Soul and World 2011: 16 Best Albums

Soul and World 2011: 16 Best Albums
Listen to our Best of 2011: Soul and R&B playlist on Rdio by clicking here.

1. The Weeknd
2. tUnE-yArDs
3. Raphael Saadiq
4. Frank Ocean
5. Charles Bradley
6. Toro Y Moi
7. The Stepkids
8. Mayer Hawthorne
9. Cee Lo Green
10. Aline Morales
11. Beyonce
12. Seun Kuti
13. Jill Scott
14. Gil Scott-Heron & Jamie XX
15. Jazzy Jeff & Ayah
16. Jahdan Blakkamoore

1. The Weeknd House of Balloons (OVO)
Yeah, my name's on the Polaris Grand Jury that voted for Arcade Fire. It's a fact that still amuses me, especially since the confirmed front-runner was so appositional in so many ways to the little mixtape that could ― the Weeknd's House of Balloons. But they're not polar opposites. Both are perfectly executed concept albums. Both are terrific, moody song cycles. The narrative of House Of Balloons, however, puts it in a whole different league. Abel Tesfaye comes across as coarse and boastful but also vulnerable and pathetic. He's only fucking 21 and very callow, yet also jaded by several years of partying. His state of mind can go up or down for him in a hurry. The perspective is not a pretty picture, nor a common one in Canadian music. Moreover the list of sonic enablers in his music ― the simple heaviness of dubstep, dramatic pop inspiration from the likes of Beach House and Siouxsie and the Banshees and his penchant for freestyling, which is especially effective considering his stream of consciousness wordplay. But who the hell knows what's really going on? Even after another album, single and several collaborations with Drake, everything remains a mystery about Abel Tesfaye. And we like it that way. But for how long?
David Dacks