Five Albums You Should Be Listening to Right Now

From Jay-Z and Kanye to British indie-folk.

By Nick McCarthy

Every two weeks, titans of the mediasphere give Nerve their music recommendations. This week: Nick McCarthy, of Sunset in the Rearview, a hip-hop and indie-rock blog that was voted Best Music Blog of 2010 in a poll of 200 music bloggers.


1. Earl Sweatshirt, EARL (2010)

I've used this mixtape to introduce friends to Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All (OFWGKTA or simply Odd Future), the rebellious, controversial hip-hop collective from L.A. Among Odd Future members, Earl is perhaps the most mysterious. The prodigiously talented, sixteen-year-old wordsmith is currently in Samoa and as such as been out of the public eye while other members of Odd Future, like Tyler the Creator, have gotten steadily more famous. (See Tyler's recent "Best New Artist" award at the VMAs.) Yet with its mellow, Neptunes-esque production juxtaposed with brutally violent and crude lyrics, this is the best project Odd Future has released to date.

Listen: "Couch (feat. Tyler, the Creator"



2. Kanye West and Jay Z, Watch The Throne (2011)

I wasn't a huge fan of Watch the Throne right off the bat, and I didn't think I'd listen to it too often. I was wrong. Very, very wrong. The album is just top-loaded with great material — nearly every cut is a stellar song. Lyrically, Jay's still got it even after all these years: "Mo' money, forty-year-old phenom / Our fifteen minutes of fame has stretched beyond / At forty-two be better than twenty-four, I carried the four-five, mastered forty-eight laws." And I doubt there was ever was any concern over whether or not ‘Ye would kill it. The sample-based production that made up so much of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy informs Watch the Throne — "Otis" and "Gotta Have It" are two examples. This album is, quite simply, an instant classic of modern hip-hop.

Listen: "Primetime"



3. Neil Young, Live At Massey Hall (recorded January 19 1971, released in 2007)

I saw Neil Young at the Chicago Theater a few years ago. On the way in, there was an older gentleman passing out business cards on which he'd printed, "After the first song, let's break into "Happy Birthday" as a crowd. It's Neil's birthday today, I think he'd get a kick out of it." Appropriately, he started his set with a beautiful rendition of "After The Gold Rush" and then the crowd broke into "Happy Birthday." Neil was so touched he cried. Concert experiences like that only come along every so often, and the same could be said for live albums like this — I only wish I had been there on that day in 1971 in front of his hometown crowd in Toronto.

Listen: "Old Man"



4. Cage The Elephant, Thank You Happy Birthday (2011)

There are not enough rock bands who still, you know, rock. I was fortunate enough to see Cage the Elephant at Lollapalooza this year with a few friends that hadn't seen them before, and watching their reaction to the band's live sound was an experience in and of itself. While this album certainly has songs that pack some heavy rock n' roll, ("Shake Me Down," "Around My Head," "2024"), it also slows down on songs like "Rubber Ball," where the band downshifts to a quieter dynamic and vocalist Matthew Shultz eases into a hushed croon. The band's ability to mix it up like this is one of their best qualities — trust me, you don't want to pass these guys up.

Listen: "Rubber Ball"



5. Noah & The Whale, Last Night On Earth (2011)

Noah & The Whale are one of the most promising groups to have emerged in the last five years. Their set, at Lollapalooza this year was one of the most powerful I've ever heard by miles. It might have been the people I was with, or the shimmering of the sun on the beautiful Chicago skyline, or the Bud Light, but their performance was otherworldly. Last year, we saw how Mumford & Sons' Lollapalooza set helped blow them up — I can only hope the same happens for Noah & The Whale. Their emotional palette, which runs from happiness ("L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N") to nostalgia ("Give It All Back"), is remarkable and perhaps their strongest suit as a group.

Listen: "Give it All Back"


Commentarium (29 Comments)

Sep 28 11 - 12:49am

I agree that Watch the Throne has gotten better on repeated listenings. But modern hip-hop classic? Hardly. And even if you interpret the album's ridiculously swag-filled tracklist as a call for Black empowerment, there were far more constructive ways that the Throne could've gone about doing it than just bragging about how much shit they have.

Sep 29 11 - 9:02pm

In those repeated listening you would have also noted that the album has much more content than sheer bragging. "Murder to Excellence" (overlooked urban crime), "New Day" (hope that they will be better than their fathers, better as fathers), "Why I Love you" (betrayals)......

Sep 30 11 - 1:36am

Amen, Brobiden.

Oct 01 11 - 1:59am

Watch the throne took itself way too seriously and was a fairly weak album. Especially in comparison to jay/kanye's early work.

Oct 01 11 - 4:32pm

I thought everyone got the idea that WTT was no more than a victory lap album?

Sep 28 11 - 5:18am
Noah and the Whale??

"one of the most promising groups to have emerged in the last five years"

Oooh, you're entitled to that opinion, but are you serious? They are as interesting to listen to as a dripping tap. I'm not opposed to their style, but there are far superior groups writing similar(ish) music, like The Tallest Man On Earth.

Sep 29 11 - 4:21pm

I love The Tallest Man On Earth but I think comparing them to Noah & The Whale is like comparing Dylan to Springsteen--different artistic vibe, different sound, different feel. Maybe compare Mumford & Sons to Noah, but Tallest Man? Don't see it. I love that other people are listening to him though! Troubles Will Be Gone is one of my favorite songs right now.

Sep 28 11 - 12:52pm

Misogyny, boredom, and top 40 artists. Bleh.

Oct 01 11 - 2:00am

yea, this colyumn usually rules, but it totally blew this edition....except for the neil young shit..and the earl mixtape is dooope

Oct 01 11 - 3:10am

And Cage the Elephant is dope, and Noah & The Whale...i dunno why everyone's bitching, i liked this

Sep 28 11 - 4:20pm

Oh shit, why haven't I still gotten Watch the Throne? I love the samples on that track.

Earl. Yes.

Noah & The Whale gets better as they go.

Sep 28 11 - 4:58pm

Noah and the Whale's Take away show I rather enjoyed

Sep 28 11 - 7:55pm

Kanye West, yea f this list!

Sep 28 11 - 8:48pm

While purists may turn their noses, it's nice to see a Five Albums list where I can identify most of the artists.

Sep 29 11 - 12:08am
Wait Five Minutes

I still don't get the that Kanye supposedly his talent. I've really tried, but I don't get it.

Sep 30 11 - 8:11pm

just not for you maaang, not a big deal

Sep 29 11 - 12:47pm

Noah & the Whale=80's movie montage scene theme music.

Sep 29 11 - 2:58pm
James B

I think people who write off "Watch the Throne" will be surprised in a couple of years by how widely accepted the album is as just that, a "modern classic." This is one of the better 5 Album articles I've read in a while. I think he's right on with Noah/Whale, Cage the Elephant, and Earl. Was elated to see Massey Hall included, too!

Sep 29 11 - 3:00pm
Noah And the Whale

^^^^^^^ Noah and the Whale have a similar sound to Tallest Man on Earth???? Do your ears work properly?

Sep 29 11 - 4:08pm

I agree with your assessment of Watch the Throne and all, but you kind of wasted a bullet. Anybody that wanted to listen to WTT, probably heard about it. Let's not kid ourselves, no one is really in the dark on that one. You could have skipped OF, too. Definitely.

Oct 01 11 - 3:11am
5 Albums

The title of this article is "Five Albums You Should Be Listening to Right Now...." So he included albums you should be listening to, how is that wasting a bullet? And how many people do you think know about the "Earl" mixtape? Definitely not a bullet wasted....

Sep 29 11 - 4:15pm

I consider myself a big OF fan and haven't heard the "Earl" mixtape, thanks! Awesome article in my opinion.

Oct 01 11 - 2:02am

not a big enough OF fan there the kid

Sep 29 11 - 7:22pm

best 5 album I have seen in a while, great writing too. Anytime there are more "mainstream" albums, you get people bitching and moaning in attempts to prove how alternative they are, but don't listen. this is a great mix, great artists. nicely done.

Sep 30 11 - 8:13pm

Exactly, and if there is more experimental and independent music, other people bitch about how hipster the list is.

Sep 29 11 - 10:23pm

I have never agreed more with a five albums list more in my entire life.

Keep writing

Sep 29 11 - 11:38pm


Oct 04 11 - 12:12am
Tom Banjo

All this talk about OF and Jay/'Ye...and no mention of the link between them: Odd Future's Frank Ocean...quite a year he's had!

Oct 13 11 - 4:21am

Heck yeah this is exctaly what I needed.