July was the month of concept albums. Few of our Best Music selections this month disregard motive, compartmentalization, or narrative. When Andy Falkous of Future of the Left lost his day job, he used his downtime to conceptualize a new band called Christian Fitness. Matthewdavid was so awestruck by the birth of his daughter, he channeled all that fatherly love into a full record. Yoshimi of OOIOO fused the traditional gamelan of Javanese folk music into her experimental rockist creations as a platform to internalize the nuclear disasters in her native country. Kilo Kish went Kerouac with Caleb Stone as her Neal Cassidy. But, it was Shabazz Palaces who strived for the conceptually grand, the big picture album.
In our review of Shabazz Palaces’ Lese Majesty, we noted mastermind Ishmael Butler’s willfully obtuse agenda, but even with his commandeering of the ship, the album is not seven highfalutin suites protected by bodyguards checking for pretentious credentials at the gates. Butler envisions Lese Majesty as having open ended commentary, which should be allowed due to its ability to openly explore territory as celestial and weird as a Sun Ra record and as viscerally depraved as a 3-6 Mafia mixtape.
The Best Album of July 2014
Contrary to what its title would suggest, Lese Majesty is more than half seduction—at times, Butler’s magnetic presence seems like the only consistent guide in this sneaky, zigzagging album. But Lese Majesty’s very real (if sometimes perplexing) power derives from a certain harmony of opposites: just listen to “Ishmael”, which combines some of the album’s most boastful tough-talking with its sweetest production, an almost childlike tinker-toy fantasia of woozy synths and shuffling beats. “Mimicking gods,” Butler intones robotically in its first few seconds, a promise that what’s to come will be something tempting and untouchable.
For more Shabazz Palaces, read our interview with Ishmael Butler.
The Best Music of July 2014 (in no particular order):
The album is far-reaching yet accessible; it’s tailored for large arena concerts and solo-car-ride listening alike. Though the album sounds as if it were made with an audience in mind, Potter and Griesmer’s music is highly personal.
Ultimately, Friend of Mine is the first full-length release on Body High and it strongly, decisively catapults the label into future projects as a tremendous LP.
Tension, anguish and yearning underlie their opening salvo, Cassette. The mood isn’t a young band’s, “What are we going to do with our lives?” existentialism. Perhaps “Would anyone care if we disappeared today?” is a little closer. They’re dedicated to honestly committing the texture of their nobody-but-ourselves-to-blame existences to tape.
Cassette was seemingly made sans blueprint. It’s the work of a rock-erudite band allowing ideas to spill out of their heads during cathartic basement studio sessions.
For more Viet Cong, read our interview at 4 Knots festival.
With Pith, the Brooklyn-based duo deliver on their denotative promise, providing an album that gets to the essence of the dream pop aesthetic (without ripping off Beach House).
Pith is glinting and resplendent in its stark originality and staunch deconstructionist intent. And Courtship Ritual has certainly taught us a lesson, that dream pop isn’t just Cocteau Twins or Beach House, that even in 2014 original music can still be made from familiar components.
His latest foray into head-scratching music, aptly titled In My World, is a masterful ode to his new role as a father, husband, and lover. Finished when his daughter Love was born last December, McQueen dedicated it not only to her, but to the entire concept surrounding her birth name.
Ranging in stylistic inspiration from fast-paced footwork to slow, sensual quiet storm, it’s gorgeous in its intricacy and adherence to the cosmic love jam vibe.
If nuclear radiation degrades DNA, couldn’t it also enhance it? On their newest album, OOIOO also use gamelan instruments to probe the limits of body music in the age of cyborgs.
Gamel works as dense fodder for athletic listeners, and maybe as a revelation for those who haven’t yet found the right musical language to validate their 21st century nervousness.
For more OOIOO, read our interview with Yoshimi.
“Svalbard” is the name of a Norwegian archipelago that is also home to the Global Seed Vault. Lau has said, “Svalbard is in every respect beautiful and fascinating and terrifying and embodied the kind of dream world and alternate space that I think music has the potential of making too—inspiring moods and feelings and different worlds that you enter when you make the decision to leave (or alter) whatever physical space you are in through a sonic landscape.” Indeed, this perfectly describes the EP, which seamlessly transforms from soft-spoken and shoegazey (“This American Life”) to scuzzy (“Too Drunk”).
Produced by LA-based multi-instrumentalist Caleb Stone, it’s her follow-up effort to last year’s hyped-up K+ tape, which earned her a fair amount of critical praise. And while it was a much lauded effort, Across sees Kish finally shedding K+’s jaded, love-lorn quips in favor of more rambling, self-reflective musings. And as a result, there’s an honest sense of impatient restlessness pervading the entire EP, born from a conceptual project to record her journey on a great American roadtrip last year.
Versatile and meandering, it’ll make a perfect soundtrack for that long, lonely trek across the plains and Route 66.
Andy “Falco” Falkous—founding member of the now-defunct Welsh post-hardcore outfit Mclusky and lead singer of alternative weight-lifters Future Of The Left—recently lost his day job. The implications of a notable musician being in two notable bands and still having to have a day job aside (fuck you, music biz), unemployment gave Falkous the extra time and motivation to record an album under a new moniker, wryly and un-Google-ably named Christian Fitness.
i am scared of everything that isn’t me is sardonic in its solipsistic approach to indulgence and fear.
Comprised of members of Designer, Guerilla Toss and Aykroyd, The Channels combine the farcical alternative of Primus and the technical maelstrom of King Crimson, creating a sound that is wholly unique in its usage of instrumentation: two drummers, a guitarist and a bassist.
Lo Fruit is definitely not easy to digest, but it’s probably not supposed to be. The Channels are definitely a group set on making fun music that they like to listen to and play. And in doing so, they created an incredibly idiosyncratic and tactile album, one that’s never shy in doing whatever the hell it wants.