Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The best of 2011 - #6-7

The saga continues with my entirely-unasked-for top 10 albums of 2011.

#7 - Beastie Boys - Hot Sauce Committee, Part 2

After the mind blowingly rad preview video featuring Will Farrell, Jack Black, Elijah Wood, etc, it was hard not to be at least a little deflated on the first couple of listens, but after the initial rebound from the overhype, things have settled in nicely for HSCP2.

Who would have guessed that three white Jewish boys who started out as an unremarkable NYC punk band would end up becoming one of the most influential, enduring and important hip hop acts ever?

I think what I like about this album the most is how hard the Beasties make you work, consistently, to get into one of their new offerings. Each album is different in a way you likely wouldn't have expected.

Take their previous three albums:
  • Hello Nasty (1998) - Sci-fi inspired, electronically laced, and awesome.
  • To The 5 Boroughs (2004) - Simpler arrangements, less production and awesome.
  • The Mix-Up (2007) - This is an instrumental album from a rap group. Yup. You heard me.

Which brings us to HSCP2, with its heavy voice effects, noisy layering and driving percussion all over the place, it's a new step, and one that maybe only the Beastie Boys could pull off with this much chutzpah.

#6 - The Black Keys - El Camino

After the atom bomb of rock that was Brothers, it was up in the air whether people would still be too wrapped up in it to give El Camino the attention it so richly deserves, and although critics have taken to it like Mayans to human sacrifice (too soon?), a lot of people aren't ready to bump Brothers from its heavy rotation spot just yet.

But they should. Once again, The Black Keys prove that you don't need the bells and whistles of rock production, a huge mini-orchestra (I'm looking at you, highly overrated Arcade Fire), or a crippling reliance on exhausted, recycled, cliched rock riffs and lyrics (you know who you are, Theory of a Nickel Creed bands) to make it in music today.

The imagined conversation that must have happened somewhere along the line in the youths of Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney:

"You: learn guitar. You: learn drums. Good. Now, make something that nobody will ever want to stop listening do."

And then they did. Twice.


  1. Good. I would have put these two in the top five... because I don't think I bought more than 4-5 albums this year. I'm thinking El Camino should be closer to #1...

    I have the same feeling about HSCP2 that you do... a little disappointing. Besides "Make Some Noise" and "Don't Play No Game", I'm a little underwhelmed, but maybe I'll fall in love with re-listens, as you suggest.

  2. Ooh! and do you notice the Last Dance with Mary Jane riff in Little Black Submarines?

  3. To be perfectly honest, a whole lot of the top 10 were REALLY close, and a lot of them could have been shuffled around a bit.

    HSCP2 definitely gets better with more listens. Give it a few shots, then leave it for a bit and then go back, on shuffle, and just let it play through. There are some solid tracks, but it's got to get out of the shadow of previous albums, etc, before it really starts to shine.