By Bert Connelly
ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT EDITOR
Ok so my goal is to start and end this column with Drake references and not to mention him once in the actual body of this article. Here goes. You can thank me later for spending my summer sitting in front of my laptop screen; pouring of music blogs, wondering what vitamin D feels like, taking careful notes and just now discovering that I can set my iTunes to tell me when I added music.
You can also expect me to continue this column for the entirety of the semester, so go ahead and do your homework while I just write about music that I recently read about and listened to. I’ll take this one for the team. Ok, ok let’s get to it. Growing up a white kid in the suburbs left me with a lot of time to sit around and make lists of shit I like, not knowing for certain, but anticipating being able to one day parlay those same skills into a column in the school newspaper at a small liberal arts school in Wisconsin. Dream big, kids. The next 500 words, give or take, is going be a completely objective, unbiased and well-thought-out analysis of the best albums of the summer.
Last thing, before the countdown gets going, this is probably going to be a hip-hop heavy list, as that is where my current interests lie. Oh, last thing for real, Watch the Throne isn’t on here because, while it is solid, it didn’t change the world the way it shouldda, couldda, wouldda had their not been so much planking going on. Also, no order, just digits.
Kendrick Lamar – Section.80
I bought (like, iTunes bought) 3 albums this summer. They were Lil’ B’s I’m Gay, Curren$y’s Weekend at Burnies and this one. Kendrick Lamar was featured on the XXL freshman list this year, based largely on his mixtape O.D. (Overly Dedicated) but his summer release Section.80 was probably the best $9.99 that I spent all summer. From spoken-word verses about being a product of a crime and drug infested Compton community to tongue-twisting verses that make Busta Rhymes wish he could re-write his “Look at Me Now” verse, Section.80 has it all. Check out “A.D.H.D”, “Ronald Regan Era”, “Rigamortis”, “HIIIpower” and “Ab-Souls Outro” immediately.
Shabazz Palaces – Black Up
Little is known about Shabazz Palaces. They are a hip-hop group out of Seattle that used to be Digable Planets. It’s highly experimental, highly creative and highly innovative hip-hop that is hard to stop listening to. So hypnotic I thought I was a chicken. Listen to everything on this album.
The Weeknd – Thursday
Actually though, if you aren’t listening to The Weeknd, I don’t know what you’re doing. The style of hyper raunchy, perfectly mixed R&B that he is helping pioneer is going to be the trend for a minute. His first tape, House of Balloons, which I reviewed last semester, is on most internet lists about best album of the year. Thursday, his follow up joint, does not disappoint in the wake of that album. Get this now for explicit sex, explicit drugs, explicit R&B and the only man in the business that should still be allowed to use autotune. Key tracks: “The Birds Part 1”, “Gone” and “Heaven or Las Vegas.”
Little Dragon – Ritual Union
The first, and eponymous, cut from Ritual Union brings you to the crazy realization that Sweden is blowin’ up right now. You might recognize the lead singer’s voice from their recent collaboration with the Gorillaz, their work with one of the TV on the Radio dudes, the SBTRKT remix or maybe the very recent Syd The Kid (of Odd Future fame) remix. That many cool people can’t be wrong. Check out “Ritual Union”, Shuffle A Dream”, and “Seconds.”
Cults – Cults
I feel weird writing about a band that my boss showed me over the summer, but I would also be remiss if I didn’t write at least a few words about the debut album from this Manhattan based band. At just over a half hour in length, the relatively short album is full of catchy and atmospheric indie-pop bliss. And yeah, those words don’t actually mean anything but the album is seriously incredible. I’m just tired. I don’t know. Listen to “Abducted”, “Go Outside” and “Oh My God.”
Danger Mouse & Daniele Luppi – Rome
This is a super interesting album that apparently took forever (not Detox forever, but still) to complete. In general, I’m a fan of anything Danger Mouse does, so when he decided to team up with Jack White, Norah Jones and Italian composer Daniele Luppi for an album full of jazzy riffs based on spaghetti western scores, I was all about that. I recommend “The Rose With The Broken Neck”, “The World” and “Problem Queen.”
Main Attrakionz – 808s & Dark Grapes
Beats that are as ambient as they are banging, lyrics that are as ignorant as they inspired, features from A$AP Rocky – 808s & Dark Grapes does a lot of things right. Nearly all the producers on here have work with the BasedGod, so you know the music is good. Main Attrakionz has been around for a little while, but this is their most accessible and competent release according to my notes. Check out “Bossalinis & Fooliyones pt. 2”, “Take 1” and “Perfect Skies.”
Don Trip & Starlito – Step Brothers
Before you read anymore of this, go to your computer and YouTube, “Don Trip Letter to My Son.” Once you’re done crying download this mixtape. Beats are from famous producers; lyrics are visceral, authentic and (fuck it) awesome. Listen to “Life”, “Hate You 2” and “Out takes.”
Arctic Monkeys – Suck It and See
As an unashamed Arctic Monkeys fan this album had to make my list. In my mind, and for my money, these guys continue to be the smartest songwriters in rock and roll. Their once garage rock sound has evolved over the years, but it seems as though they have found their niche with a lot of bass-driven stuff on Suck It and See. I recommend “The Hellcat Spangled Shalalala”, “Don’t Sit Down ‘Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair” and “Brick by Brick.”
Random Axe – Random Axe
Black Milk, the man behind the beats on this product, recently put out some work with the aforementioned Jack White, but before that he put out Random Axe. Random Axe is a group comprised of Black Milk, Guilty Simpson and Sean Price. It’s one of the most accessible and listenable hip-hop albums that came out this summer. The sound is a bit of a throwback but the slow beat progression and flute sounds fit right in place with the styles of Guilty and Price. Hit up “Jahphy Joe”, The Hex” and “Monster Babies.”
Other Summer Albums You Should Listen To/Spotify:
Bon Iver – Bon Iver
Danny Brown – XXX
Battles – Gloss Drop
Davinci – Feast or Famine
Waka Flocka Flame (& Gucci Mane) – Kevin DuFLOCKArant (&Ferrari Boyz)
The Antlers – Burst Apart
Handsome Furs – Sound Kapital
Lil’ Wayne – Tha Carter IV: Yeah, this album sucks but I also thought Tha Carter III sucked and now I listen to it all the time, so it might be worth listening to now just so you can say you did and win all your hipster battles. I’m just saying he can do better. BAM.