In our Ehh column we noted pop culture's tailspin into an alternate universe of April Fool's Jokes as reality. Our newsfeed was a source of head-scratching distress, but the music of April was a weekly overload of impressive records. Heavy Hawaii and Bleached set the tone early with Goosebumps and Ride Your Heart. With the bar set high, Merchandise matched it with grace on Totale Night. There's barely a month that passes, in which we could declare Thee Oh Sees or White Fence the greatest source of quality output in our lifetime, but it also felt like a fresh wash of the classic model they restored years ago – mere touch-ups and rotating the tires.
There will be inferrior Best Albums of the Month to the one's we enjoyed in April. If we could, we'd place a few of these on layaway for August when the music industry slips into a summer coma.
The Best Album of April 2013
When Ghostface Killah dropped Supreme Clientele in 2000, it came on the strength of debut single “Apollo Kids” which featured the definitive Killah line “Since the face been revealed game got real”, alluding to his earlier days of obscuring his face in videos for a number of rumored reasons including unspecified beefs in Staten Island and wanted by the law – all of which have since been declared void. The duality of the line though, spoke to a new era in Ghostface's career one in which he was the unmasked center of attention in the Wu-Tang. Much like the comic character he based his aliases around, after Supreme Clientele the general public knew Dennis Cole was Ironman, Tony Starks, Ghost Deini, Pretty Toney, and Ghostface Killah. The form he took did not matter. What mattered was that he could be counted on as a beacon in rap.
For 12 Reason To Die, his collaborative album with producer Adrian Younge, Ghostface is behind the mask once again. He'd staggered since 2007's The Big Doe Rehab and by donning the mask it's as though the legend is vengeful. On the opening track, “Beware Of The Stare” he raps “I'm back with a bird on my arm”, alluding to the golden eagle bracelet not seen since 2001's Bulletproof Wallets and we get a sense Ghostface missed his own mythology.
The Best Music of April 2013 (in no particular order):
Sisters Jessica and Jennifer Clavin present a wave of styles, from the aggressive ass kicking opener “Looking for a Fight”, the road trip bound “Next Stop”, the pseudo-sentimentality of “Outta My Mind”, and the taking-a-time out song “Dead In Your Head”, the break up bliss of “Dreaming Without You”, the phone concerns of “Waiting for the Telephone”, “Love Spells”, scanning backwards “Searching through the Past”, “Ride Your Heart”, that gigantic Goliath of a title track, getting all scuzz pop creepy with “Dead Boy”, the Cali pop blues of “Guy Like You”, and “When I Was Yours” will throw off your analogous gauges for a firework ready blaze of glory. This is the album you have been literally waiting some 3, 4 years or whatever now.
Tampa’s Merchandise regularly trades in such tropes. But if you look past the swirling-void atmospherics the band does so well, it becomes apparent that these Floridians are more interested in channeling the exploratory extremes of the post-punk epoch than reverently recreating its sonic details.
Milk Music decidedly drifts further “out there” from the confines of punk, pulling at new influences in what feels like a natural progression from 2010’s Beyond Living. The record closes out with an 8-minute elegy to Coxen’s own death, complete with backing ooh’s and ah’s and a bit more of the slide. It's a cohesive offering, still raw yet boasting a newfound sophistication.
In choosing the name No Joy, the duo made an affirmative decision to be taken seriously, and they’ve finally accomplished it with this record. Their alarming, complex followup to Ghost Blonde affirms that even if something is pretty at the outset, mildly thin and superficially trendy, like a highlighter-colored, leather bowling bag, there’s a chance that stuffed inside might be three waves of reverbed guitar shimmer, a well mixed vocal triumph, and one easily tossed-around popwave summer sizzler.
John Dwyer’s routinely proven himself perfectly capable of turning his home- recorded self into an army of acid-eaters, it only makes sense that continuing to commandeer a full band would provide him with some welcomed muscle. And Thee Oh Sees sound more like an actual band than ever before on delirious highpoint “Toe Cutter – Thumb Buster,” where an earworm riff straight out of ’69 is given the space and support to develop into something towering and totally liberated.
So let the Foxygens of the world continue to garner a truly head-scratching amount of hype by playing dress-up and applying some ‘90s-style disingenuousness to their ‘60s fetishism. A few years into the existence of White Fence, and it’s apparent that, aside from a scenario where this guy actually drains the world of its supply of blank 4-track tapes, nothing is going to keep him from marching on through his gradual (yet steady) evolution.
Open The Crown delivers a heady array of sounds, influences and moods but never sounds cluttered or chaotic. Arrington De Dionyso’s Malaikat dan Singa has without a doubt crafted a compelling punk record that transcends the oppressive, fearful symmetry of genre and garish arty pretensions. As Crown prowls and pushes the boundaries of sound and mind it leaves an indelible mark on the listener and experimental punk music itself.
The San Diego duo of Matt Bahamas and Jojo Keylargo have fallen into a sound on this record that seems not only perfectly intentional sonically, but backed up by album art, title, and even the simple insistence in their name—Hawaii rarely gets prefixed by the adjective “heavy,” after all. In listening to the 10-track 28-minute release, the ominous feeling that is bound in its deliverance never leaves the listener—an intent actualized by waterlogged guitars that vibrate and swirl, keys as systematically timed as the organ at a baseball game, and vocal processors that deepen and contour the texture of Bahamas’ voice to a low threat.
The beautiful enchanter of “Reunions” doesn’t stay long enough, but streams into the mountain song and sway of “Interlude” where Robin Guthrie's mark of mastery alludes to the Cocteaus of 1988, circa Blue Bell Knoll. While it is easy to get hung up on the group’s gazier affectations and obsessions, the Eakins' shared musical visions shine in perfect time on Henry Bennett's four-quarter dance rhythms on “Anniversaries”.
As the Influence listening session unfolds, a tangible early-Slum Village vibe begins to define the production, with woozy loops and wobbly synths gelling together courtesy of beat-work by VESA and Chuck Le Garcon. World's Fair production collaborator Black Noi$e also contributes the static-sodden “What's Up (They Know).” Over this backdrop the MCs spew out lyrics that nod to the psych-tinged styles of Beast Coast groups Flatbush Zombies and The Underachievers. As a handy primer on the crew, skip straight to “D.O.P.M.” to gain a glimpse into the warped world of Bitches Is Crazy.