January's Best and Worst Records
Chief Keef is the shit, Joey Bada$$ is just shit, and Panda Bear made something that sounds like the Grateful Dead got trapped in Jim Henson's Creature Shop overnight.
BEST ALBUM OF THE MONTH
CHIEF KEEF: Thot Breaker (Glo Gang)
What's the longest you've gone without pounding off? My personal record is, like, four days, but I know some guys who forego 'batin' for months at a time, taking vows of celibacy to ensure not one solitary drop of semen leaks from their loins. Why? Picture shooting a load so powerful it feels like you're blasting a champagne cork out of your cock with your love juice, and imagine the feeling of blissful ego death that comes with it. That's what it feels like when you listen to Chief Keef.
JAX THE DOG
WORST ALBUM OF THE MONTH
JOEY BADA$$: B4.DA.$ (Cinematic/Relentless)
How bummed must Jo-Vaughn Scott be that he picked the name "Joey Bada$$"? That's a name that could only sound cool to a 17-year-old, which, coincidentally, was the age of Joey Bada$$ when he got famous for making rap music that pretended it was still the era before Giuliani had his goons paint over all the subway graffiti. Now Joey Bada$$ is older, seems to be really into psychedelics, and is probably less shitty than he used to be, but if we're being honest, no rational person will ever take him seriously because he has the worst name in all of hip-hop.
BEST COVER OF THE MONTH
JIB KIDDER: Teaspoon to the Ocean (Weird World)
Jib Kidder is a guy named Sean Schuster-Craig who released a lot of stuff on Bandcamp and has now made a fairly delightful album for the Weird World label. Overall, Teaspoon to the Ocean struggles to get itself out of bed, but when it does it drifts around dreamily and features some touching moments called "Appetites" and "The Waves." Not to be confused with Alex G or Tobias Jesso Jr., although it's easily done.
WORST COVER OF THE MONTH
POND: Man It Feels Like Space Again (Caroline)
Psychedelic rock—it's the hot new sound of young Australia! Thanks to bands like Pond and Tame Impala, impressionable parents across that land are dosing their kids with microdots at breakfast and banning haircuts in hopes that one day their offspring will form an authentic middle-of-the-road psych-pop outfit, when the weird reality is these bands look like baristas and make music that's as radical as Foo Fighters. Pond has form at least, having named earlier albums Psychedelic Mango, Corridors of Blissterday, and Hobo Rocket, but the idea that this gently fried pop is any way transformative feels off the mark.
Joker is the once-hot British grime guy who got picked up by the label 4AD for an album, which was garbage. Now he's back with The Mainframe, a dubstep dog's dinner featuring a singer who won the Dutch X Factor. So weird how life goes sometimes.
GHOSTFACE KILLAH AND BADBADNOTGOOD
Don't get me wrong—socialized medicine is sweet, poutine gravy tastes like Paul the Apostle's cum, and the strip clubs in Montreal are so amazing they make you feel like the first time you ever saw a titty all over again, but Canada's lame as fuck. Everybody's too polite that they never know when to tell people to just fuck off and give up already. Take BadBadNotGood, for example. A jazz band full of white dudes covering rap songs? Only in the Land of the North would anyone ever let anybody get away with that chickenshit. Canadians ruin everything, even Ghostface.
Cool, you make music too? What's your home studio look like? Oh, you've got a Pro and KRK Rokit 8s and fuck around once a month? Prince here produced this entire album at the Apple Store in the morning before his lunch break because he didn't have a computer. And the pure poetry of his genius (and that of his crew) will be better than anything you and anyone you know will ever produce in their lifetime.
The Documentary 2
Even though I've listened to the Game for ten years, the only information I know about him is that he once tattooed a butterfly on his face, he seems like he's an alcoholic, and he's shown up on Keeping Up with the Kardashians, which means he's probably fucked one of them (I'm thinking Kris Jenner). I like it like that, because it makes it even easier to ignore him on his own records and pretend this is just a compilation of the best beats to blast while you're doing a drive-by on some mark-ass bitch, with some anonymous crazy guy who might be your internal monologue egging you on.
America is in dire straits. Young black men are being shot by white police officers at accelerating, terrifying rates. The economy is eroding, and the middle class along with it. Poverty in urban areas leads to fewer property taxes collected, which leads to subpar schools that fail to serve students, which adds to the rate of kids, seeking structure in a confusing world, dropping out and joining gangs, which contributes to a disproportionate amount of black men in prison. We need smart, skilled rappers capable of representing these issues with both nuance and outrage, educating listeners and compelling them to take practical political action. This is why we need Lupe Fiasco less than ever.
JAMES MURPHY + IBM
Remixes Made with Tennis Data
After doing that jogging record with Nike, noted athlete James Murphy limbers up for an epic workout with friendly computer giant IBM. Remixes Made with Tennis Data is a musical project based on data gathered from the US Open tennis championships. What's that? You can't wait to hear it? I know, it's not exactly "Uptown Funk," but Murphy manages to rearrange the bleeps and bloops with typically sinuous grace, and before you know it you're cutting some rug to a Djokovic backhand volley.
A Long Ride in the Dark
Have you ever hung out with a genius? It's the most difficult thing in the world. In between jam sessions you're bringing them back from the brink of death and telling them to stay away from people so that they focus. Pussy, money, and weed may be all a young person needs, but I swear to God, Andrew, if you move out of your grandmother's basement and stop making this crazy shit I'll smack you.
The Periodic Table
The Bunker New York
I hate things that sound bad. What's worst is bad taste. Thankfully this album neither sounds bad nor is in bad taste! It's a scrumptious little morsel that'll give you all the noodling and relentless throb you want. Wait, am I hungry or do I just wanna get laid?
BEST FRENCH DRESSING
It says here this is John Carpenter's "debut album," which sort of implies the veteran director has pulled out an acoustic guitar and gone a bit Bon Iver on us. But no. Lost Themes is really just a collection of stirring synthesizer excursions in that old "soundtrack to a film that doesn't exist" genre. Of course, Carpenter does this better than most, but it's hard to listen to these doomy arpeggios and wailing guitar leads and not want to mentally fill in the scenery. "Mystery," for instance, is Kurt Russell stranded in a cyberpunk Lapland, waging war on evil Santa and his robot-elf army, while on "Domain" I'm getting "killer clowns stalk Axl Rose."
WAKA FLOCKA SEAGULLS
Electronic jazz has had a bad rep pretty much since day one, but Parisian prowler Etienne Jaumet's second album of synths 'n' sax is the kind of kinky shit that's easy to get into. La Visite couldn't be more French if it arrived reeking of onion and Jaumet had spent the duration of its recording wearing a beret at a jaunty angle, chain-smoking Gauloises, and nibbling a baguette while rubbing garlic into his crotch. And knowing him, he probably did.
Pity, really, that Afrofuturism never really made it out of the cultural studies seminar and into the laboratory. The business of discovering fundamental particles and landing on comets would be all the sweeter if, instead of news anchors having to wring sound bites out of a sweaty white guy in a bad shirt, these newfound cosmic wisdoms were imparted by some George Clinton sort in a pharaoh's headdress and mirrored shades. Instead we'll have to make do with this double LP of dope dance maneuvers from Eric Douglas Porter, whose PAN debut follows roughly the same template as Flying Lotus's recent output: a dreamily expansive epic of silky keys, improvised electronics, and freaky jazz loops laid over four generous vinyl sides. They should pipe it into the Mars mission, and together we could explore the cosmos like a bawse.
Your curly-haired, leather-trousered, hard-rock thing is pitfall-strewn territory in 2015. To your left lies mockery; to your right, accusations of irony—and either is guaranteed to melt boners in an instant. Somehow the Scandinavians are adept at navigating such ground. Hail Gothenburg's Spiders, who do it without ballsing anything up. Ann-Sofie Hoyles sings about cool dudes and getting wasted as some Swedish longhair wails on his ax. Turn it up loud and just for a moment you can imagine that your wardrobe is wall-to-wall denim and leather and all your friends own a motorcycle.
Lotus Thief is a San Francisco metal duo most notable for including the guy from Botanist, a baroque outsider black-metal project featuring hammered dulcimers and songs about humanity dying out and being replaced by a world of plants. Sadly, Rervm is a bit more of a straightforward listen, which perhaps seems like a bit of a weird way to describe 50 minutes of ambient space metal with extensive vocal harmonies that deals conceptually with the ancient Greek philosophy of Epicureanism. Hold on, have I just criticized a metal album for not featuring enough killer plants? Looks like I have, and you know, I'm OK with that.
Time to blow up the inflatable pool, boys—I just got my hands on the new Torche album! Tell Johnny to pick up a 30-rack of Bud Light from the Food Lion, and we can drink 'em outside the trailer with our shirts off for hours. Maybe if shit gets real, we'll end up drilling a hole in one of the cans, lubing it up, and all fucking it as a bonding experience.
THE BODY & THOU
Released from Love/You, Whom I Have Always Hated
Doom psychopathy in excelsis as serial collaborators the Body hook up with Louisiana's Thou for ten tracks of chundering low end and futile screeching that, if played loud enough, dims the sun and makes small birds drop out of the sky. As extreme music collabs go, it's not quite as audacious as the Body's recent album with Bobby Krlic, a.k.a. occult electronics maven the Haxan Cloak, although a demented cover of Nine Inch Nails' "Terrible Lie" certainly gives you cause to consider the mental well-being of all involved.
This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things
Sometimes people are oppressed and told fucking awful and stupid things. Other times, folks are brutally beaten if they don't fit into a particular social construct. And if people can't be jailed outright, lots of 'em are brainwashed from birth into thinking certain behaviors are appropriate and anything deviating from the norm is wrong. Every so often somebody breaks the mold and completely fucks up the way things operate. Kathleen Hanna happened to do that and completely changed these young people's lives. Meet Bad Behavior: The drummer used to be a girl, and the front woman is everything.
YRS IN CHRIST, LINDSEY
Panda Bear Meets
the Grim Reaper
You look at Animal Collective and you laugh, but I say that the world needs a band that is brave enough to walk around in Crocs and write songs about alien centipedes and generally make like the Grateful Dead got trapped in Jim Henson's Creature Shop overnight. On Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper, AC's resident sadboy, Noah Lennox, leaves the mother ship for another solo voyage, with drone scientist Sonic Boom on hand to work the controls. If you are at all familiar with Panda's softie ways, you will know the morbid title is a red herring. Instead, this is more in the vein of Lennox's career-high watermark, Person Pitch: wide, warm oceans of sentimentality and songs like "Boys Latin" and "Tropic of Cancer" that sound like Brian Wilson crooning along to The Little Mermaid. He's just too cute to hate.
WAKA FLOCKA SEAGULLS
By my scientific calculation, Calgary's Women were one of the great lost bands of the past ten years, releasing two albums of immaculately eerie chamber lo-fi—Women in 2008 and Public Strain two years later—before falling apart in an onstage fistfight in late 2010. Frontman Matt Flegel and drummer Mike Wallace have reconvened in Viet Cong, who pretty much pick up where Women left off: twinkling Byrds guitars, Velvets dissonance, weird tape-loop trickery, goth musing, an 11-minute song called "Death."
BELLE & SEBASTIAN
Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance
It's a conundrum I just can't solve: Did Belle & Sebastian get worse over the years, or are they just impossible to enjoy after you've lost your virginity?
FATHER JOHN MISTY
I Love You, Honeybear
Josh Tillman has lost his damn mind, but it's still chill. He uses this latest record as a warped confessional booth to clear his brain of totally normal grievances like frustration toward the US capitalist system and homoerotic Flowers in the Attic fantasies. It's self-indulgent as fuck, skittering around in true ass-shaking, zealous octave-range-hitting, peacocking fashion. Peacocking. Cocking. This album was made entirely by Tillman's cock. Can't wait for the live show.
I Sell the Circus
Color me crazy, but when did the "classic" mid-90s lineup of Guided by Voices re-form and then break up again? And why didn't I hear about their album Motivational Jumpsuit? And how has Robert Pollard suddenly got an even newer band together called Ricked Wicky—great name, by the way—that's meant to be a return to form when the form that he was returning to has already returned to that form? Oh man, now I sound like I'm trapped in a fucking Guided by Voices song. Help! Please send supplies.
Dear Boy Sand Girls
Bands forming in bars is pretty common and pretty boring. Bands opening bars is a lot more interesting. In an act of entrepreneurial egomania, these guys opened a bar and named it Dardy Bar. It's at 245 South 1st Street in Williamsburg, and the drinks are cheap. You can buy this record there. Genius.
Light Silence, Dark Speech
I Dischi Del Barone
It's hard to know who to trust. There are lots of different friend-compatibility tests, but I think the most effective is inviting someone to listen to minimalist composers. If they're unfamiliar with the genre entirely they'll maybe (hopefully) hate it and you can be (hopefully) left alone to truly enjoy a beautiful piece of music. If they don't go anywhere, keep their mouths shut, and ignore their stupid social media empires during the performance or tracks you've cued, then keep them around forever. These psychos probably meditate or make weird shit just like you. And by the way, this Lea Bertucci record is the most beautiful piece of music I've heard in quite a while.
HAILU MERGIA & THE WALIAS
Awesome Tapes from Africa
This is a badass 1977 Ethiopian rare groove record from a band who played for—and was censored by—despots. The latter fact is pretty impressive, really, when you consider Tche Belew is entirely instrumental, but I guess it's in tyranny's nature to be kind of paranoid. The Walias broke up when they toured the US in the 1980s and several members somehow missed their flight, later deciding that, all things considered, maybe it would be easiest not to go back at all. Take note, dictators: However sweet your loafers, however pimped-out your palace, all that ruling-with-an-iron-fist stuff has a habit of driving away the very grooviest.
MALCOLM IN THE PYRAMIDDLE
Big Noble is a shitty name for any band, and yet somehow it's perfect for an Interpol side project. As if El Pintor weren't dramatic enough, here Daniel Kessler buddies up with his old-times sound-designer pal Joseph Fraioli of Datach'i for ten cuts of spectral ambient gear that is both big and noble in the portentous way that only this kind of thing can be. A mix of field recordings of New York City and the ghostly traces of Kessler's guitar, First Light invariably sounds like The Hobbit soundtracked by Slowdive: I'm getting tears and trauma and a shard of hope glinting on the horizon that's about to be trampled by an army of orcs.
WILLIAM S. BURROUGHS
In 1980, Genesis P-Orridge and Peter "Sleazy" Christopherson of Throbbing Gristle went to New York, not in hopes of a stroll through Central Park or a shopping spree at Bloomingdale's but to visit wizened beat author William Burroughs and leaf through his trove of home recordings. The resulting Nothing Here but the Recordings has been in and out of print since, which is a shame, because it's quintessential Burroughs: 45 minutes of croaky recitations from cut-up newspapers, songs, bursts of harmonica, and strange mutterings about "crabmen" that feel like a needle of weird shit injected right into your brain stem.
PATRICK COWLEY & JORGE SOCARRAS
This is the absolute tits. If I were asked to come up with a "lost" music project, I'd struggle to invent something more intriguing, attractive, and exciting than disco titan Patrick Cowley recording a pre-post-punk, pre-industrial, pre-disco-not-disco experimental dance LP with Jorge Socarras of Indoor Life between 1975 and 1977. The fact that it happened and lay dormant all this time is one thing, but that it exists and is way beyond being a mere camp curio is entirely another. Slightly camp it might be, but it seems to predict with ease the alienated gothic Moog pop of Tubeway Army, the twitchy synth punk of the Units, the existential Ballardian dread of the Normal, and the electronic romantic glam of Ultravox.
J. G. BOLLARD