It is no doubt that 2011 has been a landmark year for the music business. From the domination of Adele, to the rise of the indie rap mixtape, and the new rave culture of Dubstep, music, like the world, is always moving in new and progressive directions. However, with the domination of iTunes and the ability to buy one $1.29 single at a time, an important aspect of the experience is lost – the idea of a person listening to the whole album. This is incredibly unfortunate – real artists make albums with the idea of the whole product in mind. Can you imagine judging the whole validity of The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band on the basis of “When I’m Sixty-Four”? All of the substance and ideas of the record would be lost. That is why I bring you the best albums from September on (in no particular order), in hope that you won’t be afraid to spend that extra eleven dollars.
Das Racist – “Relax”
Despite how this group title might sound like a controversial collection of Germans, Das Racist is one of the most uniquely talented rap groups I have ever heard. Made up of Queens-rapper Heems, California-based Kool A.D., and hype man Dap, DR covers every topic from growing up in an Indian household to eating at White Castle. The unique backgrounds of each of the rappers define the style they bring to the flows they produce and, with beats engineered by Diplo and Rostam Batmanglij (of Vampire Weekend), “Relax” seems effortlessly good. Also where else would you get a rap album that references “Encyclopedia Brown”?
The Black Keys – “El Camino”
This album just recently came out but it is not an exaggeration to say it has not yet stopped playing on my iTunes. The two-person band from Akron, OH reveals more of their amazing talent on this bluesy supernova of a record. From the single “Lonely Boy” (which might have one of the best music videos in recent memory) to the Led Zeppelin-like “Little Black Submarines” (which might have one of the best guitar parts in recent memory), “El Camino” is pretty much everything you could want in an album.
M83 – “Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming”
This past semester, French musician Anthony Gonzalez (better known as M83) was supposed to play a concert at the Brighton Music Hall. However, ticket demand was so extensive that he was moved up to a much larger venue. Although this may seem extreme, anyone who listens to the exceptional “Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming” would understand why this would happen. The album’s title is in no way ironic because Gonzalez’s heavy mix of electronic, indie pop, and a touch of new wave almost makes one feel like they are floating-off to a R.E.M.-realm.
Wilco – “The Whole Love”
Anyone who knows me understands the passion I hold for most 90s-era bands, with Wilco being no exception. Although there were certain elements of “The Whole Love” I wasn’t … well … in “love” with, the unique mix of indie rock and alternative with a touch of country that defines Wilco’s sound is well on display on their most recent release. Here is where the title of the album really dictates the outlines of songs found on it – it truly deals with every type of love. From romantic attachment to loss of a parent, the depth of Wilco’s lyrics really permeates.
Drake – “Take Care”
Okay so this might be a controversial entry but, in the case of albums that have come out in the past semester, I definitely think Drake’s is one of the top. Despite his need to do a little too much auto-tune singing and the use of the word “fuck” in almost every chorus, “Take Care” is a great emotional journey into the psyche of Drake. Unlike a lot of rappers, Drake is not conservative when it comes to laying his personal feelings on the line and, in the best tracks on the album, he does exactly that. Now if only I could get over the fact that he is Wheelchair Jimmy from Degrassi…
Feist – “Metals”
A lot of people might know singer-songwriter Leslie Feist – perhaps not from her involvement in the group Broken Social Scene but most certainly from her “1, 2, 3, 4” iPod commercial. In almost a response to the poppy sensation that song created, “Metals” is much darker and rougher around the edges than previous releases. But it still showcases Feist’s incredible voice (she is one of my absolute favorite vocalists) and amazing songwriting talent.