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Albums of the Year 2016

landscape-1460379180-hbz-kanye-famous

*Best of 2016*

10) Porches
Pool
[Domino]

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

228ad793500b01b625200c20ab761d85

08) Bon Iver
22, A Million
[Jagjaguwar]

fd8402f9

07) Animal Collective
Painting With
[Domino]

animal-collective-painting-with

06) Young Thug
JEFFERY
[Atlantic/300 Entertainment]

jeffery_young_thug

05) Blood Orange
Freetown Sound
[Domino]

kjakmtr

04) Danny Brown
Atrocity Exhibition
[Warp]

atrocityexhibition

03) David Bowie

[ISO/RCA/Columbia/Sony]

blackstar-cd

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

solange_cover-1475240092

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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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]

CRJ_Emotion-(USdeluxe-album-cover)_lr_0

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]

beach-house-depresssion-cherry-album1
a1005992513_10

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]

ToPimpAButterfly.0

02) Vince Staples
Summertime ’06
[Def Jam]

vince-staples-summertime06_zd5ztj

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)

2014: Albums of the Year
Ariel Pink

*Best of 2014*

05) Eno/Hyde
High Life
[Warp]
Eno/Hyde

04) Spoon
They Want My Soul
[Loma Vista]
Spoon

03) Aphex Twin
Syro
[Warp]
Syro

02) Future
Honest
[Epic/Free Bandz/A1]
Future

01) Ariel Pink
Pom Pom
[4AD]
Ariel Pink

Here is a list of my favorite songs from 2014. These are listed in alphabetical order.

18+ – All The Time
Ariana Grande – Problem (Feat. Iggy Azalea)
Ariel Pink – Lipstick
Aphex Twin – Circlont6a [141.98] (syrobonkus mix)
Avey Tare’s Slasher Flicks – Little Fang
Bobby Shmurda – Hot Nigga
D’Angelo & The Vanguard – Sugah Daddy
Death Grips – Have a Sad Cum
Eno/Hyde – DBF
Future – Benz Friendz (Whatchutola) (Feat. Andre 3000)
Future Islands – Seasons (Waiting On You)
ilovemakonnen – Club Goin’ Up On A Tuesday (Feat. Drake)
Mac DeMarco – Passing Out Pieces
Migos – Fight Night
Panda Bear – Mr. Noah
Pure X – Valley of Tears
Real Estate – Crime
Spoon – Do You
Taylor Swift – Shake It Off
The War On Drugs – Red Eyes

2013: Albums of the Year
arcade-fire-press-2013-650b

*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」

2011 Albums of the Year

John Maus

I’m not a great blogger that is for sure. The start of the year witnessed my streak of blog posts and reviews, until summer came and my time and resources went elsewhere. Now, at this year’s end I am back to give you my input of 2011 in music:

2011 was a fruitful year, although this year lacked a definitive “best” album (like last year’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy) it featured numerous quality releases. The list I’m writing for you here was limited to just ten, leading me to leave several albums I found great off of this list. Trends that began in past years continued, specifically the small-imprint trend, growing in quality and quantity. The exodus from bedroom to studio has continued from bands in the independent music scene, few artists are releasing anything that sounds like it came from modest production efforts. Listen to the production in albums like Bon Iver or Father, Son, Holy Ghost, they’re deep, round, and spacious. Yet on another hand, artists are still borrowing sounds of the past and re-appropriating them as their own, although now in ways that blur the past and the present. An example would be John Maus’ release; We Must Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves, this album sounds natively 80s, but, is it really? Despite synthesizers turned all the way up, nothing in the 80s could be related without argument. Better yet is Daniel Lopatin’s Oneohtrix Point Never project, in his latest album, Replica, he samples 1980-90s daytime/late-night television commercials (which sounds like) straight from VHS. The final result is a creation that romanticizes one’s feeling of nostalgia.

Here are my top albums of 2011…

*Best of 2011*

10) Girls
Father, Son, Holy Ghost
[True Panther Sounds]
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09) Drake
Take Care
[Cash Money]
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08) Shabazz Palaces
Black Up
[Sub Pop]
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07) Bon Iver
Bon Iver
[Jagjaguwar/4AD]
Bon-Iver-Album-Cover

06) Gang Gang Dance
Eye Contact
[4AD]
bg3

05) Atlas Sound
Parallax
[4AD]
alb_Atlas-Sound_full

04) Destroyer
Kaputt
[Merge]
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03) Future Islands
On the Water
[Thrill Jockey]
71zEX4SgDjL._SL1000_

02) Oneohtrix Point Never
Replica
[Software/Mexican Summer]
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01) John Maus
We Must Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves
[Ribbon Music]
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Here is a list of my twenty favorite songs from 2011. These are listed in alphabetical order.

A Winged Victory for the Sullen – Steep Hills of Vicodin Tears
Atlas Sound – Te Amo
Cass McCombs – County Line
Death Grips – Guillotine
Destroyer – Blue Eyes
DJ Diamond – Horns
Drake – Doing It Wrong
Ford & Lopatin – Too Much MIDI (Please Forgive Me)
Gang Gang Dance – Glass Jar
Girls – Alex
Jay-Z / Kanye West – Otis
John Maus – Hey Moon
Kids on a Crime Spree – Trumpets of Death
Lana Del Rey – Born To Die
Laura Marling – Sophia
Nicki Minaj – Super Bass
Oneohtrix Point Never – Up
Thee Oh Sees – The Dream
Tom Waits – Bad as Luce
2 Chainz – Spend It (Remix) (Feat. T.I.)

TomboyPanda Bear’s heavily hyped fourth album, Tomboy, is released and it lives up to expectations, although ultimately with reservations. Preceded by four singles that were released on four different labels and by the instantly-classic Person Pitch album, Panda Bear’s latest continues the creative streak that the Animal Collective members have been on for over five years. Meme-generating terms such as “post-Merriweather Post Pavilion” and “post-Person Pitch” have littered the internet inasmuch as defining new bands’ sound (for the record: chillwave is analogous with “post-Person Pitch“), so it could be said without hesitation that Tomboy was expected to be yet another game-changing album from Animal Collective’s most-visible band member.

Tomboy was recorded in a basement in Benfica, Portugal. In that respect one can understand the, let’s call it, dimmed-colors present here, at least compared to Person Pitch. The tracks “Drone,” “Slow Motion,” or the ambient “Scheherazade” exhibit ghostly vocals and other elements that evoke cool feelings. But, the entire album can’t be classified thusly. “Surfer’s Hymn” is the best example of a track that sounds the most like “old” Panda Bear, this track also sounds much better on the album than the single-version that released a few weeks before. The single-version of this track had a pitch-shifted vocal that I thought ruined everything. And, “Surfer’s Hymn” does sound contrived at the start, but Noah Lennox (who is Panda Bear) pulls it together into a cohesive, single-worthy (which it is) track.

The production here is commendable. Tomboy was originally planned to have been mixed by Animal Collective members Avey Tare and Deakin, but instead it was mixed by Spaceman 3 member Sonic Boom. The news that this album changed mixing personnel came late in this album’s gestation period, two of the album’s singles had already been released when this was said to be. Did this decision create the hushed-euphoric elements? I can’t say, but I will say that it didn’t harm this album any. Panda Bear has previously credited Beach Boys, and to be specific, Brian Wilson, as a source of inspiration for the music he creates. Several tracks on this album have beautiful harmonies, specifically the album-standout “Last Night at the Jetty,” which has a Beach Boys-style songwriting structure. Panda Bear is able to use his voice as an additional element in the music. Well, of course, but what I mean is that he uses it not unlike the way a guitar or percussion would be used. Specifically in “Last Night at the Jetty” during the breakdown of the repetitious “I know I know I know know I know I know I,” that speeds up the pace of the song. He does this again to great effect with that track’s b-side, “Drone.” Although, Panda Bear doesn’t do this to the same level of success that was displayed in Person Pitch. On that album, “Bros” and “Good Girl/Carrots” used avant-garde songwriting and production styles to alter pop music paradigms; unfortunately nothing on this album displays that kind of creative ingenuity. But, let’s not discredit the music on Tomboy, this album is superb. Another production element that owes a great deal to the themes in this album is the intonation of Panda Bear’s voice. His voice possesses an organ-like quality that makes the album feel otherworldly. The majority of the album is sung in the same intonation which keeps this sentiment present throughout.

Panda Bear noted in interviews that Tomboy would be guitar and rhythm-driven. The latter is correct, but only a few tracks use rhythm-guitar, one being the eponymous “Tomboy” track which is the album’s first high-point. Although the track is generally sparse, Panda Bear creates a great sense of depth with a minimal amount of ingredients. “Alsatian Darn” is noteworthy as well for its use of acoustic guitar and its handclaps, proving to potentially be the album’s most accessible track. Panda Bear could have instead said that the album does have a higher amount of singing than other Animal Collective albums, even on the ambient-style tracks.

As mentioned earlier, Animal Collective, and specifically here Panda Bear, continue to create abstract representations of pop music, but nothing on this album shouts “Eureka!” like Person Pitch had done. Tomboy is paced thoughtfully and showcases how music is often a production of the environment in which it was created; here it was a basement in the sun-washed city of Lisbon, Portugal. Last year, Avey Tare released his first solo album, Down There, as he was going through a divorce. That album was subdued and emotional, and despite its brevity, could be considered as the better release of these two records. Thankfully, sometimes the sun does shine through the reverb and the haze in Tomboy, and it’s OK if you go out to bathe in it.

(Reviewer’s Score: 3.8/5)

House of Ballons Who is the Weeknd? I’ve done research through several Google searches, music Web site hits, and an attempt searching on Wikipedia, and yet I still have no idea who is creating these chilly R&B cuts. The most that I have found is that The Weeknd is from Toronto, and I’m sure we’ll be learning much more about this project soon.

I have been very skeptical of this “indie-R&B” trend that has surfaced as of late. Among The Weeknd are its contemporaries in the likes of James Blake and How To Dress Well, and I have written those both off as over-hyped. But The Weeknd is less like them and more like Junior Boys or Fever Ray, especially in the ability to create dark, cold, and affecting tracks, and it is in that respect why I find The Weeknd more favorable. Another part of The Weeknd’s appeal is the mystery surrounding the origins of these eclectic and hollow, drugged-out tracks. I originally thought what perked my interest were the “indie-friendly” samples that are re-appropriated, Beach House’s “Gila” on “Loft Music” or the Siouxie and the Banshees cover of “Happy House” which is re-titled as this mixtape’s title track. But, that wasn’t it either; House of Balloons is simply brilliant, despite how much this release bleeds cross-over appeal.

The subject material of this mixtape is dark and narcissistic. Maybe we’re entering a post-My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy pop music landscape, but House of Balloons has lyrics like “I’m living for the present/And the future don’t exist” followed by “What you doing in the bathroom? /It’s OK, we can do it in the living room/Only girls we fuck with seem to have twenty different pills in ’em.” All of it takes place in the envisioned world we would see in a Chanel or Gucci commercial, a world that thrives off of materialism and a world one would strive to reach at others’ cost. Although once you’re there you find that have nothing left but the beautiful girl who is leaving you for the next man.

The lyrics aren’t the only factor that creates these feelings, the music does it too. During the tracks “The Party & The After Party” and “The Morning” you can nearly see the skyscrapers outside the studio’s window. Further along in the mixtape, near the end of “Coming Down” the listener is left with a vocal loop of (what seems to be) a woman crying and the refrain of “Pick up your phone/I always want you when I’m coming down.” And then even later is the mixtape’s lowest and deepest crash which is the end of “Loft Music” that has everything stretched-out with feelings of melancholy. The production throughout is high-quality with subtle elements picked up at exactly the right spot and then left to drift away. The singer’s voice is in pitch with the myriad elements carved into these icy tracks. Each instrument is purposeful, be it the strum of bass, tap of a key, or the drop of a beat.

This self-released, free mixtape is certainly worth your time, especially if you’re into R&B or if you’re just getting into dubstep. The download is linked right here. As long as The Weeknd is able to keep creative freedom with future releases, as this project will undoubtedly be linked with a major-label in the future, this R&B meets underground dubstep trend will be fruitful. The production quality here is tight already and it will (or at least, should) only get better with more money behind it.

(Reviewer’s Score: 4.1/5)

Destroyer - Kaputt The Canadian independent rock band Destroyer has released their ninth LP, Kaputt, and it is the best fusion of musical genres since Deerhunter dropped Microcastle in 2008. Whereas the latter blended ’50s-pop with shoegaze and punk, Kaputt takes indie rock and mixes it with pop, disco, and smooth jazz. And, we’re talking about Dan Bejar here, so let’s not forget about the stellar songwriting (of course) that flows throughout this album.

I’m typically one who forgets to listen to lyrics when hearing music, often getting caught up in the different melodies and sounds, which is very easy to do with Kaputt, but Dan Bejar is just too poetic to not reach out for the liner notes and analyze what he just sung. There isn’t one track that specifically exhibits his songwriting skills more than others; they’re all superb works of writing that move synchronously, even elaborating the soundscape. It all sounds very natural, which is probably just the way it left his pen originally.

As mentioned earlier with the smooth jazz influences present in this album, there are sentiments that evoke the feelings of an after-hours night club in the early 1980s. Men and women dressed dapper, with martinis, cigarettes, and cocaine, back-lit with soft neon lights. Although somehow, Destroyer is able to pull it off in a good way without making it feel contrived or cheap. It sounds completely sincere as if it could be no other way. On nearly every track there is a MIDI groove that makes the album feel dance-y too, something that isn’t necessarily surprising for Destroyer. Although the band is rooted in Canadian indie rock (think Sunset Rubdown or The New Pornographers), this isn’t a left turn for the band by any means. The album’s final track, “Bay of Pigs” which is specifically the “danciest” track on the album, sheds light on the sonic direction Destroyer was heading when this track originally appeared on an EP two years ago. Even with the smooth jazz and MIDI samples, Kaputt is substantially guitar-driven. Examples include the subtle finger-tapping segment that appears out of nowhere on “Blue Eyes” to the riffs during the middle of “Savage Night at the Opera.” The way that Destroyer is able to let elements float in and out before you can even notice they’re happening allows this album to engage the listener throughout its 50-minute (70-minute vinyl) playtime.

Unfortunately, the album has one soft spot. Smack in the center of the album is the song “Poor in Love,” while not necessarily a bad tune, it just doesn’t weight up to the rest of the album. I’m willing to forgive this, considering that “Blue Eyes” will definitely get “Song of the Year” nods from me, it’s an amazing pop song that has help from Vancouver-vocalist Sibel Thrasher. She appears several times throughout the album and her voice is used to add emotion to Bejar’s poetic lyrics. Her voice is also used effectively in “Downtown,” a track that owes its sound to southern soul, until a glittering synth washes over everything.

It is just February but this is a must-hear album of 2011. Bejar has already proved that he is a standout singer-songwriter with his previous albums and this continues to defend his case, despite the brief hiccup of 2008’s Trouble in Dreams. The elements of jazz (be it smooth or free-form) and pop coupled with Bejar’s songwriting abilities is what let’s this album shine. I’m sure Kaputt will stand up to any other album that is released later this year.

(Reviewer’s Score: 4.4/5)