Sunday, August 21, 2011

2011 Albums of Note

I'm a huge music nerd. As a deejay for 10 years, I've been exposed to a ton of music, which opened me up to influences spanning damn near every genre. I don't usually pay attention to a lot of new music; I typically just stumble on to things via Pandora (an amazing site) or Youtube videos posted up on Facebook. I wouldn't really call this a top albums of the last year, per se. This is more of an "I got turned on to these albums this year" kinda thing.

Flying Lotus - "Cosmogramma"

I've seen this guy a few times now and the show is always pretty out there. He's certainly spearheaded the glitch genre up from underground status to the more publicly accessible, though there are hundreds that have come before him. All of his albums up to this point have been super on point and this one is no different. The standout track for me was "MmmHmm." I'm not sure if it was because it was the first video released off the album or if because the video below was so bizarrely spectacular.

TOKImonsta - "Midnight Menu"

I got sucker punched by this album. I was searching for more "like sounding" stuff on Amazon using Flying Lotus as my jump off. TOKImonsta is now on Flying Lotus's brainfeeder label and this album succeeds for me personally where some of Flying Lotus's stuff falls short. I'm a sucker for deep, emotional melodies and this album holds them in spades. The second track of the album, "Sweet Day," begins with old Chicago-style horns and then slides into a syrupy synth soliloquy that doesn't lose it's power throughout the track. "Madness" is another good one, beginning with epic strings that change completely into what I imagine an old spy detective movie would have as it's theme these days. But it's "Bready Soul," the video below, that really slayed me.

Dam-Funk - "toeachizown vol.1: LAtrik"

Two words: robot porn. Dude plays a keytar. Some of the nastiest basslines I've heard in a very long time. This is the music blacksploitation movies will use several hundred years in the future. Seriously. Buy every one of his albums immediately. He's so sick, I'm posting two videos.

Toro y Moi - "Under the Pine"

Take the best parts of hipster indie rock and the best parts of funk and disco, lay some nearly ethereal vocals over the top and this is what you get. Great party music for when you want people to feel like the decision between making out and dancing is a genuinely difficult one. The video below is actually off the album "Causers of This," but is an excellent representation of their entire discography.

Digable Planets - "Blowout Comb"

Admittedly, I've been a Digable Planets fan since day one. I was on a school field trip in D.C. when I first bought "Reachin': A New Refutation of Time & Space," their first album. I listened to that thing so much, I nearly had all the lyrics memorized by the time I returned home. The problem is that these cats got slept on; gangster rap made its rise up into the public consciousness not long after their first album came out, so when this one showed up, only the heads payed attention. Sampling from pretty much every jazz great possible, the DPs brought a unique style and flair to the rap game rivaled only by many in the Native Tongues crew around the same time in New York City. This album is dark without being violent, beautiful without being saccharine, and lyrical without being pretentious.

Jonsi - "Go"

This is the solo outing for Sigur Ros frontman Jonsi. He, like the rest of his band, is from Swedend and they've been putting out music for years that would make angels cry unstoppable tears. Both orchestral and powerful, Jonsi and crew's music is absurdly cinematic and provocative. Especially considering he often sings in his own made-up language.

Death Cab for Cutie - "Narrow Stairs"

I try not to listen to the radio, of if I do, I'll try to listen to the retro station where I know that the ratio of stuff I want to listen to vs. the stuff I wouldn't mind listening to is high. Hearing the same songs on the hour every hour pisses me off and these guys have often fallen into that category of bands that get played repeatedly, so I REALLY didn't want to like them or this album. After checking out a few of the other songs on Youtube, I realized this was probably a pretty solid album and gave the whole thing a listen. While not my favorite album ever, the writing is phenomenal. The lyrics are both playful and sad at the same time while being undeniably smart and witty. Not so much the album you want to listen to after a break-up, but a good one nonetheless.

Damu the Fudgemunk - "Spare Time"

I first heard about this dude about two months ago. No idea why I'd never heard of him before since he seems to have that same kind of Nujabes/Madlib style of producing about him. Super solid joints, most of them instrumental. I heard this album and had to check out all the others, which all turned out to be super jazzy hip hop beats perfect for a lazy Sunday afternoon bbq session with the family. Some very ill stuff on these records.

Hum - "Downward is Heavenward"

So yeah. One of my favorite bands, these guys haven't put out anything new since 1998, but I'd put this album up against anything coming out today. They're playing a reunion show in Kansas City on November 4th and I'm definitely flying home to see them with every one of my homeboys who got me hip to this album. It'll be like our own little strange family reunion. Hum has been making what I'd call "Space Rock" music since 1989. They haven't done much since '98, however, other than a smattering of random shows. These guys are like a wall of sound put on compact disc. If you're not blown away by these cats, I don't know what to tell you...though you may want to turn it up louder.

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