As a supplement to this week’s “Favorite Music of 2012” podcast, we’ll be posting top 10 album lists from all four participants over the course of the day. Here’s Will Cleveland’s list.
1. Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!
The Canadian post-rock icons returned with their first album in 10 years, and it proved that they are still the best. This album is huge, symphonic, and breathtakingly beautiful. I was lucky enough to experience them live in concert this year in Buffalo. Here is a video I shot at the show of the opening song.
2. Kowloon Walled City, Container Ships
The Bay area quartet delivers sludge-y bummer jams. The music is beautifully produced and it beautifully recorded. The bassist, Ian Miller, is one half of the Productive Outs baseball podcast/blog. It is one of my favorite spots on the internet, and his musical endeavors are every bit as awesome as his baseball ones.
3. The Evens, The Odds
This is the first new album from the Evens in six years. I love the vocal interplay between husband and wife duo of Ian MacKaye and Amy Farina. And the contrast between Farina’s inventive drumming and MacKaye’s baritone guitar is excellent. Here’s a sample.
4. El-P, Cancer 4 Cure
El-P is the master. His space-y, science fiction-influenced beats are both schizophrenic and beautiful. I’ve love El-P since his Company Flow and Def Jux days. His production on Cannibal Ox’s “The Cold Vein” still stands as my single favorite hip-hop album of all-time. As a rapper, he is both brutally honest and slightly abstract. In a year full of great rap releases, this one stands out the most to me.
5. Frank Ocean, channel ORANGE
The Odd Future crooner hit new heights for me this year. His “nostalgia, ULTRA” mixtape found its way into my top 10 last year, and he really surpasses it with his debut. I was lucky enough to see him live in Toronto over the summer. And in the live setting, his voice is untouchable. The performance was both intimate and grandiose. I love his unique vision of old school soul.
6. Miguel, Kaleidoscope Dream
I’ve loved Miguel since his contributions to Blu and Exile’s “Below the Heavens.” That album is a masterpiece. And while Miguel’s debut album didn’t really resonate with me, his second one truly does. Like Frank Ocean, Miguel delivers R&B goodness with honesty and aplomb.
7. Joey Bada$$, 1999
At just 17 years old, Brooklyn’s Joey Bada$$ is insanely talented. His “1999” mixtape highlights his uniquely old school sensibility. Bada$$ and his entire Progressive Era family give rap music an exciting new voice. I am really stoked to see where he goes next.
8. Flying Lotus/Captain Murphy, Until the Quiet Comes/Duality
It’s really hard for me to separate the dual releases from Steven Ellison this year. FlyLo’s release is his most muted to date, but it sits along his two earlier albums in terms of innovation and beauty. And when Captain Murphy surfaced earlier this summer, blogs were ablaze, trying to figure out the rapper’s true identity. Speculation ran from Tyler, the Creator to a slew of others. But when Ellison revealed himself as Captain Murphy, it all made sense. The Murphy project is a new stoner-rap-like outlet. It features a number of great beats from FlyLo and contributions from Earl Sweatshirt. It’s one of my favorite releases of the year.
9. The xx, Coexist
Just watch The xx perform with the BBC Philharmonic live earlier this year and you can begin to understand my love of them. Their second album is a thing of beauty.
10. Clams Casino, Instrumentals Mixtape 2
Beats like “Palace” and “I’m God” show that this New Jersey hip-hop producer is the new master. His second self-released collection highlights his unique ability to mine interesting vocal samples and overlay them in his woozy, thumping productions.
This week’s podcast features Chad, Nathan Furl, Kaija Straumanis, and Will Cleveland talking about their favorite albums of 2012. (And sometimes 2011.) It’s a pretty tight podcast, featuring thirteen different artists and some interesting insights into why we each like different styles of music. Oh, and of course we digress a bit to talk about awful job postings and whatnot.Read More...
Here’s guest podcaster turned guest blogger Will Cleveland’s list of best albums of 2011. He’s a bit more sincere and straightforward than I am, which is why these are presented in countdown fashion. Click here for the Spotify playlist with a bunch of songs from both of our lists.
I present my top 10 albums list of 2011. (And yes, I realize that 12 is not 10, but I really, really couldn’t see myself eliminating any of the albums on this list. Each were important or memorable to me for various reasons that will be explored/expounded upon shortly . . . )
12. Wye Oak, Civilian
Wye Oak’s The Knot is one of my pantheon albums. It’s one of those albums that I will always come back to no matter what. To say that I was eagerly anticipating Civilian would be a huge understatement. And when the album was released, I was very pleased, but it didn’t blow me away like their previous two full-lengths. But this album is a grower and after repeated listens, I can honestly say that it is a bold step forward for the Baltimore duo. I can’t wait to see what the future brings.
11. Florence + The Machine, Ceremonials
I loved Lungs, but I love Ceremonials even more. The subject matter and content are darker. It represents a bold step forward for Florence Welch. Just listen to “Shake It Out.” That is an epic song in every sense of the word. And then listen to The Weeknd’s dark, twisted remix of the same song. It’s a wonderfully weird and twisted marriage. Florence + The Machine excite me like few other pop artists today. The sound is big and symphonic and this record delivers on all of those fronts.
10. Bill Callahan, Apocalypse
I was late to the Bill Callahan/Smog bandwagon. Now that I am there, I am all the way there. Apocalypse is completely brilliant. It’s Mr. Callahan at his best. His striking baritone has never sounded better, and at a brief seven songs, this album delivers. “America!” is one of the most badass songs of the year, while “Drover” tells an unforgettable tale. Callahan is a truly gifted storyteller and this album feels like a gift that just keeps on giving.
9. The Drums, Portamento
I had a natural inclination to hate this album. I didn’t really love the first release from these guys, because I was completely bugged by the buzz and incessant hype they received. My first reaction in a case like this is to completely write something off before even experiencing it. I greatly detest hype. The Drums obviously didn’t become a victim of their own hype. Behind the sunny, 80’s-influenced sound, there is a real darkness that I appreciate on this album. It’s one of the darkest pop albums of the year.
8. Jay Cue, Pyramid Life
Jay Cue was my gateway drug. He was my entry into the weird and wonderful world of Georgia hip-hop collective Nobody Really Knows (NRK). And avid readers of this blog (Ed. Note: Not Three Percent, but some other wacky blog the Will Cleveland writes for) are already aware of this (from the countless introductions and interviews I did with the various group members). To be blunt (pun intended), these dudes scare me shitless. They are all waaaay younger than me and they are already delivering incredibly thought-provoking artistic statements. Hal and Jay’s production on this album is stellar. The collection of beats are really unrivaled and all this awesomeness grabbed me at first list. Listen to album opener “Pyramid Life (Intro)” and I guarantee you will catch the damn disease. I am unbelievably excited to see what comes next from NRK. Tyler Major, Hal, Murdock, Gloomy, Luwees, Andre, Jay, Quince, Mables, KC, Foreign, and even Lynard, I can’t wait to see what comes next. And that’s not a tax. #Smugtweet
7. M83, Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming
Simply put, this is the most epic album of the year. And it’s not even close. There is nothing that rivals Anthony Gonzalez’s masterpiece. “Midnight City” and “Steve McQueen” are two of the best songs of the year. At 22 songs, this album feels like an event. It’s one that you need to blast in your headphones and then get lost in its grandiosity.
6. Tom Waits, Bad As Me
I randomly had a friend introduce me to Tom Waits in high school. He said his dad was a huge fan. Never before, I had heard something so weird. And that voice. Holy shit! There is nothing like that. With his first studio release in seven years, Mr. Waits added another incredible brick to his already strange and wonderful building.
5. The Weeknd, House of Balloons/Thursday
Toronto R&B artist The Weeknd (also known as Abel Tesfaye) dropped House of Balloons randomly and without warning on my birthday in March. It felt like one of the greatest birthday presents ever. Never before had I heard music so slinky, creepy, sexy, and utterly (can’t find the proper adjective here). Listen to these albums and you feel like a dirty voyeur. We are all complicit.
4. Frank Ocean, Nostalgia, Ultra
I became an Odd Future junkie during the summer of 2010. I downloaded all of their mixtapes off their Tumblr and I fell in love with the careless attitude and the fearlessness. And then I heard Frank Ocean sing the chorus on MellowHype’s “Hell.” He offered a completely different aesthetic and he showed me that it was lazy and pointless to try to categorize/pigeonhole OFWGKTA. (Ocean even retweeted me once.) And when he got fed up with the record business, he dropped his debut randomly on his own Tumblr. This album features him crooning smoothly over Coldplay and The Eagles. And then he offers up his own soulful brand of R&B.
3. A.A. Bondy, Believers
Mr. Bondy’s first two albums were nice and somewhat forgettable for me (and I am not sure why). But this third album, released in September, just hit the right spot, the right nerve. Bondy has an unmistakable delivery and voice.
2. Drake, Take Care
I know I probably shouldn’t like this album as much as I do. His previous effort, last year’s laughable Thank Me Later, is a steaming pile of horseshit. It delivered on none of the promise he showed on his wonderful mixtape So Far Gone. This album, his second proper release, delivers. Drake’s frequent collaborator, producer Noah “40” Shebib offers a wide range of understated beats that perfectly blend with Drake’s singing/rapping combination. The album is all about vulnerability and confusion, but at the same time, it is about excess and fame. It’s an intoxicating blend, especially on songs like “Marvins Room,” “Make Me Proud,” and “Cameras.”
1. WU LYF, Go Tell Fire To The Mountain
This album was a happy accident for me. And that’s the best kind of musical discovery. At its core, WU LYF present and represent an extremely silly anarchistic aesthetic. And for some reason, I totally buy in. I should be smarter than this. I shouldn’t like this album and this corny message as much as I do. These guys are my Bieber. This album moves me like few others ever had and it hits me in an extremely emotional way. And for that simple reason, this is my favorite album of 2011.
And in the words of Selena Gomez, don’t forget to dream out loud!
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