When the time for the end of the year lists arrives, everybody seems to be full of profound hatred for them – course this isn’t to say it stops anybody from compiling one of their own. We’re no different. From the sweet and sensual R&B to what looks like the revival of rap and from silence to bass fuelled beats, here are the albums that were the soundtrack of our 2011.
1. The Weeknd - Echoes Of Silence
The first thing The Weeknd brings in mind is sex. It’s almost disturbing, but there’s nothing one can do about it – monsieur Tesfaye is just one hypnotising lad. What he’s done on Echoes Of Silence is pretty much OMG-WTF-I-CAN’T-BREATHE!1!! Neither his voice, nor the music alone are THAT sensual, but put together, they become so very intense you’re all of a sudden transforming into Tarzan and that’s pretty much the end of that.
Having said that, Echoes Of Silence is not dirty, and whoever calls The Weeknd’s music the dirtiest released all year long clearly hasn’t listened to French Fries. Course it’s still not advisable to listen to this together with your parents – unless you have a very open family, but keep that to yourself, ok? – but not because it’s dirty, it’s because Abel is so sincere, everything he is saying sounds so genuine, it’s as if he is showing you his heart and soul and excuse moi, but how could you possibly not want to give everything of yourself to something like that? Yeah, that’s why the album works this well.
D.D. // Initiation // Next
2. Gil Scott-Heron And Jamie xx - We’re New Here
Gil Scott-Heron and Jamie xx are quite the unlikely duo, but when the NY Is Killing Me remix by Jamie xx was released, the two collaborating made so much sense. You can hear London and Detroit in Jamie’s music, but he’s made it his own. Whether it’s the chopped sounds of My Cloud or heart-breaking melody of I’ll Take Care Of You, Jamie xx is on it. The album sounds so different from anything Gil Scott-Heron has ever done before, but the rework done for the 2010 I Am New Here is a beautiful last release for a man who was far more than just a spoken word performer. Gil Scott-Heron was a poet and an inspiration, and Jamie xx was just the right person to be part of that last release.
NY Is Killing Me // Running // Home
3. James Blake - James Blake
The J Blizzy everybody knew used silence like we’d only heard The xx do before, but he put it in what was essentially dance music. It was bloody amazing and nearly impossible not to love. The album wasn’t really like that, it wasn’t much of anything anybody expected it to be and it kinda makes sense why some were disappointed. It must have taken a while to grow on those familiar with the previous Blake, but it was impossible not to give in. With its almost painful sweetness of both the melodies and Blake’s vocals it’s probably one of the best records to play when not trying to pretend your bedroom is Berghain. Hopefully 2012 has more music coming from where Air & Lack Thereof originates, but 2011 was just perfect with this.
The Wilhelm Scream // I Mind // I Never Learnt To Share
4. SBTRKT – SBTRKT
Could this be labelled as the feel-good album of the year? “Up, up in the space”, it takes me, this one, just like Sampha says. Okay, so perhaps it’s not exactly happy-go-lucky, but when something is really good, it has the effect. The debut album sees SBTRKT collaborating with different vocalists, and even though all of them are excellent, his music never goes out of focus. He isn’t one to just make background noise for singers – his productions stand out in their own right, and rightfully so. Working with vocals is just a way to enhance his music. The album is total wank material to anybody with a penchant for singers with tender and mellow voices, but it’s first and foremost to those who really love the sound of the genre nobody is able to properly name.
Wildfire // Ready Set Loop // Right Thing To Do
5. Drake - Take Care
Drake is definitely doing something right. I mean…a girl tattooed his name on her forehead. Other people might be talking about swag, but until they’ve reached that level of awesome, they should just bow to him. Take Care is definitely not the best album ever and doesn’t evoke the use of superlatives, but it’s a good listen and for it’s production alone it’s worthy of being amongst albums of the year. What deserves to be described with the superlative of cool is how honest Drake is – everybody seems to sing and rap about broken hearts, tragic childhoods and smoking pot, but “As long as the outcome is income“ is one of the best lines I’ve heard in a song all year long. Might not go as far as getting his name on my face, but Drake is pretty cool still.
Lord Knows // Crew Love // The Ride
6. Asap Rocky – LifeLoveAsap
LifeLoveA$AP is exactly what rap should be like. It’ll make you feel tough enough to handle that person who seems to be plotting a plan to rob/murder you once you get off the night bus, but at time’s it’s also a little slow and very hot and kind of sexy, and dayum, if food made sound, this would actually be honey. The list of producers he’s collaborated with would alone make a good album, and although Rocky is no Q-Tip, he has a way with words. He also admitted to listen to his elders, which is pretty radical. A lot of good rap was released in 2011, and LifeLoveA$AP might just be the best of the bunch.
Palace // Peso // Trilla
7. Tyler, The Creator – Goblin
You know how every season there’s somebody saying shit like floral pattern or neon is the new black? What nonsense, right? Well, I might just be enough of a tit to say rap is the new punk and Tyler, The Creator is, I don’t know, Greg Ginn maybe? He has an attitude kinda intrinsic to hardcore even though his music doesn’t really strike as something mega political. He also doesn’t come across as the misogynist and homophobe he allegedly is. It’s possibly because not only is he witty with his words, he’s also an excellent producer and so the actual sound of his music is so good it deludes us, but Tyler seems a bit too clever to publicly rant about being a vicious potential rapist. In the hopes of not being deluded, here’s to Tyler, The Creator being really great.
Yonkers // Sandwiches // She
8. Clams Casino – Instrumentals
Music shouldn’t be about worrying if you’re a knob for liking a song by a person whose beliefs you don’t agree with. This is why instrumental music is great, and also why Clams Casino’s Instrumentals has the potential to make one almost as happy as owning a puppy would. 2011 was a great year for Clams Casino, producing tunes from Souljaboy to ASAP Rocky, but Instrumentals strongly suggests he is so much more than just a guy to produce background music for someone to rap on. It’s deep and intense enough to work just great if somebody was to drop it at a party in Plastic People, but also feels just the right amount of relaxed to be the perfect thing to listen to whilst pretending to be healthy and doing yoga. We want more.
Motivation // Numb // I’m God
9. Frank Ocean - Nostalgia, Ultra
To certain degree music should be about the vibes – if you like the feel, it’s good music and that’s that. In this sense it’s sometimes easy to enjoy a song written by someone whose IQ is clearly lower than average, but when someone whose lyrics actually mean something comes along, they deserve more attention. The idea of having cocaine for breakfast - yeah, it’s probably indeed pretty yikes in reality, but it’s the thought that counts - and Stanley Kubrick references are enough to give Frank Ocean some attention, but he deserves more than listening to Novocane once. The free download nostalgia, ULTRA did get its share of attention, and for good reasons. The album has not only had a crucial part taking R&B up a notch, it’s also honest and sincere - not to shock people, but to actually say something.
Swim Good // Novacane // Nature Feels
10. Jamie Woon – Mirrorwriting
Does the name Jamie automatically come with a lot of musical talent?
So Britney Spears’ little sister may make this theory look a bit less credible, but Jamie Woon makes it tight as fuck! Mirrorwriting hasn’t received as much attention as it should have as it’s probably too R&B for electronic kids, and not enough for everybody else. He would be far more successful as a pop musician if he experimented less, or as a producer is he skipped the singer-songwriter business, but whether he was collaborating with Burial or doing his own thing, the album was good. Although not a girl, he’s still a little like that Eddie Holland song about Jamie who’s so divine and brings a lot of joy. Mirrorwriting just needs to have a chance to bring joy.
Night Air // Lady Luck // Shoulda
By Ella Hagi