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. We’re all best friends.

Here were our favourite releases from September.

By: Chayne Japal (CJ), Jeremy Mersereau (JM), Tyler Munro (TM), Mark Teo (MT), and Aaron Zorgel (AZ)

2-chainz-boats

2 Chainz
B.O.A.T.S. II: #METIME
(Def Jam)

Who could have predicted that a 36-year-old rapper who used to be named Tity Boi would release an album called B.O.A.T.S. II: #METIME, and it would turn out to be one of the most relevant hip-hop records of the year? Tauheed “2 Chainz” Epps has kept good company throughout his career, first aligning with Ludacris’ Def Jam imprint as part of the College Park duo Playaz Circle. When Tity changed his name to 2 Chainz in 2011, songs like “Vi-Agra” (“I be goin’ hard / Vi-Agra”) made it easy to write him off as a novelty rapper, even though his breakthrough mixtape T.R.U. REALigion boasted features from Meek Mill, T.I., Jeezy, Big Sean, and Trey Songz. His knack for crafting ridiculous hooks and comedic visuals is perfectly showcased here, underscored by seriously unreal production work from some of the best doing it today, including Pharrell, Mike Will, and the J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League. 2 Chainz has always known he’s the best at something, and with B.O.A.T.S. II: #METIME, we’re realizing it too. Face it: anyone who can pull off lyrics like “My wrist deserve a shout-out, I’m like ‘What up, wrist?’ / My stove deserve a shout-out, I’m like ‘What up, stove?’” is a goddamn genius. Truuuuuuuuuu. (AZ)

Ariana Grande-Yours

Ariana Grande
Yours Truly
(Universal)

Ariana Grande is the latest cherub-faced phenom to be groomed for superstardom with a starring role in a popular teen sitcom (see also Hilary Duff, Selena Gomez, Demi Lovato, and Miley Cyrus). Anyone under the age of 15 who knows Ariana Grande probably recognizes her as Cat from the Nickelodeon show Victorious, and anyone not still in diapers might know her from her hit single “The Way,” the throwback ‘90s R&B smash with whistle range vocal heroics that might finally prove Mariah Carey is not, in fact, a one-of-a-kind alien goddess. Skeptical? It also samples Big Pun’s “Still Not A Player.” Legit. Under the watchful eye of executive producer Babyface, on Yours Truly, Grande has crafted a collection of bouncy, doo-wop influenced gems that bridge the gap between contemporary pop and the urban radio superstars of the ‘90s. Not bad for someone who’s only 20 years old. (AZ)

Drake_NWTS-Cvr

Drake
Nothing Was The Same
(Cash Money/OVO Sound)

Where Take Care saw Aubrey airing his innermost insecurities, Nothing Was The Same paints a picture of a Drizzy who’s finally self-assured enough to flex. Sure, NWTS still has its fair share of “Marvin’s Room” style callouts to former flames, but this time around, Drake seems more interested in justifying and protecting what he’s spent the last seven years building. Take Care is precious to most Toronto hip-hop fans because it brought widespread credibility to a long-established, much-overlooked community; the city has an even more enduring presence on NWTS, with Drake weaving restaurants, street names, local slang, and even Degrassi references into his lyric book. One of the only disappointing aspects of NWTS (aside from “5AM in Toronto” not making the cut) is marked lack of progression from Drake’s sonic guru Noah “40” Shebib. You can tell Drake and 40 are still taking cues from Kanye—Nothing Was The Same feels deliberately more sparse than Take Care, making Drake’s capable voice the focal point of the album, and suggesting that Yeezus could have been a lesson in mix and arrangement reduction, Rubin-style. Drake’s not ready to call himself a God just yet, but his drunk-dialing days just might be over. (AZ)

Fiver

Fiver
Lost the Plot
(Triple Crown)

Lost the Plot is Simone Schmidt’s (The Highest Order, One Hundred Dollars) most philosophical collection of voices-on-the-margins narratives yet. The hazy, slow-moving “Rage of Plastics” masterfully contorts the terror of contingent labour at refineries into a polyester-themed dance party. It’s the finest moment on the album before Schmidt shifts into perhaps the loneliest track she’s ever written, where she drops Lost the Plot’s most gorgeously tragic line: “You make me feel like the wires of the Danforth bridge.” It’s hard to relish such a lyric, but it’s perfect illustration of how adept Schmidt has become at nailing conflicting emotions: “I’ll be a constant if you’ll be mine,” she sings on “Saddest Laugh,” which would be a sweet sentiment, did it not follow up “Sienna,” a song that is—ostensibly—about addiction. Schmidt’s never written a disposable song yet, but Lost the Plot’s emotional complexity, control of tone, and narrative ambition prove she’s not only a virtuoso—she’s getting better by leaps and bounds. (MT)

flatbush zombies better off

Flatbush Zombies
Better Off Dead
(Electric KoolAde)

Just to make it completely clear that they don’t give a fuck, Flatbush Zombies dropped a mixtape titled Better Off Dead on September 11 (not cool, guys). The Brooklyn trio stand as a rarity being a legit, full-time rap group in a sea of solo artists, supergroups, makeshift duets, and label-bound cliques around them, but these guys aren’t too caught up in the nostalgia of what they’re doing, they’re here and now. On this, their second mixtape, they’ve perfected their formula for reckless rowdiness (“Bliss”), buzzed-out chill (“222”), and flat-out creepiness (“LiveFromHell”). The dark tone of the project makes for a great fall soundtrack as the contagious Erick Arc Elliott, Meechy Darko, and Zombie Juice might have set off the beginning of the zombie apocalypse. (CJ)

hoax

Hoax
Hoax
(Self-released)

With a rep for ultra-violent live shows (the band is known to suckerpunch crowd members in a frenzy of sweat and hemoglobin) and a series of unsettlingly negative seven-inches, Hoax are indisputably one of hardcore’s top bands at current. Accordingly, this LP is among the year’s most anticipated—and it’s also a modern classic. Recorded by Orchid’s Will Killingsworth, who seemingly has his hands on every disgusting Western Mass release of note, Hoax is even uglier than initially anticipated. Opening on the pedal-processed sounds of a man choking, the band unveils yet another weapon: Thin guitars that sound just as vile as the songs that follow. Less bouncy than their original fare—through the breakdown on “Drive” is just as destructive than anything they’ve ever written—these songs don’t outmuscle listeners; they suffocate them in hatred, rage, and despair. There are classics among the bunch, too—“Sick Punk,” and “Blind,” with its apocalyptic guitar solo, are songs as memorable as “Faggot,” a long-time Hoax fave. Essential listening for shitty days. (MT)

janelle monae - electric

Janelle Monae
The Electric Lady
(Bad Boy/Warner)

In the three years between her last LP and this one, Janelle Monae’s extra-curricular activities were quite conspicuous; her ad campaign with CoverGirl put her face on TV screens and billboards all over North America, while a song she laid down backing vocals for ended up being the song of 2012 (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sv6dMFF_yts), but making albums is what she does best. Her second full length could have been better described as The Eclectic Lady as her forays into funk (“Q.U.E.E.N.”), sophisti-pop (“What An Experience”), quiet storm R&B (“Primetime”) and rock-n-roll (“Dance Apocalyptic”) see her delivering a fun, charming record that has the pliancy to work for a broad audience and endure. Aside from a handful of useless, non-sequitur skits forced in to keep her “concept album” streak alive, this is another gorgeous testament to the immense talent and magnetism of Monae. (CJ)

Joanna Gruesome

Joanna Gruesome
Weird Sister
(Slumberland)

What is about Cardiff that consistently inspires such ferocious music? Going by Weird Sister, noisepop outfit Joanna Gruesome are more than worthy of carrying the Welsh punk flag formerly held by bands like Mclusky and the Martini Henry Rifles. That’s not to say it’s all distortion and screaming: The five-piece alternately sound like the bastard child of MBV, Bikini Kill, and Beat Happening, usually in the space of a single song. “Graveyard” stomps along like Sister–era Sonic Youth, while  “Wussy Void” could’ve been an outtake from the original C86 tape. “Secret Surprise,” probably the best example of Joanna Gruesome’s lo-fi charms, switches gears from dreampop to Bratmobile-style punk on a dime, but never feels jarring, at least not in a bad way. “I dream of pulling out your teeth!” yells singer Alanna McArdle, and couched in reverb and hazy guitars, it sounds like the most romantic thing you’ve ever heard. Oh yeah, and the name? Well, uh, it could be worse, I guess. (JM)

Kayo Dot - Hubardo

Kayo Dot
Hubardo
(Ice Level/Self-Released)

Hubardo is by no means an easy listen—at more than 98-minutes long, Kayo Dot’s monolithic new album is best described as an odyssey—but it’s an investment worth making. Weaving effortlessly through innumerable influences, the experimental outfit manages to in a single instance call back the best and brightest bits of King Crimson, Godspeed You! Black Emperor and John Zorn, but with the requisite heaviness that beckons the band’s roots as maudlin of the Well. At once sprawling and dense, Hubardo thrives in negative space. Running the gamut between black metal, droning doom, and jazzy sax-fuelled freak outs, Kayo Dot are as much about atmosphere as they are the experiment. Their second album in two years and best since Choirs of the Eye, Hubardo is a challenging experience overflowing with artfulness. Most of all, it’s one worth getting lost in. (TM)

Young Braised

Young Braised
Japanese Tendencies
(1080p)

When Vancouver cloud rap MC Young Braised—Jaymes Bowman to pals—released the 2012 mixtape earlier this year, it almost felt like a challenge: Its scattered production veered from chillwave to ambient noise, all while sounding like Braised recorded his vocals into a Windows 98-era Dell laptop. It was excellent, but his Japanese Tendencies cassette is better yet. Atop ethereal, near-muzak beats, his placid, free-association rhymes tie together ‘90s pop-culture trash, Japanese cultural obsession, and LULZ: on “Life is Good,” he raps “Porsche 911 was an inside job,” before namedropping Alicia Silverstone and Michael Caine, which feels as absurd as it does profound. “Feminist”—which happens to include MacBook screenshot sounds—is a hilarious, but not insincere, way of declaring alliance. (“Swish, bish.”) And even ignoring all the Kevin Bacon and old-school NBA rhymes, it’s impossible to not be sold on Braised when he quotes Blink-182’s “All the Small Things” verbatim on “Murakami.” Never change, Young Braised. (MT)

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