Best of the year, so far

why wait until the end of the year to share your favorite new music, especially since there is so much new music every week, that your favorites in the first half of the year may not survive until the end of the year.

Here are my five six favorites of the year so far in alphabetical order:

James Blake - James Blake

call it post-dubstep, uk bass, electro-soul or whatever you want, but the debut album from youngster James Blake is incredible. an ambitious work that reminds me of Jamie Lidell’s first electro-soul lp, but focuses on texture as much as songwriting. it also showcases a remarkable maturity while still having plenty of room to grow. 

Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues

I ignored Fleet Foxes’ first album for a long time, but completely fell in love with it once I gave it a chance. given that, I wasn’t sure what to expect from a sophomore album, and when the absolutely tremendous Helplessness Blues was debuted back in January, I was almost positive the remainder of the album couldn’t be close to as good.

Needless to say I was wrong, and this is another beautiful work of folk-rock. the songwriting has matured even more with the influences less overt than on their debut and instead seeming to have been incorporated into their DNA.

Seun Kuti - From Africa with Fury: Rise

another sophomore album that defies the myth of the sophomore slump. the latest from the Black President’s youngest son, still working with the core of Fela’s final band, is even more confident and self-assured than his debut.

In contrast to his better known half-brother, Femi Kuti, who’s music mines the Afrofunk/Afropop vein, this is pure Afrobeat that hearkens back to the early days of Fela before the Jazz influences began to exert themselves in the 80s.

even more outspoken than on his debut, I am looking forward to many more albums from this tremendous talent.

Radiohead - King of Limbs

Ever since the amazing Kid A, every Radiohead album has been highly anticipated, however it seems through a combination of quick releases following album announcements and short media attention spans, each consequent album passes out of the collective consciousness even quicker than the one before it.

that’s too bad in the case of King of Limbs, which sees the group really fine tune the rock-electronic hybrid that they have been working with since 2000 better than any album since Kid A.

still very anxious in their songwriting/soundscapes, this album feels less ominous and oppressive that recent outing and contains a strong contender for my favorite Radiohead song ever in ‘Codex’

Raphael Saadiq - Stone Rollin’

I have known of Raphael Saadiq since his days with Tony! Toni! Tone! but haven’t really given a second thought to any of his solo work or much of his production work, but I began to see a lot of chatter about this album early in the year and was blown away by the live set that NPR broadcast from SXSW.

Could the album live up to the live show? it did and more. somehow sounding both retro but of the moment at the same time, it is a slice of just straight up R&B that takes in the full range of sounds from more rock numbers to psychedelic soul.

The Weeknd - House of Balloons

Following in a line from the nu-R&B of Kanye’s 808s & Heartbreaks through Kid Cudi and Drake, The Weeknd expand this sound while adding a touch of Post-Dubstep/UK Bass sound to make a unique hybrid with tons of promise on this free ‘mixtape’ which is just code for ‘they didn’t charge for the album.’

for such a new artist, this is an incredibly cohesive and solid album considering Abel Tesfaye is only 21 and this is his first album. full of sex and drugs this album seems to chart the end of a night clubbing on to the after party and early the next morning with the music and lyrics.

I’ve seen some grumbling about the language and subject matter, which is definitely not suitable for young children or listening at work, with one reviewer saying it’s “so unsafe it should come with a child-proof cap, so dirty that you’ll feel guilty the next time you see your wife.” personally I’m of the mind that this is coming from someone in a particular place culturally and age-wise so this is his experience of life, take it or leave it.

easily my favorite new artist of the year.

2010 so far…

as I am running late in posting my July music list, I thought I would post another late entry and share my fav albums of the year so far. These are the albums that I keep going back to again and again. Will they make the end of the year list? very good chance for all of them but wo can say.

I meant to include 5 but have recently learned that one of my favs—Lindstrom & Christabelle—actually came out in 2009, so without further ado…

Communist Daughter - Soundtrack to the End

The new IT band in MPLS and for good reason. A great mix of alt-country influenced indie rock with deep thought provoking lyrics (and I am not much of a lyrics guy). 

Yeasayer - Odd Blood

Sophomore album from the psychedelic brooklyn group. Initially I wasn’t as keen on this as their debut, but every time I listen to it something else stands out and grabs me. I frequently find songs from the album stuck in my head even when it has been a while since I listened to it.  

LCD Soundsystem - This is Happening

Another album that I was a bit unsure of at first, but now can’t get enough of. so far reaching in its use of so many styles, but it never feels scattershot. Every song feels perfectly put together.  

Janelle Monae - ArchAndroid

another album who’s sound is more about the wide variety of sounds than a single theme. Her ability to weave all these disparate sounds together and still have it feel cohesive is incredibly impressive. Overall it feels like she is picking up where Kelis left off with her early work. I just hope she is able to keep it up and doesn’t succumb to the pressure to take the easy way out.

one of my all time favorite songs