,” “Devoid of Redemption,” “The Legend,” “An Offering of Grief,” and “Given to the Grave.” Yup, it’s doom metal all right, and doom metal done ridiculously well, to the point that now I actually like doom metal. Yes it’s slow. Yes it’s heavy. Yes it sounds like a 45 rpm Metalllica song accidentally set to 33 and 1/3. But wow, when you’re in the mood for it, there’s absolutely nothing quite so epic. The opening bass line to “The Legend” never fails to make me (very slowly) rock my head back and forth, and “Given to the Grave” is the biggest closer you could ask for, complete with atmospheric choirs and ludicrously drawn out solos.

#3

Artist: Nas

Album: Life Is Good

Genre(s): hip-hop, rap

Superlative: Keeping old-school hip-hop relevant and well-dressed.

Well they don’t make hip-hop like this anymore: Nas had to really dig for that old-style production, and it has paid off in spades. “Life Is Good” is an 80s/90s rap album done with modern flair, with great sample placement, tight lyrics, and some sweet cameos from Rick Ross (“Huh!”) in “Accident Murderers,” Amy Winehouse (RIP) in “Cherry Wine,” and others. Nas keeps a reflective tone throughout the album, turning it into a heady nostalgia trip. But what looms over “Life Is Good” the heaviest is his recent divorce, providing much of the lyrical background (not to mention the cover). “Bye Baby” is straight call-out, “You Wouldn’t Understand” gets his opinion across fast, and “Daughters” is about him becoming a father. Life has been rough, but despite everything, now life is good.

#2

Artist: Chromatics

Album: Kill For Love

Genre(s): synthpop, ambient, electronic

Superlative: Best mental soundtrack

You don’t start an album with a cover of Neil Young’s “Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black)” without setting a heavy precedent. And you don’t go ahead and just call it “Into the Black” without throwing some emphasis on the fact that there is some fucking dark shit going on here. My first introduction to Chromatics was in the movie “Drive,” and they do retro-styled synth-ambient-pop (or whatever) better than anyone else. Hell, there’s grainy vinyl-pop laced over the whole thing, as if they needed to make the depressed neo-noir/drama business even more obvious. “Kill for Love” is a beast of an album at over 90 minutes, but it’s not a double album in any way: this is a solid piece that moves from act to act with extreme ease. There are vocal parts for many of the songs, but the middle of the album is some of the dreamiest ambient music I’ve heard. However, there is always this sometimes-heavy, sometimes-subtle resounding pressure in the background. That said, there are more pop-oriented songs too, like “Kill for Love,” “The Page,” “Lady,” and “At Your Door.” It bounces between synth-pop and ambient up to the final piece, a 14+ minute edge-of-existence monster called “No Escape.” So if dark, dreamy ‘80s stuff that sounds like the “Drive” soundtrack is something you could get into, play this a few times. Chromatics don’t disappoint.

#1

Artist: Frank Ocean

Album: Channel Orange

Genre(s): R&B, neo soul, hip-hop, etc.

Superlative: Quite frankly the smoothest, mellowest vocals… also +1 for Forrest Gump reference

I was afraid that this was going to be my best album of 2012… I was scared to admit it to myself. Really Dave? Frank Ocean is your No. 1? REALLY? Well… yup, “Channel Orange” is goddamn brilliant, so I don’t care anymore. OK fine, “Thinkin’ About You” is overplayed, but taken whole cloth, this is one of the finest soul albums out there. As Frank Ocean says in “Sweet Life,” the best song wasn’t the single. No sir, it wasn’t. But I can’t name the best song. “Super Rich Kids” is great stomp, “Crack Rock” has one the slickest organ and drum combos ever, and you simply cannot listen to “Lost” without at least tapping a toe. “Pyramids” exudes musical confidence at a nearly 10-minute, multi-part mini-opera smack in the middle of the album. The last 30 seconds of “Sweet Life” are so far in the pocket you cannot even see the bottom. “Forrest Gump” is super-simple, super-clean, mellow candle waver. Most of the songs flow together, and Frank Ocean isn’t shy about boosting the track count by having many brief interludes (“White” is particularly jazzy). So even I have to admit what the masses seemed to be saying all along: 2012 is the year of Frank Ocean. Damn.

22 Comments

I survived the Steam sale without buying anything!

Hooray! 
 
Let us all take a moment to remember those poor, forgotten games that (more or less) unwillingly fill up Steam libraries whenever a sale rolls around.  I have suffered enough at the hands on Valve and its ridiculously low prices, so 10 days ago I drew a line in the sand and said, 
 

"STEAM! YOU EVIL TEMPTRESS, YOU'LL NEVER TAKE ME ALIVE!" 
And thusly I have weathered the storm and bought exactly zero games during this past sale.  Thank goodness for self-control; I wasn't sure that I had it in me. 
 
For all of you who bought games, PLAY THEM!  A neglected game is a terrible thing to waste.  At the very least download them. 
 
Good day.
14 Comments

I turned on my Wii today...

...to play Super Mario World on the VC.  Nostalgia got the better of me.

 Iggy is still a pushover.
I still find it incredible how infrequently I use that little white box.  The last disc-based game I played on it?  Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door for the Gamecube, and that was nearly two months ago.  And yet, I don't really miss it.  Last Wii game I played?  Metroid: Other M, and I finished that one back in October.

I'm beginning to doubt how much I actually care about The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword at this point.  In all seriousness, I could replay A Link to the Past and be as (if not more) entertained.  I don't get it... I guess I'm officially in the left-behind Nintendo fanboy category.  Welcome to 2008, I suppose.
19 Comments

Punch-Out is the #1 game I want for the 3DS

Shit.  80+ hours of my life.  Gone.  Again. 
The 3DS is coming out soon folks.  SOON!  Right around the corner, March 27.  However, I don't plan to buy one right out of the gate.  Why, you may inquire?  Two reasons: 
  1. Nothing on it that I feel compelled to play right away
  2. I'll have relapsed into that inevitable time-sink, that social black-hole, Pokemon (White, probably)
 
Thing is, there will eventually be something (some game, over the rainbow) that will make me buy one.  There is no doubt in my mind that this time next year I'll be looking at my old DS lite with disdain (or hopefully nostalgia) and have my sweaty mitts on a prim, clean 3DS.  Question is, WHAT WILL MAKE ME BUY IT!?! 
 
The current candidate in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time or Star Fox 64, which is disgusting considering those are remakes of N64 games.  But hey, I like me some remakes, as long as they are done right.  New games are what are to push me over the edge though, that $250 cliff of doom (god dammit).  And so, here is the #1 game I want for the 3DS (but you know what it is already considering that you read the title of this post - sorry, bear with me): 
 
 PUNCH-OUT IN 3D = 3DS SOLD
In 3D: 
  • King Hippo would be fucking horrifying
  • Great Tiger could pop out of the screen with teleporting moves
  • Don Flamenco = 3D roses
  • Glass Joe could get decked over and over again with glorious Little Mac haymakers
 
Furthermore, the cel-shaded artstyle from the Wii game would work perfectly on a portable. 
 
I rest my case.
3 Comments

Why novels will always be better than video games

  • No need for expensive equipment
  • Reflected light means less eye strain
  • Unchangeable yet perfect difficulty setting
  • Much less expensive
  • Infinitely good graphics (cannot be quantified)
  • Food can be eaten while reading
  • Exceedingly portable and highly appropriate in a public setting
  • Less social stigma
  • Much better story and dialogue
  • No tacked-on multiplayer
  • Much wider variety of subject material
 
Am I missing anything?
99 Comments

Getting ready for The King of Limbs

Getting ready for The King of Limbs: Listening through all of Radiohead’s albums

I thought that I would go through all of Radiohead's albums in order to have the band fresh in my mind for the new album.  Here goes:

Pablo Honey

“What the hell am I doing here?   I don’t belong here…”

This has never been even close to my favorite.   I share with many of fans the sentiment that Pablo is an outlier when compared to their other albums, a more pure, 90’s grunge record with Thom’s airy vocals scattered over it.   I’m sorry Radiohead, but gritty music isn’t what you’re best at: leave it to Pearl Jam, thank you very much.   ‘Creep’ is still pretty good, but my favorite song off of this one is probably ‘Blow Out.’   To be honest, Pablo is decent as first album, but not really that great as a standalone record.

The Bends

“Everything is broken.   Everyone is broken…”

Right from the beginning of ‘Planet Telex,’ you can hear the change from Pablo.   This is the first real Radiohead-ass Radiohead album, if you know what I mean.   Loud songs and quiet songs coexist, both of which are excellent.   Sure, it’s a 90’s album through and through with electric guitar-based songs like ‘The Bends,’ ‘Just,’ and ‘My Iron Lung,’ but the mellower songs like ‘High and Dry,’ ‘Fake Plastic Trees,’ and ‘Bullet Proof… I Wish I Was’ are what really shine (personally).   It’s a definite departure from Pablo, but not as jarring as some of their later albums (more on that later).   The Bends is still awesome, especially considering that it’s the first album by Radiohead that I really listened to a whole lot.   It stands the test of time, if you will.

OK Computer

”God loves his children, God loves his children…”

Oh boy, where do I begin?   Dude, it’s goddamn OK Computer.    It’s quite literally the best thing since sliced bread, and although not personally my favorite Radiohead album, it completely makes sense why this was the album that rocketed the band into true stardom and popularity.   Radiohead embraces its softer side here, initially on ‘Subterranean Homesick Alien’ and ‘Exit Music (For A Film),’ and then again for the last few songs.   ‘Fitter Happier’ is way weirder than anything done before, and is only foreshadowing what is yet to come in the later albums.   However, Thom and the lads haven’t abandoned their rock roots, because ‘Electioneering’ is frigging fantastic.   ‘Airbag’ and ‘Karma Police’ may be good, but what really sold me on this album (listening through it for the first time) was ‘Paranoid Android.’   My thoughts on that one: holy shit.   Can’t sum it up much better than that.

Kid A

“This is really happening…”

Kid A is surreal.   It’s so far away from anything else that they had done previously that it doesn’t even seem like they are same band.   And yet, it’s oddly similar.   Kid A’s Radiohead is most certainly not The Bends’ Radiohead.   Electronic is the name of the game here, glitched-out soundscapes and subtle samples making a very, very cool album.   It’s quite possibly my favorite.  Besides ‘Idioteque,’   I have a hard time nailing down which other songs are great because they all blend so damn well.    The eponymous track is a final conclusion to OK’s ‘Fitter Happier,’   ‘The National Anthem’ grooves on the bass while blaring crazy horns on top, ‘Treefingers’ is a pure, open experience… the only thing on here that sounds like ye ol’ Radiohead is ‘Optimistic,’ but even that slides in with everything else.   And don’t even get me started on the vast amounts of dead-air in ‘Motion Picture Soundtrack.’   I think that Kid A is fantastic, but it’s certainly a divisive beast, so I don’t fault anyone for not liking it (however, if you don’t like it, you’re utterly and irrevocably wrong).

Amnesiac

“I’m a reasonable man, get off my case…”

Amnesiac could easily be dismissed as the B-sides to Kid A, when in reality it complements its predecessor rather than just adding to it.   It’s not my favorite album, but it does have plenty of cool moments, even though it’s exceptionally quiet and is never forceful.   ‘Packt Like Sardines in a Crushd Tin Box’ has a rather catchy electronic vibe to it, and ‘Knives Out’ is top-notch songwriting, if a little slower and more melodic than their previous “big” songs.   ‘I Might Be Wrong’ is probably my favorite song off the album, but the background noises in ‘Like Spinning Plates’ always grabs my attention.   ‘Pyramid Song’ is exceedingly depressing, but it kind of sets the tone for everything else, or at least provides contrast.   I can’t this album is amazing, but neither can I say it’s bad per se;   it’s middling, but I really don’t know if I can consider it to be mediocre because I don’t really “get it.”

Hail to the Thief

“The raindrops, the raindrops, the raindrops, the raindrops…”

This album is more a reality-check than anything else.   Although there is still of ambient, electronic bullshit (good bullshit, mind you, but still bullshit) flying around, it’s married extremely well to the style of Radiohead before Kid A/Amnesiac.   There is some loud guitar rock in here (thank goodness), and the opening track ‘2 + 2 = 5’ (I am not going to type out all these alternative names, god dammit) sets the stage perfectly.   Drum loops fade into loud, kickass guitars, while the next song ‘Sit Down.   Stand Up’ does the exact opposite trick: mellow guitars to loud, kickass drum machine.   Hail is a fantastic album, but its problem is an identity crisis – what is the real goal of this album?   It feels a little scattered, a little inconsistent.   That being said, the actual music on it is great, so I can’t knock it too much for seeming to lack “vision.”   ‘Backdrifts’ and ‘Go to Sleep’ are absolutely phenomenal, but my favorite song here is ‘Myxomatosis,’ despite its dark weirdness.   Taking everything at face value on a song-by-song basis, this would be my favorite album, but Kid A just has that extra… I don’t know what, that puts it on the top shelf.

In Rainbows

“What’s the point of instruments?   Words are a sawed off shotgun.”

Ah finally, this big old puzzle that Radiohead has concocted is finally a ‘Jigsaw Falling Into Place’ (sorry).   Everything is clicking here, songs are rolling into one another nicely; there are not any jarring breaks.   The openers are what really set this thing on fire.   ’15 Step’ is like a roundhouse kick to the face with its bafflingly intricate, 5/4 drum line, and ‘Bodysnatchers’ is a flipping brilliant rock song, the likes of which the band had not created since OK Computer.   The middle of the album is little softer (picture it like a Reese’s cup), but still some of Radiohead’s best work.   ‘Weird Fishes/Arpeggi’ is unique with its flowing nature, ‘Faust Arp’ could fit right into Sgt. Pepper’s, and ‘Reckoner’ is a great moody rock song laced with a coating of tambourine-laden percussion.   ‘House of Cards’ and ‘Videotape’ are great too, and so is… well, I’ve named everything else…  ‘Nude’ and ‘All I Need’ are good as well.   Maybe this is actually my favorite Radiohead album.   I don’t know.   Shit.   All this listening and I still don’t know.   But dammit, Radiohead is a hell of a band.

1 Comments

Human After All is actually a fantastic album

I've been listening to a TON of Daft Punk recently, and I have to admit: Human After All is pretty awesome.  I'm not trying to step on Discovery or Homework, but Human After All seems like a necessary progression.  It's much more repetitive and robotic than their other studio albums, especially Discovery with it's blatant pop-iness.  That being said, I love all of Daft Punk's albums, but it just seems that Human After All gets a lot of unnecessary crap for being "not so great."  Sure, it didn't have the massive hits that Discovery had (although Robot Rock effing KICKS), but it also doesn't have the super-longwinded, winding nature of a lot of the songs on Homework.  Tron Legacy is great too in it's own special Zimmer-y way, although the studio albums are better. 
 
But dammit ya'll, we can all agree that Daft Punk is amazing (and I'm sorry that the year isn't 2005 for blogging this).

8 Comments

Most Anticipated Games in 2011

These are the games that I'm most looking forward to in 2011, or the ones that I'm the most curious about.  Regardless, I'll be buying these 10 games one way or another next year.

1. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword

I simply cannot pass up a new console Zelda. And with full motion-plus implementation and a groovy art-style, I'm all ears for more info.

2. Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception

Uncharted 2 was my GOTY in 2009, and I imagine Naughty Dog must be pulling out all of the stops to make an even better sequel.

3. Portal 2

God damn you Valve. You make amazing games.

4. L.A. Noire

This is an interesting case because I don't know a lot about it, but from what little I've seen it looks fantastic.

5. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

I couldn't get into Oblivion (played about 10 hours of it and got sick of it), but with a brand new engine and some quality storytelling, this could eat up a ton of my life.

6. Pokémon Black/White

Pokemon. I love you. Still. I wish I didn't. But I do. Shit.

7. LittleBigPlanet 2

I probably won't buy this for a few months after it comes out, but I'm very curious to see how Media Molecule changes things up. The finicky controls of the first-game was a big turn-off for me, but hey, this could be great.

8. Diablo III

This reminds me that I still have to play II, but at this point, I might as well wait for III.

9. Kid Icarus: Uprising

What the hell does a new Kid Icarus game entail? I have no idea. But 3D flight? Boom goes the dynamite.

10. The Last Guardian

This better come out this year. It better. I thought Shadow of the Colossus was underwhelming (the controls sucked, alright? And Agro was frigging drunk the entire time. Riding that horse in a straight line was practically impossible.), but dammit Team ICO can make interesting games. YOU BETTER DELIVER, OK!?!?

11 Comments

The Best Albums of 2010

THE BEST ALBUMS OF 2010

A “COMPREHENSIVE” ANALYSIS

 

HONORABLE MENTIONS

 


Album: Band of Joy

Artist: Robert Plant

Genre(s): folk, rock, bluegrass

Time: 47:32

Tracks: 12

 


Album:  Contra

Artist: Vampire Weekend

Genre(s): indie rock, baroque pop, alternative

Time:  36:40

Tracks: 10

 


Album:  High Violet

Artist: The National

Genre(s): indie rock

Time:  47:40

Tracks: 12

 

THE TOP TEN

 

#10


Album:  This Is Happening

Artist: LCD Soundsystem

Genre(s): electronic, DJ, dance

Time:  65:31

Tracks: 9

Minimalist dance music may seem preposterous, but LCD Soundsystem’s potential swan song in This Is Happening revels in this theme, swiftly convincing you that it is indeed awesome.  The album’s opener, “Dance Yrself Clean,” is nothing but very quiet claps, airy organs, and a singular bass notes for the first three minutes, which lulled me into almost a sleepy state the first time I listened through.  However, at 3:07 the synthesizer gets cranked and the song pounds for another six minutes.  This is the case with many of the songs (save for the straight ahead sarcastic rock of “Drunk Girls”); a slow buildup with an amazing center, and then slow, subtle deconstruction.  LCD’s leading man James Murphy is a master at making seven plus minute songs seem like three, and this album is a sprawling testament to that ambition.  Interestingly, he channels other musicians in his singing in several songs, with David Byrne (of Talking Heads) coming through in “Pow Pow” and “Home,” and Stephen Malkmus (of Pavement) on “You Wanted A Hit.”  This Is Happening is supremely enjoyable, and LCD Soundsystem has gone out with a bang.

 

"Dance Yrself Clean": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OoA0cTC228M

"Pow Pow": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nRSYU4YSISA

"You Wanted A Hit": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vZiFZ4P_foI

 

#9


Album:  Cee Lo Green

Artist: The Lady Killer

Genre(s): soul, funk, R&B

Time:  45:49

Tracks: 14

A fat guy who sings pretty is, although true, far too shallow a synopsis for Cee Lo’s craftsmanship.  He brings Motown and rhythm & blues back into the limelight with The Lady Killer, and this is nowhere more evident than in the album’s leading single.  “Fuck You” is a not only a fantastic song musically, but the contrast between the sunny, 60’s beat (glorious backing vocals included) and the ludicrously profane lyrics is simply astounding, and no one but Cee Lo could have pulled it off.  That being said, this album cannot be dismissed as padding around a masterful single.  “Bright Lights Bigger City” is an 80’s dance tune of the finest sort, complete with synthesized strings and catchy guitar licks.  “Old Fashioned” is soul done right – smooth, enjoyable, and classy as all hell.  “Love Gun” (featuring Lauren Bennett) is as much of a James Bond theme as Tom Jones’ “Thunderball.”. The Lady Killer’s main writer Thomas Callaway serves Cee Lo Green up fine and dandy, replete with suit, tails, and plenty of panache.  This album is a blast from the past with a modern flair, and is a rollicking good time for the whole ride.

 

"Fuck You": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pc0mxOXbWIU

"Old Fashioned": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gUAuZ2qWvsk

"Bright Lights Bigger City": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tee-PhZi03I

 

#8


Album:  All Day

Artist: Girl Talk

Genre(s): mash-up, hip-hop

Time:  71:00

Tracks: 12 (1)

All Day could be a divisive beast, but if you find mash-up the slightest bit interesting, this is the pinnacle.  It’s not a couple of riffs laid over another single song for four minutes: this is a non-stop, 71-minute marathon of fiery combinations that I cannot, for better or worse, get out of my head, and the songs involved have become inseparable.  Listen to the first minute, and you will never again be able to hear Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs” without Ludacris yelling “Move Bitch.”  There are tons of head-turning moments when all of a sudden you hear five seconds of Lady Gaga, the drum part of Radiohead’s “Idioteque,” Daft Punk’s “Digital Love,” Clapton’s “Layla,”… Gregg Gillis a.k.a Girl Talk knows no bounds.  I nearly lost it when I heard Lil Wayne over Joe Jackson, but hey, that’s mash-up.  (Also, it ends with a sample from John Lennon’s “Imagine.” Classy.)   All Day can be broken up into 12 tracks for easier searching although it is seamless, and free from the Girl Talk website, so there is no good reason why this shouldn’t be on your hit list.

 

The whole album (with samples listed): http://alldaysamples.com/

 

#7


Album:  Immersion

Artist: Pendulum

Genre(s): electronic, drum and bass, house, dance, dubstep, rock, alternative, heavy metal

Time:  67:14

Tracks: 15

Pendulum is a prime example of a band that has expanded its horizons, stretching into new genres and refining its sound with each subsequent album.  Its first, 2005’s Hold Your Colour, is straight drum and bass, while its sophomore sibling, 2008’s In Silico, is modern rock with kicking bass and synthesizer.  Immersion is the best parts of both of these older albums combined into a solid, unique piece.  “Genesis / Salt in the Wounds” opens things up with a drum and bass explosion, followed by the more pop-oriented “Watercolour.”  From there on out, things progress steadily, mixing beats, bass, and high powered electric blasts into a dance across the electronic/techno/rock landscape.  My personal favorite is “The Island Part 2 (Dusk),” with its old-fashioned Daft Punk-like simplicity.  It’s also worthy to note that the melodic death metal group In Flames is featured on “Self vs. Self,” providing a strange and amazing combination.  Hard rock and electronic rave music had a baby, and it is Pendulum.

 

"Salt in the Wounds": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1iPbYfm80ts

"The Island Part 2 (Dusk)": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P7dYb27ssuQ

"Self vs. Self": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QtMqsZFVymA

 

#6


Album:  Brothers

Artist: The Black Keys

Genre(s): rock, blues

Time:  55:24

Tracks: 15

 This time around, The Black Keys have cleaned up.  Brothers is less grunge than the band’s previous album (2008’s Attack & Release), bringing a higher level of organization and a much more accessible sound overall.  Even when Danger Mouse (who produced Attack & Release) comes back for “Tighten Up,” it sounds much more like a standard Danger Mouse song, with precision drums and thumping bass.  The Black Keys go hard and heavy, the variety of rock that exudes Cream and Black Sabbath, and right from the beginning with “Everlasting Light” the punching, gritty guitar riffs crunched my speakers.  By the time I got to “Black Mud” (some quality instrumental blues), I was completely in love.  This album may seem a little front-loaded at first, but the later tracks shine with each subsequent listen through.  Brothers is a pure homage to rock’s days of yore.

 

"Everlasting Light": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2QzGvoUMBoA

"Tighten Up": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mpaPBCBjSVc

"Black Mud": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ymwLvyMHu18

 

#5


Album:  The Orchard

Artist: Ra Ra Riot

Genre(s): indie rock, baroque pop

Time:  39:06

Tracks: 10

String overdose!?  Nonsense I say!  Give me some quality indie rock, axe the loud axes, string up some strings, and get a dude to sing as pretty as he can, and you’ve basically got it.  Ra Ra Riot is addicting, and really not fair – as tough as you are, Wes Miles’ voice can make roses bloom in the dead of winter.  That jerk.  And you can’t blame him because it’s an impeccable formula, and I love every single song on this album, from the sweetness of “The Orchard,” the glowing pop of “Boy” and “Too Dramatic,” the thought-provoking nature of “Foolish” and “Massachusetts,” and… ah damn, I’m rambling.  The Orchard is glorious, splendid, joyous, saddening, and all hyperbole aside, it’s an amazing piece of work. 

 

"The Orchard": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1qvk2QabUL0

"Boy": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NKGfQCOyCCA&feature=related

"Foolish": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tVl_APRwxIA

 

#4


Album:  Broken Bells

Artist: Broken Bells

Genre(s): indie rock, alternative

Time:  35:50

Tracks: 10

As a side-project between Danger Mouse (a.k.a. Brian Burton) and James Mercer (of The Shins), Broken Bells is a sum of exactly what each of its members represent.  Danger Mouse brings great rhythm parts and pseudo-60’s production values, and Mercer brings stylish indie rock.  Combined, you get a slick, compact album with plenty of dynamism.  The opener, “The High Road,” is slow strum-along but is uncannily lovely, leading into the more intense “Vaporize.”  These two songs set the stage perfectly for the rest of the album, which swings between sleepier, “classic” Shins material and groovier, edgier Gnarls Barkley-esque pop hits.  All in all, Broken Bells is a perfect melding of unique tastes, and as a mere side-project is as important to Burton’s and Mercer’s catalogs as their main groups.

 

"The High Road": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-mkr19RSG6k

"Vaporize": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5tstDvkpDlw

"Mongrel Heart": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HkmW1m9lIPI

 

#3


Album:  Plastic Beach

Artist: Gorillaz

Genre(s): alternative, hip-hop, pop

Time:  56:46

Tracks: 16

Damon Albarn and his new band of merry men have done it again with Plastic Beach, a synth-laden symphony of rapping, rhythm, and “Rhinestone Eyes” that comes close to peerless, pristine purity of 2005’s Demon Days.  The new Gorillaz features a multitude of guests including Mos Def, Snoop Dogg, Bobby Womack, Little Dragon, and half of The Clash in Mick Jones and Paul Simonon, among others.  This is a much more pop-oriented album than the band’s previous forays, and listening to the original Gorillaz (2001) album is like listening to a completely different band (which is true on a number of levels, musically and physically). Plastic Beach is potentially a good direction though; Albarn manages to keep the Gorillaz image valid even after a five year hiatus, and even summons a fantastic single out of “Stylo,” although it does not approach the immensity of Demon Days’ “Feel Good Inc.”  Other noteworthy songs include “Superfast Jellyfish,” a pot-shot at fast food and breakfast cereals, “Sweepstakes,” a syncopated, Mos Def-ified, otherworldly rap bonanza, and “Welcome to Plastic Beach” in which Snoop Dogg lets you know right off the bat what’s up.  Quality stuff all-around, and at this point I am interested in pretty much anything Damon Albarn puts together, because he is simply the best at corralling other musical celebrities into the studio in the name of the art form.

 

"Stylo": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-SxlD74hvRk

"Superfast Jellyfish": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C4UtbrbsrjY

"Sweepstakes": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GjQLhj4kzR4

 

#2


Album:  How I Got Over

Artist: The Roots

Genre(s): hip-hop, R&B, neo soul

Time:  42:25

Tracks: 14

Despite toiling away with Jimmy Fallon on a regular basis, The Roots have come into the studio to concoct an old-school rap album sprinkled with enough soul flavor to keep your musical palate assuredly engaged.  How I Got Over is an aural delight, and is definitely something you don’t get to hear every day in our current hip-hop climate.  Let’s be real here: the vast majority of the album is based around strict, moody piano and a sampled chorus, with tight rhymes betwixt and between.  It starts slow and gradually builds to a peak in “How I Got Over” before venturing off into far weirder terrain, concluding in “Hustla,” which features an auto-tuned baby crying as its main rhythm (on top of drums and bass, of course).  Which reminds me: hip-hop with a real drummer!?  In 2010!?  And those snare hits are HOT.  ?uestlove represents.  (Also, The Roots album with John Legend called Wake Up!, which also came out this year, is definitely worth a listen.)

 

"How I Got Over": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9nDKTxjKK9k

"Hustla": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nWgrlLIlse8

"Radio Daze": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j35M1aTaGa4

 

#1


 

 Album:  The Suburbs

Artist: Arcade Fire

Genre(s): indie rock, alternative

Time:  64:07

Tracks: 16

How do I begin with The Suburbs?  Arcade Fire’s third album is a monster, with expert organization and top-notch songwriting.  Every single song is excellent, and they flow into each other, somehow making such a large set of music consistent.  And yet, there is a huge amount of variety, from the acoustic, string-fueled opener “The Suburbs,” the zen-inducing “Rococo,”  the slow-burn anthem “City With No Children,” the arena blast “Half-Light II (No Celebration),”  the semi-punk guitars of “Month of May,” the beach rock of “Wasted Hours,” the Elliott Smith-like “Deep Blue,” the new wave, Blondie-ness of “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)”… this album is golden.  Some albums require a specific mindset before listening, but The Suburbs is great at any time of day, for any mood, for… well, damn near anything.  This is as close to perfection as I’ve heard in a long time, and I should shut up before I start evangelizing.

 

"The Suburbs": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XAitZuh4ueg

"Month of May": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OqBTL-HWPvA

"Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rH_7_XRfTMs

11 Comments
  • 25 results
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3