Saturday, December 31, 2011

Top 25 Records of 2011

25) Thrice - Major/Minor
24) Blu - Give Me My Flowers While I Can Smell Them
23) Big Sean - Finally Famous
22) Doomtree - No Kings
21) Dawes - Nothing is Wrong
20) The Horrible Crowes - Elsie
19) Ryan Adams - Ashes & Fire
18) My Morning Jacket - Circuital
17) Washed Out - Within and Without
16) Lykke Li - Wounded Rhymes
15) Moving Mountains - Waves
14) The Dangerous Summer - War Paint
13) Skyzoo - The Great Debater
12) M83 - Hurry Up, We're Dreaming
11) J. Cole - Cole World: The Sideline Story

10) The Black Keys - El Camino

The only reason this barely made the top 10 is because I had a mere three weeks to spend with it. I'm personally more partial to Brothers falsetto-assisted, blue-eyed soul, but it's equally hard to argue with the Keys when they bring back their charging, fuzzy garage blues. "Lonely Boy" (along with it's hilariously awesome video) and the overtly Led Zeppelin-inspired "Little Black Submarines" are enough to make this one a regular listen for some time to come.

9) Common - The Dreamer, The Believer

Another album that dropped near the end of the year that made the cut. Much like Grizzly said in his year-end list, I haven't listen to much else aside from this since it's early December release. No I.D.'s production has ushered the material back into the soulful leanings that made Be a favorite and it's nice to see Common round out his laid-back consciousness with some grit on the fiery "Sweet".

8) Bon Iver - Bon Iver, Bon Iver
 I understood the buzz around For Emma, Forever Ago. There's plenty of intrigue and appeal to a sad sap recording mournful acoustic tunes in a cabin by himself in the dead of winter. With Bon Iver, Bon Iver, however, Justin Vernon turns in his tissue box for a plugged-in sound that adds texture to his tender, but previously one-dimensional, sound. If the likes of "Hinnom, TX" or "Holocene" don't sparkle enough for you as is, be sure to check out the visual accompaniments that were released for every song on the record.

7) The-Dream - 1977

Terius Nash a.k.a. The-Dream dropped this free mixtape on us with little warning. The confusion tied to the abruptness of it's release subsided with one listen thanks to the sheer quality jammed into the 11 tracks. The bitter break-up songs that stem from his controversial split with Christina Milian ("Wake Me When It's Over", "Long Gone") are paired with glossy bass rattlers ("Ghetto", "Rolex") that reaffirm why The-Dream's other moniker is Radio Killa. Heartbreak, braggadocio, and multi-layered beats...what more does an R&B album need?

6) Portugal. The Man. - In The Mountain, In The Cloud
Portugal. The Man have cemented themselves as one of the most prolific bands of the (somewhat) new millennium, releasing an album a year since 2006. This year's edition might be one of there best. Possessing a touch more focus and cohesiveness than their last few efforts, the band proceeds to round things out even further with a string section and measured synths. The result is a collection of psychedelic rock tunes that evoke their roots in the sounds of Pink Floyd, The Beatles, and Led Zeppelin, without abandoning their own (albeit ever-changing) sound.

5) Adele - 21

 Had to "respect" this into the top five. Due to overplays ("Rolling in the Deep", "Someone Like You") and waning interest since the summer, I wasn't sure this album was going to end up that high in my list. But looking back to the first time I gave 21 a listen, I remember instantly feeling like this was the best record of 2012, bar none. While I may have ended up liking some LPs better this year, few were as hard-hitting, emotionally-genuine, or as all-around standouts as this one.

4) The Roots - undun

The Legendary Roots Crew spent most of 2012 backing up Jimmy Fallon's great late night show, so when news broke that they'd be releasing a new album near the end of the year, there was marked excitement. That anticipation seemed to ebb when the band described their forthcoming LP as a concept album that tells the story of a hard-luck young adult in the inner city starting from his death and finishing with his birth (closed with a four-act classical movement inspired by Sufjan Steven's "Redford (For Yia-Yia & Pappou)") However, when the crisp snare snaps, ominous bass thumps, and Black Thought's feverish bars all hit the airwaves, the music world learned again why they should not question The Roots.

The short film was pretty cool too.

3) The Weeknd - House of Balloons

There were a few artists I wanted to tap as the surprise of the year. In any other year, maybe. But not in 2012 thanks to the emergence of Abel Tesfaye. The 21-year-old Toronto native put himself on the map as Drizzy protege by releasing not one, not two, but three full LPs for free in a year's time. All of them could fit somewhere on this list, but I wanted to give special due to his debut House of Balloons. This was the record that ignited the intrigue surrounding The Weeknd when it popped up without explaining on Drake's October's Very Own blog. It was the one that introduced us to the hazy instrumentals, hypnotic cooing, and jagged lyrics about drugs, fame, and sex. It's truly incredible to see a young artist go from relative unknown to major partner of arguably the biggest act in the nation (The Weeknd had a huge helping hand in Take Care's creation--more later) and Mr. Tesfaye surely did that with as much charisma, modesty, and mystery as anyone in recent memory.

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

Yeezy. Jay. What more is there really to say? The visual bombast of the "Otis" video gripped the music world, while the verbal bombast of "Niggas in Paris" clocked it in the face. These two men are defined by the very dividing line that splits this record: excess vs. reality, grandeur vs. squalor, arrogance vs. plainspeak. Sure it's not perfect, but it's issue lie within their attempts to tell us about the world the way they see it. It's a record about who they are, not what they aren't. For better or for worse.

1) Drake - Take Care

As others have, I'll probably get a lot of hate for this pick. Drake is seen as soft, poppy, gimmicky to some and causes him to lose a considerable amount of credibility. But if you put those preconceived notions aside and really listen to Take Care, you see that Drake set out to make a very specific kind of record and hit it right on the head. After his success with the glitzy Thank Me Later, Mr. Graham wanted to make an album that was unquestionably his. Bypassing the big name guests (T.I., Young Jeezy, Alicia Keys, Kanye West, and The-Dream all appeared on TML) for his closest friends (The Weeknd, Nicki Minaj, and Lil' Wayne are of note, while 40 handles the majority of production duties) Drake furthers the record's tales about loyalty, finding meaning, and looking forward. The truest knock is that there are too many slow songs that are enough to lull some to sleep. But I think those more melodic moments are the ones that further distinguish Drake as one of the more truly versatile MCs out. Overall it's refreshing to see someone set out to tell their story, meet their, and only their, expectations, and come away with widespread acclaim.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Diplo - Express Yourself EP Sampler

 Behind this awesome artwork is an equally hot sampler for the Express Yourself EP Diplo will be giving away for free later this week. A thousand bows all around Diplo.

  DIPLO express yourself EP sampler by diplo

MySpace: Diplo

B.o.B. - "Play the Guitar" (feat. Andre 3000)

The original ATLien provided some aid for the newest proclaimed ATLien behind a drum line march of an instrumental. Andre 3000 is one of the hardest MCs to match on a track, especially when he is unleashed for a full minute worth of bars, but Bobby Ray holds his own.

Strange Clouds is out in 2012.

MySpace: B.o.B.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Mixtape: The Weeknd - Echoes of Silence

The Weeknd has finally released the third and final installment in his mixtape trilogy. Simply judging from the opening track, a spot-on tribute to the King of Pop with "D.D.", it's clear the kid has found the hallowed middle ground between "experimental" and "pop". No it's not as good as his debut House of Balloons, but it's also not as weird as Thursday. If this is post-Take Care Abel Tesfaye, I'm really excited to see him continue to grow. Just have to know this might be the last time we get a full LP for free.

Download: The Weeknd - Echoes of Silence

Video: Drake - "The Motto" (feat. Lil' Wayne & Tyga)

Drake dropped a video for his Take Care b-side "The Motto", adding on a solid verse from YMCMB homeboy and resident Cali boy Tyga. The quick cuts and homages to San Fran are the focus, but the fashion statements take center stage. Between Drizzy's leopard print Northface and batting gloves (again) and Weezy's lime green Uggs...I think they might just be trying to fuck with us.

Drake ~ The Motto Featuring Lil Wayne & Tyga (Official Video) from OctobersVeryOwn on Vimeo.

MySpace: Drake

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Ben Kenney - "I.D.F.A.R." (feat. Thomas Erak & Ashley Mendel)

Incubus bassist Ben Kenney, formerly of The Roots, dropped a groovy new solo track "I.D.F.A.R." (translation: I Drink For a Reason) with an unexpected feature from The Fall of Troy's Thomas Erak. I personally loved TFOT's stuff--especially their debut Doppelganger--so I'm just excited to hear anything from the man. He delivers his typical serpentine lines here, while sharing vocal duties with the surprisingly soulful Kenney. And I'm sorry Ashley Mendel, I don't know who you are.

Download: Ben Kenney - "I.D.F.A.R." (feat. Thomas Erak & Ashley Mendel)

MySpace: Ben Kenney

Video: J. Cole - "Work Out" (Live on Letterman)

Not sure if David Letterman could have given the Grammy-nominated Cole a more white bread intro. Either way, Jermaine seems much more comfortable in front of a national audience than he has in the past performances, as does his ridiculously tight live band.  Cole World: The Sideline Story will undoubtedly end up somewhere on my end-of-the-year list.

21112223224 by YardieGoals

MySpace: J. Cole

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Video: Anthony Green - "Love You No Matter What" (Live Acoustic)

Looks like while he recorded that awesome acoustic take on "Get Yours While You Can", Anthony Green also debuted a new song. The luau-strummy "Love You No Matter What", likely written about his young son James, totally radiates the endearing oddball ("shitting spiders?") sincerity that makes Anthony such a compelling dude.

Beautiful Things, Jan. 17th. Yea budday.

MySpace: Anthony Green

Lykke Li - The Lost Sessions Vol. 1

Lykke Li packaged together three alternative takes of songs off Wounded Rhymes--notably a icy cold version of "I Follow Rivers"--that shows the Swede in perfect form for this time of year. The "Vol.1" add-on also implies more of these will pop up in the coming days. Stay tuned.

Download: Lykke Li - The Lost Sessions Vol. 1

MySpace: Lykke Li

Video: T.I. - Fuck Da City Up (Trailer)

Apparently T.I.'s only other resolution aside from dropping a new mixtape Fuck Da City Up on New Year's Day is to break out all the ice he owns. Love the song in the video, though.

MySpace: T.I.

Video: Kevin Devine - "Happy Christmas from Kevin Devine"

It's a very, merry KDev christmas. Hit the video to check out a goofy holiday message to the UK--including cheesy renditions of classic carols--as well as an intimate performance of his own "Splitting Up Christmas". Happy Holidays, ya'll.

MySpace: Kevin Devine

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Trailer: The Dark Knight Rises (Official Trailer #1)

Crazy looking Bane, football fields getting blowed up, and epic movie sound effects. That's it, that's it, that's it.

Big Sean - "I Keep It G" (feat. 2 Chainz)

New Big Sean sees him getting his hood swag on a guttered beat. Personally, these are the Sean songs I find annoying. But I though that about "Dance (A$$)" and look how that song fucking exploded. Also, 2 Chainz making strides all over, but his verse here is a miss. Back to the drawing board, boi.

Download: Big Sean - "I Keep It G" (feat. 2 Chainz)

MySpace: Big Sean

Video: Panda Bear - "You Can Count on Me"

Danny Perez, who was a notable visual-art buddy of Animal Collective, tries his best here to make a video more trippy than Panda Bear's music. Not sure who wins this acid-drenched battle...but if you're looking for some next level Windows Visualizers, you can't pass this one up.

MySpace: Panda Bear

Stream: Blu - Give Me My Flowers While I Can Smell Them (Prod. Exile)

JonBarnes is a complex individual. He's got talent to the nth degree, but his erratic personality leaves him with the propensity to drop inconsistent/unfocused material and go M.I.A. right when he's hitting his stride. That said, I approach his newest Give Me My Flowers While I Can Smell Them with a palpable mix of joy and perplex. Below The Heavens is one of my favorite hip-hop tapes of all time, so naturally an entire album of Exile beats is a huge plus. But some of these cuts date all the way back to 2009. Hard to think why he'd hold onto a collection of song this top-notch for no apparent reason and then proceed to drop them without warning.

I guess in the end, it's the music that matters and this gets a major stamp of approval. I just hope Blu sticks around the scene for long enough to show some consistency. I'm not sure you, I, or anyone will be able to figure out why he does what he does. Maybe that's exactly how he likes it?

Stream: Blu - Give Me My Flowers While I Can Smell Them (Prod. Exile)

MySpace: Blu

Pusha T - "Sweet"/"Peso" (Freestyle)

Pusha drops a couple quick hit freestyles, adding kerosene to Common's fiery "Sweet" and 16 bars to my personal favorite A$AP Rocky cut.

Download: Pusha T - "Sweet" (Freestyle) / Pusha T - "Peso" (Freestyle) 

MySpace: Pusha T

Monday, December 19, 2011

Video: James Blake - "A Case of You"

James Blake introduced us to this warbling, piano ballad on his Enough Thunder EP alongside the Bon Iver collaboration "Fall Creek Boys Choir". Now he has a video for it starring Ben Affleck's girlfriend from The Town, Rebecca Hall.

MySpace: James Blake

Video: Talib Kweli - "Distractions"

Talib gets his Occupy All Streets on with some high-minded rhymes about corporate greed over a paranoid beat courtesy "You Already Knew" producer Oh No. I never gave Gutter Rainbows a proper listen, but after hearing this scintillating jaunt, I think it's time I give the man his due again.

Prisoner of Conscious drops in 2012, but Black Star first plz?

MySpace: Talib Kweli

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Video: The Roots - undun (Full Final Cut)

The Roots were nice enough to take the urban noir shorts they aired when debuting songs of undun and put them in chronological order. Nothing we haven't already watched in one way or another, but aside from the courtesy of seeing things the way they were meant to be seen, it's worth a second-look just to appreciate the subtle, thoughtful way the legendary crew put into everything with their name on it.

MySpace: The Roots

Ke$ha - "Sleazy" (Remix 2.0 feat. Wiz Khalifa, Andre 3000, T.I. & Lil' Wayne)

Please disregard the Ke$ha tag. I'm posting this solely for the heavyweight feature lineup and Andre 3000's head-spinning verse. Good lawd.

Download: Ke$ha - "Sleazy (Remix 2.0 feat. Wiz Khalifa, Andre 3000, T.I. & Lil' Wayne)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Stream: Common - The Dreamer/The Believer

There is always that album that drops in December that makes a strong push for the AOTY title. I've already got two strong candidates in The Black Key's El Camino and The Roots' undun. I have a good feeling that Common's newest The Dreamer/The Believer (in stores Dec. 20) will make it a three-horse race.

Stream: Common - The Dreamer/The Believer

MySpace: Common

Good Old War - "Calling Me Names"

Doing big things over at the Good Old War camp. Not only did they announce new album Come Back As Rain will be released on Mar. 6th, but they also debuted the record's sunny single  "Calling Me Names". The song's cohesion and focus definitely hints at a exhilarating return to form after a the mildly lost Good Old War. Get psyched ya'll!

Download: Good Old War - "Calling Me Names"

MySpace: Good Old War

The Weeknd - "Party"

Here's some more unreleased Weeknd material from Abel's early days. This one's a bouncy club jaunt that has T-Pain's name all over for it and an self-explanatory song title.

Download: The Weeknd - "Party"

Video: Anthony Green - "Get Yours While You Can" (Acoustic)

I already deemed Anthony Green's spastic new single "Get Yours While You Can" a grower. Well, it's coming through loud and clear after hearing this live acoustic take. Maybe stripping away the studio version's gratuitous layers and letting Anthony's stellar vocals shine--a la Avalon--was the only antidote needed.

Beautiful Things drops Jan. 17th.

MySpace: Anthony Green

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Video: The Horrible Crowes - "Ladykiller" (Live at The Troubador)

Remember when we posted that smooth live video of "Behold the Hurricane" at The Troubador? Well there's more footage--and possibly an entire DVD--that includes a full-bodied version of "Ladykiller" that segues into a cover of The Cure classic "Pictures of You".

<a href=';vid=2a2e4592-1f64-4204-8a2c-32da00166350&amp;from=&amp;src=FLPl:embed::uuids' target='_new' title='The Horrible Crowes - Ladykiller' >Video: The Horrible Crowes - Ladykiller</a>

MySpace: The Horrible Crowes

Video: T.I. - "Here Ye, Here Ye" (feat. Pharell)

T.I.P. drops off an offish video for his horn-heavy "Here Ye, Here Ye", featuring plenty of hand gestures (i.e. arthritic finger) and cameos (i.e. a pissed off Young Jeezy.) And Pharrell's verse is still just so naaaasty.

MySpace: T.I.