The best music of the last year as determined by rigorous scientific research and heuristics…OR iTunes play counts. Either way.
Mastodon - Crack The Skye
Crack The Skye saw Mastodon fully reveal their love of mid 70′s pop prog by releasing this concept album about a parapalegic boy traveling through space and time to interact with Rasputin from Czarist Russia. Pause. Beyond the ridiculous concept, this disc sounds like 1974 era Yes jamming with Ozzy and Randy Rhodes. And just for fun let’s pretend it was produced by solo career era Phil Collins. If that doesn’t make any fucking sense peep game below and then you’ll realize “hey Ray was totally right about that Phil Collins thing.”
The-Dream – Love vs. Money
Maybe one RnB album makes it on to my year end list, because really a lil RnB goes a long way. “Baby I wanna rub you down”, “Oh, baby you so fine”, “Baby why you leave me”, “Baby I hate you”… And repeat. LoveVsMoney follows the same formula as every other RnB album but like a good dish of scrambled eggs it’s all in the execution. If overly emotional songs about love and sex are the eggs in this metaphor then a copious amount of synths, near operatic middle third and great mix between danceable numbers and ballads are the salt, pepper and cheddar cheese. The-Dream comes through on this album like the good Denny’s at 3 a.m in your college town. Moons over my hammy needs to be a new double entendre.
Karen O and the Kids – Where The Wild Things Are Soundtrack
I kinda found the Where the Wild Things Are movie to be a lil bit half baked because some of the emotional resonance that was promised (and necessary) for all the weirdness to work didn’t really come through. The monsters fluctuated between being fully self aware adults and small children who are emotionally unstable, and that made the whole thing feel kinda off. The soundtrack however, is pitch perfect with Karen O and her motley band of friends switching off between kiddy glee and melancholy from song to song, creating an album that sounds like wildly playing in an open fire hydrant and sadly kicking dirt by yourself all at once.
The Cool Kids – Gone Fishing
We’re still waiting for The Cool Kids to drop a proper full length album after popping up on the scene a couple years ago. And while we wait, these dudes give us a free full length mixtape that’s more of a realized full length album than a lot of other rappers made heads pay for. This joint dropped in the beginning of the summer and is a record clearly made for that season; with tons of trunk rattling bass, flighty songs about girls, parties, cars and an unaffected delivery that just says “it’s too hot outside for me to really get excited about all this shit”.
Download Gone Fishing Here
Converge - Axe To Fall
At this point in the game being 7+ albums in, 15+ years old most metal/hardcore/punk bands are either broken up, pandering to mass markets or just trotting out the hits on a perpetual nostalgia tour that’s sad like watching a bad magician fail at simple card tricks. Converge however just keep getting more focused and pissed as the years go by, refining their process with each album. Axe To Fall sees them embracing their thrashier tendencies a lil bit with songs like Cutter while also while perfecting their pensive “I’m an old dude whose lived a hard life” sound to the point where I would be excited to hear a whole album of their offbrand compositions like Wretched World. Which says a lot because I really don’t fuck around with Tom Waits and shit like that.
Gucci Mane – The Cold War
It’s Gucci! Gucci had a big year this year coming into the public consciousness by putting out more mixtapes than the Wayans got family and doing some big collabos with the likes of Mariah Carey. But where The Gooch really shines is on his mixtapes, where he’s allowed to go the full retard and just rhyme about dumb shit like taking your shirt of, nerds, grey poupon and how much he likes to refereed to as Gucci Gorbachev. The audacity of releasing three full length mixtapes on one day called Great BURRritain, BURRRussia and Guccimerica get’s him a spot on this list if nothing else, but besides the titles the tapes are actually a pretty decent double album once you discard the totally crap songs. Oddly enough this trio of tapes and The Movie 3D: The BURRprint are the best albums Gucci‘s put out this year including his actual album The State vs. Radric Davis.
Download Great BURRritain here. Download BURRRussia here. Download Guccimerica here.
Fuck Buttons – Tarot Sport
This shit sounds like outer space and underwater and robots having babies and Black Dice.
That description either get’s you really excited or you hate imagination.
Rick Ross – Deeper Than Rap
So when you’re a rapper who writes two pretty good albums about how you deal cocaine and “really know Noreaga“, and then everyone finds out that you in fact used to be a corrections officer what do you do? Well if you’re Rick Ross you just keep going, accept that your entire persona is artifice and enter into an extended Miami Vice wet dream fantasy. To realize said fantasy on his third album, Bawse decided to call up a bunch of RnB dudes and embrace the romantic elements of drug dealing fantasies and make an album about how he likes to have sex in exotic locations with exotic women while eating exotic fruits. That’s the kinda thing everyone can get behind.
Space Art – Playback
This record came out in 1980 not 2009, shit is as old as I am. So why is it on my best of ’09? Because I just got around to listening to it ok? Sorry I wasn’t quicker to get up on seminal French Space Disco records. My bad on that one dudes. Space Art make instrumental jams are extremely lush and airy but can serve as both background and foreground music. There’s some really impressive drumming going on under their wall of vintage synths and ionospheric melodies. I celebrate their entire catalog but this album in particular really sounds like an unearthed Vangelis/Pink Floyd split ep on clear vinyl.
HORSE the band - Desperate Living
The cover of Desperate Living pretty much sums up all the flaws and positive points of this band. General wisdom says you don’t have the cover of your CD look like a meeting of Rapists Anonymous, because that shit doesn’t really move numbers. But at the same time that disdain for trying to appeal to anyone’s sense of what should and shouldn’t work also gives you the balls to create songs that feature hardcore/electrodance numbers/guitar wankery/8-bit video game scoring/symphonic burst of piano. This joint find these dudes casting their net of influence far wider than their previous album A Natural Death and moving farther away from hardcore plus other shit and into their own one band genre of just weird musical fuckery. With the dude from Xiu Xiu executive producing and adding vocals on the song Shapeshift this album sounds really rich and has a really great tone even though you can hear these dudes laughing through the speakers.
Kid Cudi – Man On The Moon: The End Of Day
Finally someone made that space/emo/prog rock/rap album people have been asking for since Neveruary!!!
Man On The Moon is admittedly kind of uneven, with a lil too much stoned waxing poetic for my taste, and one of the most pretentious spoken word pieces I’ve ever had to listen to from your man, “fall into the Gap” himself Common. But, when this thing works it’s really something special and unlike anything else Ive heard in rap. Cudi‘s sing song vocal delivery just melds into the production to make for a real lullaby like quality. Honestly, I mostly listen to this album when I’m falling asleep. Not to see it’s boring at all but instead it’s just really soothing. I’d imagine its great for ze weed smoke. If this kid can stop whining a bit get his rhyme weight up and keep the interstellar production on point, we might have a monster of an album in a record or two. But in reality he’ll probably be too high to do anything like that.
Raekwon – Only Built For Cuban Linx II
As opposed to Rick Ross who gives us a fantasy version of drug dealing and hustling complete with speed boats and unidentifiable “Spanish bitches” with fat asses, Raekwon‘s album sounds like it was actually recorded between illicit activities. Only Built For Cuban Linx II sounds the most like a Wu Tang album since the first round of Wu Tang offshoot records, with kung fu samples, dusty ass drums and wailing soul samples. It’s totally anachronistic, revealing nothing of the trends in rapping or production from the last decade. Its entirely master storytelling over grimey beats with Rae playing Rod Serling to these Twilight Zone songs of double crossing, extortion, deals gone bad and tragedy. On top of that the combination of Ghostface and Raekwon has a higher on base percentage than Barry Bonds in ’04. Ghostface is re-energized on this record just foaming at the mouth ready to scream or cry on every verse. Wu Tang forever.
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