Album construction is a lost art. With the advent of the digital purchase and the ability to burn your own collection anyway you see fit, the single has become king. Themes, sequencing and over-riding narratives are throwback ideas in a world of disposable music. Yet some folks still care about releasing a proper project. They deserve a shout and Planet Ill is going to give them one.
Word to those who allow you to ignore the skip button and just let the music play. Word to those who understand the meaning of cohesion, but still manage to work the outside angles. Word to those who don’t believe in filler or a 2:1 song/skit ratio. And word to your mother, I hear she’s a very nice lady.
Below are 15 wonderfully executed LP’s in every sense imaginable. Some are feats of construction while others are foundations perfectly suited to showcase the artist’s talent. Most are emotionally effective; evoking excitement, wonder and at times, grief. However, they all deserve a nod for delivering. So take a look, pick up what you missed and enjoy the show. Planet Ill’s top 15 albums of 2010.
Arcade Fire – The Suburbs
Arcade Fire managed to express what we all have to come to grips with in our lives: growing up sucks. They do so with a vulnerable, intelligent lyricism and an acceptance that while responsibility is heavy, it is necessary. We trade barhopping for PTA meetings and Arcade Fire explores that with astounding poignancy.
Janelle Monae – The Archandroid
When you have otherworldly talent, it’s often hard to slow yourself enough for others to get hip. Monae managed to do so with a fierce and compelling energy that drew us into her world with lush, intricate musicianship and an intimate feel for the ambitious and grandiose. If you didn’t know now you do.
Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
Not even media banishment could stop Kanye West from dropping the album of the year. Ambitious production, a gaggle of guest that delivered and an album greater than the sum of its very dope parts seals the deal for Mr. West. Can he get much higher? He’s raising the musical bar.
Sleigh Bells – Treats
The Sleigh Bells managed to drop a debut album devoted to all things noise and distortion that manages not to annoy but to intrigue. Molasses thick drums and heavy guitars atop reverb and other distractions make the work a monument to sonic unrest that goes hard to the motherfucking paint.
Bilal – Airtight’s Revenge
After a few years on the outside looking in, Bilal by way of this album begs his way back to music with transcendent vocals, adventurous production and a passion rare in the me-first marketing frenzy of popular music. Music should welcome him home and make him a sandwich for Airtight’s Revenge
Iyeoka – Say yes
What do you get when you merge the power of spoken word, the depth to cover topics like struggle, culture, love and soul with naked vulnerability and revelation? You get the theatrical, majestic beautifully brutal Say Yes. Superb in composition, creative in execution and holistic in experience.
The Roots – How I Got Over
Philly’s finest deliver their most focused and cohesive album since Things Fall Apart. They abandon the jam session aesthetic for continuity; telling their tale of perseverance, tragedy and ultimately victory. The musicianship is a given, as is Black Thought’s verbiage, but the package is as tight as it’s ever been.
Nas & Damien Marley – Distant Relatives
Two sons of musicians take their legacies a step further with powerful lyrics, great production and standout arrangements. Distant Relatives is well-sequenced, covers a range of topics, switches speed and mood with Mario Andretti-like precision and manages social/political relevance.
Gil Scott Heron – I’m New Here
Gil Scott Heron returned to the music scene this year, brutally honest and wholly repentant. His 15th studio album was some old, some new, some borrowed, but all blue. Simple, emotional and chilling, I’m New Here took decades of drug and self-abuse and splattered it on wax. It’s not an easy listen, but riveting nonetheless.
Reflection Eternal – Revolutions Per Minute
Kweli and Tek deliver a proper follow up to their debute with banging beats and intricate ill rhymes near the top of their power. The duo dropped music that matters; making a lie of the idea that conscious music has to be preachy and boring. In Kweli’s words, “You can say that again, you can like rap again.”
Big Boi – Sir Lucious Left foot: The Son of Chico Dusty
The son of Chico, partner of Andre did his thing on his first true solo album by getting in touch with his inner funk (including a guest spot by George Clinton). Rapid raps and futuristic production that skirts the edges of Raplandia but doesn’t crossover pushed this album to new heights for Big Boi.
Erykah Badu – New Amerykah Part 2
Though most of the attention for her album came from her big ole booty, the enlightened baby mama takes us on a relationship tour through the mind of a woman who knows her vices and virtues and works through them with dope music and frank, honest lyricism.
Nneka – Concrete Jungle
Nneka manages a near impossible fusion of Hip-Hop, Reggae, Rock and 80’s Pop as foundation for her impassioned powerful vocals. She handles love, power and respect like a diplomat while tackling politics like a linebacker. With the world as her stage she never shrinks under the bright lights.
Rick Ross – Teflon Don
Engulfed in controversy and challenges to his authenticity, William Roberts spoke with his music and spoke loudly. His album was a compact manifesto of melody, malice and rugged, mannish Maybach music. From the streets to the club, Ross claimed Hammer while possessed by the spirit of B.I.G.
El Debarge – Second Chance
After warring with himself and with drugs, El Debarge made the most of his second chance by doing what he does best: supple ballads powered by that feathery falsetto and soul music that skirts the edge of Pop without falling over. He even got 50 and Fab on records without sounding contrived or desperate.