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There’s a new trend in marketing right now where companies go out of their way to create what is known as a “social media presence” for their brand. An addition to the ever-elongating list of methods that corporations have invented in their attempts to trick people into buying overpriced shit they almost never need, a social media presence can be most accurately described as an online personification of a company that REALLY wants to connect with you on facebook or twitter. Despite the generally harmless nature of these personifications, facebook/twitter friendship with social media personalities almost always has its pitfalls. Once you’ve accepted their friend requests (i.e. ‘liked’ their facebook page) you realize almost immediately that these social media personalities are nothing but narcissistic, self-involved assholes. All they do is talk about themselves and how great they are. “Blah, blah, blah check out MY new promotion.” “Blah, blah, blah, how great are MY prices?” It’s almost like they’re not your real friends at all and they just exist because some marketing survey somewhere said that a company’s profits will rise 1.5% if it pays a kid minimum wage to trade in his dreams of being a writer and hire him to personify Colgate brand toothpaste on a twitter account. No disrespect to you kid; I respect your hustle. I’d probably take that job too if I could get it. Mess around on facebook and twitter all day and get paid to do it? You, my friend, are living the dream.

Even though most rational people understand that social media personalities are really just marketing devices, this seemingly has not stopped companies from instructing their social media teams to try and connect to their followers on a human level. Somewhere along the line, marketing executives must have realized that people would be more likely to buy stuff from their companies if their social media personalities appeared to be affable characters rather than the self-involved jerks that they had traditionally been in the past. This is how you get the aforementioned Colgate tweeting a question like this during the holiday season:

“It’s the season for giving! How have you helped bring a smile to someone in need?”

On paper, I can see why this might be a good marketing technique. It’s like “hey everyone, it’s your good friend Colgate here to remind you that Colgate celebrates holidays too. Like a real human! Also, we support values like generosity and smiling! Next time you’re in the toothpaste aisle, think about how we like smiling and holidays just like you and pick up a box of Colgate!” In practice though, you have to wonder; who it is that actually responds to these questions? How lonely and desperate for a connection must a person be to delude himself into thinking that Colgate actually cares about his answer to that question? Worse yet, if the only people who respond to these things are lonely, desperate people, I can only imagine the types of responses Colgate must get:

“Been a while since I’ve made anyone smile Colgate. It seems like I’m a constant source of disappointment to everyone around me”

“Wish I had someone to give something to this year. I pushed all my friends and family away even though they were just trying to help me. Damn this meth addiction!”

“Season for giving? Why don’t you just call it the Christmas season you freedom hating commie liberal?”

I wonder whether the people who run Colgate’s twitter account have been given the necessary training to deal with responses like this. In my opinion, if someone is responding to these questions sincerely, it is definitely a cry for help of sorts. Let’s cut the middleman out altogether and just make the Colgate twitter account a forum for depression counselling. Talk about bringing a smile to those in need Colgate! Unless that was all talk?

My fascination with corporate twitter accounts began when I was scrolling across twitter one day and I came across one for hyhotels.com; a discount hotel booking website based in Ireland. I don’t know what it was that provoked me to follow @hyhohotels on twitter, but it was definitely one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life. Hyhohotels has, without a doubt, the best corporate twitter account in existence, if for no other reason than the fact that NONE of its tweets do anything positive for the promotion of its brand. Whereas other brands try to personify themselves inoffensively, with a sense of subtlety, Hyhohotels does the exact opposite. Whether it is through its use of irrelevant, often offensive non-sequitors, or through its attempts to nonsensically manipulate global trending topics to attract traffic, hyhohotels continually churns out hilarious, terrible attempts at brand marketing in less than 140 characters at a time. To give you a better understanding of what I mean, here are a few examples:

“Recession is when a neighbor loses his job. Depression is when you lose yours. Take a break with http://www.hyhohotels.com and avoid both”

What? No. That’s not what either of those words mean. Also, how the hell would booking a vacation during a time of economic downturn help me keep my job? Even more puzzling, how would my vacation help my neighbour keep his job? Or, was my vacation supposed to stop the economic downturn altogether? I DON’T GET IT. What if I book a vacation with another hotel booking website? Do I still achieve the same results? The whole thing is very confusing.

“A successful man is one who makes more money than his wife can spend. A successful woman is one who can find such a man.”

That’s it. That’s the whole tweet. No attempt to tie that back to their marketing strategy, just some good old fashioned reiteration of traditional gender roles. No idea how this would help them book hotel rooms unless they’re really trying to focus in on that untapped market filled with patriarchs who only want to book hotels from companies who share similar, patriarchal values.

“Before you criticize someone, walk a mile in their shoes. Then when you criticize them, you’re a mile away and you have their shoes.”

Again, no attempt to tie this back to their marketing strategy. Hyhohotels appears to be advocating shoe theft and criticism of others. Does that mean that if I book one of their hotels, the staff will criticize me and then steal my shoes? Sounds like a terrible vacation. I get that it’s supposed to be a joke, but like, why…? Why does hyhohotels.com think that its twitter account needs to be a resource for comedy? No one is recruiting you to join the cast of SNL hyhotels.com so you can stop with the amateur hour.

“#DontYouJustHateWhen Ted says #ICantHaveARelationshipWithYouIf the #First20SongsOnShuffle are #20yearsofblink182. Book http://www.hyhohotels.com

This is one of those cases where the person who runs hyhohotels’ twitter tries to string together a series of unrelated trending topics and somehow relate these back to the hyhohotels website (coherence optional) in hopes of attracting traffic. I don’t even know how to dissect this one.

There is nothing I wish for more in this world than for hyhotels.com to exist as a real person. If it existed, I would make it my best friend and walk around with it and watch people react as it spouted nonsense like the examples above. I’d encourage it to try its comedy act out at open mic nights just to see the crowd’s reaction:

Open Mic host: “You might have seen this next comic on the internet while booking hotels, please welcome hyhohotels.com”

Hyhohotels.com: “Hey, how’s it going everyone? #HaveYouEverNoticed how some #Hotel booking websites have bad service? It’s probably because they’re run by women who are better off spending money rather than making it. #AmIRight? Book a vacation with us today at hyhohotels.com. And what’s with people who criticize others and stealing other peoples’ shoes?”

Audience: “Booooooooooo! Get off the stage!

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trump

So, the election is finally over. After a hard fought battle, 2 billion dollars spent on the campaign trail, and 340932409229 twitter jokes too many, Barack Obama has emerged as the victor. It is now time for the world to look past some of the campaign rhetoric and concentrate on what really matters: the specific details of economic and social policy. LOLOLOL JK. If historical precedent has taught us anything, the world will forget about politics and go back to being apathetic within a week. That being said, there is one thing about this election that I want to make sure everyone remembers vividly; Donald Trump’s call for a revolution. Yup, you read that right. Donald Trump, displeased with the results of the election, tweeted “More votes equals a loss…revolution!” Donald Trump. Yes, that Donald Trump; probably sitting in one of his several private jets, eating caviar, wearing a ring with conflict diamonds on it, called for a revolution. Do me a favour; take a second, close your eyes, and conjure a mental image of Donald Trump standing in front of a blazing fire, hair piece blowing in the wind, yelling “let the shackles of society fall.” Something about that mental picture just doesn’t seem right, does it? A revolution spearheaded by the same man who decides which celebrity gets to stay another week on “Celebrity Apprentice?”

Though not an easy feat to accomplish, calling for a revolution may just be the most obnoxious thing Donald Trump has ever done. Keep in mind, this guy has done a lot of obnoxious shit in his lifetime. This is the same guy who once said the words “Mac Miller is the next Eminem.”  That being said, within the last two weeks, Donald Trump’s level of idiocy has reached an all time high. A couple weeks ago, he put out a youtube video saying that he would donate 5 million dollars to charity if Obama released his passport and college records to the public. “Frankly, it’s a cheque that I very much want to write” Trump said in the video. No, Donald. It clearly isn’t a cheque you very much want to write. If you very much wanted to write the cheque, you’d have written the fucking cheque. What was the point of filming that video Trump? You knew Obama wasn’t going to release his college and passport records to the public. It’s almost as if you wanted the public to think that it was Obama’s fault that some poor charity was being deprived of 5 million dollars. No Donald, it wasn’t. Unless I’m mistaken, you’re the one who controls that money. But, of course, Trump never had any intention of donating that money. I’d call it an empty promise but that would be unfair to the reputation of empty promises. The only thing emptier than that promise is the hole where Donald Trump’s soul should be.

Plain and simple, this election was not kind to the reputation of Donald Trump. Frankly, I’m surprised that some PR person didn’t go out of their way to forcibly remove twitter from all of Trump’s electronic devices. Towards the end of the election, I’m sure even Mitt Romney was like “hey dude, it’s cool if you endorse me, but maybe don’t feel the need to talk about it so much.” All of this, of course, culminated in Donald Trump’s angry call for a revolution. Now, maybe I’m missing something here, but why on EARTH would Donald Trump want to overthrow the system? The current system has been disproportionately, irrationally kind to Donald Trump. Donald Trump’s father, a real estate mogul worth about 400 million dollars at the time of his death, took Donald into the family business right out of University. Since then, Trump has been forced to file for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection for no less than three of his organizations. It’s a wonder to me that he believes that he is credible enough to publish business books. Meanwhile, despite his business failures, the dude is still worth about 700 million dollars. I repeat: why on EARTH would Donald Trump want to overthrow the system? Right about now is the point where some smart ass is probably going to point out that when Trump called for a revolution, he wasn’t actually calling for a full scale overhaul of the system…he was just saying that Romney should not have lost the election while he was still ahead in the popular vote. Granted. But then, why the hell did he call it a revolution? I’m sure he wasn’t calling for a “revolution” when the same thing happened in 2000. Unfortunately Donald, this is the way elections in the United States have always worked. It’s something that people might expect you to understand given that you were planning to run for President at one point. Remember that? LOL. What’s even funnier is that, in the end, Obama did win the popular vote. Trump didn’t even wait until results stopped funnelling in to call for this revolution. Of course, all of this makes sense when you consider Trump’s life trajectory. Dude is a trust-fund baby who has never been deprived of anything in his entire life. For some reason (tax credits), he really wanted Romney to win and when that didn’t happen he threw a tantrum. The whole system should change so that little entitled Donald can get his way! He had no hesitation when invoking the violent imagery of revolution. It did not occur to him that “revolution” is something people call for when they lack basic necessities, when they are willing to die for their cause. Donald Trump probably has no idea what a revolution even looks like.

In 1970, the late, revered poet Gil Scott-Heron released his classic spoken-word piece entitled “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.” In Donald Trump’s likely conception of the revolution, it would probably be a fucking pay-per-view event; “The Revolution: Brought to you by Trump Real Estate.” He’d buy billboards to promote the revolution and put his stupid, fucking face on them. Worse yet, Trump would probably find an asinine way to incorporate the revolution into one of his celebrity apprentice challenges. I can see it now; “the team that recruits the most rebels will receive immunity and the team who loses will have to face…the boardroom.”  In the boardroom, Trump would probably give an obnoxious speech about the proper method of recruiting rebels before firing the project manager for not having the foresight to go after disenfranchised youth or something…..Of course, this is no more than a fairy tale concocted within the deluded mind of Donald Trump. It baffles me that Donald Trump does not realize that in any real revolution, he would likely be the first person to die.

**Disclaimer: By no means am I advocating violence against Donald Trump. It’s a shame that I have to disclaim this, but a lot people on the internet are stupid and might take that last sentence the wrong way.

In the interests of continuing the tradition I started last year, I’ve decided to do a write-up of my favourite albums of the year. 2011, in my opinion, was a great year for music. As a result of this, I found it really difficult to narrow the list down to 10 albums. This year I included 15 albums instead. It’s not a big deal. I’m sure you don’t care. As I mentioned last year, I think it is literally impossible to listen to all the music released in a given year. As such, I acknowledge fully that there’s probably a lot of stuff that I missed/forgot to include. If you can think of anything I didn’t include or if you disagree with any of my picks for some reason, feel free to let me know. Also, before I begin, I would like to stress that the rankings mean very little. Any person who can claim based on some sort of objective criteria that a folk rock album is “better” than a Hip-Hop one, must be some sort of God. For me, I find that it’s kind of similar to comparing apples and oranges (sorry for the incredibly cliché phrase, but its true.) So please keep this in mind as you read through the list.

15) Clams Casino – Instrumental Mixtape

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It seems like blasphemy on the internet these days to say that you’re not a fan of ASAP Rocky. In that case, bless me Based God for I have sinned. I don’t really see the dude’s appeal. I mean, I love the idea of walking around saying “I be that pretty motherfucker…” But other than that, it feels to me as if the guy lacks substance. One thing I did notice on ASAP’s mixtape LiveLoveA$AP, however, is that the production was amazing. This is what led me to Clams Casino’s Instrumental Mixtape. Clams Casino has produced for artists like Lil’ B and Soulja Boy but don’t hold this against him. When you listen to his beats without the “based” freestyles that happen over them, you realize that the dude is talented. His beats have this spacey, ethereal sound to them that create a landscape unlike any I’ve ever heard. He is the perfect craftsman for the smoked out feel that ASAP is going for. In the end, each beat comes together in a polished manner, something which I felt was lacking from AraabMuzik’s somewhat unfocused record “Electronic Dream.” The entire effort flows beautifully with every instrumental blending seamlessly into the next. If you’re the type of person who likes instrumental hip hop, definitely check this album out.

14) Jamie Woon – Mirrorwriting

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One of the trends that you will notice occurring on this list is that, this year, I was really into the rise of the Alt-R&B genre. If you’re a fan of this genre and you haven’t heard of Jamie Woon yet, you should definitely get into his music. His album “Mirrorwriting” was an enjoyable listen from front to end. In my opinion, the strongest attribute throughout the album is Jamie’s singing voice. Jamie is a great singer who has the ability to manipulate his voice in such a way that he manages to sound simultaneously mellow and powerful at the same time. On top of this, the work features stellar production from the critically acclaimed post-dubstep? (I don’t even know) producer Burial and great contributions from Royce Wood Jr. Together, the two of them create a great canvass for Jamie’s voice to shine over. The production straddles the thin line between being minimalistic and being boring very effectively, only very rarely falling off in one direction or another. It is definitely a project worth looking into.

13) Active Child – You Are All I See

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The coolest thing about Active Child is that he is primarily a harpist. The way he actively (Ha, see what I did there? Cause his name is ACTIVE child. HA) incorporates harp-oriented production into his brand of Indie-Pop, electronic, new-wave music is impressive. Whereas other artists whose approach is to incorporate one instrument heavily into a particular genre can seem gimmicky, (think Miri-Ben Ari playing the violin over hip hop songs) Active Child manages to avoid this trap through the use of multi layered instrumentation and a broader vision. To put it another way, it seems as if the harp fits into the music more than the music has to fit into the harp. “You Are All I See” is one of those records where a listener might be confused for the first little while. As the record progresses, however, it all seems to come together. Active Child has a great falsetto that shines throughout the album as well. Definitely worth checking out if you’re looking to hear something different.

12) The Black Keys – El Camino

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The Black Keys are the first of three artists on this list who make repeat appearances from last year. Last year, the world was widely exposed to The Black Keys when the song “Tighten Up” ended up in every commercial ever. Probably partly due to the success of that song, the band decided to go back into the studio with longtime producer DJ Danger Mouse. On this record, DJ Danger Mouse does for the Black Keys something he has been able to do for many of the artists he has worked with; he allows them to show growth. Though there is much of the same bluesy-soul tinged rock & roll music that longtime fans of the Black Keys love, there are also softer songs like “Little Black Submarines” which find the band toying with new sounds, often to a high degree of success. As with all Black Keys albums, “El Camino” is dripping with catchy melodies and great guitar solos. If you’re completely crazy and haven’t been able to get into the Black Keys before now, this album might be the one to do it for you.

11) James Blake – James Blake

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James Blake has had a hell of a year. At the beginning of the year, when I first brought up James Blake, a friend remarked to me that he preferred Roger Federer. This is, of course, a reference to the tennis player of the same name. I’m sure, by now, there is no longer any confusion between the two. These days, James Blake is releasing music videos featuring the actress from “The Town” and sitting in rooms with Kanye West, Mannie Fresh, John Legend, and Hit-Boy (this actually happened). James Blake is completely fathering his own style. James Blake’s minimalist, post-dubstep production is unlike any I’ve ever heard before. It’s almost completely impossible for me to describe unless you’ve heard it. As such, each song on his self titled album is an experience. What’s crazy is that James Blake also has an amazingly unique and surprisingly soulful singing voice. On almost any other album, James Blake’s voice would be the star, yet on this album the production takes front and center. As I said, you really have to hear the album to understand.

10) Common – The Dreamer, The Believer

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“The Dreamer, The Believer” finds Common hooking up once again with his longtime producer and friend No-ID. No-ID has gained recognition in recent years for producing songs like Death of Autotune for popular artists like Jay-Z. It is important to note, however, that No-ID is a legendary producer who has been around for a long time, banging out hits for Common way before he was in movies with Queen Latifah. Common has seen great chemistry since with producers like Kanye West and J. Dilla, but nothing has been able to match the cohesive nature of his albums with No-ID. Much historical precedence has shown that albums with a single producer at the helm are much better at maintaining a singular, polished theme than albums where each individual song is produced by a different person. “The Dreamer, The Believer” is no exception. The songs transition into each other in such a smooth way that the album may as well be one long continuous mp3 file. (Side note, if you liked this album, look up the Cocaine 80s EP produced by No-ID released earlier in the year.) Anyways, the album also sees a return to lyrical form for Common after a somewhat disappointing showing on his last album. On this album, Common goes back to doing what he does best. Common is one of the few people in hip hop who has the ability to rap consciously about a topic without coming across as too preachy. Given this, he uses the album to provide introspection about a wide variety of topics in a poetic manner. In addition to this, Common gets back to the gritty lyricism that made albums like Resurrection so dope. Many people forget that Common is responsible for one of the greatest diss songs of all time, with his Ice Cube crucifixion, “The Bitch in You.” On this album, Common flexes some of that battle rap type lyrical skill with lines like “Nah N*gga, I’m Chicago. So I cracked his head with a motherfucking bottle.” Plus, the album has a song with both Common and Nas on it! Literally a hip hop head’s wet dream. Overall, “The Dreamer, The Believer” is a great album that’s definitely worth a listen.

9) Kendrick Lamar – Section 80

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Plain and simple, Kendrick Lamar can rap his ass off. Between the lyrical content, the wordplay, and the flow, it seems like there’s no new rapper in the game coming close to Kendrick right now. Section 80 is a solid showing of all these lyrical talents. Perhaps somewhat counter intuitively, however, the entire album flowed together flawlessly. This is something many veteran rappers still struggle with on their albums. God knows Jadakiss STILL can’t put together a full album. If you’re a sceptic, listen to the song “Rigamortus.” The song sees Kendrick increasing his rapping speed gradually until his words are barely discernible. Definitely the best flow of any rap song to come out this year. To be honest, I don’t have much to say about this album. If you like rap music of any sort, you should listen to it. You will not be disappointed.

8) Frank Ocean – Nostalgia, Ultra

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Looking back on music in 2011, one of the things that will definitely be of note is the rise to prominence of Odd Future. It is heavily apparent that, in the long run, Odd Future probably won’t be sustainable as a group. Certain members like Tyler and Earl will have sustainable careers but many of the more obscure members will probably lose relevance and be forgotten. Appearing to be somewhat of an anomaly in the context of the group is alt R&B crooner Frank Ocean. On closer inspection, however, Frank Ocean fits right into the group with his fresh approach to the genre. As the story goes, Frank Ocean was signed to Def Jam as a song writer under the name Lonny Breaux. During this period, he penned songs for the likes of John Legend and Justin Bieber. The label soon became disillusioned with Ocean’s increasingly “creative” sounding music and kind of forgot about him. Frustrated with the label, Frank Ocean decided to release a collection of his songs online for free under the name “Nostalgia, Ultra.” This collection of music received massive critical and commercial acclaim, even spawning a surprise hit in the drugged out song “Novacane.” At this point, Def Jam began scrambling to sign this Frank Ocean dude, not realizing he was already signed to them under the name Lonny Breaux. Since then, Frank Ocean has written for Beyonce and been featured on songs with Jay-Z and Kanye West. Not bad, coming off a free release. People who have heard Frank Ocean’s newest work say it sounds even weirder than the older stuff.  The thing that allows him to fit right in with the OFWGKTA crew is his DIY attitude and his complete lack of concern for what others think. The dude makes music for himself and no one else. It’s easy to fall in love with the story, but I assure you the story is outshadowed by the music. Frank Ocean’s singing voice is one of the most controlled I’ve heard in a long time. That, in combination with the lyrical content and stellar production, makes for one of the most original releases of the year.

7) Bon Iver – Bon Iver, Bon Iver

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Contrary to what the Grammy’s think, Bon Iver is not a new artist by any means. Their 2011 album “Bon Iver, Bon Iver” is actually their second album after the amazing debut “For Emma, Forever Ago” was released in 2007. Many people wondered how Justin Vernon and co. would be able to follow up this debut, partly because the bar was raised so high. On this album, however, the band proved all the doubters wrong and released one of the most critically acclaimed albums of the year. I know I’ve used the word “cohesive” a lot in this write-up thus far, but there is no other word for how well this album comes together. Thematically, the album is unique because it has a clear rise, climax, and fall in a way that few albums do. Though I do miss the immediately catchy songs like “Skinny Love” from the first album, “Bon Iver, Bon Iver” differs because it is beautiful in its subtleties, chock full of hidden gems for listeners to discover on the 6th or 7th listen. Each listen through to the album will provide a new experience. Throw this album on while on a particularly scenic road trip, and it will provide the perfect theme music.

6) tUnE-yArDs – w h o k i l l

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For the remainder of this paragraph, I’m going to refer to tUnE-yArDs as “band-aid” because the primary musician Merrill Garbus made it a bitch to spell the name correctly. Thus, I’ve arbitrarily assigned the name band-aid. Band-Aid’s second effort “w h o k i l l” can only be described as experimental. Transcending the idea of genre altogether, the album incorporates elements from Funk, hip hop, R&B, indie rock, punk, and tons of other genres to create something completely quite unlike anything I’ve ever heard. Merrill Garbus’s somewhat avant-garde singing is also a nice change from the easily accessible melodies that I’m used to. After getting used to this, however, the album was an easy sell. Songs like the lead single Bizness, have instantly catchy production and others like the above song “Gangsta,” are so interesting that, although not immediately catchy, you’re intrigued enough that you can’t stop listening. The latter song deals with issues relating to Suburban angst, with Garbus screaming the lyrics “Anger in his heart but he’ll never be a gangster.” This is a sentiment I’m sure many people can relate to. If you’re looking for an album that will challenge your palette, check this one out.

5) Jay-Z & Kanye West – Watch The Throne

Sample Song (Though, I highly doubt it’s necessary):

 

What is there left for me to say about “Watch The Throne” that hasn’t already been said? Yes, I expected more from two artists of this calibre. Yes, the album’s subject matter concentrated a little too heavily on how rich both artists are. Yes, the song “Lift Off” was one of the biggest abortions released this side of anything 50 Cent has put out in the past 5 years. And yes, the two have taken to performing the hit single “N*ggas in Paris” eight or nine times each show throughout their concert tour. Despite all of this though, the album fucking jams!! Even though the album may have been a bit disappointing due to an extremely high bar raised by fans, the question remains; How bad could an album by Jay-Z and Kanye West really be? The answer to this question is simple, not very. The production, as with anything Kanye West touches, is amazing throughout. Also, the lyrical content, upon closer inspection, delves into issues much deeper than money and fame. Look no further than the song “New Day” posted above, where Kanye and The RZA take Nina Simone and run her voice through autotune for God’s sake! There was mixed opinions on this in the critical community, but I personally think that they executed the sample to perfection. Plus, what other producers would have the balls to do something like that? This is a common theme throughout the album; Kanye and Jay-Z doing things that no other rap artists would have the balls to do. The lyrical content of the song itself is beautifully sincere with both artists penning letters to their hypothetical unborn sons, giving them lessons to avoid the pitfalls that they, themselves, have experienced in life. Though, on the surface, the album may seem like a giant brag/comment about their level of success, a closer examination of certain songs shows that it is more so an existential crisis on record. More than a simple brag about success, the album raises questions about what to do when you have reached a certain level of success. Jay-Z and Kanye seem unsure of whether they’re supposed to use their success as a means to make social commentary, as they do on “Murder to Excellence” or if they’re allowed to have the same struggles and emotions as regular people, something Jay-Z explores heavily on the song “Welcome to the Jungle.”…As I said before, I can’t really say much about this album that hasn’t already been said. If you haven’t heard it already, chances are you live in a cave.

4) The Weeknd – House of Balloons

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During a year in music that was heavily dominated by the rise of Alt R&B, “House of Balloons” seems to reign king over all other similar releases. Somewhat extrapolating on sounds that Drake experimented with on So Far Gone and Thank Me Later, Toronto based artist The Weeknd, has been able to carve out a lane for himself that few are able to even approach. Doc McKinney and Illangelo’s hazy, smoked out, percussion heavy production provides the perfect backdrop for Abel Tesfaye’s beautiful, catchy melodies to float over. Guaranteed, it is impossible to listen to this entire mixtape without at least one song getting stuck in your head. Since the release of “House of Balloons”, Abel has put out two more mixtapes and worked extensively on Drake’s solid outing “Take Care”, proving that he is a force of consistency and that he is here to stay. In my opinion, however, it will be difficult for anything he does from now on to compete with the impact this mixtape had. This album is too good for me to describe in words. To understand what I’m talking about, you just have to listen to it.

3) Little Dragon – Ritual Union

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I’m not sure if this album is THIS good or if I’m just a sucker for lead singer Yukimi Nagano’s voice. Highly likely, it’s a bit of both. But seriously, I would marry this woman’s voice. The cool thing about any Little Dragon album is that you know you’re going to hear something completely original on each effort. The band is constantly evolving to the point where no one will ever be able to accuse them of stagnating artistically. On “Ritual Union” the band draws heavy influence from dubstep, something very apparent on songs like “Precious.” However, the band takes the same subtle, understated approach towards dubstep that they take towards all their music. The result is a much more pleasant listening experience than the majority of dubstep out there. I mean, saying the word “subtle” to Skrillex is probably similar to saying the word “subtle” to a native Indonesian; it will mean nothing to either of them. Other than that, the album is just more of the down-tempo, trip hop goodness we’ve come to expect from Little Dragon.  The album might be a grower, but give it a couple listens because I promise you, it will be worth it.

2) The Roots – Undun

Sample Song:

 

Forget that I’ve used the word “cohesive” at all during this article. Forget what the word cohesive even means. Now, listen to “Undun.” Done? (Ha, terrible pun). Okay, now you will understand what it means for an album to be cohesive. I can confidently say that this album is now my favourite concept album ever. “Undun” tells the story of fictional character Redford Stevens, a mid-level hustler living in urban poverty. It begins with his death and moves backwards detailing his life, delving into an exploration of the characters psychology and the thoughts and circumstances that motivate the choices he makes. By the end of the album, it is impossible not to empathize with the character because you know him so well. As cliché as it is to say this, this album is actually more like a movie. Black Thought and all of the featured rappers do an amazing job painting a picture for the listener while ?uestlove and the rest of the band provide a very cinematic score. Seriously, the production on this album is perfect, rising and falling with the hopes and despairs of the main character appropriately. Don’t let that fool you into thinking that the production simply serves as a companion piece. Quite the opposite in fact, each beat is filled with so many subtle intricacies that I would probably pay to purchase an instrumental version of the album as well. The entire thing culminates in the three instrumental movements at the end which bring an impressive sense of finality to an already amazing album. “Undun” has seen some criticism from reviewers who say that the story is one that is too familiar in Hip Hop. I could understand this criticism if they were reviewing a clichéd buddy cop movie, but they’re not. Though the theme of hustling and urban poverty has been explored many times in hip hop, it should never be allowed to become less important. The fact of the matter is that stories like this still exist in America. For their part, The Roots take a creative approach to telling this story. While other rappers may rap vaguely about someone being a product of their environment, The Roots take the approach of humanizing the character and forcing a listener to step in his shoes and experience his struggle. This allows the impact of the story to hit closer to home. If you haven’t heard this album, you should definitely check it out.

1) SBTRKT – SBTRKT

Sample Song:

 

This album gets the title of being number one on my list simply by virtue of the fact that it is probably the album I listened to the most. SBTRKT’s post-dubtep stylings on this album are extremely simple, yet sometimes it is this understated approach that makes for the greatest music. Each production choice that SBTRKT makes seems to be methodical, with every drum, every instrument, and every pad adding another layer to the great instrumentation. Singers Sampha and Jessie Ware shine throughout the album with their great voices taking center stage over the production, blending flawlessly, almost as if SBTRKT is using their voices as just another instrument to add to the overall effect. The album also features one of the best songs of the year, the jam “Wildfire” featuring Little Dragon. The song is so great that Drake took notice and decided to lay a verse over it, even performing the remix at SBTRKT’s show in Toronto. This is one of those albums that I have no words for. To understand why it’s so good, you simply have to listen to it.

Wow. That was long. Congratulations to anyone who stuck it out. Here’s hoping that 2012 will be equally as great of a year for music! Happy New Years everyone!

Random PSA.

Allow me to reintroduce myself! My name is HOVVV!

Yeah, that has nothing to do with what I’m writing. I just have an obsessive compulsive need to make hip-hop references. It’s a sickness. It really is. It’s something even my closest friends have come to tire of. “MAN. WE’RE TALKING ABOUT THE HOLOCAUST! THERE’S NO NEED TO BRING UP RAP MUSIC!”  It wouldn’t be out of the question for someone to have to yell this at me on any given day. Okay, not this exact scenario. Though, that wouldn’t be because I’m above making rap references about the holocaust. No, not at all (It’s a sickness, I’m telling you). It’s moreso because…who really sits around and talks about the holocaust anymore? That was so 1940s!

This kind of brings me to the point of this stream of consciousness, piece of shit blog I’m writing; attention span. (Check out that segue. Flawless! They should give me a trophy or something. *cough*)…Where was I? Oh, yes, attention span. Our society, me very much included, has the collective attention span of a grade 3 who repeatedly asks the class teacher if “we can have class outside?” This doesn’t refer simply to our ability to concentrate on tasks; though, that’s not exactly at an all time high. This refers to the general amount of time, we, as a society, keep anything in our consciousness.

Today, while I was at my school’s library to, umm, apparently watch youtube and not study for my exams, I decided to go for a walk. Apparently I felt I needed a break from doing nothing. To give you some background information, the main library at my university is 10-stories tall. Each story of this significantly large building is packed, save for study space, wall to wall with books. As I walked up and down the bookshelves and looked at the books, I came to the sad realization that the majority of these books probably haven’t been picked up in years. Seriously, there are books on every topic you can imagine. If you ever need to research how to tell your kid you have diabetes in GERMAN, my school library probably has a book for it. I don’t know why the German part is emphasized. I’m sure Germans get diabetes too. ANYWAYS…I began to think about the wider discourse behind each of these books. It occurred to me that it is highly possible that many of these books came about as the result of someone’s life’s work. People, somewhere on this planet, may have painstakingly dedicated their entire lives to researching, writing, and perfecting these books. These same Authors probably waited with baited breath to find out whether they were going to be published, rejoicing like never before when they found out that they were. I wonder what these authors would think now if they knew that their books sat, collecting dust on shelves, as a completely insignificant part of a huge collection. The library keeps all these books on display as if to yell “HEY. LOOK AT HOW MUCH ARBITRARY KNOWLEDGE WE PUT IN A BUILDING.” As if that means ANYTHING. I’m sure many of these books were completely relevant when they were published, and for all I know they sold well. This doesn’t change the fact, however, that these books seem to be of very little value now. I suppose, one could argue that their sad, but inevitable loss of significance is a reality of human progress. Relevance goes away and things are forgotten.

Now picture that this library was even bigger. Like, infinitely big. And it contained infinite amounts of books. Not just books, but all media in fucking existence. Ever. In the history of the world.  Even this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=52duiUapITQ.  In case you didn’t catch the metaphor (and you’re also the world’s least perceptive person) I’m talking about the internet. The internet’s effect on the collective attention span of society has been, umm, detrimental to say the least. We live in the age of the meme. If you don’t know what a meme is, I applaud you. Don’t look it up. Save yourself. Similar to the books in the library, it seems that each meme has its time of relevance but then fades into obscurity into the abyss of things that exist (whoa, so poetic. *cough*). But, because the internet contains even more information than the library, this period of relevance has become increasingly shorter and shorter. It’s as if, we, as a society, are trying to absorb as much information as possible but we simply can’t keep up. As a result of this, we rush through everything, randomly prioritize, and keep certain things at the forefront of our attention for miniscule time periods, and move on. As vlogger Kashif Pasta aptly says, “it’s like we’re getting the coles notes” on life. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not calling for society to start saying #Winning again or for a revival of the song “Friday”. God, those things got annoying. It just seems that increasingly, this culture of the “meme” is beginning to transcend the context of internet fads into things that actually matter. Remember the earthquake/floods in Japan that we all tweeted/made facebook statuses about? How many of us have followed up on that tragedy? Remember the uprising in Tunisia? How many of us have read recently about the progress of democracy in Tunisia? The 10th anniversary of 9/11? The incident all of a sudden became more tragic because that the earth rotated the sun 10 times since that day. Cause THAT makes sense… The next to go, and already somewhat on its way out, is the Occupy Wall Street movement. To be clear, I’m not saying that I’m better. I’m just as guilty of letting myself forget about something that was once very relevant to me. When it gets to this point, however, it seems there’s a danger in continuing this trend. This is getting pretty preachy, I’m sorry about this.

The effects of this meme culture have pervaded not only the news, but pretty much every aspect of pop culture. Remember when no one would shut up about the ending of Inception? Very few conclusions were actually reached, yet the debates don’t continue! It’s imperative that we figure out what the fuck happened there! Music as well, where the latest hit song is played obsessively for 2 months and then completely disappears from our consciousness. Who still listens to “Lollipop” by Lil’ Wayne…fucking no one. At least, I’d hope not. The danger here, is that media makers are now reluctant to put their time and effort into anything, knowing how quickly it will fade into obscurity. Long gone are the days where people dedicated their entire lives to researching and writing one book. Instead, we have people who determine what’s popular, churn it out in a factory style manner, and put minimal effort into their craft. What happened to the days where media could be described as “timeless?”

Part of this problem can be attributed to the rise of social media so I’m painfully aware of the irony involved in me writing this as a blog entry and posting it on facebook. I’m also aware that I’m not exactly covering anything groundbreaking here. I just feel that from time to time people need to be reminded to take a step back and re-evaluate what was once important to them. I have no suggestions on how to do this, cause, let’s be honest, it’s much easier to outline problems than it is to come up with solutions. Perhaps, however, make it your New Years resolution (another useless concept based on the earth rotating the sun) to take 10 minutes each day and revisit something that once mattered to you. I’m sure, you’ll find it to be an enjoyable experience. After all, why do you think it is we all love to have that incredibly cliché conversation about the tv shows we watched as kids?

PSA over.

I first heard Sene on his incredibly dope, Blu helmed project “A Day Late and A Dollar Short.” Since then, it seems that the man has been on his grind, putting out more music and releasing videos. The song above is a good example of his music for those who are unfamiliar, complete with sick rhymes over fresh production. Don’t sleep on this kid! He definitely has some spit to him.

I was going to lump this in with the mega-post, but I just couldn’t do it. I originally clicked on the link for this song because I read that it was produced by the dude from Quadron but then I stayed for the voice. This woman has an amazingly sultry, breathy, jazzy voice that can only be described as Adele meets Lauryn Hill. That’s extremely high praise from me. She just released a two-track single as way of her US debut. I can’t wait to see what else she comes up with. Check the track out.