Top 50 of 2012: 10 - 6

10. Lil Wayne - Dedication 4 (http://www.datpiff.com/Lil-Wayne-Dedication-4-mixtape.385544.html)

So hotly anticipated. The fourth installment in Wayne and Drama's wonderful Dedication series. The world wanted to know if Weezy had slipped further down his drug-induced path that The Carter IV had laid out, or if he'd tightened up and returned to his pre-Carter III levels of dominance. The result? Dedication 4 saw Wayne doing what he does best: spazzing out on hot beats. He can't claim to have out-performed too many of the original artists (except Meek Mill and Rick Ross), but D4 was a brilliant return to form. Cut free from the confines of a feature album release, he didn't bother with any concepts or extraneous themes. It was women, drugs, and money. Lyrically he was insightful, deadly and comedic. It was the perfect Wayne release, packed to the brim of quotables. 

'You a dyke cause your man a pussy', 'I would talk about my dick, but man that shit be a long story',
 'I got those yellow Xanax, I slipped on a banana peel', 'All my n**** wanna fuck, and she gon let us like a salad bar' 'Got two bitches off Twitter, tweedle dee and tweedle dum', 'She so sophisticated, she gon catch a n*** nut and then refrigerate it', 'I'm gettin higher than Quasars'. But my personal favourite, 'She said sorry I didn't shave, so that pussy is a little furry, I put that pussy in my face, I ain't got no worries'. 

It's become quite trendy within the hip hop community to discard Weezy as a drug-fucked has-been. A lot of people even claim they never liked him. However everyone still listens to whatever he puts out religiously, Dedication 4 has over 1 million downloads on Datpiff.com. His music is entertainment. Hip Hop exists to serve an uncountable number of ends, but if you create it with the intention of entertaining your audience, you will succeed commercially. Critically, releases like this are usually judged quite harshly. You're not going to have too many epiphany's listening to this. But you will have a ridiculous amount of fun, and you will keep coming back for more. Just don't tell anyone..
Best Tracks: No Worries, Green Ranger


9. Nicki Minaj - Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded - The Re-up (Nicki Minaj – Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded The Re-Up)

There have been a number of female rappers over the years. Lil Kim, Missy Elliot, Foxy Brown, Lady Sovereign. All of them experienced brief spells in the limelight, but eventually faded. Minaj immediately appears different. Firstly, she is an insanely talented emcee. On her debut record she spat opposite Eminem and held her own, which is more than can be said for Game, Jay-Z, Lil Wayne and a host of other rappers. On Kanye's Monster she out-rapped anyone on the entire album in one verse. But for some reason, female emcees have short-lived fame. Female pop stars, on the other hand, endure, and manage stratospheric levels of commercial success. So on Pink Friday first and now on Roman Reloaded, Nicki Minaj plays both roles. 

The first 7 tracks are pure-bred hip hop, and they are insane. Come On A Cone has Minaj destroying her competition. On I Am Your Leader she kills Cam'Ron and Rick Ross, 'Now I'm in the hood, niggas is getting woodies / Hit up hot topic, Nicki Minaj hoodies / I'm a brand, bitch, I'm a brand'. On Champion she even gives Nas a run for his money. It's some of the hardest hip hop you'll experience, and it's being delivered by a voluptuous woman with pink hair who is a judge on American Idol.. 

Then, she switches it up. The genius. Not only is she an insanely good emcee, she can sing, and manages to create some ridiculously catchy pop music. By the time we hit track 10, Starships, she's in full popstar mode. The transformation is brilliant. Starships goes triple platinum, Pound The Alarm goes double platinum. It is so successful she re-packages it with 8 more hip hop songs which only serves to increase her stranglehold on the Queen Of Rap title. The result? The perfect package. If you hate hip hop, skip the first 7 tracks and let Nicki and RedOne (producer) entertain your pop leanings. If you hate pop music, put the first 7 tracks and all of CD 2 on repeat. Forever. You won't get tired of this. 
Best Tracks: Come On A Cone, Starships, Beez In The Trap, High School


8.   Fennesz - Aun (Fennesz – AUN)
  
Reviewers love when Christian Fennesz creates new music, because it allows them to bombard you with the litany of descriptive words they learnt in their first year creative writing subject at university. And whilst I don't usually endorse this method of reviewing, when it comes to Fennesz it's impossible to resist grabbing a thesaurus and poring through it trying to find the words to describe the beauty he creates. 

AUN is a soundtrack to a film that bears the same title, described as 'The Beginning and the End of All Things'. Fennesz manages to create music that doesn't rely on the visual stimulus of the film to evoke emotions in the listener. It's a difficult balance. If he creates a record that is too dense, too complex on its own, it draws focus away from the film. If he relies too heavily on the film to provide depth and meaning in the music, the soundtrack will not work as a standalone project. Whilst I don't believe he wrote these songs with the intention of creating a widely purchased soundtrack, the inclusion of 3 tracks from his collaboration with Sakamoto (Cendre) proves this is something more substantial than background music.

The music is deep, dark. Rarely does Fennesz allow you a glimpse of light. Sakamoto's piano delivers fleeting moments of positivity. However even on Trace when the piano makes a much needed appearance, it only serves to create tension and doubt. But this at times overwhelming feeling of trepidation, doom, darkness is what makies it an amazing listen. The music envelops you. It brings to mind a person drowning, trapped beneath the waves, light diminishing with every stroke. It deprives you of your other senses, it fills your mind. It is an experience not to be entered in to lightly, do not underestimate the power of what Fennesz is delivering.
Best Tracks: AUN40, Trace


7. Cloud Nothings - Attack On Memory (Cloud Nothings – Attack On Memory)

The opening 11 seconds of this record is the most misleading piece of music ever released.  A delicate piano riff, joined by a quiet guitar, do absolutely nothing to prepare you for the sensory explosion you're about to experience. The bass then kicks in, and the tone is identified. This is grungy, punky, aggressive angst. It's about 22 different bands, all honed to their base elements and powered through the speakers at you by Dylan Baldi. His brutally raw emotion doesn't just tinge his performance, it defines it. He doesn't sound mopey, he isn't sulking. He sounds angry. This energy just propels Attack On Memory in to another dimension, something that hasn't been touched in well over a decade and a half.

Attack On Memory comes from nowhere and it has struck the critical equivalent of oil. Previous Cloud Nothings releases were 'pop' excursions. Indie pop. The type of music The Rifles made, or any number of British alternative bands from the turn of the millenium. They weren't bad, they were just a tad dull. A bit straight laced. Fall In is a carry-over track from those days. Quite upbeat, Baldi mutes that desperate tone that appears in his voice on his heavier music. You think Stay Useless is going to pan out in a similar fashion, until the chorus hits you in the face, he wails 'I need time to stop moving, I need time to stay useless'. By the time No Sentiment beings Baldi is assuredly engrossed with his inner demons, demons that seem to have this need to escape him in any way they can. The music gets louder, less melodic, Baldi starts wailing again. The effect is mesmerising.

It feels natural to compare it to Nirvana, The Ramones, The Sex Pistols, only because the whole record feels so natural. Baldi doesn't bother with tidying up his lyrics, applying a thesaurus to them. You almost get the feeling the music starts and he just begins wailing, no intentions or preconceptions, about whatever is on his mind at the time. One minute he is trotting out the 90s punk company line, 'No nostalgia / And no sentiment / We're over it now / And we were over it then', the next he's detailing the insecurities of an unhealthy relationship drama, 'Do you feel safe with him?
Does he give you everything? Is he gonna work out?'. Of all the punk and grunge music to be


6. Beach House - Bloom (Beach House – Bloom)

Beach House reside in that special corner of consciousness also inhabited by Sigur Ros. It’s the moment after you’ve gone to bed, before you fall asleep, when you are still awake but already beginning a dream. A lucid reality of pure relaxation. Sigur Ros have been doing it perfectly for years. Beach House had the ability, the potential to make an album full of this feeling. Bloom is that record. A wonderful event, when a band reaches their full potential and creates a classic album.

Myth starts off with a cowbell I could’ve created in Fruity Loops, but then just explodes. All of a sudden you’re still here but you’re not anymore, you’re in this giant green field that Beach House have created exclusively for its listeners. Valium, Xanax, all manner of anti-anxiety medications are available in plentiful amounts. The smokey vocals of Victoria Legrand don’t even need to be intelligible, it’s like this beautiful warm cloud descending over the field. The vocals just become one of the instruments, another tool used to create clouds, big fluffy pillows for you mind to flop down on to and relax.

My mother said to me that I would in trouble
Our father won’t come home, cause he is seeing double


What comes after this
Momentary bliss
The consequence
Of what you do to me

It’d deeper than you and me, It’s further than you could see, It’s too much to ask tell me, It’s all in a glance you’ll see.

If you feel the need, or you're in a particularly anxious mood, interact with the lyrics. Legrand writes love songs, she paints pictures of anxious, frightened moments. She explains the problem and in an instant provides the cure. This weird juxtaposition develops, where the music is calm, as inviting as a quick swim at an unknown beach in the middle of summer. Once you dive in, the rip catches you, it drags your mind in to the depths. Beach House never let you struggle long before they throw you a rope, and you're safely in their arms again.

Beach House have harnessed this wonderful ability that electronic music has to very quickly create an atmosphere and an alternate reality and then transport you there and keep you there for an entire record. The big cymbals crashing at the end of Irene even give you the sense that you’ve achieved something during this listen, and that it’s all about to come to a stark end and you’ll be catapulted back in to real life. The beauty of it is, you just double click on Myth and you’re right back where you started.

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