M.I.A. - /\/\ /\ Y /\
I have been looking forward to this album for a while because I know she brings the crazy and the unorthodox style to the music fold. Also known as Maya, M.I.A.'s new album is as different as you expect from her even though some would say it is not really her strongest effort compared to her previous albums. In my mind, it has been under the radar for a while because of the Lady Gaga takeover and such along with M.I.A. having a baby in the past year as if that Grammy performance of "Swagger Like Us" with Jay-Z, Kanye West, T.I., and Lil' Wayne was any indication. This is pretty new as it is actually out next week, but after a few listens I have enjoying it so far as I always appreciate "Different" things in the world of music today. Current favorites for me so far are "Steppin Up," "XXXO," and "Born Free," which are most of the songs she put out so far before the rest of the album releases.
Big Boi - Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty
In the past week, this is quickly becoming my favorite album of the year. Sometimes you just gotta stick to your roots and your certain sound of music which is what Big Boi did with his new album. He does not need to experiment with other forms of music having an obligatory song for the clubs that is all techno or electronic. This is to me Atlanta hip-hop at its finest as he delivers once again with bangers throughout the album along with collaborations with T.I., Janelle Monae, B.o.B., Jamie Foxx, and more. From beginning to end, it is a banging album with your mix of heavy hip-hop tunes from "Daddy Fat Sax," "Shutterbugg," (the first single off the album and video above), "General Patton," and "Tangerine" featuring T.I. Even the slowed down tracks are great like "Be Still" with Janelle Monae. Of course, all of this makes you wish the Outkast reunion would go down in the future with Andre 3000, but that remains to be seen even though the bonus tracks feature him, which is as close as it gets for it to happen. If you are tired of hip-hop getting all clubby and fancy, Big Boi's latest album sticks to what hip-hop was before it got all techno-y, and that alone makes it one of the best albums of the year and my favorite so far.
Gorillaz - Plastic Beach
The Gorillaz album for me was also another highly anticipated one because I'm a fan of the band. Demon Days further escalated them to the mainstream with "Feel Good Inc." still being played on radios today, but their latest album is also pretty good living up to their unique sound along with bringing back the animated characters in their music videos that consist of continuous storytelling. "Stylo" was a great first single for them along with one of the better yet simple music videos of the year featuring Bruce Willis chasing them down. Some of my personal favorites along with "Stylo" are "Rhinestone Eyes" and "Superfast Jellyfish." More Gorillaz in my mind is a good thing as Plastic Beach is among my favorite albums of the year so far.
Janelle Monae - The ArchAndroid
One of the more impressive albums of the year and also at the top of my list is Janelle Monae's debut album. This came out of nowhere for me as one of the sleepers along the mainstream realm of music, but damn this album is too good. Being a new artist in the game can be tough to make a first impression but Monae has done it big with her breakout song, "Tightrope" featuring Big Boi (video above). Her style of R&B and soul music has been unmatched by anyone else I have listened this year as if she is in her own league from the album's beginning to end. She has been one of those artists to watch for a while and I think she has been worth the hype being a breathe of fresh air to the R&B/Soul game. The album's first half is among the best thing I have heard so far from "Dance or Die," "Faster," and "Locked Inside" in that exact order as it goes to tell she is here to stay in the music world. I actually hope she has a bright future in the music industry as it is rare these days to find new artists that would stick out from the norm delivering musical experiences unlike no other.
LCD Soundsystem - This Is Happening
Last, but not least, is LCD Soundsystem's latest album and I do love LCD Soundsystem even though I heard them more on various soundtracks of video games in the day from SSX On Tour (I think), the Burnout franchise, and more. It also has I think the best opening track of the year with "Dance Yrself Clean," an eight minute opus that starts all calm and relaxing, then bam the crazy beats kick in halfway. If only I saw them live at Pomona last month which would of been sweet, but oh well. This is so far the Electro-Rock album of the year for me so far, so if you want your fix that genre of music, you can't do wrong with LCD Soundsystem's latest.
That's it for my top five albums of the year so far. I would likely do an end of the year post with ten in mind like last year as these five would definitely make the top ten. I was thinking of honorable mentions for other albums I have listened to like The Chemical Brothers' latest, Further, and of course perhaps the most anticipated album of the year in many people's minds, which was Drake's Thank Me Later, turned out to be a disappointment for many but I still liked it. Other honorable mentions and recommend to listen to are The Roots's latest, How I Got Over, Reflection Eternal's Revolutions Per Minute, and of course Usher's Raymond vs. Raymond. Of course I do need my clubby music fix here and there as new albums from Lil Jon and Kelis fit that bill for me. There is still the second half of the year of music to experience as I'm looking forward to obviously Kanye's latest, N.E.R.D., and arguably most anticipated of the year now, Daft Punk's soundtrack to Tron Legacy. In the meantime, enjoy my recommendations above.