We asked several musicians, promoters and writers to send us their five musical picks in whatever category they'd like. Here are the responses:
Disclaimer: I am not saying these are the best of the year, this is simply my opinion. Also this list is in no particular order of how much I like it. (List originally appears at HoldMyCoat.com)
KiD CuDi – Man on the Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager
I wrote a full review on the album when it came out, you can read that here, but I really can’t get enough of this album. Not only do I like it 10x more than his first album, but I think it may be my favorite hip-hop album of the year, yes, quite possibly over Kanye’s. CuDi really made an album here, as opposed to a compilation of random songs like many artists tend to put out and label as albums. I really liked him before this album, but he is one of my favorites of this class of MC’s after it. It definitely took me a bit to adjust to his new style which has changed a ton since A Kid Named Cudi, but in the end I think this style is tighter, and more true to the music that CuDi really wants to make. He also has the ability to go back to his original sound on a track, which we can hear on his verse on “The End.” CuDi’s “fuck you” attitude towards people that didn’t like his music is admirable to say the least, because when it comes down to it he made an incredible album that either shut up or converted the people that were hating on his music. It should be very interesting to see where CuDi decides to go from here, I just hope he remains pissed off, because frankly pissed off rappers sound great. See Marshall Mathers LP if you doubt that.
“Wanna know what this sound like when I’m not on drugs? Please please don’t play this song r-r-r-r-right r-right r-right right right, trynna get my mind m-mind m-mind right right” – Don’t Play This Song
Listen: “Ashin Kusher”
Kanye West – My Beautiful Twisted Dark Fantasy
Let me start off by addressing Pitchfork’s “10.0″ rating. For those of you that don’t know Pitchfork, (are there people that don’t know Pitchfork?) they are probably the most well respected music blog on the internet, and if they grace something as good, thousands upon thousands will immediately form the same opinion. This album is not a 10.0. Plain and simple. A 10.0 rating implies that it is a perfect and flawless album. Don’t get me wrong, the album was amazing, but with enough people arguing that it’s not even a better album that “Late Registration” or “College Dropout,” makes it not perfect. Also, 10.0 is perfection. I don’t even think there has ever been a perfect album, definitely not in the last decade. If any artist ever puts out a true “10.0″ album I recommend that they retire immediately. With that being said, I think this album is probably as close to a “10.0″ as Kanye, or really any other rapper for that matter, is going to get. Incredible production, verses, and features make “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” a definite favorite for some serious awards this year. The album flows together seamlessly, and Kanye most definitely created his most artistic album to date. Kanye would never have released this album until in his eyes it was “perfect,” and what he landed on, although not completely perfect, should definitely be considered a masterpiece and one of his best albums to date. I can’t even say which songs are my favorites, because the album really does not have any real low points. Through and through this album is incredible.
“I don’t know what it is with females but I’m not too good with that, shit, see, I could have me a good girl, and still be addicted to them hoodrats… And I just blame everything on you, at least you know that’s what I’m good at.” – Runaway
Rick Ross – Teflon Don
I’ve always been an on and off Ross fan, but everything he did leading up to Teflon Don and on the album was so on point. Even after “Teflon Don” dropped, his verse on Kanye’s album on “Devil In A New Dress” might be one of my favorite verses on the whole album. Many hate on Ross for lying about his past as an apparent drug dealer, until it was found out that he was instead a DEA Corrections Officer. Ross is not the first artist to lie about his past, and most definitely not even remotely close to the first rapper to lie about his gun toting or drug dealing days. Highlights on the album are definitely “Super High” which has one of the most bumping west coast beats I’ve heard in some time, or Free Mason where Jay-Z shuts up Illuminati believers with the line, “Bitch I said I was amazing, not that I’m a Mason” over a dope Inkredibles beat. Alongside a Kanye verse as well as his production, and a lead off track with production credits leaning to NO I.D., you got yourself a damn good album.
“Self made, you just affiliated I built it ground up, you bought it renovated, talking plenty capers nothings been authenticated, funny you claiming the same bitch that I’m penetrating.” – B.M.F.
Listen: “Free Mason”
Wiz Khalifa – Kush & Orange Juice
I know I’m slightly cheating with this one because it is a mixtape, but this is my list, so I really don’t care. I used to dislike Wiz. It definitely takes me more time to love an artist than most other people, but time and time again I was asked to reconsider my opinion on Wiz through Kush & OJ, so one day I folded, downloaded and gave it a full listen with no distractions. I have to admit, I went in with a closed mind, but after to this date over 30 listens, I’m confident in saying that this might be my favorite mixtape ever. I know that is a very bold statement, but damn every single track on this just bangs. The last 4 or 5 tracks are arguably the best on the mixtape as well, whereas many other artists don’t care about what appears after their single is on the tape. Even the last song, “Supply” starts off sounding like a terribly mixed song, but once the beat kicks in, the entire song clicks and Wiz delivers a dope hook, than an even doper verse. I still don’t like a good amount of earlier Wiz (sorry Taylor Gang), but damn this mixtape is amazing. If you haven’t listened to this tape in its entirety and given it a fair shot, I advise you, don’t be like me, listen to the damn tape because it will sure to be one of your favorites.
“Ask me if I plan to be roof top chillin’ with some pretty ass women you’d be glad to meet, trees stuffed in the passenger seat, charge it to my phone, couple changes of clothes.” -The Statement
Listen “The Statement”
Curren$y – Pilot Talk II
A short four months after releasing Pilot Talk, Curren$y follows up his debut album with in my opinion a far stronger Sophomore album. The first thing I noticed (and liked) was Curren$y’s confidence in holding down a song by himself, and because of this the album is a lot less feature heavy. I felt it was a truer tap into Curren$y’s sound than the first album. Curren$y has a style out that is completely different, and if you like it, then you love it, but if you don’t like it, it seems you hate it. Took me a bit longer to get into his flow because it was different, but after immersing myself in “How Fly” alongside Wiz Khalifa as well as listening to Pilot Talk more and more, I realize dude has potential to grow his cult following (similar to the one Wiz has, Jets vs. Taylor Gang I guess) and blow up. Since this is a relatively new album if you haven’t copped it yet, I highly recommend downloading it and showing some love to the Hot Spitta.
“I wasn’t born yesterday nor later on that evening, just had to get that out the way to make the playing field even, Michael Knight siminimumum” – Michael Knight
Notable mentions: I dug all of these, but unfortunately they couldn’t make the full cut. I’m sure all of these artists will be heartbroken, but hey, that’s life.
I tried to compile a list of acts that, for the most part, haven't gotten a whole lot of attention by most of the more mainstream music press (P4K included). These 5 acts show an unbelievable amount of potential, and from what I've seen so far, are only on the way up.
I met Conner and Fareed last summer, and spent a considerable number of weekend nights asleep on their floor in Bushwick when I didn't feel like a 4am Subway ride back to my apartment in Bed-Stuy. Naturally, you can accuse me of some bias, but one listen to their debut 5songs EP and you'll quickly drop any notions of favoritism. Fractured beats and chopped samples crash up against whispered vocals and gentle guitar/xylophone/keys to make one of the most intriguing debuts I've listened to in a long time. It's no wonder they're splattered all over the blogosphere.
I actually haven't listened to this band until recently, but they immediately won me over with a track from their new EP Overcoat Heat. Fluid guitar jams wobble back and forth over some marvelously spry rhythms and woozy guitar lines that traipse between dance-floor interludes and smokey back-room afternoon burners. It's got some huge chunks of summer of love and Krautrock blended in, and it makes for some crucial cruising music. Definitely slept on it, but better now then never, yeah?
There's an ambiguity at work in the music of these Fort Collins, Colo., kids that actually ends up working against the current indie stereotypes. Big hazy clouds of synth, guitar and reverby vocals fit the bill for almost every buzz band of late, but none of them shape their songs into the complex and ever-evolving hyper-density that Candy Claws does. Their perfect wedding of glitched-out noise and pure pop structures make for an intriguing listen every time. What really sets them apart though is their willingness to step away from the wall of sound for moments of soft, minimal beauty. Absolutely a band to watch.
Everytime I listen to The Samps, I find myself just saying "pssshhhhh, this is too ridiculous." I can't help myself; their style is so remarkably derivative, so ensconced in '80s film soundtracks, easy-listening, funk and video game music that it should sound like total garbage. Instead, it's undeniably addictive with one-shot samples, gleaming synth beds and deep chorused basslines forcing multiple listens to slide into your ears before you even know that you've hit play again.
I try not to claim any sort of expert status on hip-hop, mostly because my listening habits don't drop me down in those zones too often. However, I stumbled on Mellowhype recently, and these dudes just go. Their minimalist synth textures and lo-key beats pull you in, and combined with MC Hodgy Beat's hypnotic delivery, make for some crucial head-bobbers. Not sure what the future holds for the duo, but I can only pray they keep dropping jams like this.
5. “I Feel Better” by Hot Chip
4. “Invisible Gurls” by Katy Perry vs. Genesis
3. “Teenage Crime” by Adrian Lux
2. “Drunk Girls” by LCD Soundsystem
1. “Dancing On My Own” by Robyn
By Deandra Modica , Otto-Tune/Muse House blogger / Goldring Arts Journalism graduate student
Honorable mention: Ra Ra Riot, The Orchard (BASRUK), Band of Horses, Infinite Arms (BROWN/FAT POSSUM/COLUMBIA), Twin Shadow, Forget (4AD/TERRIBLE), Peter Wolf Crier, Inter-be (JAGJAGUWAR), The National, High Violet (4AD)
(List originally appears at Jerk Magazine Online)
1. OK Go: "Last Leaf"
2. Acid Girls: "Lightworks"
3. Arcade Fire: "The Wilderness Downtown/We Used to Wait"
4. Janelle Monae: "Cold War"
5. Charlotte Gainsbourg: "Time of the Assassins"
1.M.I.A. - /\/\ /\ Y /\
The album that will represent 2010 for me. An investigation and indictment of social media and how it has affected the way we interact with each other. More importantly: loud and raw dance music that’s even more infectious than her previous work.
2. Mouth’s Cradle – Mouth’s Cradle Vs. The Hype(mixtape)
Two kids trying to figure out where they stand in a world run by blogspots and megauploads and retweets. The best course of action, naturally, is to sample Joanna Newsom.
Free download: http://bit.ly/mcvshyp
3. Die Antwoord - $0$
Most of Die Antwoord’s current fans would never have heard of them if it weren’t for their viral YouTube video, “Zev Side," a piece of cinema so good it got into the Guggenheim. The band features MCs Ninja and Yolandi Vi$$er - two important, fresh voices in rap right now.
4. Lil B – Red Flame (mixtape)
Lil B is as much of a performance artist as he is a rapper. He can go from hilarious to poignant in seconds, and his mixtapes (he released 11 this year) are as much a celebration of hip-hop and internet culture as they are a critique.
5. Das Racist – Sit Down, Man (mixtape)
Like Lil’ B, Das Racist are rappers using pop culture savvy to reevaluate hip-hop on their own terms. Goofy, hyper-intellectual rhymes that will make your jaw drop.
By Kevin Hegedus, Mouth's Cradle
I am really obsessed with this group actually. Crossdressing, sometimes-unstable frontwoman Lindsey Leonard howls and wails like Upstate New York’s own Lydia Lunch, while her band plays a combination of surf and punk that makes me want to push my friends into walls (all in the name of fun, of course).
2. The Bird Calls
Alias of Sam Sodomsky. His album Love Birds is a beautifully-written and relevant take on R&B and folk that manages to be hopelessly romantic and utterly twisted, often within the same song.
Free download of Love Birds album: http://www.mediafire.com/?7c8ke4ha8w7x8a2
3. The Vanderbuilts
Chamber pop influenced by country music and the 1960s. Love their use of violin. (Note that Syracuse bands that use violin have a history of getting famous.) I’m really glad someone is making this kind of music on campus.
Featuring Syracuse alum Brandon Linn as co-producer, this rap project is almost avant-garde but at the same time totally unpretentious and fun.
Free download of Fight or Flight album: http://bit.ly/birdsoot
There is no better band name in Syracuse right now. These misfits will rock your party and then burn your house to the ground.