Friday, January 10, 2014

Tanner's Top Ten (Eleven) Albums of 2014

 11. (tie) Pretty Lights – A Color Map of the Sun, Chance the Rapper – Acid Rap

Let’s be honest: publishing a top ten albums list is less about accurately assessing your favorite ten albums and more about showing everyone how cool and trendy you are and what great taste you have.  Well, folks: I listen to “dub-step” and “indie hip-hop mixtapes”. So suck it. I rule.

BONUS – Five Albums I listened to (and enjoyed) a ton but didn’t make my top ten:
1.       Jason Isbell – Southeastern (too depressing and I like his sound better with the 400 Unit)
2.       Pusha T – My Name is My Name (I love it now but doubt it has staying power)
3.       Childish Gambino – Because the Internet (too many skits/inserts but the flows are ungodly)
4.       Mayer Hawthorne – Where does this Door Go? (a lot of filler tracks)
5.       White Denim – Corsicana Lemonade (seems like an experimental album; not quite ironed out)

9. Toro y Moi – Anything in Return

This album had a little bit of everything: smooth melodies, catchy rhythms, tight production, and sex appeal. It was catchy enough for me to enjoy it on the first listen, yet complex enough to keep my attention throughout the year. It doesn’t really have any stand out tracks or moments where I want to stop everything I am doing to listen, but it’s a solid mood-enhancing multitasker album. Anything you are doing (drinking, socializing, working, blogging, making sweet love) will be immediately improved if you listen to this at the same time.

BONUS - Top five tracks for sweet love making:
   1.   Grown up Calls – Toro y Moi
   2.       Odd Look – The Weeknd feat Kavinsky
   3.       Last Dance – Rhye
   4.       Know you Better – Omarion feat. Pusha T & Fabolous
   5.       Go Slow - Haim

8.  Rhye – Woman

I consider this a follow up album to 2001’s Best of Sade. Milosh’s voice and the syth-pop/R&B vibe are sexy and sentimental, and this album is probably the smoothest of the year. It flows like agave nectar and each track piles on the next, getting increasingly more rhythmic and catchy and it progresses. It’s one of those albums that you wish were five tracks longer.

7. !!! (pronounced “chk chk chk”) – Th!!!er

If Rhye is a frozen honey-pop of smoothness, then !!! is the car battery that replaced Chev Chelios’s heart in Crank 2. Thr!!!er is a funk laden neuvo-disco album that cranks the ear serotonin up to eleven and maintains it through nine 4 minute tracks. It’s full of slap happy riffs, falsetto singing, bass solos, and sexual innuendo. After hearing this album, I was compelled to go back and download some of their old stuff, and it’s all really fun.

BONUS: Top five (non-!!!) retro dance tracks
   1.       All You’re Waiting For – Classixx feat. Nancy Whang
   2.       Lose Yourself to Dance -  Daft Punk feat. Pharrell
   3.       Drove me Wild – Tegan and Sara
   4.       6AM – Fitz & the Tantrums
   5.       Hard Working Hand – Luke Temple

6. Blood Orange – Cupid Deluxe

I got into this album relatively late in 2013, but it quickly became one of my favorites. Producer Dev Hynes has a really eclectic and unique touch, and he seems to make anyone he works with step up their game, sort of like a great point guard in basketball. I can’t put a finger on what genre to call his work (is it indie rock? Hip hop? Retro pop? Electronica?) and that is what makes it so great.

BONUS: Top three indie/hip hop collaborations
   1.       The Motion – Drake feat. SBTRKT
   2.       25 Bucks – Danny Brown feat. Purity Ring
   3.       Clipped On – Blood Orange feat. Despot

5. Daft Punk – Random Access Memories

Of all the albums released in 2013, this is the one I listened to the most. I’m a little sick of it as of January 2014, but I still have to give it credit for being so catchy yet inventive. I was really impressed with how they took this album to explore their own influences, and sort of worked backward to create new music that somehow felt familiar. It was a deconstructionist approach that I think a lot of people are afraid to try. It was a very cool concept for a pop-electronic album.

BONUS: Top five treadmill songs
   1.       Wanderlust – The Weeknd
   2.       Black Skinhead – Kanye West
   3.       Wild for the Night – A$AP Rocky feat. Skrillex
   4.       Tap Out – The Strokes
   5.       Bitter Rivals – Sleigh Bells

3. (tie) Haim – Days are Gone, CHVRCHES – The Bones of What you Believe

I grouped these two together because they were so similar in their appeal, style, anticipation (they were both released in late September a week apart), and execution. While CHVRCHES is more Scottish/Euro-synthy and Haim is more straight forward American pop, both albums were full of track after track of pure ear candy. I appreciate these two albums for exposing me to pop music that doesn’t sound like it was created in a record company’s board room.

BONUS: Top five tracks for relaxing
   1.       Real Estate – Boy & Bear
   2.       The Golden State – City and Color
   3.       Pink Rabbits – The National
   4.       New South Wales – Jason Isbell
   5.       New Mexico’s No Breeze – Iron & Wine

2. Kanye West – Yeezus

I will be the first person to admit that I do not get Kanye as a person. On the one hand, he makes genius, thoughtful, poignant music that is catchy and popular but still thoroughly intelligent and instantly classic. On the other, he says some the craziest, least-informed things in interviews that make me thing he has no idea what he is actually doing. He even married a Kardashian, someone with no substance other than the superficial. Kanye is a walking contradiction where half of the things he does are beautiful and intelligent and half are ugly and stupid. How else do you explain this train wreck of a video?:

The same person who produced “Through the Wire” signed off on that?! I think my stance is that Kanye is simply deeply intuitive with his art and gcan’t really come up with a way to consciously explain his motivations. No wonder he gets frustrated when people misinterpret him: he doesn’t know how to interpret himself.

Oh yeah, Yeezus is phenomenal.

BONUS: Top ten singles from non-top ten albums
   1.       Foals – Late Night
   2.       White Denim – Pretty Green
   3.       San Fermin – Sonsick
   4.       Pusha T feat. Kendrick Lamar – Nosetalgia
   5.       Psychic – Paper Trails
   6.       Polica –  Chain my Name
   7.       Mayer Hawthorne feat. Kendrick Lamar  - Crime
   8.       Local Natives – You and I
   9.       Childish Gambino – 3005
   10.   Jason Isbell – Elephant

1. The National – Trouble Will Find Me

Stefan already covered it, but this album was perfectly balanced: Thoughtful but not too depressing. Melodic but re-listenable. Complex but not confusing. Every track is beautiful and it’s impossible to pick a favorite. It speeds up, slows down, has catchy hooks and unexpected bridges. It blew away my high expectations and was the best album of 2013.

BONUS: Top five anticipated for the first quarter of 2014:
   1.       Phantogram – Voices (2/18)
   2.       Broken Bells – After the Disco (1/14)
   3.       Drive-By Truckers – English Oceans (3/4)
   4.       Bruce Springsteen – High Hopes (1/14)
   5.       Sun Kil Moon – Benji (2/4)

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