2013 Honorable Mention Pick 19

Melt Yourself Down: Melt Yourself Down (The Leaf Label, 2013)

An explosive blend of dance rhythms, Eastern European/Middle Eastern melodies, and free improvisation.  There is a singer on the record, but it’s more in the exhortation/chant neighborhood than the songwriting vein.  I really couldn’t even tell what language the singer was workin in.  To my ears, the drummer is the star here, he/she is tight and driving the show with a very high energy level and interesting playing.  I also found myself listening to the bass player quite a bit and I dug his fuzzy tone.

I thought the second half of the record was more original and hard hitting, but it’s very common these days for people to front load the catchier, more recognizable tunes up front.  There’s not a huge difference between the first and second half of the record but I thought it got deeper as it rolled along.  If they had gone hardcore all the way through, it would easily have been best of year material.

Honorable Mention 2013 Pick 18

Chris Shiflett and the Dead Peasants: All Hat and No Cattle (Side One Dummy, 2013)

If you like the uptempo guitar pickin’ rockabilly tinged country, you’ll be into this record.  The band is energetic, the drummer is great and there are generous servings of pedal steel and electric guitar for your earholes.

Shiflett has a solid voice and the tunes are good, but the band playing is what you tune in here for.  If the lyrics were more memorable it would easily be a best of year record.

Best of 2013 Pick 19

Omar Suleyman: Wenu Wenu (Ribbon Music, 2013).

A blistering combination of dance beats and playing that is as relentless and pulse raising.  Most of the tunes have a kick drum anchoring the mix, but there are plenty of hand drums on top of the kick and whoever shreds the shit out of the synthesizer on this record steals the record from Suleyman, who does a fine job singing the tunes.  I think the synth player is a replacement for traditional wind instruments, but the piercing tone and the rhythmic intensity of the playing is very satisfying.

This is definitely some of the best electronic music I’ve heard this year.

Active Music Listening Wednesday November 27, 2013

YTD recordings listened to: 913
Good music, not recommended for purchase: 547
Not good music: 281

Honorable Mentions: 18
Buys: 16

Possibles: Boyd Rivers, Abdoulaye Alhassane Toure, Cryptopsy, Chris McGregor, Brother Ali (2009), Alvin Youngblood Hart, Dave Arner Trio, Trap Them, Bill Horist, MAKU Soundsystem, Melt Yourself Down, Zomby, Retox, Owiny Sigoma Band, About Group, Andrew Cedermark, Jello Biafra, Fat Freddy’s Drop, Jessie Mae Hemphill, All Pigs Must Die, Chris Shifflett, Kendl Winter, Shigeto, Bone Dance, Cage the Elephant, Carcass, Defeater, Tal National, Sidi Toure, Lindi Ortega,  Jonwayne, Christian Kjellvander, Omar Souleyman, Okkyung Lee

@@@ Oh My Heart: Oh My Heart EP (Self-released, 2013).  A big sounding punky rock record that I came to via a music PR email.  Female fronted, it has a lot of energy and sports some interesting jumps within tunes.  Not exactly my favorite style of music, but they’re playing their asses off.

@@@ Tough Age: Tough Age (Mint, 2013).  A retro-garagey-punky record I found on the CFUV weekly email.  The singer has a classic rock voice supported by a riffy guitarist and an active drummer.  The second tune gets into more of a mid-60s clean rock sound with bounce.

@@@ One Direction: Midnight Memories (Syco, 2013).  I’ve been reading about this boy band so I thought I would check them out.  I’m already starting to regretting that decision.  If you take the worst aspects of mainstream FM radio rock and blenderized them with the slick vocal production/arrangements of 21st century pop and then soaked that ill baby in a rank cheese sauce you would have this band.  However, on the cover of their record they appear to be quite handsome so they’re going to be huge.  The music doesn’t matter.

Active Music Listening Tuesday November 26, 2013

YTD recordings listened to: 910
Good music, not recommended for purchase: 545
Not good music: 280

Honorable Mentions: 18
Buys: 16

Possibles: Boyd Rivers, Abdoulaye Alhassane Toure, Cryptopsy, Chris McGregor, Brother Ali (2009), Alvin Youngblood Hart, Dave Arner Trio, Trap Them, Bill Horist, MAKU Soundsystem, Melt Yourself Down, Zomby, Retox, Owiny Sigoma Band, About Group, Andrew Cedermark, Jello Biafra, Fat Freddy’s Drop, Jessie Mae Hemphill, All Pigs Must Die, Chris Shifflett, Kendl Winter, Shigeto, Bone Dance, Cage the Elephant, Carcass, Defeater, Tal National, Sidi Toure, Lindi Ortega,  Jonwayne, Christian Kjellvander, Omar Souleyman, Okkyung Lee

@@@ Shearwater: Fellow Travelers (Sub Pop, 2013).  Some earnest David Bowie-esque big rock off the MOG new release page.  It has a bit more New Age cheese than a golden era Bowie record, but the singer does sound like a lot like the thin white Duke.   Other more mainstream production sounds/vibes emerge as the record rolls through, so if you dig your big whiteboy rock come and get it.

@@@ Danielle Bradbery: Danielle Bradbery (Republic Nashville, 2013)  Some corporate country rock/pop off the MOG new release page.  Opens up with a very shallow number called ‘Young in America’.  Full of whoa hos and some very classic sentiments about the land of the free and that manner of horse shit.  This is some pretty rank cheese mongering.

@@@  Billie Joe & Norah: Foreverly (Reprise, 2013).  A slacker superduo as Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong and Norah Jones team up for a set of country tunes.  Not as bad as I expected,  but if Norah Jones appears on a record you know it’s gonna be sleepy time tea.  She is a low energy hottie.  Songs are solidly done.

@@@ Pitbull: Meltdown EP (Mr. 205/RCA, 2013).   Off the MOG new release page.  A piquant blend of club music, fem pop, and hip hop.  You really have to very high and horny to extract pleasure from this tiresome boom-titch dreck.  The third tune is pretty nice, but it’s a recycled vibe to be sure.

@@@ Flume And Chet Faker: Lockjaw (Future Classic, 2013). Off the MOG new release page.  Electronica with a strong British trip hop flavoring.  Nice bubbling synth keyboard bass lines and non-soaring quasi-dub style vocals.

Active Music Listening Monday November 25, 2013

YTD recordings listened to: 905
Good music, not recommended for purchase: 540
Not good music: 280

Honorable Mentions: 18
Buys: 16

Possibles: Boyd Rivers, Abdoulaye Alhassane Toure, Cryptopsy, Chris McGregor, Brother Ali (2009), Alvin Youngblood Hart, Dave Arner Trio, Trap Them, Bill Horist, MAKU Soundsystem, Melt Yourself Down, Zomby, Retox, Owiny Sigoma Band, About Group, Andrew Cedermark, Jello Biafra, Fat Freddy’s Drop, Jessie Mae Hemphill, All Pigs Must Die, Chris Shifflett, Kendl Winter, Shigeto, Bone Dance, Cage the Elephant, Carcass, Defeater, Tal National, Sidi Toure, Lindi Ortega,  Jonwayne, Christian Kjellvander, Omar Souleyman, Okkyung Lee

@@@ Okkyung Lee: Wake Up Awesome (Software, 2013).  Some abstract electronic music I found via the All Music weekly email.  The first tune, the title track, is a combination of some mid range frequency drones, some low end rumbles, and what sounds like sharp bowed metallic noises.  This segues into some noisy, improvised combination of acoustic and electronic sounds.  It’s bold and unusual and the longer I listened the more I got into the music.

@@@ The Grascals: When I Get My Pay (Mountain Home Music, 2013).  Some above average pickin’ and singin’ bluegrass that I saw on last week’s All Music weekly email.  These guys wrote the theme song for the cable show, American Pickers, so they’re not a small band,  It’s a pretty strong record, they really sing and play well together.

@@@ Machinedrum: Vapor City (Ninja Tune, 2013).  Off the CFUV weekly email, it opens up with a chopped soul vibe over a snare pushin’ d&b rhythm.  It’s a solid mellow vibe over pumped beats formula.  The trippiness continues with a reverbed out female voice and some piano/guitar floating miasma in the second tune, Infinite Us.

@@@ Delta Rae: Chasing Twisters (Sire, 2013).  Some corporate country twinged mainstream rock.  Breathless, female hottie singing about all manner of cliche emotional states.  Big epic production all in the name of recycled melodrama.  Sad.

@@@ Potbelleez featuring B.O.B.: Magic Number (Not sure, 2013).  Some hopped up edm flotsam with a hip hop break down to counteract the generous heaping of cheese sauce slathered on this track.  Blech.

Best of 2013 Pick 18

Jeri-Jeri: 800% Ndagga (Ndagga, 2013).

A unique, steamrolling African record I found on an Aquarius Records email.  What makes this record unique is the kit drummer with a phalanx of hand drummers.  The amount of rhythm on these tracks is very high and it can be very hypnotic.

What makes this record deeper and more powerful is the bass.  This is not some old school African record where you’re straining to hear the bass — the bass playing is somewhat minimal but it’s really thick and in your face.  It’s not melodic, it’s sporadic and designed to push the tunes.

There is a rotating cast of singers and while they do a good job it’s really the rhythm section I groove on in this record.  To my ear, the album really takes off with the fourth track, Mbeguel Dafa Nekh, and it just gets rougher and rougher.  Other highlights include the seventh tune Bamba, where the drummer just gets nasty on the kit and the whole tracks puts you in somewhat of a trance.

There’s so many different kinds of African music  coming out — regional styles, reissues from other periods in African music history — so it’s impossible to say any particular record is the best, but this record is special.

Check it out.