I always feel weird about posthumous releases. Chances are the artist didn't want some of those tracks to see the light of day, unless they were on the verge of completing it (From a Basement on a Hill is a good example where even though most of the album was done, the producers somehow managed to add an entire track of noise to the album due to a recording error). Albums are usually cohesive statements, after all, so any collection created after death will be nothing more than a rough amalgam of tracks that sound somewhat complete. As a result, I don't think it's fair to put New Moon on any top ten list; it just doesn't seem honest.
That being said, New Moon is a solid collection of tracks, and while it might not make the statement Smith himself would have liked, it makes a statement regardless. Two discs long (and with probably the best cover art of any Elliott Smith album to date, admittedly not saying much), most of the tracks were leaked or bootlegged with a few exceptions, but are produced, remastered, or whatever buzzworded really well. It's a valuable album and like with all of Elliott's work, lends itself to that cheesy "a look into a tragic life" stuff that he lends himself so well too. It's clear though, that if this is what he was throwing away at the end, we missed out a lot.
Runner Up- Nick Drake, Family Tree
A LOT of people compare Elliott Smith to Nick Drake. I've never seen the relationship myself other than white dudes on acoustic guitars with talent (I lean more towards Elliott being like Cobain), but it's kind of funny that they both had posthumous releases this year. Drake's Family Tree is just everything left of Nick Drake's work, 28 tracks long. It's a solid album and definitely worth checking out if you haven't, especially if you are a fan of Nick Drake. For me, my love of Elliott Smith overrides Nick Drake, even if apparently fucking EVERYONE thinks they are the same.
Worst Album Cover- Hard Fi, Once Upon a Time in the West
First off, I'm not fucking with you, this is the actual cover (none of which will be posted so you can experience the sudden FUCK of seeing them).
You know, this would be okay if it was a factory error and they forgot to put cover art, but check out this amazing statement from the band's frontman.
“Just like we did with our debut album, we wanted to break the rules. The significance of album covers in general is becoming little more than a centimetre square on an i-pod screen, or at best a 10cm CD. We don’t need some airbrushed band shot just because it might be expected. F*ck that. This is about the music.”
NO YOU STUPID SHIT. This isn't not making an album cover. Do you know how to not make an album cover?
Wow, look how fucking stupid you are. This bullshit stunt got so much press that by the time I heard the album, I was unable to separate the disgust I felt from the "oh we're so fucking clever" shit that I can't even tell if it was a good album.
Fuck you Hard Fi. Congratulations on making the single worst album cover in the world.
Runnerup- David Karsten Daniels, Sharp Teeth
I've met David many many times. Steve is on pretty good talking terms with him. He might even recognize me as the only Indian dude at any local music shows. I've seen him live, alone, with Prayers and Tears, with Physics of Meaning, and a lot of stuff. He's kind of a strange looking fellow, the sort you expect to live in an small apartment decorated by vintage Happy Meal toys and nailed vinyl records. Ikea furniture maybe, run with the analogy if you've got it. He makes good music, though, and Steve hyped this album up, and I was this close to buying it...until I saw the cover.
Jesus fuck me christ. Blind people, blinded from birth, with no sense of shape or anatom because, idk, they lack hands as well, so blind people with no fingers pretty much. They could figure out a better album cover than this. Fuck, that's actually a great idea.
Seriously, this is hideous, and I bet Daniels either got a friend to do it or is, you know, kind of fucking insane, because this cover is so bad I refused to buy the album since it's like something out of a 5 year old David Lynch's nightmare, complete with the drawing ability of a kindergartener.
Best Mixtape- Mick Boogie, Busta Rhymes, and J. Dilla, Dillagence
(For some odd reason the damn thing wouldn't upload the image; grab it anyways off Mick Boogie's site)
Fuck, we miss you Dilla. It's J. Dilla and Busta Rhymes. There's not much left to be said. If Boogie didn't include his little shout out of COMMISSIONER or something, it would be flawless. But this is a sad reminder of what we lost with Dilla; one of the most influential and clever producers we'll probably ever see. It's a new indie kid thing to like Dilla because Pitchfork gave Donuts a huge rating, but talent always shines. Rhymes is more on point here than he was on his last album, but honestly, it's not really about him anyways, as Busta himself says often in the album, an awkward and honest demonstration of how he felt. A cheap shot maybe giving it to Dilla just because he's not here anymore, but it's my list and my call and I made it.
Runnerup- Lil Wayne, Da Drought 3
Fuck this was hard. Part of me wanted to give it to Chamillionaire's fantastic Mixtape Messiah 3, and it's not like there was any shortage of competitors. Clinton Sparks released his entire discography for download, Jadakiss had a great one, DJ Drama released a hilarious southern rap one, the Wu Tang mixtape blew 8 Diagrams away completely (Mathematics, just be the new producer; RZA's gone nuts so step up son), the list goes on and on, but no mixtape was as surprising or solid as Wayne's Da Drought 3.
Finally, Lil Wayne proves that he IS something worth talking about, and he's just everywhere on this album. He mixtapes fucking Crazy by Gnarls Barkley, his short verse on Black Republicans is stunning, Dough is What I Got and the intro track are great takes on played out beats...there's just no way to express how good Da Drought 3 is. And Wayne just came out of fucking nowhere with more skill than he's shown in his entire past discography. If you hate Wayne...nothing will change that. If you want to give him a chance, this is the album you absolutely need to get. He is the stupidest rapper alive, in every sense of that word.
Strange sidenote; Pitchfork put this in their top 100. Bizarre.
Most Disappointing Album- Wu Tang Clan, 8 Diagrams
It might be stupid to put this album here; anyone who was paying attention saw it coming. There was so much internal beef in Wu, what with Dirty's death, Ghost's own lax attitude, RZA's...bizarreness across the board, Raekwon's frustration. Fuck, Inspectah Deck didn't even use a single original line for this new album, indicative of how much he and the rest of Wu cared about it. This was RZA's show, and it's the most boring show on earth. No bangers, no energy, a weak ODB tribute, and a tacked on lost ODB track. Chances are we've seen the end of the Clan; it seems like no one wants to work with RZA and RZA won't compromise.
But dammit, I wanted to BELIEVE. Didn't you? A new Wu Tang album, you fucks! Shit. What a goddam pity this album was.
Runnerup (Three Way Tie)- Rilo Kiley, Under the Blacklight, Interpol, Our Love to Admire, Modest Mouse, We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank
Fuck all of you. You all were finally balancing good mainstream pop with rock sensibilities. You were so fucking close FUCK. Interpol was about to settle in a nice rut, Modest Mouse had just released the fantastic Good News for People Who Love Bad News, and Rilo Kiley had finally struck a balance of indie, rock, and country.
And then they all release the most forgettable albums ever. I think I'm going to delete them at the end of the year.
Fuck you all. You didn't even set high standards, just good ones that you could have met, and we get this shit.
Album I Wish I Could Understand the Love For- Panda Bear, Person Pitch
I like artists that are essentially homages of older ones. Two of my favorite albums last year were Justin Timberlake's and the Hold Steady's, rip offs of Michael Jackson and Springsteen respectively. But where Timberlake and the Hold Steady were logical evolutions, Person Pitch sounds just like shit Brian Wilson would do. As a result...it bores the living shit out of me. If I want to hear Brian Wilsonesque sounds, I'll listen to something from his catalogue.
OH BUT PERSON PITCH IS ORCHESTRAL AND TAKES ELEMENTS FROM COMPLEX blah blah for album of the year on a lot of lists, I sure never want to hear it again! What a boring album. Maybe I just don't really care about Brian Wilson.
Still, yeah, I wish I did get why this was such a great album. Maybe I'm just not ironically hipster white enough :(
Runnerup- Kanye West, Graduation
Confession time. If I had a single rap ambition, it would be to work on an album with Kanye West. EASTER VS KANYE HEHEHEHEHEHEHE but all jokes aside, I like what he does. He's not the most technically skilled (although not as irritatingly breathy as Lupe Fiasco) and he loves to talk about Louis Vuitton (I don't even know if I spelled that right), but I love his production, I love how everyone seems to hate him for saying shit and doing crazy shit, and I just love his attitude in rap.
Which is why it's so frustrating that I can't get into this album. With Panda Bear, it's more like, eh, I don't care. Here, I just can't feel it as much.
Regardless, Graduation will probably be the last time we hear a Kanye like this. As anyone who has followed his career (or just listened to Hey Mama knows), this was all for her pretty much. The sad fact that being rich in fact killed her (he paid for a breast reduction to ease her back pain, and she died in surgery) and that he's lost her now is going to affect his music so Graduation may in fact serve as the last of Kanye's albums like this. Only time will tell, but I really wish I liked this album!
The Worst Fucking Album This Year- Pain of Salvation, Scarsick
I like Pain of Salvation. Their singer rules, they are good guitarists without beingDream Theateresque nausea inducing, their lyrics are usually stupid but kind of cool at the same time. They are a very good band, and it all culminated in 12:5 for me, where they recorded an acoustic set of their music, all drastically altered as if in a new theme and everything. 12:5 is still one of my favorite albums, years after I grew out of prog metal.
Pain of Salvation released an album in like...2004, I think, called Be. It was their attempt to be Genesis, and it fell apart, but it was like the band was showing us, "see? we'll still try! we might not ever be the best, but dammit, we will try!"
And then comes Scarsick.
To describe my disappointment with Scarsick is impossible. Marillion's Somewhere Else was pathetic after Marbles, but it was at least just pathetic, not...not this. PoS went from exploring themes about God and faith (albeit with goofy lyrics about being a rich coke addict, just like Genesis before them), to...to this.
The album opens with the rather forgettable title track that sounds like bullshit Dream Theater. This doesn't even begin to indicate the pure and utter compost that is about to hit your ears.
The next song is a criticism of hiphop rappers being proud they are from the hood. Gildenlow displays a level of ignorance rarely seen outside of middle school kids who will follow the argument with "and ANYONE can rap, really" with some of the most banal lyrics the band has ever made.
Here's a set of lyrics from one of their old albums, a concept album about war, and this one soldier struggling to deal with it:
Sinking through layers of untouched oblivion
soaking from spirits but still far too dry.
Losing all barbed fences
Lucid - no defenses
"Where is my mother?" the child asked the soldier.
The soldier was watching them both fade away.
Not the most subtle of lyrics, but it's still got hints of themes and symbols and all that jazz. Gildenlow isn't a native english speaker which is why it's okay to excuse the blatancy, because the real message here is one that's kind of been well trod at this point; soldiers in war don't ever really come back from war, no matter what they do.
It's not the cleverest set pen has put to paper, but then you get...this. Keep in mind, this is really poorly rapped (if the rest of the album wasn't balls, I'd think maybe it was all a postmodern joke)
it’s a joke
like those you make in every video
to reach the kids with the dough
with every copied “aha yo” and worn out “bro”
guess what we need is yet another clown
who can feed our breed
with another look and hooker hook
now when “bitch” is mundane you take the lead with “wassup ho”
GOOD JOB DANIEL GILDENLOW! YOU SHOWED THEM YOU OBSCURE FUCKING SWEDE PROG FUCK.
Aside from failing to grasp the very basics of mainstream rap, it's kind of interesting that this is what Gildenlow chooses to level a criticism against, instead of mainstream music and money in general, like he did in a previous album. No, it's the uppity negros, so he puts them down not just with this song, Spitfall, but with another one, Cribcaged. Cribcaged is a fucking burn on MTV Cribs. Who fucking watched MTV CRIBS? It also features the funniest line in the world, "The only cribs that we should care for are the ones that we are here for", while a baby gurgles in the background I could not make this up if I tried.
After this is America, a diatribe against the US that could have been fresh and interesting were it not for the fact Gildenlow just kind of rages against America without really any purpose. Hey, it's not like he wrote an entire album saying the world would be a better place if we all cared about one ano...oh.
god bless America and Capitol Hill
‘cause no one else will
so now you are scared
the arabs will kill for their god
like you do for yours?
protect your obesity with your life man
hey - Angry God or Diet Coke?
who cares it’s all a joke
Man, it's not like this doesn't have its share of good lines, particularly the first two, but after that it just degenerates into stereotypes, and that's what most of this album is. It's attacking stereotypes that either don't exist or are badly represented. The fact that Gildenlow has refused to play in the US since 2004 doesn't help matters; his reasoning isn't condemnation of Bush but because US Customs requires out of country tourists to have their fingerprints taken.
FINGERPRINTS. Not the warmongering President. He just wants to keep his fucking FINGERPRINTS. No wonder his song is hopeless out of touch and relying on shit that got old back before Dylan.
The next song almost seems like that attempt of TRYING TO NOT BE SHIT; Disco Queen is just a bizarre combination of 80s disco and prog metal with Gildenlow's voice doing that stupid waaaAAAAUWWWWWwaaaaa thing I love. It also has a neat little double entendre of a woman being both a heroin addicted disco dancer and a record. It's also kind of sexist as fuck, but it's not a bad song.
The rest of the album is forgettable. As in, I can't list the rest of it without looking it up. Nothing here comes close to touching the worst song on Be, save Disco Queen, and that's saying something considering Be featured a musical number done by Donald Trump.
This album sucks. It's vaguely racist, has terrible lyrics (one song repeats the phrase "Fuck the _____" so much I checked to see whether the bands had switched to some anarchopunk shit), the instrumentation is for the most part unimaginative, and it's so goddam boring and when it's not boring it's horrible, and worst of all, it's WRONG.
This was a terrible album and Gildenlow should be ashamed of how heavy handed and ridiculous he was.
Runnerup- Coheed and Cambria, Good Apollo, I'm Burning Star IV, Volume Two: No World for Tomorrow
Goddammit fuck that title. Fuck Coheed and their whiney fucking singer and their obtuse lyrics and their terrible cover art and their guitar shaped dicks and pretty much nothing about them is good.
On the plus side, they have the same appeal as Linkin Park does (I'm rating Coheed below Linkin Park because of that stupid fucking title almost entirely that is how dumb it is (that and Linkin Park pissed off Iron Maiden fans with their album title and that's always funny)) so if you really feel like shitty music to listen to on the bus early in the morning, this is absolutely perfect. I've got a lot of Coheed plays on my iPod because I had a 9:10 class and nothing wakes you up like the bile inducing trill of Claudio Sanchez.
Fuck, that's all for the categories I could think of. Next time: Best Albums of 2007??