DEVIN, GARY & ROSS
DALE EARNHARDT JR. JR.:
ROYCE DA 5'9"
Self-released Let’s clear the air real quick: Eminem is one of the greatest rappers of all time. He’s put out a few Ambien- and methadone-fueled stinkers, but he’s still an MC of preternatural technical gifts—and those gifts are only enhanced when displayed in the presence of a worthy challenger. Royce Da 5'9" is just such a match for Em, and from this first track it looks like Hell: The Sequel might live up to its 14-year build-up.
PRAYERS FOR ATHEISTS
New Hymns for
an Old War
Strange Famous Prayers for Atheists is punk-rap for the Dead Prez set. What sets PFA apart from most rock-rap acts is that MC Jared Paul has some real flow mastery. Meantime, his bandmates play more than just the standard chugga-chug bullshit you might expect from this sort of genre fusion. Comparisons to Rage Against the Machine are obvious, boring, and missing the point entirely.
Tha Carter IV
Young Money Dear Judge Charles H. Solomon,
Thank you very much for sending Lil Wayne to jail. He’s been one of my favorite MCs ever since he was in the Hot Boy$. I loved the Dedication and Drought tapes, but when Tha Carter III came out it seemed like Wayne was falling off. All that touring, syrup, and attention were changing him. Without your prison sentence forcing him off drugs and back onto his notepad, Wayne would’ve wound up another Southern rapper dead at 33 from codeine and sleep apnea. Thank you, Judge Solomon, for saving one of the greatest MCs ever and for serving justice once again!
JAKE TRAMES, LAKE FOREST ELEMENTARY CHARTER SCHOOL
We Must Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves
Ribbon Music When John Maus started releasing music almost ten years ago I doubt he ever imagined he’d be held up as a kingpin for a scene of freshly showered, overeducated sensitive dudes who plunk away at bass guitars over crappy drum machines and meandering synths. There’s simply no way to predict that one day you will be looked on as the Magnetic Fields for the Tumblr generation. Luckily, he doesn’t seem to be buying into too much of his own hype. If you dug “Rights for Gays” you’ll probably like “Cop Killer,” and if you linked the video for “Do Your Best” to a crush’s Facebook page you’ll likely to do the same with “Hey Moon.”
MARLOS JUANZALEZ Despite their suspiciously high Google ranking (how the fuck did they beat out both Thrill Kill and THE Cult?), Cults are a delightful little band with an audible love for Phil Spector. They’re also doing that sampling-people-talking-from-the-TV thing no one’s done in the last few years, and no one’s done this well since the Glove. I also find it very difficult to dislike a band that uses a xylophone so often.
Fan Death Records I can usually get behind the whole postpunk-angular-guitars-with-androgynous-singing thing, so I was open to the idea of some kids in Ohio giving it a shot. But—hold on—I’m also detecting a strong melodic undercurrent of midperiod Hüsker Dü, and the girl singer’s yelps and cries leave Siouxsie scrambling for answers. I almost want to blast this from a boom box as I roll down to the Lady Foot Locker parking lot and smoke cloves in my Nana’s Buick. Rest in peace, Nana.
Price Tapes\ The best part about this way-too-short tape is that once you listen to it 5 million times—which you will—you’ll find yourself sweetly singing the word “raper” in the grocery store and other public spaces frequented by people’s moms, thanks to the sing-alongable gem “Raper Charlie.” Let this cassette seed your heart and make you fall in love with fun all over again.
Get It Right 7"
Killer Diller An amazingly weird 7-inch that comes with a flexi, this record is mostly good old-fashioned nostalgia rock. Then there’s this song “Get It Right,” which is a piano ballad where the key hammering gets more intense as the song’s lyrics tell the story of a Murry Wilson-Brian Wilson relationship with a father who would hit him and scream “Get it right! Get it right!” as he practiced piano until his fingers bled. I guess those memories turned out good for something.
Rotted Tooth Records Proving Iowa has more to offer than corn and gay marriage, a lady singer and pack of degenerate scummy scum-scums blast through 20 minutes of “songs” about important stuff like getting drunk and getting really, really drunk. They even manage to squeeze in not one but TWO Teenage Jesus covers. Go see them at whatever godforsaken “art punk” space your buddy calls his basement.
David Comes to Life
Vice I don’t care that we’re putting this out, “conflicts of interest” are for lawyers and lazy bloggers with pill problems. This album is the cat’s ass. The songy-songs belong in the 21st-century version of Harry Smith’s Anthology of American Folk Music and the rockin’-out numbers belong in my head all day while I get shit done with maximum prejudice (I typed that last part so hard it loosened a key). There’s even a song that partakes of the D-A-G golden ratio of chord progressions, joining the pantheon of ELO’s “Do Ya,” Sweet’s “Fox on the Run,” and that Subway Sect song that sounds like that Pete Townshend song. This is everything that’s good about Atlanta in summertime, which is everything that’s good about everything anywhere always.
Taste of Zimbabwe
Drag City Ty Segall’s last album, Melted, was a real epic destroyer. Each song was a banging, clanging hit. In between then and now he released an EP of T-Rex covers, and it seems like he’s still in T-Rex mode, making slow songs that are a little smoother and slower. There’s one song that goes, “She. Says. She. Wants. To. Buy. A. Couch... I said why do we have to. Buy. A. Couch.” This is no party record, but it is a good one for rockers who feel sleepy.
KATEY LIVINGSTON SEGALL
Last Bummer Records Tami Hart, bassist for MEN and haver of many projects, makes some of the best dancey punk music keyboards can fry. On Social Life, Tami unleashes some beastly fur on the spry cordage of her bass, belching around cheap drum machines and toothy microKORGs. The second track, “Luv Cruizin,” with its refrain, “All your records sound the same to me,” is the perfect anthem for this very reviews column.
ALEX DUNBAR Fucked Up will continue being a great band until pretty, jangly guitar leads floating atop pop-punk bass lines and double-time drums stop being the perfect thing to scream over. It’s like the music’s triggering all those feel-good feelings while the screaming’s telling you to get enjoyably angry. Fucked Up is dancing music, partying music, and bone-bangling music.
Within and Without
Sub Pop By now, everything that was remotely interesting about “chillwave” has been subsumed by a new generation of rap producers with their attention divided between the luminiferous aether and Twitter. With ears moving on to a more swagged-the-fuck-out version of this musical sensibility, what place is there for Washed Out outside the Fader Fort?
Cold Comes to Claim
People of Paper, Plus Tapes Brontosaurus is only a baby (they’ve only been around for one year), but their full, no-bells-or-whistles sound is at the level of a college-town bar band at best. Nicholas Kelley and Nicholas Papaleo are the dudeskis navigating this bro-ship, and their use of Mars Volta-esque guitar tangents and shoe-licking (one step beyond “gazing”) lyrics makes for a clean and simple album that’s not gonna blow your panties off unless you’re at a kegger and weren’t wearing any in the first place. The amount of putrid music being put out over the past five years has pretty much turned everyone’s portable listening devices into urinal cakes with headphones—then again comparing these guys to an environment that doesn’t reek of piss is probably undue praise.
DALE EARNHARDT JR. JR.
It’s a Corporate World
Quite Scientific In about a year this band’s going to be the new Vampire Weekend, so I gotta get my blows in now: At their best, Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. sound like Jamiroquai made an Unplugged record. At their worst, they’re the latest incarnation of Beatles-worshipping twee bullshit that’s been around for the past, umm, 60 years. They’re cloying, precious, lame, and I hope their name gets their van keyed if they play either of the Carolinas.
Gold Rings and Fur Pelts
Syren Songs This is totally an album for grown-ups and will make you feel a lot of emotions. An example of the emotional roller coaster that Gold Rings and Fur Pelts took me on is as follows: Track 1: “What the fuck is this, the Steel Magnolias soundtrack?” Track 2: “Oh, this is pretty. I should play this while entering the bone zone.” Track 3: “I should probably start looking at all of my ex-girlfriends’ Facebooks.” Track 4: “I feel embarrassed.” This sort of sultry, bluesy, singsongy music may be great when you’re having a private emotional moment/menopause, but I’d be way uncomfortable if anyone I knew saw this CD in my house. It also kind of reminds me of the Renaissance Faire.
Big Beat/Atlantic\ One time I had no food in the house, so I ate a few spoonfuls of apple jelly. A couple of minutes later I started feeling fat so I got down on the carpet and began doing push-ups. After the fourth push-up, a little bit of barf crept up my throat and it burned so bad. I thought of that incident while listening to Teddybears. This Swedish (eugh) band makes music preapproved for Coke commercials. Enjoy this record if you like farts all over your face.
Souterrain Transmissions Erika M. Anderson, formerly of Gowns, approaches the compositions on her debut as EMA with a winning formula: Borrow all the best vocal and guitar harmonies from Elliott Smith, substitute a charming female voice, and pretend you’re part of a Meat Puppets cover band from Southern California. This record moves slowly and deliberately without ever sounding fainthearted. One of Past Life Martyred Saints’ best moments comes when Ms. Anderson sings “20 kisses from a butterfly knife” in a lullaby lilt.
DEVIN, GARY & ROSS
4 Corners Bounce
Arbitrary Signs Famed artsy cartoonist and occasional set designer Gary Panter and often-sometime animator Devin Flynn and a guy I know nothing about have teamed together to make a new EP with each song being written and played in a different style. The first song is a slow psych track. Then there’s a skronked-up electric track, a loungey jazz number on which Gary plays trumpet, and a spooky country number. The fifth one sounds like something off an Italian horror soundtrack and is called “Peppermint Pattie vs. the Phantom of the Opera,” and the last one is pretty guitar with sounds of dripping water. Highly recommended to marijuana enthusiasts.
ORCHESTRE POLY-RYTHMO DE COTONOU
The 1st Album
Analog Africa The Analog Africa label’s been titty-twisting my mind for a bit now. It seems every month they reissue some of the wildest Afrobeat you’ve ever heard. Orchestre Poly-Rythmo is, apparently, a house favorite over at Analog Africa, as they’ve been featured extensively on previous releases—and not without good reason. OPR is one of the most diversely influenced, innovative, and prolific African bands. If you fancy yourself an Afrobeat fan because of that one Fela Kuti song on your iPod, give OPRC a spin and you’ll learn what shirtless Nigerians are really all about.
SJOB THE SLOB
ZerOKilled Music This may be the sleekest package of boring ideas I’ve seen in the past two years. The double-gatefold digipack with the 8x foldout insert poster seems to re-up the visuals from, like, the first Black Eyes LP and that one Paradise Island LP, which is weird. Then you’ve got a lyrics sheet on the flip side that looks like a design draft for a Sneaker Pimps disc (irregular column layout set in stock 9-point Andale Mono?! Really?!). It reads and sounds the way it looks: aggressively stale Brooklyn-fusion with awful vocals.
NNA Tapes I’m going to go ahead and say it: NNA Tapes is the best tape label out there. Started by Toby Aronson and Matt Mayer in late 2008, NNA consistently puts out some of the most interesting—yet listenable!—music you’ll find anywhere. Their catalogue runs the gamut from Skaters-ish blunted psych-pop to that minimal industrial-revival junk all the kids are clamoring for these days. This Laurel Halo release falls somewhere right between those two. As the ska drummer said when his trombonist dropped the lightbulb, “Pick it up, pick it up, pick it up.”
dos y dos
ORG Music Two people old enough to be my parents playing stripped-down music on two electric basses. Like, one bass guitar in the left speaker, the other in the right. Sometimes the woman sings, but only on a few songs. Oh, and their former bands defined modern American rock music.
SLOOP JAH B
Concord Music Group Ranking the Beatles is the apotheosis of horrible coke-talk, but come on, Paul wins. Eeeeeasy. If your Beatle list doesn’t go Paul, then George or Ringo, then Ringo or John, then the other one, you are a drama-club nerd with bad breath and a goatee who considers himself a sophisticate. Paul tried to keep the band together, he never embarrassed himself with religion or politics, and he never got so drunk he had to ask his butler who beat up his wife (and it was him). Also Wings. Even on this synthesizer cash-in album from 1980 where he’s clearly just fucking around with the tape rolling, he is still head and shoulders above John’s half-assed attempt at musique concrète and George’s sitar bullshit. Although I’ve often wondered how shitty he felt about titling a song “Frozen Jap” like a month before John got popped in front of Yoko.