30. Jay-Z American Gangster [Roc-A-Fella]


Is American Gangster that good or was Kingdom Come that mediocre? They're suprisingly surprisingly similar when you think about it–a handful of absolutely

great songs coupled with some average tracks (by Jay-Z standards). But it's undeniably more exciting to hear mediocre songs in the vein of Reasonable Doubt like “Say Hello” and “Sweet” compared to the US Weekly escapades of “Hollywood” and “I Made it” from “Kingdom Come.”

Oh yeah, and Mr. Carter aka The GOAT (yeah, I said it) comes through to smash all contenders . Hip hop single of the year “Roc Boys” is only four joints away from quotable of the year “Ignorant Shit.” Observe how Jay murders Nas on…Jay's own shit via “Success.” And with the exception of the out of place Lil' Wayne appearance on “Hello Brooklyn 2.0,” this movie-inspired soundtrack uses high-profile cameos (Beyonce, Kanye, Beans, Cassie, Bilal) like actors for specific roles. This is one of most focused major label hip hop albums of the year. And there's no sign of Chris Martin! L'chaim!-Zilla

29. Citay-Little Kingdom [Dead Oceans]


If I were Citay I'd go the jam band route. Fuck all this freak-folk, indie credibility shit. Didn't you guys get the memo? Hipsters don't like guitars anymore. Hipsters want two dancing gnomes clad in neon, one from Sri Lanka, the other from Austria, who make afro-pop influenced minimalist techno. But if the jam-band nation ever wrapped their ears around Citay's golden state psychedelia it would be over in five bong rips flat. Trust. There's a moment in the middle of “A Riot of Color,” the third song on Little Kingdom, when frontman, Ezra Feinberg, uncorks a amber-colored guitar line eerily reminiscent of jam Buddha, Jerry Garcia. It's a song possessed by an other-worldly beauty, with a tangerine Led Zeppelin III-type acoustic foundation that lets Feinberg's Spaceman Spliff flights breathe. Citay are the kind of band that can only come from San Francisco. All bay area breeze, mellow sunshine and edge of the continent infinity. So c'mon hippies, I know there's a few of you out there reading this, put down your String Cheese records, prepare your finest bowl of sour diesel, throw on a set of headphones and turn Little Kingdom up–loud.

MP3: Citay-“First Fantasy”

28. Monkey Swallows The UniverseThe Casket Letters [Loose]


Monkey Swallows The Universe broke up two weeks ago and if I wasn't doing all these damned year-end blurbs I'd probably devote a separate post to the news. But in a way, their demise feels a bit fitting and not just because of their morbid midlands lyrics. The Thing is, I always thought of Monkey Swallows the Universe as a “Stylus” band if it were actually possible to a “Stylus band.” We were the only non-British publication to review either of their records, both of which we gave raves to. And they had a small but fervent fan-base among the staff. Of course, the thing about Stylus was that there was really no consensus on anything. That was sort of the point. You went to Stylus to read the writers, you didn't go for any sort of branded taste-o-cracy. In the end, more people will always be looking for a downloading guide than for trenchant criticism. It just wasn't a viable business model.

Monkey Swallows the Universe didn't have much commercial potential either. They weren't a coked out, trilby hat-wearing London guitar band, they weren't a Nu-Raving, lost city of Atlantis-loving, candidate for NME hype, nor were they emo enough to please chubby British kids with bad haircuts. Monkey Swallows the Universe were an unglamorous folky five-piece from Sheffield: steel and coal country. On top of it all, they cursed themselves from the get-go by naming themselves Monkey Swallows the Universe. Which sounds more like a chapter in a bad Phillip Roth novel than it does a band you'd love. It's too bad though, because Monkey Swallows the Universe were already a pretty special band, one who had the potential to be the best U.K. twee band since Belle & Sebastian. I wish I'd have had the chance to have seen them live but they never made it over to the States. It's probably just as well. Monkey Swallows the Universe made two deeply personal, sad, wonderful records that couldn't be improved much by the live setting. Both The Casket Letters and the debut, The Bright Carvings, have a profound sense of loneliness to them, the sort of albums you don't want to listen to much around other people, let alone dance to. It's music for the sleepy melancholy of the early morning, when you want to hear a voice remind you of realities you already know and make you consider the ones you don't. Of course, the world will go on just fine with one less great band, just like it will one less great Internet music magazine, but it'll be a bit worse because of it.

From the Casket Letters

MP3: Monkey Swallows the Universe-“Sheffield Shanty”

MP3: Monkey Swallows the Universe-“Jimmy Down the Well”

27. The Black LipsGood Evil Not Bad Evil [Vice]


If The Black Lips had made Good Evil Not Bad Evil six years ago, in the midst of the barely-materialized “garage rock revival”, I’m sure the critical community would've been in full shout-out-from the rooftops mode. As it is, the rowdy Atlanta band's first Vice album took them from a notorious Atlanta club act to a nationally known, increasingly popular hipster favorite (the hipster nation obviously felt a strong kinship with the band's bold use of mustaches). But the attention is well-deserved, the Black Lips brew a raw, cocky, Southern moonshine kind of rock. A filthy ape-like stomp full of mordant humor and primordial power. Think Nuggets as performed by a bunch of smart-ass misfits, banging their instruments in a dank, slimy aluminum garage. Some undoubtedly preferred the scuzzy thrash of Los Valientes Del Mundo Nuevo, the live album that the Lips recorded in Tijuana earlier this years, but Good Evil Not Bad Evil, featured the band's strongest collection of songs and shortest shorts yet.

MP3: The Black Lips-“Cold Hands”

26. Panda BearPerson Pitch [Paw Tracks]


I'll never forget the first time I heard Person Pitch. I was standing on the coast of Portugal watching the sun rise in a bronzed arc, casting a glimmering light on the water. Strangely, I found myself struck by the powerful urges to hear a post-modern Brian Wilson homage and to find a good plate of authentic Spanish paella. While my efforts to find the paella were stymied, I come across a waiter who slipped me a bootleg tape of Person Pitch. It was limited to just 16 people and distributed directly from Noah Lennox's cave on the periphery of Lisbon. Pressing my ear faintly to the weak boombox speakers, I found myself crying tears of liquid gold. The power of Panda Bear's spell was so powerful that I immediately set out through the streets of Lisboa, stripping off my clothes off and ringing a cowbell, telling everyone from small children to the elderly that the messiah had finally arrived, and that to think, he came from Baltimore! Once the Portugese heard Person Pitch, they too began weeping and running with me in a lengthy single-file line, chanting only the word “Panda!” “Panda” “Panda.”

By the time we made it to Lennox's cave, the number of people trailing me had grown to several thousand, starving, hysterical, naked. Unfortunately, he wasn't there. He was at his 10-year high school reunion, where, according to my spies, he was bonding with his former Private School Lacrosse chums. I was very disappointed. Luckily, my religious epiphany and analysis of Panda Bear had left me certain of one thing. I no longer craved paella. No, what I truly desired was some Chinese food.

MP3: Panda Bear-“Comfy In Nautica”

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