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MUSIC» The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
MUSIC» Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
Yes, here at the Glaciers headquarters, we sporadically miss a release in our target month and have to catch up on coverage the following month. But better late than never, and better never than… well, you get the point.
The Don Bishop Agallah, he of the flowing locks, has finally released his solo debut on Babygrande, You Already Know. As to be expected, this is some seriously grimy street hip-hop. It also happens to be an especially engaging effort, as Ag spits from the depths of his gritty throat over his own grimy beats, with a little help from DJ Premiere ("New York Rider Music") and Alchemist ("Ride Out (O.G.G.G.))" along the way. He tones it down a bit on the Carl Anthony-assisted "Losin' My Mind," a smooth bassline anchoring the bouncing drums, but steps it up again over the bubbling "Club Hoppin'," built around a stuttering electro beat. Agallah is no newcomer to the game, having produced tracks for the likes of Busta Rhymes and The Diplomats, but this is his first solo effort. If you like the belligerent attitude of MOP, but prefer it tempered with smooth thug talk of Cam'ron, this one's for you.
Also released last month was the sophomore release from Eminem associate Obie Trice, Second Round's On Me (Shady/Interscope). The Detroit MC has crafted an entertaining and at times thoughtful album, full of surprises and dope beats. Beginning with the one-two punch of "Wake Up" and "Violence," two thoughtful yet entertaining street anthems that feature Eminem's production, things get off to a very promising start and continue in that direction. The man responsible for Trice's career stays behinds the boards for the majority of the record, except for "There They Go," where he appears with Big Herk and Trick Trick. Other guests include Nate Dogg on "All of My Life" and 50 Cent, of course, on "Everywhere I Go." Check out the classic rock guitar-sampling "Wanna Know," one of the best tracks, with its squealing guitar riff breaks.
Album of the month for September is no contest: Pigeon John …And the Summertime Pool Party (Quannum) easily sweeps the compeition. This LA rapper's debut on one of the Bay area's finest indie rap labels is entertaining and banging at every twist and bend. How may rappers have you ever heard sample the Pixies and reference REM on one album? Or even two albums? That's right, none. "Money Back Guarantee" finds John rhyming and singing over the Pixies' late-80s anthem, "Hey," and this works much better than it might sound. He turns the track into a tale of an average Joe trying to meet girls at a bar - "Hey, just trying to meet you/Hey you, across from the bar/I ain't no pimp or athlete or hip-hop star." And that's the persona he assumes for most of this record, most likely his real persona, a welcome change from much of the posturing and insecurities that are the bread and butter of many an LP. "Underground hip-hop equals no women - except for a Slug show," he rhymes on the deceptively named "Freaks! Freaks!" But don't be fooled, this record cannot be relegated to the category of underground hip-hop primed for college kids and backpacker nerds. From the Latin vibes of opening track "Welcome to the Show" to the bubbling, infectious "Do the Pigeon," this is LA hip-hop at its finest.
The convergence of video games and hip-hop is nothing new, but hip-hop producer curated compilations for video-game soundtracks are a relatively recent development. Dan the Automator, late of Handsome Boy Modeling School and Dr. Octagon, is the most recent addition to this roster, with Dan the Automator Presents 2K7 (Decon), a soundtrack for the NBA 2K7 game. Every song here is loosely based around the sport, and some work better than others - how many basketball metaphors can even the deftest MC make in one song? Dan's crunchy electric-guitar big beat works quite well under Slim Thug's lazy drawl on "I Love This Game," but his hand is not as sure on the disappointing A.G. and Ghostface collaboration, "2K007." It's not really Dan's fault though, as both MC's, legends in their own right, just sound bored with the material. Some other highlights on the compilation include the slow-paced "Ball Till You Fall," featuring Fabolous, where he namechecks Elton Brand, and the hyperactive "Baller Blockin'," featuring the always entertaining E-40 and San Quinn. Overall, this compilation feels too much like an advertisement, which is essentially what it is, but the aforementioned tracks make it worth a go. A bonus track of sorts is Dan's remix of the classic Tribe Called Quest song, "Lyrics to Go," which pales in comparison to the original, but coincides nicely with the forthcoming 2nd Annual 2K Sports Bounce Tour, featuring a reunited Tribe.
Another Fat Beats release that just misses the mark, although not by much, is Glue's Catch as Catch Can. Next month is sure to see the label's redemption, however, when Count Bass D's new one will be released. Bated breath… Glue consists of Adeem, a quick-witted and intelligent MC, producer Maker, and djdq, the turntablist of the bunch. Glue fit in well with their labelmates Ugly Duckling and Louis Logic, in that they practice the same sort of wry, but ever positive underground hip-hop that will always do well on college campuses but never break into radio playlists. But that's not the point here, is it? Maker's production features competent but extremely safe funk and jazz breaks. When he lets loose a bit, as on the fast-rap "Beat Beat Beat," things get a bit more interesting, where Adeem gets a bit political, rapping about sweatshops and genocide. Maybe this is the niche that the group fits most comfortably in, as the interestingly somber and experimental "State of the World" proves, with its children's chorus intoning cherubically over an acoustic guitar and drum kit, snippets of nihilistic dialogue floating overhead. Unfortunately, the each member of the group seems to be missing a defining characteristic or bite that would elevate this record into a higher echelon.
Kid Koala has always been sort of the court jester of hip-hop, specifically in his favored arena of virtuoso scratching and beat juggling. His latest effort, Your Mom's Favorite DJ (Ninja Tune), is a whirlwind through old jazz and blues records, strange 1950s-era vocal snippets, and even some rock riffs, all blended together and manipulated by his versatile and most likely ambidextrous hands. Koala's sense of humor is present here - check out the Anchorman "jazz flute" scene samples about halfway through the record - but there are also some serious hip-hop chops present. This new album feels almost like a concept record, taking the listener through a nonlinear journey of beats and jokes. Score another point for rap without rappers!
Holland's Nicolay, best known up till now for his Foreign Exchange collaboration with Phonte from Little Brother, is back with a new album on BBE, Here. As neo-soul as it is hip-hop, this record displays the same creamy beats that he originally made his mark with. The jazzy "I Love the Way You Love" opens the record, featuring the vocal stylings of Darien Brockington. From there, a couple of different rappers put in guest appearances, perhaps the best being Black Spade, who shows up on two tracks. But the single best song on the record might be the guestless "Give Her Everything," where Nicolay works a vocal sample over a pounding beat, showcasing the smooth production savvy that makes this producer tick.
Some small faces… Intellekt and Dirty Digits, an Atlanta-based hip-hop team, make their introduction with Intellektual Property (Revised), out on ATF Records. The "revised" part of the titles comes from the fact that many of these tracks are reworkings of demo songs. The two make workable if not outstanding indie hip-hop, dealing with important issues like Nintendo video games and microphone fiending. Boston rookie Raydar Ellis is also making his debut with Late Pass (Brick Records). Collaborations with Edo. G, Esoteric, and a remix by 7L help buttress this effort. Check out the sweeping strings of "Growth," a snapshot of life track with ill flows over Sunday afternoon beats, and the MOP-style aggression of "Shut Shit Down." Also on Brick is D-Tension's new double-album, Contacts and Contracts II. The second disc is Tension's solo affair, and while you're advised to check for this, the real winner here is disc one, a collaboration with some of your favorite indie rappers. D-Tension provides all the beats here, and this is a producer who should be getting more attention than he is at the moment. Highlights include "This is Our Year," featuring Termanology and Prospect, with a piano/guitar riff beat that sounds like a Rocky outtake; "Back with Her Mother," featuring the always dependable Akrobatik, over a Geto Boys-sampling beat; "Bobby Brown," featuring Apathy - this one speaks for itself; and the frat-boy bar rap of "Fuck Friends," featuring Effect. Finally, Wade Waters, the duo comprised of SoulStice and Haysoos, will see their debut, Return of the Kings, released by Wandering Soul Records. This could definitely fall under the mixtape category, but it's really more of a coherent album than random tracks put together. Anchored by the amazing production work of Analogic (check his beat for "Beautiful Sight" - amazing!), 9th Wonder, and Oddisee, this is one of the best debuts of the year.
Mixtape roundup for September is a big 'un. First up, Uncle Murda and DJ Green Lantern assault your ears with Say Uncle…2 Hard for Hip-Hop (Mixunit.com). Chockfull of street anthems, if you're looking for hard tales of sex and violence, this is where to go. Even if that's not your usual motivation in music, it's worth a visit. Brooklyn's Uncle Murda rips it over tracks like "Without My Click GMG," which utilizes a Busta Rhymes beat, the DJ Screw meets Geto Boys psycho-rap of "Mind Full of Demons," and the Bob Marley-sampling "I Shot the Sheriff" (can you guess which song this samples?). These last two are produced by Green Lantern, who seems to be getting better and better behind the boards. Check out the slowly smoking funk of "A Green Beat and Some Green" if you need more proof, where Murda raps "I don't get paid to rap yet, I'm still grinding." Next up, we have Ali Vegas and DJ L-Gee with The Best of Ali Vegas Volume 2: The Prince of NY Soon to be King. Vegas is from Queens and claims to be Lamar Odom's (LA Lakers) cousin, although apparently the two are really just close childhood friends. They are, however, also working on Vegas' career together. His high-pitched voice and laidback flow are reminiscent of another young MC, Lupe Fiasco. One of the standout tracks comes early on, the flowing soul-sampling "Life in the City." His stream of conscience rapping ("I turn the rotten Apple into a castle") goes on and on and on here, proving this MC's merit. And there's more to come, as he's currently working on his debut that will supposedly feature production work from Kanye West and Rockwilder, among others. And lastly, have you ever wondered about 50 Cent's family? No? Me either. You may start to now, though, with the release of his cousin Two Five's mixtape, Who is Two Five? (Mixunit.com). And yes, his name really is Two Five. Then again, this may not be enough impetus for the questions about the Cent family to begin. A pedestrian affair, even interviews about how he and 50 don't get along won't really save this joint. The opening weed opus, "All I Need," and the Biggie-reviving "Illest Turned Iller" are some interesting entrance points, but Two Five lacks the charisma and lyrical skills of his big cousin.
That's all for this month. Glaciers will be back in October to preview what's to come for the fall season. So until then… e-mail with thoughts and insults, and send me yer shit! I'll listen to it. Glaciers is ghost like Casper.
Jonah Flicker writes, lives, drinks, eats, and consumes music in New York, via Los Angeles. He once received a fortune in a fortune cookie that stated the following: "Soon, a visitor shall delight you." He's still waiting.
See other articles by Jonah Flicker.
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