20. Lil Wayne — Tha Carter III (Deluxe Edition)
His day job finances his mixtape hobby — that’s how I excused this initially disappointing official product. But with the hype since faded, I can hear the wiseass tweaking a post-millennial pop sound he can’t be bothered to redefine. As a single, “Lollipop” sucked (heh), but Static Major’s chilly production generates a weird fascination when mixed in with showoff moments (“A Milli”), displays of soul (“Tie My Hands”), and outright comedy numbers (“Dr. Carter”). As for the Autotune, it allows Weezy to experiment even more wildly with his vocal timbre. A classic? What a dumb thing to expect from such an irresponsible genius. But the slippery lil motherfucker sure put a bunch of good music in one place. Too bad his day job finances his ill-conceived rock dreams.
19. Love Is All — A Hundred Things Keep Me Up at Night
Quite a decade for female Swedish singer-songwriters, huh? I prefer Josephine Olausson to kittenish Lykke Li or gothic Karin Dreijer Andersson or even synth-pop self-starter Robyn, all of whom share little more than citizenship. Olausson’s the least ambitious of the lot — this follow-up could’ve been called Eleven More Times That Same Song — thereby indulging my lazybones socialist fantasy that the dream of the ’90s is alive in Gothenburg. In true indie-rock fashion she’s energized by her petty discontents — couldn’t sound more excited to scream “I’m bored to death of all this shit!” One day she’ll meet a nice guy and run out of romantic snags to blurt about–she’ll show you. Oh, she’ll show you all.
18. Abe Vigoda — Skeleton
Hailing from the same communal L.A. punk scene as No Age, whose beauty they can approximate but whose dissonance they avoid, these kids are younger, more enthusiastic, less thoughtful. There’s sometimes a gamelan shimmer to Michael Vidal and Juan Velazquez’s guitars, sometimes an Afropop chime, and when they aren’t darting off in opposite diagonals from Reggie Guerrero’s drums, they’re rising vertically with him in unison. There are lyrics too, but the vocals they foolishly pushed to the front on future releases are here but another inarticulate melodic element.
17. dj/rupture — Uproot
Worldbeat optimism posits music as a universal language that allows us to experience our common humanity. Electronic pessimism offers a party kid’s hangover as the definitive existential truth of modern life. Spooky electro-collagist Jace Clayton shows up both lies: He refuses to romanticize the angry and disenfranchised voices that rise up from the bottomless echo of dubstep here, which testify to a terror-hold-the-ism more elemental than any first-world paranoia. Rhythm will not save us–we all kinda knew that. Rupture suspects that it might not even keep us dancing fast enough to forget we’re doomed.
16. Seun Kuti & Egypt 80 — Seun Kuti + Fela’s Egypt 80
Like everyone before him who’s ever mistaken Afrobeat for a genre, rather than simply the-music-Fela-made, Seun lacks his father’s vocal authority. Unlike every Fela follower before him, Seun has his father’s band, including MVP drummer Baba Jasco. Where Fela’s anger manifested itself as regal disdain, his youngest son’s protests ring with a proud human’s intolerance to injustice, and on these seven tracks (each under 10 minutes–a time span Fela might have deemed unduly terse) he speaks with as much as to Nigeria. Nuff respect to Tony Allen, Antibalas, and Seun’s well-intentioned brother Femi, but this is the only essential Afrobeat disc recorded after Fela’s death.