Sunday, December 25, 2011

Top 7 Free Releases of 2011

It's that time of year where every website you go to is putting together their "year-end lists", well, TOTR is no exception. Oh except for the fact that these lists only include free releases from the artists. I was on hiatus for a few months so there's a good chance I missed some great releases. If you feel like I left something off the list, please leave a comment. Well, with no further adieu, I present Top Of The Roof's Top 7 (because why not?) Free Releases of 2011.

1. Childish Gambino - Freaks & Geeks EP
Freaks & Geeks was actually my introduction to Childish Gambino's (aka Donald Glover) music. I was absoultely blown away. The production was impeccable, the lyrics were on point, and on top of all of that, it really gave the listener of sense of "this is who Donald Glover really is". Ludwig Göransson is also due a ton of credit for the beautiful backdrop to Glover's vocals. Great production can really help set you apart from everybody else. I can't tell you how many times I listened to this whole EP on my way to work and then get off work and listen to the whole EP again on my way home. This came out in March (at least that's when I found it) and it never got old throughout the course of 2011. I had trouble narrowing down this list however, I had no trouble figuring out that Freeks & Geeks would be #1. If you've been living under a rock and still haven't heard it, check it out HERE.

2. The Weeknd - House Of Balloons
Canadian singer-songwriter Abel Tesfaye dominated 2011 releasing 3 full length FreeLP's with each one being met with critical acclaim. None, however, garnered quite as much attention as his debut, House of Balloons. Teaming up with fellow Canadian producer, Noah "40" Shebib, The Weeknd delivered what was easily the most unique, and yet still, top shelf releases of 2011. Breaking the norm for standard R&B, The Weeknd crafted epic 7 minute tracks that didn't stick to any standard song structure and definitely broke the profanity barrier rarely crossed in todays R&B scene. There's no better album (retail or free) that is better suited to be played in it's entirety while driving at night, and driving in the rain. If there was a "Sexiest Music of 2011" list, this would be #1, #2, #3, #4, and #5. Check out House of Balloons HERE.

3. XV - Zero Heroes
TOTR All Freshmen Team representative continued his strong showing releasing yet another great FreeLP with Zero Heroes. When I first heard Zero Heroes, I didn't expect it to end up being one of my favorite releases of 2011. But as I continued to listen to it, I continued to be more and more impressed by the sheer awesomeness of XV. Vizzy made some great moves by enlisting long time collaborator, Seven to handle a large portion of the production. Nobody knows how to help the Kansas native shine quite like Seven does. He's come a long way since 2006 and with Zero Heroes, he only further solidified his spot as one of my favorite "up-and-coming" artists. "Pictures On My Wall" literally gives me goosebumps everytime I listen to it. Check out Zero Heroes HERE.

4. The Airplane Boys - Where've You Been
The Toronto duo followed up their great 2010 year by delivering one of the years best relesaes in Where've You Been. They're really in a league of their own and this release really showcases the group's unique sound and identity. I don't feel like you can listen to them and go "Oh yea, these guys sound like..." because nobody is doing what they're doing. NOBODY. I'm usually not even a fan of hip hop groups because often times you have one quality emcee surrounded by mediocre ones. That's not the case with The Airplane Boys. Time and time again, they manage to deliver memorable verses with each member taking turns with spotlight. Where've You Been really provided the group with an opportunity to show off their range and versatility and they totally capitalized on it. I think my 3 favorite tracks on this are "Sleep", "Escape", and "Gold Ribbons". Check out Where've You Been HERE.

5. Phil Adé - A Different World
DMV representative Phil Adé led into his LP by releasing a track every Friday as a part of his #PhilAdeFridays series. Genius move on his part. The problem most artists have with a weekly song series is their inability to put out that much quality music. Not a problem for Phil consdering he manage to drop all of those tracks and then still put out a full length FreeLP that was better than you favorite rappers album this year. I've said it before and I'll say it again, Phil Adé is the emcee Wale should have been but never will be. At the time of writing this, "Second CHance" is likely the favorite to win Song Of The Year. Easily the most played song of the year for me. I love how Phil Adé manages to write amazing bar after bar without ever dipping in the quality. My only knock against A Different World is the guest appearances. I'm sorry but nobody hold their own on tracks with Phil. Check out A Different World HERE.

6. Chiddy Bang - Peanut Butter & Swelly
Hands down my favorite release from the former Drexel students, Chiddy & Xaphoon Jones. Peanut Butter & Swelly saw Xaphoon Jones at his best production wise and Chiddy at his best on the mic. In short, PB&S is the result of when it all goes right. The groups last big hoo-rah before they release their debut album next February, Chiddy Bang pulled out all the stops and gave us one of the most enjoyable albums of the year. The music really speaks for itself with this one. Check out Peanut Butter & Swelly HERE.

7. QuESt - The Reason: A Defense Mechanism
The Reason was actually the first FreeLP TOTR posted in 2011. Prior to it's release, I had zero exposure to QuESt so I had no idea what I was getting myself into. What I managed to stumble into was mix of Lupe Fiasco  and Kendrick Lamar. That should really be all I have to say about this to make you want to check it out. Track 2, "In My Defense" was a song I played literally every morning on my way to work at TSA for the 3 months that I worked there and yet, I never grew tired of it. There are quite a few tracks on here so I'd be lying if I said I loved all of them, but truthfully, this release was probably better than 90% of the retail hip hop albums that came out this year. I love when an emcee can be super lyrical and yet still craft songs. It seems to be a lost art to balance the two but Miami's QuESt acts as if there's no alternative. Check out The Reason: A Defense Mechanism HERE.

Sunday Girl - Where Is My Mind? (Pixies Cover)

Broxbourne-songstress, Sunday Girl, cooks up a chilling cover of The Pixies classic, "Where Is My Mind?". If this doesn't invoke some sort of reflection or introspection, you're dead inside.

Download: Mediafire

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Allen Stone - Unaware (Video)

Just went to Allen Stone's free show at The Book & Stage at The Cosmopolitan in Vegas. It was amazing. After the show, we got actually got to go kick it with Allen in his hotel room. Also, got a physical copy of his amazing self-titled album (which, for the record, he did NOT sell to me), currently only available on iTunes. You need to go make that purchase. For those of you who aren't familiar, check the video above from the Chewelah, WA soul/r&b singer. He's a cool dude to say the least.

Buy Allen Stone on iTunes

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Championship Vinyl: Week Of 12/18/11 - 12/25/11

It's been a while since I've made a Championship Vinyl post. Bought some new cds this week so, lets get back to it. Only got about 8 tracks deep on the Common album, so far, it's cool. No regrets there. Couple of nice tracks. Haven't listened to the Pac Div album yet either. I bought it because I was in Zia Records and I was like "Oh shit! They dropped an official album?" and I had to buy it. I love Pac Div (see Sealed For Freshness). By far my favorite purchase of the week is K.Flay's self titled EP. It was literally the best $5 I've spent. I'd say it's a must buy.

K. Flay - K.Flay EP

Genre: Hip Hop/Alternative Hip Hop/Electronic
Release Date: 10/12/10
For Fans Of: Kid CuDi, Grieves, (hard to say, nobody really sounds like this)

Common - The Dreamer, The Believer

Genre: Hip Hop
Release Date: 12/20/11
For Fans Of: Common (come on, you know whether or not your fan by now), No I.D., Kanye West

Pac Div - The Div

Genre: Hip Hop
Release Date: 11/8/11
For Fans Of: The Cool Kids, Fly Union, TiRon

Monday, December 19, 2011

Dog & Panther - Giant Hands

Michigan based band Dog & Panther released this track almost a year ago (12/21/2010) but I"m only just now finding out about it. "Giant Hands" is really an amazing track and I think the best way to categorize it is Indie-Pop. For more Dog & Panther music, check out their BandCamp.

Download: Mediafire

Friday, December 16, 2011

Rockie Fresh - Driving 88 (Trailer) x Prom King

Rockie's "Driving 88" project is schedule to drop on January 23, 2012. I'm always excited to hear more from Rockie Fresh. If you still haven't listened to The Otherside, then fuck you. Below is a sample track from "Driving 88".

Phil Ade - A Different World (FreeLP)

Shortly after drifiting of into music blog obscurity, Phil Ade released his free LP, A Different World. I apologize for not sticking around long enough to post this album. The thing that I love about Phil Ade is how he seems to treat each bar with the mentality that it may be the last bar you listen to from him so he really makes it count. Bar for bar, he's got to be one of my favorites doing it right now. Anyways, I'm sure you know who he is and what he does (HE SPITS HOT FIYA!!!) so just download this album and enjoy. SIDE NOTE: "Second CHance" may just be my favorite track of the year.

Download: Mediafire
01. ADW Intro ft. Laura Song (Prod. By Mark Henry, Q-Heff, Dre King)
02. King (Prod. By Bink!)
03. Monte Carlo Dreams ft. US Royalty (Prod. By Sunny Norway)
04. Cloud 9 ft. Tracie Josephine and GLC (Prod. By Sunny Norway)
05. High On Life ft. Raheem DeVaughn (Prod. By 9th Wonder)
06. Otherside (Prod. By Mark Henry)
07. A Different World (Prod. By Oddisee)
08. Scoreboard ft. Black Cobain (Prod. By Bink!)
09. The Let Out (Interlude) (Prod. By Sunny Norway)
10. You're The One ft. Killa Kyleon (Prod. By Sunny Norway)
11. The Weekend ft. U-N-I (Prod. By Sunny Norway)
12. Second CHance (Prod. By Mark Henry)
13. See You Again ft. Kevin Ross (Prod. By Nieze)
14. Incense ft. Mac Miller (Prod. By Sunny Norway)
15. Your Hand (Prod. By Mark Henry & Dre King)
16. Coming Home (Prod. By Sunny Norway)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Saint Motel - At Least I Have Nothing

Saint Motel is an indie pop band from L.A. whose members actually met in film school. Maybe thats why their first EP titled ForPlay had 6 songs with a video accompanying each track. Anyways, this track is off of their upcoming 7" vinyl ep titled, "7"1". Pre-orders are available at their website. Fortunately for us, this track is their free single.

Download: Mediafire

Yuna - Decorate (Video x Audio)

Recently stumbled upon this 24 year old Malaysian songstress by the name of Yuna. This track (which I kid you not, I played about 7 consecutive times) is the title track from her Decorate EP. You can stream the rest of her EP for free at Yuna Music and if you like what you hear, be sure to purchase the EP on iTunes. Thankfully, Yuna has made this track available for free download. Audio below.

Download: Mediafire

Monday, December 12, 2011

Mayer Hawthorne - Dreaming (Video)

Some visuals from Mayer Hawthorne's "How Do You Do" album, available now. Definitely one of the best releases of 2011.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Artist Spotlight: K.Flay

While taking my "sabbatical" from blogging, I came across an artist that was NOTHING that I was expecting her to be. You all know (if you don't, you should know) I'm not really a fan of female emcees but every now and then, I'm left in awe by one of them. This time it's Stanford graduate, Kristina Flaherty a.k.a. K.Flay. Not only does she rap but she also makes all of her own beats which are not only unique, but awesome combinations of Hip Hop, Indie Rock, and Electronic music. Lyrically, she's legit. Content wise, I don't think there's anybody else doing what she's doing. She rocks out on each track with a certain swagger-filled-vulnerability that allows the listener to feel like this is somebody they hang out with. Granted, somebody extremely dope that they hang out with. For this Artist Spotlight segment I only posted the two mixtapes I downloaded from her website but she also has a self-titled EP available in physical form from her site and in digital form on iTunes. Honestly, you just need to check her out. SIDE NOTE: On "PARTY" she says "Party with the Hurricanes, Party with the Seminoles" and it was then, that I fell in love. Go 'Canes.

Doctor Don't Know (From I Stopped Caring in '96)

Mason Jar (From I Stopped Caring in '96)

PARTY (From I Stopped Caring in '96)

CRAZYtown (From MASHed Potatoes)

boom boom pow KUNG FU (From MASHed Potatoes)

ON the bridge (From MASHed Potatoes)

Release Date: 4/1/11
Download: Mediafire

Release Date: 9/16/09
Download: Mediafire

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Jose James - Trouble (AllSaints Basement Sessions) (Video)

Born and raised in Minneapolis, singer Jose James offers a soulful mixture of hip hop and modern jazz."Trouble" is his first single from his forthcoming 2012 album, "No Beginning, No End". Unfortunately, no free link for this one but you do get an awesome video.

Available Now on iTunes.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Mansions On The Moon - Leaves Fall

MOTM just made this track available for free in an effort to promote their upcoming Lightyears EP. I think it was last year that I was first exposed to MOTM when I saw that Diplo co-signed their Paradise Falls mixtape. After hearing this, I definitely have to go back and revisit that release. Don't be surprised if you see that up here on TOTR later tonight.

Download: Mediafire

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Steffaloo - Covers (FreEP)

Stephanie Thompson, also known as Steffaloo, recently released her FreEP, Covers. This ep is filled with beautiful, lo-fi, Ukulele renditions of some pretty awesome songs. Covers really showcases Thompson's range as she effortlessly goes from covering Bright Eyes to Justin Timberlake, with every cover being injected with a dose of gleeful sincerity. I know, I know, "gleeful sincerity"? But trust me, there really isn't any other way for me to describe the sound. It just fits. Get off your high horse and stop judging me. What are you? A bunch of pretentious hipsters trying to find the next big..wait a minute...

First Day Of My Life (Bright Eyes Cover)

Download: Mediafire
01. Believe (Cher Cover)
02. Wake Me Up Before You Go (WHAM! Cover)
03. First Day Of My Life (Bright Eyes Cover)
04. Neon Roses (Jesse Woods Cover)
05. My Love (Justin Timberlake Cover)
06. All The Wild Horses (Ray Lamontagne Cover)
07. I Kissed A Girl (Katy Perry Cover)
08. Let It Die (Feist Cover)
09. Over The Rainbow

Saturday, December 3, 2011

14th - Hide Youself EP

London duo, 14th, released their 4 track EP on 11/14/11. Blending Electronic/Minimal beats, with soulful pop vocals, this duo offers up one of the more unique sounds of 2011. I wish I could post these tracks for free because they're pretty awesome, but as of now, you have to purchase them on iTunes. But for now, you can stream it in it's entirety via 14th's SoundCloud.

Buy: iTunes