Planet Ill's Favorite Albums Of 2011
By the Planet Ill staff.
Pharoahe Monch – W.A.R. (We Are Renegades)
This album was just so ambitious, Its towering lyricism was just so far-reaching, from the beginning to the end. The album was loosely based on a concept and stuck to its story for the most part and was so well-managed musically that it sped up when it needed to and slowed down when the momentum became overwhelming. One of the most uplifting endings in Hip-Hop memory. Monch spoke of this album being a call to arms of art against trash; music that stood for something. After an hour or so, Monch’s art was “Still Standing.” Please listen.
Danger Mouse & Daniele Luppi Feat. Jack White and Norah Jones – Rome
Here’s an idea. Let’s make a Western! We’ll get all the Italian musicians who originally crafted the music to those movies, get Jack mothereffing White, who seems intent to prove that his freshness is genre proof, and add Norah Jones, while changing her sleepy suicide voice into something smokier and sexier. That would be a dope idea. Only it’s reality. The album features sprawling instrumentals that conjure rustic images of barren landscapes that color the Old West and for just a while, gunslingers still roam the countryside. Brilliantly composed and flawlessly executed in narrative form, Rome was a sharp left from the every day album.
Tyler the Creator – Goblin
I’m a firm believer that rap music SHOULD make people uncomfortable and the old people should be frightened by it. With hamsters rapping in car commercials and 40 year old men popping teenager shit, that feeling had subsided. That is, until Tyler’s music got exposed to the masses. “Kill people, burn shit, fuck school!” The rage of youth was in full effect. In a year of violent revolution, class insurrection and random flash mobs, Tyler terrified the establishment the way Ice Cube did 20 years ago, albeit for wholly different reasons. With so many popular acts that suck dick it was refreshing to see a middle finger throw to the establishment. “I’m a fuck up, fuck Harvard, I ain’t got no fucking money, I ain’t got no motherfucking daddy,” raged Tyler, reflecting a nation of broken homes, broken promises and broken dreams. The real was back and there were a few locked doors and clutched purses because of it. Amen.
The Roots – undun
A string of funky but bloated albums preceded last year’s How I Got Over and newfound Fallon fame would lead you to believe that there was room to slack off. Philly’s finest beg to differ as they turned in an album leaner than Rocky Balboa after his Clubber Lang beating. Undun weighed in at an astonishing 39 minutes with a 14 track reach. In their corner, swinging with intent, were Greg Porn (P.O.R.N), Truck North, Dice Raw, Phonte, Bilal and Big K.R.I.T. with razor sharp focus and execution. Black Thought, 15 years after The Roots’ debut, delivered the finest lyrical performance of his career with grit, determination and narrative excellence. I can’t tell you how many years of the last decade this album would have been the best record of the year.
Thurzday – L.A. Riot
On the 20th anniversary of both the L.A. Riots and Ice Cube’s otherworldly Death Certificate, a rapper I never even heard of, dropped a powder keg of an album the thumbed its nose at the police, challenged Black people socially, dealt with hood politics and haters, took a swing at religion and fused Rock and Hip-Hop sensibilities with genuine SoCal love. In a year full of dope albums and a legitimate West Coast resurgence, L.A. Riot towered head and shoulders above Hip-Hop with hardcore beats, real content, societal significance and dope rhymes. A smoldering guest verse from Black Thought didn’t hurt. The balance between the streets, the skills, and the culture has rarely been done with such facility. It Takes a Nation, Death Certificate, and Me Against The World come to mind. The bourgeoisie was reached. The boulevard was rocked. Thurzday walked away with the best album of 2011.
Adele – 21
The fact that Adele is my 5th pick may be a serious point of disagreement for many. She did release a phenomenal album. Anyone dealing with a broken relationship probably memorized every graceful lyric on it, but the emotional impact of it is a blessing and a curse. The inspiration for 21 was derived from the raw emotion following a breakup with the love of her life. Getting through the album without crying is almost impossible; it is way to much emotional pressure for those of us who are already sentimental. While I have come to love her raspy, soulful voice, until she makes a more diverse record I can’t give her top honor.
Spank Rock – Everything is Boring and Everyone is a Fucking Liar
Lyrics that are clever, educated, and pop culture savvy tend to be rare even with the recent shift to more ‘intellectual’ music. Most artists shy away from merging witty and attractive content, Spank Rock does not. The talented duo not only have amazingly catchy beats ranging between electronica and classic R&B, but they also bring the culture wrapped in a kick ass lyrical quilt. This is even more evident in this year’s release, than the one before it. In many ways, NERD and N.A.S.A. deserve credit for previously putting out albums of a similar nature but this year Spank Rock did it the best.
Arctic Monkeys – Suck It and See
The band’s charisma derives from their ability to blend styles in a relaxed and sophisticated way. Their influences shine through but the resulting sound is their own, which is refreshing. Many bands sound the same and yet occasionally an album sounds reminiscent (there is a difference) of something rather tangible yet unreachable. Ultimately it remains unique, which is the entire source of its appeal. The Arctic Monkeys have managed the latter sounding like a sonic lyrical lounge where the vibe is cozy, the atmosphere is chill and the menu is super. You can’t help but to like them or this record.
Florence and The Machine – Ceremonials
There is no possible way to deny how awesome Mrs. Welsh is. Whether it’s her ethereal odes to fairies and death or her sentimental, surreal imagery, the woman knows what she’s doing. Her major attributes are that she takes chances with her music and it’s direction. Unlike Lungs, Ceremonials is softer but powerful, delicate yet assertive and above all, musically sound. There are many shades to the dreamy picture her album paints, but she is a professional artist and has learned all theories touching upon her art.
The Black Keys – El Camino
The Black Keys are amazing. Whether they are doing old school blues, slashing acoustic guitar with drum pounding, or busting out ridiculously seductive solos, they are very talented both musically and production wise. El Camino is the best album of the year for several reasons. First, every song is unique but possesses the duo’s musical and personal signatures. Second, the record is generally upbeat. Even though many individual tracks are calm, some even melancholy in nature, these scattered tracks do not take away from the undeniably attractive tempo through out the album, instead they enhance it via contrast. Lastly, The Keys did a great job utilizing the good sense of Danger Mouse in regards to production. The resulting record is worthy of acknowledgment and so, El Camino gets the honor of first place.
Phonte – Charity Starts At Home
You can have your expensive cars and over priced bobbles, Phontes’ easy everyman release is better than whatever you’re rocking right now unless you’re listening to undun. Charity Starts At Home is genuine and heartfelt, an offering that Mr. Coleman’s fans can relate to. He spoke to us and for us and delivered one of the best rap songs of the year with the closer, “Who Loves You More?”
St. Vincent – Strange Mercy
Strange Mercy is a potent comment on well…almost everything. But schizophrenic it isn’t. This is a brilliant piece of out loud thinking that moves from almost embarrassing sexuality to politics and parenthood. Its bold, weird and brilliant and Miss Clark with that guitar is a thing to behold and umm.. belisten. The foundation is all about creating and elevating emotion to almost unbearable levels, both good and bad. Some songs come with a release valve, but the better ones don’t. If this album doesn’t move you, you shall not be moved.
Kendrick Lamar – Section .80
Hip Hop elderly rarely want to give new jacks any sort of props. We say they want the crown without the dues. They rarely find a lane that isn’t heavily traveled. They don’t respect the culture. blah blah blah. Mr. Lamar (and plenty of his 20-something brethren) killed the idea of the lazy lil boy rapper looking for a handout. Section .80 was a powerful statement about 80’s babies; their collective ideologies, fears and triumphs. Not only did Kendrick rock the house, he taught us something. How many 40 year old rappers did that this year?
tUnE-yArDs – W H O K I L L
I’ve played powa more than any other song in my digital collection according to the good folks at Apple. This is the most wonderfully odd and quirky album I think I’ve ever heard. Merill Garbus defies labeling. I can’t even tell you what kind of music this is. The themes and schemes are deep dark and thoughtful, but it doesn’t come off as melancholy. Damn this chick is good.
Le Butcherettes – Sin Sin Sin
I know what you’re thinking. Punk rock? From Mexico? Word shelz? Yup. I tend to always find some angry lady manifesto to champion and this is it. Sin Sin Sin is clever, playful, shocking, perfectly proportioned head-banging heaven. This is the kind of sonic angst that gets the fed up citizenry to rally around the cause properly, even if the cause is just that tired ass man on your couch. Go occupy something bitches. Your sound track awaits you.