This year’s Free Press Summer Fest has been announced, and, wow, I must say I am impressed. Snoop Dogg, The Avett Brothers, Primus, Big Freedia, Danny Brown, Jeff the Brotherhood, Willie Nelson, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Flaming Lips (performing Dark Side of the Moon), Wavves, Diplo, Best Coast, Major Lazer, Turquoise Jeep! I’m gonna have a hard time avoiding the miserable Houston heat this summer!
10. tUnE-yArDs – w h o k i l l
Merrill Garbus has always been known for oddball melodies and quirky arrangements, but the growth shown on this spectacular album is spellbinding. Memorable, inviting, disarming, and purely inventive, this standout is unlike anything anyone in music is doing right now, and is an un-arguable example of the unique power of the musicality of tUnE-yArDs.
9. The Weeknd – House of Balloons
The addiction to partying, to tripping, to rolling, to getting wasted and blackout obliterated has never been so perfectly soundtracked than in this promising debut. The hollow feelings, the numbed experiences, and the utter craving to do it all again to forget about the last time is captured here. Dark, demented, honest, and with the worst intentions.
8. Araabmuzik – Electronic Dream
The title of this introductory mixtape is certainly appropriate – like the blurred drive home after a night of partying, the triple-time drum machines, 90′s era female vocals, and repeated reminders that “you are now listening to Araabmuzik” blend together like the final dance at the club, or the final steps to the bed.
7. Terius Nash – 1977
He’s proclaimed himself the Love King, but for his free mixtape, The-Dream chose not only to name it after the year of his birth, but opted to use his real name as the moniker of choice. Why? Because the Love King isn’t bragging much this time around. Lamenting on heartbreak, personal turmoil, and soulful anguish, this is the most introspective effort from Nash to date.
6. Jay Z/Kanye West – Watch the Throne
A collaboration of this magnitude certainly wasn’t going to meet the overhyped expectations it was given. With that out of the way, while nothing revolutionary, Watch the Throne is certainly memorable. It’s not even a collaboration, but a competition. Who can out-rap the other? It’s a battle of braggadocio rhymes and quick wit, and it’s entertaining all the way through.
5. Born Gold – Bodysongs
Freak pop might fit, but that’s more akin to the psychedelic work of Flaming Lips. No, Born Gold (formerly Gobble Gobble) is more futuristic ADHD pop. Chaotic electronic noise and stuttered, effected vocals surround the magnificent melodies of this group’s surprisingly strong debut. A joyous proclamation of computer-glitching defiance throughout, it might give you a fabulous headache.
4. Drake – Take Care
What a short, strange trip it’s been for Drake, who has evolved from a hashtag-rapping former actor to the most interesting, downbeat, and flat-out real rapper in the game right now. Take Care is the best rap album of the year because its mixed-emotion honesty is overwhelming, its beats are curiously addicting, and its mood is so powerfully smooth. Pristine production amongst contradictory, conflicting verses, this album is simply sublime.
3. Hooray For Earth – True Loves
Quite possibly the most overlooked album of 2011, Hooray For Earth are delivering subtle, yet undeniable unforgettable electronic jams for the undeserving masses. Everything here, from the hooks of the title track, to the gradual grandiosity of “Sails,” to the fist-pumping madness of “No Love,” is a winner.
2. Primus – Green Naugahyde
Since frontman Les Claypool has remained active, it’s hard to believe it’s been twelve years since Antipop, but our favorite alt-funk oddballs pick up right where they left off, bringing instant career highlights reminiscent of all the brightest spots of their catalog. It’s not exactly forward-thinking, but when the funk is this solid, who cares?
1. M83 – Hurry Up We’re Dreaming
While not as completely cohesive as the shorter Saturdays=Youth, Anthony Gonzalez managed to out-epic that album, a feat many surmised would be impossible. Then again, what’s more epic than a dream-pop double album exploring the concept of childhood slumber? And with that concept comes feelings of excitement, innocence, comfort, and imagination. There’s a lot to take in, but repeated listens will deliver the ultimate reveal: Gonzalez is brilliant, and this album is remarkable. Near flawless, completely enjoyable.
Delivering sing-song verses, that trademark stoner laugh, and a chorus you’ve memorized by the second time you’ve heard it, Wiz Khalifa might be one of the laziest rappers on Top 40 radio. But that’s exactly the point. He’s not some uptight, eccentric, crazy ambitious, domineering figure. He’s that pot-smoking friend who’s down for whatever, and if your down, he’s down. The most casual summer jam of the year.
When the band sticks to what they know, they sound great. Angles is a hot-and-cold album, but this is the first of two tracks that showcases the former.
Originally released as former project Gobble Gobble, nothing has been done to this track in terms or re-mixing or mastering, but it just sounds better in context within the new album Bodysongs.
Another highlight from Strange Mercy – here Annie Clark shows off her knack for start-stop surprises around what sounds conventional at first, then grows to be beautifully unusual.
The snare hits, the booming bass, the background vocals, that “Just Blaze!” intro, the use of the phrase “Murdercedez Benz.” What’s not to love here?
One of the more down-tempo tracks on the fun Rolling Papers, Wiz drops a chill-out anthem for the end of the night when you just wanna light one up and take it easy.
This is the first of many times for both these artists on the list. Here the Weeknd provides his eerie tortured-party R&B before the beat drops and Drake laments.
McCombs brings another signature somber note in his trademark melancholy falsetto. One of my favorites from Wit’s End.
The first verse of this track more or less describes my life right now – realizing we are not unique snowflakes but small cogs in a machine we don’t know about yet. Simple, yet poignant.
From the maniacal laughter to the thumping stomp of that chorus to those wailing guitars, Joy Formidable claim the throne as the loudest new band of 2011.
146. YACHT – Dystopia
A play on an old R-rated cheerleader chant becomes a boogie-worthy ode to the end of the world. In typical Yacht fashion, it makes you wanna dance around the flames.
There are quiet moments, but overall this year’s song countdown is crazy upbeat; you’ve gotta be an uptight jerk not to enjoy at least some of what’s here. For the most part, this collection of songs from 2011, while decidedly less diverse than in past years, still perfectly captures my mood and preference. I’ll be counting down until Friday – feel free to browse, listen, discover, disagree, etc. I’ll publish a Spotify playlist at the end with most of the tracks on there; the rest can be found via YouTube below and on subsequent posts.
Once every three months I list the best of what I heard in albums/songs/remixes for the quarter. I do this to personally keep up with all the awesome music I hear, as it ultimately helps me at the end of the year when I do my overall listing for the previous twelve months. I also do it to introduce you cool cats to tunes you may have missed independently.
Twelve years is a long time to wait for a new proper Primus album. Trust me, I know. It was 1999, and I was in middle school, when the boys dropped their last full-length Antipop and went on a creative hiatus. They reunited many times, once even putting out a new EP, the highly underrated Animals Should Not Try to Act Like People. And Les Claypool kept busy with his many solo projects. But now that they’re finally back with fresh material, let me tell you…it’s so great to have Primus back.
Green Naugahyde picks up right where the boys left off, if you pretend the Brown Album, and replacement drummer Brian “Brain” Mantia, never happened. The album successfully accomplishes what Anitpop tried with mixed results – a back-to-basics glory days record. So no, there’s nothing progressive here. “Eternal Consumption Engine” is reminiscent of Tales From the Punchbowl, specifically “Space Farm.” “Jilly’s On Smack” features the gloom and doom of Pork Soda. “Lee Van Cleef” is “Ballad of Bodacious” Part 2. “Last Salmon Man” could’ve been a Frizzle Fry or Sailing the Seas of Cheese highlight.
But it doesn’t really matter once you get back in the groove; the return of original drummer Jay Lane (who left before Primus even recorded their first album) has reignited a creative spark in the trio. Ler’s wail complements Les’ signature popping and slapping, and Jay’s presence makes it abundantly clear the guys are having fun again. And the best part? After all these years, Primus still sucks.
“Like a good compost, we needed to ferment and turn the manure and garbage into fine, nitrogen rich dirt.” That’s how Les Claypool describes the hiatus since the late 90′s for Primus, who are back and apparently funkier than ever. At least that’s the vibe I get from the first leaked track from Green Naugahyde, their first new LP in twelve years, out September 13.
The song itself is reminiscent of Seas of Cheese-era Primus, with a more jammy, liquid-bass feel akin to recent solo Claypool outings. It also immediately reminds me of later Primus work, like Antipop‘s underrated “Ballad of Bodacious.” Original drummer Jay Lane keeps the groove throughout, Ler’s guitar playing is a signature, eery backdrop, and Les still packs a mean punch on his bass, not that anybody’s surprised.
In typical Claypool lyrical fashion, the track is an odd commentary on what a lot of people, or at least many loony fundamentalists, have been warning the rest of us about: the end of the world. As Les puts it to the fear-mongers, “who says lemmings can’t dance as they go over the cliff?” Listen to “Tragedy’s a Comin’” over at SPIN.COM.
Every Saturday, I post a 15-20 minute podcast featuring some tracks I’ve been jamming the previous week, as well as some commentary and random musings from yours truly. Enjoy!
Primus – Welcome To This World
Primus – Over the Electric Grapevine
Primus – Duchess and the Proverbial Mind Spread
Primus – Southbound Pachyderm