The Nextbop staff is compiling its lists of the best albums of 2011 in jazz and all other genres. We’ll release our mass lists during the last week of December but we want to make sure everyone’s individual lists have the chance to shine.
10. Adele – 21 (Columbia)
Adele has got a strong voice and uses it powerfully and gut-wrenchingly. And it is the slow, lamenting ballads that really make this album, since it seems to have started a whole new wave of pop musicians who want to move the emotions, slowly putting an end to all of that spectacle that has been a part of pop music since at least the 90s.
9. Lady Gaga – Born This Way (Interscope)
Lady Gaga is a twist to what has been a very conforming pop music scene recently. Her strange irony in personal image definitely affects the way people listen to her music. So beside the fact that the album is one solid composition after another, it really changes things up in the mainstream.
8. Jamie XX/ Gil Scott Heron – We’re New Here (Young Turks, XL Recordings)
This remix of Gil Scott Heron’s 2010 I’m New Here by a member of the XX is interesting simply because of the choice of artist to remix into a genre that is clearly more drum and bass than anything else. But it works better than you might imagine. The heavy rhythms are perfectly complemented by the then muddy voice of Gil Scott Heron. In any case, each piece really either gets your head bobbing or spinning, depending.
7. Radiohead – The King of Limbs (TBD, XL Recordings)
Radiohead’s releases are always something to look forward to. Just like any recent classic Radiohead work, it blends their expressive-rock perfectly with electronic sounds. The emotion and the power put into each individual piece really make this album a great work of art.
6. Mr Oizo – Stade 2 (Ed Banger Records)
His last album, Lambs Anger, in 2008, was really a masterpiece of French electro music. Let the music speak for itself. The unorthodox structure of his pieces really showcases his own personal voice, and it is for this reason that this music really speaks to the listeners; it comes straight from Mr. Oizo’s head. The 2011 release is a continuation of this style, and it’s exciting to finally have some new material to listen to.
5) The Roots – undun (Def Jam)
The Roots have always been an interesting band, keeping to a more retro aesthetic while still remaining distinctly modern. This album does exactly that, in telling a story of crime in a way that could not express more. This album is worth more than a listen or two; in fact, it really is a masterpiece since it so lyrically catches the essence of the story being told.
4. Justice – Audio, Video, Disco (Ed Banger Records)
After the hit studio album, †, all the way back in 2007, fans were waiting for new material, until finally being given the Civilization EP, to be integrated in Audio, Video, Disco. Justice have, like Mr. Oizo, changed things up in electro. And this album really delivers that sheer power of pure electronic sound that defined their aesthetic in the 2007 studio album. This album also attempts mold their style next to a more arena-rock feel; in terms of power, there’s definitely nothing missing here.
3. Beyoncé – 4 (Columbia)
This album is the first release after her professional separation from her father as manager; this means that her music is much more personal, and stylistically different, new. Beyoncé’s voice is obviously phenomenal, and when set to music she was free to make for her own self, the work is simply phenomenal. It reaches back to funky 80s influences (“Love on Top”), and remixes modern electronic hits (“Run the World (Girls)”), and does an overall amazing job of setting it all to her own musical voice, with all of its unconventional phrasings and awe-inspiring singing; it is maybe the epitome of her career so far.
2.Tyler the Creator – Goblin (XL)
Widely acclaimed, Tyler, the Creator’s debut solo album is one that marks the recent history of hip-hop. The disgusting themes and straight-forward rap really set this album apart from the rest of hip hop, and, in fact, from the rest of humanity. In any case, the young rapper, part of the OFWGKTA (Odd Future Wolfgang Kill Them All) crew, really brings a healthy counterbalance to the mainstream hip-hop scene, full of its shimmering glory, with his own disturbing view on everything. And yet, it seems that even Kanye West loves him, claiming that it is now his “Yonkers” video that is the best of all time.
1. REKS – R.E.K.S. (Showoff/Brick Records)
Rap reached a sort of maturity when it left behind a superficial past, which concerned itself with partying and dancing. It quickly became about the human condition and a hard life on the streets. It became about oppression.
And that rejection of the mainstream echoes, in a way, what happens in jazz. Maybe it is even what allowed hip-hop to move forward and produce a golden age of rap in the 90s, since in rejecting customs, you adopt something new. And not too long ago, rap moved away from its oppressed history straight into the mainstream. It now seems to be stagnating, and pushing rappers like Tyler, the Creator to do the radically opposite of what mainstream rappers are doing when they rap about the good life. But REKS, from Boston, is true to the hip-hop art form, using rap once again as a means of catharsis to reconcile oppression and a hard life. And yet, his lyrics obviously express a willingness to move forward, again echoing jazz (between tradition and innovation). His flow and his lyrics are unconventional, and the beats are modern. In rejecting the mainstream in his lyrics, he really sees the rappers in an authentic hip-hop to be a minority; perhaps it is this oppression that is healthy for rap, fueling the energy in it and pushing it forward. Also, the producers and the DJs to support REKS are all huge talents, from DJ Premier to Pete Rock.