This year has been an insanely good year for music. There were so many great albums that challenged expectations, created new avenues for expression, and set the stage for an interesting 2011. But some albums didn't quite get their due. Going back through the hundreds of releases that ended up on my desk, cluttered up my Honda and jammed up my inbox, there were a few that stuck with me.
5. Lazersword – S/T
The San Francisco duo has been burning up the blogs for a while, but their full length debut somehow remained missing from best of lists this year. The album was a cross-pollination of diverse sounds in electronic music and hip hop. It gleaned some dubstep style from the U.K., beat music from L.A., and the longstanding hip hop flavors from Bay Area. They are the producers to watch in 2011.
Download: “Batman” – Lazer Sword
4. Wildbirds & Peacedrums – Rivers
This stripped-down duo of Swedes Andreas Werliin and Mariam Wallentin, use just drums and voice to create lush and sometimes propulsive soundscapes. Wallentin's voice takes on the roles of all the typical instruments in a rock band. She's the bass and guitar, she's the strings and the keys. She is everything, showcasing a soaring voice creates hooks and melodies, all at once. Wallentin avoids sounding like cheesy solo vocalists by exploring minor keys, jazz scales, and smokier tones. This is not a commercial album at all, but it is never self indulgent. No matter how far out Wallentin's voice travels, it still maintains a center and makes Wildbirds & Peacedrums a beautiful anomaly. If her voice doesn't give you the chills, you're probably dead. R.I.P.
3. Jose James – Black Magic
Few vocalists have the precision and soul of Jose James. His 2010 release Black Magic highlighted his soulful sound that wasn't really soul music. James' smooth voice mixed seamlessly with the downbeat rhythms and chill Rhodes keys of the album. He leans more towards a style more reminiscent of classic jazz and '50s crooners, James seems like he was frozen in carbonite during the hip hop generation, then reanimated into the present, delivering the unadulterated coolness of a forgotten time.
2. Gonjasufi & Gaslamp Killer – A Sufi and A Killer
For some reason the collaboration between desert sage Gonjasufi and Low End Theory co-creator Gaslamp Killer made a brief blip on music journos' radar, then promptly flew off to Area 51 or whatever bizarre place it came from. But over time, the album of warped vinyl cuts and Gonjasufi's dusty vocals, just gets better. This is really a sound from another universe.
And the number 1 Most Under Appreaciated Indie Album of the Year is:
1. Quantic – Flowering Inferno, Dog With A Rope
England's Quantic, aka, Will Holland, takes on classic dancehall and dub tracks, and infuses them with Latin sounds. A classic Augustus Pablo becomes fascinating when his trademark melodica is replaced by an accordion. Why not listen to the originals, you may ask? Quantic updates the sounds with sleek production style, and he subtly reinterprets it by filtering the tracks through the lens of multi-culturalism. They're classic cuts, but twisted.
Let us know in the comments which albums you think were slept on this year.