Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. Tiffany recommends checking out “Camp” by Childish Gambino, a.k.a. Donald Glover. Law students can relate well to his nerdy pop culture references.This isn’t a “Best of 2011” list. This is just a “Best of Whatever I’m Listening to Right Now” list, and I am a fickle person with a short attention span. Everyone’s trying to upstage everyone else with new, undiscovered finds. I have no such delusions of grandeur. There’s no valid reason you should adhere to my music recommendations, but here they are:
Justice – “Audio, Video, Disco” (2011) Somewhere between the cloying Europop Guetta invasion and the harsh industrial dubstep uprising, we find Justice, maturing to the edge of adult contemporary in their sophomore effort. Like pretty much the entire world, I loved “Cross.” “Audio, Video, Disco” is less dance-y, with none of the stadium hits of “Cross.” However, the sound is cleaner and clearer. “Audio, Video, Disco” is consistently pleasant, upbeat, soft electro with no surprises. Best song: “Civilization.”
Childish Gambino – “Camp” (2011) Childish Gambino is fresh, clever, and self-aware. His beats are purposefully awkward, but his lyrics are intelligent and sharp. Donald Glover’s biting sense of humor pervades his music, and this album is full of enough nerdy pop culture references to allow even law students to relate. It’s like Eminem (especially on “LES”) and LMFAO had a baby, and that baby got a degree at NYU, put on hipster glasses, and decided to rap. Best song: “Bonfire.”
Little Boots – “Hands” (2009) English artist Little Boots (Victoria Christina Hesketh) is touring right now in support of an album due next year. It’s probably a good time for a refresher course on Little Boots, a mainstay of the electropop scene both here and across the pond. Fame aside, this album is just plain fun.There’s an edge in songs like “Meddle” that you might not expect from Hesketh’s lilting voice and peppy syncopation. Best song: “New in Town.”
Fitz and the Tantrums – “Pickin’ Up the Pieces” (2010) Fitz and the Tantrums take the 60’s Motown revival that’s been pervading the indie scene, and raise it to a whole other level. Did you like “Tighten Up,” but wish the rest of “Brothers” had that retro sound? You’ll like this album. No technical tricks or modern inventions, but in today’s rapidly changing society, sometimes what’s new is old, and what’s old is new again. Best song: “Don’t Gotta Work It Out.”
Skrillex – “Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites” (2010)/”More Monsters and Sprites” (2011) Do you want to hear something that will make you feel old? Listen to dubstep. We’re all in law school now, so there’s no point in trying to keep up with music trends. However, we don’t live under rocks (yet), so take a gander at what the young’uns think of as “music.” Skrillex is probably the most famous of the dubstep artists on the scene right now, and songs like “First of the Year (Equinox)” are fairly palatable even to the post-teen set. Best song: Remix of Benny Benassi’s “Cinema.” It’s not on either EP. Sorry.
Black Keys – “Brothers” (2010) I know, I know. The Black Keys were 2010’s Kings of Leon. But the thing is, the Black Keys are actually creative, and their songs don’t all sound like the same repetitive hackneyed whining centered on one chord progression. “Brothers” is more than just the hit single “Tighten Up.” The Black Keys show an admirable range, from the classic rock riffs in “She’s Long Gone” to the modern alt sound of “Everlasting Light.” Great range, great music. Best song: “Next Girl.”
Florence & The Machine – “Ceremonials” (2011) Is there anyone out there who doesn’t love Florence by now? This album is a bona fide hit. Every song just works. Florence Welch and the various band members that make up The Machine have found a great blend of Florence’s gospel-inspired vocals and modern production techniques. “Cermonials” is a moving collection of evocative songs full of drive and inspiration. If I had to pick one album of the year, “Ceremonials” would be it. Best song: EVERY SONG.
Lana del Rey – “Video Games” (2011) Lana del Rey sounds like what you’d imagine that quiet girl in your office would sound like if she got drunk on whiskey and had an emotional moment with a microphone and an ex-boyfriend. Best song: “Blue Jeans.”
The Dead Weather – “Sea of Cowards” (2010) The Dead Weather’s 2010 album, “Sea of Cowards,” brings back that rough urgency present in the White Stripes’ best songs, but this time, with a female vocalist (Alison Mosshart of The Kills), a full band backup (Dean Fertita of Queens of the Stone Age, Jack Lawrence of The Raconteurs), and a sometimes gratuitous use of synth effects. Great background music for demolishing finals. Best song: “Die by the Drop.”
Britney Spears – “Femme Fatale” (2011) The days when Britney’s albums relied on her actual voice are long gone, but “Femme Fatale” provide some pleasant listening. Of course, the producers who worked on this album could make a recording of a dog barking and turn that into a chart-topper, but we’ll let that slide. “Femme Fatale” is another perfect pop album, accessible to everyone, incorporating some fresh, new trends in a non-threatening manner. Best song: “Till the World Ends.”
Carrie Underwood – “Play On” (2009) I have to admit I do have a Country playlist, and it consists almost entirely of Carrie Underwood. Underwood is the anti-Taylor Swift. This is music for grown-ups. Also, Underwood actually has a good singing voice. “Play On” takes less risks but is more cohesive than Underwood’s first album, “Carnival Ride” (2007). A few songs are overly formulaic, but Underwood brings a strong energy to even the twangiest country stereotypes. Best song: “Cowboy Cassanova.”
Mumford & Sons – “Sigh No More” (2009) You know who’s really the new Kings of Leon? Mumford & Sons. All of their songs are the same song, but boy they’re catchy. They’re basically Gogol Bordello for normal people.
Foster the People – “Torches” (2011) I wanted to include Foster the People, I really did, but I can no longer stand to hear any iteration of “Pumped Up Kicks.” I think there should be a statute of limitations for how long a song remains popular.
David Guetta – “Nothing But the Beat” (2011) I really don’t want to hear any more Guetta. Unless I’m in Vegas. Alas, I am in the library, which is basically the opposite of Vegas. Thanks for reminding me of all the fun I’m not having, Mr. Guetta.
Maroon 5 – “Hands All Over” (2011) It was a great year for Maroon 5. Lead singer Adam Levine is now a judge on a popular reality program. He guest vocaled on a hit track with Gym Class Heroes, and is currently starring in an ADHD PSA. The band took a Christina Aguilera-featuring song and turned that into an international sensation. “Hands All Over” is an effective comeback album, the band’s best since 2002’s “Songs About Jane.”
If you want to know exactly what I’m listening to right at this moment, you should probably ask my roommate Sofie. I sing along to songs (a) loudly and (b) constantly. Since I’m sure you guys are now all really disappointed you’re not Sofie, I made you a Spotify playlist. The list includes some of my favorite songs from each album in this list, and the ones mentioned in the supplementary reading. Because you do the supplementary reading in your casebooks, right? Right.