The best music of February 2012

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Recently on the most ornery music site in the world, Everett True's Collapse Board, there was a very interesting article with Simon Reynolds, who may or may not be an authority, about how “buzz” and “taste” form on blogs. It's short and sweet, but here is the key quote: “Overall I think there is less group-think, in that web culture is driven by the impulse to differentiate oneself, so there is a lot less cultural capital to be generated from agreeing than there is from disagreeing. “

We think about this concept a lot at Impose. We give air time here to stuff that isn't necessarily gonna be seen on lots of other music blogs. We cover the tape scene extensively, for instance, and we also are very keen on West Coast hip hop. You might have noticed these things if you are a regular reader. Sometimes, the stuff we adore gets huge, and sometimes, we address it here and it's never spoken of again.

But are we simply being contrarian by proclaiming our foci so proudly? Do we just love to hate on “the man” of the music industry, and ignore stuff once it goes big, or are we just true fans, always starting at the beginning? I'll be honest: we answer these questions in different ways depending on our mood.

But what I can authoritatively tell you is that there are no crises of heart within these records we have declared great. They are great, and that's that. We enjoy finding and listening to records: both the hunt and the prize are the joy. We love our jobs because we love these records below, and we hope you love them too. —Ari Spool, Managing Editor

The best album of February 2012

Mux Mool, Planet High School (Ghostly)

Fully realized and crafted by a beat mentalist who's seen a new way, Planet High School is Mux Mool's graduation record. In coming to terms with stagnancy, Lindgren seems to have shed the dream for a more sensible outlook, which alots him the creative space to define his sound. Mux Mool maintains his boom bap leanings throughout Planet High School, as the palate often slips into break-science vignettes, but his maturity comes in the samples beyond the 8-bit and synth nostalgia.

The best releases of February 2012

Street Gnar, Study Wall (Night People)

Study Wall, Street Gnar's newest, is excellent. Case Mahan, who is Street Gnar, recorded it by himself and it is just one heartbreaking, sneery, delightful pop song after another. There are combed-over waves of psychedelic fuzz, but underneath is a nasality that is almost Brit-pop. He's learning from White Fence, but it's not raw rock and roll like Tim Presley. We can't decide which song is the favorite, but right now we're stuck on “Stuck” and it's follower, “Let it Grow.”

Colleen Green, Milo Goes to Compton, (Art Fag)

Foregoing the trappings of the Dum Dum-Bethany Coast-Vivian gurl wave for something personal and trill; Collen presents a vulnerable honesty while still keeping based life Bay area values intact and paying homage to the forefathers in a way that wouldn't work for many without coming off as Me First and the Gimme Gimmes cover-tribute novelty. It should be noted that Colleen Green is the real deal – from the cover art where she has her own Milo Auckerman caricature – the album’s concise yet varied approach to rock minimalism and lyrical complexity ranges from free-wheeling to sentimental.

Casino Gardens, Fantasies in Cools Palace (Lillerne Tapes)

A first listen to Fantasies in Cools Palace calls to mind the lo-fi heydey of a whole 2 years ago, but as arrays of crunchy guitar jangle, filmy digital synths warble, and unintelligible vocals drift by, it becomes clear that is its own animal. It seems that the pretext of making a pop album has been thrown out the window here, along with verses, choruses, and armies of effects pedals. The result is a complex sort of audio collage, with the tracks making abrupt, coherent changes in direction that make it a bit unclear where one begins and another stops. Clocking in at 24 minutes, this is a bite-sized odyssey that you can listen to two and a half times in a row before you realize you are repeating songs.

Various Artists, Death Bomb Arc 10th Anniversary Comp (Death Bomb Arc)

To celebrate the decennial anniversary, Death Bomb Arc is releasing for free download a great comp of cover songs by friends of the label covering their favorite releases, including Captain Ahab covering Poingly's “Where My Dogs At?” and Gang Wizard doing an epic version of YumaDudes' “That's a Pretty Big Fucking Lake You Got There, Africa”, a total classic. You can download the eight song file hi-res from this really trippy page with art by Isaac Hicks (or just stream it there if you are firewalled). They are going to continue to update the comp, so check back for more tracks throughout the year. Also, they have a nice new website where you can comb the even 100 releases that make up their full discography. Hooray for longevity!

Hunx, Hairdresser Blues (Hardly Art)

Hunx is an outlandish character, very frequently coming off as all Butt Magazine pinup and rockabilly reinterpreter. But Hunx has feelings, and Hunx gets sad, and sometimes, (unbelievably) Hunx doesn't have all the romance in his life that he could want. Without the cartoon Punx, Hunx becomes more of a human and less of a caricature on Hairdresser Blues, and while the outlandishness of the Punx is wildly fun, sometimes hearing exactly how Hunx would take you out on a date, with stripped down instrumentals, or how shitty it is to cut hair – He actually owns a salon in Oakland called Down at Lulu's – is just the type of realness we were waiting for.

Milo, Milo Takes Baths (self-released)

Milo Takes Baths is an extension of the polite and nerdy world of Milo, who's in a tug-of-war with modern living. He dedicates “Prince Abakaliki of Nigeria needs your help” to a skype date, but relates”it depresses me I can use Google maps to find your house / I swear to goodness the Internet takes all the adventure out.” He's frustrated with being a rapper, since he hates most rappers (as much as Tipper Gore). Milo has plenty of gripes, but he's sharp-witted in telling us why, which makes him a lovable grouch – the big hair and Baths beats help.

First Person Shootr, Mobility For Gods (Lefse)

Lefse never stopped seeking the next odd vibes though, which is is how they encountered the brain-feeding woozy soul vibes of Fred Warmsley's First Person Shootr project. There will never stop being artists willing to align themselves with Prince affectations, but on “Punch Struck” Warmsley is not over eager to coo his way into our headphones. The vocals spend a few fleeting moments in the human element before becoming washed out drones that layer First Person Shootr's chilly LA-centric beat.

Calez, Kid With Raps (self-released)

Chicago's Calez graced the radar in final quarter of 2011 with “Caution”, a track that made good on its word to inspire handouts for ass-kickings. “Caution” put the 19-year old's debut on our watch list. The week following the celebration of his 20th birthday, Calez dropped Kid With Raps, a 16-track debut almost entirely produced by the youngster. The album is the product of long hours logged at the weirdest hours. By day Calez has janitorial duties, but in the evening hours he is on his rapping shit.

La Big Vic, Dub The World! Actually Revisited (Underwater Peoples)

Read our interview with La Big Vic's Toshio Masuda, who explains the band's reasons for dubbing their debut record Actually.

Lil' Ugly Mane, Mista Thug Isolation

If you have dutch guts rotting in the center console of your car and still routinely rock 8Ball & MJG tapes through blown out speakers then just go ahead and download this album. You can't love hip hop without unabashedly loving the villain or anti-hero archetype, and the main appeal to Lil' Ugly Mane is his character. It's as if Three 6 Mafia, in their occult heyday, had gathered together for their first attempt at necromancy and it unexpectedly worked.

Grimes, Visions (4AD/Arbutus)

Grimes' falsetto coos and high-pitched mumbles were always meant for placement atop a cherry pie of tickling synths and skittering snare beats, and it was only a matter of time before the world righted itself. The melangé of pop influence ranges from early '90s pre-teen R&B, to anime soundtracks and K-Pop, and even to hints of Autechre and other scratch-yourself hyper-techno, but what emerges is a record that is surprisingly, if almost too conventionally, pleasing.