As my first post I thought it would be a good idea to sorta show what I feel about 2012's music so far. Below are my top 5 favorite albums from the first half of the year. I'm including where you can listen to these albums as well as share my highlights.
Killer Mike, a rapper from the South started making a name for himself and hitting popularity when he rapped along-side OutKast in the early 00's and then had his own hit song "A.D.I.D.A.S". This time he enlists the help of adventurous producer/underground rap veteran, El-P. I'm a big fan of El-P's beats and I was really concerned to find out he'd be making Southern hip-hop beats. His beats are usually so creative and transcendent so I was worried he was going to simplify his already impressive production. El-P did not let me down at all here, and helps give Killer Mike the edge that made this album so good. I never got bored with it once. Killer Mike comes off pretty aggressive and "in-your-face" for the majority of these songs and it does nothing but get me hyped. I just end up bobbing my head as aggressively as Killer Mike is rapping. He's a pretty good lyricist. Definitely underrated. For the most part, the guest spots on this album handle themselves well, such as Bun B and T.I. on the first track "Big Beast". El-P even steps in and throws down a verse for the track "Butane", which is one of the most fun tracks for me. The "Ghetto Gospel" song I have to admit was a bit corny, but this album is pretty solid from start to dramatic finish.
FAVORITE TRACKS: BIG BEAST, DON'T DIE, BUTANE, R.A.P. MUSIC
Who would like this album: Fans of southern hip-hop, El-P's production, lyricism in rap
Cloud Nothings are a Punk/Indie Rock band from Cleveland fronted by singer/guitarist Dylan Baldi. I listened to this 8-song LP and completely fell in love. At first listen too, which rarely happens to me at all. The good thing was that it was only 8 songs long, so it was easy to listen to it over and over again. Short and sweet. I was wondering how the whole "Punk and indie rock" thing would work out. You're mixing aggressive attitude with a music that is usually pretty passive sounding (for lack of a better term). Dylan Baldi has the sort of nasally, punk like voice that reminds me of The Clash and other early punk bands. So bring that with the modern-sounding twangy and bright guitars and you've got Cloud Nothings. Sounds weird right? They make it sound like it's the perfect recipe. The theme of this album is basically that, well, memories suck. They make you feel crappy and they remind you of all that wasted time. Where this theme is most apparent and dark is the (almost) 9 minute epic "Wasted Days" where Baldi yells out "I thought I would be more than this." It's a collection of feelings we've all felt before and in the end, it makes you feel like you need to do something about those haunting memories of yours. The band paints these images with the sounds they use and the lyrics being sung (or shouted). With the really bright guitar tones it seems like all is well until you dig deeper into what's actually being said and find a really depressing, relatable scenario. There's also some elements of noise rock jams here that just make you wanna break out and punch a mirror or something. A handful of these songs are intense. I thought the single from this album, "Fall In" was really annoying, especially the chorus. But I love this album and how energetic and meaningful and dark it is.
FAVORITE TRACKS: NO FUTURE, NO PAST, WASTED DAYS, STAY USELESS
Who would like this album: Fans of punk, pop-punk, indie rock, noise rock, garage rock, neo-grunge, and very moody lyrics
Control System- Ab-Soul
Ab-Soul is 1/4 of the hip-hop collective BLACK HIPPY (the other members include Jay-Rock, Schoolboy Q and Kendrick Lamar). I first heard him on Kendrick Lamar's album Section.80 in the song "Ab-Souls Outro". In that one song he pretty much summed up the entire album's attitude and vibe, and it wasn't even his album. His socially-aware style and hooks just made me love his sound immediately. So I was pretty excited to hear a whole LP from this guy on his own. Well as you would expect, his group is all over this album and there's even a Black Hippy track at the end of this album called "Black Lip Bastard". But as for Ab-Soul as a rapper, he really shows how diverse and talented he is. The beats on this album are really smooth but he raps over them so well, things just flow from there. Whatever the mood may be, he steps up to bat and just hits home runs. He raps aggressively on certain tracks, like "Black Lip Bastard" or "Sopa", if that's what you're into. He also has some really thought-provoking tracks on here like "Double Standards" which is about exactly what the title says. He's also really introspective and personal like on the track "The Book of Soul", which is probably the most emotional and tear-jerking hip-hop song I've heard in my life. But the main theme of this album is about, well, a Control System. More specifically what the government has in place to keep us, as Americans, in check. He's a deep thinker and he does a good job on letting you know what you should.
FAVORITE TRACKS: TERRORIST THREATS, DOUBLE STANDARDS, ILLUMINATE, THE BOOK OF SOUL, BLACK LIP BASTARD
Who would like this album: Fans of hip-hop, Black Hippy, thought-provoking political rap
The Money Store- Death Grips
Try not to be alarmed, but we are not in Kansas anymore. I'm gonna say right now, that this is not for everyone. With that being said....Death Grips is an EXPERIMENTAL hip-hop trio and this is their second album. Death Grips consists of drummer Zach Hill, DJ/producer Flatlander and probably the scariest rapper I've ever heard, MC Ride. He's scary. He sounds like an angrier version of Wu-Tang Clan's RZA. Throughout the album he yells at the top of his lungs. Sometimes he raps really quietly, which in my opinion, is when MC Ride is the most intimidating. Like something is gonna make him snap at any moment. I'm talking the type of snap that makes him rob and steal, tie ankles to cinder blocks, and all that jazz. But there's a reason why he's like that. This album paints a very ugly picture of humanity. This is drawn by MC Ride's violent, hate-filled lyrics and attitude. The point of it all is to show that the terrible things that people witness on a daily basis creates paranoia and devoid a human being of any emotion and creates a terrible person in the end. This is most apparent in the songs "Get Got" and "I've Seen Footage" where MC Ride mentions he's seen police brutality and keeps looking over his shoulder as he drives around, frightened, causing him to do things he usually wouldn't do. The beats also help with the story. Each beat sounds nothing like the last one but they're all real glitchy, and scittery. The way Death Grips samples is different from any other rap group. Imagine taking a cow and beating it until it's unrecognizable, giving back to the owner and watching their reaction as to what they're supposed to do with this new horse they got. That's how things are sampled here. Good luck figuring them out. In my opinion, this is one of the best hip-hop albums I've ever heard. I'm sure most won't think the same though. If you're a hip-hop traditionalist, you probably won't like this album. Just saying. It's really different from what you're probably used to. Still, I would say to give it a listen to experience something different. Very different.
FAVORITE TRACKS: GET GOT, THE FEVER, I'VE SEEN FOOTAGE, HUSTLE BONES, HACKER
Who would like this album: Fans of experimental music, Odd Future or Tyler the Creator, dark imagery
At the core, BADBADNOTGOOD are just three Canadian guys who really like hip-hop beats and screwing around with Jazz Music. This is their 2nd Jazz Instrumental album. But what these guys do is cover their favorite songs (most of them just so happen to be hip-hop instrumentals), and create some of the most interesting jazz music I've ever heard. These guys are turning the world of jazz on its head. Yes. It's that serious. The musicianship here is so tight and it sounds like they're having fun playing together. The drums are just organized chaos. There's a lot of improvising going on with the drums but its all done in time and keeps the music pumping. The bass player here makes things so smooth and adds a layer to the grooves. The keyboards here lay down the main melodies most of the time and there's even spots of saxophone and guitar to mix things up. All of this stuff adds together to create a soundscape that can be beautiful, haunting, or frenetic. Only about 45% of the material on this album is original (basically all improvised). The rest of the album consists of Odd Future instrumental covers, jazz-influenced boom-bap, and craziness. There's also a cover of the James Blake piano-ballad "Limit To Your Love" and even a cover of My Bloody Valentine at the end of this album with "You Made Me Realize" which gives variety. Hearing BBNG's take on all these songs is great. Whether it's a Kanye West cover or their seem less mash up of Bastard and Lemonade (yes, you read that right. That's a mix of Bastard by Tyler The Creator and Lemonade by Gucci Mane). Also note this album is FREE. That's the best kind isn't it? You can download this album as well as their first album at badbadnotgood.com.
FAVORITE TRACKS: EARL, BASTARD/LEMONADE, FLASHING LIGHTS, YOU MADE ME REALIZE, UWM
Who would like this album: Fans of Jazz, Jazz-fusion, hip-hop instrumentals, improvisation, crazy drum fills, tight musicianship
If you got here, to the end, you're awesome. And I love you. Not in the creepy way though. I don't know you that well. Anyways, thanks for reading all that though. I promise my posts after this will be shorter. Pinky Promise. I'll be posting reviews of separate albums from here on, not lists. Unless I feel the urge to make a list on a topic. Then maybe I will. If you have an idea of what I should review, let me know. Also let me know what you thought of the albums above. I like differing opinions too.
P.S. I do not FAVOR Hip-hop over everything, but these are just what really stood out to me this year...so far.