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Top Albums of 2009: #5 of The Hanukkah List

Eve Marcellus: #5

Passion Pit: Manners

Passion Pit actually began its debut year in 2008 with the release of their first EP Chunk of Change. What began as an innocent project by lead vocalist Michael Angelakos to write a few songs for his girlfriend as a Valentine's Day present, quickly morphed into a full-fledged entry into the indie electro-pop scene. Fast forward eight months to the release of Manners, a bouncier, more polished execution of Passion Pit's synth-squeak sound. There isn't a whole lot of holding back to the tracks, whether Angelakos' voice is straining to hit the highest notes imaginable for a college-aged man or letting keyboards, a kid's choir, and a myriad of other random sounds layer over each other. It's weird and it's great. There is a remarkable consistency to the complexity of the arrangements, even on tracks like "Swimming in the Flood" that threaten to veer into ballad territory. It is an album that is enjoyable as a whole. If you followed SFCritic's coverage of the Treasure Island Music Festival this year, you'll remember I was underwhelmed (to say the least) by their live performance. Still, Manners is an album I can imagine enduring and hope that Passion Pit continues to push the boundaries of their particular brand of studio magic.

David Johnson-Igra: #5
Fashawn: Boy Meets World

Like a young Nas, Fashawn lyrically articulates the world surrounding him. On tracks like “Sunny California,” Fashawn raps, “A pimp told me "a ho is just an open purse"/ A ho told me a pimp don't see what she worth / Think that a shame, that's the game and we all in it / Hollywood, don't take it personal, it's all business,” illustrating a young man wise beyond his years (21-years-old). Boy Meets World is a gallery of lyrical paintings of life as Fashawn sees it. It's not just about his skill, which on previous mixtapes are evident (see the song “F.A.S.H.A.W.N.”). What’s most impressive about Boy Meets World is Fashawn’s confidence and self-reflection on tracks like “Father,” and “Boy Meets World.” Fashawn not only describes his struggles, but finds resolve in his rough upbringing (father incarcerated and mother’s struggle with substance abuse). He provides support (“Life As A Shorty”) and guidance (“Hey Young World”) to youth with similar struggles. Not to mention, every beat is clean and fitting. With soulful piano samples, and varying tempos, Exile continues to show he is one of the best producers in hip hop today. Boy Meets World is more than just a promising debut, it’s an excellent album.

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