Honorable Mentions: Bjork Biophilia & Drive Original Soundtrack
Bjork could do anything and it would end up in my Top 10. But that’s exactly why I’m leaving it out of my Top 10 this year. There wasn’t anything particularly special about this album. Nor was there anything really breathtaking about Volta (except for the Timbaland produced tracks) or Medulla. I love her voice and because of that I think everything she does is great. The Drive Soundtrack is left out because more than half the album is just a score. If the full album was tracks from the Italians Do It Better mastermind Johnny Jewel, it would easily be in the top 5.
10. Rihanna – Talk That Talk
Rihanna is so dope! She’s hot, she can dance, she can sing, and her music is actually good, and she’s just getting started at the tender age of 23. Possessing all those qualities is such a rarity in current pop music. But Rihanna has legitimate roots in Caribbean music (“You Da One”) and R&B, so that may be what separates her from the likes of the Beyonces, Gagas and next ups out there. And unlike Beyonce she isn’t scared to get a little raw and nasty every now and then. She’s not trying to be a Disney Princess, most apparent when you listen to the lyrics on “Cockiness”. She reinvents herself with every album and continues to grow with each release, like the early years of Madonna’s career. And she is definitely not afraid to experiment, as she samples The Xx and works with Calvin Harris. She is the real pop princess.
9. Feist – Metals
This was sort of a let down for me. I had very high expectations for Feist’s first new album in more than 4 years, and though it is a great album, it was not what I had in mind. Feist first blew my mind with her electronica-tinged folk rock. But gone is the electronic aspect of her sound, while the folk is turned way up. I’m sure Metals will grow on me, but if I want Julia Stone, I could have just gone and listened to Julia Stone… WHERE IS MY FEIST?
8. The Weeknd – House of Balloons
This one just snuck up on me, and all of America, and I do mean North America. The Weeknd had one of the biggest and most impressive debuts this year. It seemed like he wrote and produced everything himself, maybe in his Mom’s basement a la Cody Chestnutt. Whatever happened, the Weeknd supplied us with enough R&B bravado to make R. Kelly blush.
7. My Morning Jacket – Circuital
My Morning Jacket always makes great music. They’re just a large commune of musicians who make music like they eat, sleep, and breathe, effortlessly. MMJ is my friend Kelley’s favorite band, so she has a lot to do with this album making my Top 10 as she has been shoving them down my throat for the past 3 years, but I do happen to love them myself, so it’s a welcomed shove.
6. Blow Your Head Vol. 2: Dave Nada Presents Moombahton
I have a hard time including things like EPs, Compilations, and Soundtracks in my Top 10, but I couldn’t keep this one out. Usually compilations don’t tell a well thought out story the way a good album does, but this compilation focuses on the central theme of Moombahton, the best new genre to come out of the new decade. Maybe it’s because Moombahton reminds me of Baile Funk, maybe it’s because Mad Decent records is taking advantage of the fact that a good album from one artist is becoming increasingly and incredibly hard to find, but I am really feeling Dave Nada’s creation.
5. Little Dragon – Ritual Union
Little Dragon has benefitted from a steady climb of popularity and musical growth. They continue to evolve and mature their sound from album to album and as long as they have lead singer Yukimi Nagano, I will continue to pay attention, and continue to rep them as the best new band of the last 5 years.
4. Miguel Migs – Outside the Skyline
I have had a reborn love of house music this year. I’m not sure when it started, but there has been a lot of bad house music forced on me this year that it made me rebel and find some good shit. I’ve mostly been digging for 90’s tracks and listening to a lot of Daft Punk mixtapes, but when I found this I knew real house music was still being made. Not only is this some really good, authentic, soulful house music (trance makes my head hurt), but the slew of guest vocalists on this album are very impressive: Evelyn “Champagne” King, Lisa Shaw, Meshelle N’Degeocello, Bebel Gilberto, et. al.
3. Metronomy – The English Riviera
Metronomy made a big splash with their single “Heartbreaker” a few years ago, and kept me interested with their remix of Kate Nash’s “Foundations”. Now they’ve made me a full blown fan with their newest album The English Riviera, an impressive blend of Nu-Wave, Electro, and indie rock. I might even say it’s the most impressive blend of the genres I’ve heard yet. And if that sentence isn’t impressive, that sound is one of the fastest growing genres out, including the likes of MGMT, Midnight Juggernauts, Junior Boys, Miami Horror, Yeasayer, and about a few dozen other over-blogged groups. What sets them apart is their heartfelt songwriting infused into songs you can still dance to. And most importantly they made a full length album you don’t have to skip through. The most important thing when I look for my top albums of the year.
2. SBTRKT – SBTRKT
The mask sporting SBTRKT was still a relatively unknown producer when he played Coachella earlier this year. Literally, no one really knew his identity. But I was even more out of the loop as I had never heard of the guy. I thought he was just another ‘faceless’ abbreviated blog producer. But like I’ve said before, I pay attention when I hear Yukimi Nagano’s voice, and SBTRKT was smart enough to employ her on the leadoff single “Wildfire”. I listened to the rest of the album to see if this guy was a fluke and after a dozen or so full listens the definitive answer is HE IS NOT. His dubstep-lite electronica and revolving door of pitch-prefect guest vocalists immediately reminded me of Zero 7,one of my long time obsessions.
1. Kanye West & Jay-Z – Watch the Throne
Not as good as My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy but better than Blueprint 3. These 2 are on the top of the music world right now, selling out arenas on World Tours, headlining Coachella, and being the barometer for which we measure everything Hip-Hop. Their collaboration seemed like a phenomenon, unfathomable yet inevitable. My favorite thing about this album is, it is the first great HIP-HOP album I’ve heard in maybe 3 years. The production is tight, very sample-heavy, something an old-school Hip Hop fan like myself needs. The guest spots are entertaining and impressive, yet not over-bearing (see My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy or any Death Row Records album). The biggest problem with current Hip-Hop music is the rapping, lyricists have been on vacation for the past decade. This album doesn’t change much about that, as this may be one of Jay’s worst lyrical efforts (I actually think Kanye murders him on almost every track), but it doesn’t matter. The album is fun, inspired, and a great listen all the way through. No gimmicks. You know except for the big one of putting the two biggest stars in the game together. Can’t wait for that Beiber and Gaga album next year.