Dec 21 2011

The Top 200 Songs of 2011 – 100-51

100. The Strokes – Under Cover of Darkness

When the band sticks to what they know, they sound great. Angles is a hot-and-cold album, but this is the first of two tracks that showcases the former.

99. Born Gold – Wrinklecarver

Originally released as former project Gobble Gobble, nothing has been done to this track in terms or re-mixing or mastering, but it just sounds better in context within the new album Bodysongs.

98. St. Vincent – Cheerleader

Another highlight from Strange Mercy – here Annie Clark shows off her knack for start-stop surprises around what sounds conventional at first, then grows to be beautifully unusual.

97. Drake – Lord Knows (featuring Rick Ross)

The snare hits, the booming bass, the background vocals, that “Just Blaze!” intro, the use of the phrase “Murdercedez Benz.” What’s not to love here?

96. Wiz Khalifa – The Race

One of the more down-tempo tracks on the fun Rolling Papers, Wiz drops a chill-out anthem for the end of the night when you just wanna light one up and take it easy.

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Dec 19 2011

The Top 200 Songs of 2011 – 200-151

There are quiet moments, but overall this year’s song countdown is crazy upbeat; you’ve gotta be an uptight jerk not to enjoy at least some of what’s here. For the most part, this collection of songs from 2011, while decidedly less diverse than in past years, still perfectly captures my mood and preference. I’ll be counting down until Friday – feel free to browse, listen, discover, disagree, etc. I’ll publish a Spotify playlist at the end with most of the tracks on there; the rest can be found via YouTube below and on subsequent posts.

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Dec 16 2011

Most Overrated Albums of 2011

Let’s get the negative lists out of the way first. As 2011’s Listmas continues, there are a plethora of albums ranking high on prominent lists that frankly don’t deserve the accolades given. I’ve limited my selection to five of what I feel are the most overrated albums this year. Granted, there are several more I feel could have made the cut (Wilco, Smith Westerns, Kate Bush, Kurt Vile, Karl Maus, Juliana Barwick, The Antlers, Wild Beasts, Wild Flag, Nicolas Jaar), but for the sake of not being TOO snobby about it, the following are the ones I’m most sick of hearing about.

Disclaimer: “Overrated” doesn’t necessarily mean I didn’t enjoy the album, it just means I apparently didn’t enjoy it as much as the rest of the world.

Bon Iver – S/T

To give this snoozer sophomore slump comparable praise to the brilliant For Emma, Forever Ago is blasphemous. And now it’s got apparently unwanted Grammy recognition behind it. In between producing a classic and smoking weed with Kanye, Vernon apparently decided anything second-rate he put out would receive “album of the year” nods, and he was so very, very correct.

James Blake – S/T

Let’s be clear: there is STRONG potential here. The highs are high, but the lows are dreadfully low. “Limit to Your Love” and “The Wilhelm Scream” are examples of the genius amalgamate of noise and melody, beauty and chaos, that Blake has to offer. The rest? A collage of ideas tinkering for mood over melody. I look forward to the next try, when this up-and-comer will hopefully embrace his more structured side.

Foster the People – Torches

Foster the People are the MC Hammer of the new electro-indie sound – they took a fresh sound that had already earned popular recognition (MGMT, Passion Pit), watered it down with repetition, trite lyrics, and gimmicks, and became an overnight success story. If I wanted to hear this derivative mess in any fashion, I’d take Adam Levine to a karaoke bar and make him sing “Kids.”

Destroyer – Kaputt

Really? Is this album as great as everyone claims it is? For that matter, is ANY Destroyer album as great as everyone claims it is? Chalk it up as another project that will always make the year-end rounds regardless of output. There’s nothing criminal here, just formulaic and overdone, and it gets pretty samey about halfway through.

Oneohtrix Point Never – Replica

Daniel Lopatin’s better project, without a doubt, is Ford & Loptain; here, in OPN, he embraces his ambient, “Brooklyn” tendencies, and the result is a journey into atonal slumber. The “trying too hard” distate is overpowering throughout, with mindless repeated samples amongst a directionless hiss and unfocused arrangements. After dropping the fantastic Channel Pressure this year, one has to wonder what’s the point of this particular mess?

Jul 13 2011

Disappointments/Overrated Albums of 2011 So Far

The Disappointments:

Washed Out – Within and Without

Ernest Greene has made the age-old mistake most sophomore slumps make – he has focused too hard on form, and not on content. Abandoning the sharp pop of the impressive Life of Leisure EP for a bland, boring follow-up, Greene has created a sleepytime comp, but not in a good way.

Tyler the Creator – Goblin

Never since the invention of the good ol’ Internet/blog hype machine has an artist been so lauded and built up to impossible expectations, only to release an irredeemably bad album and lose all that praise.  I mean, man.  What a terrible record.  No one has fallen harder than Tyler the Creator.  At least, not yet.

The Strokes – Angles

This album is a giant mess, with the exception of exactly three songs. Possibly worse than not living up to hype (see above) is watching an established band return after a long hiatus and produce what is arguably their worst effort yet.  We all know the first two can’t be beaten, but it would’ve been nice to see these guys try.

Radiohead – The King of Limbs

It is apparent that, well inside their comfort zone, Radiohead have settled into trading in hooks for ambient experimentation and a lack of depth or cohesion.  There is nothing memorable here; the group phoned it in for their first mediocre album since Pablo Honey.  Perhaps this is a transformative period, and we can all look back and laugh at this stepping stone record.

REM – Collapse Into Now

At least Radiohead was progressive – most REM albums are always claimed to be a “back to basics” or “return to form,” but this time it’s for real.  Unfortunately, Stipe, Mills, and Buck forgot to bring the sharp melody and memorable kick back from 1995, and the result is somewhat dated and underwhelming.

The Overrated:

James Blake – S/T

This is a noble debut from an up-and-comer; it shows promise, warts and all.  Apparently the critics didn’t notice most of the album is not necessarily songs, but experimental sound and structureless production.  Maybe in the future Blake can rein it in and produce an album worthy of all the praise it’s getting.

Kurt Vile – Smoke Ring For My Halo

I guess I’m missing something here, but the sheer uninspired tone of boredom Vile likes to deliver his songs in is just grating to me.  I don’t pretend to understand why this album has received the unjust praise it’s received.

Foster the People – Torches

It’s Maroon 5 trying to replicate the hits of MGMT.  It’s repetitive.  Its success is uncanny and undeserved.  “Pumped Up Kicks” is the prime example for an album of one-note structure beating you in the head until it’s stuck in your brain.  Just because you can’t stop singing it doesn’t mean it’s good.

Juliana Barwick – The Magic Place

I have to give credit here – what Barwick has tried is pretty creative.  The main instrument here is layers of Barwick’s haunting voice, and the result is original and intriguing.  Unfortunately, it’s also frankly boring, especially for an entire album.

Bon Iver – S/T

There’s just not enough here to warrant the praise this sophomore slump has been receiving.  I feel this is a transitional album, that Vernon just needs to get his creative juices flowing again, instead of letting the celebrity status take control and half-ass a disc that only picks up on the last two tracks.

May 22 2011

Sunday Night Videos 5/22/11

JAMES BLAKE – LINDISFARNE from martin de thurah on Vimeo.