For those of you who think the big guys are winning, listen to this: on this list below there are FIVE (count 'em!) self-released records. Of course, there are a ton of records in general – June 2012 was an excellent time to release a record and everyone was in good company. But based on the presence of an overwhelming amount of self-releases and our pick for Best Album – a guy who runs a DIY venue in Oxford, Mississippi, a nowheresville that became an automatic tour must-stop after his Cats Purring Ranch became a Southern oasis – we are declaring this month “The People Have Won June”. It is somewhat morally beautiful that even in 2012, when there are five media companies controlling the record business (none of whom are represented below), we can still bask in twenty-or-so amazing albums that have nothing to do with that bullshit. Have at it! Make a record! Send it to us! We feel independent and alive!
The best record of June 2012:
Dent May, Do Things (Paw Tracks)
From the skanking groove on “Home Groan,” you have to love Dent's honest-to-goodness confessional shrugs. “I don't really want to move to Southern California, I wasn't really meant for LA, then New York City just ain't my style so this town is where I guess I will stay.” Dent is home-loving dude who shares the sentiments from his keen keyboard clicks of many who appreciate the slower pace and softer side of life, love, and plopping down on the porchside easy chair. For further reading check out our Dent May interview.
The best releases of June 2012:
Monster Rally, Beyond The Sea (Gold Robot)
By sticking true to his passions of sample, paste, and crackle, Feighan brings us his second proper full-length not only indicative of his past works, but beyond the constraints of being the next atypical beatsmith. Whether you dig or not is your doing, your deal. Either you’re in or out. But know this, Monster Rally is in the vein of the Now. While the journey is very much alive, it’s exciting to speculate as to where the destination is and who will accompany him on the way.
DIIV, Oshin (Captured Tracks)
Though they lack an ultimate revelation, with single phrases sprinkled in and stirred around until they mirror themselves in a warped way that reveals nothing, Oshin seamlessly soundtracks a mental pause, a moment to look around if not listen close. For DIIV’s debut, the end is the beginning is the middle, and either nothing is everything or it’s just nothing.
Open Mike Eagle, 4NML HSPTL (Fake Four, Inc)
At 4NML HSPTL's best, Open Mike Eagle has managed to offer a solid follow-up to “Rappers Will Die of Natural Causes,” and evolved his thematic range beyond hip hop culture critique by focusing and honing in on his wackily deranged concept.
T. Shirt, Rich Hours (self-released)
With production from Leggo, Dr. Zygote, and Steel Tipped Dove, T.Shirt's RICH HOURS is a dense record of claustrophic New York rap. T.Shirt is grinding his teeth into each song with a smart mouth, equally smart ass and creatively wise.
Azizi Gibson & Jeremiah Jae, Ignorant Prayers (Brainfeeder)
Some records are too good to be free (the homie, Jonwayne agrees). Jeremiah Jae is dropping Raw Money Raps in late July, but in the interim, he's behind the boards and linked up with rapper Azizi Gibson for a concept mixtape on people wasting their talks with God asking for dumb shit.
Golden Birthday, Blue Island (Rainbow Body)
Chicago's Golden Birthday opens its Blue Island LP with a burst of lover's rock that aims for a deeper connection than the surface attraction. Our comments section is a fine place to dispute this, but for us the title and aphorism of “Same Aura” is one of the best we've heard in pop musis since Yo La Tengo offered: I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One.
Fat Tony & Tom Cruz, Double Dragon (Young One Records)
I haven't played “Double Dragon” the video game, but I imagine that Fat Tony raps like nerds play it: with tons of combos and kicks. So why not show how fucking vicious he is by getting his buddy Tom Cruz to produce an entire mixtape based around “Double Dragon” samples? Fat Tony and Tom Cruz just about KO'ed everyone around them with the idea.
Equalibrum, Parallel (self-released)
Parallel is not a beat tape, but a return to the studious mentality of the instrumental record. Equalibrum is not out to unload 20 excerpts of beats from the vaults at once or offer an olive branch to rappers in need. The album art is fitting of the sounds found in Parallel. There's a shut-in vibe that once clung to the majority of instrumental hip hop records. These were albums made by dudes who had little lives or hobbies outside of listening for the perfect break and exploring its worth well past the midnight hour and last call for alcohol.
Shag, Beats About People (self-released)
We could be reading too far into 19-year old producer Shag's words that his Beats About People tape was made after moving into a new apartment, but he says “Shit's weird” and that's enough for us. Beats By People front to back sounds like the product of a producer in deep meditation behind the boards. Shag is zoned in for the duration of the beat tape. The boy wonder is living on his own for the first time and it's got him thinking about the people in his life, which lead him to his escape in music.
XV, Popular Culture mixtape/Awesome EP
XV has been dropping freestyles at the blink of an eye, so we begin things of with “Tappin' Out”, with a razor sharp flow over DJ Spinz' beat from “Cashin' Out” made originally for MC Cash Out. Repping the 316 with another slick freestyle, this time over Kendrick Lamar’s “The Recipe” with “Stone Cold” with a whole lotta Wichita, KS, love.
d'Eon, LP (Hippos in Tanks)
Seen sharing last year's Darkbloom with Grimes and making electronic devotionals like Palinopsia a few years back tracks “Al-Qiyamah,” “Now You Do.”with blissful beat and in return much love.
The Ty Segall Band, Slaughterhouse (In the Red)
In “I Bought My Eyes”, where Ty starts off soft with hints of big things to come when he says “-my eyes went worthless and now I'll never see you,” followed by a few 'woo woos' before Ty, Mikal, Charlie and Emily Rose kick into that high gear that you love them all for. Haters want to hate on this like some do for any artist with hints of proliferation but in a world under the mass media machine of Jack White; Segall and friends are the cornerstones for tomorrow's guitar based talents and today's.
LRN GRN, Easy Spirits EP (Wild Tan Records)
Lauren Green, familiar with most as the frontwoman of Follow that Bird who also have a an album in the works, she takes her anti vowel solo moniker from Texan desperado folk as featured on “Quilts” to the electronic frontiers of “Pinholes” before going to back to her own line of echoplex Americana.
House Shoes, The Time EP
A a precursor to the upcoming full length, The Time EP boasts album tracks and instrumental exclusives reserved for this extended play release, as Shoes takes it to the Apollo Theater like the legendary James Brown performance recording to provide a stage for Danny Brown to spit rhymes “tight like Ebenezer.” House Shoes' debut album Let It Go drops June 19 on Tres Records with all production courtesy of House Shoes himself, with spots from Alchemist, Black Milk, Danny Brown, MED, Oh No, Quelle Chris, Roc Marciano, Shafiq Husayn, and more surprises along the way.
Yung Life, Yung Life (self-released)
More dynamite Knoxville pop with today's new single from Yung Life, “Isn't This” Having developed into a quartet; Elliott White, Gabriel White, Judah White and Will Farner exude the poppier sides of the Dracula Horse roster of fellow Knoxville, Tennesseans. Yung Life's future is sounding bright. “Isn't This” sounds like what we hope Billboard charting bands of 2013 all sound like on every Clear Channel station everywhere. It could happen, so tune in and repeat the declarative refrain of, “All I used to feel was happiness around me, simple thoughts and simple words, all I ever feel is emptiness around me, isn't this.”
Indian Wells, Night Drops (Bad Panda)
The incredible track “Wimbleton 1980” is the tennis-centric (or 'Tennistronic' as their Soundcloud describes) track that you can play for the non-believers who say audio sampling is devoid of art and class. Like a found audio tape or Super 8 from 1980, the track's movement and atmosphere move around the courtside commentary and percussive tennis ball collisions that dot the entire experience, while all the while working as a metronome.
Broken Water, Tempest (Hardly Art)
You have rocked out to their single “Drown,” previewed their album art and rock out continuously to their track “Underground,” the very epitome of everything you love about things that revolve around words like dreamy and noisy.
Oh No & MF Doom, Ohnomite (Stones Throw)
Oxnard MC/producer Oh No (real name Michael Jackson, son of Otis Jackson and Madlib's brother) has joined MF Doom have prepared a Rudy Ray Moore cut up of the actor/proto-rapper's tunes, audio bites taken from The Human Tornado, Petey Wheatstraw and the entire Dolemite audio repetoire. Also on the disc look out for spots from The Alchemist, Chino XL, Erick Sermon, Evidence, Frank Nitt, Guilty Simpson, MED, Phife Dawg, Prozack Turner, Rapper Pooh, Roc C, Roc Marciano,Sticky Fingaz, Termanology and probably a few more that I'm spacing on.
Tom Kitty Oliver, Life On Loop (self-released)
Andrew of Pressed And utilizes his TKO moniker to deliver pop structures that hinge off of the way the listener's expectations are betrayed while other realms of composition order are sought out, like on the head swirling “A May Instinct.” The chord progressions work against the linear conventions of playing, with chord changes and picking time signatures and keyboard drones in hushed sustains. “Pinnacle Cow” is the best sounding ungrounded bit of speaker-box grit with gorgeous noise wall undercurrents and a template for the chillest guitar loop of the summer.
Exray's, Trust a Robot (Howell's Transmitter)
Their sound and topics circulates usage of colored lights, black boxes, doomed futures of digital antiquity; but the trick with the song “You Can Trust a Robot” is how far back in musical time their transmissions can blast through their visionary take on folktronic classics that are archaelogist ready to discover some 2,000 years later. Jon Bernson and company are building together an electronic music frontier of forward minded beat shamans and doomsday prophets turned poets. Tracks like “Ancient Thing” are designed like old wind up clocks to be discovered as artifacts at a post-apocalyptic Antiques Roadshow where appraisers bask in wonder at the sound of electro-human hybrids from before the advent of the big robot takeover.
Jeans Wilder, Totally (Everloving Records)
Real name: Andrew Caddick, formerly of Fantastic Magic. He keeps the vibe mellow without any hints of the WAVVES-y trappings of a certain former FM bandmate. “Limeade” commences summer, quenches the thirst of the musically parched like he was manning a lemonade/limeade stand on a sunny San Diego day, reflecting on life's focuses and just plain strumming his guitar to a loafer shuffle rhythm. Also note the sonic trickery that Caddick utilizes that transforms whatever type of sound system Totally is played on into the amplifier of his Andrew's choice.
The Intelligence, Everyone's Got it Easy But Me (In the Red)
Having returned to Chris Woodhouse at the Hangar for their new album Everybody’s Got It Easy But Me, Lars Finberg carries learned traits from the A-Frames and current work from Thee Oh Sees and Wounded Lion. On “Back of the Galaxy”, these talents for keeping one foot in the Jonathan Richmond modern world with the other foot firmly placed in the garage of today are exhibited and further enriched by fellow craftsman Kelley Stoltz's presence.
Hot as Sun, Hot as Sun (Last Gang Records)
Silverlake duo Jamie Jackson and Deborah Stoll get tricked out with a fresh set of mystic keys, panning vocal chops with reverb and effects of dissonance with remixes courtesy of Blood Diamonds and Tokyo Police Club.
Gobby, New Hat (UNONYC)
For those in need of some modern day glitched beats and more, get a listen to Gobby's “Viewing HRS (Zzz).” Seen around Harlem playing a self-styled, blue masked approach to the techno construct; Gobby persuades even the most cynical of forward thinking electric music enthusiast in a world of fascinated awe. Also seen providing some production for queer rapper Mykki Blanco's mixtape with “Betty Rubble,” he has created a very specific style of nerve-wracking digital fever, with Mykki adding the fun on top. “Seagate” is just Gobby and so the strings are strung tightly and pulled repeatedly with the release being in minor touches that feel almost comedic. There is a sample that could be a cat whining, or a human going “aww,” but filtered through the inflected mania tunnel, you can't help but giggle, if only to relieve the pressure.
JJ, High Summer EP
For those early evenings after long afternoons on the beach when your endless loop of “Ecstacy” wears off; switch on this complimentary rite of high summer that follows up the pair's “Beautiful Life” 7″ released last month from Secretly Canadian. BPA-free bottles of water and 5-HTP supplements not included, download now with the Swedish duo's blessing.
Haleek Maul, Oxyconteen EP (Merok)
Born Malik Hall in 1996, he left his hometown of Brooklyn for Barbados where the sound of the ocean and the internet informed his chief interests in both electronic and hip-hop compositions. Look out for his mixtape collaboration with with Chicago duo Supreme Cuts coming this summer from Mishka, including a live NYC debut at Glasslands July 20.
Sad Horse, Purple on Purple Makes Purple (Waterwing)
The Portland duo crashes through this record, enlisting the help of the Dada spirits to jump on top of the lazy bed of punk rock. The drums and the guitar are tight and raw, but they aren't there to be as heavy as possibly, like how some other rock and roll duos turn everything up to 11 to max out their sound. Sad Horse aren't trying to fight you or prove anything. They are just hyper kids on way too much sugar, playing songs that roll in their own giggles and secret meanings.
Chain and the Gang, In Cool Blood (K Records)
As a group, they veer out of Chain's previously ultra-political content and instead slide into the school cafeteria in their socks, wearing sunglasses in the spotty light of the disco ball. The record was recorded in mono, giving it a spacious, original feeling; the bass line leads every track through a den of inequity, into the shadow of rock 'n' roll greats of yore, and finally to the sunlight of the beatnik fingersnappers. Highlights include the two-parter “I'm Not Interested (In Being Interested)”, which really exemplifies that bass line thing; the seduction of the film noir storyline in “Heavy Breathing”; and the most romantic down-tempo “Surprise Party” ever described in song.
Lushlife, “Brooklyn Sunburn (Lushlife Remix)” (self-released)
Lushlife takes the template of Teen Daze's dreamy chords, slows it down, and strips it of its four on the floor beat. In its place he creates a meditative beat covered in distorted synth lines. Instead of using his chops and spitting a verse on the remix, he minimizes by singing distant and repetitive vocals which hush haunted lyrics like, “I know I've been away too long.” Looping his voice with heartfelt croons gives the remix a unexpected power, which rewards itself in repeated listenings.