Thom Yorke - Tomorrow's Modern Boxes: All hail Thom Yorke! I swear he can’t put out something I don’t like. And Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes is a true Thom Yorke album. It’s got all the necessary components: jittering drum loops that hiss and pop like your turntable’s dusty needle, linear songwriting that progresses methodically, and most importantly his ghoulish voice warbling on top of it all. While this album fits the ‘Thom Yorke mold’, Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes stands out from his past repertoire. Little by little each song develops every minute detail, carrying me through an echoing oscillator wasteland where now and then I find a humming radio tower sprouting from the landscape like a lone tree, transmitting the twittering music I hear. When a song ends, I’m suddenly pulled back to reality to find I’m still here; the journey was a nice dream, and I have returned ready for the next. Potentially my favorite track is “Truth Ray”, a serene lament bridging the gap between electronica and down-tempo hip-hop. But “Truth Ray” doesn’t simply cross the bridge from one side to another; it’s the castaway soul sulking in the shadows beneath the bridge, looking up one last time before the darkness engulfs it, making it disappear completely. On another favorite, “Nose Grows Some”, Thom sings mournfully atop crystalline chords while a static loop skitters back and forth or like flies over a corpse, a visual image contrasting the beauty of the melody. “Nose Grows Some” closes the album leaving me feeling fulfilled, redeemed even. When it is over, I get the sense that his work here is done. I’m not even sure if I need any additional songs (it’s only 8 tracks). All I need from Thom Yorke is for him to keep up the good work in the future. AROG
RIYL: Radiohead (obviously), Atoms For Peace (obviously), James Blake
Recommended Tracks: "A Brain In A Bottle", "Truth Ray", "There Is No Ice (For my Drink", "Nose Grows Some"
The Budos Band - Burnt Offering: The 10-piece band flushes you with hazy riffs and upbeat horns while moving you forward with its rhythm section. It’s a funky exploration of the darker sides of afro-beat, soul jazz. This album fuses psychedelic rock with heavy metal influences that migrate its dark tones into epic groovy tracks. Burnt Offering will have you moving your body while also head-banging into the night. The sound is close to what I imagine your 38-year-old stoner uncle listens to with his friends. This album is amazing background music coming to a horror show near you. Put this album on turn off the lights and fire off into the ether. WILL
RIYL- El Michels Affair, Manahan Street Band
Recommended Tracks: "The Sticks", "Shattered Winds", "Burnt Offering", "Magus Mountain", "Tomahawk"
Bass Drum of Death - Rip This: Fun fact of the day: Bass Drum of Death actually has three members now, but they still only use two different types of instruments, with one drummer and two guitarists. You see, back in my day [hold up — imagine this granny reading this sentence to you while baking some brownies] Bass Drum of Death only was a fun little duo who made jocund, spirited little ditties (like “GB City”) dominated by, as their name suggests, HEAVY bass drum. Their music was noisy and dirty and youthful (like Lindsay Lohan’s band in Freaky Friday youthful…except maybe not really like Lindsay Lohan, but you know what I am getting at). Rip This is different: It is still distorted, but the vocals are always clear, unlike before. It still has a strong drum presence, but the addition of a second guitarist gives the album a fuller, more balanced sound. It is still vigorous, but it is polished — not every song is quite so “loud” sounding [sorry to bring the granny back for that last comment]. In other words, the band has matured. (Case in point: Bass Drum of Death would never have made a song like “Better Days,” a mostly acoustic song with nearly unnoticeable drums, for their previous releases.) It is still garage rock, but it does not sound like it was literally made in a garage. ASHLEY
RIYL: Thee Oh Sees, Black Lips, Ty Segall
Recommended Tracks: "For Blood", “Burns My Eye”, “Lose My Mind”, “Better Days”
Christopher Owens - A New Testament: Christopher Owens has neither pickup truck nor dog, yet he has the audacity to make a country album. I can only imagine the look on the old-school Nashville producers’ faces when the former Girls front man approached them with A New Testament. This is an album unabashedly steeped in the classic honky tonk of the Grand Ole Opry. The songs take on the innocent sincerity of a Hank Williams ballad and deliver it with a calculated precision akin to George Jones. It’s this sincerity, a heart-on-the-sleeve style of songwriting, which earns Owens the right to play country music. He may not have an F-150, but he’s dealt with a broken heart and he ain’t afraid to sing about. While most of the album runs like a case study on Gram Parsons, inklings of soul and R&B can also be found. For Girls fans I would recommend tracks 2 and 12 where the overdriven solos a la Father, Son, Holy Ghost manage to rip past the pedal steel guitar. SHILL
RIYL: Girls, Natural Child, Gram Parsons
Recommended Tracks: “Nothing More than Everything To Me", "It Comes Back To You”, "I Just Can't Live Without You (But I'm Still Alive)"
Tokimonsta - Desiderium: With the sudden mainstream popularity of DJ-producers and the rise of Soundcloud as a legitimate distributor of music, the electronic music scene became an incredibly interesting field in which one can see both innovation and stagnation. In a world where I can find a remix of practically any song made by a label signed professional to a kid in their room, it’s become a challenge not to sound generic. Tokimonsta’s Desiderium is an interesting case, because while the production is well layered and executed skillfully, I can’t help but think I’ve heard something very similar to it. Desiderium opens with “The Beginning”, a song that starts with a display of horns, a choir, and synth pads that lead into a snare pattern that eventually turns into a drop featuring a very acidic synth melody accompanied by Roland 808 drums. If I were to attempt to illustrate a typical song from the LA beat scene in 2014, this would be a very good example, as I can go to a show curated by the label Soulection only to find ten other songs just like it. “Drive feat. Arama”, “Raella feat. Anderson Paak”, and “Open Air ft. Joyce Wrice” all reek of the RnB driven electronic music popularized by producers and singers such as BANKS., Shlohmo, Ryan Hemsworth, or Kelela. Of all three songs, Raella best demonstrates Tokimonsta’s skills to create a rich atmosphere with chemistry with the singer, while the other two can demonstrate the pitfalls of using an already done sound. “Dusty Stars”, “Steal my Attention”, and “Sakamoto’s Spring” are littered with fitting samples, synths, and well layered rhythms that are excellent to dance to until you bob your head off songs. Although not too innovative, Tokimonsta is very talented in what she does as she offers her refined version of over saturated sounds and styles. DYLAN
RIYL: Shlohmo, Ryan Hemsworth, Esta, Giraffage, Cashmere Cat
Recommend Tracks: “Steal my Attention”, “Realla”, “Sakamoto’s Spring”