I wrote some bits for Exclaim’s Year In Review which appeared in both print and online. NOTE: While I participated in the nomination process, the albums I ended up writing about were not necessarily the ones I picked :(
Diamond Rings Special Affections (Secret City)
Buzzed about since forever, Toronto glam-pop-rocker Diamond Rings (aka the D’Urbervilles’ John O’Regan) made his glitter-streaked debut with Special Affections. With nine tracks of devastatingly awesome hooks, innocuously introspective lyrics and smart electro-dance production, it’s an ambitious debut from the David Bowie-Ian Curtis love child. Backed by established hits “All Yr Songs” and “Show Me Your Stuff” Special Affections was a promise delivered with charm, nuance and lots of shimmer.
Black Milk Album of the Year (Fat Beats)
It might seem a bold claim but Album of the Year isn’t necessarily a titular brag by Black Milk ― it represents a year of the Detroit rapper/producer’s life when death and disease were afflicting close friends and family. But instead of innervisions and mourning, AOTY is more like an exercise in joyful catharsis. While he’ll still be a better beat maker than rapper to many, Black Milk’s flow and content show significant improvement and his production has an invigorating, sophisticated, psych-rock edge to it. Don’t fret ― the neo-soul funk sound of the D is still there, Black Milk’s just working it out.
Bilal Airtight’s Revenge (Plug Research)
More restrained and less brazen than his previous work, Airtight’s Revenge is Bilal’s real world opus. An ultra-contemporary R&B album (thematically, sonically and conceptually) Airtight’s Revenge doesn’t pick up where Bilal left off ― the neo-soul world of the early ’00s. Instead, he takes the opportunity to make a definitive statement, about frustration, mistakes and modern day mind control. Complex, dense arrangements pair well with Bilal’s to-the-point, honeyed vocals; instead of focusing on lyrical complexity, he lets the production get outré ― what R&B should be in 2010.