Unfortunately, yes I did. I planned to write quarterly reviews of all the music I had been listening to throughout the year, but I ended up accumulating so many albums that I didn’t even have a chance to listen to them all until the new year had passed. However, an ass-load of what I did hear was fantastic. Since I’ve been procrastinating so much on making a post like this, I’m going to try to bang it out as quick as possible. So, while I may not be thorough in developing some (or any) of my opinions on the releases of 2009, I figure this is better than nothing. Here goes…
Eels – Hombre Lobo: 12 Songs of Desire: I can’t stress how great of a musician I think Mark Everett is. He has an incredible talent when it comes to conveying emotion through his music, and, at 46-years-old, he’s only getting better with each Eels release. The unfortunate fact of Everett’s talent is that the majority of his songs are at his own expense (especially on End Times, their LP from 2010).
Depressing to some, a relatable listening experience to others. At Hombre Lobo‘s best, it is stunning, and, even with its slight misses, the seventh studio album from Everett & Co. is something you need to hear.
MC Esoteric – Saving Seamus Ryan: With Saving Seamus Ryan, Esoteric has released what is probably the best hip-hop concept album since Prince Paul’s A Prince Among Thieves (both albums have glaring similarities, too). The album plays like a film — a film in which Esoteric has written, directed, narrated, produced, scored, and starred in. I greatly appreciate the time and care that went into conceptualizing and producing this album (and Serve or Suffer, his instrumental project from earlier in the year). It is truly a suspenseful aural expedition that should not be overlooked by any music-listener. I never thought I’d say this, but some animal-lovers aren’t so weird after all. Peace to Esoteric on this one.
Eyedea & Abilities – By The Throat: The duo’s third project together is unquestionably their best, most cohesive to date. By The Throat may be my absolute favorite from ’09, but I’ll probably say that for more than one of the following albums before this post is complete. There are apparent tones of non-hip-hop influences throughout the album: Specifically, some of Eyedea’s choruses are J. Mascis-esque (Dinosaur Jr.), and the production is like a hybrid of DJ Abilities x Trent Reznor (NIN) x Geoff Barrow (Portishead) like-minds. (I’d be curious to hear if I hit any of those on the head…)
The album can be best described as a fantastic sound-clash, which is a rarity in hip-hop music. From beginning to end, By The Throat is a refreshing, eye-opening masterpiece. Yeah, I said it.
Mayer Hawthorne – A Strange Arrangement: This album was the first choice in the “3,000-Mile-Away Music Club” that Verbal and I started. (Yeah, we’re nerds, but that’s something both of us are proud of. Why do you think we started TECB in the first place? Exactly. To be nerds.) It’s no mystery that we both loved A Strange Arrangement, Hawthorne’s debut, seeing as talk of it managed to show up a few times on TECB. If not for a reference to Katrina (on “The Ills”) and the use of “scurred” (on “Your Easy Lovin’ Ain’t Pleasin’ Nothin’”) the average listener may be fooled into believing this album was straight out of the Motown-era. Every cut is excellent, and Hawthorne’s talent has not gone overlooked by the masses (just Google the man). Rightfully so, too, considering he wrote and produced the entire album that showcases his surprisingly soulful vocals. Did I mention he is a multi-instrumentalist? Good looks to Stones Throw for getting Mayer’s work in heavy circulation.
Finale – A Pipe Dream and a Promise: It surprises me that this album didn’t catch more love. Even more of a surprise is that lame-asses are already selling copies of A Pipe Dream… back to record stores. Anyway, I think Finale’s debut LP was the best hip-hop album of ’09 that didn’t try to accomplish anything out of the ordinary. The album is pure hip-hop, plain and simple.
But, fact is, there’s nothing simple about this release. There are fourteen tracks with fourteen different producers, yet, somehow, Finale establishes a special significance for each track that allows the album to play as a whole, as opposed to a thrown-together collection of cuts.
Nirvana – Live at Reading: If you are a fan of Nirvana, the awesomeness of their third live album — featuring the newly mastered recordings of their headlining set at England’s Reading Festival in 1992 — should go without saying. In my opinion, Live at Reading eclipses Muddy Banks… (which I still love) and comes closer to matching the genius of Unplugged than you would ever expect. There’s a reason fans and critics across the world have esteemed this concert as one of the best in music’s history. No more shall be said. I mean written.
Paul White: The guy released four instrumental projects in 2009 (One Eye Open EP, The Punch Drummer EP (my favorite), The Strange Dreams of Paul White (his official debut LP), and Sounds From the Skylight) and each one was mulligan-inducing. His music would be hard to classify by genre, but the obvious hip-hop aesthetics present in his recordings are what have me going back for more.
Paul White was one of my best discoveries in ’09 — if you haven’t heard anything by him yet, check his Bandcamp page for links to free downloads as well as purchasing information.
Elvis Presley – Elvis 75: Good Rockin’ Tonight: After I read two five-star reviews elaborating on the thorough, well-rounded nature and top-notch quality (in both the remastered recordings and the packaging) of Good Rockin’ Tonight, I knew a purchase of the four-disc boxed set was mandatory. The 100-song collection — complete with an outstanding 70+ page booklet — doesn’t disappoint, either. Good Rockin’… features all of Presley’s most memorable singles over his prestigious twenty-four-year career, and also does a fine job of displaying The King’s versatility while dabbling throughout a variety of musical genres.
On an Elvis side-note: I never realized he didn’t write any of his songs. He did a number of covers (totally rearranged, of course) and had people write for him. I still hold a high opinion of the man, regardless, though. Who else made as monstrous of an impact by reinterpreting other people’s songs? No one. Homeboy was nice with it.
Rhode Islanders were blessed by a long-overdue debut album from Jahpan, titled An Album Called Life, where Jappy delivers his scrappy-voiced rhymes over the freshest of Mekalek (Mek even drops a verse, too!) production. Hopefully the project will see a proper CD and vinyl release one day.
I already wrote about the niceness of that Paten Locke joint the other day, but I never came around to upping Fashawn‘s joint, Boy Meets World, entirely produced by Exile. The album is really dope, and my brain would probably explode if I had to decide between Below the Heavens (Exile’s LP with Blu) and the album in mention. I will say this, though: I like Boy Meets Word more and more as the days go by.
About 1,000-miles up the coast in Portland, Illmaculate & Only One dropped Police Brutality, a double CD release where each artist had their own disc (like OutKast did) to shine on. As a whole, the release was aiyt, but if you’re just speaking on Illmac’s fifteen-track-disc, it’s pretty nice.
Illmaculate having Illmatic-potential may seem like a bold line for even those who have heard him, but I’m not backing down any time soon on that one. The kid is very, very talented.
Early in the fourth quarter of ’09, BK-One dropped an excellent album on RSE with Benzilla called Radio Do Canibal, featuring appearances from Brother Ali, Raekwon, I Self Divine, Scarface, and Blueprint, among many others. So many stand-out cuts from this LP that I’m semi-ashamed it has taken me this long to write about it.
Also, BK and Benzilla’s label-mate Toki Wright released A Different Mirror which I gave a nod in the post I made a couple months back about McNally Smith College. Mr. Wright just released Black Male, too, a digital-only EP which can be downloaded here for free.
Aside from Paul White, Luck-One & Dekk‘s release, Beautiful Music, was another one of the nice discoveries I made last year. In fact, I don’t know if I’m anticipating a release from any other artist(s) as much as I am the future work of these two. Actually, I’d like to hear more from Aarophat & Illastrate. Their LP together, The Black Noise LP, was on some filthy mcnasty boom-bap type shit.
And, if you haven’t already heard about how fresh Diamond District‘s In the Ruff is, you may as well drive off a cliff. Oddisee, the groups producer and most notable emcee, is definitely one to look out for in the future. I have mentioned him in a couple of past posts — here and here — if you didn’t catch them when they were posted. The first link is to the Oddisee track off of JR & PH7‘s first project together, The Standard, which had appearance’s from Supastition, Black Milk, Pumpkinhead (peep it), Rakka Iriscience, and many more. That was another hype release right there. Rakka appeared on that Cradle Orchestra LP, Velvet Ballads, as well, which I included in my review of the first quarter. Geah.
OTHER NOTABLE RELEASES:
When it comes time to talk critical about Regina Spektor‘s latest LP Far, her production choices have always been at the forefront of the conversation. Is she getting over-produced? Why isn’t Regina recording with just a piano, chair and drumstick? Wah, wah, wah, and so on. The truth is, some artists don’t want to make the same record over and over again. They like to use the connections they have built over their careers. They go through life changes and, in short, their music often changes with them. And, while I would ask for Regina’s hand in marriage (tweet) if she released another Songs or Soviet Kitsch-like record, I also want to see what else she has in her. That said, she has proved with Far (as well as her previous effort Begin to Hope from 2006) that she is still very capable of making some incredible music, even with Jeff Lynne’s old-ass trying his best to mess things up.
I’d discuss this one a little further if I thought anyone visiting TECB gave a shit about my opinion on Far. Feel free to ask, though, if you’d like to talk it out. I’d be happy to pick the album apart in the comment section.
My cousin told me last year that the woman who directs all of Regina Spektor’s music videos, Adria Petty, is actually Tom Petty’s daughter. Somehow I hadn’t figured that out myself, but whatever. Anyway, Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers released The Live Anthology, a four-disc set of live recordings that includes a handful of covers, a few obscure Petty-tracks, and, of course, all the classics. It’s zang.
Swann Notty released another project, Right and Exact, that people are too stupid to buy. It legitimately upsets me how hip-hop heads a) don’t know who Swann is, or b) don’t rep him as one of the best emcees still standing. On the album’s title track, he says: “A lot of folks tell me I’m nice, I’m like ‘No shit!’.” See, even Swann knows he deserves more recognition. Anyway, Right and Exact features Swann at his best over beats by j. Depina, Vertygo, and 9th Wonder.
Recognize or get hospitalized, bitches.
Qwel is another cat who people aren’t checking for nearly as much as they should. He releases more material than the average man releases gas, and, crazy as it may seem, all of it is good. His project’s in ’09, So Be It with Maker and Jump the Gun with Jackson Jones, are no different, either. The two albums couldn’t be more opposite, but that’s what is great about Qwel — he has a special connection with every producer he works with.
By the way, Maker is my favorite producer right now.
Brother Ali always get the TECB stamp of approval, so it’s no surprise how his The Truth Is Here EP was one of my favorites from the first quarter of ’09. Here’s what I had written…
I can’t think of many others that are capable of depicting their rhyme-narratives as clearly and consistently as Ali. He is truly one of the best lyricists in the history of hip-hop, and his performance on The Truth is Here — accompanied by some of Ant’s best production to date — easily supports my claim.
Us, the LP he released six-months later, was pretty nice, too. Ali is another cat I’d vouch for as one of the best alive, even with my TECB-homie FrO’Doyle telling me he sounds like a Muppet each time I speak of the Big Brother. Never Better, the latest from Doomtree member P.O.S., was another quality release from last year. Rhymesayers really did their thing in ’09. (And they’re already back at it in 2010.)
Verbal and I copped the new album from The Mars Volta, Octahedron, right when it hit stores. We both pretty much endorse anything and everything by those guys. (They’re basically a modern-day version of Rush.) Plus, it can never hurt when a guitar virtuoso like John Frusciante contributes to your album. Speaking of the ex-RHCP, I also bought Cage The Elephant‘s self titled debut which reminds me, at times, a little of the Chili Pepper’s mixed with a bunch of The Black Crows.
The album is way better than I had anticipated. Word.
Oh, and, before I forget to do so (because I lost this), let me get a quick word in about Big Tone‘s The Art of Ink. It’s stupid fresh. The Midwest pretty much ran music in ’09, and will probably continue to do so for the next few years.
At the beginning of 2010 I wrote entries on Anni Rossi‘s newest (Rockwell), The Grouch & Eligh‘s second project together (Say G&E), as well as Blame One‘s Days Chasing Days. They’re all great, and so is that BlakRoc joint (the Black Keys x Dame Dash project). “Ain’t Nothing Like You (Hoochie Coo)” is probably my favorite track from last year. No joke. Jim Jones kills that shit. So do the Keys, of course. Alright, and Mos is dece, too.
Double Barrel, Marco Polo and Torae‘s LP together, is some fine boom-bap rap that weighs-in approximately 100-times better than Tor’s previous work, Daily Conversation. Verbal and I posted a couple of tracks off Double Barrel in the past if you wanted to give them a listen (his & mine).
My favorite ’09 instrumental album that wasn’t from Paul White has to be Onra‘s 1.0.8. I check for everything from Onra after I heard Chinoiseries for the first time, and, believe me, not a single thing I’ve heard from him has been weak like clock-radio speakers.
El Michels Affair had a dope LP, Enter the 37th Chamber, where they took a bunch of RZA-produced Wu-Tang beats and reinterpreted them through live instrumentation. Someone from WRIU put me on to these dudes. Good looks, whichever one of you it was.
Edan‘s Echo Party wasn’t exactly an instrumental album, but he doesn’t spit a line on it so I figured this section would still be appropriate. Anyway, I’m getting tired of sitting in front of the computer (I’m sure you are, too, if you’re actually reading and/or listening to any of this), so I’ll let Chris Faraone do the talking on this one. His review, over at Jump The Turnstyle, is spot-on.
I gave Kegs One and Jeff Jabz‘s As Fate Would Have It, Blueprint‘s Sign Language, and Madlib‘s Beat Konducta Vol. 5-6 a mention in my first quarter post. They we’re all nice (Madlib being my favorite), as was Bugs In Ya’ Teef, the instrumental project put together by up-and-coming Rhode Island producer Falside, which I wrote about back when it first hit the net.
Fuck mixtapes. (Especially the ones that aren’t mixed.) The only good one I heard this year was Sterby Rock‘s The Prestige. Download it here.
Blaq Poet & DJ Premier – The Blaqprint: I fully expected this album, like many others from ’09, to be an instant classic. Somehow it’s not, but at least it’s better than that piece of trash Street Hop (the only mention I’ll give the newest Royce).
M.O.P. – The Foundation: Totally forgettable. The Foundation is easily my least favorite release from the two, and it’s only missing “The Worst” section because of M.O.P.’s prior awesomeness. And because they’d stomp the shit out of me if I put it there.
DJ Spinna – Sonic Smash: I liked the majority of the production and it pretty much ended there. Sonic Smash had some potential, but so many emcee’s on here are half-assed or, frankly, not that good. At least J-Treds came out of obscurity to put in some work…
Skyzoo – The Salvation: This LP was just aiyt. Unfortunate, because I think SK gets nice.
Kam Moye (Supastition) – Splitting Image: This guy is one of my favorite emcees at the moment. It’s too bad all of his projects to date have suffered from poor production choices. However, I think Supa’s best is still in front of him.
Tiye Phoenix – Half Woman Half Amazin’: Babygrande released this. Moving on.
Illogic & Ill Poetic – Diabolical Fun: This one was featured in my first quarter review, but I’m not that crazy about it anymore.
DJ JS-1 – Ground Original 2: No Sell Out: I wrote about the second installment in JS’s Ground Original series a couple months ago. (Read it here.) My thoughts haven’t changed.
People Under The Stairs – Carried Away: The duo’s seventh album together is pretty good, but, when it comes time to play favorites, Carried Away is sitting in close to last place out of all the P.U.T.S. releases.
Cormega – Born and Raised: There wasn’t much preciseness exhaled onto this release, and the production is reminiscent of Termanology’s Politics As Usual (weak production from (formerly?) good producers).
KRS-One & Buckshot – Survival Skills: One of the worst album cover’s ever, but at least there were a few standout tracks. In my opinion, KRS steals the album…
Although, I wouldn’t say that’s an unbelievable accomplishment.
Wu-Tang Clan – Chamber Music: We were all hoping for another Wu-Chronicle-type release with this one, but didn’t exactly get what we wanted. While a few of the tracks are great, RZA talks through what seems like the entire album. If I had known that, I would have just skipped Chamber Music and bought The Tao of Wu.
Raekwon – Only Built For Cuban Linx… Pt. II: Over ten years of anticipation ends in a handful of Ghostface verses, a nice ODB tribute, and a recycled (third time, by my count) J.Dilla beat.
Stoupe – Decalouge: It’s no surprise this album blows — Stoupe hasn’t done much special since Visions of Ghandi and Babygrande continues to release dog shit release after dog shit release. The Supastition track is all that’s worth hearing…
Alchemist – Chemical Warfare: Al is another producer who has slowly slipped over his career. He’s also a pain in the ass to listen to on the mic. Again, only one good cut on this release…
B-Real – Smoke N Mirrors: From the first quarter.
Breez Evaflowin – Breez Deez Treez: I don’t even know what happened here. I’ve always repped Breez, but this entire album sounds like it was written (and produced) while nodding in-and-out of sleep.
Kurious – II: The sophomore slump of a lifetime. Should have been called Deuce.
Tash – Control Freak: Man, Amalgam Digital must have had to drug the person who wrote this press release (and the Kurious one) …
“Control Freek” is full of clever wordplay and shrewd insight from the some of the rap world’s most beloved pioneers, and the combination of comical outbursts, ghetto adages, and bouncing melodies shed a welcome light on the state of hip hop today. In just one listen, Tash takes his audience on an extraordinary coast-to-coast journey almost two decades in the making—and there’s no doubt he retains control brilliantly throughout the ride.
Ugh, forget all those words and read this: Tash is one of many dope emcee’s that will never release a solo album that justifies his talent. The only positive thing I’ll say about Control Freek is that it’s slightly better than all the other releases in this section.
Cage – Depart From Me: Remember everything I wrote at the top of this post about E&A’s By The Throat? Well, imagine all I had described there and turn it into a complete failure. Then you’ll have Depart From Me. It’s annoying and painful to listen to.
DJ Honda – IV: You know, if it wasn’t for a Fred Durst appearance and a Sean Price song that gives the awfulness of “Mess You Made” a run for its money, I wouldn’t think DJ Honda’s IV is so trashy.
Monsters of Folk – Monsters of Folk: I bought this album because I read a bunch of good press about it. Journalists were comparing these guys to Traveling Wilburys, although members of MOF always seemed to resent the comparison. If I was a “Monster of Folk” I’d be happy to get a comparison to anyone who isn’t as bad as New Kids On The Block, but these guys were too cool for school when it came to taking a compliment. Anyway, the album is nothing better than a big, gay love-letter to God. It’s overkill. It’s boring. It’s perfectly in place at the bottom of “The Worst.” Don’t let anyone tell you different. I’m ashamed I even bought this one. It’ll be in the used section of Newbury Comics the next time I go.
There’s a bunch of other releases (Greymaker, Til The Casket Drops, Oasis, Sojouralism, Fruit of the Past, Brooklynati, and a few more) I was never able to get my hands on, but I’ll be leaving my thoughts in the comment section when I do.
Until then, your feedback, whether positive or negative, is much appreciated, along with any other suggestions on albums I may have overlooked.
And, lastly, don’t be affraid to spread the link.
Filed under: 401 Gettin' It Done, Album Talk/Review, For All The Broke Willies, Hip-Hop, Instrumental, Music, This Is Not Hip-Hop Tagged: | 1.0.8, A Different Mirror, A Pipe Dream and a Promise, A Strange Arrangement, Aarophat & Illastrate, An Album Called Life, As Fate Would Have It, Beat Konducta Vol. 5-6, Beautiful Music, Benzilla, Big Tone, BK-One, Black Keys, Black Noise, Blakroc, Blame One, Blueprint, Boy Meets World, Brother Ali, By the Throat, Cage The Elephant, Carried Away, Cradle Orchestra, Dame Dash, Days Chasing Days, Diamond District, Double Barrel, Double K, Echo Party, Edan, Eels, El Michels Affair, Elvis 75: Good Rockin' Tonight, Elvis Presely, Enter the 37th Chamber, Exile, Eyedea & Abilities, Falside, Far, Fashawn, Fedd Hill, Finale, Fly Casual Records, Galapagos 4, Glow in the Dark Records, Glow Like This, Hombre Lobo: 12 Songs of Desire, Illmaculate, In the Ruff, j.DePina, Jackson Jones, Jahpan, John Fruciante, JR & PH7, Jump the Gun, Kegs One and Jeff Jabz, Live at Reading, Luck-One & Dekk, Madlib, Maker, Marco Polo, Mayer Hawthorne, MC Esoteric, Mekalek, Never Better, Nirvana, Octahedron, Oddisee, One Eye Open EP, One-Handed Music, Only One, Onra, P.O.S., P.U.T.S., Paul White, People Under The Stairs, Police Brutality, Qwel, Radio Do Canibal, Regina Spektor, Rhymesayers, Right And Exact, Rockwell, Saving Seamus Ryan, Serve or Suffer, Sign Language, So Be It, Sounds From the Skylight, Sterby Rock, Stones Throw, Swann Notty, The Art of Ink, The Black Noise LP, The Grouch and Eligh, The Live Anthology, The Mars Volta, The Prestige, The Punch Drummer EP, The Standard, The Strange Dreams of Paul White, The Truth is Here, Thes One, Toki Wright, Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers, Torae, Us, Velvet Ballads, Vertygo