40. FORD & LOPATIN- CHANNEL PRESSURE
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Ford & Lopatin fit right in with the modern Chillwavers and other electronic/electro pop inclined artists like M83 and Ariel Pink. They re-appropriate great 80’s electro-funk & hip hop sounds along with cheesy 80’s R&B and smaltzy pop and the sound effects from an Atari 2600. “Channel Pressure” is a concept album about a teenager from the future named Joey Rogers who is manipulated by voices from his television set while he’s asleep. The concept is dense and confusing but it does go along with the vibe of the album, which takes the outdated sounds and twists them so they sound futuristic- like a show like Star Trek or Jetsons from 50 years ago coming up with its own space age bachelor pad music. At least half the songs are catchy as hell including “The Voices”, “Too Much Midi (Please Forgive Me)”, “I Surrender” & “Channel Pressure”. If you want to dig deeper check out Lopatin’s other headier electronic instrumental project Oneohtrix Point Never who also released the stellar album “Replica” in 2011.
Buy Emergency RoomAmazon
39. TY SEGALL- GOODBYE BREAD
Buy Goodbye BreadAmazon
I just got this album. Up until two weeks ago the only thing I had heard from Ty Segall was one track off of his last album, which I liked but didn’t bowl me over or anything. I’m truly surprised at how much I like this and it keeps growing on me more and more. Cali-based Segall is a D.I.Y. singer/singwriter in the same vein of someone like Jay Reatard (R.I.P.). His music is lo-fi, loose and ramshackle. He sounds like the heaviest of the 60’s garage rockers and early punk rock and plays with the swing of the Stooges. The music could be compared to very early Black Keys except less blues-based and more psychedelic, with totally unhinged but at times brilliant electric guitar playing and sneaky good song writing. Is this dude a mad genius?
Buy Goodbye BreadAmazon
Buy You Make The Sun FryAmazon
38. YUCK- YUCK
Buy Yuck (Deluxe)Amazon
Any modern generation resorts to a level of nostalgia for the pop culture of their formative years once they pass the college/partying/going out years and enter the start a family phase in their lives. If you’re around my age, even if you are keeping up with the current trends in music, you certainly have a friend or 50 that are wallowing deep in 90’s nostalgia. Well if those friends were slightly left of center and liked indie guitar bands like Pavement, Dinosaur Jr. & Sonic Youth then Yuck is the band for them. Yuck are a 4 piece from London that really does sound straight out of the 90’s. Fortunately their songwriting chops are strong enough that they don’t sound like a mere carbon copy. Songs like “The Wall”, “Operation” and especially “Get Away” rock as hard as a long long Archers of Loaf track. “Yuck” is the band’s debut and they temper the rock tracks with just as many slower tracks which are effective as well if not quite as eye opening. Will be interesting to see where this band goes next.
Buy Get AwayAmazon
Buy The WallAmazon
37. LYKKE LI- WOUNDED RHYMES
Buy Wounded RhymesAmazon
“Wounded Rhymes” is the follow-up to the very promising debut “Youth Novels” three years ago by the young, sexy Swedish Lykke Li. “Rhymes” is darker, more aggressive, more mature and all around better than the debut- it’s forceful where “Youth Novels” was cute. Though she could easily appeal to fans of 90’s singer songwriters like Tori Amos and Sarah Maclaughlan, she really has more in common with Bat for Lashes or St. Vincent. She blends indie rock, electronic music along with garage rock and girl group and Doo Wop harmonies from the 50’s and 60’s to create a mishmash of strange but exciting music. I can see her eventually having crossover hits in the future but she doesn’t seem the type to let the music machine swallow her whole. The first part of “Wounded Rhymes” is near perfect and the 2nd half loses steam. If she can put together an entire album like the first half she could land in a future top 20 of mine without a problem.
Buy Youth Knows No PainAmazon
Buy I Follow RiversAmazon
36. WILCO- THE WHOLE LOVE
Buy The Whole Love (Deluxe Edition)Amazon
“The Whole Love” is Wilco’s 9th studio album and by 2011 then fine themselves as one of the most reliable rock bands in music, handed the backhanded compliment of being “Dad Rock” and thought to have made their best music years ago. While it’s true that their last two albums were their safest and most middle of the road, they both held various pleasures and a band should be commended for keepin’ on keepin’ on rather than going into epic failure mode like the Rolling Stones or arguably U2. “The Whole Love” is not Wilco’s best album, but it’s safe to call it a return to form or at least a left turn in the progression of the band. It’s far more experimental than the last two and not as erratic as “Ghost Is Born”. The single “I Might” is a straight up jam and the seven minute album opener “Art of Almost” is one of the best long jams of Wilco’s career and a showcase for the great guitarist Nels Cline who has been a bit underused since joining the band. Don’t give up on this band yet- they have a lot left in them.
Buy I MightAmazon
Buy Art Of AlmostAmazon
35. TOM WAITS- BAD AS ME
Buy Bad As Me (Deluxe Version)Amazon
“Bad As Me” is the legendary Tom Waits’s first album release in 7 years and his best since at least 1999’s “Mule Variations”. Where most of Wait’s albums in the past 20 years have been very lengthy, conceptual affair, “Bad As Me” is stripped down to a normal running time of 45 minutes with no song over 5 minutes and most of them between 3 and 4. Waits collaborates again with his wife Kathleen Brennan and brings in famous guest musicians like Flea, Les Claypool and Keith Richards. The great Marc Ribot once again handles the bulk of the guitar work. Waits can certainly be an acquired taste- his vocals can sound like a cross between Howlin’ Wolf and a carnival barker gargling nails. As he has gotten older he has exaggerated those vocals to bigger extremes. You either get him or you don’t, but once you do there’s no going back. The music on “Bad As Me” runs the gamut between gutbucket blues, rockabilly, jazz & torch ballads. His always brilliant lyrics take on the American war machine as well as the greed of our corporate overlords.
Buy Hell Broke LuceAmazon
Buy New Year’s EveAmazon
34. MASTODON- THE HUNTER
Buy The Hunter (Deluxe Version) [Explicit]Amazon
Atlanta based Mastodon is my modern metal band of choice. “The Hunter”, their 5th studio album, has been bemoaned by many of their fans for not being heavy, prog or conceptual enough. They certainly have ditched the themes of their last three albums as well as the 10 + minute epic prog jams but there is still plenty of experimentation on “The Hunter” and the band to me sounds as heavy as ever. Mastodon, as usual led by otherworld drumming of Brann Dailor absolutely pummels and it’s fun to listen to the write and play under a tighter context. “The Hunter” may not reach the heights of “Crack the Skye” or “Blood Mountain”, but it’s still the best pure metal album I heard all year and it gives me my fix when I need it.
Buy Curl Of The BurlAmazon
33. THE RAPTURE- IN THE GRACE OF YOUR LOVE
Buy In The Grace Of Your LoveAmazon
“In the Grace Of Your Love” is the 4th studio album from Brooklyn’s the Rapture. The band’s second album “Echoes” and the great lead single “House of Jealous Lovers” was at the very forefront of the Brooklyn’s dance punk scene in the early oughts. “Lovers” may just have been the scenes defining anthem. After a very underrated follow-up album “Pieces of the People We Love”, lead singer Luke Jenner got married, became a father, lost his mother to suicide and converted to Catholicism. And co-writer and bassist Matt Safer left the band. “Grace” is a beautiful album, concerned with the ‘spirit’ and grappling with life’s biggest questions- birth, marriage, children, death, rebirth & redemption. Though it may not hit as hard as hard musically as their last two albums it’s their deepest and most powerful to date. Though it can be sad, not surprising considering all that Jenner has been through, it’s also joyousand their most club focused album. Single “How Deep Is Your Love” is one of my favorite tracks of the year and can sit alongside “House of Jealous Lovers” as the best of their career.
Buy How Deep Is Your Love?Amazon
32. JAY-Z & KANYE WEST- WATCH THE THRONE
“Watch the Throne”, a collaboration of arguably the two most famous rappers not named Eminem, was an event upon its release last summer and it does not disappoint. Though it does not reach the quality of Kanye’s perfect “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” from 2010 it’s far better than Jay-Z’s last record “The Blueprint 3”. Kanye’s huge, stadium-ready beats inspire Jay-Z to be in peak form and it’s a last to see these two rap heavyweights go at it. A few weak tracks drag the album down but the highlights are many- best of which are the first two singles “Otis”, featuring a prominent sample of “Try A Little Tenderness” chopped up to Kanye-perfection, “N**gas In Paris”, one of my favorite rap songs of 2011, and “That’s My Bitch” which breathes new life into the overused “Apache” sample. Not a flawless album for sure, but still pretty damn great.
Buy Ni**as In Paris [Explicit]Amazon
Buy That’s My Bitch [Explicit]Amazon
31. NEON INDIAN- ERA EXTRANA
Buy Era ExtrañaAmazon
Follow-up to Alan Palomo’s great debut album “Psychic Chasms” is less hazy and lo-fi. It’s better produced and even a bit more rockin’. Palermo is not content to be defined and sucked up by the chillwave scene and by moving on and above it he helps to expand the definition of it. Nothing here caught me immediately like “Deadbeat Summer” or “Should’ve Taken Acid With You”, but there are a bunch of winners. They just take a bit longer to settle into your brain. The album outside of the last track “Arcade Blues” is focused on falling in and out of love, lust, ecstasy & heartache, which is fitting for someone still in his early 20’s. The polish, pop smarts and cohesiveness of “Era Extrana” show that the extremely talented Palomo should be making great music far into the future.
Buy Polish GirlAmazon
Buy Arcade Blues (Single)Amazon