Archive for November, 2010


Kanye West

My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

Def Jam/Roc-a-Fella

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“I’m trying to right my wrongs/But it’s funny these same wrongs helped me write this song.”  In many ways, these two lines from 2005’s “Touch the Sky” epitomize the Kanye West narrative.  For all the troubles of his personal life, West’s albums serve as a catharsis.  His music is always an honest reflection of his emotions, and over four albums he established himself as one of the few consistently fantastic and innovative artists in pop music.  And My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is no exception.  After having been criticized by everyone from George W. Bush to Barack Obama in the past year, he could have retreated into the same brooding Auto-Tuned electropop of 808s & Heartbreaks; rather, West returns with a triumphant, bold magnum opus that recognizes his hubris is his greatest trait and serves as the climax of his previous records.

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Girls

“Broken Dreams Club”

True Panther

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On last year’s “Hellhole Ratrace,” Girls singer Christopher Owens sang, “I’m all alone with my heartache and my good intentions.” And it’s this same sense of heartbreak that drives the fantastic “Broken Dreams Club,” the title track from the band’s new EP.  But it’s not just Owens’ sorrow: the country-twinged guitars and melancholy trumpet solo underscore the timeless heartache of the song.  When Owens sings, “It’s hard enough to be alone/It’s harder still to spend so long looking for happiness,” it sounds as if he’s being broadcast straight from the 1960s.  Yet despite its nostalgic sound, Girls tap into an emotion that transcends eras and it’s what makes the band so great.

Robyn – “Time Machine”

Robyn

“Time Machine”

Cherrytree

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Robyn’s succesful Body Talk series this past year has solidified what we already knew: she melds dance-pop aesthetics and independent sensibilities and does a fantastic job at it.  “Time Machine” reunites the Swedish chanteuse with producer Max Martin, who helmed her 1997 hit “Show Me Love.”  Even 13 years after first working together, Robyn still serves as the perfect muse to Martin — this is clearly no “DJ Got Us Fallin’ in Love.”  Unlike many of Martin’s recent productions, the track comes across as sincere and inspired; when she sings, “All I want is a DeLorean,” you know she means it.  Robyn releases all of her emotions and leaves this pulsating dance gem with every ounce of regret.  “This ain’t science fiction.”  It certainly isn’t.  This is is pop music: and as good as it gets.


The Morning Benders

“Excuses” (The Golden Filter Remix)

Rough Trade

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The Morning Benders broke out this year with their excellent “Excuses”, a sunny Wall of Sound-inspired jam.  The Golden Filter flip the track on its head and bring out the dark disco track that was lurking underneath.  The remix features Chris Chu’s distorted vocals over ominous synths and a pounding military beat that turns the upbeat track into a 6-minute dirty house epic.

Nicki Minaj

“Blazin'” [feat. Kanye West]

Young Money

After a dizzying run of electrifying guest vocals over the past year, Nicki Minaj was poised for one of the best debut albums of this year.  However, Pink Friday too often forgets that it was her wacky voices and insane raps — not her Auto-Tuned singing — that made her so likable in the first place.  “Blazin'” blends the best of both: Minaj channeling Lady GaGa on the chorus, while commanding the track with her frantic rhymes on the verses.  Kanye West pops up for a verse that, in typical Kanye fashion, drops a flurry of pop culture references from Nolan Ryan to Chariots of Fire.  The beat layers a  flurry of 80’s synths and vocal screams sampled from Simple Minds’ “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” that allows Minaj’s voice to shine.  But despite all her missteps in singing, when the beat drops and she raps acapella, “How could it be little me had the power to be/The best B in the league, yeah, inevitably,” it’s hard not to believe her.

Taylor Swift

Speak Now

Big Machine

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The string of celebrity boyfriends.  The swarms of adoring teenage girls.  The Kanye incident at the VMAs.  As Taylor Swift ascended to superstardom over the past two years, it has been easy to lose sight of one thing: the twenty-one-year-old is a formidable songwriter.  Swift has always had a remarkable penchant for channeling her inner emotions into country-pop songs with massive choruses; “You Belong With Me” perfectly expressed adolescent unrequited love.  Speak Now finds Swift, without any co-writers, maturely confronting her celebrity while still retaining her optimism and sincerity about love.

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