This list shouldn’t be a surprise to see anyone who’s checked out my lists on other sites, but it’s worth mentioning them again. If you are a fan of music, you need these five albums in your collection. Before we get there, though-check out how this countdown has shaped up so far.
5. Vampire Weekend, Contra (XL Recordings)
They’re preppies. They’re hipsters. Who the hell cares when they make music this good? Vampire Weekend came out of nowhere (actually, they came out of Columbia University) with the best album of 2008 and they almost repeated the feat two years later. Bouncy jams (aside from the ethereal title track), intelligent lyrics that would be pretentions if they weren’t delivered with a wink, and Ezra Koenig’s boyish voice combined to make Contra the fun summer album of 2010-even if it was released in the dead of winter.
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4. The Black Keys, Brothers (Nonesuch)
Their name is The Black Keys. Their album is called Brothers. They make blues and soul-inflected rock music. Then they turn out to be two white guys. What the hell? I’m kidding, of course, but what’s not funny is the fact that Dan and Patrick made the best album of their career with Brothers. The video for “Tighten Up” pulled me in, but excellent songs like “Next Girl”, “Everlasting Light” and “Never Gonna Give You Up” turned me from a casual fan into someone who would probably sell important personal effects to get into a Black Keys show.
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3. The Roots, How I Got Over (Def Jam)
Best. Band. Making. Music. Today. Period. Thank God we have The Roots in order to counter the likes of Waka Flocka Flame and Soulja Boy. Black Thought’s lyrics get more potent (and poignant) with each passing album, and The Roots’ taste in collaborators gets more eclectic and wide-ranging as time goes by. You’d think that having a regular late night gig would’ve sapped Philly’s finest of their edge, but How I Got Over finds The Roots playing tighter and more focused. I’m already excited to hear what they come up with next.
(and if I can make a personal appeal to the band to PLEASE do a show in Boston. It’s a three-hour drive! Thanks very much.)
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2. Gil Scott-Heron, I’m New Here (XL Recordings)
A testament to the wisdom of age and experience, or at least the compelling nature of someone with life experience sharing his experiences with the world. I’m New Here is a haunting album that is sure to stick in your brain long after the last notes have faded away. It’s an emotionally frank piece of work that’s a worthy successor to Scott-Heron’s groundbreaking work of the Seventies. Only a half-hour long, I’m New Here packs more great music and emotional resonance than albums twice the length.
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1. Kanye West, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (Def Jam)
I still can’t decide whether I’d be able to sit in a room with the guy for more than 30 minutes, but fuck if he didn’t make an absolutely amazing album. I thought my love for it might fade with repeated listens-nope. Regardless of whether you’re a hip-hop fan or not, MBDTF is a triumph-it’s messy, overblown and practically overflowing with hubris, but in the right hands, those qualities translate into genius. It certainly did this time.
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