This story appears in the November Issue of VICE.
BEST ALBUM OF THE MONTH
The Agent Intellect
Here's a band composed of four guys you'd expect to be at the bar when you get there—each guy increasingly less like the other, with an unusual assortment of common interests. They could just as easily be lovable, spinoff-worthy recurring characters in some post-rock version of Cheers. Actually, yeah, sure: The four guys with the poignantly named trivia team combined their powers to make a Captain Planet–esque thing called Protomartyr, fueled by the equalized volume of society's inner monologue. It's a pretty accurate analogy if you swap Cheers's Boston for Protomartyr's Detroit; the guys got out of the D, and everybody knows their name.
WORST ALBUM OF THE MONTH
Before 2005, when his daughter ruined his rep on MTV's My Super Sweet 16, most people remembered CeeLo from Goodie Mob. The following year, the Gnarls Barkley song "Crazy" blossomed into an overplayed global anthem, and five years later, CeeLo literally said "Fuck You" to the entire world in the chorus of a chart topper. One person he perhaps didn't and never will get to fuck is Robin Williams, for whom he wrote a tribute song on Heart Blanche. It's called "Robin Williams," and it contains the lyric "We've got to laugh the pain away" in a nasally drawl that can only come out of a nugget-headed, bowling-ball-shaped man dressed like Muammar Qaddafi.
BEST COVER OF THE MONTH
ONEOHTRIX POINT NEVER
Garden of Delete
There isn't a god in the Garden of Delete's overgrown soundscapes, no one to watch over listeners in this jarringly foreign yet deeply familiar terrain. Lured into a mirrored future-urban maze by propulsive beats, you're suddenly ensnared in harsh forests littered with dead technology and pools of human blood. A child's voice comes out of nowhere to remind the visitors of their own humanity, and the sky opens up to rain down acrid droplets of data from its saturated clouds. As listeners seek shelter from the deluge, samples and cloaked vocal tracks enter their sonic periphery like a surveillance drone and strike at random, setting motherboards ablaze.
WORST COVER OF THE MONTH
Teens of Style
When I was 22, I figured out that adding a spoonful of Dijon mustard into chicken salad really spiced it up. That was the absolute pinnacle of my achievements at that age. And at the time I thought it was genius. Meanwhile, at 22, Will Toledo has already written and produced 11 records on his own. Now he's gone back through that work, handpicked tracks, and re-recorded them to make this album that I've been listening to nonstop for a week. It's clever and catchy and charming with brilliant lyrics and a classic, gently fuzzed-out sound. It's so good, but so simple. Actual genius. Listen to Teens of Style. Add mustard to your chicken salad. Life will be better.
300 Entertainment/RGF Productions
If you haven't been possessed by what is undeniably the most romantic song of 2015, "Trap Queen," then it's time, my friend, it's time. Fetty is our generation's Elvis, and not only has he had the most success in the hip-hop Billboard charts, but I am pretty sure that as many people have gotten married this year to "Trap Queen" or "My Way" as the King's version of "Can't Help Falling in Love." There is a very similar sound to every song on this album, but really I don't care— who wouldn't want to hear the sweet croon of "Is you gon' finesse the plug with me, baby?" The choral synth stabs in the weed-fueled existential crisis "I Wonder" are ridiculous, but then the love songs come back and save the day. This is a long-ass album, but a classic-ass album from beginning to end.
Street King Immortal
Have you ever been texting with your psychologist asking if he has some spare pills lying around the office— uppers, downers, whatever—when all of a sudden your phone rings? You go to pick up, but it's an unknown number, so you start to panic, question everything around you, have a multifaceted nervous breakdown, and chew your nails until the little voicemail icon pops up on your phone? Then, when you work up the sack to actually listen to it, it's your psychologist apologizing for not responding to your texts but they were pretty uncouth and maybe you should talk about why you think it's OK to just hit him up asking if he has errant pills lying around? So you feel insanely guilty, but you swear to God he's just hooked you up with pills out of his desk drawer before? Here's all that cold sweat and self-loathing wrapped up in a nice little mix tape for you.
Strangeulation Vol. II
Rappers who have that machine-gunstyle delivery can totally throw in filler words like "yabba-dabba-doo" or "bummy-bummy-bummy" and you wouldn't even notice, but Tech N9ne still sounds like he is saying actual things. It's a style that inherently has replay value, like a cartoon series with a billion Easter eggs. But it's also annoying that most of Tech N9ne's eggs are filled with a mixture of blood and jizz and off-brand soda, or whatever Juggalos like. And that's not to say it isn't listenable bummybummy- bummy, because you too can yabba-dabba-doo, poopy-butt pants jiggyziggy. Flip-flop, drip-drop, gun, fun, hamburger bun! See? I can just say random rhythmic words, and it fills up lots of time and space, thereby making my job easier. I'm just like Tech N9ne. Actually, I am Tech N9ne. VICE assigned me to review my own album, and goddamn, I'm doing it. It feels good to break into my true calling as a journalist people can rely on. I swear I'll never miss a deadline, and I'll cover my beat with the aforementioned Juggalo sounds, whatever it takes, dear reader! This is the new Technical Nine!
TECH N9NE (NOT)
Have You In My Wilderness
When I joined my high school's jazz band, I hoped to meet some proto-art-school kids who unironically called weed "reefer" and liked to argue about which Sun Ra record was actually the Truth. I romanticized the idea of meeting some bookish-yet-totallysuper- hot girl who crooned or played upright bass. I imagined we'd get high after rehearsal and she'd teach me how to eat pussy right by ashing her imported Gauloises on my head every time I did something clumsy with my tongue. Julia Holter is pretty much the spitting image of that sad teenage fantasy. In reality, the jazz band was filled with neurotic foreign students who played instruments so it would look good on their Ivy League applications, and my friends called me a "bebop bitch" for joining. I once fooled around with the acned Korean girl who played clarinet. As I went down on her, she farted directly into my eyes, and we both got so embarrassed we never spoke again. I think she ended up going to Cornell.
VEGA INTL. Night School
Mom + Pop
I used to be a real nobody. Trapped in a grossly comfortable limbo provided by the failed Rust Belt economy of my college town—Syracuse, New York—I spent my days scrounging for sixers of Bud Light Lime from Sabastino's Pizza, decorating my house with impossibly cool shit, and being pulled around on my skateboard by my roommate's homicidal pit bull. Visits to campus were infrequent and mostly geared toward promoting my parties, recording my psychopathic university radio show, and persuading professors to let me take graduate-level courses instead of whatever schlock I was supposed to. Music was pretty much the only thing that kept me from killing myself up there, and one record in particular gave me life. Neon Indian's Psychic Chasms served up an airy funkiness I didn't know was possible in bedroom pop. Anyway, I'm a real somebody now and get to review records! Here's what I have to say regarding Neon Indian's latest effort: Let the funky, farty synth blobs slither down your soul and unlock sonic memories of every good song ever made (a very Phil Collins "In the Air Tonight" moment happens in "Baby's Eyes"). Ugh, this record is so good. Hats off to serious artists who take their time.
THE ICARUS LINE
All Things Under Heaven
I couldn't find the words to describe this record, but I'll tell you what: Steve W. on Yelp sums it up perfectly with his review of this discount tire place in Hollywood. For what it's worth, it's the worst review of the highest-rated discount tire place, which, from a creative-writing perspective, should imply a certain level of hope: "I decided to go to this place because it was close to home. I took the tire off the car myself and drove it here. They quoted me an hour/hour and a half. Which I thought was a little crazy. But, fine, I'll run some errands. Came back roughly an hour later to see that the tire had not moved. About an hour and 40 minutes after I dropped it off, I finally approached the sales staff asking the timeline. The sales guys spoke to the technician and he jumped on it to find that there was some interior damage and recommended buying a new tire. I told them give it back to me. After nearly 2 hours waiting only to be told that the tire was damaged, I did not want to buy a new tire from them."
NAUTICAL YELP STAR
I Am a Problem: Mind in Pieces
And with their 8,798th release, Wolf Eyes has put out its creepiest, druggiest, and best album ever. This is the soundtrack to a beautiful tweenage utopian vision of gravity bong rips with a bunch of skater rats in a wood-paneled Midwestern basement while watching Street Trash. Jack White, please get them fucking booked on Conan already.
B. J. ARMSTRONG
The first run through my brain felt like the inner monologue, put through a foreign-language translator, of a guy who was really let down by his local Jet Ski rental spot. Basically, something like this: "In the commencement they were so cordial, the time you put down the deposit and returned the Jet Ski. They wanted to get any quandary just to take your mazuma. First quandary: They celebrated that you were a Jet Ski rental guy to ken where to probe for damages because they'd found a damage that no one would search for. Second quandary: They gave you a genuinely old truck to drop the Jet Ski on the beach and said you broke the gear. How could you break the gear if you were only dropping the Jet Ski and gave it back to them in less than 30 minutes? Third quandary: They charged you $100 for a tardy fee while they gave you a broken-gear truck that took too long to utilize. Fourth: Their Jet Skis are not as good as at the other places." And then, all of a sudden, I was back in reality, drooling like a mental patient over this hunk of wax called New Bermuda—oh, that's why I was thinking about Jet Skis.
In the Red
Great gardens of sleep! Now here's some nightmare fuel. It's like the feeling when you're right on the brink of slumber—the fog is rolling in—and you swear there's a knocking at the door. An awful clanging noise. Maybe there's someone screaming too. Incantations and the like. They call it exploding head syndrome, but if you ask me what we have here is a subliminal parasomnia that proves the inside of the human brain is in fact a haunted house.
Talking to people can really be the worst. Now that I've got that out ofthe way, did you know New Zealand is the most laid-back place on the planet? Nary a fuck has been given within its borders for millennia! And there are all kinds of dangerous things there. Meth is one of the dangerous things there, but meth is to New Zealand what Guinness is to Ireland: Doctors will straight-up prescribe it to you. No wonder this band is called the Chills! They don't have anything to be stressed out about, gang! We should all move to New Zealand and chill with the Chills, this brand-new, exciting, hip, underground, young new-new-new wave band! No one has ever heard of them until now! It's my band, actually. I'm the lead singer of the Chills. I'm on meth right now, chilling in New Zealand. I hope you love my brand new band!
Love Is All or Love Is Not at All
One Little Indian
Why are the Irish so friendly? They're not even really all that lucky when you think about it. I mean I guess it depends on how you define luck, but to me the Irish are lucky the way I'm not poor because I have an iPad. Ignorance is bliss or whatever. The other thing about Irish people is that they have a lot to talk about via song. Who doesn't love a song? Rich people. I'll tell you why: Rich people don't like songs because most songs are either about wanting money, not having money, or pretending to have money. The only people who have money are lucky, so all money is Irish. I think you understand what I'm saying here. This is just word for word what Marc Carroll's Wikipedia page has in its "Personal Life" section. Now I'm just lying. I'm lying because of my nationality.
The background of my phone has burned the album art for Deerhunter's 2008 psych-punk opus, Weird Era Cont., permanently into my retinas. I love that record. It makes me think of starting college and taking mushrooms with this girl I used to be madly in love with. It makes me think of texting my dad on mushrooms to tell him to listen to this band. And then him actually liking them. I wanted to write something snarky and cheap about this record to prove that I was too cool for nostalgia and could laugh at the days I swore by guitar rock. But here I am, listening to Fading Frontier alone in my room, munching on the last couple golden caps I have in my stash. Give me like 45 minutes and I'll be on my second listen, likely tearing up a little, definitely drafting sappy texts to my old man.
AUTRE NE VEUT
Age of Transparency
You need to be careful with this record. These sounds are going to make you and the people around you want to touch bodies and make eye contact. You may not even know it, or deny its possibility, when all of a sudden your skeleton is trying to take your skin off like a unitard. The very first song has a part that's nothing other than grunting and some sort of flute. Doesn't matter where you are, it's about to get intimate as fuck. Some songs get a little weird, others a bit intense, but just go with it. Listening to this feels really good, and after it's over, you'll want to do it again.
PUMPKIN PATCH ADAMS
I Need New Eyes
I've been having a recurring dream in which I'm this Don Draper-type guy saddled with the lofty task of inventing a slogan and nationwide ad campaign for the deep-pocketed tourism arm of Easter Island. So far all I've got is "Free Head," which I feel is in the right direction, but there's a bunch of heads on the island. It's helpful knowing Larry Gus is in the exact same predicament on I Need New Eyes. Maybe we could work together and build a team that can offer some fresh creative energy. A veritable dream team. Also the team is gonna need to have a smoking room with a minibar. And all of the other stuff from the TV program with the men and the mad and the hidey-ho!
I Thought the Future Would Be Cooler
Sometimes I can't take music seriously. How can you write another love song about some asshole while there are a million documentaries streaming on Netflix popping off about how humanity is doomed? On the flip side of that, songs with a protest and anti-establishment motif tend to end up sounding way too cheesy and fail to win hearts and change minds. Somehow, through some sort of kooky mystical magic, Yacht manages to write songs about all the ills life throws at us, with a pulse and excitement that makes me want to bungee-jump off a bridge into my compost heap. Yacht is a musical combination of Xanax and Adderall for our modern life, dulling the pain of how everything is teetering on the verge of utter disaster while giving me a huge smile as I proceed to pop and lock on the dance floor. This is the album I've always needed to sing along to during my sundry existential crises, and to help me deal with life in these abysmal times. Thanks, Yacht. Good on ya!
SHINA IS A PUNK ROCKER
Starting in 1979, this British guy spent six years creating an 88-minute synthbased concept album in his bedroom. It's a space opera inspired by The War of the Worlds and contains lyrics like, "I'll live forever as a time god!" He self-released it on cassettes and advertised in the back of science magazines throughout the 80s, and it just received a fancy reissue. I haven't even finished listening to this yet, but it's already better than 99 percent of the music released in 2015. Meaning it occupies that rare 1 percent of bangers who end up being either a new Aphex Twin nom de plume or, you know, Kanye.
B. J. ARMSTRONG
If you tried to tell me that Bob Dylan was an "original artist," I would hurl in your face laughing. That's right, your eyes, mouth, and nose would be drenched in a cascade of human upchuck, choreographed impossibly to my uniquely maniacal laughter. Bob Dylan did nothing original, you guys. He simply took all of his influences and turned them into his own, which to be fair is, like, no biggie. Bob Dylan was a rapper as far as I'm concerned, or at least a rap producer, yeah. What makes the Dylan a legend is the fact that he took 250 years of American music and made it accessible to his audience in his unique sounds-like-an-autisticguy- riding-the-Coney-Island-Cyclone kinda way. Saintseneca is similarly turning the old into the new. We've heard all these songs before, but never in this uniquely crafted way or whatever. I'm still thinking about laughing puke hydrants.
WOODY GUTHRIE'S REVENGE
The health-goth daddies of Magic Fades continue to drive me wild with another release of aggressive, icy, ambient jams that make me want to get my footwork on and go for a really long, emotionally charged run, like, where you cry at the end. Magic Fades makes you want to fall in love with, or download your mind to, the hard drive of a heartless cyborg. "Oh, if he only had a heart," you croon at your own reflection in the chilly faceplate of your soon-to-be robo-moneymaker. You've got some drool on the corner of your mouth, but that's OK, where we're going there is no drool, just lots and lots of lube. Hey, creep! I mean, like, oil to keep the cyborg from rusting. Now shake your machine ass!
Aquabear Legion Volume 5
You know, I was a part of the Athens, Ohio, music scene once. I had a group called the Brown Eye. We were kind of like a mixture between Machine Gun Kelly and a jammier version of O.A.R.—with a little bit of Appalachian flare sprinkled on top—sketchy Appalachia to be sure, like barbed-wire booby traps and shit. We even had an indigent meth head playing the spoons! We were so deep in the scene that one time, when we were opening for Skeletonwitch at the Union, Chance Garnette ate my girlfriend's pussy backstage. Now, that sweet lady and I are happily married and raising two kids in Toledo. Unfortunately, the Brown Eye has broken up. But you can still buy our jewel-case CD in Uptown Athens at Hoffa's Records. It's self-titled and on the shelf right next to Roderick McDavis's 1970s spoken-word album, Radical Chic. Every time they sell one, we owe them $3. Skeletonwitch is actively touring and putting out records; the only other band that formed in 2003 that is still going for it is the Sword.
DILBERT L. GOOBER