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Tag Archives: Kanye West

Albums of the Year 2016

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*Best of 2016*

10) Porches
Pool
[Domino]

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09) Chance the Rapper
Coloring Book
[self-released]

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08) Bon Iver
22, A Million
[Jagjaguwar]

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07) Animal Collective
Painting With
[Domino]

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06) Young Thug
JEFFERY
[Atlantic/300 Entertainment]

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05) Blood Orange
Freetown Sound
[Domino]

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04) Danny Brown
Atrocity Exhibition
[Warp]

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03) David Bowie

[ISO/RCA/Columbia/Sony]

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02) Solange
A Seat at the Table
[Saint/Columbia]

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01) Kanye West
The Life of Pablo
[Def Jam/GOOD]

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Here is a list of my twenty favorite songs from 2016. These are listed in alphabetical order and has been limited to one track per artist.

Blood Orange – Best To You (Feat. Empress Of)
Bon Iver – 1 0 d E A T h B R E a s T
Cass McCombs – Bum Bum Bum
Chance the Rapper – Smoke Break (Feat. Future)
Danny L Harle – Supernatural (Feat. Carly Rae Jepsen)
David Bowie – Lazarus
Deakin – Golden Chords
DJ Diamond – Lab 2 This
Frank Ocean – Nikes
Kanye West – Real Friends
Kero Kero Bonito – Trampoline
KING – The Greatest
M.I.A. – Survivor
Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – Need You
Pusha T – Got Em Covered (Feat. Ab-Liva)
Radiohead – Ful Stop
Rae Sremmurd – Black Beatles (Feat. Gucci Mane)
Rihanna – Work (Feat. Drake)
The Weeknd – Starboy (Feat. Daft Punk)
William Tyler – Gone Clear

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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)

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]

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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]

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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)

The Blueprint 3 Album Cover At the start of 2009, I honestly felt that it could be the year where hip-hop stole the limelight from other music scenes. Jay-Z’s latest studio album was heavily promoted, rumors ran around Dr. Dre dropping a new album, and Kanye West was potentially going to release a proper rap album during the summer. Something unlike his pop album from last year, 808s & Heartbreak. I’m also awaiting Rich Boy’s sophomore album that features his promising single “Drop.” However, the year has been rather disappointing for hip-hop (save Raekwon’s long awaited Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… Pt. II). Dr. Dre’s album never dropped and Jay-Z’s BillBoard Top 200 topper is undoubtedly his worst studio album to date. Even more disconcerting is that his latest album shares the moniker of his classic Blueprint. I really don’t want to associate this album with that, nor do I want this to be known as a blueprint for future rap albums.

The album begins with the first of seven Kanye West produced tracks. Five of his beats have co-producers, which gives a “too many cooks” feeling that arises time and again throughout the duration of the album. Kanye’s traditional brass and futuristic sounds are there, but often sound muddled by other instruments, typically guitar. Even without the additional producers, none of the beats are anywhere near the quality one would expect from Kanye.

As for Jay, as it is his album, some of his verses do sound promising. This is really unfortunate because the chorus sections plague the album on nearly every track. They come off as simply annoying, most notably on the album’s two lowest points; “Thank You” and “Young Forever.” The only track that deserves a listen is the New York City anthem “Empire State of Mind,” featuring Alicia Keys who does a great job on this track. Considering it neo-Nancy Sinatra may be a stretch…but it still did come to mind. “Run This Town” may be worth a listen too, but only for pop culture purposes. Young Jeezy features on “Real As It Gets,” which has the only non-annoying chorus, he also steals the spotlight from Jay-Z on this one.

Now to say that I expected a great album would be completely false. I almost figured it wouldn’t be hot when I saw the track list for the first time. The original Blueprint was a Jay-Z album. Blueprint 3 has a featured artist on 11 of its 15 tracks, a medley of top 40 artists, which is simply just too many egos to deal with. The album’s cover almost foreshadows what to expect…a mess that’s painted the same color. Here, it is a mess that sounds the same throughout. Dismal choruses, poor production efforts, and intriguing-at-best verses. Sorry Jay, perhaps the game really has changed.

(Reviewer’s Score: 1.5/5)