Hey y’all, it’s me again. With more albums that I seriously overlooked and have not featured here on the old CBK yet. After lurking on many great “Best of 2011” lists of other blogs I’ve found tons of other albums that I had originally overlooked or missed in the heavy current of new music. Well, now I have listened to some of these overlooked/missed albums and I can fairly say that a few more should have been included in my “Top 50 Albums” list or perhaps just included in Honorable Mentions, still worth checking out. These are in no specific order.
1. Rustie – Glass Swords
This album, I don’t even know. It’s like it could have been a joke if it were pulled off any differently it would have been seen as some lame attempt at creating a fusion of all forms of popular dance and electronic music from the past 30-something years. But somehow, just barely, it comes off at the right amount of cheesiness and actual danceability. There are some songs that imitate dubstep without being that really obnoxious “brostep” and actually holds it together without being turned into some kind of meme. Other songs use classic 80’s/90’s bass sounds from Seinfeld and doesn’t trip and fall on using that signature sound trying to make something that wouldn’t work with the other parts of the album. Some songs even use retro/nintendo-like arpeggiating synths with nerdy, heroic melodies playing out like you were transported into a NES game. Fantastic. This album travels across time to create an album that is just plain fun and gets a dance party started. Ladies? Dance party? I have an album for that now! …Hello?
2. Balam Acab – Wander/Wonder
Oy vey, this album is gorgeous. That’s I’m gonna start off with, isn’t that great? It’s as if a there was a river of musical energy and you were just going down right into it and getting baptized in it or something. Not religious baptism, just sonic baptism. Totally different. The reason I bring up a river portion is because there are a ton of watery sound effects on here: rain boots squelching around in deep puddles, scuba suit bubbles, waves coming up onshore: the whole thing is dense with fluid textures and sounds mixed in with a few pitch bent vocal lines. This album really is like immersing yourself into the ocean and seeing all of the marine life swimming around you like it ain’t no thing. All of this is happening in a dream, mind you. A brilliant dream indeed.
3. James Ferraro – Far Side Digital
James Ferraro’s album Far Side Digital is something that one would find tucked inside of a manual to an old edition of Internet Explorer from the 90’s. The cover itself just SCREAMS early 90’s, with an iPad showing a picture of some kind of face in the clouds, just illustrating the lack of technological prowess back then. Even though I was consciously aware of my surroundings for about 5 or 6 of those 90’s years, one thing clearly sticks out and resembles this album: the mystery and fascination of the computer and other technologies. Lots of automated voices come out of the album, as well as random computer program noises like the Skype startup and closing noise, random bleeps and bloops of the stereotypical 90’s view of the future. Technology was going to advance so much that all of our worries were going to fly out of the door as robots and computers took our problems away. Back then, the American economy was booming and people were happy. Consumerism was through the roof and sitcoms illustrating happy families were abundant. This album resembles all of these things in a sort of mocking light: “How foolish those people were back then, letting the world go, just like that. Look where we are now. If this album had come out back then, it wouldn’t have made sense. Just an album of everyday noises. But now, it’s like a snide look at the present generation of US capitalism and consumerism.
OR MAYBE, it symbolizes none of this and Ferraro was just taking things from the 90’s and putting them together in an album. One can theorize, right?
4. Drake – Take Care
Okay Drake, you got me. This suave Canadian didn’t win me over with his debut Thank Me Later or his guest spots last year, but I definitely didn’t cast him out as being something that I definitely wouldn’t listen to. Drake caught my eye this year after raved about The Weeknd being incredible and he’s working with them in the studio. This showed me that the guy had good taste, which is great. Then, his album came out and I decided why not. I listened and it didn’t strike me as anything special at first. The collaboration with The Weeknd, “Crew Love” was stellar and housed that signature Weeknd sound which I was in love with all year. Perhaps I was looking at this album the wrong way. I was looking at it as if Drake was a cold, unemotional man who loved rapping about how rich he is and how all the others should aspire to be him. This is not what this record is unlike many other rap/r&b albums. The whole thing is a kind of story, not one that fits together perfectly, but Drake definitely paints a vivid picture of the message he is trying to send. Also, if I hadn’t gotten into The Weeknd, I probably wouldn’t have liked this album or even listened to this, since it’s really similar to The Weeknd in tone and songwriting. I really like it. Congrats, Drake: you got another fan on your boat.
5. Dirty Beaches – Badlands
I’d like to place this album in the same vein that I found The Caretaker’s great album An Empty Bliss From Beyond This World in. The reason is because it is drenched with retro vibes and lusts for that feeling of nostalgia. This guy definitely recreates that classic rock and roll sound by using catchy and simple guitar lines and jumpy vocals. Then he took it and drowned it in reverb, static and probably rerecorded it through an old radio. It really is if you turned on an old retro radio and it played the music from the same time period it’s from.
Going back to The Caretaker comment, I read a review of it somewhere where they compared the sound of it to an older person suffering from memory loss or Alzheimers , listening to a favorite record of theirs and trying to reignite those memories within their brain that they associated with the music on the record, but fail to do so. This is like that record, only this album is sweet surfish rock and roll and I like to think that the massive amounts of feedback and fuzz is the past trying to bring the music back to it’s original time period. If that makes sense. It’s a classy-ass record. Hit it up.
6. Julianna Barwick – The Magic Place
When I first saw all the hype that surrounded this album, I was skeptical. I had only heard one song (my usual mistake when judging albums/artists), the title track and I wasn’t impressed. I only thought “oh that’s cool this girl layered a bunch of her vocals on top of each other to create a web of sound akin to that of a choir floating in space. Then, while looking for music to listen to, I decided to finally plunge into the sonic wonderland that is The Magic Place. The first song hit me instantly, I had no idea what came over me. The voice of Barwick swirling around my ears like a warm whirlpool was like a dream, I really had one option on what to do at that moment: chill out and listen to the beauty. This isn’t just some run of the mill yoga music crap here either, this is the real deal here. It’s like choral music placed into a giant, reverberating room where sound energy doesn’t fade, it just layers on to what the other energy is doing. Actually, I’m pretty sure that’s what Barwick wanted to do when she made this album. Congratulations, you succeeded!
This could also be like if you took a normal pop song and slowed it down 500%, turning it into a mass of shimmering, sonic waves pouring over your face like a warm bath. Goodness, this is making me want to go a hot tub or something. Just get this album and chill out, you need it. Trust me.
7. Andy Stott – Passed Me By / We Stay Together
This album is along the same sort of lines as The Magic Place, only instead of layering large waves of voice, these are humongous waves of dark electronic sounds and textures being placed on one another, creating a more uneasy place than the one made in The Magic Place. These albums also groove a lot more than a lot of things I’ve seen this year when it comes to electronic instrumental. Almost all of the songs include a strong, spinal bass beat so the other sounds that Stott creates can snake around it and distort the bass in any way it likes. It’s incredibly dark and brooding, not as dark as what is showcased next, but still: not an average walk in the park. Some tracks have a few pitch bent vocals peppered in, giving a dehumanized sense to the song, as if a monster is lurking in the shroud of darkness that the song visualizes. But also, this also could be classified as a dance record. How you might ask? This was probably originally dance music that Stott put through many filters, among other things. It’s extremely interesting to listen to, the constant morphing of the sound is like an amoeba, shapeshifting around in your ears, unable to hold a constant shape.
7. Death Grips – Exmilitary
Death Grips’ album Exmilitary is terrifying. Well, terrifying might not be the right word for it. The album is definitely intimidating. It’s the loudest, most abrasive and aggressive thing I’ve listened to this year. The combination of some of the dirtiest-sounding beats and MC Ride’s guttural shouting of verses is a full-on overload of the senses. It really knocks you over the head with a lead pipe. But strangely, it always has the listener coming back to listen. The beats are extremely inventive and fit well with Ride’s flow.
With the beats and the rapping itself, I like to imagine that this was an album that was recorded all prim and proper-like a long time ago but was discarded among a bunch of other digital garbage. Over time, the content of the album started to rot and absorb other parts of the garbage around it, making the beats and synth parts grow nasty and unforgiving. Eventually someone finds the album in the garbage later and puts it in, only to find the mangled abomination that once was an average sounding rap album. It’s definitely not for everyone and it makes everything you listen to after it sound like little kittens mewing to it’s mother.
This album is one of those rare spectacles where the concept on paper sounds like a train wreck: “angry shouting rap with panicked beats with melting synths all around it” sounds kinda bad right? But this time it’s pulled off in a way that keeps an arty sentiment in mind, not being totally balls to the wall aggressive and violent. It’s not for me all the time, but in the high-charged moments where I need something to make me want to break something, this is where I’m going to go first.
Oh yeah and it’s all for free on their website, Google dat!