10. The Roots ft. Big K.R.I.T. – “Make My”
I catch a lot of grief for my lack of hip-hop coverage on this blog. It’s not that I don’t appreciate the genre, I just don’t think I listen enough to justify writing. I won’t bother attempting to explain why “Make My” is a significant contribution to the genre. All I can say is that this is the best damn hip-hop song I have heard in quite some time. In fact, undun, is also on my short list for top albums of the year. So there.
9. The Strokes – “Machu Piccu”
The Strokes’ long-awaited, fourth full-length release, Angles, received mixed reviews from the indie scene at large. Particularly a pesky Chicago blog that I often find myself annoyed and disagreeable with. For years, crictics bitched and moaned about the fact that The Strokes were really just Julian Casablancas. So the boys finally put an album out that represented a team effort and everyone shrugs? I don’t get it. Though Angles failed to make my Top 10 albums of the year, “Machu Piccu” was the track that I found myself returning to most often. Play it loud. It’s better that way.
8. Real Estate – “Out of Tune”
Real Estates’ fall release Days has been slapped with a near universal stamp of approval. Though those types of mass agreement tend to send me running for cover. I have to say, I agree with the masses. This fall release is perfect for a long drive. Though Days tends to mesh together into a single thought for me, I’m particularly drawn to “Out of Tune”. The track is a sleepy, slow roll that requires no deep thinking. It’s just great music, and you know it from the first note.
7. White Denim – “Street Joy”
Austin, TX’s White Denim satisfied my desire for the type of guitar driven jams that I feel the indie scene is lacking with their 2011 release D. The band fits a more traditional rock band formula that falls neatly within my comfort zone. Ironically, “Street Joy” is the one track from the release that doesn’t fit that model. Here, the boys employ a simple recurring acoustic guitar over an ethereal synth line. The song plays like a dream, and what a sweet dream it is.
6. Surfer Blood – “Drinking Problem”
Surfer Blood’s Tarot Classics was another EP that narrowly missed my Top 5 list. For me, “Drinking Problem” was the strongest song on the release. The subject matter was relatable for me. John Paul Pitts sings of not giving a shit about the problems that arise from his substance dependent friends and their various vices, saying “At least I know who my friends are.” Amen brother.
5. Fleet Foxes – “Lorelai”
I missed out on Pitchfork Festival in Chicago this year. Instead, I spent the bulk of the weekend camped out in front of my computer, watching via the interwebs. I can honestly say that Fleet Foxes’ headlining performance was one of my favorite concerts of the year. Chills ran down my spine as Robin Pecknold conquered the Chicago indie scene with staggering renditions of songs from their 2011 release Helplessness Blues. Though my initial enthrallment with the album faded throughout the year, my love for “Lorelai” never left.
4. The Beach Boys – “Heroes and Villains”
The first time I heard this particular version of “Heroes and Villains” was in the opening scene of 2009’s Fantastic Mr. Fox. Those of you that understand the love I feel deep down in my loins for this movie, know that an immediate musical bond was made. The song reappeared on the long anticipated release of The Beach Boys’ original Smile recordings this year. The album is a treat, and this track is a masterpiece.
3. Dirty Gold – “California Sunrise”
Very few songs have the ability to transplant a listener directly into beach front vacation mode. “California Sunrise” is certainly one of those songs. San Diego teens Dirty Gold’s debut ROAR just barely missed my list of Best EP’s from 2011. I don’t think I’ve ever played this song for a group without someone chiming in to ask, “Who the hell are these guys?”
2. Paul Simon – “Rewrite”
I like to consider myself a writer above all else. Good or bad is debatable, but when someone asks what I do, my response is inevitably: I write. I think that’s why I found this Paul Simon track so endearing. Complex, repeating tribal rhythms underscore flawless songwriting on this one. Here, Simon leads his listener on a meditative journey through the mind of an aging writer who has never found a draft he didn’t wish to change. Like the best poems, every one of “Rewrite”‘s words serves a purpose.
1. tUnE-yArDs – “Powa”
What to say about Merrill Garbus? She’s a tough cookie to put into words. To use a cop out, you really have to hear it. I would recommend you start with “Powa”, arguably her most accessible track. Garbus’ unfathomably wide vocal range is on full display, allowing the listener to nearly forget that she is singing, quite graphically, about a woman’s most primal sexual desires. Watch below:
Written by Rob Peoni
On December 6th, legendary hip-hop crew The Roots will release their 13th studio album undun. If “Make My”, the album’s first single featuring Mississippi emcee Big K.R.I.T., is any indication, we can safely expect the same genre bending beats and thought-provoking rhymes that have served as the foundation of this group’s storied career.
“Make My” is an immediate repeat listen, opening with a shaky, ear-tingling synth hook that dissolves into a simple, sleepy snare-driven back beat. The album is the group’s second release since becoming permanent residents of NYC. The Roots perform nightly as the house band for Late Night With Jimmy Fallon. However, the show’s afternoon tapings allow ?uestlove and friends to immerse themselves in the city’s music scene in the evening.
undun follows Wake Up!, their 2010 collaboration with R&B singer John Legend. Though I enjoyed this effort thoroughly, I’m excited for a return to the original formula. The Roots released a video this week that featured the first glimpse of the undun cover art and a black and white Manhattan photoshoot. Check out the new video and stream the first single “Make My” below:
Written by Rob Peoni