Posts Tagged ‘Rock’

2016 Year End Picks

January 1, 2017

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A great place to get a pulse on what music critics, websites and blogs are thinking about at the end of the year is Metacritic, which compiles all those year end lists and gives an aggregate “best of” list based on the number of #1, #2 and other votes received by an album.  You can find it here and as of today, the top 10 are:

1 Blackstar by David Bowie
2 Lemonade by Beyoncé
3 Blonde by Frank Ocean
4 A Seat at the Table by Solange
5 A Moon Shaped Pool by Radiohead
6 Coloring Book by Chance the Rapper
7 The Life of Pablo by Kanye West
8 We Got It from Here… Thank You 4 Your Service by A Tribe Called Quest
9 Skeleton Tree by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
10 My Woman by Angel Olsen

I wrote about a few of these albums this year (Bowie, Radiohead, ATCQ), and I’ve listened now to all 10.  Life of Pablo and Blonde have some really good moments, but overall as albums I don’t think either deserves to be in a top 10.  Lemonade deserves a spot in a top 10, as the trio of 6 Inch (with it’s great use of an Isaac Hayes sample), Freedom and Formation are some of the best pop R&B of the past few years.

Nick Cave’s album has an unfortunate story to go with his melancholy album, but I thought this album was rather boring.  As I mentioned in my post about the death of Leonard Cohen, I hadn’t really given his music the attention I probably should have.  I listened to his last album he put out months before his death and wow, it’s good.  Appropriately titled You Want It Darker, it’s somber, dark, but really good.  I definitely would put it above the Cave album.  It’s ranked 12 on the Metacritic aggregate list.

As you know from my review of ATCQ’s album, it’s the number 1 hip hop album of the year.  Coloring Book is nice, but ATCQ beats it.  Caveat, I haven’t listened to the new Run The Jewels yet, but I doubt I’ll like it more than the Tribe album.

I was really surprised by the new Angel Olson album.  It was more rock, less folk and there’s hints of some PJ Harvey in there that I really liked.  Check out the Song Exploder podcast where she breaks down the album’s best track (and one of my favorite songs of the year) Shut Up Kiss Me for some insights on where she was coming from in making this new album.

Here’s some other albums and songs I really liked in 2016, including a few you might have missed.

Rock

  1. Andrew Bird, Are You Serious. Normally a Bird album would go under the Folk heading, but here Bird does rock just enough for me to put this in the proper Rock category.  The title track is one of my favorite songs of the year and his duet with Fiona Apple immediately before that is really good too.
  2. Okkervil River, Away.  Another band that sometimes straddles the line between rock, folk and country.  Only 9 songs, but only one clocks in at less than 5 minutes and the 7+ minute opus, Frontman In Heaven, was another favorite of mine this year.
  3. Allah-Las, Calico Review.  Garage rock band from Los Angeles that has a laid back sound but just enough bite to keep you coming back for more.
  4. Thao & The Get Down Stay Down, A Man Alive.  This one is in my top 5 for sure this year, can’t understand why it didn’t get love from the critics in year-end lists.  I wrote about it when it came out here.

Folk/Country

  1. Blind Pilot, And Then Like Lions.  A six piece from Portland Oregon, straddles the line between folk and pop.  While no really transcendent songs here, a quality set of songs that reminds me of a less bombastic Local Natives.
  2. Jim James, Eternally Even.  Love James’ voice and so he can usually do no wrong in my book.  A good group of songs that get a little funky in spots with some nice horn/key parts.
  3. El Perro De Mar, Kokoro.  Ever since hearing her cover God Only Knows, always on the lookout for new music by the Swedish singer.  She put out a new album this year, a pleasant series of happy tunes.  My favorite is Hard Soft Hard.
  4. Cass McCombs, Mangy Love.  Packs a lot of different styles into this album, from sweet balladry to blues rock stomp.  Like James, a great voice that I always enjoy.  Rancid Girl is a standout.
  5. Sturgill Simpson, A Sailor’s Guide to Earth.  He followed up his excellent 2014 album with another great one.  He throws in elements of psychedelia, folk, rock, and country into his songs and he has a quintessential “country” voice in the mold of Waylon Jennings.  Covering Nirvana’s In Bloom could have been a travesty, but it works, particularly in the context of the songs around it.

R&B/Pop

  1. James Blake, The Colour In Anything.  Wrote about this earlier in the year here.  Surprised this fell out of the top 10 and even top 25 aggregate Metacritic list.  It’s a little long, but some really beautiful songs.
  2. Amber Arcades, Fading Lines.  Lovers of modern Swedish/Norwegian pop will like the vocal styling and melodies of Annelotte de Graaf as Amber Arcades.  This is her debut full length album.
  3. Blood Orange, Freetown Sound.  While I haven’t been as high on some of his previous albums, I liked this one a lot and more than the Frank Ocean album.  This clocked in at 20 on the MetaCritic aggregate list.
  4. Jessy Lanza, Oh No.  Saw her a few years ago at SXSW and enjoyed her brand of synth pop.  This is her second full length.  It’s been nominated for the Polaris prize so it’s getting attention overseas.  An enjoyable album that pairs well with the Junior Boys album I mention below.

Soul/Funk

  1. Charles Bradley, Changes.  Another very good album from soul revivalist Charles Bradley and a rotation of backing bands. Ain’t It A Sin in the middle of the album is one of my favorite songs of the year and he does his best to keep his title of “closest thing living to James Brown” with Good To Be Back Home.
  2. Dam Funk, DJ Kicks.  If you are a fan of Dam Funk’s new style funk, this is a good way to figure out where he’s coming from and who he is trying to emulate.  A solid collection of funk tracks.
  3. Michael Kiwanuka, Love & Hate.  The stone heart and black background are a good visual representation of this album’s sound.  Kiwanuka’s soulful voice is used to melancholy effect here and Place I Belong is one of my favorite songs of the year.  This album was tied for #24 on Metacritic’s list.

Hip Hop

  1. Aesop Rock, The Impossible Kid.  Veteran MC put out his seventh album.  Still brings his dense lyricism and a good collection of dark beats.  Doesn’t hit the highs of something like Life of Pablo, but a much more consistent album.
  2. BadBadNotGood, IV.  Not a proper hip hop album, but the Canadian jazz group does have several singers and rappers provide vocals over their loping, modern jazz.  The collab here with Colin Stetson, Confessions Part II, is a stand-out.

Electronic

  1. The Orb, Alpine.  A three song EP of takes on alpine morning, evening and dawn, it’s a relaxing but engaging record with definite Eastern influences.  A nice soundtrack for you hikers out there as you drive out to your next trailhead in the early morning.
  2. Junior Boys, Big Black Coat.  Wrote about this one earlier in the year here.  Add track 8, And It’s Forever, to my favorites from this album of house-based dance music.
  3. Aphex Twin, Cheetah EP.  Usually enjoy anything new that Richard James puts out and this EP should have kept his fans happy.  Reminiscent of 2014’s Syro if not a little more straightforward.  CIRKLON 3 is a fun track with a little bit of a funk breakdown thrown in.
  4. DJ Shadow, The Mountain Will Fall.  Surprised this one didn’t get much love either in end of year lists.  No, it’s not Endtroducing, but it’s on par with Private Press and the Run The Jewels collaboration Nobody Speak is everything you’d want out of those three getting together.

Quick Hit or Miss – Thao & The Get Down Stay Down, A Man Alive

March 11, 2016

homepage_large.78ae8af7I listened to this album the other day and then immediately listened to it again.  The reason I did that was because I had to figure out whether this album seemed as good as I thought it was.  I’ve listened to it several more times and that feeling I had the first spin is still there.  This is a really good album.

Thao Nguyen takes on the personal subject of her father abandoning her family when she was young and its affect on her through her life. While this subject matter would lend itself to a dour album, I found this album to be vibrant and uplifting. There are certainly some dark spots, and the dichotomy between that dark and light is part of the album’s appeal.

A big part of that vibrancy is the involvement of Merrill Garbus, who produces here.  You might know her better as the artist Tuneyards.  Her mark on the album is distinct.  The first time through one of the thoughts I had was wow, Thao must really have dug the last Tuneyards album.  The rhythm section in the band is fantastic on this album, in a lot of songs guitar is secondary to the bass and drums.  One other comparison I’d make on the overall album is Beck’s Mellow Gold, with the kitchen sink/collage approach to instrumentation. Keyboards, xylophones, hand claps, tom toms, and various basses are sprinkled throughout the album.

The sequencing of the album is really good as well.  There’s a nice ebb and flow between those upbeat songs and the more downtempo ones.  Stand out tracks for me are Slash/Burn, Fool Forever, Give Me Peace, and closer Endless Love.  Lyrically, that last song really hits home on the duality I mentioned above as Thao starts by proclaiming that she has “an endless love no one can starve” but a little further into the song reveals that she “don’t want it, carve it out of me.”

This is a definite hit for me, I think there’s something here for a wide swath of music fans.  Here’s a link to the video for the leadoff song on the album, Astonished Man.

 

 

Quick Hit or Miss – David Bowie, Blackstar

February 29, 2016

Blackstar_(Front_Cover)I mentioned in my short post after his death that I would make sure to listen to his last album and post about my thoughts.  I’ve gone through the entire album a handful of times and what I’m most struck by is how “unrock” it is.  There’s a good bit of jazz elements, especially prominent placement of saxophone on the first three songs.  I learned researching this album that sax was the first instrument Bowie learned to play; I have to think this was a deliberate choice by Bowie to lean so heavily on that instrument in his final album.  The title track, which leads off the album, is a three part suite that has a good dose of that sax and singing that verges on Gregorian chanting at times.  The first and third parts of the song have a glitchy, post-OK Computer Radiohead vibe.

The sax stays in the fore in both the second and third songs.  Lazarus, the third track, is the best song on the album.  It’s got a great atmosphere with that sax and guitar stabs punctuating his pointed lyrics that definitely seem to be rooted in the knowledge of his impending death.  The fourth track, Sue, has a little drum n bass breakdown at the beginning and morphs into an uptempo and instrumental freak out at the end.  The energy slows down a bit on the next track, which to me has a dub sound.  Dollar Days is the track with the most prominent guitar and because of that it has a heavier sound than a lot of the other tracks.

It’s a testament to his innovative spirit that Bowie continued to stretch and look for new inspirations even at this point in his career, much less his life.  He could have easily put out a guitar-driven album that rehashed some of his “classic” works.  I would definitely put this in the Hit category; Lazarus is a bona fide entry into his best songs canon and the album as a whole has new things to discover on repeat listens.

Here’s the video for Lazarus:

RIP David Bowie

January 11, 2016

The passing of David Bowie has been all over the news today.  Not just music sites, but major media outlets, which is a testament to the global star that he was.  You can find plenty of good summaries today of his varied and multi-faceted career in music (both as a musician and producer), film and fashion.  I’ll just add a couple of thoughts I’ve had today.

His death today hasn’t hit me in quite the same way that Adam Yauch’s did because I haven’t spent as much time with Bowie’s music and so there’s not all the personal memories I have associated with his music.  Part of what I’ve felt today is regret for not having done so, which I know is a little bit weird given his music is and will still be available.  I don’t really know why I never did; growing up there was never a song of his I heard on the radio that I didn’t like and I still remember young me enjoying my cassette of Let’s Dance.  A few other of his albums have made their way into my library over the years; I think I just have taken for granted how good he was.  Probably for similar reasons, I never got to see him play live which is another regret.

I’ve also been feeling admiration for the man.  The fact that Bowie didn’t allow his illness to stop him from recording another album, Backstar, which was just released, as well as an off-Broadway musical. With over 20 albums to his credit and his illness, he certainly could have decided that he was done making music.  But, I have a feeling that thought never seriously crossed his mind.  I certainly plan to listen to Blackstar soon, which will now be listened to in a new context.

I’ve been enjoying seeing everyone listing their favorite songs and the breadth of the favorites is a microcosm of the variety of musical styles he dabbled in over the years.  My favorite song is from 1971’s Hunky Dory, Queen Bitch.  I wrote briefly about it five year ago here.  Often cited as a tribute to the Velvet Underground, I think he made a song that out-Velveted Lou Reed.  The guitar riff is an all-timer that still gives me chills and I love the conversational way Bowie sings this song (a nod to Lou Reed’s style for sure).  The ability to take a song that on its face seems so simple and generate such a powerful energy with it is an amazing thing.  While his body is gone, that energy will live on.

2015 Year End Picks

December 28, 2015

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Haven’t posted in awhile, but still been listening to a bunch of albums this year.  Here’s some of my favorites from this year.  Quite a few have been on best of lists I’ve looked at, but there’s a few that I liked that I haven’t noticed on these lists so I focused on those.  I’ll split it up by genre.

Rock

Alabama Shakes – Sound & Color.  Brittany Howard has got one of the best voices in rock today and her and the band cover a lot of ground in this album, with no missteps across the 12 tracks.  My two favorite tracks are Gimme All Your Love, a screaming stomp of a song, and Miss You, an almost folk-y ballad.

Budos Band – Burnt Offering.  While the Budos Band has produced several great soul instrumental albums, this year they decided to take a chance and make a “rock” record.  It’s not as far a stretch as you’d think.  A groove is a groove, whether it’s R&B or metal and Budos Band can groove.  The Sticks is my favorite song and the whole album is decidedly rocking.

Built to Spill – Untethered Moon.  One of those bands I’d always heard and read about, but just never spent the time to focus on, I happened onto their new release and decided to give it a spin.   I immediately went from this record to their earlier recordings, which I think is a testament to this record, which was their first in 6 years.  Living Zoo is a good representative of the album and the band’s sound in general, lots of guitars and Doug Bartsch’s off-beat, nasally lyrics.

Chastity Belt – Time To Go Home.  The all-female band from Seattle put out the rock album I listened to the most this year.  I think it reminded me of another band I loved in 2014, Parquet Courts.  They don’t quite get the same pace as Parquet Courts, but they bring a ton of attitude, great guitar work and clever lyrics.  Standouts are opener Drone, Why Not (which actually is a fast tempo number) and Joke.

Jenny Lewis – The Voyager.  Lewis has a golden voice and I’m not sure I could dislike an album by her.  This year’s release was another fun, rollicking album with Lewis belting out numbers like the title track and my favorite from the album, Just One of The Guys.

Moon Duo – Shadow of the Sun. I’d call this brooding psychedelia.  With its chugging riffs that sprawl over the entire record, their third full length seems like it would be the perfect record to soundtrack a nighttime desert drive down the freeway.  The trippily-titled Free The Skull is my favorite.

Thee Oh Sees – Mutilator Defeated At Last.  Another band that sometimes gets the psychedelia label, a lot of reverb, garage rock riffs, and John Dwyer’s yips and yowls.  While they usually have songs that are tight and concise, my two favorite tunes from this album are the two longest tracks, Web and Sticky Hulks.

It was a good year for rock.  There were a lot of other good rock releases that are all over the year end lists that are definitely worth a listen: Courtney Barnett, Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit; La Luz, Weirdo Shrine; My Morning Jacket, The Waterfall; Sleater Kinney, No Cities For Love; Spoon, They Want My Soul; Tame Impala, Currents.

Folk and Country

Calexico – Edge of the Sun. Another band that I’ve dabbled in a few songs here and there, but with this year’s album, I went straight to their back catalog after listening to this album. Toeing the line between folk and rock, I’m a big fan of singer Joey Burns’ voice and they flex in some new directions with the great Cumbia de Donde, which follows the other standout track Tapping on the Line, which has an assist from Neko Case.

Joanna Newsom – Divers. Just listened to this after getting it on vinyl as a present for my wife. Beautiful arrangements and Newsom’s voice, which can be a love-it or hate-it proposition, works well with these arrangements.  Kudos too for a well-presented vinyl package, with individual posters of beautiful nature scenes and lyrics for each song.

Kacey Musgraves – Pageant Material.  A polished country album that still reminds me more of “classic” country-pop than today’s versions.  Musgrave’s is the country version of Courtney Barnett with her sly, witty, conversational lyrics.  The title track, Biscuits, and Family is Family are all really good tracks.

Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell.  Abandoning the bleeps and bloops of Age of Adz, Sufjan returns to his folk roots with lean guitar providing the backdrop for some of his most beautiful and personal songs.  I saw him perform twice this year, and he beefed up the songs for the road with long, guitar-distorted extensions of those spare arrangements that worked surprisingly well.  He comes on strong out of the gate with tracks 2-4 all delivering a strong emotional punch.

Widowspeak – All Yours. An entirely different album than I was expecting, the fiery guitar band that I saw at SXSW two years ago is replaced with a softer, gentler version.  The guitars are more subdued and the lyrics more at the forefront.  Singer Molly Hamilton’s lush voice works well with that softer approach and it reminded me of Mazzy Star’s 90s output.  Stoned and Coke Bottle Green were my favorites.

Electronic

Dan Deacon – Gliss Riffer.  Reining a little of the chirpy vocals of some of his earlier releases, but keeping his ability to create madcap beats, this album bounces and bobs its way through 8 tracks.  A master of the slow build, Sheathed Wings and When I Was Done Dying, will certainly have you dancing.  And if you have a chance to see him live, do it.

Hot Chip – Why Make Sense.  Remarkably consistent, Hot Chip put out another album this year full of pleasant, slightly funky, and always dance-y songs.  Opener Huarache Lights and the electro-funk of Easy to Get are representative of what this album has to offer.

Jamie XX – In Colour.  Taking a break from his more relaxed work with XX, this solo album showcases a more upbeat side of Jamie Smith.  Like Disclosure’s album last year, this is a great electronic album from beginning to end, a cohesive work that is meant to be listened to as a whole.  Obvs, the back-to-back duo of Hold Tight and Loud Places, and back ender The Rest is Noise are all great tracks.

Jazz, R&B, and Hip Hop

Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment – Surf.  A surprising free release earlier in the year, this is probably the album I played the  most this year.  I think the reasons are: 1) the variety of musical styles on display from jazz, hip hop, and R&B and 2) it’s just a fun album.  Great to throw on in the car or when friends are over. The fact that my two favorite tracks land in the second half of the album, Familiar and Something Came to Me, is testament to the strength of the whole album.

Kamasi Washington – The Epic.  No album all year had a more spot-on title.  This ambitious jazz album, from the saxophonist who was also responsible for a lot of arrangements on the next album I’ll talk about, sprawls over three sides with 8 songs clocking in at over 10 minutes long.  It’s an immersive album that didn’t lose my interest even on those longer songs.  Several of the songs have lyrics and Malcolm’s Theme includes an excerpt from Malcolm X speech that is probably more topical than Kamasi imagined given recent events.

Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly.  Ranked at or near the top of most year end lists, hip hop’s reigning king followed up his critically acclaimed Good Kid, m.A.A.d. City with a angrier and more determined album.  King Kunta and The Blacker the Berry are raw, confident political statements with Lamar not mincing any words.  Throw in a super-strong opener, Wesley’s Theory, and the 12 minute long closer Mortal Man, and you have a new entry into the canon of classic hip hop albums.

Leon Bridges – Coming Home. Bridges is a 50s/60s soul and R&B throwback and his debut album sounds like it comes from a different time.  Songs like Brown Skin Girl could have been done by Otis Redding and the album-ending ballad The River is a beautiful number.  Hope that he can continue in the same vein as other similar throwback acts like Sharon Jones and Charles Bradley.

Miguel – Wildheart.  My personal favorite album of the year.  Miguel is the heir-apparent to Prince as the man who exudes sex in his music.  Start with the cover and move to songs like The Valley and FLESH and you’ll see what I mean.  The man can also belt out a ballad, see Coffee for an example.  Great beats abound as well, I can’t get enough of Hollywood Dreams.  And he even throws in an outsider anthem in What’s Normal Anyway for good measure.

Shamir – Ratchet. Released earlier in the year, I think people slept on this one a little in the year-end lists.  After the slow build of opener Vegas, Shamir hits three homers in a row with Make A Scene, On the Regular and Call It Off.  His unique delivery, reminiscent of Missy Elliott’s ability to latch onto a beat, is suited to the disco and house beats that recall electronic acts like YACHT, Basement Jaxx, and Hot Chip.  Closer Head In the Clouds is a positive anthem that appropriately soars up and out to the end of the album.

Hurray For The Riff Raff, Clear Plastic Masks and Lonesome Leash, April 25, 2014 @ The Echo

April 29, 2014
Hurray For The Riff Raff

Hurray For The Riff Raff

New Orleans’ Hurray For The Riff Raff was another band I missed out on at this year’s SXSW but was coming through LA  that we were able to get tickets for last Friday.  After some great deep dish at Masa, we walked over to the Echo.  First opener was fellow New Orleans artist Walt McClements aka Lonesome Leash.  He later joined HFTRR for a song and they explained he had recorded with them when they were both in New Orleans.

I had listened to the few songs he has online; they seemed a little somber.  Live, it came off much more upbeat and I’m always amazed by the talent folks have that are multi-instrumentalists.  In addition to singing, he played the accordion, a bass drum, hi hat, and at time also pulled out a trumpet.  I don’t have the type of brain that would allow me to be doing so many things at once, so I’ll always give props to those that can.  His vocals reminded me of a less raspy Tom Waits, which isn’t my favorite, but it was a good compliment to the accordian and the overall vibe of his set.  He is now living in LA, and I hope he gets to make some more music out here.

Clear Plastic Masks

Clear Plastic Masks

Next up was the Nashville by way of NYC band Clear Plastic Masks.  We had seen the guys from the band hanging outside on the patio earlier in the night and they seemed to be loose and ready to go.  They played straight ahead rock n roll and there was nothing wrong with that because they do it well.  Singer and guitarist Andrew Katz seems to embrace his inner Mick Jagger with both his vocals and his stage presence.  He had friendly banter with the audience, though towards the end of his set he mentioned some sort of trouble in San Francisco and selling their stuff after the show.  A joke or serious, I couldn’t tell.  Back to the music, the rhythm section was solid and I thought shined even more on the slower numbers.  Katz’s lyrics are clever and they were a good warmup for the headliner.

Alynda Lee Segarra’s big hair is matched by an equally big voice.  She is the heart and soul of the band, and her voice is just as full and velvetly live as it is on their latest record Small Town Heroes.  Joined by a fiddle and stand up bass as well as guitar and drums, the band doesn’t hide its Southerness.  Segarra pulled out a banjo for one tune and answered the cheers by saying “you have to go back to where you started”, a nod to her beginnings as a banjo player.  Songs I recognized were Blue Ridge Mountain (Segarra introduced it as a song about the Carolinas) and The Body Electric.  She also played a Lucinda Williams cover, a choice that makes a lot of sense for her.  It was a really fun, rollicking show of Southern folk and rock. The crowd was really enjoying themselves and was happy to clap along to several of the band’s numbers.  They came back for a short encore and had members of Clear Plastic Masks join them.

For a few hours, each of the bands made us drop the California from Southern California.  We stepped back into California when the show ended, but if you do want to escape to the South for a few hours any of these three bands will do the trick.

No videos I found from the show, so here’s a nice live version of St. Roch Blues:

Starting off 2013…

January 3, 2013

Neneh Cherry & Thing, The (2) - The Cherry Thing

By talking about 2012.  I didn’t get around to an end-of-year post last week so here’s a couple thoughts on what I liked this year and a couple observations about some of the other “best of” lists that were out over the past few weeks.

Some of my favorite 2012 albums:

  • Cody Chestnutt, Landing On a Hundred.  A throwback to the soul late 60s and 70s, he waited ten years between albums.  The glacial pace between albums doesn’t generate the masterpiece you might think, but a thoroughly listenable album.  “That’s Still Mama” is probably my favorite song.
  • Neneh Cherry and The Thing, The Cherry Thing.  I guess I liked artists this year that went on long hiatuses (I also enjoyed the Bobby Womack album), as this was Cherry’s first album in twelve years.  Paired here with a Swedish three piece jazz outfit doing mostly covers of the likes of Iggy Pop and MF Doom, her beautiful voice is a nice counterpoint to the manic sounds of The Thing in the background.
  • Jack White, Blunderbuss.  I felt like this was what the next Black Keys record should have sounded like instead of the unfortunate El Camino (probably the biggest disappointment of the year for me).  Great riffs and catchy rhythms and White’s got an under-rated “rock” voice.
  • Neil Young, Americana.  Young covering a bunch of American standards, back with his backing band Crazy Horse.  I didn’t think this one would stick with me but it’s solid from front to back.  He also released another album, Psychedelic Pill, which I haven’t gotten to yet though the one song I have heard, the sixteen minute long “Walk Like A Giant” is epic.

Landing on a HundredA lot of the magazine and blog lists had Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange either at the top or near it, and I can’t disagree.  His ability to switch from molasses slow (e.g., “Super Rich Kids) to uptempo R&B (without being the treacly slop of Top 40 R&B) and a great voice make this one a no-brainer.  A little more puzzling was the almost universal opinion that Kendrick Lamaar’s Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City was a better album than Killer Mike’s R.A.P. Music.  I understand why critics like Kendrick, and I’m not saying it’s not a good album, but Killer Mike and El-P bring so much damn energy.  It reminds me of classics from Public Enemy and Ice Cube with the ferocity and great rhymes not letting up throughout the album.  I was also surprised that Beach House’s Bloom didn’t fare better in these lists.  It’s a great atmosphere album, a perfect complement to a summer afternoon.

Last thing to comment on before I leave 2012 behind.  There were a couple powerhouse songs that dominated the airwaves this year.  I think you know which one’s I’m talking about: “Call Me Maybe” (a nice earworm), “Somebody That I Used to Know” (good Peter Gabriel impression), “Gangnam Style” (ingratiating after a few listens) and “We Are Young”.  The last one kind of got lost in a lot of the discussions that focused on the first three at the end of the year, but to me it’s by far the best of the bunch.  I’ll also admit it’s the only one of these groups that I’ve heard more than their one hit, and they actually have several other legitimate good songs on Some Nights.  It’s a soaring anthem that will be the current youngsters’ “Don’t Stop Believin'” in twenty years, which ain’t a bad thing.

Leave you with another song that I liked way better than any of those pop hits: