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2015: Albums of the Year

tameimpala2015

*Best of 2015*

10) Panda Bear
Panda Bear Meets The Grim Reaper
[Domino]

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09) Carly Rae Jepsen
Emotion
[Interscope]

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08) Lower Dens
Escape From Evil
[Ribbon Music]

Lower_Dens_-_Escape_From_Evil

07) Neon Indian
VEGA INTL. Night School
[Mom+Pop]

cover_night_school

06) Beach House
Depression Cherry / Thank Your Lucky Stars
[Sub Pop]

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05) Future
DS2
[Epic/Free Bandz]

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04) Deerhunter
Fading Frontier
[4AD]

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03) Kendrick Lamar
To Pimp a Butterfly
[Top Dawg/Aftermath/Interscope]

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02) Vince Staples
Summertime ’06
[Def Jam]

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01) Tame Impala
Currents
[Interscope]

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Here is a list of my twenty-five favorite songs from 2015. These are listed in alphabetical order and has been limited to one track per artist.

Beach House – Elegy to the Void
Carly Rae Jepsen – I Really Like You
Courtney Barnett – Depreston
Deerhunter – Breaker
Drake – Hotline Bling
easyFun – Laplander
f(x) – 4 Walls
Galcher Lustwerk – I Neva Seen
Grimes – Realiti
James Ferraro – Skid Row
Jamie xx – I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times) (Feat. Young Thug & Popcaan)
Jason Derulo – Want to Want Me
Julia Holter – Feel You
Justin Bieber – What Do You Mean?
Kanye West – All Day
Kelela – Rewind
Kendrick Lamar – King Kunta
Kurt Vile – Pretty Pimpin
Mac DeMarco – I’ve Been Waiting For Her
Miguel – Coffee
Tame Impala – The Less I Know The Better
Tate Kobang – Bank Rolls (Remix)
Vince Staples – Norf Norf
The Weeknd – As You Are
Young Thug – Constantly Hating (Feat. Birdman)

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2013: Albums of the Year
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*Best of 2013*

10) Chief Keef
Almighty So
[Self-Released]
Chief Keef

09) Pusha T
My Name Is My Name
[Def Jam/GOOD Music]
Pusha T

08) Factory Floor
Factory Floor
[DFA]
Factory Floor

07) Arca
&&&&&
[Hippos in Tanks]
Arca

06) Deerhunter
Monomania
[4AD]
Deerhunter

05) Autre Ne Veut
Anxiety
[Software]
Autre Ne Veut

04) Oneohtrix Point Never
R Plus 7
[Warp]
Oneohtrix Point Never

03) Death Grips
Government Plates
[Self-Released]
Death Grips

02) Kanye West
Yeezus
[Def Jam]
Kanye West

01) Arcade Fire
Reflektor
[Merge]
Arcade Fire

Here is a list of my favorite songs from 2013. These are listed in alphabetical order.

Autre Ne Veut – Play by Play
A$AP Ferg – Shabba (Feat. A$AP Rocky)
Arcade Fire – Afterlife
Chief Keef – Salty
Daft Punk – Doin’ It Right (Feat. Panda Bear)
David Bowie – Where Are We Now?
Deerhunter – Sleepwalking
Dirty Beaches – Casino Lisboa
Drake – Hold On, We’re Going Home (Feat. Majid Jordan)
Ducktails – The Flower Lane
Haim – If I Could Change Your Mind
Kanye West – New Slaves
The Knife – A Tooth For An Eye
My Bloody Valentine – Only Tomorrow
Pusha T – Suicide (Feat. Ab-Liva)
Rhye – Open
Robin Thicke – Blurred Lines (Feat. T.I. & Pharrell)
Signor Benedick the Moor – All Revere (le narrateur)
Volcano Choir – Comrade
2 Chainz – Feds Watching (Feat. Pharrell)

2012 Albums of the Year

Frank Ocean

*Best of 2012*

10) Grimes
Visions
[4AD]
Visions

09) James Ferraro
Sushi
[Hippos in Tanks]
Sushi

08) Dirty Projectors
Swing Lo Magellan
[Domino]
Swing Lo Magellan

07) Dean Blunt
The Narcissist II
[Self-released/World Music Group/Hippos in Tanks]
The Narcissist II

06) BEBETUNE$
inhale C-4 $$$$$
[Self-released]
inhale C-4 $$$$$

05) Wild Nothing
Nocturne
[Captured Tracks]
Nocturne

04) Death Grips
The Money Store
[Epic]
The Money Store

03) Kendrick Lamar
good kid, m.A.A.d. city
[Top Dawg/Aftermath/Interscope]
good kid, m.A.A.d city

02) Lotus Plaza
Spooky Action at a Distance
[Kranky]
Spooky Action at a Distance

01) Frank Ocean
Channel Orange
[Def Jam]
Channel Orange

Here is a list of my favorite songs from 2012. These are listed in alphabetical order.

Andy Stott – Numb
Austin Cesear – Cloud Hall
Beach House – Myth
Bear in Heaven – Sinful Nature
BEBETUNE$ – M A D N E $ $
Bob Dylan – Narrow Way
Dan Deacon – Lots
Death Grips – Hacker
Dirty Projectors – Dance for You
Farrah Abraham – After Prom
Frank Ocean – Bad Religion
Gary War – Superlifer
Grimes – Oblivion
James Ferraro – SO N2U
Jessie Ware – Running
Kendrick Lamar – Backseat Freestyle
Lotus Plaza – Monoliths
Lower Dens – Brains
Wild Nothing – Paradise
情報デスクVIRTUAL – iMYSTIQUE エジプト航空「EDU」

2010 Albums of the Year

Another year of music has come to a close and I have produced yet another list of albums that resonated with me more so than others. This time around, I have shortened my list to a “Top 10” as opposed to my traditional “Top 15.” I will also be giving out a “Label of the Year” recommendation as I have noticed that I have been listening to specific labels more so than random records this time around.

In 2010, there wasn’t a definitive trend in music. 2009 saw the “lo-fi” and “chillwave” fads sweep through the Brooklyn and San Francisco music scenes. This year the only thing that could be said in the way of a trend is that smaller labels were able to make good with humble, but not necessarily “lo-fi,” recording practices. These smaller imprints utilized social media outlets to their advantage to let a wider audience hear the music they were releasing.

Hip-hop had an excellent year with a lot of artists blowing-up with outrageous albums. This is noteworthy because many critics last year claimed, including Sasha Frere-Jones of the The New Yorker, that hip-hop, as-we-know-it, was dead. Artists like Ke$ha, Black Eyed Peas, or Soulja Boi created lackluster disco-pop albums that somehow managed to pass for hip-hop. This summer, Curren$y exploded out from the mixtape scene and dropped Pilot Talk, an album that samples trip-hop (a la Ski Beatz) layered beneath Curren$y’s smooth and diverse flow. Big Boi’s ridiculously titled album Sir Lucious Leftfoot: The Son of Chico Dusty was the most creative major-label hip-hop release I had ever heard, that is until Kanye West’s magnum opus My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy came out this past November.

Independent rock acts embraced classic pop-music structures. Arcade Fire released an excellent album (The Suburbs) that sounded not unlike 1980s stadium-filling pop acts (think Depeche Mode). Even my personally beloved Deerhunter released an album that was a significant departure from their established “ambient-punk” sound, as they headed towards a 1950s/60s pop sound with their new album Halcyon Digest. For the haters that want more of the traditional Deerhunter, stop by the band’s blog where Bradford Cox has released four volumes of demos (for free) under his Atlas Sound solo-project name, many good tracks can be found there in those volumes.

As I mentioned above, I want to recommend a “Label of the Year.” This year that recommendation will go to the small New York City-based imprint, Olde English Spelling Bee. This label’s blog, which serves as their main Web page, is loaded with several different artists to keep an eye out for in the future. The artists that are signed with this label come from many different genres and they are producing avant-garde works that shouldn’t be overlooked. New Jersey-based singer/songwriter Julian Lynch who fuses together American folk with worldly sounds, synthesizer-soundscape architect Michelle Gauldi (stage name Stellar OM Source), and Matthew Mondanile’s psychedelic-pop project Ducktails are artists signed to this rising imprint from New York City.

Now here are my top albums of 2010…

*Best of 2010*

10) Big Boi
Sir Lucious Leftfoot: The Son of Chico Dusty
[Def Jam]

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09) LCD Soundsystem
This Is Happening
[Virgin/Parlophone/DFA]

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08) Future Islands
In Evening Air
[Thrill Jockey]

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07) Woods
At Echo Lake
[Woodsist]

woods-at-echo-lake

06) Avey Tare
Down There
[Paw Tracks]

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05)Four Tet
There Is Love in You
[Domino]
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04) Curren$y
Pilot Talk / Pilot Talk II
[BluRoc/Def Jam]

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03) Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti
Before Today
[4AD]

beforetoday

02) Deerhunter
Halcyon Digest
[4AD]

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01) Kanye West
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
[Roc-A-Fella]

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Now that you’ve read my Top 10, I would also like to leave you a list of must-hear songs/singles from 2010. These are just in alphabetical order.

Arcade Fire – Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)
Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti – Round and Round
Beach House – 10 Mile Stereo
Big Boi – Tangerine (Feat. T.I. & Khujo)
Crystal Castles – Not In Love (Feat. Robert Smith)
Deerhunter – Desire Lines
Four Tet – Sing
Freddie Gibbs – National Anthem (Fuck the World)
Holy Other – YR LOVE
Joker – Tron
Julian Lynch – Just Enough
Kanye West – Monster (Feat. Rick Ross, Jay-Z, Nicki Minaj, Bon Iver)
Kanye West – Runaway (Feat. Pusha T)
LCD Soundsystem – All I Want
Marnie Stern – For Ash
Motion Man – Porno Mustache (Feat. Lyrical C)
Oneohtrix Point Never – Returnal
Stellar OM Source – Island Best
Umberto – Night Stalking
The Walkmen – Angela Surf City
Weekend – Coma Summer
Woods – Suffering Season

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My Beautiful Dark Twisted FantasyBefore the release of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Kanye’s label G.O.O.D. was promoting the album by releasing a single every Friday. I paid no attention to this. Yes, I knew that hip-hop had delivered some surprises in 2010 (see Curren$y, Big Boi, Big K.R.I.T., Freddie Gibbs), but, I heard The Blueprint 3 (and it was so terrible), therefore I wasn’t expecting anything beyond decent from Kanye. Calling his latest album to be his best gives it some serious credit (ahem, Late Registration), but I will not stop there. This album is truly one of the best hip-hop albums ever, taking Kanye West’s status from hip-hop great to pop music icon.

When I purchase hip-hop albums I typically go for compact discs rather than vinyl LPs because it is easier to skip from single-to-single or bypass skits. There is no need for this with Fantasy, it is meant to be heard from start-to-finish. The sequencing is top-notch, from the introductory track “Dark Fantasy,” the call-to-arms of “All of the Lights,” right on to the resolution of “Lost in the World.” The production quality is the best that you will hear as well, with Kanye West and Mike Dean heading the production efforts on nearly every track. If someone told me that “Runaway (Feat. Pusha T)” was recorded in outer space, I would believe them. The one track where Kanye isn’t listed in the production credits is the track “Devil in a New Dress (Feat. Rick Ross).” This track is instead produced by Bink!, a producer I had never heard of, and yet it is so lush. The Smokey Robinson sample layered with guitar and piano, plus a stand-out verse by Rick Ross keeps the album rolling, in what is essentially, single after single. “Devil In A New Dress” sounds so good it could be endless, and similar to The Beatles with “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” on Abbey Road, Kanye abruptly drops the track and blows it to pieces with a simple note structure using two octaves during the start of “Runaway (Feat. Pusha T).” I wouldn’t even call “Runaway” a hip-hop track; it is pure pop especially with its sing-along chorus. It even ends with Kanye singing indecipherably through a talkbox with violins and piano backing him up, seriously… Eureka! No major-label artist is making music like this. A must-hear track on this album (besides “Runaway”) is “Monster,” featuring verses from Jay-Z and Nicki Minaj. There is no doubt that I have suffered some sort of permanent hearing loss from blasting this song during my trips to work. And, if you had any qualms about Nicki Minaj’s authority, she proves that she can stand up to the hype surrounding her as she performs a mind-blowing verse with an ecstatically-schizophrenic flow.

Fantasy is the summation of West’s discography thus far. It captures the MC credibility of College Dropout, the orchestration of Late Registration, the ego-tripping of Graduation, and the emotional unrest of 808s & Heartbreaks. Weaving all the elements together while adding higher peaks and darker lows.

(Reviewer’s Score: 4.8/5)

LogosFinding an album in a “used bin” which hasn’t been released yet should typically throw up a few black flags. This was the case when I discovered the latest Atlas Sound album in a record store on the Penn campus. Luckily for me and my eight dollars, the album must have been placed there mistakenly and I became the benefactor of such a mistake (the most likely case in my finding it there was what I bought was actually a promotional copy). This specific album had been my most anticipated release during the preceding months. In the first place, lead-off single “Walkabout” features guest Noah Lennox (Panda Bear of Animal Collective), another track features Stereolab’s Laetitia Sadier, and the album itself is the solo project of Deerhunter’s frontman Bradford Cox. The last Atlas Sound album, Let The Blind Lead Those Who Can See But Cannot Feel, has played a minimum of 43 times on my iTunes (not to mention that I own the record on vinyl as well).

Logos lives up to the precedent set by Let The Blind… immediately with its first two tracks. “The Light That Failed” and “An Orchid” sound like what could have been b-sides to Let The Blind… These two sound hazy and lonesome. But, excitingly for the listener, the third track “Walkabout” brings in new sounds for the project. This song is upbeat, fun, and vibrant. According to the press material that was sent to promote the album, Bradford Cox and Noah Lennox (Panda Bear) collaborated over their European tour to create the song. It takes what is typical for Panda Bear, specifically pop melodies, and loops them into what is a bona fide summer dance track.

Following “Walkabout” are two tracks that unveil the folk side of Bradford Cox. “Criminals” and “Attic Lights” both tell stories while being toned down much in the way in that the album’s first two tracks are presented. The eighth track, “My Halo” is another which could be bunched into this grouping. When I saw Atlas Sound live, Bradford Cox actually performed “My Halo” using a harmonica. In a recent interview with Pitchfork Media, Bradford Cox reveals that he has been listening to Neil Young as of late, the influence is definitely visible throughout Logos.

Returning to the upbeat quality of “Walkabout”, the sixth track of the album “Sheila” is the most blatant pop song of the entire record. Yet the song is quite deep despite its upbeat guise. The songs plays on themes of longing and death, but most importantly the song is about living. After “Sheila” though the album plays into its centerpiece. The eight and a half minute “Quick Canal,” featuring vocals and words by Stereolab’s Laetitia Sadier, is a dizzying and cryptic opus that proves to be a beautiful segue onto the album’s latter half. This latter half is also the most electronic sounding part of the album. “Kid Klimax,” “Washington School,” and the eponymous “Logos” continue with the vibe that “Quick Canal” started.

What makes Logos so entirely satisfying is that it offers a pot pourri. Call it pop, electronic, or even folk, they’re all here and they all melt together into a fantastic and wholesome album. The album paces itself along the same lines of the latest Deerhunter full-length, Microcastle. Microcastle is beautiful, sampling genre after genre to create a sound of its own. The same can be said with Logos.

Near the end of the aforementioned Pitchfork Media interview, Cox says that he wants to develop a fanbase that will stay loyal no matter what direction he or his band decides to take. He is well on his way. The fact that another “digital 7′” was released under his Atlas Sound moniker just last week on the Deerhunter blog, which sounds completely different from Logos and is completely amazing, shows the musical genius that is Bradford Cox.

(Reviewer’s Score: 4.2/5)