10. Death Grips-Government Plates
FREELANCE MOTHERFUCKER! Death Grips effectively get off scot-free from their botched Epic deal and throw a club bangerz night in hell to celebrate. Me thinks Flatlander has a lot to do with the minimal lyrics and heavier house influence. The lyrics that do remain show MC Ride still spouting violent bouts of stream of consciousness frenzy that’s equal parts paranoia and delusions of grandeur. Dylan references and no show controversy aside, Death Grips continue to fire on all cylinders creating unapologetic work, leaving listeners in the dust to piece together exasperated theories like Paul McCartney death theorists and Zeppelin Occult adherents. Mysticism is alive and well in Rock n Roll.
9. Shotgun Jimmie-Everything, Everything
Everything is song worthy for Shotgun Jimmie. Everything. This includes sleeping on couches, Skype dates, and snorkeling. All these scenes are recounted more or less straight-faced in an unassuming soft-spoken voice. But immediately I find myself drawn in by the basement production and the subtle but consistent hooks. Rather than use this charming and non-flashy production to spotlight lyrical depth (Weakerthans perhaps?) Shotgun Jimmie integrates his wonder for the mundane into the listener. You’ve heard hooks like these before, but everything’s different TODAY. Simple joys are precious, impeccable pop rock songs included. Also, GBV shout outs are always much appreciated.
8. Bad Sports-Bras
Kiss meets The Dictators. Imagine what the Mystery boys’ band would sound like a couple years after the conclusion of Detroit Rock City, when Kiss actually did make a disco album and the boys took refuge in Road to Ruin. In 2013, Bad Sports finds a way to make dusty 8-track music that’s both crunchy AND punchy. But for all the retro sentiment, this is far from a nostalgic affair, more a rebirth of an attitude. So throw this CD in (or login to Spotify if that’s your bag), text all your friends you’re picking them up to cruise around a dead end town, and play this LOUD.
7. Run The Jewels
Killer Mike and El-P simply topped both their individual albums from last year with this collaboration. Like transferring classic 808 beats into HD, Run The Jewels makes a time tested aesthetic feel fresh again. Suddenly, both rappers can lean and hunch in B-Boy staggers without an ounce of it being cliché, though both are probably wearing very self-aware grins. No lavish lifestyle and no feature heavy hype, just a hungry duo trying to write the most ruthless verse with the confidence of a bitch slap. Both were told to watch the throne and responded, “Fuck yo fort”.
Sonically, Jinx feels like the unofficial intro music to 120 Minutes. It is part Post-Punk part Shoe Gaze and moody as hell. The highs swirl and sound like refracted light as the low end relentlessly pulsates. Abstractions of loss and regret are drowned in reverb, all with a melodic sense that would make Morrissey proud. Combined it’s all enough to pummel the listener if they weren’t so busy bobbing to it. This is catharsis you can two-step to.
5. Diarrhea Planet-I’m Rich Beyond Your Wildest Dreams
The guitar party album of the year. Think “Eruption” played by four buddies simultaneously. It’s not much of a stretch to think of Diarrhea Planet as a traveling scene from Animal House, and matched with that name the whole affair risks playing out like a cartoon; a sweaty cartoon. What anchors the music and balances the goofiness is the unabashed heart they put into tackling their anxieties on paper. True, they are far from eloquent and the subject matter won’t change anybody’s life, but that may be evidence of Diarrhea’s charm. Think of a freshly graduated Rivers Cuomo who is more of a townie fuck up than a nerd, and that’s how these lyrics play out. If you are a young adult in America and are not concerned about wasting too much time while simultaneously having no real direction in life, struggling with your own insignificance and still anxious about responsibilities you may be neglecting, then maybe this isn’t the band for you. For the rest of us, it makes perfect sense to end the album “So what the hell am I doing with my life/And how should I know if it’s right?” Exactly. Long live Diarrhea Planet. \m/ \m/
4. Grey Kingdom-Light, I’ll Call Your Name Out “Darkness”
The album opens with “End of God” and ends with a still light arriving in the singer’s absence. Listening to “Darkness” the question isn’t if salvation was attainable, it wasn’t, but whether or not the singer ever even had a chance. I like to think of it as gospel music for the atheist. Spencer Burton seems to take full accountability in his love eroding its recipients, his own devolving as a human, and in taking away light from those he cares for. What’s interesting is that in doing this he seems to set up his own moral micro spectrum, where he alone occupies the role of evil. And when others can up the hyperbole of their pain with all the melodrama of a child flailing on the ground, Spencer has all the emotional punch of a person looking stone cold into your eyes and calmly stating, “I am not happy and you cannot fix this”. The sound is one that’s airy and roomy, utilizing the buzz of acoustic guitar strings with sparse use of percussion, lap steel, or fiddle. It is simply one of the more beautifully sad albums I’ve heard in a long while.
3. White Denim-Corsicana Lemonade
White Denim have merged the two realms of “musician” on their new album. The virtuosity and the groove meld, like Booker T and the MGs making a prog album. The lyrics become secondary to the music admittedly, but the loftier, dreamy, almost summer of love styled messages of freeing oneself from constricting love and surrendering to ones intuitive paths towards joy and strength accompany the transcendent quality of the music. This is dynamic rock to move mountains by.
2. Chance The Rapper-Acid Rap
Where other pop rappers such as Kanye West and ASAP Rocky were concerned with decidedly monochromatic work, in crashes Chance The Rapper in fucking Technicolor. When was the last time a rap album sounded so enthusiastic and so directly pop oriented? In the first three tracks alone the music takes us through a parade complete with full marching band, strolling down the street like a badass through your favorite blaxploitation film, through a shady alley, and finally cruising down a freeway on a bright summer day, this is all before the first quarter of the album is even through. Chance’s verses follow the same joyously ADD muse, jumping from scene to scene, many times taking detours to explore possible puns or altogether abandoning rational thoughts to conduct syllable experiments all while teeter tottering on the cadence, inserting just the right pauses or tripping over himself with a barrage of internal rhymes. Lyrically, Chance seems to be more interested in taking drugs than selling them, with progression in understanding himself over accruement of stacks (people are still getting bodied for phones anyways), and the graceful recollections of how he became who he is in spite of his surroundings rather than being caged in by them. The 53 minutes is rounded out with well-placed features (Ab Soul’s Gwen Stefani couplet gets me every time) and ends with a 3 song suite that pushes towards some of the more introspective realms of hip hop put to tape. Chance still has time to grow up, his objectification of women for one could be worked on (though it is tame compared to the rest of the state hip hop is in), but this second, and free, mixtape is proof that he is already on another plane all his own with room to stretch out.
1. So So Glos-Blowout
“Blowout: A victory for the underdog, of explosive proportion, a tire flattened, a haircut, a clammer, a clatter, batter up, A-hole, A-defeat, A-sale, sale behold…Blowout.” As you know Kurt Cobain…pow. The first blowout of the album signifies the boiling over of pop aspirations matched with perceived bouts with artistic integrity. This dichotomy is what essentially lies at the heart of Blowout though this is not the 90s and more than anything the So So Glos have to deal with disorientation more than shame or guilt. Oversaturation of technology, “indie” elitism, postmodern pastiche, overwhelming cynicism, all these can cut any counterculture at the knees presently. Cue Blowout, a direct bullshit call on ironic detachment, an exercise in sincerity, a celebration with a keen sense of accountability, a release. And that’s what the title track is, a release and a challenge to expose yourself honestly in the face of the kids that are too cool for school, the internet police, and the ever intimidating “mainstream”; everything. Lay it out and navigate on your own terms, start a community, start a record label, start a band, gain autonomy. “Don’t have to kill yourself to put it around”. Right. First Letterman, then MTV, then the world. Smash it up. Blow it out.
Favorite EP: Paint It Black-Invisible
Favorite Show: So So Glos/Diarrhea Planet @ Brick and Mortar House or Shabazz Palaces @ The New Parish