New month new format. This seems more official. This month, 100% Silk owned my ears and made me want to move to LA. And then there's Ryan Adams covering Taylor Swift, Liz Harris in a rock band, and much more! Here's a rundown of some favorites from this month:
Best LP: Ryan Adams - 1989
Ryan Adams couldn't, wouldn't, shouldn't, and didn't write these songs. The story of this album is inescapably the story of the original, from which you've definitely heard at least a few songs but more likely the whole thing. Pop music has hits and misses and Swift's version had its fair share of both. This 1989 is consistent, and consistently brilliant, and it's technically because the original was, too. Listen to Swift's 1989, then listen to this, then repeat the latter indefinitely.
Best Rock LP: Helen - The Original Faces
Liz Harris of Grouper fame puts together a rock band and sounds pretty much like you'd expect it to. One qualm is that the two songs from the 7", "Felt This Way" and "Dying all the Time, are total standouts among the bunch. The former establishes momentum after a beginning of the album that is full of sketched ideas, and the latter being the obvious climax. The album has been sequenced and formed well around these centerpieces, though, and it makes for an exciting listen if you're into shoegaze at all.
Best Tape: Auscultation - L'étreinte Imaginaire
This competes with Journeymann Trax and Perfume Advert for spacey, druggy, psychedelic lo-fi house tape of the year. This one has longer, groovier, bassier tracks, which, in my experience, make me zone out way harder and get more lost in the swirls of sound. L'étreinte Imaginaire has basslines that nod to dub and synths that sail all over. "Promise You'll Haunt Me" is a summery outsider workout, while "Drop Off" uses an aggressive bass line to lock into a groove. "Black Window" takes a few minutes to build and is a great example of lo-fi drum samples backed with a strong, melancholic melody. Elsewhere, "Stranded Love" has the nastiest bass on the album coupled with possibly the best melodic synth build. It's really the moments where it's stripped away (oh, the ending!!) where the percussion and fuzz truly shine. Overall, almost guaranteed to be a top ten tape.
Best Indie LP: Low - Ones and Sixes
Low albums take a while to sink in, and I'm trying to write about these things within a few weeks of really getting into them. So it's fair, and possibly expected, to say that I don't really know how I feel about Ones and Sixes yet. I'm pretty sure it's better than The Invisible Way and their 90s output, but that it's unlikely to usurp anything from 2001-2011 for me (I think it goes Trust > Things We Lost > The Great Destroyer > C'mon > Drums and Guns). Anyways, there are songs: "Gentle" is awesome and I want more of it, "No Comprende" is a good Low song, "No End," "What Part of Me" and "Kid in the Corner" all bounce along at a decidedly not that slowcore pace. "Lies" is heavy, "Landslide" is heavier, but it's no "On My Own" or "Nothing But Heart" (in the brain-melting penultimate position). Overall, it's probably great and most musicians wish they were this good at both writing songs and making them sound interesting.
Best Summer Tape: Cherushii - Memory of Water
This is that saucy, sexy, sunny house that you've been waiting for. This is one of three tapes that I'm highlighting from the hottest outsider label this month, 100% Silk. Unlike Auscultation and more like Paradise 100 (below), you can feel the ocean breezes that Chelsea Faith incorporates into these electro infused, med-fi house tracks. The A side picks up momentum through the rollicking "Pillow Palace" and "Ultraviolet Nights," culminating in "Thin Line," a sultry, breezy pop song with vocals by labelmate Maria Minerva. The B-side is a more languid affair, in a nice way, with "Everything is in Color" as the most kinetic and developed cut.
Best Bass LP: Kode9 - Nothing
With Nothing we have a frustrating and ultimately rewarding listen. Is this a Seinfeld-ian meaningless trip through what could be called Bass music in 2015? Is it work of thoughtful execution and production genius? Is it up its own ass? Are the eight minutes of static that end the album largely unnecessary? Is it really cool when tracks like "Void," "Vaccuum Packed," and "Casimir Effect" reveal themselves to be much more interesting than you originally thought? Does it get more banger-y as it goes on? I think mostly YES!
Best EP: Appleblim - Avebury
It shouldn't be a secret that I'm a huge fan of ALSO's compiled releases. Listening to this, it seems like Appleblim might be the half of that production duo who has my best interests in mind. The title track has the attitude of the ALSO comp but isn't strictly manic. Following it on the A-side, "Auburn Blaze" wreaths and flows, and on the flip, "Wandered" lives up to its name. The crackles, hisses, and sound choices mirror his previous work, but the context is all new and excitingly sublime.
Best House 12": Daniel T - Tetrachromat
Summer Fun is here! Daniel T treats us to a tour of some truly pleasant house tracks. This is almost best considered a mini-album, especially with electro-leaning bonus track "Boy," which is awesome and puts it well over the 30 minute mark. There's definitely a lot of Mood Hut inspired grooves here, with the most successful cuts being strut-worthy synth anthems (see "Tetrachromat" and "Planetesimal"). This is Cali house though, so it's sunnier, warmer, and more in its own head. The flip slows down the tempos but continues the momentum with huge vocal samples on "Akoussah" and "The Sun and The Sky." The aforementioned "Boy" doesn't fit with the flow of the EP, but is gladly included at the end as a digital bonus track because it is quite the banger.
Best Industrial Techno EP: Black Rain & Shapednoise - Apophis
This is one dark, bold, deep trip into psychedelic industrial technoise. All of the tracks stand strong as a complete statement, with "Autonomous Lethality" leading the way in terms of contrast, power, fuzz, and appellation. The B side having a Miles Whittaker reshape that precedes the original is a really nice touch, too. Both Interceptors are strong, but it's particularly great to hear Miles making techno again.
Best House Tape: Paradise 100 - Northern Seoul
This is the third release from 100% Silk on here this month, and it's as necessary as the first two. Northern Seoul doesn't just flirt with camp, it gets down on one knee and promises to devote itself to it (his previous release was hilariously titled The Loin King). See the vocal sample that kicks of the ridiculously titled and ridiculously catchy "Heat.wav." Also check out the infectious title track with its perfectly cut "Why You Have to go on Ba-by" sample in between the pinging synth builds. "Ostende" is bound for an acid electro dance floor near you, while "Brutal Tops" makes me accept the squelchy synths of the world a little bit more.
Best Rock Tape: Guerilla Toss - Flood Dosed
These Bostonians are killing it right now. With each new release, they're digging further into their prog-math-noise-funk, which now that I write it out, sounds downright awful. They're really bringing it, though, trust me. This is the most restraint they've shown and also the most in their heads they've ever sounded. Somehow, the combination works perfectly.
Best Black Label 12": Unknown Artist (Florian Kupfer) - SAD Edit 01
Play me Sade, Florian. Don't even write your name on the record. It's cool.
Best 7": The Cavemen - Reich/Ghoul Single
"She said I don't want to kiss ya / I'm in love with Adolf Hitler." Pretty much the perfect garage 7"
Also, some fun quotes from my fun brain / from my dashboard notes:
"'Hope this helps' isn’t very hopeful."
"The Velvet Underground is very accessible."
"Self aggrandizement is the way to happiness."
"Donations are comical."