Bon Iver, Bon Iver by Bon Iver
Bon Iver puts that sophomore slump talk to rest with the release of their second and best album. Where as For Emma was very low key and filled with as much silence as it did music (exaggeration but you get the point), Bon Iver, Bon Iver is a lot more alive and outgoing. This is what sophomore albums should always be, which is an album of growth and progression. Bon Iver doesn’t just try to recreate the sound from For Emma but adds on to it and redefines it. They take risks, use more instruments, and put together something that feels complete. Bon Iver is starting to develop more of a long-term sound here, a sound that is interesting, catchy, and has room to develop. This album is a giant step forward for the band and for me at least this album has made a band I’ve ignored into a band that I’m genuinely excited for the future.
Signature Track: Holocene
The Rip Tide by Beirut
The Rip Tide might not be as nostalgic as Beirut’s last few albums but it is more user friendly. What I mean by that is that it’s still the band you love but it has more of a pop feel to it. Yea, the word “pop” is something you want to avoid as an indie artist but Beirut mixes pop into their sound instead of smother it with it. Because of this The Rip Tide is easier on the ears and contains more relistenable (made up a word) tracks than Beirut’s previous albums. There are a couple of bland tracks (A Candle’s Fire, Payne’s Bay) but overall this is a strong and enjoyable album. With Beirut’s other albums, I kind of admired them more than I loved them. They were nostalgic and somewhat of an escape but now they have made an album that is more of a “album” than it is a novelty and that’s a good progression for the time being. Zach Condon has been making interesting music since he stepped into music world and the Rip Tide is just more proof that Beirut is one of the strongest bands around.
Signature Track: The Rip Tide
Mylo Xyloto by Coldplay
It was never easy to be a Coldplay fan but after this release there really isn’t a lot I can say to defend my boys. Yea it’s not that bad but even I (a pretty decent Coldplay fan) had a hard time finding much to like here. The songs are just too poppy and colorful here. The lyrics are cheesy and the music is just too much of an attack on the ears. Even the more low-key songs sound too simple (and boring) to be pleasant breaks from the deafening noise. I did enjoy some of the music but those songs are comparable to sweet piece of candy, it taste good at first but you’ll regret it when your stomach turns sour. Coldplay’s last couple of albums sounded like a poor man’s Radiohead (that’s a complement) where as now a days they sound more like a poor man’s U2 (that’s not a complement).
Signature Track: Charlie Brown
Cole World: the Sideline Story by J. Cole
J. Cole has been one of the hottest young rappers out there and his debut album became one of the most anticipated hip-hop albums of 2011. The Sideline Story doesn’t deviate to far from the sound of Cole’s mixtapes, which is a good thing and a bad thing. We still get that Cole sound (which is a good mix between blues and rap) but he doesn’t really improve upon on his numerous mixtapes. Why do these set of songs belong on an official album rather than a mixtape, I don’t know. J. Cole basically released his 4th mixtape here and though it’s good, a lot of us are still wondering when his first album will drop.
Signature Track: Breakdown
Watch the Throne by Jay Z and Kanye West
Watch the Throne probably isn’t as good as the two artists previous albums but it is most likely gonna be better than anything that comes out of the hip hop genre this year. The album starts out fast with three great opening tracks but slowly tones down with some very formulaic songs until the album closes on an uplifting note. When we heard that these two artists were teaming up the expectations where high. I mean these are two of the biggest names in the rap game and instead of getting something truly epic, we get a pretty low-key release. I wonder if anyone was watching the throne while they were gone.
Signature Track: N***** in Paris
Carter IV by Lil Wayne
I have never bought into what Lil Wayne has been selling. Yea he’s got some clever lyrics and yea he has a unique voice but for me, at least, Lil Wayne walks that line between entertaining and shallow, and Carter IV is no different. When the album hits, it hits and when it misses, it really misses. The singles here are relatively strong though with the catchy 6 foot, 7 foot and the excellent She Will but other than that most of the songs blend together and carry little to no relevance. The punch lines are getting old, the attacks are quite silly, and the music feels like nothing more than noise for Wayne to talk loudly over. There is stuff to like here and even a song to love (She Will) but not as much as there should have been.
Signature Track: She Will
Blue Slide Park by Mac Miller
Mac Miller is kind of like the Incubus of the rap game. He releases a couple of really cool and unique singles only to release an album that has little to no resemblance to those early tracks. Blue Slide Park is good though, almost really good. The only thing that drags it down is it’s own immaturity. Mac Miller’s raps still leaves something to be desired and some of his tracks are almost to obnoxiously cliché. Up All Night is not only the worst track on the album, it is probably one of the worst tracks I’ve heard all year but I digress. The rest of the album has some really great tracks (Missed Calls, Under the Weather) and those positives outweigh the negatives. I wish that Blue Slide Park would have been filled with a bunch of Donald Trumps or Frick Park Markets but what we get now is good enough. Mac Miller does have a lot of work to do because soon he won’t be new and a lot of us won’t care for more of the same.
Signature Track: Frick Park Market
The Whole Love by Wilco
Wilco hasn’t really been the same since Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. I have enjoyed what they have released since that album but the band does feel like it has been trying to adapt to the indie music of today with ambient sounds and smooth grooves. The Whole Love’s first track is similar to what you would expect from new Wilco but then you have the rest of the album, which feels like a B version of Summerteeth. Wilco is one of the best bands around but this album is just too bland to really love or even really like. The Art of Almost is good but it feels like a copy and paste job and most of the rest of the songs sound like cut songs from Summerteeth. I really love this band and I loved there past few albums but this just feels like something rushed together. Wilco may be a band that, after making their masterpieces, is still searching for their identity.
Signature Track: Black Moon