5. BADBADNOTGOOD Ė BBNG2
This is probably one of the most important records Iíve listened to this year. Toronto jazz trio, BADBADNOTTGOOD (or BBNG), are making waves in the music scene with their infectious and unique take on improvisational music. Theyíre known for taking hip-hop beats and recreating Ďem into energetic jazz tunes, full of great musicianship. These kids have only known each other for less than two years and they sound like theyíve been playing together for a couple decades, which is remarkable since theyíre all under 21 years old. And on top of all that this album was recorded in one, 10 hour recording session. The band is made up of Matthew Tavares on piano and keyboard, Chester Hansen on electric and double bass, and Alexander Sowinski on drums and sampler. They are joined on a few tracks by Leland Whitty on sax and Luan Phung on guitar. On their latest album, they have interpretations of songs from multiple genres, including hip-hop, electronic/soul, and even shoegaze. And along with those they have five original compositions that are great tracks with a wide spectrum of themes and atmospheres. From the ultra cool vibes of UWM, the fun and infectious DMZ, or the eerie Rotten Decay. Their interpretations give the originals new life, with the dark and twisted to sporadic and fast version of Tyler, The Creator and Gucci Maneís Bastard/Lemonade, the epic version of Kanye Westís Flashing Lights, and the fast, noisy, and creepy version of My Bloody Valentineís You Made Me Realise, this album has a lot to offer, not just in the great music, but also introducing listeners to lots of other music. Which brings me back to my first point. The reason this album is probably one of the most important records Iíve heard all year is because it reintroduced me to hip-hop, which was a genre of music I long-ago kind of put on the back burner then started to hate. But thanks to BBNG, my interest in the genre has been reignited and itís an art form Iím getting into and seeing in a new light. These guys have done a really impressive thing with this album. If you like jazz, hip-hop, instrumental, electronic or improvisational music, check this out.
4. Death Grips Ė The Money Store
I never thought Iíd be listening to a band like Death Grips at all, let alone love it this much. My history of Death Grips begins in late í11 or early í12. My friend sent me a link to a track on Exmilitary and told me to check it out. I could appreciate the good production, and it was interesting, but it was a little out there, especially with the angry hobo shouting over the beat. Then after The Money Store dropped, he sent me a link to the track Blackjack. This time I wasnít into it at all, with the really distorted bass heavy beat that kind of wobbled and the even more distorted vocals. My friend gave up on getting me into them. Then Anthony Fantano of The Needle Drop gave The Money Store a 10/10. This is a super rare event, so I thought Iíd give the whole album a listen. First listen was definitely interesting hearing a lot of different sounds on the record, plus it didnít sound anything like the first song my friend sent. Then on the second listen or so it all clicked.
Death Grips are an avant-garde hip-hop, electro-punk, something-or-other trio from Sacramento, CA, featuring Zach Hill of Hella fame co-producing the album along with Flatlander and one of the most interesting emcees on the planet, MC Ride. With each release theyíve pushed the boundaries of hip-hop and electronic music, always with an abrasive attitude like no other act in the game. On The Money Store, there are a lot of different and experimental synth sounds and percussion sounds through out. From the very bass heavy tracks like Black Jack, the ultra percussive Lost Boys, poppy and synth driven Iíve Seen Footage, ultra raw and distorted The Fever (Aye-Aye), and tracks that are truly unique, like Hacker. There are so many more different sounds and ideas introduced on the record that going through Ďem all would almost be missing the point. The experimental, catchy, synth driven and unique beats that producers Flatlander and Zach Hill create on the record are unlike anything Iíve heard and anything that is out there. And then weíve got the emcee, MC Ride. This guy is a force to be reckoned with. The way he delivers his lines are so primal, fierce and borderline psychotic most of the time, yet can be very chill at other times from song to song or in the same song. Heís got quite a range of different delivery but no matter what heís got impeccable flow. And the sense of mystery and marvel that Ride produced is crazy too. A lot of people didnít know if the crazy, homicidal, drug abusing hobo persona that MC Ride has was fact or fiction. Death Grips do something really special with The Money Store, with each factor of the album being genre pushing in every regard. And on top of that each song is unique and unlike the track before while every track is unmistakably Death Grips. If you havenít checked these guys out, go in with an open mind if what Iím describing sounds interesting.
3. Young Hunter Ė Stone Tools
Young Hunter are my favorite band I discovered in 2012. I found out about Ďem via Cormorant, since Cormorant decided to take Young Hunter on tour on the West Coast in the DIY or Die tour. When I heard Young Hunter were playing a gig in Santa Rosa before the tour kicked off, I thought Iíd look up their music. What I heard would proceed to blow my socks off.
Young Hunter are a 7-piece from Tucson, featuring three guitarists, a bassist, a keyboardist, and two drummers. One of the guitarists and the keyboardist are the main vocal contributors. Theyíre style of stoner metal/desert rock is extremely unique and the bands also describes it at nomadic and psychedelic which are extremely fitting descriptions. The album makes you feel like a lone cowboy, making your way through the old west, struggling day by to day to get by, often alone or an unwelcome stranger in a small town. Many of the tracks sound like the atmosphere of gun-drawing duels, with really heavy, tense building riffs or being in the desert at the dead of night and being conscious of possible predators, human or not. The way the album was recorded is really interesting too. They recorded the vocals with homemade microphones, made out of PBR cans! It definitely gives the album a cool, lo-fi, DIY sound. Overall, Young Hunter make a really dark, heavy, distraught, and atmospheric stone/desert rock album that recreates the sounds of the old wild west. Youíre it the desert now.
2. High on Fire Ė De Vermis Mysteriis
Stoner metal titans High on Fire bring us one of the best offerings to date with their ultra heavy and versatile new album, De Vermis Myseriis. The Oakland trio sound their best on the new record, both musically and production-wise. The sound Kurt Ballou gets out of these guys is wonderful and extremely in-your-face heavy and brutal. De Vermis Mysteriis is probably High on Fireís most versatile record, encompassing many sounds from the bandís history while still being fresh and introducing new ideas and themes that we havenít seen from them before. From the faster and more furious then ever songs like Bloody Knuckles and Fertile Green, to the ever-heavy Madness Of An Architect that sounds like it way definitely influenced form the Sleep reunion shows. We also get the closest thing to a High on Fire ballad possible with the track King of Days, which ends with awesome solos trade-offs from Matt to Jeff. The bandís performance is top notch, seeing some of Mattís best riffs and solos and absolutely stellar performances from Jeff Matz and Des Kensel ripping it up all over the new record. With great musical performances, stunning production, the most eclectic set of songs to date, and signature heavy stoner sound, High on Fire put out one of their best records in recent history and one of the best metal records in recent history.
Madness Of An Architect
1. Bison B.C. - Lovelessness
Bison come back with their colossal sludge/crossover sound and their third full-length and fourth release, Lovelessness. The first thing to point out is that the album was written almost entirely by guitarist/vocalist, James Farewell, which explains him being the only one of sings on the record, when Bisonís vocal duties are usually split between James and other guitarist Dan And. This really affects the way the band sounds, since Farewell was going through some tough times at the time he was writing the album. You can feel a lot of pain and sorrow through the music, whether through the riffs, vocals, lyrics, and the tone of it all. But at the same times you can feel the catharsis that Farewell must have felt writing the music, to exercise his demons. Something else different about this album is that itís the first to feature Matt Wood on drums, and he does a mighty fine job capturing the Bison feel and adding greatly to it. With Lovelessness, Bison present their signature colossal sludge sound, combining elements of sludge and crossover thrash with intense, melodic leads that grab onto you and donít let go. The six songs on the record all stretch past 6 minutes, except Clozapine Dream thatís a little over 3 minutes, and they have a lot going on to each song and tons of raw emotion. None of the songs every stay in one place, there is always a transition in flow and vibe. Usually it either goes from slow and sludgy to crossover, or vice versa like on tracks Anxiety Puke/Lovelessness and Last And First Things, but other times itís just from one feel to another, like on the track Blood Music, when it starts of really slow riff based music to a more upbeat, lick based sludge stuff. But no matter what theyíre doing, itís colossal riffs that groove and leads that melt your face, both of which are full of raw, unadulterated emotion. Bison create something truly beautiful with this record. Itís still got their signature sound but feels really pained and beaten but also really cathartic and uplifting. It just proves that the bad can sometimes bring out the best in some people.