Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Top 10 Albums of 2008

I listened to more new full albums this year than probably ever, largely due to having a fast internet connection, a stretch of unemployment, and a desire to put this list together. These rankings always change/potentially become embarrassing with time, but as of the second day of the new year here's my tops (update: I had to change this around a little after listening to the Erykah Badu obsessively).

10. Amplive - In Rainbowz (Radiohead In Rainbows Remixes)
The DJ/producer from Zion I turns my favorite album from last year into haunted hip hop/electro bangers. Who thought you'd ever hear Too $hort and Thom Yorke on the same track?

9. Q-Tip - The Renaissance
"What good is your ear if Q-Tip ain't in it?" The Abstract proves he's still on point (without Phife) with an incredibly tight, focused album of organically grooving jams that reminds you of the glory days without sounding stuck in the past.

8. Fucked Up- The Chemistry of Modern Life
It's been a looong time since I liked a hardcore album this much. That sun shining through city blocks is the perfect cover image, symbolizing the ultimate positivity of this band despite its ugly elements. It makes me feel like I can take on the world, despite everything.

7. Lil Wayne - Tha Carter 3
It was Wayne's year, without a doubt. This album showcases not so much the flow that took him to the top, but rather the weirdo pop smarts that's keeping him there. Let's hope he gets out of his "singing in Autotune and pretending to play guitar are awesome" phase and tops this.

6. El Guincho - Alegranza!
Its title is a rarely used word for 'happiness,' which seems appropriate. Endless tape loops, tribal chanting, innovative percussion, bizarro samples. The weird thing is that everyone was saying that he sounds like Animal Collective, but that wasn't true until the stuff on AC's new album.

5. Esau Mwamwaya and Radioclit are The Very Best
Another feel-good one, this time in a more traditional way. The Malawian sings gorgeous original melodies in his native language over a diverse array (MIA, Vampire Weekend, Michael Jackson) of backing tracks.

4. Gang Gang Dance - Saint Dymphna
Despite being apparently the most accessible album by this band, it's still definitely a grower. I love the freak-out live percussion skittering over the synths as the singer does otherworldly things with her voice.

3. Cut Copy - In Ghost Colours
This record proves that great songwriting and amazing electronic sounds aren't mutually exclusive. The acoustic guitars meld wonderfully with the keyboard arpeggios and 90s rave synths and the songs are sequenced in a way that you're totally ready for the four-on-the-floor, hands in the air moments.

2. Erykah Badu- New Amerykah Part One (New World War)
I had always seen Ms. Badu as merely an above average hippyish R&B singer, not really my cup of tea, and was not prepared for an album of this depth and magnificence. The lyrics explore complex social realities and the whole thing has a simultaneous 70s soul/avant garde hip hop vibe to it, like Stevie Wonder mixed by the spirit of J Dilla.

1. TV on the Radio - Dear Science
This started as my least favorite TVOTR album, and there are few tracks that still don't totally work for me (like the opener), but I've fallen in love with the rest of it. The addition of Antibalas as a horn section and the increased emphasis on funk were absolutely steps in the right direction, but the slow burners (Family Tree, Stork and Owl) are among the best they've ever done too.

Honorable Mentions:
Santogold's proper album and Top Ranking mixtape, Lindstrøm, Flying Lotus, Vampire Weekend, The Walkmen, Sigur Rós, Sébstien Tellier, Black Milk.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

An Animal Collective Christmas

I tend to overuse the word "amazing" but I think it applies to this new Animal Collective song, even as an unmixed live recording from last year's Coachella. Between this and Brother Sport , I'm super excited about the album. Apparently there's some hulabaloo about rabid fans trying to get it leaked NOW cause THEY CANT WAIT! It comes out in a week on vinyl and in less than two weeks when it becomes the first CD I've actually bought in DAYS.

On another note, Merry Christmas. I love my family, hope you do too. This should get you feeling good, if nothing else will. John Lennon is great "get my life on track, never drinking again" hangover music too.

What? John and Yoko too political and self-satisfied for you? Try not to smile through this one then.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Pop songs of the year

I've burned myself out on a lot of these, but here are the 10 pop singles from the past year that I enjoyed the most.

SeeqPod - Playable Search

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Music Moments of 2008

I'm kind of a nerd about "best of the year" music lists and I've been looking at a lot of them and downloading a lot of things I hadn't heard yet so I can come up with one of my own. For now here's 5 random music-related moments that I truly enjoyed this year:

-Being part of the massive dance party whipped up in a big dusty field by a skinny, scruffy canario by the name of El Guincho using only a sampler, a microphone and rudimentary percussion at his free show in Madrid.

-Singing along to the "all she wants me to do is fuck the po-lice" line in Lil' Wayne's "Ms. Officer" the second time I'd ever heard the song, then trying to hit Bobby Valentino's high notes the next hundred times.

-Finally seeing Radiohead live as they became the first band ever to play Golden Gate Park at night and having it be all I'd ever imagined (minus the sound going out twice for like a whole minute each time), especially after a tragic incident of buying tickets to see them in Barcelona and having the tickets go to waste due to extenuating circumstances.

-Sac promoter Jerry Perry's 40th anniversary show for quite possibly my favorite album ever, the Beatles' White Album. The local bands were a mixed bag, but obviously all the songs were great. Surreal highlight: Ride! doing a free jazz version of Revolution 9 as pretty girls dressed in white held white balloons and picket signs bearing slogans like "Count me in/out".

-Lupita requesting Britney Spears' "Gimme More" at Piccadilly in Valencia and not remembering the title. "La en que dice 'It's Britney, Bitch,'" she said to the probably non-English-speaking DJ, who recognized it istantly. Then we were the only people getting down to it on the dance floor. "This is such an amazing song!"