45. Joe Buhdha Presents Klashnekoff: Lionheart: Tussle With the Beast [Low Life Records/Riddim Killa]
Exactly three British rappers have managed to “break” the American market in this decade, and by “break” I mean getting the American music press to hype them as the best thing since Earl Grey and raisin currants. Yeah, I like the Streets but he's so laughably bad as a rapper that it was only when I got past thinking of him as “hip-hop” that I was able to enjoy his records. Meanwhile, Dizzee Rascal's practically unlistenable, a strawman for the Grime movement that was as likely to take over America as the African Killer Bees. Lady Sovereign might be the best rapper of the bunch, but unfortunately she's 5'0 foot tall and looks like Napoleon Dynamite's girlfriend. XXL ain't giving her the cover anytime soon.
Klashnekoff probably isn't about to brace the face of American print mags either. Other British rappers have been grime, Klashnekoff is grimy. He raps like he's trying to sear flesh. His philosophy is “come in peace or leave in pieces.” His stories about life in the Hackney ghettos in London are told with a thick, often indecipherable, British project slang but reveal a heavy creative debt to mid-90s New York hip-hop. Indeed, the leader of the Terra Firma crew cites the Wu as his main influence, flips a Nas-sample for a hook, shouts Pharoahe Monch out and even enlists Kool G Rap to shred a track. Behind the boards, Joe Buhdha admirably recalls early Mobb Deep, but in the end Klashnekoff is the star. If you've thought the British rap you've heard in the past was….well…a little too British, give Klashnekoff a chance. He's not just a great British rapper, he's a great rapper, period.
44. Elvis Perkins-Ash Wednesday [XL}
Regardless of back story, Ash Wednesday is an outstanding record. Elvis Perkins’s powerful voice is capable of hitting Jeff Buckley’s heights; his graceful lyrics are blessed with poetic detail, filled with images of young Christmas brides' hair going gray under the spell of tragedy, and dreams “that have gone overslept.” The arrangements are pristine, melancholic pop, at times reminiscent of M. Ward, Destroyer, and Elliot Smith.
But when you factor in Perkins' tragic past, (his actor father, Anthony Perkins died of AID's in 1992 while his mother, photographer Berry Berenson died on 9/11), few albums made in recent memory sound this harrowing or painful and even fewer yield such a sense of catharsis. Listening to Ash Wednesday, one feels strangely cleansed, as though Perkins has soaked up and synthesized the word’s sins, to channel them into a work of stark beauty.
43. Electrelane-No Shouts, No Calls [Pure Records/Beggar's Group]
Earlier this Spring, during my short-lived tenure as a Sea Level employee, I was listening to No Shouts, No Calls, in the store when a customer stopped and asked me what I was playing. Resisting my urge to tell her Barry Manilow's 7th Symphony, I told her the truth and she kind of clucked at me (a very hipstery cluck) mind you and snarked that this record totally sucks because it sounds “way too much like Stereolab.”
Of course, the fourth album from the now-on hiatus Bristol-based quartet does sound an awful lot like a Stereolab record. All Electrelane albums sound a little bit like Stereolab. But just because they might lack innovation, it doesn't change the fact that No Shouts, No Calls is a stellar album filled with efficient German guitar lines, glimmering keyboard riffs and sturdily-constructed songs. The thing about Electrelane is that nothing they do stands out as being particularly great. Verity Susman is a nice but unremarkable singer. Her lyrics are adequate but simple. The band is competent musically, but they aren't about to win any awards for technical mastery. Yet somehow, No Shouts No Calls is still better than anything Stereolab has made in the last decade. Plus, it's a hell of a lot better of an album name than Emperor Tomato Ketchup.
42. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah!-Some Loud Thunder [Self-Released]
The backlash that accompanied the release of Some Loud Thunder would’ve been a lot funnier if it wasn’t so predictable. The strange part is what people took issue with: the gangly production, prevalence of interludes and is that first song a joke or something? You know, the same things that the first record should’ve been criticized for, but a band in transition isn’t anywhere as interesting as a band that could possibly pass for a new business model. As such, the less-accessible Some Loud Thunder was dismissed as if Clap Your Hands Say Yeah couldn’t make any more records after it. I hope they do and I hope they sound like Some Loud Thunder, an album that proved them as far more artistically restless and knotty than the indie rock matchgames of their debut suggested. “Love Song #7” swayed with seasick piano rolls, “Satan Said Dance” held the mirror up to beat-conscious hipsters and “Underwater (You And Me)” proved they could still stock your mixtapes- one way or another, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah bested their eponymous platter lyrically, melodically and structurally, no mean feat considering that they stayed winning in what was ostensibly a no-win situation. —Ian Cohen
41. Camp Lo-In Black Hollywood [Good Hands]
Heads who knocked In Black Hollywood forgot Hollywood Rule #1: The sequel is never as good as the original (Godfather and Back to the Future exempted.) Of course, Camp Lo's third album could never match up to their now canonized debut, Uptown Saturday Night–that isn't the point. Ten years deep, the Bronx-bred duo of Sonny Chiba and Geeichie Suede are still spinning the sort of technicolor tales could only fit on the big screen: blaxploitation fantasies of bloody Bronx shoot-outs, slick diamond heists and jet-black getaway cars gunning it 100 miles per on the Bronx Expressway, with planes to Aruba waiting at Teterboro. All matinee style: swaggering in fly panama hats, Oscar Gamble afros, and floor-length minks. Sure, this might not be a contender to wind up on any AFI greatest of all-time list, but In Black Hollywood certainly deserves an Oscar nomination or two.