The first half of June was spent working on the mid-year review, so there wasn’t quite as much time for new music. That being said, there are still quite a few recommendations from this month — a month dominated by metal and female vocalists, including one incredible metal album with a female vocalist. And as much as I hate grouping these into posts like this, other aspects of life are getting in the way of individual recommendations. So, these types of posts will have to serve as ‘better than nothing’ for the time being.
Fiona Apple – The Idler Wheel…
When the first whispers of Fiona Apple’s return were heard, I admitted to a friend that I was embarrassingly excited about her comeback. Having been a huge fan of her work in the 90′s, I had no doubt that this modern-day Apple would be interesting at the least, with the possibility of being amazing. As the rumours gave way to fact, I found I was not alone in my anticipation. Rave review came in from SXSW performances. Publications such as Pitchfork and Stereogum were gushing in their praise of everything she did or said. Interviews proved she was still the strong, opinionated, unique (some would say batshit crazy) woman who stands somewhere outside the boundaries of genre or classification. But none of that would matter if the new material didn’t stack up. The tracks that leaked were promising, but I don’t think anyone could have predicted Fiona Apple would release a contender for album of the year — but in The Idler Wheel…, she has done just that. Just another honest portrait from an artist who exists in her own time.
Be’lakor – Of Breath and Bone
What Of Breath and Bone might lack in originality, Be’lakor make up for in pure aggression and skill. Australia’s melodic death masters are another solid argument for a genre I usually don’t pay much attention to. To say this album is accessible would probably be considered an insult to the band, but damn if this isn’t one of the catchiest death metal albums I have heard in a long time. Bone crushingly catchy!
Clams Casino – Instrumental Mixtape 2
Clams Casino (aka Mike Volpe) has a rare gift in making hazy hip-hop tracks that can stand on their own. In fact, the argument can be made that these tracks were created to stand on their own. When you strip away the vocals (some good, some bad, some awful) that dominate most of these tracks in their original form, you get something completely different. You get a series of tracks that flow together to create an 30,000 ft. atmosphere. The term ‘cloud rap’ has been thrown around too much lately, but I can’t think of a better way to explain these instrumentals.
Gojira – L’Enfant Sauvage
The latest from French technical metal band, Gojira, lives up to all expectations, and there were some damn heavy expectations. Unlike so many who have been following this band for the past decade or so, I’m actually a newcomer to Gojira’s brand of extreme music. That being said, L’Enfant Sauvage has made me a believer. Succeeding where Meshuggah failed (in my opinion), the tracks on L’Enfant Sauvage are extraordinarily technical, but they leave no doubt as to the intelligent design behind every riff, chord and blast. They leave just enough of a human touch. And for that reason, this is one of my favorite metal albums of the year.
iamamiwhoami – Kin
(To Whom It May Concern, 2012)
Back when I started this blog, iamamiwhoami was nothing more than a few haunting, anonymous videos on youtube. I was intrigued, to say the least, but as time moved on with the absence of answers, I lost interest in the viral campaign. In fact, I forgot all about it until the release of Kin. As it turns out, the voice behind the project is Jonna Lee, and the first tangible product is something worth talking about. If you are a fan of The Knife and Fever Ray, this is another Swedish export you should definitely check out!
Ihsahn – Eremita
The legendary Vegard Sverre Tveitan is back with his first album as Ihsahn since completing his trilogy a couple years ago. For those of you who don’t know, Ihsahn is a staple in the Norweigen black metal scene, and has continued down some pretty interesting paths since the demise of his band, Emperor. Many of these paths only slightly resemble ‘metal’ — most leaning toward a more avant-garde sound than anything else. And while Eremita is progressive in many ways, I feel like Tveitan holds it all together a little better on this release. Sure, there are those passages with saxophonist Jørgen Munkeby, but there are limits to how far they are pushed beyond the structure of the song. For example, nothing on this album comes close to the sessions you’ll find on Munkeby’s Shining albums. I know many will disagree, but I feel like this album is a better representation of what Ihsahn can do than anything in the trilogy that came before.
Japandroids – Celebration Rock
The Japandroids are back! Let’s celebrate! The fireworks that kick off the latest from this Canadian duo are just the beginning of the thrill-a-minute package you are about to consume. This is the rock album of the summer! Full of block rockin’ riffs, sing-along anthems, and angst for all ages — this really is celebration rock! This album should have been released on the 4th of July!
The Mynabirds – Generals
(Saddle Creek, 2012)
This is an album I debated leaving off the list. What We Lose in the Fire We Gain in the Flood was one of my favorite albums of 2010. Laura Burhenn’s voice just floored me the instant I heard that album. Generals was quite a bit less impressive on the first, second and even third listen. The truth is, the album is more immediate in its delivery, but it doesn’t hold. Where What We Lose… haunted me for hours every time, Generals is fun while it’s playing, but immediately gone after the last song. So, I’m going to recommend this album because I think it has potential, but if you haven’t heard What We Lose…, make that a priority.
The Tallest Man on Earth – There’s No Leaving Now
(Dead Oceans, 2012)
Kristian Matsson is back with The Tallest Man on Earth’s There’s No Leaving Now. An appropriate title for an album by a man who seems to pull his fans closer with every release. At this point I feel like Matsson is an old friend, rather than someone who writes songs I just can’t walk away from. Although many will turn away from his ‘Dylan hitting puberty’ vocal style, those who don’t run off instantly, stay around forever. It is true. There is no leaving now.
Various Artists – Profound Lore Scion A/V Showcase
(Profound Lore, 2012)
One of my major regrets was being unable to make it to this Profound Lore Showcase this year. Sponsored by Scion, the all day event was held in Pomona, CA and featured sets from Loss, Pallbearer, The Atlas Moth, Wolvhammer and the almighty YOB! Luckily, for those of us who weren’t able to make it out, we can experience a sample via this free download.
Witch Mountain – Cauldron Of The Wild
(Profound Lore, 2012)
Witch Mountain are a doom outfit from Portland, OR who have found a gold mine in lead singer, Uta Plotkin, and their latest album, Cauldron Of The Wild, is an incredible slab of ‘Sabbath-influenced’ doom with ‘Zeppelin meets early-Heart’ blues. If only this album could recreate these tracks as they sound in a live setting, this would have been the album of the month. As it stands, it’s still the contender for doom album of the year! But like most recordings, it’s a little subdued compared to the live show. That being said, this is the next best thing — and in the case of Witch Mountain, the next best thing is better than most!
Rewind: (pre-June albums on heavy rotation)
Avicii – various tracks (various, 2011/2012)
Bassnectar – Vava Voom (Amorphous, 2012)
Dawnbringer – Into the Lair of the Sun God (Profound Lore, 2012)
Napalm Death – Utilitarian (Century, 2012)
Suis La Lune – Riala (Topself, 2012)