10 Beyoncé- Beyoncé
I like the fanfare around this album. It’s also just a good album. She’s talented, hot, and cool. What is there to hate? I also like her husband (see #8). I generally enjoy collaborations, and she does them well, especially on Superpower, with Frank Ocean (but I pretty much like anything he does). The album feels so intimate, like she is really telling us what happens with Jay Z when the cameras are off, which is partially “eeeeewwww” and partially enthralling (especially in Drunk in Love). You go girl.
9 Justin Timberlake– The 20/20 Experience
Put this album on in the background, and you will be dancing around your office for real (or you know, your apartment, your bed, the street, etc.) This album is for lovers, and every song a love song. An epic long love song. Even such frivolous songs as Don’t Hold the Wall (a love song about dancing in the middle of the dance floor, not up against a wall), and Spaceship Coupe (a love song in space: “Hop into my spaceship coupe.There’s only room for two (Me and you)/And with the top down/We’ll cruise around/Land and make love on the moon/Would you like that?”) are not only dancey and catchy, but actually kind of sweet. The highlight for me, and one of the longest odes of love, Pusher Love Girl. 8 Minutes. A (simulated) Orchestra. A sweet tune in the beginning, and a mean beat at the end. It’s like 3 songs in one. It’s love.
8 Jay-Z– Magna Carta Holy Grail
This album was not universally loved. Critics were rough. But what can I say? Bye haters. While I do think Jay didn’t try hard enough on this one (it seems sloppy in parts, not innovative enough, simple at times, maybe safe) it’s still more amazing than 90% of the music out there. I do hate the whole deal Jay made with Samsung, but what can I say> He’s not just a “Business Man” he’s “a Business, Man!” I digress. The title track is cool, but I especially liked Oceans (featuring Frank Ocean- see #10) Tom Ford, and Picasso Baby. In Picasso Baby, Jay evokes the greats ( Pablo Picasso, Mark Rothko, Jeff Koons, Francis Bacon, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Andy Warhol) and thinks he can become (or actually becomes?) a visual artist in doing so. His MoMA performance of this song was dope, and you can’t tell me otherwise. His confidence is what makes this album what it is. He’s has it all an he knows it.
7 King Krule– 6 Feet Beneath the Ground
King Krule. What a weirdo. What an amazing weirdo. The album opens up with Easy Easy (“Ow no I should’ve kept my receipts/Cause the sandwich I bought/Yeah it’s been off for a week/And Tesco’s stealing my money/When positivity seems hard to reach”)-Which I think is maybe more accessible than some of the other tracks on the album. The melody is so cool, the hook pretty catchy. But it’s not the only good stuff on here, his creaky, raspy, deep voice, juxtaposed to a 19 year old red head, full of 19 year old red head issues, it’s just amazing. Sadly I missed his show a few weeks ago, due to something or other. But that for sure won’t happen again.
6 James Blake- Overgrown
This album is haunting. This is where my interest in electronic music meets my love for sad singer song writers. Retrograde is so perfect, I can’t even tell you. The simple beat, the airy melody, the words (“I’ll wait/So show me why you’re strong/Ignore everybody else,/We’re alone now”) It builds up, it lets you down. It’s a trip. Even Take a Fall for Me, which features RZA, and Pitchfork called sub-par- I like. Yes the rap seems clunky over the music, but whatever man. Who else is doing this kind of stuff? No one. That’s who.
5 The National – Trouble Will Find Me
If Chance the Rapper tackles angst of growing up through the eyes of a 20 year old, Trouble Will Find Me is all of the sadness of disappearing youth from a 40 year old’s perspective. Matt Bernginer is a tortured soul. I like many songs on this album, especially Fireproof “You’re fireproof/Nothing breaks your heart/You’re fireproof/It’s just the way you are” and especially I Need My Girl, but that is because I am such a sentimental shmuck (“Remember when you said/I’m sorry/To the vines and no one saw it/I’ll try to call you from the party/It’s full of punks and cannonballers/I need my girl”)- this album has something fore every shade of blue.
4 Major Lazer- Free the Universe
I am not even joking. a) Mad Decent Block Party was by FAR the best show I went to this year and b) this album has the best dance music of the year. I listen to this in the morning when I am getting ready, I listen to this at the gym, I listen to this before going out, I listen to this EVERYWHERE. From the mellow and personally long awaited Jessica (featuring Ezra Koenig of Vampire Weekend), the beautiful and tender “Get Free” (featuring Amber Coffman of Dirty Projectors) to the righteous “Jah No Partial” (featuring Flux Pavilion) this album has something for everything (who likes dance hall). Bumaye Comrades.
3 Vampire Weekend- Modern Vampires of the City
While the last Vampire Weekend albums were pretty much exclusively fun (still bookish and quirky) Modern Vampires of the City is much more adult, complex, grounded, wordy, worldy. Interesting questions of religion (Ya Hey, Worship You, Unbelievers) and love/broken hearts (“Hannah Hunt”, “Everlasting Arms”) wrapped up in super catchy beats and melodies. I like this stuff because it’s pop music. But it’s not thoughtless.
2 Chance the Rapper- Acid Rap
This is his second EP, and I think I like every song on it. It’s psychedelic-happy-hip-hop. It’s young and fresh and vulnerable. Chance is terrified of becoming an adult, as we might all be, but addresses the issue in such a childlike way, it’s endearing. The title track has a killer melody, and some interesting drum beats in the back. He really nails it when he talks about the ennui of growing up:
“I miss my diagonal grilled cheeses
And back when Mike Jackson was still Jesus
Before, I believed in not believing in
Yeah, I inhaled, who believed in me not breathing in
Cigarette stained smile all covered in sin”
Favorite Song and Cocoa Butter Kisses are so catchy, you won’t be able to get them out of your head. And you won’t want to.
1 Kanye West- Yeezus
I didn’t think anything could be better than Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, but this is definitely coming very close. The electro beats are flawless, his rapping is interesting,this album is the future. If the Jetsons listened to rap music, they would listen to Yeezus. Bound 2, is a one of the most beautiful love songs I have ever (“I know you’re tired of loving, of loving/With nobody to love, nobody, nobody/Just grab somebody, no leaving this party/With nobody to love, nobody, nobody (Uh-huh, honey)”. Also, Blood on the Leaves, with those old eerie Strange Fruit bits, dissected by harsh lyrics, that at first glance have so little to do with the baseline samples, is pretty amazing.
All in all, this will be a staple for many eons to come.