Wednesday, January 07, 2009

The Four Albums I Loved in 2008

  • Opio's Vulture's Wisdom Volume One
    I don't know about you, but I felt incredibly burned by Souls of Mischief's No Man's Land. So much so, that I played the Hiero crew rather distant ever since. Sure, I kept up with whatever they were doing, but I certainly didn't feel like buying anything from 'em. This post at UGSMAG turned me around. You and I know that the game has changed, so it's not uncommon to see these guerrilla-style videos posted all over YouTube. I can't put my finger on it, but I found "Original Lyricist" very refreshing – very off-the-cuff, and I'm talking about both the video and the song. Dude's exiting a Raiders game, rhyming about how dope he is/how you can't even come close, over this chaotic beat. How can you go wrong? I think you also have to give props to whomever edited that vid, too.
    Having checked the rest of the videos, I remembered seeing the CD at the Polo Park HMV and copped it as soon as I got a chance. Fourteen tracks at a breezy 39 minutes, all about lyrical superiority and mackin' on honeys internationally. A huge nod goes out to The Architect for creating a bouncy, layered soundscape full of movie dialogue, scratches and trippy keyboards. That dude's one to watch, f'real.
  • The Walkmen's You & Me
    I heard a number of rumblings about this album being a return to the energy and feel of their first two albums. I kinda see that, except there are no scorchers like "The Rat" and "Little House of Savages". If anything, this album is a slow, warm burn full of visions of traveling and regrets. My favorite moment with a song from this album came last month, as I was making my way through Portage Place and its aged food court. I use that place as a thoroughfare more than a destination, so I wasn't in the best of moods as I walked. At this time "Four Provinces" came up randomly on my iPod, and all the retail chaos around me melted, as Hamilton's voice accompanied by a single guitar sent me to a happier place. That's exactly what the best art does for me...I get transported.
  • The Roots' Rising Down
    Admittedly, I haven't listened to this album in several months. It seems that every Roots release since Things Fall Apart is doomed to be compared to it, or there's something riding on every new project. Internal conflict, label drama, whether Malik B. will be involved or all tends to overshadow the album (I'm pretty sure I've listened to Game Theory a total of 5 times). Plus, attention span sucks in a major way nowadays. Between buying physical releases, single tracks via iTunes and eMusic, and listening to way too many podcasts (I need something to make work go by faster), I can cram only so much in this dome of mine. And here's another thing: ?uesto's liner notes for this album? iTunes only. C'mon, man! That had me pretty pissed for a bit. The liner note experience is integral to a Roots album experience.*
    All that aside, this recording gave me two of my favorite musical moments in '08: Peedi Crakk's verse on "Get Busy", and the scintillating blast that is "75 Bars". "Get Busy" was definitely a wise choice as far as lead singles go, because that joint is all business. An insistent ?uesto beat, Jazzy Jeff scratches, and ripping verses from Black Thought and Dice Raw. As most of you know, BT and Dice are no slouches on the mic. However, it's Peedi's verse that effortlessly steals the show. Truthfully...when is the last time you heard a verse that was worthy of a rewind? Yeah, I can't think of one, either. "75 Bars" is Black Thought as his rawest, and the joint is propelled by drums and tuba. TUBA. Think about that.
    Surrounding these two joints are the Roots' most solid tracks I've heard from this bunch in a long time. Nothing worth skipping.
  • Q-Tip's The Renaissance
    This one was a long time comin'. Yeah, I skipped Amplified, despite "Breathe and Stop" and "Vivrant Thing" being incredible tracks. I guess I wasn't about to accept a glossy, Hype Williams-directed version of one of my favorite emcees. Fast forward through nearly a decade of label woes, and we arrive at The Renaissance. I like it. I like it a lot! What else can I say, really. A soulful experience with tight, live instrumentation, plus a couple of joints which serve as reminders that Tip can still drop rhymes over beats (Including this Dilla contribution at the tail end of "You".). Guilt-free listening is what this is.

Other Recordings Worth Mentioning
  • Shad's The Old Prince – Homie won me over big time. I can tell we grew up listening to some of the same stuff. Lyrically tight, and it's clean, so your moms can listen to it, too!
  • Wale's The Mixtape About Nothing – This actually made #3 on Exclaim's list. I found myself getting a little overwhelmed around "The Bmore Club Slam", but I did have fun listing to this overall. Wale is mad slick, his flow is effortless. Dope theme to this thing too (he's a Seinfeld fan...duh.), and it was FREE!
  • Pip Skid's Pip Donahue: I Can't Be Stopped – Yeah, I know...not fair. I did have a hand in this, design-wise. Still, no one does self-deprecation as well as Pip. My faves: "L' Emeni" (this one is incredible live) and "Cut Me Up Into a Thousand Pieces and Burn Them For 3 Weeks". It's like reading Ivan Brunetti's Misery Loves Comedy. Breathtaking, self-obsessive despair has never been so entertaining. If I didn't know the dude, I'd call for a suicide watch.
  • Jake One's White Van Music – Solid release with a diverse cast of characters. I knew from the get-go that I'd like it more than Bryon Crawford did. Does that dude like anything? (EDIT: I just checked. He liked Tip's album as much as I did. Well, all right!)

Stuff I Should've Bought
  • Gnarls Barkley's The Odd Couple – Seriously. Why haven't I bought this yet? I thought the first album was dope, and "Who's Gonna Save My Soul" is a dark gem. I'm slippin'. Hell, the album even sounds great backward!
  • Fleet Foxes' self-titled album – Everything I've heard from this has been lush and infectious. I still ain't got it.
  • Johnson & Jonson self-titled debut – Okay, this one I have on order. I ain't sleepin' on anything Blu does anymore.
  • Chad VanGaalen's Soft Airplane – I was in Music Trader a couple of weeks ago, and this was playing. And it was fucking great. "Willow Tree" is the most comforting, positive song I've heard about death, like, ever. And I fear death. I have no excuse for sleepin' on this one.

Stuff I Should've Liked More Than I Did
  • Portishead's Third and The Raconteurs' Consolers of the Lonely – I dunno...maybe I should listen to these again.
* Of course, I found a copy later via Von Pea's blog.


Jeope said...

"Third" had me thinking either Portishead or myself waited too long. I was right in their target audience when I was in Ad Art, and their albums take me back to that time like no other. So this one, totally out of the blue, has me feeling I can't go back. I really wanted to like it, but in the end I picked it over for singles and left the carcass behind.

The Raconteurs album makes me smile. "Carolina Drama" makes my head bop.

Allan L. said...

"Carolina Drama" definitely is a fine track. It's a vivid tale, for sure.

Mykael said...

Chad VanGaalen's inspired Soft Airplane definitely qualifies under my personal "Stuff I Should've Bought" category too. I'm almost embarrassed that I missed his record.

Another casualty of the whole "infinite amount of music, finite amount of time" ethos of the Internet...

Allan L. said...

Too true. The good thing is, we can still get 'em, sacrificing a few "cool" points for not being totally on top of things. :)