Rebuking the industry's scheduled grind of manufactured A-list opuses was the success story of our heroes from September. In the camp of San Francisco's Thee Oh Sees we saw John Dwyer and friends unleash their most eclectic work to date with Putrifier II, while Los Angeles, Beverly Kills-902-I-don't-know Ariel Pink takes his 4AD connections to bolster his Paw Tracks-era sound toward Mature Themes by taking things even further Before Today. Even amid the chaos of the G-Side split, ST 2 Lettaz dropped the solid R.E.B.E.L. EP to hold us over while we wait for the promise of his upcoming solo disc #G… Growth & Development.
And for the contributions of the aforementioned artists we are all the better for them. From Thee Oh Sees camp we have a well-paced psychedelic garage LP that pushes their aesthetic boundary without feeling disjointed or out of place from their already extensive catalogue. In the time between Ariel's 4AD debut we watched the collective successes of everyone within 6 degrees of Pink's inner circle like Chris Cohen, Dam Funk, Dent May, Jensen Sportag, John Maus, Nite Jewel, Puro Instinct, and so forth, while wondering if the semi-studio gloss of “Round and Round” was a sellout omen. Thankfully it was a watershed moment as Mature Themes will attest, where contemporary trend pandering is bucked for a commitment to a lo-tech/big conceptual vision. In the same way that ST 2 Lettaz is rising from the split and keeping the ruccus of Slow Motion Soundz, “Trill 2 Da Bone” with Huntsville, Alabama deep at heart.
So while September had us in the grips of the industry's drought and propagandist clutches, we present you with the alternatives to mediocrity that continue to keep us living free, independent and going strong some 10 years on.
The best album of September 2012
Thee Oh Sees, Putrifiers II (In the Red)
On Putrifiers II, prolific San Francisco rockers, Thee Oh Sees, continue their ceaseless exploration, producing another cohesive and well-paced psychedelic garage record. The album thrives on its hypnotically tight studio production that cuts crisp edges to a massive fuzzed out body of a sound, glossing the band's fine-tuned tones without losing their edge. The album leads off with “Wax Face”, a banger of a track that sets a forward driving attitude present on even Putrifier II’s softer moments. Thee Oh Sees feel unquestionably comfortable swinging in and out of persistently momentous garage jams and expansive string-accompanied fuzz-reveries without losing a step. Though punctuated with delicacy, at its heart Putrifiers II plays like a burner of an album that has John Dwyer and Thee Oh Sees rocking their chops in full force. The result is a upbeat, catchy LP that commands attention to its details while never breaking stride. In the Red Records are just killing it this year.
Pink's Haunted Graffiti released their second LP off 4AD, Mature Themes, which continues Pink's slow-turn progression of lo-fi, tongue-in-cheek musings. While his first round with 4AD, Before Today (2010), glossed up his melted variety of AM glam rock with a handful of producers, studio time, and a backing band, the Graffiti gangs' latest exhibits a less constrained vision of what Pink's been doing in his bedroom for thirteen some-odd years. The tribulations of an aging short man in LA continue to be expressed under a blanket of cryptic poetry. While accompaniment on the “sparkle train” is more adept with Pink's solo recordings before 4AD, Graffiti's latest era stays true to the heart and soul of those solitary creations even with a budget and a rhythm section. Klonopin don't mix with a cool fall breeze in the back of a Cabriolet during a Friday sunset. You don't need drugs to create memories with Mature Themes. While accompaniment on the “sparkle train” is more adept with Pink's solo recordings before 4AD, Graffiti's latest era stays true to the heart and soul of those solitary creations even with a budget and a rhythm section. Klonopin don't mix with a cool fall breeze in the back of a Cabriolet during a Friday sunset. You don't need drugs to create memories with Mature Themes.
With G-Side parting ways, ST 2 Lettaz wasted no time defining himself as a solo artist by dropping the R.E.B.E.L. EP a week after announcing the split and his intentions to release #G… Growth & Development as a solo full length. After a politically-charged intro titled “Alabama”, ST launches into a declaration of independence on “We Are The People” over a dance-inspired track that feels glittery at first, but ST's gruff delivery cuts the bright lights with a call to arms. Occupy Wallstreet can keep its bland, misplaced protest music, we'll look to “We Are The People” for a generation X representation of how the government is trying to X us out.
The best music of September 2012 (in no particular order)
Combining the sum of all of their influences, mixed with sincere lyrics; Natalie and Lauren Ribbons’ jazzy vocals, swirl together and smooth out, even in a song as jaunty, fun-loving, and completely unhinged as “Fucked Up,” a vinyl-only cut that started as a shaky show stopper.
Frontman Tom Filepp is big on working within narratives pertaining to the familial connections. Perfect visions of countries from the past are re-imagined and re-rendered as stable, steadfast, and more than self-sufficient – national utopias suitable for returning to at any time. “Nations” where the strings and warm pulse provide mental visuals work hand in hand with the lyrical proselytizing of, “There will come a time when all that's left is a hint of a name, a few crumpled maps marking borders where nobody has been.”
From playing with Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti, Cass McCombs, Deerhoof, Curtains; get ready for an arrangement to re-arrange your attitude with song cycle of unlimited and the timeless “Optimist High” craft carved from one of today's rising singer-songwriting stars.
Lightning Bolt, Oblivion Hunter (Load Records)
We can thank the good forces that this many years on from now we can still depend on the kind of crazed scuzz that kept us packing into those auditorium halls as we moshed our hearts out so long ago as we today, more than ever, seek to become the Oblivion Hunter(s).
born in Detroit, the man who once played 900 shows on a 6 year tour and knows the songs to every esoteric track in the American pop hymnal gives the world the dusty road-angelus novus of “The Dogs Howl, The Caravan Moves On” or the Spector-pop of “Til the Light Comes Shining In”. Keep an eye out for Ethan travelling to a one horse town, dingy dive or a tough saloon near you.
Malka brings the sound of everything feeling bright, finding that something that makes every resonance sound like the first. What might be even more interesting on this song and album is the degree of sophistication that Spigel and company bring to the sounds forged from the '80s/'90s underground that have never until now sounded so redefined and new.
“Pale Lights” begins the water swell with the sound of strings synthesized and layered on top of each other like a 10 minute natural disaster that gets its master volume trimmed with the synthesized doorbell that signals Phil’s upcoming sparse poetic tractate placed amid the storm. “Pale lights from other islands slow flashing through blue dusk across the water seeing island shapes 'Who is there?' I call. A small yelp on the wind and then more roaring”.
Get your self introduced to Quelle Chris, who just signed a multi-album deal with MMG. Respected from the likes of Danny Brown, Roc Marciano and House Shoes, Quelle has been bringing both flows and production that re-work how folks hear genre since somewhere arond the release of 2009’s Blue Mondays.
Join the semi-holy trinity of Sir Richard Bishop, Ben Chasney, and Chris Corsano, as these 3 amigos and adventurers of sound travel east, encountering and entertaining the nomad tribes on the way to a musical enlightenment.
Jump into the sanctified sound streams of barely organized chaos carried out in the best “yeah, yeah, yo” chant fads yet. Let Nicholas Cowman, Christopher Danko and Guy Culver make believers out of you.
Child of Glass” borrows the best sounds of the 80's, with fierce claps, quick guitar hits, and high pitched male vocals. The result is a psychedelic, sparkly track which brings high hopes for the record.
“Glyphs,” the first single and video from Sic Alps’ new record, captures the mellow, comfortable mood of the upcoming, self-titled LP while still representing a grassroots rock and roll lifestyle – irreverent, carefree, and iconic. Images of American flags, denim jackets, pyromaniacs, and the Pacific Ocean flash behind blinking eyelids, along with a gorgeous green river and a shy, smiling woman whose perfect diesel curls circle her haunting eyes.
Fronted by the strong and steady Dean Whitmore, the sound of alternative Seattle comes to you with a little mixing help from Fastbacks former frontman Kurt Bloch giving you a whole other reason to grow your hair long and keep it grungy. Listen on, put your favorite flannel on and turn the volume up.
Maryland's 'kush guard mastermind' Uno Hype joining up with Harlem's new guard Smoke DZA spitting styles over a jazzy Jay Card production on “The Kickback”. Uno makes the audience wait while Jay's mix of piano and horns keep things mellow and pensive before he spills tales of folks trying to heckle and play him as if he wasn't listening. DZA dispels “the hype in the system”, real life stories of young folks from the street looking at doing 20 years in the pen before reaching the age of 20, locking himself in the studio so he can better the flow and bringing something heavier than rhymes about “stacks and honies”.