2011 Hates To Have To Crash Your Wedding. . . : Favorite Albums 10-1

Ten more albums! The future! Let us get to it!

10). LiveLoveA$AP by A$AP Rocky

By June of 2012, people might think of A$AP Rocky as the Kevin Bacon of hip, under-the-radar rap music. In 2011, Rocky worked with Main Attrakionz, Clams Casino, and Danny Brown. Next year, he’s going on tour with Drake and Kendrick Lamar. He’s in the studio with Araabmuzik as well. I would not be surprised to see him do a quick spot on a Watch the Throne 2 song with Abel Tesfaye singing the hook. We just need a quick spot between the A$AP crew, Shabazz Palaces, and Azealia Banks for Rocky to complete the relevant 2011 hip-hop.

The rhymes might not blow you away on LiveLoveA$AP, but everything else does. Rocky made the most of Clams Casino’s prolific production. The rest of the producers on the tape also bring their best. No matter the producers, A$AP Rocky makes these tracks his. During an interview on Pitchfork.tv, A$AP Rocky discussed the importance of that connection, saying, “…[R]appers aren’t shit without that good producer.” A$AP knows that making the most of an opportunity (or of a beat) can result in great things, like LiveLoveA$AP or his reported three million dollar deal from RCA.

9. Strange Mercy by St. Vincent

Stranger Mercy is a grower (not a shower [Gross. Why? {Seriously. Go to jail and never get paroled.}]). The album opens with the powerful “Chloe In The Afternoon,” and  strong pre-release tracks “Cruel” and “Surgeon” are full of vigor, but the Strange Mercy did not leave an early impression as Marry Me and Actor did. Lots of the songs (“Cheerleader” and “Northern Lights”) start off with Annie Clark strumming easy chord patterns, surprising listeners who expect the technical, manic, and fuzzy licks of the earlier albums. What Clark keeps setting up with unexpected simplicity, she follows up by continually knock-knock-a-knocking it down with some of her most complex and busiest sections to date. The somewhat jazzy sections of earlier St. Vincent albums have morphed into some sort of prog-influenced maximalism, which is great. It’s great that people still take chances.

8). Bon Iver, Bon Iver by Bon Iver

I saw Bon Iver play in Prospect Park a month after Bon Iver, Bon Iver was released. There were two drummers, Colin Stetson playing woodwinds, lots of guitars – there was just a lot going on. The band made the big moments from the songs bigger and the small moments really intimate. It was great. Have you ever had one of those moments where everything feels great and wonderful and you don’t have a care in the world, and maybe you know it can’t last but you don’t really care, because oh my God, it feels incredible? And maybe you stop for a moment and you think, oh finally finally finally thank you thank you thank you, but you are not sure what you are thankful for and what you think finally happened? And maybe you played the moment in your head for such a long time leading up to it, and the real moment doesn’t go the same for whatever reason, but that is ok because right then you are in it and it has been long since you have felt a warmth like that, a shaking, gorgeous warmth that you want to hold on to forever?

I had a lot of emotions at that concert.

7). Take Care by Drake

I’m never really sure how to write about hip-hop (“You’re never really sure how to write about ANYTHING, John!” – everyone who saw that Bon Iver thing and are now high-fiving each other after their sick burn. Sick burn, guys.) and I am completely lost when it comes to Drake (This guy isn’t). Is he Dirk Nowitzki? Is he playing with us all? How much does he hate being famous but love being famous? Does he hate what Tumblr has become? If you don’t think about Drake, these things are not of any concern and he is just a successful Canadian rapper. If you think about Drake A LOT, you will start thinking crazy things.

And I do think about Drake a lot because I like a bunch of his songs. I can’t relate to Drake because I’ve never been a successful Canadian actor-then-rapper, but his music resonates emotionally with me more than other hip-hop (until get really into lean, then I will relate to ALL OF THE MUSIC).

Also, “Marvins Room” holy shit.

6). David Comes To Life by Fucked Up

This album totally fucking owns. It will destroy your face. It’s like if Jesus found a crowd waiting to stone a person and said, “Let those without sin, throw the first rock.” And Fucked Up were without sin and they decided to rock. The results were the same because they rocked the person to death.

5). Instrumentals by Clams Casino

Every track Clams Casino touched in 2011 turned to gold. He is the Midas of spacey, under-the-radar hip-hop beats. What’s most incredible about his Instrumentals mixtape is how it works on two levels. First, there are the tracks as they are – wonderfully off-kilter electric tracks with standard rhythms that envelop you as you listen. Secondly, Clams mystifies audiences when his tracks actually back up MCs. Then, it takes the production game to another level. It’s some Cirque du Soleil type production (2010 callbacks! ! !)

4). Black Up by Shabazz Palaces

In the last part of this list, I mentioned that Main Attrakionz had the “most different” sound of 2011 hip-hop (again, ugh, sorry for that). I am wrong. Black Up should get that nod. Black Up should get the nod of sounding the most unlike ANYTHING ELSE this year. Where a lot of hip-hop was weird but kept a pattern, Shabazz Palaces have no reservations about being occasionally formless. This yields the most interesting record of the year.

What is even crazier is how disconnected this record is. Where A$AP Rocky networks, Shabazz Palaces are content to stay on their own and make wonderful hip-hop.

3). Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming by M83

Some people feel this album is too long. That is a legitimate concern. This is a long album! You could say that Anthony Gonzalez did not listen to Sum 41’s advice of “All Killer; No Filler.” There is lots of killer here. However, it is not all killer. But it is all great! Fatigue can be a problem with this album, less because of length and more because of how much is going on in many of these songs. The quiet moments might seem unnecessary, but I don’t think Gonzalez could sprint flat-out for two hours. It is a ridiculous pace. Incredibly, he does sprint for a good portion of the album which results in some of the biggest M83 tracks ever.

2). House of Balloons/ Thursday/ Echoes of Silence by The Weeknd

I saw someone somewhere (maybe in a dream. I have no fucking clue) describe the Weeknd as creepy or something, and not in line with traditional R&B, but the music is super interesting and that these descriptions were not meant as insults. I am paraphrasing. Also, I could have just made this person up. Who cares. Anyway, I disagree. These mixtapes are some of the smoothest things I have heard in the past couple of years. Of course they are sexy because they are dark, dangerous, and unlike things you’ve already heard. We want the unknown and we don’t know shit about the Weeknd.

We do know that all the mixtapes are fantastic. With each one, Abel Tesfaye has gotten more polished and confident without losing the intrigue. People may have slept on Thursday and Echoes of Silence a bit just because they were not new wonderful discoveries out of nowhere. Those tapes are still pretty incredible. Still, I mean, if I didn’t place an inordinate value on sentiment and personal emotional connections to music, House of Balloons might have been my number one album of the past four years and the next four years.

1). Hello Sadness by Los Campesinos! 

News of a new Los Campesinos! album delighted me, but I decided that it would not be my album of the year. I had heard a bunch of incredible music already and I knew LC! would do a great job, but I felt like, as a person, I should grow and not let my emotions get the best of me when making a critical assessment of music. Then I heard the album and realized, like REO Speedwagon, “I can’t fight this feeling anymore.”

Hello Sadness is the most focused LC! album yet. Even more impressive is that LC! are able to balance being clever, being poppy, and being inviting without resorting to old tricks. My first instinct is to say that  Hello Sadness is more grown up, but that is stupid because grown up means boring and Hello Sadness is never boring.

Hello Sadness is perfect for lots of things. It’s perfect for walking home from the late train on cold November nights. It’s perfect for jumping around in your bedroom. It’s perfect for secretly, frantically, and passive-aggressively looking at acquaintances on the internet. It’s perfect for being sad and hungover.

Reading the text of Los Campesinos!’s oeuvre, you’d think them fatalistic, pessimistic sad-sacks. “We are doomed. Shout at the world because the world doesn’t love you. I never made her smile like that.” Admitting all these things brings catharsis. Of course, we are still doomed, the world still does not love you, and I will never make her smile like that, but things keep going.

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