I Co-Sign Myself
Self-released You may know Clams Casino as the guy who sampled Imogen Heap and made one of the best rap beats ever, Lil B’s “I’m God” (aka Soulja Boy’s “2 Milli”). Clams has a penchant for chopping up songs by wacky female pop stars (Björk, the aforementioned Heap) and working with gremlin-voiced male MCs. This combination makes for a truly awesome male-female tension that will change the way you think about rap music. In case you think I’m laying it on a little thick: Clams will be one of this decade’s best and most influential producers and will live in a jillion-dollar house that makes Versailles look like a stack of shipping pallets.
Hippos in Tanks
Gods from Outer Space
The Courier of Death Ahoy there, me fruits! Yep, high-energy pillow biters Den Haan finally get round to releasing their debut just as the idea of a monstrously homosexual cosmic disco album feels even more passé than it did two years ago. Seemingly constructed from all the best bits of every decent electronic disco record made between 1978 and 1984—Patrick Cowley, Divine, Bobby O, ’Lectric Workers—Gods from Outer Space is campier than Liberace’s Christmas sweaters, and I hear in some places in Chelsea you get a complimentary jug of poppers when you buy the vinyl edition.
Cherish the Light Years
Matador Maybe it’s the difference between recording an album on your laptop all on your lonesome and piecing together a record with folk like Daryl Palumbo from Glassjaw and noise barbarian Dominick “Prurient” Fernow at your beck and call, but Cherish the Light Years is a big step up from Cold Cave’s debut in terms of both confidence and skull-cracking intensity. Surging synths and S&M dungeon beats rub sex organs with big choruses, and even without being able to see any of the participants you are quite clear that absolutely no one is smiling, or has smiled for a very long time.
WALTER DA SOFTY
STACCATO DU MAL
Wierd A rather dark, more abrasive example of electronic postpunk from New York minimal-synth stalwarts Wierd, this time courtesy of Miami resident Ramiro Jeancarlo, who is seemingly out to prove that the warm states do it even colder. Pieced together from primitive synths and bits of sheet metal and shrapnel salvaged from the bottom of Cabaret Voltaire’s toolbox, it’s lonely and abject even by the oppressively downbeat standards of this stuff, but pulse-racing in its brutish, roughshod simplicity.
Fabric Whoa, mix CDs still exist? It’s almost as if Carter were making this joke too by including “It’s Time for the Percolator” on this one. If you’re enough of a baller that you’ve got $12 for a thing that requires space on a shelf and is infinitely available online, check this out—Carter remains a king of Chicago house, and this mix is a bouncing tour of that zone’s past ten years. If you’re spending your discretionary income on 3 AM wieners and drinks at the actual club, check out any of his formidable live mixes on SoundCloud.
ROLLIN P SCRATCHIN
Self-released Eugh, enough with the breathy dude-singing. It feels like a puddle of your saliva is collecting in my ear canal. One of the sole reasons I listen to music at all these days is to block out the spittly mouth breathing and ungodly food noises the guy at the desk next to me makes, and now I’m getting it from both ends of my headphones? Thanks. Actually, I think you guys would really get along. You can overlay hackneyed Ratatat synth lines over the beat of him chomping individual Snyder’s with his mouth open, and he can tell you all the different ways that Obama’s policies are keeping him from getting laid.
Jason… the Dragon
Southern Lord Most bands spend years spinning bogus yarns and shaggy-dog stories about things like how their lead singer shot himself in the foot with a shotgun in a bourbon-addled rage just to make people think they have some cojones. Weedeater actually are that band, and yes, Dixie Dave did really did blast his own toes off once. This is another platter of festering, misanthropic sludge from one of the genre’s few true practitioners. If you are suffering from Eyehategod withdrawal, look no further.
In Love with Oblivion
Slumberland Crystal Stilts seem to be able to whack out shimmering, lo-fi postpunk gems on demand. This album sounds like they made it hungover after a three-day whiskey and speed bender, and it’s still effortlessly crammed with whistle-along hooks. They’re like the Leiber and Stoller of Brooklyn slacker pop.
JACK THE SIPPER
HUNX & HIS PUNX
Too Young to Be in Love
Hardly Art I’m a liberal, so gay love songs are OK with me. I am happy for Hunx to flaunt his so-called alternative musical sexuality in front of impressionable teenagers who might easily be seduced by all these whip-snap doo-wop melodies and nagging little riffs. It’s not for me to judge whether or not he’s added anything to this territory that the New York Dolls and the Grease megamix haven’t already excavated. I just think he shouldn’t be allowed to adopt these outrageous faux accents. I don’t care how horny things get, there are still limits to acceptable behavior.
HoZac K-holes make dark, dingy swamp music with loud Crampsian drums, Bo-Diddley-istic guitarisms, and the kind of howling sax that doesn’t sound sexy, but scary (but also a little sexy). Some of it is fast and poppy, some of it is fast and speedy, and some of it is slow and stalking in a kind of Eddie Cochran southern-gothic way, like that band from the bar in Fire Walk with Me where Laura Palmer and Audrey get molested by huge rough-handed truckers. All the neogoth ladies you see running around in Docs and tights should be stomping to this cacophonous spookery instead of chopped ’n’ screwed world music with a triangle somewhere in the band’s name.
In and Out of Youth
Temporary Residence Ltd. The mastering and tone are both all over the place (are we in a bar, a cave, a church, a pro studio, or what?), the guitars have a totally standard “all guys in the band have beards (but not metal beards)” kinda sound, and the major lyrical concern (“I am a man with problems”) is combed over at the quality of a high school literary mag. Pick any line. How about: “This dirty mouth is rinsed of concern—don’t question why.”
SKROTE VITCUM This Olympia trio does a distilled art-punk take on forebears like Dino Jr. and Karp, but even with the volume cranked to 11 their power lies in restraint. They create focused, driving anthems about tromping through soggy woods, getting mud on the frayed cuffs of your jeans. And, sweet Lord, this guitar sounds like half-and-half mixed with mud run through, like, four Big Muffs.
Thrill Jockey Baltimore’s most grizzled sons lose a little of the Grateful Dead/Crazy Horse-isms this time around as they shed a guitarist in favor of some keys and Mellotron, but elsewhere it’s business as usual. Thunderous chug and Dave Heumann’s delightfully austere melodies abound, and true transcendence is achieved through the uncannily handsome cover of Jimmy Webb’s karmic cowboy classic “The Highwayman.” Stay Jung and beautiful.
TONES VAN ZANDT
DAVID KILGOUR AND THE HEAVY EIGHTS
Left by Soft
Merge Or you can go straight back to the source. People usually mean “mellowing with age” as a euphemism for “now writing boring dogshit,” but with the brothers Kilgour it’s more like an aged barrel of fancy bourbon or a batch of fine speed. Inside and out of the Clean, David’s gone from fuzzy Fall aping to a better version of the reverby arena jams Crowded House were trying to make. Now he makes blissed-out, chiming porch music that feels like taking off into the sunset with a stomach full of Valium and coffee. I bet next decade he’ll just be making two-chord drones with the little motorik beat underneath them, and it’ll still be better than what 90 percent of kids under 30 are doing.
Graveface I was back at my folks’ house over the holidays watching TV with my dad when an ad for Martin Lawrence’s latest opus Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son came on. My dad watched in complete silence, then, staring straight ahead, murmured, “Black people and white people will never understand each other.” I feel this way about the East Coast and the Midwest, and this record is my Big Momma’s House.
4AD Nothing screams “Slap me, please” louder than a privileged white kid dabbling in world music. But luckily for Merrill Garbus, whokill is superfun. Here she rips highlife riffs from her friends Dirty Projectors and then trolley-dashes up the aisles of melody and random weirdness, before whipping it all into shape while you’re still wondering whether it’s worth mentioning Vampire Weekend.
TIMES NEW VIKING
Merge When a band shits out like 20 records all recorded on blown-out thirdhand cassettes full of fuzzy gunk, you kind of get used to hearing their songs played through a thick wall of hiss and warble. You kind of love it. And it’s kind of a big fucking surprise when said band decides to “get crazy” and record a normal studio album. Times New Viking might have really released a shocker on the world if they went totally clean, but this just sounds like they’re in a nice studio singing through practice amps running into a computer. It doesn’t threaten to melt your speakers anymore, but it isn’t so bare that it’s challenging either. Instead you just notice that it wouldn’t sound so thin if they got a bass player.
Kanine These guys have been recording terrible songs and putting them on their blog while staging great shows at which they perform music that sounds nothing like their recordings. Finally they made a record that sounds like they sound: pretty good surf-goth. The songs go back and forth between bangers you can dance to and sweet, sad songs you can watch other people holding onto their girlfriends and swaying back and forth to. They made a video for the song “Crystal” in which topless bubble-bathers torment a voodoo doll of the band’s front guy. Tits, magic, blood, torture. What else is there? Just this record, I guess. Highly recommended to King Khan fans.
KNOCK KNOCK GHOULZIN
Drag City What happened? Smog used to knock me out with heavy-shit lyrics like “Every girl I’ve ever loved has wanted to be hit.” Now he sounds like most of his songs are written while washing dishes. At one point he goes, “And the punk and the lunk and the drunk and the skunk and the hunk and the monk in me all sunk, sunk, sunk, sunk, sunk.” That’s five sunks for six unks. I can deal with trading Bukowski for Dr. Seuss, but sloppiness is unforgivable.
A Thousand Heys
FatCat Mazes sound a lot like the Clean. In fact they sound a little like someone liquidized the entire Flying Nun back catalogue, gulped it down, and shat it out through a busted stereo. If you felt disappointed by the majority of what people have been calling lo-fi for the past couple of years, Mazes will be a cool drink of murky water.
THE GROWNUP NOISE
This Time with Feeling
Self-released Berklee College is the largest independent college of contemporary music in the world. This distinction also makes it the world’s biggest factory for technically gifted, stuffy-butted musicians on planet Earth—like founding members of the Grownup Noise, Adam Sankowski and Paul Hansen. Their band fills every inch of this record with delicately arranged parts played on every instrument known to man, all of it unbelievably boring.