Monday, January 31, 2011

Live Review | Matthew Dear at the Mid

Matthew Dear live at the Mid Chicago

by Joshua P. Ferguson

originally published on the Time Out Chicago blog

Summing up my high points of 2010, I had a lot of great things to say about Ann Arbor techno whiz Matthew Dear and his latest studio album, Black City. Basically, I pointed out that Dear is clearly on this earth to provide us with some of the best workouts that contemporary techno has to offer, and he’s proving he can do much more than that. Expanding on his framework of steely beats and synthesized textures, Dear has set out on a definitive pop path with Black City. This is something he’s been flirting with for quite sometime, but it’s here that it all comes together.

Which also makes for an infinitely more engaging live show. Sure he’s got some of that DJ awkwardness to work through before he’ll be the perfect, engaging frontman but the way his songs develop live lend more than enough personality on their own. Hypnotic, deeply druggy and pulling in influences that range from New Order to Nine Inch Nails, Dear has nailed the techno pop sound, and the crowd at the Mid was certainly feeling it.

The set stuck mostly to the new album, stunning us with their live renditions of stand out cuts like “I Can’t Feel,” “Slow Dance” and “Black City.” I even found myself rethinking how I felt about cuts like “Monkey,” which I didn’t previously care for. It took a few songs, but the people in the audience were well loose by the time Dear and his band played their final notes on the 2007 stand out “Don & Sherri.”

And given the way the night was arranged—two band performances that still left a full four hours of late-night DJ sets from Lee Foss and Orchard Lounge—the energy in the Mid’s compact main room was perfect to let the DJs take over for the rest of evening without missing a beat.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Article: Audio Soul Project | The House Market

The House Market

Audio Soul Project's Mazi understands the business of dance music.

by Joshua P. Ferguson
Originally published in Time Out Chicago magazine | 11.25.10

Like the jazz session musicians of old, Mazi Namvar has made versatility the key to his success. The owner of Fresh Meat and Gourmet Records, he’s been plugging away as a DJ, producer and A&R man in Chicago for more than 15 years. A musical chameleon, Namvar has amassed some 200 releases, with output going from slinky techno to modern bouncing disco to deep and thoughtful house that’s as befitting a dimly lit living room as a humid nightclub. And up until this year, when he took a job at the Apple store on the Magnificent Mile, it’s allowed him to ply his trade full time.

Early on, most of his records bore the Mazi name, but now his concentration is Audio Soul Project, the nom de guerre for his deep, disco and sometimes garage-inflected house. With Hip Shake Heartache, his sophomore album under the name, out last November on Fresh Meat, and a smattering of live and DJ performances to follow, I met the jovial house head for coffee to discuss his love affair with the music.

Namvar was born in Iran, but his family escaped to Greece at the onset of the 1979 revolution. With the help of relatives here, they relocated to Chicago as political refugees in 1984, “the day before Gremlins opened,” he recalls fondly. It didn’t take long for him to discover house. His high-school years were spent sneaking out to Medusa’s, an integral club in Chicago’s dance music history; English and philosophy studies at the University of Illinois were merely a detour on the path to his true vocation. Eventually, he returned to the city “with the crazy idea that I don’t need to go to school anymore because I’m going to be a DJ.”

It took a while for him to get used to his lifestyle. “From the beginning I felt very uncomfortable asking people how to do anything,” he says. “So it meant a lot of time alone learning things.” After some production trial and error, he put out his first records in ’93 and ’94, self-releases funded with money from parents and friends. “I hated all those records,” he says, laughing. “DJ friends from around town would play them and I would just cringe.” Nonetheless, the spins started catching people’s ears, one set belonging to prominent DJ and International House Records label owner Bad Boy Bill.

Continue Reading (Full stream of Audio Soul Project's Hip Shake Heartache after the jump.)

Download a recent mix from the Fresh Meat Records Podomatic.

And you can catch Mazi spinning live as part of Superfreq—a new loft party series in Chicago brought to you by Mr. C, VOLATL and Alias promotions—this Saturday. Head here for more info:

Resident Advisor | Superfreq

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Shuffle | New Music From Our Inbox

Shuffle | New Music + MP3s

Even more music has stacked up since we launched this weekly (ish) column, so without further ado, here are some new tunes—this time focusing on the breaksy, psych and rock side of things. (Ok, so we get the feeling drugs were involved in everything we're posting here...) — Joshua P. Ferguson

Bosco Delrey "Evil Lives" (Ad-Rock remix) - Mad Decent
When Diplo is in the picture, you never know what to expect. But you can generally anticipate some hyper, third world bass music something or other. Not with Delrey. Here's what Diplo has to say about him: ""[Bosco is] a sort of garbage can Elvis from New Jersey... teaspoon craziness, a pinch of rockabilly, and full cup of soul dressed in a leather jacket. He can't be topped as far as song writing... He's doin’ the music I wish I could if I had bought a guitar." I don't know that I could have put it better, so why try. His unique mix of styles is such that even the Beastie Boys have latched on to him. Here's a free download for an Ad-Rock remix:

Bosco Delrey "Evil Lives" (Ad Rock remix) | 320 mp3

PVT "Church with No Magic" (Midnight Juggernauts remix) - Warp
I must admit, prior to receiving an e-mail about its upcoming tour with Warpaint, I'd never heard of PVT (or Pivot as you may know them). But I love Warp Records and I love spacey rock music, so I knew going in this would be a win-win situation. Sure enough. I also got a good chuckle after learning of PVT's Australian roots; one listen and I was already sizing them up alongside bands like Miami Horror and the Presets (or any other indie-psych-electronic act making waves on Modular). The Midnight Juggernauts give PVT's latest a rerub, and a surprisingly subtle one at that. You almost wouldn't know remix work had been done at all. A real slow burner, it reminds me of DJ Shadow circa The Private Press.

Com Truise "Slow Peels" - Ghostly International
The boys from Ann Arbor continue to flood my inbox with some of the best electronic music in the land, and I love how leftfield some of this stuff is. Case in point: Com Truise, the synth-heavy, beat-laden alter ego of New Jersey's Seth Haley. Drawing reference to new wave greats like Joy Division and New Order, Truise also displays a cosmic bent that might come from a proximity to DFA or a love of Eskimo. If you're a regular on these digi-pages, you know this means it's right up our alley. Couple puffs and two loud speakers and you'll be floating through the cosmos right alongside this guy. His debut EP, "Cyanide Sisters" just got released today. If you like what you hear, go snag the whole thing over at the Ghostly International store.

Kanye West "Power" (Paper Diamond remix) - white
Paper Diamond "From Now Till..." - Pretty Lights Music

Is anyone else starting to feel like that hippie state bordering the Rockies is taking over electronic music?! Everything new and trendy seems to be coming from Colorado, and next to Pretty Lights, this guy Alex B seems to be leading the charge. To kick off 2011, he rechristened himself Paper Diamond and actually teamed up with the afore mentioned Pretty Lights to release his debut on their new label.  Chicago's newest club, the Mid opened its doors just before the New Year and had this dude in for a rough n' ready modern dubstep and glitch-hop set on it's opening night. I had the pleasure of attending and really enjoyed myself. The indie-skate-hippie-raver youth that has latched on to this music and its scene makes me feel like an old man (my 18-year-old brother is a big fan), but the music kicked ass and I had a great time nonetheless. We actually stuck it out for this remix of Kanye, before taking off for the night. Now you can enjoy it too. Paper Diamond's debut EP is also out today, head to Pretty Lights Music for more info. 

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Little Dragon | My Step

Sweden's Yukimi Nagano is a singer I've followed for some time. Since I discovered her in my college radio days when she was gigging with nujazz duo Koop, I've loved her floating, high pitched lilting. So it's exciting that her and her band Little Dragon have received such critical acclaim. Check our interview with her here: Dialgoue Inc | LIttle Dragon. Fresh off a tour with the Gorillaz and De La Soul, the four-piece played the closing night of the Tomorrow Never Knows festival in Chicago. I had the luxury of serving as the opening DJ. It was an amazing show and I even got to meet Dave (a.k.a. Trugoy a.k.a. Plug 2) of De La Soul. He was just chillin' in the DJ booth. I introduced him to Aloe Blacc. It was cool.

Anyway, istening to new songs from the band, I commented on twitter that Little Dragons more recent material had a very jammy, deep house spirit to it, one that we could credit to a lot of drugs. Funny then, that I run across a new video for  "My Step," a song from 2009's Machine Dream. A handcrafted puppet show, the video shows an overworked travel agent discover the wonders of a witch doctor's brew (DMT or Ayahuasca comes to mind). He gains a different out look on life after that. 

— Joshua P. Ferguson

A cool little view, catch it here:

And catch pictures from the show at Time Out Chicago.

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Allure | Oliver Peoples: Devendra Banhart at the Rainbow House

"Devendra Banhart at the Rainbow House"

a short film by Lisa Eisner

Oliver Peoples SS11ad campaign

Awash in the SoCal sun and girlfriend Rebecca Schwarz's uncannily radiant skin, psychedelic folk rocker and visual artist Devendra Banhart has landed at the center of Oliver Peoples' latest ad campaign. For those that have followed Dialogue Inc. for some time, you'll know that we've covered the high end spectacle designer before, when Zooey Deschanel starred in the short film "Sometimes We Do It Just For Fun" by Autumn De Wilde for its Spring-Summer 2009 campaign.

More sensual than De Wilde's whimsical turn, director Lisa Eisner basically depicts any couples perfect summer Sunday afternoon. Beginning ambiguously as fore or afterplay (maybe both, you decide), our couple lounges in bed with little to cover Banhart's assortment of tattoos and Schwartz's red toenail polish. Between the rustle of a newspaper and the turning of pages in an old book, the two pet and coo over each other without a worry to distract them. Have you ever been out at an intimate restaurant for dinner or drinks and a few tables away there is one of those couples? The two are so engrossed in each other that, in their world, everything around them has faded to nonexistence (or at least non-importance)? The man kisses her fingers and whispers into her ear. The woman rubs her fingers up and down his arm and fiddles with her hair; her legs are crossed, knees pointed straight to his heart. This is that couple when they know no one is looking.

Cut to scenes of toe kissing in the tub, walking in the garden and sliding down the bannister. They roll around on shag carpet and dance barefoot under the shadow of palm trees. They also like to try on lots of glasses while Banhart croons in Spanish (2009's "Brindo" serves as the soundtrack).  It really is a beautiful aesthetic execution; one that paints a picturesque brand image for Oliver Peoples. Set at John Lautner's rainbow-shaped Garcia House, it's the sort of place I want to take my girlfriend on a California get away. When I find her anyway. 

Oliver People's Senior Director of Marketing and Brand Communication explains the company's choice of direction:

“For our 2011 campaign, I envisioned a sensual experience for the onlooker – something truly sexy. But I wanted a sincerity that could only be achieved through a basis in reality,” says Walnum. “Lisa’s eye for pure beauty and her ability to capture it, along with Devendra and Rebecca’s authentic sexuality, created a distinct vibe that was completely natural and unforced – not unlike the design of our eyewear. Additionally, I wanted to set the piece within a typical contemporary cool So Cal setting, in this case Lautner House, since this resonates with our brand’s DNA being from here.”

Thanks to the Fader for tipping us off to this beauty, and Oliver Peoples and Co. for creating it. This is the sexiest thing we've seen so far in 2011.

—Joshua P. Ferguson

Devendra Banhart at Rainbow House from Oliver Peoples on Vimeo.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Shuffle | New Music From Our Inbox

Shuffle | New Music + MP3s

We get a lot of new music via e-mail these days. The preferred promotional method given the ease with which digital music travels, a ton of promo companies have added us to their mailing lists and we can barely keep up with it all. Our new column, Shuffle, is our attempt to be better about keeping up and, more importantly, sharing these new discoveries with the ether that is the internet (i.e. you). So here goes. 

First up, new music from Holy Ghost! and Yelle, and a great new remix of Hercules and Love Affair done by U.K. edit royalty Leo Zero.

Ladies first:

Yelle "Safari Disco Club" - Downtown Music
There's something about French pop music that's so much sexier than the rest. We can name examples till we're blue in the face, but the focus here is Yelle. Yes, technically Yelle is more than one person, but inevitably the focus falls to Julie Budet, the energetic and forever youthful frontwoman. Here we see the saccharine electro pop that propelled her to fame in 2007 getting a more complex undertone. There's a bit more tension underlying the production on "Safari Disco Club" than what we're used to, and we like it.

  Safari Disco Club by YELLE

Holy Ghost! "Do It Again" - DFA
They may not be LCD Soundsystem, but ever since the release of "Hold On," Holy Ghost! have been doing a fine job of churning out disco-inflected dance nuggets that are much more than Ableton studio productions. These guys love them some analog, and their sound benefits immensely because of it. "Do It Again," the lead single from their forthcoming album—due out April 5—is a slo-mo chugger with a hint of Prince, layers of keys and a duet of robotic child laughter and trumpet blasts. That'll make more sense once you hear it.

download here:

Hercules and Love Affair "My House" Leo Zero remix - white
Here it is straight from Leo's mouth: "I got straight onto the good people at Moshi Moshi when I heard Hercules and Love Affair had teamed up with them for the new album, and managed to blag the parts for this track 'My House' All I got was an acapella of the original - so I've done my thing with it in a 90's stylee - with a big nod to UK top boys and personal house heroes Farley and Heller. Let me know if you are digging it and hopefully it will get a release. SHOW SOME LOVE! thanks Leo. x" 

With a soulful house banger like this, it's not hard to show the love. Enjoy!

Hercules and Love Affair "My House" Leo Zero remix | WAV 

Monday, January 10, 2011

Year in Review | Singles of the Year

Year in Review | Singles of the Year

by Joshua P. Ferguson

Before the clamor to sum up 2010 falls silent, we wanted to sneak in one last list summing up Dialogue Incorporated's top singles of the year. From country folk to bubble gum electro pop to grinding dubstep, there was more variety in 2010 than in years past. This is a trend we hope to see continue in 2011. Over all, was it a great year for music? You know, not especially. There were many things we freaked out over, danced endlessly to and belted out a sing-a-long to when it came on in the car, but it was really tough to put the finishing touches on this list. Mostly because we couldn't help but feel like something was missing. But we don't think we forgot anybody. Every year can't get perfect marks, and the our highlights were as high as ever, so let's focus on those. Without further ado.

10) Booka Shade "Regenerate" - Get Physical
While we felt that Booka Shade polished its sound to such a degree on 2010's More that it lost a lot of its personality in the cleansing process, the duo's regenerate single was a masterstroke in achieving the sound and intensity that Walter Merziger and Arno Kammermeier set out to achieve.


9) Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes "Home" - Vagrant Records
Full disclosure: this song totally came out in 2009. Normally we don't break the year rule, but we didn't discover this crazy hippie band until last year and we don't necessarily think that's our fault. Besides, we make the rules so we can just as easily break them. Our creative director, Joshua P. Ferguson, drunkenly danced around the Dialogue Inc. offices to this song over Lollapalooza weekend, and that alone was enough to land it on this list.


8) Robyn "Dancing On My Own" - Konichiwa
Soft spoken and surprisingly introspective given her pop star status internationally, Sweden's Robyn offered up one of the high points in electro pop with this single from the first installment of her Body Talk series. Writing about the single as part of an interview earlier this year, Joshua P. Ferguson wrote, " 'Dancing On My Own,' the infectious lead single from June’s Body Talk Pt. 1, is a tale of love lost, but it also seems to announce that, regardless of the fickle tastes of big record labels (and ex-lovers), the striking and petite blonde will continue to be herself and do things her way. It also makes clear she’s keeping her sound upbeat and catchy as hell." 


7) Two Door Cinema Club "Something Good Can Work" - Kitsuné 

We've had our hands on this indie dance anthem since early in the year so it logged considerable time in our DJ sets. A choice remix from the Twelves only extended its life span. A touch too much time spent listening to Vampire Weekend and this trio from Ireland penned their own white-boy-high-life pop single complete with soaring, distortion-free guitars and a backbeat shuffle from the drums. If Tony Allen, Paul Simon and the Rapture had found their way into the studio together, it might have come out sounding like this.


6) Magnetic Man "Getting Nowhere" with John Legend - Columbia
Maybe it's just us, but these guys snagging John Legend for a brilliant dubstep workout seems fantastically significant. For more of our thoughts on Magnetic Man, see our Artists of the Year list.

Magnetic Man "Getting Nowhere" from StitchThat on Vimeo.


5) Rusko "Hold On" - Mad Decent
It was a big year for this dude. One of the U.K.'s biggest names in dubstep, he moves to L.A. gets taken in by Diplo—and subsequently M.I.A.—and next thing you know, he's getting phone calls from Britney Spears and Rihanna because they want beats from him too. We think he's the right man for the job. Writing about this track back in June, we had this to say, "Reminds me of hearing MJ Cole or Bugz in the Attic for the first time, just unabashed U.K. dance brilliance. It's also making me think twice about where I'll be when the Dirty Projectors are here for Lollapalooza. This song is nothing without Amber Coffman."


4) Kanye West "Lost in the World" - Rock-A-Fella
Ok, yes, that is the cover to "Power," but we like the sonic folk-turn-tribal-banger "Lost in the World" better. A rare, vulnerable hip-hop cut, it's the type of song that only Kanye could muster. Who else would team with Bon Iver and somehow still make something that can send dance floors into fits. And while I've heard others complain about it, I fully appreciate Gil Scott-Heron's sampled spoken word at the end. No one can preach it like that guy, not even Kanye, and we dug what he had to say.


3) LCD Soundsystem "I Can Change" - DFA/EMI
James Murphy has a unique poeticism to him. I think "Love is an open book to a verse of your bad poetry / And this is coming from me" is my single favorite song lyric from this year. Sad and defiant, lovely and hopeful, and wrapped in a throbbing electro-disco beat, "I Can Change" is the most rebellious love song of the year. 


 2) Yeasayer "O.N.E." - Secretly Canadian
We've already sent many praises Yeasayer's way as we sum up 2010. Odd Blood is great on the whole, but it is chiefly because of this song that we were so fond of this particular batch of Williamsburg ex-hipsters. Full of big live bass and off-kilter keys, "O.N.E." takes vintage LCD or the Rapture and steeps it in acid. The result is the most infectious psych dance tune we've heard in some time. The final climax just shy of the five minute mark is the epitome of patience paying off.


1) Arcade Fire "Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)" - Merge
Like the subject matter it discusses at length,The Suburbs can float by facelessly if you don't listen closely. That is, at least, until you get to this Blondie-channeling masterpiece at the end of the record. If not sufficiently engaged with the music, this song will snap your consciousness to attention and then send it falling slowly backwards onto a bed of disco synths, hypnotic guitars and dancing drums. "The Sprawl II" has its own distinct personality from the rest of the record, and in it we found the single to top all others in 2010, a melancholy indie-discoid diamond in the rough.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Year in Review | Artists of the Year

Year in Review | Artists of the Year

by Joshua P. Ferguson

It was tough making this category stand out from amongst the rest, but more so than just naming top albums and singles (which we've also done), we wanted to outline artists that really made an impact. By that, we mean that their contributions to music and the scene helped in a larger, overarching way: introduced a larger audience to a previously unknown sound, innovated within their medium, etc. Basically, these artists brought greater cultural relevance to their art form in 2010 and for that, we salute them.

5) Yeasayer
Praising Yeasayer's sophomore album in our Top Albums of the Year post, we went on about the band's transformation from a strictly indie-folk act to something more than that. In an interview with my coworker Brent DiCrescenzo for Time Out Chicago magazine, the band commented that they were "definitely trying to get as far away as possible from a hippie vibe." Hence its entry into the synth-pop arena. This becomes something that DJs can get down with. Being able to play indie music in the club is awesome, but it poses difficulty in mixing. Yeasayer—and subsequent remixes of its tracks—bridged that gap. All of a sudden we could better broadcast the band's psychedelic sound in a club context, bringing the two worlds closer together. We're not saying Odd Blood is a dance album, but it has just enough of a thump—in a range of bpms—to get discerning dance floors moving. Those are the dance floors we want to frequent. Yeasayer's move to the electronic world isn't some grand revelation for bands everywhere, but for Dialogue Inc. personally, and for the dances we played in front of in 2010, Yeasayer played a welcome and integral role. 

4) Daft Punk
The robotic dance gods from France are probably the most recognized electronic act on the planet thanks to a career that has spanned more than a decade. I heard "Around the World" at the first deejayed party I attended outside of high school dances. I remember being dumbfounded by classmates who were putting their heads in the speakers. Fast forward to today and my brother, who's 11 years younger than me, has just gone off to college and promptly downloaded all of their albums. Even my parents know who Daft Punk is. In 2010, the duo started reaching out to an even younger audience, the one that dedicates its days to the Disney Channel. With its scoring of the Tron: Legacy soundtrack, Daft Punk introduced itself to preteen boys mesmerized by Tron's video game aesthetic (and probably their fathers, who loved the whole sci-fi thing back in the day but no longer have as much time for it.) Even if Daft Punk weren't already global superstars, the soundtrack it composed for the movie would have brought them worldwide acclaim. It makes the movie. Assuming Daft Punk stays attached to the fast-moving Tron apparatus, these guys could remain the DJ world's biggest name for years to come.

3) Kanye West
Another artist we went on at length about in our Top Albums post from yesterday, Kanye West managed to drum up more hype for My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy than any other artist did for its own record this year. The man was everywhere, including the Today Show. He backed up the media frenzy with a record that's a lot of fun to listen to. Just because hip-hop's the most popular genre on the planet doesn't mean that it has to be mindless (like most of this year's output). Yeezy may be loudmouthed, impulsive and egomaniacal, but he's definitely not mindless. On My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy he exercises complete mastery of form; it's got all the dirty production, soul, lyricism and, yes, bravado that a hip-hop classic should have. 

2) LCD Soundsystem
James Murphy and company make dance music that house heads and metal heads alike can dig. 2010's This is Happening wasn’t all great, but the highs—"I Can Change," "Dance Yrself Clean" and  "Home"—were soaring. When it takes over a stage, as the band did for sold out crowds at Aragon, Metro and Pitchfork this year in Chicago, LCD is in a league of its own. A critical success and a deeply personal record for Dialogue Inc. and its friends this year, This is Happening proved yet again why James Murphy is one to watch closely. He says LCD is done, but this won't be the last we hear of him.

1) Magnetic Man
For Dialogue Inc., 2010 was the year dubstep won us over. Sure we've been following it since it first started surfacing with Horsepower Production earlier in the decade, but this year had more highlights for us than any year past. And that had a lot to do with its new found prevalence here. This was the year that it officially captured America's interest from coast to coast. It was also the year that acts beyond Ms. Dynamite really cracked into the British mainstream (and Ms. Dynamite did it by riding closer to an R'n'B vibe). From the Low End Theory crew in L.A. to the Berghain club community in Berlin, the dubstep arena saw a lot of action in 2010. But it was Skream, Benga and Artwork, three blokes from dubstep’s birthplace, Croydon, U.K., who landed a deal at Columbia Records, nabbed a guest appearance from John Legend on "Getting Nowhere" and landed heavy rotation on the British airwaves. (Big shout out to Katy B. as well!)

Monday, January 3, 2011

Year in Review | Top Albums

Year in Review | Top Albums

by Joshua P. Ferguson

Now that 2010 is officially behind us, it's time to get to the meat of year end wrap-up. Over the course of the rest of this week, we'll be presenting our definitive list of the top albums, singles and artists that truly made the last twelve months in music. First up are our top albums:

5) Hot Chip One Life Stand - Astralwerks
In our May review, I wrote, "Playful electro-pop has always been at the heart of Hot Chip’s appeal; past hits like 2008’s melodic thumper “Ready for the Floor” hinted that the band is capable of boiling down its penchant for dance beats and intelligent songwriting into a potent brew. But whereas  older albums have yielded only a smattering of high-proof jams, with this latest LP the quintet serves up a full 12-pack of bionic soul." Gone are the oompa loompa beats and overly repetitive vocals. One Life Stand is lush, lyrical and varied, and it features some mean steel drum.

4) Kanye West My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy - Rock-a-Fella
I never saw myself taking up the role of Kanye defender. Even as I do, I feel the need to temper it with disclaimers about his neuroses. I've always had an ability to separate the person from the music, to make a judgement based solely on the artistic output and not the celebrity drama that often goes with it. With Yeezy, I don't even think he'd want me to do this. The two aspects of his being are too closely intertwined. Reviewing a private screening for his "Runaway" music movie I wrote, "The new Kanye is 'striving as an artist to further his culture,' and pushing past lyrical metaphors to make concrete statements. His ego, not entirely humbled, has him wondering how he’ll be remembered. Will the ballerina scene inspire future generations of dancers? Will Kanye 2.0 (3.0?) push music and fashion to greater respectability in the eyes of his fans? Nurturing his ego and doing exactly what he probably hopes journalists like me will do, I’m going to play right into his trap and say that, based on what I saw last night, it will." Writing now, I've heard My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy at least ten times. I maintain that, while he continues to put his foot in his mouth with the press, he is one of the greatest innovators currently working in hip-hop and pop. He finely crafted one of the more entertaining hip-hop albums I've heard in some time, and I have no doubt that we have a future classic on our hands.

3) Yeasayer Odd Blood - Secretly Canadian
I saw Yeasayer for the first time in the summer of '09. They were performing at the Pitchfork music fest here in Chicago, and their then sound—a more folksy rambling sound—was a perfect mid-afternoon soundtrack. When murmurs about this year's Odd Blood release surfaced I was immediately interested in hearing it. When I nabbed it last December, I couldn't get over how perfectly fine tuned it was for the Dialogue Inc. music sensibility. Indie without the drone of too many guitars, electronic without giving way to a monotony stalled at 120 bpms, it's a post modern approach to music and that we hope persists as the sound of the future. Between "O.N.E.," "Ambling Alp" and "Madder Red" no single album got more rotation than Yeasayer's Odd Blood this year.

2) Matthew Dear Black City - Ghostly International
To toot our own horn a little bit, our review of Matthew Dear's Black City is probably the best we penned all year. In it, we had this to say, "Matthew Dear is no longer emerging. He’s juggled many musical explorations, cycling through his Audion, Jabberjaw and False aliases depending on his mood—which has spanned from stomping techno to airy minimalism. But chiefly he has remained Matt Dear, and this is where he does the most to challenge conventions. As Dear, he doesn’t make tracks, not in a looping, repetitive sense anyway. He makes songs. And Black City is full of them." Matthew Dear was put on this earth to make techno. Mixing his first love with new wave, pop and indie rock, Black City proves he's capable of so much more.

1) Skream Outside the Box - Tempa
"If I were a betting man, I would have lost my ass on the wager of whether or not dubstep would have grown to the worldwide phenomenon that it is currently. Similarly, I would have lost a second handsome sum had I put money down on whether or not Skream would release a sophomore record as confident, uncatergorizable and as listenable as Outside the Box."  I made this statement in my review of Skream's 2010 album and there's no doubt that in all future grudge matches on the worth of dubstep, I will continue to return to this man from Croydon, and his mastery of the nuances of U.K. bass music. As if his work this year with Magnetic Man wasn't enough, Skream boiled down the best of the past twenty years of U.K. dance music history—drum 'n' bass, grime, two-step, dub and trip hop—and repackaged it as his latest solo LP, an LP we're happy to name as our album of the year.