KEXP’s Year in Review: Alex, The Year of the Beastly Beats

J Dilla.jpg
Photo by Mpozi Tolbert, courtesy of J Dilla

Well hey there. My name is Alex. I’m a programming intern here at KEXP. I’m glad you could make it to my end-of-the-year list. Want to know my favorite records of 2006? Well friend, you’ve come to the right place.

To give you a brief background: I love beats. And music in general. And albums that are impressive in their entirety. So with that far-too-brief introducution, I give you my top 11 of the two-oh-oh-six.

J Dilla - Donuts (Stones Throw)
On February 10th of 2006, the hip-hop community and music world lost one of its finest producers: James Yancey. The prolific beatmaker -- better known as Jay Dee, and most recently as J Dilla -- offered 31 tasty hip-hop instrumentals on Donuts, released just a few days before his untimely death from lupus. Based around obscure Motown records and created from a portable drum sampler he used from his hospital bed, Dilla’s final album gives the listener a glimpse into his funky fresh world of innovative beat ideas. R.I.P. Dilla Dog.

Benoît Pioulard – Précis (Kranky)
This mysteriously-named American singer/songwriter released a debut record full of subtle melodies and pop sophistication in the guise of hazy folk, hidden in ambient textures. It’s an odd place to visit, and one that gets more comfortable each time through. (Palimend - MP3)

The Knife – Silent Shout (Mute)
The Swedish sibling duo’s first major US release is hands-down the coolest “techno” album I have heard in a long time. Absolutely stunning from start-to-finish. The title track is still one of the finest openings to an album ever.

Clipse – Hell Hath No Fury (Re-Up Gang)
Another sibling duo! But entirely different. Clipse’s long-delayed sophomore record is a slap in the face that feels good everytime. They expose an incredibly gritty but smart street perspective over twelve diverse tracks, and The Neptunes are officially back with avengeance, producing their best and darkest production to date. Folks are calling this a “classic,” and I won’t disagree.

Justin Timberlake – FutureSex / LoveSounds (Jive)
OK. So not your typical KEXP record, but I had an affair with this album for quite awhile upon its release. Its beats (ten out of album’s twelve tracks showcase Timbaland’s best work), its flow (the use of the preludes are particularly stunning), its straight-up sexy attitude, and its overall care-free vibe are addicting. What’s wrong with bringing sexy back? Pop at its finest.

Talkdemonic – Beat Romantic (Arena Rock)
The sophomore album from this Portland-based instrumental duo blends elements of rock, electronic, folk, classical, and hip-hop for stunning yet simple compositions. The best instrumental album to cross my ears in a few years.

Ghostface Killah
– Fishscale (Def Jam)
Fishscale is a triumphant return for Tony Starks. His attention to lyrical detail is jaw-dropping. His energy is infectious. And the beats from top-notch producers including J Dilla, Pete Rock, Just Blaze, RZA, and MF Doom, are start-to-finish banging.

Cut Chemist – The Audience’s Listening (Warner Bros.)
Jurassic 5′s DJ/producer goes solo and creates the best DJ/producer album of the year. The tracks with emcees are all solid (especially “What’s the Altitude” with Hymnal),and the instrumental tracks (particularly “The Garden”) are damn funky.

Joanna Newsom
– Ys (Drag City)
I understand that Joanna Newsom is one of the most polarizing artists in indie music’s contemporary scene, but I find her sophomore follow-up to be ambitous, epic, dense, and gorgeous. There’s so much greatness contained on Ys, I don’t think I’ll be able to fully absorb the whole record for another month or so.

Wax Tailor – Tales of the Forgotten Melodies (Under Cover Music)
This solo debut from French producer Wax Tailor (aka JC Le Saout) is a record full of odd samples intertwined with smooth, cinematic beats that encompass the best of hip-hop and downtempo. If you enjoy Dan the Automator, Alfred Hitchcock or DJ Shadow, pick this one up.

Tussle – Telescope Mind (Smalltown Supersound)
Tussle is a Bay Area-based instrumental group that manages to blend the best elements of post-punk, disco, and Krautrock for one of the funkiest instrumental albums of the new millenium. (Elephants - MP3)

Favorite Live Shows Witnessed in 2006:
Jamie Lidell at Chop Suey
Man Man at Neumo’s
Akron/Family at the Tractor Tavern
Coldcut at Neumo’s
The Books at the University of Washington HUB Auditorium
A Silver Mt. Zion at Neumo’s
Sigur Ros at Benaroya Hall

Hope you had as much fun this year as I did :-)

Thanks for reading!

-Alex

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4 Comments

  1. Shani, DJ Assistant
    Posted December 6, 2006 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

    Like your list, Alex! “What’s wrong with bringing sexy back?” hahaha

  2. B the Initechguy
    Posted December 7, 2006 at 12:41 am | Permalink

    Finally, some recs from Alex. Thanks! I’m listening to Wax Tailor right now and really digging it. Wonder if you went to the Joanna Newsom gig. See you at a show sometime soon!

  3. Posted December 7, 2006 at 3:39 am | Permalink

    Yes! great list. Alex is one of many great volunteers at KEXP. He reviews a ton of new CDs (especially in the “beat” category) and turns me on to stuff constantly. I rely on his recommendations quite often and I just wanted to say big up!

  4. Posted December 7, 2006 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

    Since when can interns blog here? What am I missing?

    Nice list dude! I’m still formulating mine - it should be done by the spring.

2 Trackbacks

  1. [...] My boy Alex over at KEXP put his list of the best of 2006 up on the KEXP Blog. I highly respect his taste in music and listened to his college radio show while he was at UW. His list might be one of the most unique lists I have seen yet this year, favoring hip hop and electronic. I will be taking a look at each and every one of the albums he highlighted because he really knows what he is talking about. Maybe not the Justin Timberlake album though. It may be his best work yet but Mr. Sexyback just doesn’t do it for me. [...]

  2. [...] Original post by Alex, Programming Intern [...]

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