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September 06, 2011 - Image 40

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2011-09-06

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6D - Tuesday, September 6,;2011


The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

1. Kanye West, My
Beautiful Dark Twisted
This is an
Kanye West naysayers of the
past year, it's officially time to '
get over yourselves. You can
claim he's a douchebag. You can The name o
whine about his embarrassingly this album
rude treatment of Taylor Swift.
You can even say 808s & Heart-
break sucked. Fine. But on My
Beautiful Dark Twisted Fan-
tasy, Mr. West has resoundingly
absolved himself of any and all COURTESY OFDEF JAM COURTESY OF NONESUCH
public besmirching.
Unfailingly complex and as
blatantly confident as Yeezy
himself, the album is forever
describable: apologetic, honest,
chauvinistic, egotistic, ecstatic,
ridiculous, catchy, dark, twist-
ed - but most of all, it's beauti-
ful. MBDTF has the originality
of College Dropout, the studio
expertise of Late Registration,
the swagger of Graduation and
the emotional airing-out of 808s
& Heartbreak. Of course, West
was not alone in creating this
grandeur - the album is roy-
ally stacked with a barrage of
respected guests - with Nicki 4. The National, High 7. Big Boi, Sir Luciou
Minaj, Jay-Z, Bon Iver and Kid Violet Foot
Cudi among the prestigious
assortment. There's something to be said Listening to Sir Lucio
Kanye West wants to be (or about the eternal listenability of Foot, it's easy to forget
already considers himself) "the High Violet. There are no obvi- due three years ago. La
best rapper alive." He may not ous, catchy hooks, no gut-bust- ties, delayed release da
have officially won the crown- ingguitar solos, no sing-alonghit the removal of a certain
ing title just yet, but he did suc- singles. Here, The National rev- Stacks kept it behind th
ceed in making the best album els in its finesse for understate- But Left Foot doesn't sou
of the year - although it seems ment - these guys are experts on In fact, it sounds so far a
unlikely that this will satisfy 'Ye subtlety, masters of raw emotion hip-pop's better chartit
for long. without sounding overwrought, that it could drop next y





is Left
us Left
it was
bel bat-
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n Three
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1. Cee-Lo Green, "Fuck
An unlikely trend in recent
years has birthed songs like
OutKast's "Hey Ya!" and Amy
Winehouse's "Rehab." These
Grammy-winning, chart-topping
tracks have roots in Motown-
influenced rhythm and blues, but
transcend that listening audience
with sing-along choruses that
create ultimate appeal. With a
tambourine flick, Cee-Lo adds
a bit of vulgarity to this canon,

quite-apologies we never thought
we'd hear - plus that excellent
line about the emailed penis pic
- all over that same four-note
motif. Piano is all about push-
ing the right keys at the right
time, and Kanye West is so used
to pushing buttons that hitting
the same one three times is all it
takes for him to make heads turn.
3. Katy Perry, "Teenage

You" is
do the
of sha
tence a
ment a
for the
cut anc
and fo
ter ho
lone p

panied by a couple of Tracks with heavy rota-
chords, vitally contagious tion on mainstream radio don't
m guitar and some snarky often have a lot of longevity.
p singers. At itscore, "Fuck Katy Perry's seemingly cliche-
astatementsong. Not only laden hit "Teenage Dream" had
lyrics address the problem a guileless charm that outlasted
low, gold-digging ex-girl- every oversexed party track that
s, but the song's very exis- saturates the Top 40. Perry's
is a Top-10 hit confronts its wistful refrain "we'll be young
rune-obsessed peers, who forever" struck a few chords
ute the compelling instru- and dominated the charts. She
rrangements of yesteryear took a few seemingly played-out
same stale beats that are cliches and turned them into a
d pasted from each fleeting dreamy, nostalgic romp on the
rgettable track. So no mat- beach to which anyone who has
w your musical compass ever had a crush can relate. The
s itself, don't be ashamed to track is a simple love song with
ce this instant classic - it's low expectations ("You think
iably the year's best song. I'm pretty without any makeup
- DAVID RIVA on / You think I'm funny when I
tell the punch line wrong") as it
2. Kanye West, drifts along until Perry explodes
ew"Runaway" with passion for her ideal lover.
"Teenage Dream" appealed to
w nice for Kanye West that the lowest common denomina-
simply hearing the same or in all of us. She made a quiet,
iano note repeated three universal dream a triumphant
over and then once more reality.

ated REgine Chassagne truly
is. The wife of frontman Win
Butler and occasional vocalist
delivered her most memorable
performance to date on a song
about being silenced in the face
of an unbreakable yet non-tyran-
nical repression. The protago-
nist describes her mall-ridden,
clock-in-clock-out surroundings
as a source of creative stagnation,
similar to the artistic restraints
that have been unintentionally
imposed on Chassagne over time.
How's that for art imitating real
life? Thematic and lyrical content
aside, the track is musically sig-
nificant because it marks Arcade
Fire's first foray into disco. A
thumping beat lays the ground-
work for the seven-piece group
to crescendo in its signature
anthemic style, and a darkly col-
ored breakdown makes way for a
hopeful coda, encapsulating the
grim and uplifting ping-ponging
of the album.
5. Vampire Weekend,
"Giving Up The Gun"
The Upper East Side band of
prepsters - Vampire Weekend
- is known for producing some
lyrically challenging, but unbe-
lievably catchy tunes. Though
listeners may get tongue-tied
trying to spit out the words, "Giv-
ing Up The Gun," from the band's
second album, Contra, includes
mesmerizing piano plinks, a call-
and-response hook and a music
video cameo by Jake Gyllenhaal
in tennis shorts - come on, isn't
that just what every great indie
single needs? Ezra Koenig's
charming vocals with a Greek
Bouzouki sound creates a light,
airy atmosphere with a hint of
sophistication. Clearly, Vampire
Weekend keeps it classy - yet

at a lower octave, millions of lis-
teners instantly knew it was him.
That's all it takes; the repetition
a half-step below just proves it.
Toasting douchebags at the 2010
VMAs just a year after West's
(arguably) biggest douche move
ever at the 2009 show, "Run-
away" gave us all the Yeezy bra-
vado we could hope for in 2010.
It also gave us all the Yeezy not-

2. Arcade I

Fire, The

4. Arcade Fire, "Sprawl
II (Mountains Beyond
Despite all of its successes,
The Suburbs has one obvious,
glaring flaw. "Sprawl II" in par-
ticular brought to light just how
underused and underappreci-

Suburban discontent - it's not
exactly glossed over in contem-
porary art. So how to give a new
take on such a worn-out subject?
On The Suburbs, Arcade Fire
doesn't try to create some over-
cooked raison d'etre for the hum-
of urbanity. Each track provides
a window into the ubiquitous
suburban home, but with mini-
mal judgment and irony.
Frontman Win Butler is
always either one of "the kids,"
or a guy looking at a faded pho-
tograph vaguely remembering
when he was. It's because Arcade
Fire doesn't hold up any pretense
of "getting" suburbia any better
than its fans do that The Suburbs
has sprawled its way to the top.
Who hasn't seen ghostly malls
tower above infinite stretches
of flat pavement like "Moun-
tains Beyond Mountains?" And
what college kid can't relate to
old friends rebelling and drift-
ing as time passes in "Suburban
War?" Itching guitars and rising
multi-voice choruses frame But-
ler and co.'s confused nostalgia
for a childhood ill-spent - one
that much of America shares,
but that's rarely laid out so flat.
It's not a new concept. But, like
the suburbs themselves, we keep
wanting to go back.
3. Beach House, Teen
When it comes to towering
heartachey melodies, Beach
House had everyone else beat
this year. Vocalist Victoria
Legrand's spectral balancing
act between Herculean mother
and smoky seductress honestly
makes 99 percent of indie rock
starlets sound like acid-washed
teeny hoppers. And Alex Scs-
ly's clean-picked, merry-go-
round guitar parts take the
word "catchy," slow it down
to half its tempo and project
it onto the folds of your heart
tissue (along with mountains
of nostalgia-oozing reverb).
Beach House may have settled
into its sound, but the net effect
feels more like a remedial bowl
of time-tested chicken noodle
soup than a lazy attempt to
cash in on a comfortable for-
mula. On Teen Dream, the
arrangements are lusher and
swoopier, feeling less conjured
by humans than anything off
Devotion. And having leaked
over a year ago, the album has
already heftily transcended
flash-in-the-pan status - this
is a record we're going to be lis-
tening to for years to come.

connoisseurs of tasteful expres-
sion. Aided by Matt Berninger's
arresting baritone, The National
has produced some of the most
finely layered instrumentation
of the last few years. From the
apprehensive guitars on "Afraid
of Everyone" to the closest thing
The National has ever come to
a pop song with "Lemonworld"
to the rousing reprise of pen-
ultimate track "England," The
National has outcrafted itself
(a feat many feared would be
impossible after 2007's superb
Boxer). Once again, The National
has proved not only its impecca-
ble skill in the studio, but also for
writing 11 songs that crawl into
your brain and stay there.'
5. The Black Keys,
The bluesy duo has done it
again. The Black Keys' sixth
studio album, Brothers, has
breached the charts and our Best
of 2010 list. This album is a com-
pilation of American blues rock
at its finest. With a soul sound
and rich guitar riffs, The Black
Keys create a sound unique to
the times. Vocalist Dan Auer-
bach brings the sultry and soul-
ful vocals with a rusty, raspy
tone that goes well with the rest
of the album. Tracks like "Tight-
en Up" and "Everlasting Light"
showcase the exacting unique-
ness and bluesy-ness with tam-
bourine-sprinkled backgrounds
and a captivating drumbeat.
Each track has an exceptional
sound that makes it stand out
from the others, but still con-
nects the album as a whole.
The Black Keys take 'listeners
on a modern Motown ride with
Brothers - and frankly, we don't
exactly want to get off.
6. Titus Andronicus, The
Like Conor Oberst fronting
the E Street Band, Patrick Stick-
les' lovelorn tales of drunken
revelry and wasted youth were
as epic as they were affecting.
Shot through with a loose sto-
ryline surrounding the Civil
War, each of The Monitor's ten
tracks - many containing mul-
tiple movements of their own
- sounds on the verge of total
collapse. When a track does col-
lapse, aswell placed spoken-word
excerpt from Abraham Lincoln
or Walt Whitman (voiced by The
Hold Steady's Craig Finn) was
there to pick up the pieces. As
dramatic as the band is on tape,
festivalgoers were treated to a
new mess altogether - live Titus
provided a noisier alternative to
the chillwavers and solidified
a war-torn rallying cry: Titus
Andronicus Forever!

still sound fresh. Taking the
best aspects of OutKast's influ-
ences and crystallizing them to a
funky, charming and nasty set of
jams, Big Boi's solo debut proves
that Chico Dusty's son can do
just fine all on his lonesome.
8. LCD Soundsystem, This
is Happening
LCD Soundsystem helped
define 2010's sound with the
atmospheric, deliciously synthy
This is Happening. Aging hip-
ster frontman James Murphy
crafted an expansive, often pain-
fully self-conscious album that
sounds simultaneously vintage
and modern. The albumhas afre-
netic pace and features Murphy's
neurotic, often melancholy lyr-
ics over dancy electro. The ram-
bly opener "Dance Yrself Clean"
starts out slow, but as Murphy
wistfully looks back on old
friendships, the synth explodes
into a full-blown dance track that
sets the pace for the rest of the
record. Nostalgic and dynamic,
the album is a finely tuned piece
of art with plenty of soul.
9. Gorillaz, Plastic Beach
Plastic Beach is superficially
a critique of the artificial. How-
ever, as it progresses, it smoothly
transcends into a celebration of
synthesis through the creation of
its own genre. It begins with an
orchestral intro, and never fails
to surprise as it rises into bouts
of rap and then ebbs into bal-
lads. Where else can Snoop Dogg
be found tracks away from Lou
Reed? How else would Mos Def
share a song with R&B singer
Bobby Womack? Plastic Beach
effectually describes itself by
deftly blending various styles of
music together into a single har-
monic polymer.
10. The Roots, HowI Got
The Roots made one of the
most surprising albums of the
year. How I Got Over features
characteristically clever lyr-
ics grappling with heavy issues
like politics and religion but also
dabbles in funk on tracks like
"Right On" and reinvents indie
rock group Monsters of Folk's
song "Dear God 2.0" with shock-
ing success. The title track is one
of the highlights and may very
well contain this album's thesis
statement. Black Thought raps
over a tight beat, "First thing
they teach us / Not to give a fuck
/ That type of thinking can't get
you nowhere / Someone has to
care." The Roots engage the lis-
tener and resonate long after the
beats have faded.

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