BEST ALBUM OF THE MONTH
JANE WEAVER: The Silver Globe (Bird)
Built from rare Brigitte Bardot records, Hawkwind's Space Ritual, a flight case full of bank account-destroying cosmic disco 12-inches, Eastern European art-house soundtracks and an undeniable gift for melody and riffs, this is a stunning album. Weaver, a psych-folk singer from Widnes, has really hit it out of the park this time. Actually, she's smashed it out of the park, and clean over a housing estate on the other side of the fence, the ball has flown up through the troposphere, the stratosphere and magnetosphere and has streaked across the solar system toward interstellar space leaving an icy comet's tail behind it. It would be a shame if no one noticed.
WORST ALBUM OF THE MONTH
CHARLI XCX: Sucker (Atlantic/Neon Gold)
"Break the Rules", the first single off Charli XCX's new album, Sucker, premiered August 18, 2014, on BuzzFeed.com.
BEST COVER OF THE MONTH
BARNT: Magazine 13 (Magazine)
Mysterious Cologne aesthete Barnt's debut album pulls of that rare trick of managing to sound original and fresh and utterly alien. An outsider synth set that blends the ribald humour of the Knife, LFO's lunatic rhythms and the crepuscular serenity of Vangelis, Magazine 13 works because it sounds like music being made by someone who shouldn't be making music. It sounds wrong in so many ways – and that's why it's brilliant. Once again, hooray for music!
WORST COVER OF THE MONTH
TORN HAWK: Let's Cry and Do Pushups at the Same Time (Mexican Summer)
Much like that Claude Speeed album that came out a couple of months back, Let's Cry and Do Pushups… is sort of Numbers crew go new-age – a lurid take on the noodling guitars and undulating synths of hippy Kraut that feels like getting a back massage by Rustie before sliding into Hudson Mohawke's bubble bath. A sort of Happy Meal spiritual enlightenment, or nirvana in a huff of nitrous oxide.
TINASHE: Aquarius (RCA)
Tinashe sounds great, looks great, and probably smells great. Well, I've never taken a whiff of her, but I'm thinking she either smells like Dove body wash and rose petals or White Diamonds by Elizabeth Taylor, Wotsits dust and cognac.
LIL WAYNE: Tha Carter V (Young Money/Universal)
Lil Wayne has entered the sequinned, young-girls-in-white-cotton-panties phase of his career. It's not that this album is super bad or anything, but if you put this on followed by Tha Carter or Da Drought 3, it's like listening to two different dudes – and only one of them is clever. If you buy only one hip-hop album a year, you'll probably get Tha Carter V. But is that necessarily a good thing?
LIL WAYNE CAMPBELL
ERIC BIDDINES: Planetcoffeebean 2 (Self-Released)
"The Man" might make you believe that rappers need to rap about sex, drugs and violence to be cool, but like every other time "The Man" told you anything, he's lying. No one gives a fuck about lyrics as long as the singer sounds cool, and Eric Biddines sounds as cool as what you would get if you defrosted a frozen caveman and played him a bunch of Dungeon Family records – which is why he can get away with spending half an album rapping about coffee.
FLYING LOTUS: You're Dead! (Warp)
Everybody knows that the least cool genre of music is instrumental hip-hop. Flying Lotus knows too, which is why half of this album is instrumental jazz freakouts that might impress anybody who's never listened to Sun Ra. Congratulations, Flying Lotus, you've made the new favourite album of state-college stoner trash. Not even an overpriced Kendrick Lamar verse can save you.
YUNG LEAN: Unknown Memory (Self-Released)
Yeah, we gave the Flying Lotus album the finger and are currently tongue-polishing Yung Lean's hairless Swedish asshole. We did it for two reasons. One, Yung Lean made the druggiest rap album of the year. Two, we wanted to piss off all the true heads.
RUN THE JEWELS: Run the Jewels 2 (Mass Appeal)
Politically this is perfect, and the production is stellar. One thing, though: you guys have got to chill on the enunciations. I know you put a ton of thought into all those lyrics about social oppression, and I totally back them, but, like, I don't need to hear every single syllable. Rap should be cool, and coolness is inversely proportional to how well people can understand you. That's why people love Bob Dylan and have forgotten about Donovan. If you need me, I'll be over here listening to Young Thug again.
FRANK LLOYD TIGHT
MR OIZO: The Church (Brainfeeder)
Listening to this record, I realise that sub-consciously I still think of Mr Oizo as being that yellow puppet from the "Flat Beat" video, instead of the more depressing reality – that he is in fact a 40-year-old Frenchman named Quentin. Also, I realise that I, in fact, positively discriminate in favour of yellow puppets, because while this squidgy electro isn't anything that hasn't been done before, I'm listening to it and thinking, "Ha! This puppet sure has some tight jams, doesn't he?"
HIEROGLYPHIC BEING AND THE CONFIGURATIVE OR MODULAR ME TRIO: The Seer of Cosmic Visions (Planet Mu)
With a title like that, it was never going to sound like some gelled-up Darren knocking out hard house to the good people of Essex, but The Seer of Cosmic Visions is still some pretty mind-expanded stuff. Jamal Moss, Sun Ra of the sequencer, orbits between abstract beat suites like "A Genre Sonique" and psychedelic acid excursions like "Space Is the Place" that dream their way to a better tomorrow.
ANDY STOTT: Faith in Strangers (Modern Love)
For all its tumble dryer metaphysics, you could dance to Andy Stott's music: Luxury Problems has aged well because the serious stuff was always matched by an actual groove. But Faith in Strangers starts off without much funk. The second half makes up for lost time. "How It Was" sprays its nostalgia for industry with hypnotic gasps, and the title track does magic with a pop melody, Aphex sine-sawing and live bass. Maybe with repeated listenings the second half will cast the first in a new light. Andy deserves this sympathy: the poor guy's album has leaked. That's how I managed to review it in time.
INDIAN IN THE CUPBOARD
ARCA: Xen (Mute)
Kanye nabbed him for Yeezus, Björk's booked him for whatever space-fairy epic she's got in the works. Both musicians of infinite taste and wisdom, but listening to Xen I do wonder if they're just trying to stop this young Venezuelan from making wishy-washy electronica albums that people who work at style magazines have to pretend is the second coming, rather than the sort of thing some spotty Warp nerd might knock out on his first go on Fruity Loops.
THOM YORKE: Tomorrow's Modern Boxes (BitTorrent)
Woah! Radiohead's frontman comes back strong with a suite of hard-rocking stadium grunge anthems that split the difference between the fin-de-siècle angst of The Bends and the fin-de-siècle angst of OK Computer – watch out, Bono! That's what I won't write while listening to this album, which is another collection of biscuit-tin beats and wiggly-snake basslines that sounds like Thom Yorke made it while hiding in the cupboard under the stairs because he's scared that his microwave is spying on him.
GUYER'S CONNECTION: Portrait (Minimal Wave)
Guyer's Connection were a short-lived teen-age synth duo from Basel in Switzerland and 1983's Portrait was their only album. It's kind of a new-wave classic in the way Philippe Alioth and Tibor Csébits wrote about the mundanity of daily life in a boring Swiss town and set this to excellent OMD-ish electropop. One track bemoans the prevalence of Dallas on TV and how everything stops when it's on, while another, "Keep the City Clean", laments the issues facing smokers downtown and questions the quality of food at the local branch of McDonald's. First-world problems from the past.
RASPBERRY BULBS: Privacy (Blackest Ever Black)
Not all death-rock bands make a habit of releasing records in extremely pink covers, but then Raspberry Bulbs are not all death-rock bands. Their second album for Blackest Ever Black isn't about to mess with the magic formula of grating guitars and Neanderthal drum pummelling, but "Lionhead 1" and "How the Strings Are Pulled" gleam with pop hooks, like razorblades glinting in the Halloween candy.
THE HEADS: Everybody Knows We Got Nowhere (Rooster)
So, somehow you got dead old and now you're fucked. Your life is just a haze of shopping lists, Citalopram, pamphlets on mindfulness and childcare arrangements, and firm stools are a thing of the dim and distant past. Is there any way you can recapture former glories and revisit a time when you had a fine mane of hair, were always drunk and always had a piece of squidgy black in your pocket? Well, no, probably not, but this fine boxset offers a fairly lengthy escape from reality with no less than five albums-worth of material from the West Country Stooges. Everybody Knows, as the title suggests, is the album that got away, but really is one that should be talked about in the same breath as Electric Wizard's Dopethrone, Mudhoney's In 'n' Out of Grace and Loop's Heaven's End. Buy this stoner-rock cult classic and find out what there wasn't any fuss about.
BONG JOHN SILVER
SLIPKNOT: .5: The Gray Chapter (Roadrunner)
Good old Slipknot. Some of them must be pushing 50 now, and would rather be reclining in comfy loafers, contemplating a gentle circuit of the golf course, but look: they're still pulling on their clown masks and dildo noses and getting out there to spread the nu-metal gospel to fields full of tubby children in boilersuits. It's not yet alright to like Slipknot ironically, like you might Gwar, so I am going to say that I find their extreme mallcore take on metal enjoyable, and their earnestly bellowed tributes to late guitarist Paul Gray strangely touching. It would be totally in keeping with their aesthetic if they got him stuffed and took him out on tour, and I hope somebody can make this happen.
AMULET: The First (Century Media)
In the past, bands who've looked back to the origins of heavy metal (White Wizzard, 3 Inches Of Blood) have done so wearing glittery trousers and a wry smile, reducing the genre to an adolescent joke. Amulet, on the other hand, love and respect NWOBHM enough to recognise it for what it was in 1981 – rough-as- tits music made for and by pissed-off kids with homemade hand tattoos who've just done 18 months in a borstal for burglary – and play it as such. In that respect, this record is a fantastic, dark revelation.
11 PARANOIAS: Stealing Fire From Heaven (Ritual Productions)
There's some serious pedigree to 11 Paranoias. Adam Richardson (Ramesses), Mike Vest (Bong) and Nathan Perrier (Capricorns) summon a mind-warping blend of psychedelic stoner doom, which sometimes drifts along amiably enough and then at other times feels like it's opening a black hole in the sky right above you, often in the space of the same song. And so it goes at first on this, their third album, until things really get kicking with "Surrealise", which sounds like the skeletal frame of Bauhaus' "Bela Lugosi's Dead" with a saxophonist playing a noirish, Blade Runner OST-influenced solo three blocks away before the guitars kick in like a giant cathedral roof collapsing on the faithful inside, proving that this trio work best when they're completely doing their own thing.
ARIEL PINK: Pom Pom (4AD)
Pom Pom provokes giggles and nausea in equal measure over mild confusion, much like the remnants of a particularly nasty hangover – the sort you'd get from nailing pink jelly shots in a strip bar. Grotesque and immature with a track or two that feel kinda nice, it's also the last thing you should play on a hangover, or while getting drunk in a strip bar, or on a beach dressed as a dinosaur, or… wait, I can't actually think of what constitutes a good time anymore. Maybe just best not to. KERMIT FUNSHINE
SLEAFORD MODS: Chubbed Up + (Ipecac)
That Sleaford Mods have become a big deal is proper fairy tale stuff, except instead of some some dull posh girl getting off with a prince, the happy ending is that the angry geezer with the chip on his shoulder the size of a camper van gets to give up his job at the local council and play some fairly large venues in Belgium. Chubbed Up + isn't a new album but a collection of recent 7-inch singles with a bit of new stuff bolted on. No complaints from me as it means airings of fuck-your-dole anthem "Jobseeker", lost belters like "Black Monday" and "Fear of Anarchy", plus your usual entertaining word salad about "Garry Bushell whoopee cushions" and the like. Proper, as they say.
WAKA FLOCKA SEAGULLS
DEAN BLUNT: Black Metal (Rough Trade)
Hype Williams' enigmatic loverman takes a seat at the Rough Trade table in between the Libertines and Palma Violets, leading to awkward conversation, punctuated by some long silences. Black Metal, as you probably could have guessed, isn't black metal, but in honour of finding himself on the indiest label in Christendom, Blunt has got some nice jangly guitars in, as well as a new Inga Copeland sort who does the requisite downtrodden woman/ sad-eyed cult member thing. A bit of arsing around as usual – hello, 13-minute track called "Forever"! – but Black Metal veers between heavy-hearted elegies ("50 Cent", "100") and burnt-out road rap ("Hush", "Mersh") with deft sleight of hand.
TV ON THE RADIO: Seeds (Harvest)
Mourning TV On The Radio's decline isn't pointless. Unlike grandad's dementia or that bar in Deptford called The Job Centre, it wasn't inevitable. Their new single "Happy Idiot" was worrying – my flatmate heard it through the walls and thought I was watching Top Gear. Madness used to be a castrated lover "behind a well-barricaded door", as they sang on 2006's "I Was a Lover". Now it's just Tunde Adebimpe "banging his head against a wall". I get that bands evolve at higher speeds than their fans, but what turned TVOTR on to righteous pop-punk? They need to find that mid-2000s anger again. Here's a solution: Jeb Bush 2016. CARLTON BANKS
CUT HANDS: Festival of the Dead (Blackest Ever Black)
With Cut Hands, William Bennett has reimagined Central African Voudou drum polyrhythms as they might be played by a team of slim, discipline-obsessed young men in dog collars. Don't let that glib, reductive description put you off, though: Festival of the Dead is a clear progression from the previous two Cut Hands albums – WB still comes up with new ways to make uniquely relentless and unforgiving music, even after 35 years in the game.
KEMPER NORTON: Loor (Front & Follow)
Kemper Norton is a second wave hauntologist and while this state of being generally seems to necessitate dressing like a future incarnation of Dr Who and copious use of the word uncanny, there's nothing second rate about this fantastic album. He sets the bar high with an unsettling rendition of "All Through the Night" (based on the Welsh folk song "Ar Hyd y Nos") complete with crackling campfire noise and throbbing synths. The album represents a literal dark night of the soul and calls to mind other crepuscular travellers such as Coil and Cyclobe. Loor (the Cornish word for moon) pulls off the same spiritual trick that Aphex Twin sometimes used to employ in the 90s during more reflective moments, which is to use electronic equipment and modern production methods to capture something of the ancient character of the British Isles without this seeming in any way incongruous. Anyway this is brilliant. And uncanny.
SEVEN DEADLY SYNTHS
OMAR KHORSHID AND HIS GROUP: Live In Australia 1981 (Sublime Frequencies)
If I look at some of the most exciting live recordings there are – the Velvet Underground's Sweet Sister Ray bootleg, EEK's Live at the Cairo High Cinema Institute, Joy Division's Preston 28 February 1980 (during a sombre "Heart and Soul" a Lancastrian voice shouts, "Anybody from Burnley, the coach is going in five minutes"), then it's clear that high fidelity isn't what makes them great. Not that this tape recording of this legendary Egyptian surf guitarist playing at the height of his powers just days before his death in a car crash is that bad, it just ain't Unleashed In the East. Still, Khorshid plays as fast as Tommy Victor in parts and chucks the rhythm like an arabesque-playing Nile Rodgers who grew up near the Nile.
SAVAGES AND BO NINGEN: Words to the Blind (Stolen Recordings)
Savages always knew which words to burn and which to treasure. When Jehnny Beth gasped "husbands" again and again, men felt rightfully ashamed. When she cherished each syllable of "Marshall Dear", they felt aroused. So, a "simultaneous sonic poem" with the Japanese outfit Bo Ningen shouldn't surprise anyone. Played live on a U-shaped stage, it's replicated in your headphones with Savages panned to the left and Ningen to the right. Although the press release talks of "delving into chaos", this single 40-minute track is pretty structured: trilingual whispers and machine-gun snares meet in the middle. Then some drunken tennis rallies, harmonies and a noisy conclusion. This is art-school fun, I guess. (I walked past Goldsmiths once).
RICHARD DAWSON: Nothing Important (Weird World)
After a handful of low-key releases, cuddly Tyneside troubadour Richard Dawson hooks up with Domino's increasingly substantial Weird World imprint for another skewed slice of ramshackle Northumbrian psycho-drama. He calls it "ritual community music", and if you've never heard him before, these four new cuts of sprawling Dawsonian wisdom are as good a place as any to start. Like a cross between Robert Wyatt, Jim O'Rourke and Alan Bennett, Dawson caresses and throttles his electric guitar to add colour and texture to his rambling tales of local life. At one point during the 17 minutes of "The Vile Stuff", for instance, he half-sings, "My neighbour Andrew lost two fingers to a Staffie cross whilst jumping over Cow Hill with a Peperami in his bumbag. He's a junior partner at James and James, no win, no fee solicitor, thinking of relocating to a Buddhist monastery in Halifax…". And so it goes, on and on, always weirdly engrossing.