Favorites of the Year: Albums

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After Retrospective, our best-of-the-decade issue, we decided that we were really tired of numbers. (As humanities majors, counting beyond 10 hurts our heads.) That's why we decided to take a less rigid approach with our annual best-of-the-year lists. Here, we present some of our favorite albums of the year thus far in an unranked, unrestricted fashion, with even more choices online. Quite simply, these works are the ones we loved in 2009.

-Rajesh Srinivasan

So Far Gone, Drake [Self-Released]

Drake isn't your typical MC. His background-growing up in an upper class Toronto neighborhood while acting in the TV show "Degrassi: The Next Generation"-doesn't scream street cred. But he seems unconcerned with squeezing into existing molds. On So Far Gone, Drake undauntedly feels out fresh directions in modern hip-hop. Covering such varied terrain as auto-tuned R&B, Swedish indie-pop, Chopped & Screwed and moody synth beats a la Kanye's 808s & Heartbreak, the young rapper pulls it all together with cocky yet probing rhymes. This powerhouse mixtape might be the year's most exciting, forward-looking hip-hop release.

-David Wagner

Only Built 4 Cuban Linx ... Pt. II, Raekwon [ICEAL]

In 2009, GQ declared that hip-hop's "gangster persona is finally dead." In what comes as no surprise, GQ clearly hasn't listened to the nearly mythical, entirely epic Only Built 4 Cuban Linx Pt. II. If gangsta rap is going down, the Chef's not letting it fall without a fight. By assembling the finest roster of producers since well, ever, for the sequel to his undisputed classic, Raekwon and most of the living Wu-Tang Clansmen (each at the top of their game) never give you a chance to consider that the magazine might be right. Plus, they spelled it "gangster." Psh. Squares.

-Bryan Gerhart

Fever Ray, Fever Ray [Mute U.S.]

Karin Dreijer Andersson, of Swedish electro-weirdos the Knife, set out on her own to produce an album full of cavernous, percussive songs. Though as full of fear and loneliness as the most chilling Knife joints, the tracks on Fever Ray's self-titled debut are somehow more inviting and familiar than the aggressively alien textures of the Knife's 2006 release, Silent Shout. Andersson hammers home her lyrics, by turns oblique and mundane, with her signature pitch-shifted vocals, infusing tracks like "Dry and Dusty" and "I'm Not Done" with unnerving characterization. This could be the soundtrack to the saddest video game you've never played.

-Sam Stander

Album, Girls [True Panther Sounds]

Whenever you connect with a record, it's easy to feel like it was written with you in mind. If you're a hip San Franciscan, Album just might have been. But even for those of us who aren't in Girls' Rolodex, the blunt specificity of Christopher Owens' lyrics somehow make the songs universal. Rather than saying things in words you wish you'd come up with, he comes right out and says them like they sound in your head. You might never meet Owens' subjects Kaila, Laura or Lauren Marie, but that doesn't matter. They're in your life too; they just spell their names differently.

-Bryan Gerhart

Hospice, The Antlers [FrenchKiss]

The Antlers are masters of scope. On their August release Hospice, they demonstrate a knack for both cathartic, studio-plundering anthems and minimalist acoustic ballads. This ability to mix the personal with the panoramic gives the album a cinematic feel.

It's easy to play spot-the-influences here. Arcade Fire and Neutral Milk Hotel leap to mind. But Hospice is so heartfelt that it'd be crass to accuse the Antlers of being derivative. Vocalist Peter Silberman's quavering falsetto drives everything, and it makes him sound perpetually on the brink of tears. Listen to his lyrics, let his melodies wash over you and you just might join him there.

-Zachary Ritter

Tags: FEVER RAY, SO FAR GONE, ALBUM, HOSPICE


Contact the arts desk of The Daily Californian at [email protected]



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