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The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Bring ’em out, bring ’em out!

1) TV on the Radio–Return to Cookie MountainWhen TV on the Radio released its debut LP Desperate Youth, Bloodthirsty Babes, the band was widely speculated to be the savior of indie-rock. With Return to Cookie Mountain, the boys from Brooklyn made good on the prophecy: This is a sonic masterpiece, executed with precise attention to detail and enough creative huevos to let a gamut of ethereal sounds run free. The band one-upped itself by releasing a sophomore album not only headier and more ambitious than its debut, but significantly more cohesive, too. And with the slew of production credits added to its name (working with everyone from The Yeah Yeah Yeahs to David Bowie), it seems evident that TV on the Radio isn’t simply another fashionable flash in the pan.Just listen to “Wolf Like Me” and tell me it isn’t the sound of the second coming. I dare you.

Tied for 2) Clipse–Hell Hath No FuryThe line is so often cited now, it’s almost impossible to ignore: “These are the days of our lives/ And I’m sorry to the fans, but them crackers won’t play ’em fair–Jive.”Pusha T and brother Malice disappeared off the face of hip-hop following one of the most outstanding mainstream rap albums in years (Lord Willin’), leaving real fans jonesing for a solid release from a non-Wu-Tang-affiliated emcee. 2006 saw the duo come back with ire and an ever-growing chip on its collective shoulder. The indictment of Jive Records on the Neptunes-produced “Mr. Me Too” was only the beginning. Far from just marking the return of Pusha T and Malice, Clipse’s record marked the return of innovative, combative, intelligent, felonious rap to the mainstream. Make no mistake, Hell Hath No Fury takes no prisoners. The record label that delayed its release and almost silenced two of the distinctive rap voices of a generation? Called out. The “so-called famous rapper who went straight and now’s tryin’ to tell you how to live?” Called out. The endless wave of imitators biting the Caribbean weirdness of Pharrel, Chad Hugo and their favorite VA cohorts? Called out.Chock full of hits, smoldering with fury, smart enough to package all its emotion into an album that speaks as effortlessly to hipsters as hustlers–how could Hell Hath No Fury be anything BUT one of the best albums of the year?

Tied for 2) Lupe Fiasco–Food & LiquorTime was, being kinda nerdy and riding a skateboard was considered, let’s say, less than gangsta. One unexpected “Kick, Push” later and all that changed.Lupe Fiasco, by working with the best and most varied producers and crafting an album that defies the inherited logic of rap (there are no street anthems glorifying the enterprises of crack, and one is hard-pressed to find a woman objectified on Food & Liquor?at least to the extent to which listeners are accustomed), managed to turn hip-hop on its head. Kick-flips became the new kicks–an obsession pursued with gusto by legions of die-hard fans. Food & Liquor was like The Chronic, only sobering.Oh yeah, and Lupe can s-p-i-t! No crap.

4) Ghostface Killah–FishscaleIf, in a year dominated by hip-hop, Hell Hath No Fury was the triumphant comeback and Food & Liquor was the paradigm-shifter, then Ghostface’s mean-as-a-pitbull-on-blow Fishscale was the reminder that, try as they might, the young guns have a long way to go before they entirely overshadow the old guard.Truth is, it’s not as if Ghostface ever really fell off–pretty much every album with his name on it can be expected to eclipse the status quo?whether or not record sales indicate as much. Tony Starks is a businessman, and his business is blowing the backs out of pretending-a** rappers. Fishscale is no different: With bangers produced by Jus Blaze, MF Doom, RZA et al, Ghostface proves he is not only the most relevant Wu-Tang emcee working today (though that title trades hands often), he proves that–without a doubt–he is the most singular and involved storyteller in rap. His metaphors are dense, his images riveting and nervous, his flow unerringly spectacular–haters can hate, but Ghost knocked it out of the park. Again.

5) Belle & Sebastian–The Life PursuitThe indie-darlings from across the pond went the way of The Beatles with The Life Pursuit, a record that interchanges catchy choruses and affecting ballads with confidence and poise. Truthfully, the only reason The Life Pursuit isn’t number one or number two on this list is for wholly subjective reasons–personally, I just had other records on my mind this year. Please understand that this in no way means that Belle & Sebastian didn’t make one hell of an impressive offering. They did. They did. They did.Listen when people say the world is more beautiful for the music on this record, and we are all lucky to be alive to hear it.

6) Destroyer–Destroyer’s RubiesNo, Dan Bejar’s quirky Canadian quirkiness isn’t for everybody, but if you’re the kind of person who hears a 7-minute-plus song start with the line “Cast myself toward infinity–trust me, I had my reasons” and shivers with joy, then Destroyer’s Rubies is one truly divine gift. Rolling between pitch-perfect pop (“Painter in Your Pocket”) and progressive art-house (“European Oils”) sensibilities–all while maintaining a decidedly unconventional mystique– Destroyer’s Rubies proves that there are still acres and acres of untrodden terrain in the indie-rock universe.

7) The Walkmen–A Hundred Miles OffThe Walkmen cemented its status as a group of indie-darlings with its second full-length LP Bows + Arrows, but it proved its innovation and staying power with its third release, A Hundred Miles Off.An album of slow-build powerhouses and steady-gait sprints, A Hundred Miles displays the spectrum of raw, breathy talent driving one of the most compelling rock outfits in America. That Hundred Miles Off was surrounded with the tumult of dislocation–the band moved from its famous New York studio to Philly–may or may not be the impetus for the album’s decidedly transient tone or not remains to be seen, but the fact remains that something lit a different kind of fire under The Walkmen’s ass, and this is the record that resulted.

8) Cat Power–The GreatestChan Marshal is an insanely gifted train wreck–or such was her reputation until listeners got hold of The Greatest. With the new record, Marshal showed a glimpse of her stable side, and just look at what happened–the intimacy and emotional vulnerability that we all know and love about Cat Power can still be felt, heard and seen, yet a new element (rationality!) is added to the mix, making for an altogether more mature and joyful listening experience. Yes, a big part of Cat Power’s appeal was the potential for Marshal to curl into a fetal ball on stage (or in the studio), but come on–how long can we listen to a breakdown before starting to feel a little guilty? Yay for Chan Marshal feeling OK! Yay for any of us feeling OK!

9) Beirut–Gulag OrchestrarListen, just because a band gets, like, BERHYPE on the Internet doesn’t mean a band sucks. I know it’s enticing to want it to–because, really, screw those dudes! Everyone loves them!–But the truth of the matter is that “Postcards From Italy” is one of the best mixtape songs in years, “Mount Wronclai” is really, really sad underneath its xylophonic veneer (and I can’t figure out why) and the entirety of Gulag Orchestrar is a surreal amalgam of dream-like wails and Old Country nostalgia. Sold!

10) Liars–Drum’s Not DeadSo, Angus Andrew is a w-e-i-r-d-o. That’s a given. That’s why Liars are geniuses–there is really never any expectation of normality on anything the band produces. Angus Andrew is also brilliant, and while he may be one strange mo-fo, he certainly architects some of his most coherent nonsense this critic’s ever heard. Whether Drum’s Not Dead is a concept album revolving around Germanic myth, a soap opera involving two characters named Drum and Mt. Heart Attack(!) or just a chaotic escapade is sonic doom, I don’t know. What I do know: I don’t care. Drum’s Not Dead is intense, percussive, thumping awesomeness. And that’s all
there is to it.

Single of the year: “What You Know”–T.I.How good is “What You Know?” Forget what’s been said about the beat (its stuttering simplicity and epic roll). Forget about the way that T.I.’s drawl mugged the entire rap world with its leaned-out slur and eyebrow-tweaking glare. Forget all about that. You know all about that. How good is the single of the year? So good that the video for the song isn’t even really a video–it’s like a glorified home movie in which T.I. is going?to the airport?–and it’s still the freakin’ coolest thing ever made by man.Pretty ridiculous. Pretty undeniably astonishing.The same can be said for the track itself–on some level, its staying power and infectiousness come largely as a result of its almost D.I.Y aesthetic. There is a feeling of odd sincerity to “What You Know,” and in a year of regal hip-hop, this cut was the diamond in T.I.’s King’s Crown.

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