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?
Before you get too nostalgic for February (hahah jk GTFO, February), here’s a look back at our favourite records over the past month.
By: Marsha Casselman, Chayne Japal, Tyler Munro, Nicole Villeneuve, and Aaron Zorgel
A Breathtaking Trip To That Otherside
It’s an almost automatic reaction to describe and, ultimately, understand a new rapper by finding a few correlating predecessors as reference points. That gets a bit difficult when an inspiringly original, eccentric act like Alexander Spit comes along, unaffiliated to any established acts. His debut album, A Breathtaking Trip To That Otherside, embodies the intelligence and incredible talent of self-produced Bay Area rapper. The psychedelic experience brings to mind Edan’s 2005 backpacker classic Beauty And The Beat, weaving in and out of its sprawling styles as tracks transition into each other. The album plays like a batch of intertwined suites, emphasizing the 25 year old’s musicianship. His ambitious production is only rivaled by his quick-witted lines and story telling which makes a fair amount of sense. What would you expect from a guy that calls himself Spit? (CJ)
For Professional Use Only
If you ever find yourself in an argument with someone who insists that button-pushing DJs have no skill, here’s a one word rebuttal: araabMUZIK. Yes, Abraham Orellana, the 23-year-old MVP of the MPC, pushes a fuckton of buttons. The lightning-fast real-time sample triggering showcased at araabMUZIK’s shows has made the Rhode Island native a must-see live act, attracting massive crowds that spend his entire set either dancing or staring dumbfoundedly, jaws agape. For Professional Use Only is a collection of both released and unreleased hard-hitting hip-hop tracks, including the menacing instrumental for Swizz Beatz’ “Street Knock,” a one-off highlight of 2012, and the KoRn-sampling (recovering nu-metal fans, stand up!) beat for Slaughterhouse’s “Hammer Dance.” As for the mixtape’s exclusive cuts, the borderline Skrillstep opener “This Is For The Ones Who Care” is impossible to listen to without imagining Abe going nuts on the MPC pads, punishing the kick drum trigger with a loose, big-faced Rolex flopping around on his wrist. For Professional Use Only isn’t exactly a follow-up to 2011’s trance-sampling Electronic Dream, but it gives us a clear picture of a louder, more aggressive direction araabMUZIK could be edging towards this year. (AZ)
Atoms For Peace
While it might be a tough task to disregard the accomplishments of this band’s members before they united under the Atoms For Peace banner, their new album Amok is best absorbed without too much of the baggage. Here’s what’s going on, simplified without name-dropping: A group of legendary musicians got together and crafted some songs. Nine of these songs make up Amok, which is its own album and not in any way a welding together of these artists’ best albums. On the other hand, it can stand on its own as an experimental yet completely accessible project that features tight, Afrobeat-tinged minimalistic arrangements that allowa Atoms’ lead singer to stand out. His unmistakable voice has been related to such undeniable, generation-defining music over the past two decades and Amok gracefully thrives on it. (CJ)
Buke and Gase
Buke and Gase’s namesake can bear the burden of unfortunate novelty; the Brooklyn duo are known for their unconventional instruments, their hand-made buke (a former baritone ukelele), and gase (a guitar-bass hybrid), but all it takes to get over the seeming tweeness is a listen to their latest album General Dome. Best experienced up loud on good speakers or on headphones (also up loud), not only to hear all the subtle guttural rumbling they’re getting out of their instrumental upgrades, but to get the most out of singer Arone Dyer’s voice. It’s powerful.(NV)
News from Nowhere
Taking a risk has paid off for UK trio Darkstar, formerly of the world of progressive dubstep, as they steer towards experimental indie-pop (think Animal Collective). Vocal harmonies envelope chimes and bells and beat experimentation for a deep and profound journey. Despite the album’s electronic bend, you can just sense the twinkling stars and natural textures of the English countryside where it was recorded. News from Nowhere is a quality add to the Warp records canon, which has gracefully expanded beyond its early house and techno borders into indie music territory. (MC)
When a band’s debut record is ravenously embraced by the ADHD-afflicted Web 2.0 hype machine, the odds are instantly stacked against them in terms of preparing their sophomore effort. If the initial enthusiasm hasn’t melted away entirely into a sad puddle of 80+ Metacritic ratings and Tumblr reblogs, they’ll certainly face a harsher critical gaze, the worst of which is often at the hand of the same people who wouldn’t shut up about their band a year previous. When Copenhagen punks Iceage released New Brigade two years ago, their brand of ramshackle gloom-punk exploded the cool Internet. Most reviews of New Brigade would lead with some kind of discussion of the band’s relatively young average age (under 20), and interestingly enough, that youth would ultimately be Iceage’s strongest defense in clinging to the bowl of the Internet’s buzz toilet. Though New Brigade was met with rave reviews, their sound still had some room to mature. On You’re Nothing, we’re getting the best version of Iceage. It’s faster, louder, more nihilistic (duh, look at the title), and most importantly, the songwriting is better. Iceage’s finest times are when a memorable and melodic moment cuts through a chaotic caterwaul of fuzz, and the jangly guitar riff from “In Haze” is a discography highlight for Iceage. It’s a fucking miracle, really: a band that was showered in hype, and actually got better. (AZ)
Clash the Truth
Just before completing Clash The Truth, Hurricane Sandy flooded and destroyed the studio Dustin Payseur and co. recorded this latest Beach Fossils album. Despite a rather disruptive act of God, the New York City project retains the wistfulness of earlier recordings, but with harder cues taken from the live performance, all but erasing the sticky “bedroom pop” associations (Ben Greenberg of The Men produced, which could also have something to do with it). Clash The Truth’s dark and scrappy hooks are just perfectly post-punk; it isn’t just Payseur’s best work to date, it could be one of the best of the year.
Reach Beyond the Sun
It feels like Shai Hulud’s been a band forever, and a 17-year tenure as one of metalcore’s flagship bands is nothing to scoff at. But the reality is that Reach Beyond the Sun is just their fourth album and the first of the bunch to feature a familiar vocalist, with revolving door line-up changes making their mark on the band’s mythology as much as their recent albums. Chad Gilbert is back, however, recording vocals with the band for the first time since leaving to form New Found Glory, and he hasn’t lost a step—his return to the fold reenergizes the band for what might be their best album yet. (TM)
The third album from Swedish electro-pop duo Sally Shapiro is nothing groundbreaking, but you still won’t find anyone else borrowing from ’80s Italian disco in such a solid way. The sweet, hush-voiced Sally Shapiro and producer Johan Agebjörn have been criticized for lacking oomph, sometimes sounding like revered producer Georgio Moroder put an hesitant school-aged girl on vocals, instead of Donna Summer. But subtlety is key in modern dance music, and it’s also part of the charm. There are danceable and fun singles, like “All My Life” and “Starman ft. Electric Youth,” but you get a soft bedroom indie-pop vibe from the rest of the album. This makes sense coming from two people who refuse to tour or perform live, and record everything by their lonesome. Somewhere Else might suit indie music lovers who’d prefer to be anywhere else but a club environment, perhaps wiggling in the comfort of their own home, or not at all. (MC)
Pinnacle of Bedlam
Suffocation have been atop New York’s death metal scene for most of their two decades together, but while they’ve been remarkably consistent throughout, their mid-noughties comeback hasn’t been without its highs and lows. Better late than never, Pinnacle of Bedlam is the album fans have been waiting for since 2004’s Souls to Deny. Perhaps sparked by drummer Dave Culross, who replaces Mike Smith behind the kit once again (he backed the band on what was once their last album—1998’s Despise the Sun EP), Pinnacle of Bedlam is a thrashier Suffocation. Here’s an album that’s unrelenting in its complexity, brutality, and precision, somehow managing to bring the best of each element without being overblown. Best of all, it’s modernized without sounding modern. (TM)