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Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Pat's Q1 2012 Album Roundup

The opening Winter months of 2012 brought about a terribly drawn out study period for me; however buried under the reams of illegible study notes emerged a wealth of new albums, mixtapes and EP's ; not all good, but all fairly distinctive in their outcomes...

BIG K.R.I.T | 4Eva N a Day 

Big K.R.I.T, currently representing the beating heart of Southern
hip-hop, maintains his incredible consistency on his 2nd free
mixtape, a concept album around a day in his current life.
The beats are incredibly polished, taking new-found influences
from soul while maintaining the lyrical prowess of predecessor,
Return of 4eva. With a retail album still to come, K.R.I.T is
building a reputation the south hasn't seen since Outkast 15
years ago.                                                                                [8]

BLACK DICE | Mr Impossible

Brooklyn electro outfit Black Dice's discography is vast in scale;
with a Grateful Dead-esque obsessive support base driving the
band's 15 year career. Though they may never regain the heights
of studio debut Beaches and Canyons, their 6th LP is a fun
return for the band- who at 30-something have finally reached a
stage of slight accessibility. Mr Impossible has its OTT electro
meltdowns but for the most part progresses with a new found
urgency- with driving rhythms booming over the band's
traditional lo-fi style.                                                              [7]                           

BLONDES | Blondes

Criminally under-publicized, duo Sam Haar and
Zach Steinman's debut under the alias Blondes is a euphoric
success- playing on conventions from the origins of techno.
Though it is a collage of seperate EP's at heart, no track feels
alienated here; this is a deep, well-thought-out, irresistible
collection of classic dance tracks.                                       [8]


As we approach the five year anniversary of Burial's Untrue, one
of the defining albums of modern British culture, the anonymous
dubstep icon finally released an EP that lives up to those true
heights. The grit of past works is replaced with a new airy vibe
that results in a disturbing atmosphere on all the tracks while
maintaining the classic weight of Burial's beats.                    [8]

CHROMATICS | Kill For Love

Some cynics would argue the buzz for Chromatic's 90 minute
epic Kill For Love owes more to Nicholas Winding Refn's
incredible use of their track Tick of The Clock in the film Drive
over appreciation for their past discography. Either way, the
idea of a bedroom pop opus is certainly intriguing but it's delivery
(and I hate saying this) was just plain dull. Considering the album's
duration the sense of ambition just wasn't there; this may just be
personal preference however (I can probably count the number of
60 minute+ LP's that I enjoyed on one hand!) Each drony guitar-
based track ended up blending into a grey malaise which, sadly,
I just couldn't stand.                                                                [3]              

CRAIG FINN | Clear Heart, Full Eyes

As one of the most under-appreciated lyricists of recent times,
Craig Finn's hiatus from a stagnated Hold Steady allowed Finn
to expand his sound through his debut solo record. The songs on
this record lean away from his past rock tendencies and embrace
traditional Americana and country building a new form of
personal intensity from Finn which suits the more personal,
devastating turn of lyrical style.                                              [7]                                                                     

FIRST AID KIT The Lion's Roar

With an average age of 20 and two albums under their belt,
sisters Johanna and Klara Söderberg are undoubtedly talented.
First Aid Kit's rustic pop could easily 
be lifted from any era and
yet it doesn't feel tired on
The Lion's Roar due to the pure 
quality of the songwriting. The two leave themselves exposed in
studio recordings- there is no electronic bilge to cloud their vocal
and lyrical ability and they absolutely nail it here.                  [7]

GRIMES Visions 

To cues of "u look good bb" Grimes, out of nowhere, became
the blogosphere's poster girl in past months. Claire Boucher's
3rd album follows a similar brand of electro to past efforts; it
reeks of retro- video game references, $50 keyboards and
synths... so much synth! The end result is definitely cool but
almost too processed- the Canadian seems to have hidden what
spirit the record had under yet another layer of synths!           [5]

HIMANSHU | Nehru Jackets 

Himanshu (better known as Heems) is one third of New York comedy outfit
Das Racist. His first solo mixtape, 
Nehru Jackets,
contains some of the most insane production I've heard in recent
years- with producer Mike Finito blending various brands of 
asian music into the beats. Unsurprisingly, Heems's lyrics are 
often hilarious and the album contains a surprising consistency
often devoid from a Das Racist record.                                    [8]


Out of nowhere, on the dawn of a new Odd Future mixtape, 
Hodgy Beats released this free EP, ditching long-term collaborator
Left Brain for a range of established hip-hop producers. This 
results in is a much smoother, more conventional hip-hop album
minus the faux aggression of his past Odd Future releases; 
heightening the emphasis on Hodgy's strong flow.                 [8]


Ekstasis, Julia Holter's second full-length album in the space of
six months, draws influences from the likes of Kate Bush and 
Julianna Barwick to build an other-worldly sound. The album
builds a sense of grandiose through a spacious production that 
reverbs everywhere but rarely becomes overwhelming or 
compromising of the striking lyrical content.                          [9]


Having set the world alight through YouTube sensation Video
Games Lana Del Rey's backlash was inevitable- but through
stories of her background came an incredibly tragic pop record
that uses nostalgia more prolifically than almost any modern
artist. Admittedly the record is a little bit one note, as Lana
croons about men, drugs and whatever other common clichés
you can think of BUT this does not stop it from being frankly
enjoyable as hell and comprising of some of the year's best
pop tracks.                                                                              [7]

LIL B God's Father

With a total of 60+ songs already this year alone, you could argue
a case for agreeing with Lil B's outrageous quote on the cover of
his second mixtape of 2012. He serves as a case study for the
potential success of the free mixtape; he rarely takes himself
seriously and there's therefore next to zero quality control.
Nonetheless the reliability of the great beats and often hilarious
parody lyrics make this a nice one-time listen.                       [6]

NICKI MINAJ Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded

Easily the most interesting pop star around at the moment, Minaj's
offshoot of her debut Roman Reloaded is something I wanted to
love but sadly found myself stalled by how crazy and ill-
disciplined it really was. The tracks are more rooted in rap than
the undeniable pop charm of a lot of Pink Friday which is, for
the most part, a good thing but it just couldn't really click with
me unfortunately.                                                                   [4]

ODD FUTURE The OF Tape Vol. 2

Almost four years after the release of Tape 1, Odd Future's 
sequel displays both the maintenance of the collectives
immaturity as well as their corresponding sonic developments.
The fairly even distribution of material to each sub-group of OF
creates the group's most varied collection of tracks to date.   [7]
OF MONTREAL Paralytic Stalks

On Paralytic Stalks, of Montreal seem to take a deliberated turn
towards a psychedelic style with vintage nods to Bowie and
The Beatles. For many, it was a radicalisation too far however
I found the record's blend between catchy pop and avant-garde
insanity to be a great return from a band on the cusp of musical
stagnation.                                                                              [8]

PERFUME GENIUS | Put Your Back N 2 It

Seattle's Mike Hadreas's second LP proves himself to be one of
the most intimate, heartfelt songwriters around today. The tracks
are mostly low key piano ballads but it's Perfume Genius's
approach to love through his lyrics that steals the show; displaying
a fragility that so few artists manage to get across in the modern
age. This is undoubtedly my album of the year so far.             [9]

PORTICO QUARTET | Portico Quartet

Four years after their Mercury Prize nominated debut, Portico
Quartet's 3rd album sees a compromise of their traditionalist jazz
roots for an atmospheric and ultimately more engaging record.
The rhythms are a lot more prominent and instruments like the
saxophone are reverberated to give a haunting experience.    [8]

SOAP&SKIN | Narrow

Anja Plaschg's second record is quite a low key affair- the
songwriting and production is simplistic and harrowing, while
her voice has this musky, airy quality that is engaging even if
my German is nowhere near advanced enough to comprehend
what she's saying! The tracks at times are a little short and feel
perhaps a little wasted to me but overall the Austrian's sophomore
is definitely worth checking out!                                             [7]


After years lingering around the dance scene, Spanish producer
John Talabot's debut was finally released this February. It's an
album that, for the most part, is quite a summery affair with
the sort of precise percussive work I haven't heard since Caribou's
last record, to whom Talbabot certainly owes a great debt.
 fIN, as an album, consistently flourishes both as a dance record
and as an intricate musical achievement.                                [8]


THEESatisfactions' strong musical ties
with Shabazz Palaces made awE naturalE one of my
most anticipated releases for the year. The group do maintain
the smooth blend of jazz and soul with the complete radicalisation
of the hip-hop genre established by Shabazz however the songs
were so short I just couldn't gain a connection with anything on
here leaving me without the sense of passion that's at the roots
of the hip hop genre.                                                              [5]              

THE WEEKND Echoes of Silence

The third of a trilogy of free mixtapes by Abel Tesfaye is
arguably the least engaging of the three- compromising the
absolute grittiness of House of Balloons for a classic pop sheen
in parts. There's certainly a heavier emphasis on Tesfaye's
persona, his voice isn't compromised by autotune for most of
the release while the problematic lyrics are toned down to make
for, personally, the most rewarding of the three releases.       [7]


After a booming input of hip-hop from the States it was promising
to see a UK collective finally gaining some traction in the form
of Young Fathers. Taking influences from the likes of Death
Grips there's certainly an abrasive blend of aggressions on this
short EP however the production just lacked a certain force for
me and I just couldn't click with it sadly.                                 [4]

ZAMMUTO | Zammuto

Serving as the first output from the post-break up contingencies
of The Books, Nick Zammuto maintained his distinctively
focused approach to rhythm to produce an engaging and insanely
tight solo project. There's multiple nods to African music and a
dropping of vocal samples making the record a much rawer
experience than your conventional Books record and gaining a
sound that I ultimately loved!                                                  [8]

Best of Q1 YouTube Mix: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLAD6989085D5D58A8

01 Grimes :: oblivion
02 Beach House :: myth
03 Rufus Wainwright :: out of the game
04 Florence + The Machine :: never let me go (clams casino remix)
05 Lana Del Rey :: born to die
06 Hodgy Beats :: lately
07 Himanshu ft. Danny Brown and Mr Muthafuckin' eXquire :: you have to ride the wave
08 Death Grips :: the fever (aye aye)
09 THEESatisfaction :: queens
10 Burial :: loner
11 John Talabot :: depak ine
12 Julia Holter  :: boy in the moon
13 Perfume Genius :: sister song

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