The Best Music of September 2014

Impose Automaton

There was no skepticism as a staff when it came to deciding the Best Music of September, a finite collection of titles echoed in an email thread and one simply received the most votes, the most dittos. We did not debate heavily, everyone remains on speaking terms, and no one feels cheated or fooled—that is to say hoodwink’d.

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LVL UP splintered off after the release of Space Brothers, no longer a band of undergrads from SUNY Purchase, and members went on to form Spook Houses and Sirs. They dedicated their time to labels like Double Double Whammy and the electronic workshop Totally Ruined Circuits. Eventually they’d end up together again at a place coined David Blaine’s The Steakhouse, a DIY squat in Bushwick. Three years since your last record, three years to enter and wallow in your mid-20s, is bound to produce a record like Hoodwink’d. The boys are not broken by the fool’s game of an early life crisis, nor are they pompously declaring “we won’t get fooled again.” LVL UP are here merely to address the lingering feeling there was supposed to be more. And they appropriately placed it at our doorsteps at the beginning of a new semester.

The Best Album of September:


LVL UP, Hoodwink’d (Double Double Whammy/Exploding In Sound)

While Space Brothers was 22 blistering minutes of nervously pivoting from one great, yet underdeveloped, idea to the next, Hoodwink’d reigns in the band’s focus, giving each song its proper due and allowing them to build a cohesive, coherent artifact. Aside from being both sonically and thematically tighter, Hoodwink’d—more than their previous efforts—showcases LVL UP’s musicianship.

Between constant self-referencing and its mostly abstract lyrics, Hoodwink’dclearly offers a lot to think about. And yet, at the same time, it doesn’t require much thinking. Ultimately, that’s the genius of this album: it’s simultaneously a totally accessible pop record—full of catchy hooks and ripping solos—and a depressing series of existential crises. The combination of the two is an album that’s both a wonderful contradiction and a must-listen.

For more on LVL UP read our feature.

The Best Music of September (in no particular order):

The record sounds timeless: opiate disco merging with the downtown tribal modernism of the last decade, and at times, slow dance croon. Having changed their name from their suitably successful days as Twin Sister, the band now tracks across a diverse debut as attuned to the dance floor as it is to touching noses under the comforter. This is everything and anything.

All Perfect Hair must achieve is to never alienate the faithful fans who never wavered. If that’s the litmus test, then Perfect Hair is flawless. Throughout Perfect Hair the stylistic flair and esotericism synonymous with past albums is blunted from a desire to be understood. The album title might suggest egotism, but for the past year Busdriver has invited the layman’s language into his lexicon.

The rough tones turn Palberta’s herky-jerky cadence into a god damn emotional roller coaster. Something so perfectly discordant it’s harmonious, it’s the type of music that takes your chest and center of gravity along for a powerful ride. Most times, Palberta takes the free form, like on “she don’t got it” with fitful string scratching and squeals buoyed in clipped moans. “all the way” drives along with syncopated vocals, from squeal to scream to straight delivery. Even when they stick to standard melodic structure, like on “my plan”, dark, absurdist vocal tones and distorted guitar overshadow the song’s initial cutesy sensibility that ends in a riotous squall. It’s fucking sick.

There is fullness, and there is emptiness: not one or the other, but one then another. The delicacy in Los Angeles Police Department lies in how uninterested Ryan Pollie is in working these problems through to resolution. We cave. We are the only ones. We come through, again. This is a little slice of life’s complex and unresolved pageant.

For more on LAPD read our feature.

Complex and multifaceted, there’s something remarkable about the fact that it is a work that revolves entirely around inanimate “voices,” electronic instruments that sound ironically human-like in their emotive qualities and simplistic presentation. Strangely catchy and accessible techno, it’s part of a continuous project perceived as a self-admitted “concept-driven collaboration for indie rock people.”

In three minutes milo purges sessional therapy through finite details of poverty and crushing insecurity only to arrive at a battle cry of “you can’t tell me why / because you never fucking knew.” Directed at the naysayer of creative pursuit, milo is still the troubled young philosophy dropout who in 2011 addressed his guilt in pursuing a rap career dedicated to the memory of his departed friend with “this is beyond my fucking limits” and still mustered the brazen declaration “I swear to goodness I have no feel of failure.”  As his official debut, a toothpaste suburb has the arduous task of restoring that bridge despite the massive output since I Wish My Brother Rob Was Here.

Foxes In Fiction, Ontario Gothic (Orchid Tapes)

Ontario Gothic is a huge leap forward for FIF; where most of his previous works incorporate elements of phonography (the art of field-recording) and sampling to create vast and ambient soundscapes, this new album introduces a much more accessible pallet of a highly-tuned pop sensibility (Speaking of Pallett, he’s on the album, Owen that is, he plays violin on five out of the seven tracks).  But even still, there is always a shield between FIF and listener, a forcefield that requires a little digging to get to the other side in order to find out what’s happening behind that washed out field of ambiguity.

The overwhelming sense at the end of the 17 tracks that comprise Full Of Snakes is that Morrison tore himself to pieces for your enjoyment or benefit—it’s unclear which. The vignettes describe familiar misanthropy of youth: “We grabbed our snacks and got high under the overpass.” The band stumbles on toward self-possession, one tight, hook-heavy arrangement after another. Anxiety always attends fixations on the immediate. The implication: We are here now, but this too can’t possibly last.

Canadian producer Ryan Hemsworth started his ambitious soundcloud project, Secret Songs, a few months ago with the intent of releasing a new song from an up-and-coming producers every two weeks. As a pleasant surprise, Secret Song’s just dropped its first full fledged compilation entitled shh#ffb6c1. Living up to the spirit and name of the project, this comp is packed full with amazing tracks from people you may or may not be so familiar with. Including names like et aliae, Japan’s Qrion, and London’s bilingual pop stars Kero Kero Bonito.

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