November is a risky month to drop an album, not as ballsy as December, but still a bold statement. Release a post-Black Friday November album? Shit, that's damn near career sabotage. We've heard all that is to be heard, right? This year is in the bag. Album of the Year is out there and it didn't wait until November 28 to make itself known.
The following is a list of November releases we would have kicked ourselves for giving up on. We loved Captain Murphy's manic-rap EP before we found out it was FlyLo, didn't need to know either. We've jazz-a-matazzed out to Bay Blue in the office, while painting the IMPOSE logo mural. Jessica Pratt floored us like she must have floored Tim. Prince Rama made the end of the world feel easier to handle. Many of these will make strong cases for our Top 50 Albums of 2012 later this month. Many of these records could be included in the winning care package of our Best Music Contest Ever contest.
The Best Album of November 2012
Before Rare Chandeliers, Senior Editor Blake Gillespie could not be found anywhere near an Action Bronson record. He had this attitude, as he often does, that if Bronson is often compared to Ghostface Killah then why bother with Bronson when he's far from bored with “Mighty Healthy”? After Rare Chandeliers, Mr. Gillespie became a Bronson-apologist, writing 10 reasons he fucks with the album. If it can cause a stick in the mud like him to see the err of his ways, it must be a special record.
The Best Music of November 2012 (in no particular order):
Just in the name and album art, Bay Blue feels like Blue Note, but not in the same way that Madlib's Shades of Blue felt. Chang side-steps the Beat Konducta's route to keep those hip hop urges suppressed and allow jazz to be itself, from its most precise to its most free-form expressions. When Madlib makes departures into fusion, it's always with hip hop being the dominant presence. Chang's flipped the coin on Bay Blue, which might please a few jazzbos who cringe when America's youngest genre interacts with one of its oldest.
We remain open to the idea of the possibility that there’s more to it than meets the ear, however. Since the Cap’n first landed this summer, the project has been reminiscent of ones such as Madvillain or Major Lazer, with each release geared towards propagating the image and nature of a villainous character. On the debut Duality EP, the Captain champions spaced-out beats, vocals sounding like a cough syrup-induced nightmare with an astounding array of sound bytes spliced in. The clips mostly focus on cult propaganda but also include everything from a Homer Simpson “d’oh!”, direct lines from The Dark Knight with some love makin’ sounds tossed in for good measure.
Dropping some Detroit reality tales like on “Truth Be Told”, where Simpson cuts through the lies of emcees with the backdrop of an ailing Motor City while Brown's classic dramatic production style spins as the duo brings a helping of realness and truth, championing “the change that starts with you”.
It's a wired cemetary happening that bounces between the tragic-break-up-magic of the title single “Sleepwalking” to the timeless dance from the loveless discotheque of today's listening, “Heartless”. The talents from Savannah, Georgia are sisters Elsa and Phaedra Greene who promise long romantic walks into the darkness while scrutinizing the lack of heart and care needed the most in the thick of the darkest night.
From the pocket of Tim Presley (the man behind White Fence) and his new label, Birth, comes a woman straddling the boundaries of taste and perception. Stripped down. Bare boned. A voice, a feeling. True folk. Lying somewhere between the stylings of James Taylor, Gordon Lightfoot, Jackson Browne, Joni Mitchell and mid-aught tunesmiths like Cocorosie, OCS, Joanna Newsom, and Bonnie “Prince” Billy. Stevie Nicks, of course, should be thrown in there, too. “Leather and Lace” balancing the old and new influences atop the style metronome.
Top Ten Hits of the End of the World is Prince Rama’s latest, their simultaneously most overthought and accessible record. Here the band channels ten different pop groups from the aegis of apocalypse for ten textured and often straightforward cuts. It’s 2012 Brooklyn synth pop through the lens of Now: That’s What I Call Music, a funny idea and one that gives the record replay value on wits alone. Prince Rama culls a shit-ton of different sources here, most often using a Middle Eastern tone pallete to sculpt dripping hooks and seething ambiance. It’s not pop in a structural sense, but sounds more so sonically as mainstream production tools broaden—it happens to be the same sorts of keys, synth, electronic beats, and drumming the sisters have been using for about six years now. Opener “Blade of Austerity” bounces through politically charged themes and a couple choice key changes with a sparkly Eurythmics vibe. “Those Who Live For Love Will Live Forever” channels a post-Crystal Castles “Vogue.” “No Way Back” uses overdriven guitars and Fenway Bergamont vocoder to mummify the listener. “Receive” sounds like Enya doing “Rite of Spring.” “Radhamadhava” and “Fire Sacrifice” recall Prince Rama’s previous plaintive best, with Nimai’s roto-toms chugging like talking drums under chants that bring to mind Amen Dunes. “Welcome to the Now Age” lopes a drowsy reggae guitar to ape adult-contempo Casio-accompaniment, ala a digi-modal Marty and Elaine. “Exercise Ecstasy” moves from upbeat dance and noodly guitar, via Thomas Dolby, to a caustic breakdown that burns with the heat of Portishead’s heaviest beats. “We Will Fall In Love Again” sounds like ABBA closing out the soundtrack of Megaman X.
There's an engine within “Sowet Soset”. If the album's function in its seven tracks is a song for everyday of the week, then “Sowet Soset” is Monday – the genesis of the grind. “Sowet Soset” sounds like music film director's set to long panning camera shots in subways and office bullpens that squeeze the hours of 9am to 5pm into one minute.
When we premiered Books On Tape's “Super Dr”, we called it a “cartoonish joy ride at warp speed”. While that was merely track one, the duration of Retired Numbers rarely strays from that description.Todd Drootin, pka Books On Tape, thought he'd lost these songs from a computer crash. But as luck would have it, they were catalogued on a DVD, labeled “BoT ARCHIVES”. Upon revisiting the music, he discovered the songs held up, far from cutting-room floor demos or half-cooked snippets.
This is not a 2 rap record. This is not the equivalent of OB4CL2 or Blueprint 2. It's not a rapper trying to grasp to the glory of a past success. It's a man who's eight years older bringing a wiser mind to the same problems he couldn't fix in the past. On “Loop Dreams” not much has changed in Robust's flow, it's still the laid back style, but he's got more of a “put the city on my shoulders” approach.
Cosmic Angel flexes production from Gobby, Nightfeelings, Flosstradamus, Sinden and Matrixxman, and Brenmar, but occupies a united sound in dark-wave synth constructions that are deep, wonky, and bass-heavy. With the help from LE1F, Blanco makes plans to fuck the DJ, while “YungRhymeAssasin” issues a classic break call out of “yo, stop frontin' and use your head” before Mykki fires off five minutes of venom. “Mind fuck a bitch / and call my dick Magneto” could have been a Danny Brown lyric, but Mykki beat him to the punchline.
Well-curated samples of juke, funk, break, and Peruvian cumbia flex and flourish on the peak of the second edition of the two’s EP beat-mance, Coasting. John Hastings lays up his hyphy electro panning for the raider of forgotten genre, Ted Feighan, to lace into this mesmerizing, limbo-swing neck breaker.
Once the opening whistle commences on the closing single, “Walk Home”; you hear Sleeping Bag make a full circle that accumulates more than could ever be traded in influence and musical reference alone. “Keeping all the jewels, running with the thieves, got to take advantage of someone so it seems, keepin' what you owe, people that you know, have to take advantage of something”. Segedy, Rogers and Woodruff create the pop single-power chord equivalent to a cinematic blockbuster's climatic moment that begs the work of art for a sequel.
Without hearing it executed, the conceit of a marriage of Tom Waits and hip hop is not entirely left-of-center. But, knowing PremRock's gruff baritone from his work with Willie Green, I knew even if he wasn't a Waits fan, he had the voice for such a record. He adopts the off-kilter Waitsian writing style for Mark's Wild Years. He's wandered the dives and alleyways to scour the downtrodden stories. He's been penpals with a hooker from Prague. He's gambled with a dwarf. From being down and out in Singapore to drunkenly singing to the moon, Mark's Wild Years is at the barstool next to Old Tom at the Nighthawk's diner.
Someday, some asshole will convince enough assholes with money to remake A Clockwork Orange. It will happen. When that dreadful day comes, I hope that asshole heard Walsh's Polyphony EP and thought, “I see Alex, with blood lust in his eyes every time I listen to 'Ruby Spire'.” The next time a Philip K. Dick novel gets the movie treatment, which I hear will be Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said, it deserves Shia LaBeouf high on mescaline to “Title Sequence”. If David Lynch should do us the great favor of fixing Dune, we have someone in mind to handle the sonic textures.
The album reads as mostly recorded alongside Muted Drone, but in true Cities Aviv fashion the name is another moniker for Mays. The title should be read not as a Afrocentric porno title or afro-hair product, but black in the way Black Flag uses it – to insight anarchy. Black Pleasure is the mastered realization of a Cities Aviv live performance, which is easily one of the most polarizing sets in the genre. Heavily reverbed vocals, manic sample flippage, and in the red with scuzzy noise, Cities Aviv is out to please his interests first and foremost. Should they align with your own is merely luck of the draw.
Made up of the vocals of Marilyn Baker with her brother Elliott's production from the family room and into the siblings' reign over the towering “CCERULEANN skies”. Like many of us looking back to the season of the sun, Elliott and Marilyn bring back the big melting synths and bell key lining of “Summer Nights”, catching the ephemeral breeze of unpredictable weather patterns of “Future Winds”, the dance dialogues of “It's Whenever”, autumn showers sequenced on “In the Rain”, and the barrel drum dance, dance distortions on “Hearts Stop”.
The London response to the States' fascination with the 90s, 80s decades of indie UK dream pop fashions and fascinations.
San Francisco's MC presents his most epic release to date, joined by the crew of Drums & Ammo, Al Jieh, Ammbush, Champagne Clique and the Alabama production team of the Beattaz helps DaVinci rep the Fillmore forever providing some viscous synth base with some horns that will inspire anyone in the game to rep the neighborhood without letting gentrification distract or stop you.
Take the voice dilation of “Dilato”, meaning, 'To spread out, extend, expand, increase' where the sound waves move across patterns enhanced from the advancement of electronic manipulations. From the frightful opening you almost forget you pressed play. Then those murmuring vocals quiver from the speakers, twisting your intake of vocal sound supporting a ghostly showdown that turns playful, before revealing the song to be heading toward the territory of new Latin schools of music theorems and potential categorizations.
Iamsu!, $uzy 6 Speed (HBKGang)
Fresh off the re-release of KILT, Su! keeps the 808s slapping with a new anthem for the Bay on how to both roll deep, get bread and make every dream happen while mobbing with or without crew.
The games begin with her initiative of, “If I'm the cop then you're the robber” where the musical composition begins to spin like an ornamental hive buzzing from the hum of the bees and the shared imaginative effect music has on animals, insects and humans alike.
The two brothers Like and Mibbs are joined by their buddy BeYoung repping their Pacific Division clique (that used to be some 11 members strong back when Like and Mibbs were still in high school) while the new album boasts appearances from Kendrick Lamar, Mac Miller, Scoop Deville, DJ Dahi, Swiff D and a few other guests.
Filling perscriptions like “Make Me Remember”, making for power pop rhinestones to be discovered from their sentimental wishing well. Like the great 70s established power pop tradition, Scottie, Brendhan and Stefan draw from that well spring after soaking up some Louisiana roots while bumming around New Orleans.
The SF quintet presents the sound of headline ampitheatre stages beneath a sky of reds, oranges and yellows on a Saturday at sunset. Songs like “Away For the Weekend” march forth with the urban-tribal percussive stomps of drum clasps open the song to thunderous dimensions highlighting the contributions from engineer and co-producer Eli Crews whose handiwork presents Natalia, Michael, Jesse, Tom, and Ben as the group that caughter our ears and hearts from festivals past.
“Say My Name” that engages in waves of guitar crunch that assuage the lonely soul and never offend. The interludes between the gentle chorus crush give a playful exhange before the strummed eletrics kick into a gear that can only be related to those dreams where the ceiling caves, and you awaken to find yourself cocooned beneath the security comfort of sheets.
In this SSTUDIO collaboration between electronic titans, their night drive and drone electro single “Intrusions” presents a sound score for self-driven, self-motivated vehicles making their way through the evening on the interstate freeways of what we imagine to be some kind of post-Akira neo-Tokyo.
Australia's Giorgio Tuma showcases appearances from Wintercoats, Rainbow Chan and Felix Weatherbourne as Leigh Hannah contines to craft global musical fusions into what sounds like an international music box, Melbourne breeze.