With July comes the unwitting fact that we are halfway through our musical year, a year in which trend has seemed to whip by our ears faster than ever. Do we even remember our favorite records from January, or are they old news? The media cycle has turned the volume up to 11 and everything cycles by at an unreasonable pace. However, every once in a while, something breaks the cycle and burrows deep into the nation's psyche. Thank goodness, because all of this head-whipping was hurting our necks.
The best album of July 2012
Frank Ocean, Channel Orange (Def Jam)
Look, we didn't review it, because sometimes we just give up when faced with the cacophony of music critics and people who instantly decide to become music critics weighing in with their extremely “important” opinions. And also because all we have to say is this: Frank Ocean changed the game. These songs are barely songs; they follow a new kind of narrative structure that gives us just enough verse to sing along to while never detracting from the story. The music behind him, whether beat or orchestra, is low in the mix but high enough to pump a fist to, if necessary. People will cry to this record; people will fuck for the first time to this record; you can send it to your parents even though it has songs about crack and gay stuff. This record has changed and will continue to change the lives of many of the people that listen to it. The end. That's all we have to say about Frankie.
Honorable Mention on account of the fact that giving the aforementioned honor to Frank Ocean is like giving money to Mitt Romney
Deep Time, self-titled (Hardly Art)
Yellow Fever will from now on be known as Deep Time but while the name has changed, Jennifer Moore continues to tear up the mic, guitars, organ, etc with Adam Jones keeping the backbeat in steady working order. Their self-titled finds the duo making some of their finest indie pop to date with singles like “Clouds,” “Homebody” with the backdrop of Austin's musical hot bed of hungry and wide eyed believers in musical independence.
The best music of July 2012 (in no particular order)
Jonwayne, Cassette (Stones Throw)
Stones Throw and Jonwayne know they are sitting on gold with Cassette. No mp3s will exist from this, at least not for awhile. The label won't even release a tracklisting. With only the bare facts to go on, if you remember the 90s and purchasing cassettes because it was the best format for on-the-go listening, this will be a pleasant trip down memory lane. Unfortunately, the package that includes a portable cassette player are sold out. Our advice is to hit up a yard sale this weekend.
Lumerians, Transmissions From Telos Vol. IV (Hands In The Dark)
Lumerians' are collaborators in the truest sense of the word. While some bands can play their songs, many never join together to become one creative mind. Lots of groups don't need that sort of superhuman fusion; yet when you jam as hard as Lumerians you sort of have to.Transmissions From Telos: Vol. IV, consisting of four different improvised jams, is pure kinetic magic and proves Lumerians aren't a part of a band, but are really members of an acid guzzling, galaxy traveling spaceship.
LOL Boys, Changes EP (Friends of Friends)
It's pedestrian discuss LOL Boys' text-speak moniker and then piggyback it into an essay on the ways of the modern world in which interaction is based upon a Google hangout feeds. So the fuck what. We can't get the fear that this cross-country video interaction is causing a disconnect in our physical lives. We can cast judgment on the LOL Boys and question with doubt as to whether Jerome Potter and Markus Garcia could ever work in a studio together or if they'd need seperate rooms with laptops to be productive. We can do that and some of us might. Or we can look at Kitty Pryde, Salva, Samo Sound Bwoy, and Wedidit Collective members singing the words to “Changes” and appreciate a song with a simple, yet eternal message deserving of our praise.
Zulus, self-titled (Aagoo)
Putting Zulus' new self-titled record at the front of your mind results in your head tipping forward. The drum-centricity of the mix makes it a headbanging record, so when you start really listening to it, loudly, you can't help but move your head to the beat, the music sitting on the front shelf of your brain, the pre-frontal cortex firing wildly.
Isaiah Toothtaker & Sixtoo, Sea Punk Funk (Anticon)
As bummed as seapunk makes us, the collaborative EP between Isaiah Toothtaker and Sixtoo, operating as Prison Garde, entitled Sea Punk Funk is the genre validated in the capable hands of an actual Southern rapper and a producer who's adapted and absorbed the EDM mutations for over a decade. While awkward kids in Chicago fry their skulls with acid and hair dye and blog about it on the Internet, Toothtaker and Prison Garde are in the lab, hijacking the ship with the assistance of Antwon, MURS, ShowYouSuck, and Western Tink. Released through Anticon, Sea Funk Punk is Toothtaker's labrinythian rap sheet and outlaw hymns over lazer synths, 8-bit gaming and slick keys jacked from the champagne room of yacht rock.
Delicate Steve, Positive Force (Luaka Bop)
It's a scavenger hunt across your favorite social medium to hear the record in its entirety, courtesy of bands like Akron/Family, tUnE-yArDs, Ra Ra Riot, and Yeasayer. It's not quite as cool as bouncing around New York seeking installations, but it's still going to bring you aural pleasure and plenty of positive vibes, man.
Serengeti, C.A.R. (Anticon)
Is Geti wishing for amnesia in order to see a brown-eyed girl anew or is he borrowing fellow Chicago legend Common's “H.E.R.” metaphor? In his wishes to split up in order to “stop horsing around” and “start getting somewhere, maybe”, it leads more towards the latter. In all the curveballs Geti has thrown over the years, keeping us curious as to where he's coming from, the layman's acronym set against hopes to leave rap forever is possibly his most honest sentiment on record. 2012 marks a decade of records for a man who's been a campaigner for rap's disenfranchised. While Jay-Z can't leave rap alone, out of hubris, Serengeti deeply wishes he could just run a food truck, but his fool's love keeps him stuck in a lop-sided relationship.
theclosing, self-titled LP (Circle into Square)
A trio who makes otherworldly percussions that music journalists snarkier than I are by now no doubt hyphenating together more adjectives and nouns in the attempts to pin down the specific Vienna art school sound. Alexander Hengl, Daniela Auer and Lukas Lehnera met while attending the Academy of Fine Arts and have been working together in a meticulous manner since 2004 to not just create analog/digital hybrids of beats and new noise but work too within the mediums of both film and computer generated visuals.
Dark Time Sunshine, ANX (Fake Four Inc)
Let DTS drop some PTSD exploding tracks with more guests than we can begin to get into at this time. Listen and love.
Eli Keszler, Catching Net (PAN)
PAN continues on it's amazing streak with this new double CD release of a variety of Eli Keszler's most notable pieces. Included are both sides of last year's PAN release, Cold Pin, with a choice bonus track of the piece of landmark avant composition being performed live by an ensemble of Keszler, Ashley Paul, Geoff Mullen, Greg Kelly, and Reuben Son, and then, on the other CD, “Cold Pin” recorded live at the Cyclorama in Boston in its installed form.The second CD also includes “Catching Net”, a piece performed by the more standard instruments of a string quartet and piano in the Bell Street Chapel in Providence, RI.
Erika Spring, self-titled EP (Cascine)
The Brooklyn, NYC artist embraces today's keyboard rich approaches to the dance medium by taking it through the looking glass mirrored against its opposed reflection on the opposite side. She creates the optical passage into the metaphors of infinity, throwing the timeline continuum of new romantic balladry into the future's foundation for potential remixed revisions and musings.
Future Twin, Deluxe Edition + Resist 7-inch (Future Twin, Inc.)
This is everything we love about jangly blistering messes, lo-fi hoedowns, and sonic homages to Fleetwood and Jefferson Airplane. It pleases us to know, it's not just the attitude around our little IMPOSE sewing circle, but there are bands out there who see a better future that demands we begin with ourselves. To know that at even better Future Twin is in the works makes the Deluxe Edition of where they began a foreword to a story-book future.
Gatekeeper, Exo (Hippos in Tanks)
Gatekeeper's new record opens with a dawning sunbreak sound not so different from the noise used to test the hot new Dolby Surround Sound in movie theaters in the '90s, so one would not be mistaken in thinking that it was going to be a droney, meditative album. That is wildy incorrect. Other than the first few seconds, there are very few meditative moments here; EXO is what it must sound like to lick the inside of a LCD flatscreen monitor.
Junk Culture, Wild Quiet (Illegal Art)
Deepak Mantena presents an album born out of reflecting on age, loss, changes and new beginnings like the lead off song that reflects on decisions of moving for the sake of nostalgia, love, nostalgic love and the tape chic power keys hiss and soar.
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Superconductor EP (Proximal)
This league is an impressive connection between two artists a world away from each other. Copenhagen producer Simon Muschinsky (of the Danish ensemble When Saints Go Machine) and the Cleveland, Ohio transplant living in San Diego, California who goes by the name of NOTE have never actually met face-to-face, but work across the Atlantic to create what they call “Gangsta Electro Clash” or what we like to think of as the international-all day, always everyday-sound of summer.
Parallel Thought, Art of Sound (Parallel Thought)
Recently seen working magic with Del the Funky Homosapien on the album Attractive Sin, PThought is the production collaboration from Drum, Knowledge, and central emcee Caness, who are building works for the future to shape the beats, rhymes and minds to come and conquer.
Physical Therapy, Saftey Net EP (Hippos in Tanks)
With tracks like “Drone On” PT works his modern day danced up keyboard magic on you with Jamie Krasner's voice to guide you through the drum machine maze.
Picture, True (Cascine)
You might otherwise know the artist as David Kyhlberg, half of Swedish production duo Sail A Whale, with a solo focus on surveying the mechanics of dance music's levitational forces and pull. On the featured title track, Kyhlberg blares the baroque strings through the keyboard interpretations, the refined autotune aesthetics indicative of Scandinavian forward thinking pop, defining what is true, what is fine, what is yours and what is mine
Jeremiah Jae, Raw Money Raps (Brainfeeder)
Brainfeeder's Jeremiah Jae has been in our ears since '10, before his Rappayamatantra EP. It was love at first listen on his mix-up DXNCE EP. While there's plenty of deserved praise being tossed in Chicago's direction lately, Jae has gone overlooked in his hometown, possibly due to his signing to Flying Lotus' west coast based label. Jae has a special knack for twisting old Stax 45s into the brainfed warpings synonymous with FlyLo's label without sacrificing their hot buttered soul. On “Money” he tries to convince his baby that money is makebelieve with a soft croon, but as the codiene flow lament creeps in it is the brutal truth smacking Jae out of his dream state.
Pressed And, Hyper Thistle EP (Mush Records)
Andrew Hamlet and Mat Jones are the Brooklyn-by-North Carolina duo that create what sounds like one of those Japanese Super Famicom cartridges that was never shipped stateside for the SNES from '95.
Future Islands and Ed Schrader's Music Beat, LAMC Benefit 7-inch #2 (Famous Class)
Ed Schrader and Devlin Rice are quick talkers in that way-too-smart-for-their-own-good Wham City way, and whatever creepiness is instilled by their stage-show is quickly dispelled by their on-stage wit. Often, the pair's songs walk a very strange tightrope. The simplicity of the music – it's only their voices, bass and a big, resounding tom, remember – keeps the stage clear for the lyrics to really stand out.
Nas, Life Is Good (Def Jam)
The Don asserts himself here, bringing the record back to the early days of his career with an early hip hop and soul inflection on the beats and simple, straightforward lyrics about how everything is going to be ok. For some people, Nas might be a second father, who's advice should be taken seriously, and he knows it. On Life Is Good, Nastradamus is dealing in reassurance and hope – two things we could use a little more of now and then.
Psychic Twin, Gonna Get Her 7-inch (Lefse)
Full of echoes, electric hums, the B-side has the perfect opening sustain and nouvelle disco vague that sounds fresh out of the rehearsal space, through the living room and partying out on the backyard patio.
Shout Out Out Out Out, Spanish Moss and Total Loss (Normals Welcome Records)
Get ready for the danciest music not made by laptops alone. The sextet is committed to making music they would want to hear DJ'd in the club while channeling personal catharsis via a vocoder.
WEAVE!, New Funk Romance (Neurotic Yell)
For those that care enough to have wished LiLiPuT could have kept their registered trademarked moniker Kleenex, we invite you into the world of LA's hot new no-wave, WEAVE! Assembled from Ivory Lee Carlson of Softness, Nicole Turley of Swahili Blonde with their bandmates formerly from acts like the Centimeters and Bubonic Plague.
Work Drugs, Absolute Bearing (Bobby Cahn Records)
The concept of lovers in outerspace is fairly common, particularly in the retro-futurism of disco, but Work Drugs aren't rehashing old aphorisms. When the chorus hits the falsetto refrain of “zero gravity high”, it makes one curious as to how that might feel. As we continue to catch up to the dates listed as “the future” in sci-fi films from the 80s, it feels as though we're not far from commercial space travel. Soon, the Mile High Club will be an achievement of the past and we'll be thrill-seeking on shuttles for that zero gravity sex in deep space.