January is typically a light month for releases; everyone is hung over from the holidays for approximately two solid weeks, and people need a minute after that to wipe the slate clean. In the world of Best of lists, everyone rushes to be the last great album of 2011 – no one wants to be considered old news by the end of the year simply because they released their record too early. Avoiding that problem is one of the reasons we make these lists at Impose: it is very simple at the end of the year to collect all the music we thought was great throughout the whole thing. No one gets left out.
These albums will still be great in 6 months, and in 12 months, and in 24 months. There is a lot of hip hop here: the mixtape knows much less about list-jumping vanity, especially when it is from California and an alternate goal of getting blasted out of car windows all year-round exists. But also, more simply, the hip hop scene right now, especially on the West Coast, is really strong, and we will continue to acknowledge that until it's not. (Hopefully that never happens!)
But the best record this month is Pop. 1280, who are sick, dark, and twisted. This is a record meant for the harshness of winter.
Pop. 1280, The Horror (Sacred Bones)
Armed with a new rhythm section, an even stronger stomach, and an especially inspiring performance from front man Chris Bug, Pop. 1280 are proven ready to take on all things grotesque, grimy, and grating, and revel in the tragic humor of it all.
The Best New Music of January 2012
Part Time's 7″ Visions of the Future (Loglady)
San Francisco's underachievers of the enlightenment gave us an excellent '80s time traveling Casio synth piece with the B-side gem “I Won't Be Your Little Secret” this month on 7″ wax. 2012 is Part Time's year to go Full Time.
The Internet, Purple Naked Ladies (Odd Future Records)
Syd, Kilo Kush and friends are competing with Frank Ocean for the smoothest swag on vocal delivery with Matt Martian's slick hand at understated production with a restrained and sometimes outright celebration of weirdness.
Selebrities/Southern Shores remixes of Work Drugs “Ice Wharf”(Cascine)
Artists like these are reaffirming our love for how electro dance affinities, mixes and remixes are shaping the sound of indie cool steps to come.
Rhyton, self-titled (Thrill Jockey)
Get Dave Shuford from D. Charles Speer, No Neck Blues Band, Jimy SeiTang of Psychic Ills and Spencer Herbst of Matta Llama and Messages in a room and listen to this mammoth jam-a-thon.
Matthew Dear, Headcage (Ghostly International)
Mr. Dear's dance party of the absurd marches forward with all the snarky pathos, calm reflections and a cameo from the dude from the Drums. Bring on the upcoming full length Beams please. [Ed. note: There was another opinion on Matthew Dear's new record.]
Schoolboy Q, Habits & Contradictions (TDE)
There's no better way to set yourself up for a breakout year than to select a Lex Luger beat that completely dismantles the expectations of sound. “Groovelines Pt.1” is devoid of every factor synonymous with Luger's trademark production, a la “H.A.M.” and everything Brick Squad. Given Luger's track record, we're blown away that he would even own a crystaline and jazzy R&B record to sample. Schoolboy Q's got plenty of habit music with songs like “Druggy's With Hoes Again”, “Oxy Music” and “Sex Drive”, but “Grooveline Pt.1” is the contradiction to his hedonism.
dRes, Wild Produce (self-released )
New Jersey, by way of Philly, producer dRes crafted a debut record with a fresh approach to the “producer record”. The typical producer record is heavy in guest appearances that distract the listener away from the man behind the boards. Wild Produce sticks to the script by allowing the MC to shine and compliment dRes' thunderous production. He alters the format with outros on the tracks that politely reminds the listener this is a dRes record.
Cloud Nothings, Attack on Memory (Carpark)
The bare-bones guitar tones, crushing drums, and slogan-ready lyrics let you know this is both a cry for help and a call to arms; Dylan Baldi, once easily mistaken as another lo-fi pop prophet, yelps with unabashed primal fury, hungry to fight his way out of the corner they've been backed into armed with the best emo record made in years.
LJones, Soul Below (self-released)
Soul Below is a compilation of beats LJones crafted on the MPC between '09 and '11. The collection maps LJones' quest for his sound. It's deeply rooted in Nujabes' school of thought, jazzy melodies over thumping boom-bap drums. LJones might still be searching for a sound unique to himself, but in the meantime he's learning the trade from the proper teachers.
Heems, Nehru Jackets (Greedhead Music/Seva NY)
Produced entirely by Mike Finito, Nehru Jackets introduces us to a producer who admires Definitive Jux, Bollywood and The Alchemist equally, without making it difficult to intake all of these influences at once. Himanshu might rap in the sleepiest of flows and seem as though he hardly cares, but it's a rope-a-dope method. The Nehru Jackets mixtape is 25-tracks deep and far more work than any slacker would commit to.
The Wimps, self-titled (Teen River)
A heavy layer of jangly reverb floats on top of the Wimps' short and sweet tape on Teen River, the Chicago label that puts out batches of music a score at a time. The song “Bush Tetras” is the obvious single, and it both pays homage to that groundbreaking band while not actually using their jagged post-punk sound at all – instead, their song “Too Many Creeps” is chopped in half and worked into a melodic, fuzzy harmonic that is completely different from the original version.
I-Self Devine, LA State of Mind (Rhymesayers)
I-Self Devine is an older god in hip hop. His mixtape recalls a distant era of distinct funk samples and break beats, but I-Self is also creatively wise and treats his sound with care. Even though LA State of Mind operates in a classic 90's production style, it's captured the timelessness of the era pitch perfect.
Nocando, Zero Hour EP (Hellfyre Club)
Hellfyre Club label head and resident Low End Theory MC, Nocando follows up his “Zero Hour” track and recent detainment with a 9-song EP of the same name. The Zero Hour EP features production by Mexicans With Guns, Busdriver, Nosajthing, Kofi, Kenny Segal and DJ Nobody.
Lee Bannon, Gnarlon Bando's Midnight Noir (self-released)
Imagine it’s a Saturday around midnight. You’re blunted, cruising down an inner-city freeway in the backseat of a tricked out Chrysler 300 playing Virtua Racing on a Sega console hooked up to the shotgun headrest video monitor positioned ahead of you. You there? Good. Now you’re at the vantage point Lee Bannon wants you for his latest mixtape Midnight Noir; a surreal-noir soundscape tracking Bannon's alter ego Gnarlon Bando for a single night of seedy misadventure.