The Best Music of January 2014

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Morgan Delt

The modern psych movement and all its subcategories were bound to capsize. It didn't happen with Thee Oh Sees going on hiatus, but the announcement had the feeling of a death knell, the inevitable come down. As San Francisco suffocates itself into harsher vibes, useless Los Angeles odes are getting penned by transplants, and the last high water mark splashed across Topanga Canyon in the apartment of Morgan Delt.

There will be those, like Tim Presley, who soldier on oblivious to the passing hour, but if Dwyer's Damaged Bug project or the evolutions of Ty Segall, Tim Cohen, and Ariel Pink are not glaring indications of just how over and done psych is, then we will not kill your high, maaan. But as you wander off into the poppy field to meditate on the tiny gods in the songs of birds, we'll be in the real world where it's all done on Abelton. How fitting that the last great psych record of this generation was originally titled Psychic Death Hole and how sweet a goodbye it is.

The Best Album of January 2014

Morgan Delt, self-titled (Trouble In Mind)

Delt’s self-titled opening salvo on Trouble in Mind, an augmented version of the Psychic Death Hole cassette that surfaced late last year, makes none of the concessions to the format we’ve come to expect, such as willful smallness or self-effacing irony. He doesn’t assert himself as a time-warped shaman, dispensing Dylan-esque truisms from another era, nor a lo-fi Sisyphus, humbly struggling against the boulder of cassette compression. He’s the rare meditator who zones out on the anonymity and enigma of the Byrds’ voices rather than the harmonic complexity that enamors most. He allows his guitar and vocals to meld into a single, constantly mutating surface that coats Morgan Delt like neon jelly in a vacuum, continuously rippling and hovering in all directions. The overall effect suggests the sound of a crafty intellect worming its way through the pleasantly foggy maze of an Rx-abuse cloud.

Further Reading: Morgan Delt: Braving the Psychic Death Hole

Those who know Lee Bannon primarily from his recent collaborations with Joey Bada$$ are likely to have a jaw-dropping moment upon listening to his latest album for Ninja Tune. However, staying musically grounded in one place was never one of this producer's finer qualities. There has always been a heavy lean towards the experimental within Bannon's work. Alternate/ Endings finds Lee wholly inspired by the world of drum and bass, which makes this album a perfect fit for the current resurgence of jungle within electronic dance music.

Further Reading: Alternate/Beginnings: Lee Bannon's career reboot

Hi-Tech Boom succeeds at being a concept album, regardless of whether its own punk, and DIY upbringings would want that designation. Perhaps more apropos, it's a work that utilizes the sci-fi exterior as a necessary vehicle for crying foul at the irresponsible natures of the new order from the technocratic echelon.

Bottled perfectly into their debut album, Eighteen Hours of Static, is all of the manic energy, creepy-quietness, weird humor, and skull-ripping bursts of anger from the Brooklyn band’s live set, fit into a delightful take-it-anywhere package. Eighteen Hours of Static is an exercise in filling each moment with intelligence and passion, screaming into the sky until it shatters or somehow changes and bristling against the idea that acceptance should instead set in.

Further Reading: Contact High: an interview with the band while watching Contact

It's almost blasphemous to believe that Njena Reddd Foxxx's first time rapping was on Zebra Katz's "Ima Read", a track that released nearly two years ago. The Washington born Foxxx never had to intentions to become an emcee—in fact, she was set to enroll in NYC's Cooper Union. It was around that time that she was merely featured on the track and had never taken it that seriously. The song soon became an underground cult anthem in the fashion industry and she found herself devoting the next two years to developing the Reddd Foxxx persona, crude and humourous, all at once. Her latest project, Needful Things EP, includes four tracks produced by the Memphis-inspired Jepordise.

Sub Luna City consists of Marshall, Rago Foot, Jadesea and Black Mack. On debut mixtape City Rivims MK 1, Sub Luna City keep the vibe loose like a collection of freestyle sessions over Marshall's woozy, jazzamatazz production. It's a structure that makes City Rivims MK 1 sound as though its purely in the moment, rather than contrived or calculated.

Punk and independent rock bands hold the power to correct and alter focus, a brand of reactionary or progressive music politics that will carry the mainstream far from the gutless and bourgeois neo-folk that has imperially shared the spotlight with synthesizer bands for the past five years. Grass Is Green refuses compromise with its peers, instead channeling influences from two decades past and filling them with the sharp double-narratives of modern life. When the world goes crazy, sometimes it's the only choice.

Cities Aviv, Come To Life (Young One Records)

Come To Life is a split between two intentions; the first is escaping the gridlock and the latter is a rapturous journey through a portal. Existing in the elbow of the record is “Perpetuate The Real,” in which Mays seeks genuine interaction over an emoji, stating “there ain’t no Google definition for the way you feel.” It’s also touched upon in earlier works like “Simulation” on Black Pleasure (“is you real or a simulation? / is you real or assimilatin’?”); Mays asks more of his generation and rap associates. It’s easy to give in to the digital low road ahead, but Cities Aviv is about looking higher towards escape portals, extending a hand to join him to the next gateway.

The Strangulated Beatoffs, The Beatoffs (Skin Graft Records)

Skin Graft Records, in a moving tribute to a duo who seemingly don't want or don't need the press, decided to reissue The Strangulated Beatoffs' 1989 Beatles cover record this year, and listening to it is like listening to a sour Ween record with an underlying sweetness. The Beatoffs made a full album dedicated to The Beatles, but did so with a lazy, laid-back attitude, filling up the pauses with burps and missed notes, and showing their ennui from every angle. But the sweetness is apparent in their effort alone—learning and playing through all of those songs is the sincerest form of flattery, and it's done so well that it's already taking a spot over The Beatles' original White Album for our favorite Beatles record ever.

New York's Habibi have been making music quietly for a long time—well before the boom of all-female bands began to dominate the scene. It's hard to believe that this is their debut, given how tightly self-aware it is, and how the foursome have already managed to make sweetly lilted pop songwriting seem both so subtle and so natural. The record is full of earworms—the dancey kind—and the brilliance in its craft is how it swings between nuanced simplicity and knowing allusions to The Shangri-Las and The Ramones.

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