Monday, December 19, 2005

List season pt. II

20. The Documentary, The Game
Because the best beats money can buy—from Dr. Dre, Timbaland, Hi-Tek, et al.—turn out to be pretty goddamn good.

19. Surrounded by Silence, Prefuse 73

18. The Milk of Human Kindness, Caribou

17. Favela Strikes Back, various artists

16. Be, Common

15. Trill, Bun-B

14. Illinois, Sufjan Stevens
I like him, too! Breathtaking through its first half, Illinois comes unraveled as it goes on, suffering from the airy abstraction of tracks like “The Seer’s Tower.” But this is one where the high points are high indeed.

13. Cru, Seu Jorge

12. The Mouse & the Mask, Danger Doom

11. Z, My Morning Jacket
They’ve picked up a reggae influence and it suits them. So do the Beach Boys harmonies. Z has the feel of an American London Calling--well, not as good as all that, but pretty good nevertheless.

10. The Cookbook, Missy Elliott

9. I'm Wide Awake It's Morning, Bright Eyes

8. Multiply, Jamie Lidell

7. Everything Ecstatic, Four Tet
Made the album we wanted Prefuse 73 to make this year. Lush, abstract, confrontational, with a pungent aroma of Aphex.

6. The Woods, Sleater Kinney

5. Arular, M.I.A.
Some complain that M.I.A.’s political posturing is mostly a pose, but so what if it is? Arular is an album of sly come-ons disguised as protest songs, not the other way around. Diplo’s thick favela-influenced provide the jump-off.

4. Congotronics, Konono No. 1
Needs to be heard! Sample of "Lufuala Ndonga": DOWNLOAD HERE

3. The Further Adventures of Lord Quas, Quasimoto

2. Dimanche a Bamako, Amadou & Miriam
Under Manu Chao’s production, the duo’s pop sounds sleek and melodic, organic without seeming old-fashioned. Organ tones and occasional woodwinds (flute, bari sax) establish the easy pop-soul vibe; the ambient noise, choral vocals and driving rhythms make it a party.

1. Late Registration, Kanye West


Macky Olé said...

Nice list, but seriously... Kanye? Why?

I just don't get why LR is such a big deal.

Rob said...

Well for me at least, Kanye is one of those artists that you have an ongoing conversation with--sometimes an out-and-out argument, even. On national TV he states flatly that "George Bush doesn't care about black people" and I shout "Amen!" and wonder why all public figures can't be more like him. But then on "Heard 'em Say" he raps "I know the government administers AIDS," and I jeer, because as my wife can tell you, this is a theory that's widely held in the inner city, and a big reason (and/or excuse) that many people (especially black men) never get an HIV test. And that sucks.

But so it goes with Kanye, whose central conflict is his desire to be all things to all people. He got guest verses from both Jay-Z & Nas before they'd buried the hatchet. He is the nice boy who dedicated a song to his mama and the asshole who won't shut up about how he got out of going to college. After learning about Africa's bloody diamond industry, he changed the lyrics of "Diamonds are Forever" to address the issue, but basically concluded that he'll keep wearing diamonds because "it's in a black person's soul to rock that gold."

In other words, he was far and away the most fascinating, most engaging artist making music in 2005. LR contains lots of the year's greatest songs and singles, and even its misfires (like, okay, yes, "Hey Mama") are revealing in ways Kanye may not even be aware of.

And the tracks! He's still one of rap's best producers, and the Jon Brion harps/strings/keyboards sound expands the pallet and makes for some of the year's most interesting production.

Late Registration is not flawless, but it lives and breathes and invites you to engage with it in a way that arid, arty indie rock or four-to-the-floor power-pop just doesn't do. For me.

Macky Olé said...

That makes for a good case I suppose. I guess much of the appreciation comes down to lyrics, which I have been known to criminally underappreciate. To me, lyrics are somewhere between a tasty bassline and nice keyboard solo on my spectrum of musical apprciation. I'm always more interested in how it sounds instead of what's being said. I know, it's a damn shame.

AC said...

and Goldigger sucks. But this #2 group sounds sweet. I'm a big Manuchao fan and am sure they can make great shit. I'm gonna try to find this.

Nicole said...

I agree with Macky- I don't pay enough attention to lyrics, they come second for me. Which is a large reason why I may be so slow to pick up on rap.