December 2010

5. Samuel Locke Ward & Darren Brown – From the Privilege of the Grave (Grotto Records/Mission Freak Records)
You know those albums which just have to be good? Because they have an ostentatiousness title, or a release from a “supergroup,” or maybe because it’s been so long in the making, or tied up so many times along the way it simply has to be worth it for the artist(s), regardless of commercial/critical reception. Well, the collaboration between Samuel Locke Ward (Miracles of God) and Darren Brown (Boy Dirt Car) isn’t so much supergroup–except to a very feverish minority; and even with the sort of heady album title, I wouldn’t say From the Privilege of the Grave is too much to live up to; however, after legal battles threatened the mere existence of this record–holding it up for almost a year (nearly a lifetime if you consider how prolific Locke Ward is), Privilege was under considerable pressure to be a quality platter. Thankfully, not just for Locke Ward and Brown, but for anyone who drops a needle on this record, it’s damn good.

“Further From My Boat”

4. Zola Jesus – Stridulum II (Sacred Bones)
Zola Jesus came out of the basements of America and is now opening for Fever Ray and the XX. The move from basements to theaters is largely predicated on her voice. Jesus has a classically trained howl. Like a DIY, operatic Depeche Mode, Zola Jesus is dark and brooding, but with a voice like her’s she boarders on a force of nature.


3. Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (Def Jam/Roc-A-Fella)
What do you say about an album that tries almost everything, an all-encompassing, genre-swallowing omnibus? West’s magnum opus, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is a mess. It’s glorious, it’s gigantic, but damn the trio of G.O.O.D. Firday cuts sitting at the center of the album is weak and completely nonsensical. So many questionable choices which yield surprisingly wonderful results, but cowing to popular demand (the story I’ve heard behind including “Monster,” “So Appalled,” and “Devil in a New Dress”) and adding fat and sag to a taut and well-sequenced record. Only Kanye could derail his masterpiece, and while he may not have sunk it, he’s certainly the reason I skip nearly a fourth of it every time I spin it.

“Lost in the World” (ft. Bon Iver & Gil Scott-Heron)

2. Curren$y – Pilot Talk (Roc-A-Fella/DD172/BluRoc) / Pilot Talk II (DD172/BluRoc)
Ladies and gentlemen, I’d like to introduce Curren$y. This Louisiana MC has been locked in mixtape purgatory since 2003 (another victim of label mismanagement), Curren$y has finally broken out and released TWO fantastic albums in 2010. Both Pilot Talk and Pilot Talk II are two of the finest blazed-up classics. Curren$y’s Pilot Talks are built on silky soul loops which are the perfect beds for his cloudy, subtle verses. These are some of the most deceptively intelligent verses; these are slow burners, folks. Get on ’em.

“The Day” (ft. Jay Electronica & Mos Def) from Pilot Talk

“Michael Knight” from Pilot Talk II

1. Big Boi – Sir Lucius Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty (Def Jam)
There’s not much to say here: Big Boi, with almost no help from his OutKast partner, Andre 3000, released an almost perfect hip-hop record. The minor dead weight to be found on the solo debut from amount to about three minutes of skits, beyond that, Sir Lucius Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty is an unstoppable slab of slamming rap. Big Boi plies his trade on a little bit of everything, but instead of sounding scattered, Antwon Patton sounds determined.

“General Patton”


10. Erykah Badu – New Amerykah pt II: Return of the Ankh (Motown)
New Amerykah pt II: Return of the Ankh is a surprisingly slamming slab of R&B. Erykah Badu was able to accomplish something special with the second installment (of a projected four?) in her New Amerykah series: follow up the confrontational and experimental R&B of the first with a slick and sexy yet still thoughtful stunner. Return of the Ankh is a little like following What’s Going On? (1971) with Let’s Get it On (1973)*, there’s no dip in musical quality, but instead of getting in her listener’s faces about the injustices facing blacks and women, she acknowledges that sometimes we just want to do a little bump and grind. Plus, if she can sneak some social commentary in there once and a while, all that much better.

“Turn Me Away (Get Munny)”

The music press has been poised, eyes fixed upon their clocks and calendars, to call the album’s time of death since before Metallica got all “uncool” and sued the pants off Napster–subsequently revving up the RIAA. But the album still remains. We still have lists dedicated to artists who we deem to have most effectively utilized the form. 2010 will certainly not be the death of the album. The year was marked by some of the finest hip-hop releases since Jay-Z retired (and should have stayed that way?), a wealth of DIY labels continue to furnish eardrums with all sorts of indie and major-aggravating tones, we saw some old masters come back and remind us not only why they were great, but how to keep chugging along as you begin to get AARP mailers. While the greats of indie-rock may have been lackluster or merely treading water, we had plenty of amazing talent out there picking up the slack if you bothered to listen. (more…)

2010 not only had it’s share of amazing material, there were many an admirable failure as well as solid continuations of artist’s prior creative arcs and a few old school eccentrics re-entered the game with cool but uneven work deserving some notoriety. (more…)

Amid all the lists for the year’s best albums and songs we sometimes forget that some pleasant, effective and downright seismic work is released in smaller forms: 7″ splits, EPs, singles, and mixtapes. In fact, this year we saw one of the most exciting musical experiments this side of Radiohead’s “pay what you want” hullabaloo in 200?, when Kanye West announced he’d release a new single, via Twitter, every Friday until his latest opus hit store shelves. West’s G.O.O.D. Friday experiment was a monstrous success, in as much as it kept his name on the internet without significant embarrassment (though he may want to reconsider his Bieber remix). It also gave us at least half a dozen solid to amazing additions to the Yeezy catalog. But Mr. West wasn’t the only one to shirk conventional lengths and release formats this year. Below I’ve compiled 15 (or so) of my favorite releases too short for consideration on my top albums list but too great to be denied mention and acclaim. (more…)

2010 was a great year for hip-hop, Midwestern DIY labels, ambient, I could make several mixes for 2010, but I tried to put together a cohesive overview of the years in “pop.” Posted below you’ll find a track list of a mix–I didn’t rank them, this seemed more fun–and at the bottom, a download link.

1. Alex Body – “Sixteen Years” from Just Say Yes
2. Big Boi – “Shine Blockas” (ft. Gucci Mane) from Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty
3.  Kanye West – “All of the Lights” (ft. Rihanna, Fergie, Kid Cudi, Elton John, Alicia Keys, John Legend, The-Dream, Ryan Leslie, Charlie Wilson, Tony Williams & Elly Jackson) from My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
4. Awesome Color – “Slaughterhouse” from Massa Hypnos
5. Central Cervices – “Work for the Government” from Forever Frozen in Television Time
6. Wet Hair – “Blessed” from Bored Fortress split with Peaking Lights
7. Erykah Badu – “Window Seat” from New Amerykah pt II: Return of the Ankh
8. Grinderman – “Palaces of Montezuma” from Grinderman II
9. Boris & Ian Astbury – “Teeth and Claws” from BXI
10. Mumford’s – “The Way That I Live” from split with Samuel Locke Ward & The Boo Hoos
11. Black Milk – “Deadly Medley” (ft. Royce da 5’9″ & Elzhi) from Album of the Year
12. Freddie Gibbs – “National Anthem (Fuck the World)” from Str8 Killa EP
13. Curren$y – “Michael Knight (Remix)” (ft. Raekwon) from Pilot Talk II
14. Cee-Lo Green – “No One’s Gonna Love You” from The Lady Killer
15. Janelle Monae – “Tightrope” (ft. Big Boi) from The ArchAndroid Suites II & III
16. Zola Jesus – “Sea Talk” – from Stridulum II
17. Big K.R.I.T. – “Country Shit” from K.R.I.T. Wuz Here
18. Kanye West – “Christian Dior Denim Flow” (ft. Kid Cudi, Pusha T, Lloyd Banks, Ryan Leslie & John Legend) from G.O.O.D. Friday series
19. Living Ghost – Go it Alone (Where No One Goes) from Wilderness Names
20. Samuel Locke Ward & Darren Brown – “Freeze” from From the Privilege of the Grave

You can get all 90 minutes of my favorite jams of 2010 here (sorry it’s on Sendspace, I’m still getting my uploading ducks in  row).

2010 was a deceptively great year for comedy. Few of stand up’s biggest names released new material, but this was a big year for new comics. In fact, four of my top five favorite comedy recordings of 2010 are debuts (as well as two discs on my honorable mentions list). My list will be light on write-ups because in this day of embedded videos, why tell when I can actually show? (more…)

Next Page »