I confess I underrated House of Balloons when I first heard it. Discovering its potential and beauty in full took me few listens but I am not going to make the same mistake with Echoes of Silence, the third and last part of The Weeknd’s aka Abel Tesfaye’s game-changing cryptic R&B trilogy. It happens that The Weeknd is the real saviour of music as his ideas did not end with the brilliant House of Balloons. What is more, Echoes is his most coherent and solid release (and whisper it, probably the best). The pace comes tamed yet do not fear: the album bursts with great tracks. D.D. is a powerful cover of Dirty Diana by Michael Jackson. It seems now that all the comparisons to King of Pop were not out of place. Outside is way more introverted and is the finest of the string of four majestic songs that make up the core of the record. It has a great xylophone part that just fantastically collates with a deep bass. XO / The Host means a double eargasm. Initiation finds the singer dramatically striving against his demons. Finally, the beat of Same Old Song could be played for all eternity. The aura of darkness envelops those Echoes making the voice of Abel the light to happily get through.

hydrameter: 4/5

Key Tracks: D.D., Initiation, Outside, Same Old Song, XO / The Host

Listen to Outside: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=umvomiY7804

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It may be a little hard for Missy Elliott to regain the crown for the Queen of Hip-Hop taking into account the current star status of Nicki Minaj. Pink Friday performed extremely well and became one of the most talked about rap albums in a while. Yet, full of A-list appearances (Drake, Eminem, Kanye, Rihanna, and others) and perfectly produced, it disappointed some people. It is just they expected something different. The cover depicting the Trinidadian-born rapper as a Barbie did not come as ironic. Indeed, many of those tracks are of bubblegum nature as the whole LP turns in pop direction way too often. There is nothing wrong with sweet beats: Super Bass is simply excellent and no wonder it became Minaj’s signature tune. However, as almost any hip-hop album, Pink Friday is long and that dose of electropop makes it feel sugary and ultimately sickly. Still, Nicki begins strong with high spiritis of I’m the Best which is followed by even better Roman’s Revenge. On this fierce tune Minaj morphs into Roman Zolanski, one of her alter-egos. Roman is gay, lunatic and raah, raah, like a dungeon dragon – I can only wish he would come by more often. Surprisingly, Eminem’s lines (here as Slim Shady) are not irksome; his anger suits the song perfectly. On the other hand, there are two powerful ballads on Friday that demand extra attention: the drum’n’bass Save Me and the brilliantly Annie-Lennox’s-NoMoreILoveYou’s-sampled Your Love. If you want to buy this record, make sure you’ll go for the deluxe edition as it contains the mentioned Super Bass (the best thing here) and Muny whose electric guitar intro is especially appreciated. It is a shame that those tracks were pushed out in favour of some mediocre tunes from the second half of the LP.

hydrameter: 3/5

Key Tracks: I’m the Best, Muny, Roman’s Revenge, Save Me, Super Bass, Your Love

Watch Super Bass: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4JipHEz53sU&ob=av2e

You do not expect a polite language from a rapper but Rape a pregnant bitch and tell my friends I had a threesome line is pretty hardcore. Goblin, the second LP by Tyler, The Creator (the leader of OFWGKTA, the alternative hip hop collective), is full of venom, (self-)hatred and frustration. Lyrics of bitches giving blow jobs and killing various individuals like stabbing Bruno Mars in his esophagus are as common as hunger in North Korea. Tyler raps over some spendid beats and drumming and does not spare anyone. The opening Goblin is pitiless but demands another listen. Transylvania sounds as if it had been produced by Count Dracula himself. Meanwhile, AU79 is a great instrumental interlude. And I do not have to introduce Yonkers, one of the key black music songs of the last 12 months. This album is dark and depressive but also weirdly enjoyable. Homophobic? Yes. Misogynic? Yes, sir. Very good? You should check for yourself.

hydrameter: 4/5

Key Tracks: Analog, AU79, Fish / Boppin’ Bitch, Goblin, Transylvania, Yonkers

Watch Yonkers: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XSbZidsgMfw

The first great song of 2012 has arrived! And it’s no surprise it’s by Grimes. Listen to Genesis here:

http://pitchfork.com/reviews/tracks/12927-genesis/

Meanwhile, the talented artist has to push back the premiere of her extra-anticipated LP Visions. The good news is she has signed to 4AD. Read more:

http://pitchfork.com/news/44967-grimes-signs-to-4ad-listen-to-new-track-genesis-from-visions/

If the whole album will be as good as Oblivion and Genesis, Visions will kill!!!!!!!!!!!!

After scoring a rather splendid album at the beginning of the year, Toro Y Moi added another release to his spotless collection. Freaking Out EP is a straight-to-dancefloor five-track haven for all those not tired of New Year’s Eve. Bundick did his best to make disco beats ooze from every second of his latest offering. However, I miss the experimental and psychedelic nature of his two albums. All Alone and Freaking Out can get you sweat yet they seem too obvious. Sweet, on the other hand, is a completely different story. Toro Y Moi chops his voice to gorgeous effects. The true showstopper is the final track, I Can Get Love. It is a trance-like club meditation on love that gives the middle finger to the sceptics.

hydrameter: 3/5

Key Tracks: I Can Get Love, Sweet

Listen to I Can Get Love: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qYxtd9naca4

James Blake was undoubtedly one of the most acclaimed artists of the last year. No wonder a lot of people went crazy when it had been announced that he would make a track with Bon Iver, another critics’ favourite. The latter did even better in 2011: his album climbeb to number 2 in the US, received some bloody-fokken-awesome reviews across the globe and the singer-songwriter himself got 4 Grammy nods. Finally, Enough Thunder EP gets a release and… a lot of people simply shrug it off. Wrong! The fourth EP by Blake is not as exceptional as his debut but feels as a natural successor to it. If you liked (or loved, like me) James Blake, Enough Thunder will satisfy you. The opening Once We All Agree is a perfect introduction to this rather dark micro-universe. The instant power of this slow jam comes from a brilliant piano and electronic noise haunting like an echo. It breaks unexpectedly to give us We Might Feel Unsound which is more adventurous (still pretty gloomy, though). Not Long Now explores a similar ground. The mentioned collaboration with Bon Iver comes next. I find it charming, strangely getting close to folk at times. All those auto-tune objections are as lame as they are ridiculous. Fans of Feist’s Limit to Your Love should listen to songs four and six. The first one is another cover (Joni Mitchell this time): straightforward and not as forgettable as the closing track. 

hydrameter: 4/5

Key Tracks: Fall Creek Boys Choir, Not Long Now, Once We All Agree, We Might Feel Unsound

Watch A Case of You: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IG2E3qyFqsw&ob=av2e

2011 in review

January 1, 2012

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,000 times in 2011. If it were a cable car, it would take about 17 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.