Normally I would tell you what my favorite album of the year was, but really it was more about my favorite phenomenon of the year. Anyone who knows me even casually could guess that I’m talking about Odd Future. If you held a gun to my head and made me pick my favorite album it was Goblin by Tyler, the Creator. But every single thing that Odd Future put out this year is worth talking about. Domo Genesis’ Under the Influence mixtape, Mike G’s Award Tour EP, and the absolutely breathtaking Purple Naked Ladies by The Internet.
Tyler, the Creator – Goblin (XL Recordings)
Goblin, the “Empire Strikes Back” of the three part narrative that began with 2009’s Bastard and will conclude with this year’s Wolf is an absolutely dizzying bloated album. It’s well over an hour long, picks up right where Bastard left off, and ends with some of the most batshit insanity you’ll ever hear on an album. Yet if you’re invested it’s by far one of the most creative and refreshing pieces of music put out in 2011. By far and away Goblin is not for everyone (anyone?) but if you can penetrate the layer of insanity that surrounds it you will be rewarded.
While it doesn’t get a physical release until next week The Internet’s debut album has been available digitally since a few days before Christmas. Forget about the fact that this album shows just how scary talented the members of Odd Future are and revel in the fact that this is just a great fucked up R&B album. It’s incredible that a bunch of teenagers can take a genre and turn it completely on its head. Drake wouldn’t dare make an album that sounded like this. Usher would never come near this level of genius and this is only their first album.
Frank Ocean – Nostalgia/Ultra (Self Released)
Before you heard his debut album you already heard Frank Ocean’s songs. He wrote for Justin Bieber, John Legend, and many other famous singers, but in his spare time he was quietly toiling away on his solo debut. Once he turned it in to Def Jam things went south. It had too many samples on it, it was too weird, maybe there was no big hit. So his friends in Odd Future said, fuck it, do what we do and just give it away. Needless to say the rest is history. It was downloaded hundreds of thousands of times and suddenly Mr. Ocean was back in Def Jam’s good graces. He ended up writing songs for Nas and Beyonce, and most famously appeared on not 1 but 2 tracks on Watch the Throne. Nostalgia/Ultra does not come easy and you will wonder just what the hell is going on, but you will find favorite tracks and then you’ll listen to the track after that until you have fallen in love with the whole album. All that’s left is to wonder why you can’t buy it.
Jay Z & Kanye West – Watch the Throne (Def Jam)
It’s not perfect, but it is cray.
Childish Gambino – Camp (Glassnote Records)
I don’t know what it is about this album that bugs me so much. Too polished? Too clever for its own good? It tires too hard? Still the good outweighs the bad and it has definitely grown on me. You could do a lot worse, I just hope Gambino does a lot better next time out.
Moving Mountains – Waves (Triple Crown Records)
Moving Mountains has always been on my radar, and I liked them well enough, but this feels like their first true album. In fact it is. They have only released EPs before. The album is heavy and beautiful like the best Underoath songs but with a pop-rock feel that makes it very accessible. It’s just a good album by a good band. Too bad no one is paying attention. They totally stole the show at last year’s Warped Tour but were playing to MAYBE 40 people. If there was any band that needed saving in 2012 it’s Moving Mountains.
Into It. Over It. – Proper (No Sleep Records)
Chicago’s Into It. Over It. was always pitched to me as “a guy with an acoustic guitar sings heartfelt songs”. I’m kind of over that right now, so when Proper was announced I didn’t think much of it. Then someone told me that this album was with a full band and I gave it a listen. Well, I’m a dummy because this album is absolutely fantastic. It’s a very 2012 take on pop-punk. It tickles the nostalgia centers of my brain while also satisfying my craving for something new. If you were disappointed by the new Blink-182 album give this a shot.
Wilco – The Whole Love (dBpm/Epitaph)
Wilco can do no wrong.
Other albums worth noting are the spectacular Get Up Kids comeback album “There are Rules”, Touche Amore’s “Parting the Sea Between Brightness and Me”, La Dispute’s “Wildlife”, Thursday’s “No Devolucion”, and The Wonder Year’s “Suburbia I’ve Given You All and Now I’m Nothing”
To hear songs from these albums and more check out my Best of 2011 playlist on Spotify.