Each month at AUX, our specialists in Punk, Metal, Indie, Hip Hop, Electronic, and Pop vouch for their favourite releases of the month and have it out behind the scenes to bring you a trim, alphabetical, genre representational list of the Top 10 Albums of the Month. So diplomatic, right?

By: Marsha Casselman, Chayne Japal, Tyler Munro, Sam Sutherland, Nicole Villeneuve, and Aaron Zorgel

asap-rocky-long-live-asap1

A$AP Rocky
Long.Live.A$AP
(RCA)

What sets A$AP Rocky apart from his peers is his readiness to embrace the mid-to-late 90s rap that he’s a direct byproduct of. Instead of denying the influence artists like U.G.K., Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, and Master P has had on him, he constantly references his predecessors by frequently adopting their cadences, interpolating their lines, and name-checking them almost as much as The Game. On the other hand, the production on his major label debut, Long.Live.A$AP, is very modern, including interesting ventures out of genre with Danger Mouse on “Phoenix” and Skrillex on “Wild For The Night.” At the album’s centre sits the conversation piece “1 Train,” a seven-verse, chorus-free posse cut that feels like a time capsule from 1997 although it features a group of rappers that have all found notoriety within this decade (Kendrick Lamar, Joey Bada$$, Yelawolf, Danny Brown, Action Bronson, and Big K.R.I.T.). The 24-year-old Harlemite triumphs here by adapting post-classic hip-hop for contemporary audiences. A$AP Rocky has been able to carve a niche for himself by discovering an unforced originality based on his honesty. (CJ)

Bad Religion - True North

Bad Religion
True North
(Epitaph)

That True North is another strong addition to the Bad Religion catalogue isn’t surprising – they released a few duds during their sojourn into the major label wilderness in the ‘90s, but the band has been on a hot streak since 2004’s The Empire Strikes First, balancing the tried-and-true melodic punk sound that made them early Warped Tour favourites with the wisdom and vision of the veteran Old Punks that they are. Where True North really shines is in its brevity, as on the self-titled opener, clocking in at just under two minutes and reminding all the young guns that, hey, fuck you, some of us were in Minor Threat. And Circle Jerks. And also, one of us is a doctor of zoology. More than any of the band’s solid recent albums, this one really sounds like it was written by the same shitkickers behind Recipe for Hate and No Control, so naturally, it is bomb. (SS)

bigboi-vladr

Big Boi
Vicious Lies And Dangerous Rumors
(Def Jam)

Long after Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange and Kendrick Lamar’s good kid, M.A.A.D. city split the top slots on 99.9% of the blogosphere’s “Best Of 2012” listicles, and over three weeks before Baby New Year coyly flashed us a glance at his blooming buttcheeks, Big Boi dropped a genius album smack-dab in the middle of music criticism’s dead-zone. Vicious Lies And Dangerous Rumors was released too late to be considered for 2012’s year-end lists, and if it wasn’t so goddamned strong, it wouldn’t stand a fighting chance at getting the love it deserves on 2013’s power rankings. Lucky for Sir Lucious, his most musically adventurous outing to date has a gargantuan memorability factor. While Andre 3000 busies himself with Hendrix impressions, Gillette-advocated facial grooming, and well, some pretty outstanding featured appearances, Big Boi stays razor sharp with a pen and a notepad, bringing some Internet-famous collaborators (Phantogram, Wavves, Little Dragon) along for the surprisingly refreshing ride. Apparently, Big Boi has already amassed ten songs for his next album, so there’s a pretty good chance that Daddy Fat Sax could be sitting pretty in two spots on 2013’s pecking order. (AZ)

Four Tet

Four Tet
0181
(Four Tet)

UK electronic genius Four Tet’s freebie album reminds us just how long ago the 90s were. This mix includes 38 minutes of exiled tracks from Kieran Hebden’s initial days as Four Tet, spanning 1997 to 2001. We hear snippets of his hip-hop and off-key jazzy roots (think DJ Shadow, a sound so dated to the late 90s). Then there are his experiments with ‘folktronica,’ and his movie-soundtrack worthy abstract stuff. Those were the days when they called pushing the limits in electronic music IDM (Intelligent Dance Music). But unlike a lot of IDM at the time, Four Tet showed dance music could actually be smart, maybe even off-beat, yet not so stuck up and esoteric it becomes the realm of pasty white guys in their basements, creating complexity for the sake of showing off. No matter what Four Tet did, it seemed to come out accessible, and beautiful. (MC)

Joy Formidable Wolf's Law

The Joy Formidable
Wolf’s Law
(Atlantic)

It’s odd that an album as big as the Joy Formidable’s Wolf’s Law is actually more stripped down in a way; where many songs from their debut full length The Big Roar were borrowed and reworked, built up and out, from years and EPs past, writing for this one was primarily done on the road while touring in support of the debut. Playing bigger venues (if even as the opener) has had an impact on the Welsh three-piece, and Wolf’s Law, with both its more challenging prog experimentation and bold, anthemic hooks, sees them gunning for arena-headliner status, something that, as engulfing as Joy Formidable manage to be, might not ever again exist for guitar bands that sound like the Smashing Pumpkins. (NV)

Local Natives

Local Natives
Hummingbird
(Frenchkiss)

It’s not hard to like Local Natives. Their tight vocal harmonies, clean guitar riffs, twinkling piano lines, and intricate shuffling drum patterns were well received on their first album Gorilla Manor. After years of touring, they return with sophomore effort Hummingbird, and they’ve brought some newfound friends along. Previous tourmate, Aaron Dessner (and to a lesser extent, his brother Bryce, both from the National) assisted the band during Hummingbird’s experimental recording process and is presumably one of the reasons why this album introduces more dimensions to Local Natives, building on their debut. The record fully realizes the haunting atmosphere hinted at previously by carefully compiling Local Natives’ clear, bright elements into a perfectly layered, almost muddy mix. This cohesion shifts the attention away from the band’s pretty melodies and charming vocals, which are still present here, to highlight the thoughtful songwriting that holds the essence of Hummingbird. (CJ)

Pantha-Du-Prince-Bell-Laboratory

Pantha Du Prince and the Bell Labratory
Elements of Light
(Rough Trade)

If you’re looking for something to get you through the heavy winter blahs, here’s some lighter electronic fare. German minimal techno producer Pantha Du Prince has an affinity for using organic sounds and has worked with the rich frequencies of bells before on 2010′s Black Noise. Here, he fully embraces them, pairing his microhouse with the sounds of Norwegian musicians playing a carillon, including up to 50 bronze bells. Bell Laboratory’s accompanying live performance on aptly named tracks like “Wave,” “Particle,” “Photon,” emanate deep tones similar to crystal bowls that new age healers use for sound healing. If you let it, Elements of Light can affect you on a profound, even quantum, level. (MC)

dawnrichards-goldenheart

Dawn Richard
Goldenheart
(Our Dawn Entertainment)

After spending over half a decade as Diddy’s prisoner in the Making The Band girl-group Danity Kane and as the only listenable part of Diddy-Dirty Money, Dawn Richard fled Bad Boy Entertainment (with Combs’ blessing, even) in favour of creative independence. On the self-released Goldenheart, the first installment in a trilogy of albums following last year’s promising Armor On EP, Richard is a welcome female counterpart to the introspective revolution that saw like Frank Ocean, The Weeknd, and Miguel soar to the forefront of R&B last year. Richards’ lyrical narrative presents her as a Joan Of Arc-type figure, fearless on the Benetarean battlefield of love, which sets up her versatile voice for plenty of “power” moments. Production duties were handled mostly by Dawn’s creative partner Andrew “Druski” Scott, who is just as capable of creating a spacious, reverberated world for Dawn’s fluttery vocals (“86”), as he is of bringing much-needed originality to a fist-pumping electro-house R&B anthem (“Riot”). Dawn Richards’ Goldenheart is the successful execution of a triumphant artistic vision – one that probably wouldn’t have been possible under Diddy’s supervision. (AZ)

Tegan and Sara

Tegan and Sara
Heartthrob
(Warner)

Quin twins Tegan and Sara make their move for pop stardom on their seventh studio album Heartthrob, a dark lyrical study on obsessive love’s evolution that’s cloaked in the shiniest, biggest songs they’ve crafted yet. Though they’ve never tried to hide their penchant for killer hooks, T&S enlisted the more accessible, cool-kid Top 40 skills of producers Greg Kurstin (Kelly Clarkson, Ke$ha, the Shins) and Mike Elizondo (Dr. Dre, Eminem, Fiona Apple) for that extra populist push. If the Cyndi Lauper synths and honest-to-god fist-pumping chorus of opening track and first single “Closer” (a song built for an obsession with listening to it 40 times a day, so what) don’t have you on board, you might be a lost cause. (NV)

Voivod - Target Earth

Voivod
Target Earth
(Century Media Records)

Once again anchored by their original rhythm section, Voivod’s sixteenth (!!) album is a tech-thrash triumph by a band persevering after the tragic loss of its chief songwriter. Like much of their previous work, Target Earth is perhaps best described as mid-paced thrash filtered through an exploding computer, and new guitarist Daniel Mongrain does an impeccable job interpreting (but not imitating) Piggy’s distinct sound into his own technical style. The result is 56-minutes of paranoid and at times psychotic sounding progressive metal that’s equal parts groovy and uncompromising. Target Earth isn’t a transition for Voivod — it’s a statement. (Shame about that cover art, though.) (TM)

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