You can’t really know where you’re headed unless you know where you’ve been. For that reason, we’re taking a look back at Pazz & Jop 2012 to drill down into the ballots of contributors and voters who participated. Maybe amongst the rubble we’ll find clues about what lies ahead for music lovers in 2013. Here, music writer Luis Paez-Pumar defends his ballot.
– Pazz and Jop 2012: Top Albums
Okay, Luis. WHO THE FUCK ARE YOU and why should we care about your Important Music Opinions?
Well, I’m awesome, so that’s pretty much why. But actually, I write for CMJ, Listen B4 You Buy (soon to be Unrecorded), and this very own Village Voice. I’m also a Community Manager in my day job, which probably lessens the level of importance that my opinions have. Mostly, though, I’d say I tweet most of my music opinions out which should make anyone wary when listening to what I have to say.
Community Manager sounds like something that’s way more important than music writing, so shouts to you for having a Real Job. Anyway, let’s talk about your ballot. Kendrick Lamar is your number 1. Big freakin’ surprise. You really went out on a limb with that one, didn’t you? (Note: I’m being sarcastic)
Oh, damn. I thought you were being serious. Anyway, I think that Kendrick somehow surpassed every expectation I had for GKMC. I put Section.80 as my #2 rap album of 2011 (shouts to Shabazz Palaces), and OD was probably the first mixtape I really dug. So having my favorite current rapper still blow my mind on his album solidified it as the best album of the year for me.
How did he blow your mind? Everyone liked that record, but what did it do for you.
Honestly, how he was able to weave his storytelling (always his strongest suit) with musical appeal. If S.80 had any weaknesses, it was that the beats and hooks were lacking, so it sometimes made it a bit of a slog to get through. GKMC, on the other hand, flows so easily, which is a credit to both Kendrick’s maturation as a SONGwriter as well as his choices in producers. Plus, there’s no random Colin Munroe hook like in “No Make-Up,” thank you based god.
That’s interesting. I’ve come around to GKMC, but initially, I kept thinking, “Damn. This isn’t as good as Section.80 because the beats are weaker.” Which is, like, totally opposite of you.
Wow, yeah, that’s EXACTLY the opposite because from my first listen, I knew that GKMC would get more replays from me. It took one listen to “Backseat Freestyle” to hammer that home. Also, I find that I don’t skip anything on GKMC; I’m not as down on “Compton” as most people seem to be.
I fucking love “Compton,” but you’re right, it feels a little out of place on the record. Maybe it’s because I associate Just Blaze with, like, loud Rick Ross-style rap, not introspective storytelling like Kendrick.
Right, and “Compton” is Kendrick sort of putting on that hat for once. It’s big and brash and not really that subtle, but that’s partly why I love it. It’s funny that it comes after the exhausting (in the best way) “Sing About Me…” However, I do wish that it was a bonus track and that the album ended on “The Recipe.”
You clearly liked “Sing About Me…,” as it’s your number one single. What do you love about that song? I’m gonna listen to it right now, by the way.
Well, it’s a twelve-minute song so listing everything I love might be TLDR. If I had to choose what made it more than just a great song and into discussion for best single (for the record, by the end of the year, I think “Cartoon & Cereal” topped it) is the verse where he takes on the role of Keisha’s sister. I can’t really recall a moment like that, when a rapper put himself on blast for being a condescending male, and even better, that he pulled it off without seeming corny. “Sing About Me…” had all the potential to be horrible and dragging, but instead, it is the centerpiece of storytelling on an album that is chock full of it. Plus, it sounds fucking awesome.
I never went into listening to Fiona expecting it to be the second-best album of the year, but here we are. When I was growing up, I never really “clicked” with her previous stuff, but for whatever reason (besides it being an incredible piece of music), The Idler Wheel hit me hard. It was one of those albums that didn’t let me listen to anything else for weeks at a time. The other big surprise is that Big Boi’s album didn’t make my ballot (or my top 50 at all). Considering that his previous solo album was my #2 album of 2010, I was surprised to not really dig his new one at all.
I was surprised Big Boi didn’t get more love. I liked that album, but it seems like no one else did.
I have to say, I did enjoy the new songs when I saw him play them live, for whatever that’s worth.
Looking at your ballot, I am surprised that Frank didn’t make it, especially considering your taste. What’s up with that? You clearly like emotions and R&B, so….
I do! I, however, thought Frank made a good album and nothing more. I fell in love with the narrative behind it (who didn’t?) more than I did the album itself, which I thought dragged at times and had few songs that made me take notice. “Pyramids” is fantastic, “Super Rich Kids” is as well, but it’s lacking a cohesive level of excellence that I think he was capable of. And, even though I shouldn’t have done this, I think I compared it unfavorably to Kaleidoscope Dream, which was a stronger piece of work overall.
I think that’s a fair comparison. They very much operate in the same genre.
Sure, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I thought more highly of Channel Orange before I heard Miguel.
Was that an instant thing? Like, right when you heard Miguel, were you like, “Oh, fuck. This is way better than Channel Orange.
Pretty much. I think from just the first time I heard the “Adorn” and “Don’t Look Back” duo. I think those are the two strongest song either artist released this year.
How many times did you make out to “Adorn” this year?
How many times did you WANT to make out to “Adorn” this year?
Ha! Stop trying to get me in trouble. But let’s just say that there’s no better time to make a move than when “Adorn” kicks in.
Right? Arguably the sexiest song of the year.
I would remove that arguably, but then again, “Climax” exists so yeah, there’s an argument.
Another great makeout album on your list: Beach House. You reviewed their show for us earlier this year. What do you like about Beach House?
Oh man. What don’t I like about Beach House? I think that there’s something to be said about just making a beautiful album. I think that sometimes gets out of hand for them and it becomes almost too innocent, but the contrast between Victoria Lagrande’s powerful growl and Alex Scully’s simple, almost familiar riffs…that is something that burrows itself in your mind.
I think that Beach House has gotten progressively better with every album because they’re allowing themselves to be more confident with their sound. When I spoke to Victoria, she mentioned that it was because they have more money to have stronger production and crisper sounds, and thanks to that, we got Bloom, which is crystal clear and almost painfully starry-eyed.
It’s a very beautiful record. The sound, like, glistens.
That’s the perfect word for it. “On The Sea,” especially, sounds like a shimmering spring morning.
Chromatics at number three is probably your ballot’s biggest surprise. How’d that get so high?
Yes! I was hoping you’d ask about Chromatics. It is front-loaded with “singles” but I think I like the second half more myself. It’s atmospheric in a way that rewarded you both for letting it play in the background and for focusing on every note. I think it’s a haunting album, in a way that wasn’t immediately apparent to me; more than it being emotionally gripping, it’s physically gripping. A sense of paranoia washes over me during the second half, and that’s a good thing! It’s a unique feeling, one that replicates being just sober enough to know you’re making a bad decision but drunk enough to make it anyway. Plus, I think the telephone interludes work way better than, say, the skits in GKMC do (everything really goes back to Kendrick in 2012). It’s the little things that matter.
If there were no skits, would Kendrick be your number one?
Yeah, although I think the skits have grown on me. I just think Kendrick is good enough at creating a setting and context for his story that he doesn’t need to use skits to reinforce that, hey, this is young Kendrick’s origin story.
That’s a good point. Well, let’s look forward. What’s gonna happen in 2013? What album is gonna top Pazz & Jop 2013?
I’m not sure, but I’ll go ahead and say that Goldenheart is the leader in the clubhouse right now. That being said, I have a strong feeling that this will be the year of Raphaelle Standell-Preston. The Blue Hawaii album is a stellar mix of withdrawn dubstep and indie rock sensibilities, while everything I’ve heard live from Braids new sound has me optimistic for that release. Disclaimer: I believe I was the only person to put Native Speaker as my top P&J album in 2011.
That’s some pretty indie shit you’re predicting.
Well, since it’s February 1, I really can’t predict anything concrete for the top of the ballot. I’d guess, with trepidation, that Kanye will put out a solo album, and I’d also guess that it won’t crack the top 5 of P&J. Hopefully, he proves me wrong on the latter part.
He will. I believe in Yeezy.
I want to believe, Eric. My confidence is shook after two straight unappealing releases, though.
We don’t have time to get into how wrong that last sentence is, so we’ll wrap this up. Congrats, Luis! You have successfully defended your ballot.
Hurray! Now I’ll probably have to defend my defense on Twitter, and yeah, I can’t wait.
Well, you’re a Community Manager, so you should be good at it.
I’m a lot more diplomatic in my day job.
Interview by Eric Sundermann.
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