Wednesday, January 11, 2012

LeapBackBlog 2011 Music Awards – Part 1: Ten Essential Albums

Music in 2011 saw the further domination of hip hop and indie rock as the principal forms of ‘good’ music. Forms of electronic music have also taken up a much more mainstream appeal in recent years, and there is certainly evidence of this in what was great in music in 2011. Here are my ten favorite albums of the year.


Artist: Beyonce Album: 4 Essential Tracks: I Care, I Miss You, Party, Rather Die Young, and Countdown Why It Made the List: Beyonce has been on top of the pop R&B genre since she became a solo artist. 4 feels much more like a personal album, filled with meaningful tracks and not just poppy stuff for the top 40. While it may not have the singles to dominate the charts and radio, it is her most complete and enjoyable effort of her career to date. Plus, the video for Countdown very well might be my favorite of the year. Available: Here

Artist: Childish Gambino Album: Camp Essential Tracks: Outside, Bonfire, All the Shine, Heartbeat, and You See Me Why It Made the List: Childish Gambino announced himself to the world in 2011; both with his EP featuring Freaks and Geeks and his first commercial release Camp. I liked Donald Glover as a rapper coming into the album, but it completely blew me away – both with fantastic production and real lyrics, while still maintaining the humor. Camp is an album you can listen to all the way through and enjoy every track, no matter how many times you have listened to it, which is very rare these days. Available: Here

Artist: Drake Album: Take Care Essential Tracks: Headlines, Crew Love, Marvins Room, Under Ground Kings, and Lord Knows Why It Made the List: Drake has a very unique sound – a good thing in a genre that is filled with artists that sound the same. The album has a lot of features but they all work well with Drake and do not overshadow him. The production on the album by 40 and T-Minus is fantastic as well. Drake is not afraid to gets his emotions across in his music, and Take Care is moody and personal. It is his best release to date. Available: Here

Artist: Jay-Z & Kanye West Album: Watch the Throne Essential Tracks: Niggas in Paris, Otis, Gotta Have It, Murder to Excellence, and Illest Motherfucker Alive Why It Made the List: Coming in to 2011, this was the most anticipated album for a lot of people (me included). It did not disappoint. The production on the album, first off, is brilliant and probably the best of the year (though The Weeknd’s trilogy is right there too). Kanye and Jay-Z cover all their bases lyrically, touching on politics, personal issues, lifestyle, art, having fun, and pretty much everything else. This is the best hip hop album of the year. Plus, the music video of Otis is so much fun. Available: Here

Artist: J. Cole Album: Cole World: The Sideline Story Essential Tracks: Lights Please, In the Morning, Nobody’s Perfect, God’s Gift, and Work Out Why It Made the List: J. Cole has been called the future of hip hop by many fans and pundits. His first commercial release lived up to the hype. It is not as flashy an album as a lot coming out in the genre, but it is solid all the way through and has a great ‘true hip hop’ feel to it –not so much of the pop hip hop sound that we have come to expect from most artists like J. Cole. His production ability also shines on the album. Available: Here

Artist: Kendrick Lamar Album: Section.80 Essential Tracks: Fuck Your Ethnicity, A.D.H.D., Ronald Regan Era (His Evil), Rigamortis, and HiiiPoWer Why It Made the List: Part of the hip hop group Black Hippy (with Jay Rock, Schoolboy Q, and Ab-Soul), Kendrick Lamar had a huge 2011 – killing verses on Tech N9ne, Drake and Game’s albums, making a name for his crew and dropping one of the best albums of the year in Section.80. His flow and lyrics make him very relatable and relevant to today’s youth, while his musical ability endears him to lovers of the genre. Plus, HiiiPoWer is the best hip hop track of 2011. Available: Here

Artist: Pusha T Album: Fear of God II: Let Us Pray Essential Tracks: Changing of the Guards, Amen, Trouble on My Mind, My God, and I Still Wanna Why It Made the List: Pusha T, as a part of the duo Clipse, is already a well-known entity to genre fans, but with his Fear of God Mixtape and Fear of God II: Let Us Pray EP he has put himself in the upper echelon of solo artists as well. Teaming up with Kanye West seems to be a perfect match. His likely solo album in 2012 is among my most anticipated. Plus, Trouble on My Mind with The Neptunes producing and featuring Tyler, The Creator is one of the best collaboration of the year and has a great video. Available: Here

Artist: St. Vincent Album: Strange Mercy Essential Tracks: Cruel, Cheerleader, Strange Mercy, Dilettante, and Year of the Tiger Why It Made the List: There was a lot of great indie rock in 2011, but St. Vincent’s Strange Mercy was a step above the rest. Annie Clark’s art rock has so much substance to it, both musically and lyrically. Her sound is also fantastic. She has found a great balance between experimentalism and accessibility making this her most approachable album for those new to the genre.   Available: Here

Artist: Wale Album: Ambition Essential Tracks: Double M Genius, Miami Nights, Chain Music, Focused, and Ambition Why It Made the List: Wale had somewhat of a comeback year in 2011 (commercially at least, musically he never left) with early releases like 600 Benz and Bad Girls Club. Many of his fans were nervous that he would compromise his sound when he signed to Rick Ross’s MMG, but with the release of Ambition it is clear that Wale still brings the same fire to the mic and has maintained his lyrical integrity, be to a somewhat different style of beat. This is a very fun album with a lot of energy, yet introspective and personal. Available: Here

Artist: The Weeknd Album: House of Balloons Essential Tracks: High for This, House of Balloons/Glass Table Girls, Wicked Games, The Party & The After Party, and The Knowing Why It Made the List: The Weeknd with his 2011 Trilogy (including this album, Thursday and Echoes of Silence) is 2011’s best new artist (and probably the artist of the year). All three albums would have made this list; House of Balloons is just my favorite and the best album of the year. It has some of the best production creating the perfect sound to accompany Abel Tesfaye’s dark lyrics. It is tragic and beautiful. Plus, it is free. I cannot wait for his first commercial release slated for 2012. Available: Here

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