Best of 2011 Hip-Hop Albums At Amoeba

Posted by Billyjam, December 18, 2011 06:30pm | Post a Comment

This is the first of two Best of Hip-Hop in 2011 Amoeblog posts. This post features most of the hip-hop releases that were popular at the three Amoeba Music stores over the past year while the next (more subjective) Best of 2011 Amoeblog will feature personal favorite top five or top ten lists of the year by such Amoeba folks as myself, E Lit, and Ray Ricky Rivera. As you will see from the list of approximately one hundred hip-hop albums listed (scroll down) that were popular at Amoeba Music in 2011 there was a wonderfully diverse melange of both mainstream/pop rap and underground hip-hop releases by a wide range of talented artists; some that may only be regionally popular and others that are phenomenally popular on a national and global level. 

This wide array of artists included Drake, LiveWire, The Throne (Jay-Z & Kanye West), San Quinn, Murs, The Beastie Boys, Curren$y, Lateef The Truthspeaker, Lil Wayne, Evidence, Talib Kweli, Wale, Dregs One, The Roots, Philthy RIch, Beans, Lupe Fiasco, Zion I & The Grouch, DJ Quik, Moe Green, Wiz Khalifa, Del Tha Funky Homosapien. Mac Miller, The Jacka, Tyler the Creator, Doomtree, Pharoahe Monch, and Ski Beatz to name but some. If you missed out on any of these releases over 2011 now might be the time to catch up. Most of them are still available, in stock at Amoeba in stores or online with their to-buy link embedded in bright blue in the long list below. Also immediately below are some randomly chosen videos with accompanying text from the past year to give a flavor of the year that was 2011 in hip-hop. Feel free to add in the comments below any of your favorites of 2011 that you think we missed.

Talib Kweli's 2011 album Gutter Rainbows was a most popular release at each Amoeba store including at the San Francisco where it landed in the number one slot with a bullet upon its release on CD. The album Talib Kweliwhich precedes the artist's anticipated Prisoner of Conscious  (to drop sometime in 2012) is "just for the fans," Kweli said in an interview. And fans approved of the album which sported cameos from several artists including Sean Price, Blaq Toven, Outasight, Chace Infinite, and Blacksmith Records (the label he co-founded/runs) artist Jean Grae. The number of producers enlisted is even greater; 13 different producers from all over worked on the album's 14 tracks. These include 88 Keys, S1 (aka Symbolyc One from Texas, who is now best known for producing "Power" on Kanye's new album), Ski Beatz (who produced "Cold Rain," the second LP single that drops online today), and Oh No (who produced the Jean Grae cameo track "Uh Oh").  E Jones produced "Friends & Family," in which he name checks a slew of hip-hop artists including the "Mystik Journeymen," who he raps, "introduced me to Top Ramen" in a humorous nod to the Living Legends low-budget early career survival techniques that included throwing Top Ramen parties. As for why Talib worked with so many different producers on Gutter Rainbows?  "I tend to want to work with a limited amount of producers but the producers for this album, they had sounds that were right for what I wanted," he told me in an interview a month before the album dropped. He then described Gutter Rainbows as a kind of "prelude" to the highly anticipated forthcoming Prisoner of Conscious.

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Best World Music Releases of 2011, Part 1

Posted by Gomez Comes Alive!, December 18, 2011 05:39pm | Post a Comment
Bombino-Agadez CD/LP

My first experience with Omara Mochtar (Bombino) was on the Sublime Frequencies release, Music from Niger: Guitars from Agadez, Vol. 2, which was recorded live and sounded like something recorded in a juke joint in Mississippi. On Agadez, Bombino recorded in a studio where all the richness of his guitar tone comes through, making this the guitar album that all guitar players should own from 2011. Much like their contemporaries Tinariwen and Group Inerane, this album is heavy on the Toureg blues, with trance-like guitar drones that conjures the sound of many lonely desert nights in Niger. Soulful without effort, Agadez has led Bombino out of the desert and hopefully into your stereo.

Adanowsky- Amador CD/LP

With the rep of being the son of filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky (El Topo, Santa Sangre) and being a kid that hung out with members of The Beatles, you would expect Adanowsky to be either the second coming or some spoiled kid with talent and nothing to say. (i.e. Sean Lennon) Well, Adanowsky is neither. Is Amador a psychedelic masterpiece? No. Is Amador some over-indulgent dribble? Far from it.  Amador is a heartbreak record. It’s full of pain and letting the heartbreak of broken relationship take over. From the heartfelt piano ballads to the tequila-fused Rancheras, it all stages of a post break-up. Much like John Lennon, Plastic Ono Band, it’s very minimal in instrumentation and lets emotion carry the songs. In the end, I can’t imagine Adanowsky being single for that long. Amador is too charming of an album to let that happen.

V/A-213 Cumbia CD Only

I was a little skeptical of 213 Cumbia in the beginning. First off, unlike other New School Cumbia compilations that come from one geographical area or another, Los Angeles Cumbia has no one sound. At any given day you can check out Cumbias your uncle and aunts would like. There are Cumbias that are only liked by immigrants. They are Electro and club Cumbias that only hipsters seem to appreciate. To top it off, every local band south or East of Downtown L.A. play at least one Cumbia song in their sets. So rather than focusing on one sub-genre, Lennon added them all and he made it work. Beat makers DJ Lengua and Mexican Dubweiser are along side the kids playing traditional Cumbia such as Buyepongo, Chicano Batman and Bardo Y Su Conjunto.213 Cumbia is filled with old school players and new school fools making their interpretation of what they think Cumbia is, and that is the L.A. way. Los Angeles may have not invented Cumbia, but as 213 Cumbia proves, L.A. always makes it their own.

Bituaya-Electrocaribe CD Only

Hailing from Venezuela, Bituaya is like the guest that is a little late to the party but it’s the one that keeps it going till the wee hours of the morning. Bituaya is another in a long lineage of great Latin music fusion bands, bringing Salsa, Cumbia, Merengue, and Venezuela’s national music Joropo together with heavy dance beats, dub reggae and street Hip-hop. What I like about Bituaya that they are musicians first. When they reinterpret a style of music you know that they can play the original with ease. That cannot be said with the new generation of Latin American beatmakers, whose musical training comes from making beats first. Bituaya could be great at any one style of Latin music but choose to forge their own path, and that’s what I like about them.

Tinariwen-Tassili CD Only

This being Tinariwen’s fifth album, you pretty much know what to expect from them. The Toureg blues, the stories of struggle and revolution and an awesome twin guitar attack. But with each album, Tinariwen brings something new. Collaborations with members of TV On The Radio, Wilco and The Rebirth Brass Band may seem like it may homogenize the group’s sound but the guests doing a great job of blending into Tinariwen’s style. Collaborations aside, my favorite track is the solo track from bandleader Ibrahim Ag Alhabib, called, "Tameyawt" recorded out in the Sahara desert with a silence that no studio could replicate.

Quantic-Hip Hop En Cumbia (LP & Out Of Print)

For Quantic, if Hip-Hop is the love of his life, what is Cumbia?  Quantic lives in Colombia and is studying accordion with the Cumbia master Anibal Velaquez. On Hip-Hop En Cumbia, it’s old love and new mistress together at last, and the result is much better than one would think. This is not a club mash-up or a remix album, rather it is Quantic forming a conjunto and covering Hip-Hop classics Cumbia style. Dr Dre, Missy Elliot, Pete Rock, Dilla and even Blondie’s Rapture all get Cumbia treatments. It is as clever as it is danceable. It is a natural progression from all the Cumbia artists that covered the likes of Rod Stewart, The Bee Gees, Michael Jackson and Fela Kuti in the 70’s and 80’s.

Chancha Via CircuitoRio Arriba CD/LP

I got this release almost a year ago at a ZZK Records showcase. I wanted badly to write about it but this is a blog about what you can get at Amoeba, right? In March, the CD/LP release of Rio Arriba became available in the U.S. and I couldn't be happier. Chancha Via Circuito explores the world of South American folklore, blending his hypnotic beats with the revolutionary past of South America. The result could be considered another sub-genre of the digital Cumbia movement…perhaps Digital Nueva Trova?? Nevertheless, it is one of the most beautiful and organic electronic records released in some time.

Omar Souleyman- Haflat Gharbia (The Western Concerts) CD/LP

Haflat Ghabia is a collection of live performances recorded while Omar Souleyman was on tour in 2009. Along with his cohorts Rizan Sa'id on keyboards and electric saz player Ali Shaker, Omar just destroyed the stages across the western world, appealing to new fans and Arabic music fans alike. Omar plays an electrified version of Dabke music, mostly popular in weddings and parties in Syria is and Iraq. At his show over the summer at The Echo, he had the whole crowd going, from hipsters with their ethically ambiguous girlfriends to aging world music types to Syrian nationals. Everyone was dancing their asses off and having a good time. Listening to Haflat Gharbia is a reminder on how awesome that night was.

Los Rakas-Chancletas y Camisetas CD Only

It used to be the Rap En Español used to get points for just being that; Rap in Spanish. There weren't many people doing it and it was a welcome break from all the bad Roc En Español I had to endure over the years. Still, until recently, I would prefer to hear the likes of Freestyle Fellowship, Snoop Dog or Nas over anything that came from Latin America. Over the years as mainstream Rap has gotten worse, Rap En Español has improved. My favorites such as Calle 13, Tego Calderon, Ana Tijuox and Marcelo D2, all come from various countries around Latin America.

Los Rakas are Panamanians via Oakland. You can tell they are just as influenced by East Bay Rap as much as what is going on around Latin America. They are intelligent lyricists; make bangin’ beats and has that swagger that only one can from growing up street.  Chancletas Y Camisetas is the CD that you would play to your Hip-Hop heads to make them come around to liking Rap En Español . It’s the type of album you can imagine bumping in any barrio in New York, L.A., Oakland, San Juan or Colon.

Ballake Sissoko & Vicent Segal-Chamber Music CD Only

The face of World Music has changed in the last ten years. The term “World Fusion” has become somewhat a derogatory musical term, conjuring images of pony-tailed guy wearing sandals, Guatemalan pants and Kufis. I call him “World Fusion Guy” In my mind, World Fusion Guy does yoga, works as a masseuse and gets excited about an artist who can blend Tuvan throat singing with just about anything. Then there is  “Global Pop Guy” (or girl) They are products of the 80’s/late 90’s, former fans of The Police and The Talking Heads who see Global Pop a way to get music from all over the world without getting dirty, having to live in a foreign place or know any actual foreign people. Seriously, unless you live in Berkeley or Santa Monica, can you really get exited about a new Youssou N'Dour album?

What has replaced World Fusion and Global Pop guy is the new school of DJ and remixers making mash-ups and remixes of various World Music styles. Some of it is interesting, as is some World Fusion and Global Pop. But World Remixer Guy is usually not that knowledgeable about the music they are remixing. They’ll change a song that is supposed to be in 3/4 into 4/4 to match their beats. They’ll cut off key lyrics or repeat insignificant lines in a song because they think it, “sounds cool” Much of what World Remix Guy does is because they don’t understand the culture or the language of the music they are remixing. It’s the same trap World Fusion guy and Global Pop Guy fell into. It’s changing ingredients to a recipe before one has ever made the original.

Having said that, what makes Chamber Music work is that both Ballake Sissoko & Vicent Segal are both masters of their instruments on their own. Both have worked in classical and in crossover music. I had no expectations when I first played Chamber Music, other than I hoped it wasn’t another bad World fusion album. It’s a quiet album amongst the hype of the next big World Phenomenon. Both Kora and Cello are complementary instruments. The Kora can sound like a harp or a guitar and the Cello’s richness comes out when played with the bow but also can sound like a percussive instrument when plucked. It is what every World Fusion release promises: the mixing of two cultures to make something new, and it works. Chamber Music is a beautiful album that quickly relaxes the savage beast in all of us. Play this after work, while driving in traffic or shopping in those crowded stores and you might learn to appreciate the chaos that surrounds us.

my top 50 albums of 2011...

Posted by Brad Schelden, December 18, 2011 01:15pm | Post a Comment
- Blouse (Captured Tracks)
Last year was when I first got obsessed with the label Captured Tracks. Both Wild Nothing and Soft Moon ended up in my top ten last year. This is the year of Blouse, Soft Metals and Craft Spells. This label can do no wrong and keeps putting out amazing albums one after the other. This album continues the Captured Tracks tradition of capturing that early 90's shoegaze sound that I am still obsessed with. This Blouse album fits in more with the soft rock side of shoegaze and dreampop. It is more like Beach House than the darker sounds of label mates Soft Moon. It is a beautiful album and I can't get enough.

kurt vile#2
Kurt Vile - Smoke Ring For My Halo

This is not his first album but it really is his first album for me. This is the year that I fell hard for Kurt Vile. I could not stop listening to this album for a couple of months. There is just something about it that really got to me. The album is on the more folky side of things. Something that I need in my life every once in a while. He reminds me of Mark Kozelek and the Red House Painters. And listening to this album makes me remember the first time I discoved Mark Kozelek and was hooked for life. It really is that good.

Zola Jesus - Conatus (Sacred Bones)

Zola Jesus has given me exactly the album that I wanted from her. It is majestic and beautiful and dark and moody. This album is for fans of the The Knife and Fever Ray. And while we patiently wait for the next album by The Knife out next year, this album more than fills the void.  It is a dark emotional roller coaster. I really wish that artists like Bjork or Kate Bush would have moved in this direction. But thankfully we have Zola Jesus to bring us the album that we all needed in our life. A perfect album for dark and rainy winter nights. You should not live your life one day longer without Zola Jesus.

Veronica Falls
- Veronica Falls (Slumberland)
Slumberland has been another one of my favorite labels this year. I have always been a fan but they have really done a great job these last couple of years of sort of reinventing themselves and discovering a whole new group of twee sort of artists. It is the darker side of twee. This is really a fantastic little album from these folks from London. They released a couple of singles on Captured Tracks and have now given us this perfect pop masterpiece of a debut album. 

holy ghost!#5
Holy Ghost!
- Holy Ghost! (DFA)
Albums don't really get any more fun than this album. It captures that same feeling as Booka Shade's The Sun & The Neon Light from a couple of years ago. This is electronica raised on New Order and Depeche Mode. It is catchier than anything and is guaranteed to put you in good mood. I spent many hours of my life this year listening to this album. And I am not done with them yet. I keep finding myself going back to this record. And I always forget how much fun this album really is. It fits somewhere in between albums by Hot Chip, Telefon Tel Aviv or The Teenagers.

Washed Out - Within & Without (Sub Pop)

Washed Out is the only artist to appear in both my top tens last year and this year. The Life of Leisure EP from last year is still one of my favorite debuts of all time. Ernest Greene, the man behind Washed Out, has now given us his excellent full length album on Sub Pop this year. It is an almost perfect dream pop album. It fits somewhere in between Sigur Ros and Crystal Castles. It is what people like to call chillwave. It is basically just a more synth version of dream pop.  At times I have no idea what he is singing about. But this album takes me away to another sort of magical place. It doesn't get much better than this.

Soft Metals - Soft Metals (Captured Tracks)

I was of course first intrigued by Soft Metals because of their Patrick Nagel inspired album covers. But it really was not hard for them to win me over. My second favorite album from Captured Tracks this year. These songs would not be out of place on the soundtrack to Drive. This is the futuristic new wave that I love. Dark and synthy. This music is made for me. Soft Metals are from the beautiful city Portland. Which just happens to be one of my favorite cities. The songs are catchy and very addictive.

Gem Club
- Breakers (Hardly Art)
Hardly Art has been doing a good job at breaking my heart lately. They have just been releasing some great albums. First they reissued some amazing albums by Carissa's Wierd. And now this year they have released some amazing debut albums from Gem Club, Shimmering Stars and Seapony. This Gem Club album has really got to be the most beautiful and heartbreaking album out this year. For fans of Bon Iver and Jose Gonzalez and things that are amazing. This album might be hard for some to get through but it is worth the heartache.

Big Troubles - Romantic Comedy

Big Troubles! This album just sort of sneaked up on me. But I quickly got obsessed with it. A nice little feel good record for this year. You simply can't not like this album. Full of catchy and pop friendly songs. Big Troubles is sort of the perfect middle ground between a band like Pavement and a band like Blur. The songs are catchy and jangly and maybe a bit silly. But this is how pop music should sound. A perfect masterpiece of an album. Every song is just as good as the last on this album. Give me more Big Troubles.

- Soundtrack (Lakeshore)

Walking into this movie I had no idea that it would be my favorite movie of the year. It was a pleasant surprise. It was one of those movies where the music was just perfect. And the music was almost as important as the performances in the movie. It really played a big part of making the movie what it was. From the opening scene to the closing credits. This album is part soundtrack and part score. Cliff Martinez does a great job with the moody 80's score. And the tracks from Italians Do it Better artists Chromatics and Desire fit perfectly in the movie as well. A perfect soundtrack to a perfect film

Memory Tapes
- Player Piano (Carpark)

Shimmering Stars
- Violent Hearts
(Hardly Art)

The Raveonettes
- Raven In The Grave
(Vice Records)

- Father Son Holy Ghost
(True Panther Sounds)

Bon Iver
- Bon Iver (Jagjaguwar)

John Maus
- We Must Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves

Cold Cave
- Cherish The Light Years

Teen Daze
- A Silent Planet
(Lefse Records)

- Go With Me (Hardly Art)

Puro Instinct
- Headbangers In Ecstacy
(Mexican Summer)

Craft Spells
- Idle Labor
(Captured Tracks)

Blood Orange
- Coastal Grooves

La Sera
- La Sera (Hardly Art)

Atlas Sound
- Parallax (4AD)

- An Album By Korallreven

The Drums
- Portamento
(French Kiss Records)

- Hurry Up We're Dreaming (Mute)

Det Vackra Livet
- Det Vackra Livet

Neon Indian
- Era Extrana
(Mom & Pop Music)

The Rip Tide (Pompeii Records)

David Lynch
- Crazy Clown Time
(Play It Again Sam)

Real Estate
- Days (Domino)

Sea Lions
- Everything You Always Wanted To Know About the Sea Lions But Were Afraid To Ask (Slumberland)

Dum Dum Girls
- Only In Dreams
(Sub Pop)

Friendly Fires
- Pala (XL Recordings)

- Thee Physical
(Lovepump United)

Com Truise
- Galactic Melt
(Ghostly International)

Hercules & Love Affair
- Blue Songs
(Moshi Moshi)

- Red Planet (Strange Attractions)

Gang Gang Dance
- Eye Contact (4AD)

Explosions In the Sky
Take Care Take Care Take Care

(Temporary Residence)

- Escape Velocity (Relapse)

Active Child
- You Are All I See (Vagrant)

Xeno & Oaklander
- Sets & Lights (Weird)

Esben & The Witch
- Violet Cries

Los Campesinos
! - Hello Sadness
(Arts & Crafts)

We Were Promised Jetpacks
In The Pit Of The Stomach

(Fat Cat)

Vivian Girls
- Share The Joy (Polyvinyl)

Acid House Kings
Music Sounds Better With You


The Artist
- Soundtrack (Sony)

50 Favorite Albums of 2011

Posted by Aaron Detroit, December 18, 2011 12:00am | Post a Comment

Aaron Detroit, Buyer at Amoeba Hollywood. As you may know, I've worked in Hollywood for 8 years, but started my time with Amoeba - way back in 1998 -  at the San Francisco store. This is my extensive list of 2011 releases that I fell in love with or had hot and heavy affairs with this year.

50 Favorite Albums of 2011

  1. Wild Beasts Smother

In 2008, Brit quartet Wild Beasts released their shaky-legged -but- stunning debut, Limbo Panto. In the four years since, the band has released two thoroughly dazzling masterpiece full-lengths of deceptively delicate indie rock, lyrically bent towards looking in the dark recesses of the heart and libido, largely sung by co-vocalist Hayden Thorpe in his trademark falsetto. Smother finds the band adding a new restraint to their arrangements that allows the tension in the lyrics to hit with hair-on-end chills. It is a singular LP by a singular band that I expect will eventually reach a Radiohead-level stratosphere. 

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What Do You Want for Xmas (Hanukkah / Kwanzaa / Festivus)? A Few Ideas from Around the Interwebs

Posted by The Bay Area Crew, December 16, 2011 05:00pm | Post a Comment
xmas christmas space baby jesus alien rocket ship ufo christ
Tis the season to freak out about what to get our loved ones.

It seems to get harder every year, as -- thanks to the internet -- the world becomes smaller and choice becomes more vast. How can you find that perfect gift for someone that not only has everything, but can get whatever they want online in a matter of minutes?

Here's the answer: outsmart them. Use this guide to scoop them on their own desires. They may not yet know they lust after these amazing items, but with the Amoeblog's help, you will reign victorious as this year's King / Queen of Christmas / Hanukkah / Kwanzaa / Festivus /  Winter Solstice.  

For your old school punk:
San Francisco’s seminal punk band Crime was  formed in 1976 Crime band shirt merch Johnny Strike San Francisco punkand ripped post-hippie San Francisco a metaphorical new one when they released their first (and many say Punk’s first) single“Hot Wire My Heart / Baby You're So Repulsive.” They mixed a rebellious and sexually-charged image (they were most often seen flaunting their vampiric, just-outta-rehab good looks in tight leather, regulation police uniforms, or old-time gangster duds) with their unique blend of intellectual and furious lo-fi rock and roll. Crime found local refuge at the now legendary Mabuhay Gardens, but became nationally notorious after playing a gig at San Quentin Penitentiary in full police uniforms. (Read more about them on the Amoeblog.)

Now, after many years, you can purchase official Crime merch directly from original member Johnny Strike and his business partner Faustino Mendonça. Bootleggers be damned! Get some stunning shirts, posters, and pins from the source!

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