This is awkward. I don’t know what to say here. I mean, 2011 was a great year for music. You know that. Justin Bieber started rapping. How could it not be a great year for music?
As you scroll through this list, I hope you actually read whatever stuff I wrote. I mean, I usually find myself just looking at other blogs’ posts instead of actually reading them, so I understand if you just want to skip ahead to the music. Just know that I’m like you: I love good music. Hopefully as you read my short reviews, you’ll hear my words echo your thoughts, and you’ll be able to relate to them. Even more importantly than that, however, I hope you consider each of my choices carefully and judge it on your own grounds. The goal of this list is to share. Hopefully, it’ll add some new music to your collection, while starting
arguments animated discussions about your favorites of the year down below.
Hit continue reading to see the lists and hear a sample from each mixtape and EP.
Best EPs of 2011:
5. Peter and Kerry, Clothes, Friends, Photos
Heartbreak is not enjoyable at all, but Peter and Kerry manage to make hearing about it super enjoyable. Their Clothes, Friends, Photos EP is chalk full of emotional letdowns and broken promises, and I think it is delightful. Both Peter and Kerry shine individually at various moments on the EP, but their vocal styles compliment each other so well that even when they’re apart it seems like they’re together. For example, Kerry’s vulnerability on “The Shadows” is the perfect counter to Peter’s melancholy on “Knees.” And yeah, this is Peter and Kerry, so rightfully, the group shines in their harmonies (revisit the chorus of “Knees”). Swag on swag on swag.
4. Team Me, Team Me
Every song on Team Me’s debut EP is infectious in its own way. Between one track’s 8-bit beat and another’s erupting chorus, it is hard not to fall in love with. It seems like the band genuinely enjoyed recording these songs, and their passion shines throughout the project. Oh, and it’s definitely about trying to overcome drug addiction after it drives away true love.
3. Reptar, Oblangle Fizz Y’all
This 5-song EP has managed to steadily gain plays on my iTunes over the past year. How? I’m not sure, but I know that the answer lies somewhere in between the inherent jamminess (when a song stops being a “song” and becomes a “jam”) of their music and the general wackness (uniqueness?) of the lead singer’s voice. If you like comparisons, Reptar is basically a more playful Vampire Weekend. Hold the swag.
2. Childish Gambino, EP
I am probably a music snob, but I can still put that aside for things that, for whatever reason, I really like. This is not an EP for music snobs. It’s not groundbreaking or profound or weirdly experimental. This selection is not going to make hipster DJs in Williamsburg really applaud Sunset for their excellent find, but hey, I really like it. It’s the most played EP in my iTunes, and it’s filled with some of my favorite rap songs of the year. It’s dumb and smart at the same time, and I like that. I can relate to that.
And for true Gambino fans, the original beat of “Lights Turned On” came in the form of this song from one of Donald’s beat tapes under his “mc DJ” moniker.
1. Oliver Tank, Dreams
Oliver Tank is an efficient writer. He gets more meaning out of a few words than most other musicians get out of lengthy verses. Similarly, he has a knack for using minimalist backdrops to effectively companion these words. Each of the 6 tracks on the EP contains its own sound; its own story. Together, they transport the listener to another world. The world is different from Earth, but similar enough to still seem realistic. It is probably set underwater and probably involves sleep deprivation. However you interpret this EP, I just hope you let it take you on its journey and let it soundtrack your life through its life. Because that is what good music is supposed to do.
Honorable Mentions: Toro y Moi, King Krule, Jens Lekman
Best Mixtapes of 2011:
5. ASAP Rocky, LiveLoveA$AP
Goddamn, how real is this? This mixtape is so trill. It features one of the best opening tracks of the year, and the Clams Casino-produced songs (and a few others) provide the tape with enough highlights to push it into the best of the year conversation. Basically, I’m tired of feeling sick and tired.
4. Hoodie Allen, Leap Year
Both Hoodie Allen and his producer RJF deserve equal recognition for the success of this mixtape. And I’m sure Hoodie would agree. Whether you’re racist and call their partnership the opposite of Chiddy Bang or not, it is needless to say that this duo works. On Leap Year, they pick up right where they left off on Pep Rally. Hoodie continues to deliver dope verses and hone his craft, while RJF provides a string of fresh samples and beats, showing off an equal amount of improvement on production.
3. Mac Miller, Best Day Ever
Like Andy Milonakis aptly deduced, Mac Miller took a risk when he named his mixtape “Best Day Ever.” It left a lot of room for astronomically high expectations. But his team is smart. The tape did not disappoint. It propelled Miller into a higher tier of rappers and earned him a lot of respect from the hip-hop community. If anything can be learned from the Pittsburgh native’s seemingly meteoric rise to (commercial) prominence, it is that his team is really smart. They take risks, but they are educated risks–most notably, the title of this mixtape, the use of social media as a direct line of communication with his fans, and the sheer genius of their pre-release marketing strategy for Blue Slide Park. Oh, and having a young talent like Mac on their side makes their job a heck of a lot easier.
2. Frank Ocean, nostalgia, ultra
It’s truly amazing to see how far Frank Ocean has come in this past year. nostalgia, ultra, Ocean’s first release, features some daring samples of classic songs as well as some refreshingly unique originals. It along with House of Balloons ignited a new movement in R&B. Earlier this year, the two artists were consistently and conveniently compared to each other when they both emerged out of obscurity with hit releases. Now it seems like Ocean, the oldest member of Odd Future, has separated himself from the pack. With his features on Watch the Throne, his awesomely random leaks, and his commercial debut coming out any day now, it’s clear that Frank Ocean is here to stay.
Oh, and his kimonos. Definitely his kimonos, too.
1. The Weeknd, House of Balloons
I don’t think anything epitomizes cool more than Abel Tesfaye. Like, yes, he seems like a terrible human being. But also, yes, we like hearing him sing about his crazy exploits. He has developed a small but effective repertoire of sounds on his first two mixtapes: House of Balloons and Thursday. The former being more original and just plain better than the latter. The project’s simple and honest lyrics and spacey production make it an entirely unique R&B experience. It won’t take you more than one listen to realize that this is/will be an important mixtape.
Honorable Mentions: G-Eazy, Lupe Fiasco, Belly, Logic, Pusha T, Sol, XV