Roe’s Best Albums of 2014: #2 – PTSD: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder by Pharoahe Monch

Artist: Pharoahe Monch

Album: PTSD – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Produced by: Pharoahe Monch, Guy Routte, Lee Stone, Marco Polo, The Stepkids, B.A.M., The Lion Share, Boogie Blind, Jesse West, Quelle Chris

Released: April 14, 2014

Pharoahe_Monch_PTSDAside from this record coming in as #2 on my list, this is no doubt the best hip-hop album of the year.

First hearing of Pharoahe Monch off a name drop in Talib Kweli song a few years ago, I checked him out. W.A.R. was out at the time. I liked it, but it didn’t grab me as much as PTSD has this year.

This album is a beautiful diamond in the rough – Inspired by true events in Pharoahe’s own life, PTSD is a work of art that must be listened to in its entirety to be truly appreciated. We start off at “The Recollection Facility”, a place where traumatic experiences can be extracted and then we immediately get catapulted into “Time2”.

The PTSD narrative emphasizes a very real issue that exists within the black community: The sentiment that mental health or to seek help for mental health is more aligned with white access and privilege, not something that is advertised or seen as accessible to anyone else on the outside of that community. There are also many lyrical parallels that no doubt speak to post-9/11 war veterans and the overall pharmaceutical abuse which is still rampant in everyday America, regardless of race or class.

Another reason why this album trumps all others is because it stands out from its contemporaries. I can’t help but notice that subjects of current hip-hop songs and albums are about smoking weed, being promiscuous, going to clubs, self-toasting to the point of redundancy. Not to say, that hip-hop shouldn’t have any of that – I believe it in fact should and it has since its inception. But anything in excess gets tiring real quick. In PTSD I feel like I’m learning something, becoming slightly enlightened. On this record Pharoahe talks about suicide, losing his grip on reality, nightmares, how his own mental state affects his relationships, even talks about the importance of eating organic in “The Jungle”.

As a privileged white female who grew up in the suburbs a few miles outside an inner city, I am nearly blind to everything Pharoahe is talking about. But by listening to this record and others like it, I can step in his shoes for a hour or so and get outside my own defined sense of reality. Hip-hop like this is my window inside – and I hope by saying that, that doesn’t make me seem ignorant or insensitive, but hopefully compassionate and caring. In fact I think hip-hop works this way for many others. Just because Pharoahe Monch is a lyrical wordsmith who utilizes killer beats and speaks in vibrant metaphors, does not make what he’s talking about less real than anything else that occurs outside our own empirical reality. It in fact brings it more to the forefront that the 6 o’clock news ever could.

I’ve seen Pharoahe talk about the record on MSNBC with Melissa Harris Perry and on NYC hip-hop radio programs. All videos are available on YouTube and I suggest checking them out if you wish to learn more from the creator’s mouth about this incredible record.

Production is dope, Pharoahe Monch is one of the greatest MCs of our time…If you have any love for hip-hop and/or socio-political commentary of anything, please bump this record ASAP.

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Roe’s Best Albums of 2014: #3 – Forcefield by Tokyo Police Club

Artist: Tokyo Police Club

Album: Forcefield

Produced by: Doug Boehm and David Monks

Released: March 24, 2014

Forcefield-TokyoPoliceClubalbumThis isn’t Tokio Hotel, that weird German(?) screamo(-ish?) band. Get that shit out of your head. This is Tokyo Police Club: Your (new) favorite Canadian indie rock band. Fuck Arcade Fire.

This was the first good album I heard come out of 2014 and it nearly blew me out of the water. As soon as I played “Argentina” I was like, What the hell is this?!

I was first a fan of TPC in high school. I heard/saw “Tessellate” on MTV and really liked it. I liked a few other songs on Elephant Shell, but in recent years never really followed up with the rest of the band’s material.

I know reviews, expectations, and opinions of this record were low and many seemed unimpressed, even diappointed. I have to disagree; Though this album has more of a pop feel than TPC’s previous records it’s so nice and refreshing to listen to. Yes, “Hot Tonight” is clearly the single, but there are so many other wonderful tracks (see below). And to add to that fact, the album just flows so well and cohesively moves as a whole. I love the lyrics (though cheesy at times), the instrumention, the production, the panning, the rhythms, Dave Monks’ voice. I’m just all about this record. I love it. I get excited listening to it. I bought it on vinyl. (To those that don’t know me, I usually don’t do that unless I really like a record.)

Please do yourself a favor – Have a drink, sit down, and listen to this record. Fall inside like I did. It’s worth the time.

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Roe’s Best Albums of 2014: #5 – Ultraviolence by Lana Del Rey

Artist: Lana Del Rey

Album: Ultraviolence

Produced by: Dan Auerbach, Lana Del Rey, Paul Epworth, Lee Foster, Daniel Heath, Greg Kurstin, Rick Nowels, Blake Stranathan

Released: June 13, 2014

UltraviolenceLDRTo say I am in love with the Lana Del Rey narrative is an understatement. I don’t even know what I am about it. Ecstatic about it maybe? Buzzing, excited, a level less than obsessed but oh-so-incredibly interested. Tell me more.

But I can’t get enough!

And since I kind of already said my piece on Lana and voiced my overall approval of this album, it should be no surprise that this comes in no less than #5 on my list.

The beginning chiming guitars of “Cruel World” are like the beginning of a wild acid trip in the desert. The reverb on Lana’s voice is damn near perfect, knowing she’s speaking to you right there in your ear, but you’re so damn high everything seems so far even though it’s so near. And the track just pulls you in, right then and there. You’re being roped into a swimming pool-esque ocean of sound; Crystal clear and beautiful, full of promise and sensory potential.

You can see why this record turns me on.

Though sonically distant and seemingly impersonal, you feel connected to this music somehow. Though the words are not literally about you or your life or anything you’ve done, it somehow is about you; This is your story. And Lana is a part – Even though you’ve never met. But is it a memory? Or could it be for real?

In a way, Ultraviolence is like a box of chocolates, but not in a Forrest Gump kind of way; Every track is deliciously decadent and an experience in itself. You sure as hell know what you’re gonna get, but it’s the way that happens that gets you, that makes you close your eyes and throw your head back.

You almost feel guilty listening to the whole thing.

It’s a wonderful indulgence.

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Roe’s Best Albums of 2014: #7 – Hebrews by Say Anything

Artist: Say Anything

Album: Hebrews

Produced by: Max Bemis

Released: June 10, 2014

Album_cover_for_Hebrews_(June_10,_2014),_by_Say_AnythingI’ve already written about this album somewhat at length, and I’m not sure if there’s much left for me to say other than I believe this it was largely overlooked because the production and instrumentation and direction of this album was so darn ballsy and off-putting to those expecting something regurgitated. Many fans could not get over the hurdle that this album was not supposed to be like the others. With that said, I don’t think anyone could have gotten away with a crafting an album like Hebrews except for Max Bemis. His personal story and history as an individual/artist is a compelling one that I think translates well to a wide audience as they are able to relate literally and/or metaphorically.

No guitars, as many guest vocalists as in IDOTG, synths and strings aplenty with a doubleshot of musical theatre-whimsy, I’m so glad Max followed through with making this album, which I believe was a rebirth of sorts for him. Since he pushed the limits so far with this release, I’m curious to see what he does next in 2015, Two Tongues aside.

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Roe’s Best Albums of 2014: #10 – The Voyager by Jenny Lewis

Artist: Jenny Lewis

Album: The Voyager

Produced by: Ryan Adams

Released: July 29, 2014

Jenny_Lewis_The_VoyagerMy love of this album is in no way connected to the 100% ownership of my heart to Star Trek Voyager although, maybe subliminally/subconsciously, there is a connection there.

I actually didn’t fully listen to this album until last week, but the songwriting, production, melodies, and words really grabbed me and upon revisiting it, I couldn’t have peace of mind if I didn’t include it on my yearly list.

I’m not or have ever been a huge Jenny Lewis fan, but this album made my ears perk up a bit. I suppose we can credit songwriting whiz and producer of this album, Ryan Adams on this feat. The guitars on this are just so crisp, clear, and smooth in ways I’ve never heard conveyed through Jenny’s previous releases. Many of the instrumental orchestrations, harmonies, and songwriting style reminds me of Tom Petty and Fleetwood Mac a bit – two of my all-time favs.

Overall, the lyrics seem to convey a sense of trying to make a dysfunctional relationship work where both individuals are really doing a terrible job at it. To add, there’s a nomadic quality to all the songs, perhaps conjuring days of yore, of past travelers dancing down a dusty road to the beat of the ever-steady rhythm of their internal drum. This is driving music at its finest. Pop this in and speed down the highway and you’re home.

I still have a lot of discovering to do with this album, but I’ve listed my favorite tracks below. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!

Have something to add? Drop it in the comments below!

Stay tuned for #9_

-Roe

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