10 Reinforcer – “Thou Shall Burn”
German metal band Reinforcer clambers in for their third album here with the strong, robust Prince of the Tribes, with “Thou Shall Burn” besting the competition by a nudge for its amusingly direct and authoritative titular proclamation, like a glorious amalgamation of the kitschy and the cathartic elements of prog metal all in one nifty basket.
9 La La Lars – “Pour Qui Pourquoi”
Keeping it in Scandinavia here, we go to Stockholm, Sweden here for a taste of jazz revue La La Lars, all of whose albums have been self-titled, up to this point (this one taking the moniker of La La Lars III). It’s an album with a goofy cover of a cartoon-y, Scooby Doo villain type of dude, except this music is more like getting together with the villain after the episode than a tense, Pink Panther type of mood. You’ll thank it for its summery looseness and verbosity.
8 Jimkata – “Bonfires”
Just in time for Lollapalooza, Ithaca, New York’s Jimkata trumpets up some perky, spirited electro pop that will take you right back to the days of M83, MGMT and Passion Pit. On the whole, the album thinned out as a little diluted and monochromatic, but as far as bright summer anthems go, you could do worse than this one, with a pithy approach to keyboard riffing that might even summon up some images of Animal Collective.
7 L’Orange & Namir Blade – “Nihilism”
Southern producer L’Orange has been most prolific lately but somehow this full-bodied hip-hop LP Imaginary Everything with rapper Namir Blade seems like the crux of his vision, with busy, urban-sounding music as in “Nihilism,” on which the line “I could try to listen” seems to both sum up our post-apocalyptic times and also present a clever atonement for the song’s cursory, ephemeral approach to lyricism.
6 Stone Giants – “Metropole”
Somewhat surprisingly, given what I see as an epidemic of ambition toward West Coast “themes,” personally, LA’s Stone Giants and their West Coast Love Stories statement actually plays as something psychedelic and dreamy, and what’s more, a little bit visceral. Frontman and multi-instrumentalist Amon Tobin plots down some seriously bellowing, baritone synth on this track, that is, in particular, toward a most trippy set of results under which this well-sequenced album tends to fly by like the breeze.
5 Club Scout Bowling Pins – “Flip Flop World”
Top to bottom, this new Bob Pollard (Guided by Voices) side project just blew me away, partly for its scrappy penchant for standing apart from GBV, stylistically, favoring psych-rock and early boogie (think “California Sun”; Full Metal Jacket soundtrack) over punk rock and lo-fi. “Flip Flop World” bemoans our nasty habit of half-a**ing it over expedited, traditional rock and roll, that, oddly, comes across as fun for the very reason of its apparent primitiveness.
4 T_A_M – “Temple of Fiddes”
The UK’s T_A_M has created a truly classic LP within I.D.M. in Local Ghost, following in the proud footsteps of his British kind Four Tet and Chris Clark. On the part of Local Ghost, almost no approach seems conventional the entire way, and the artist favors rhythm over melody in a way that comes across as just as risky as it is gratifying and itch-scratching.
3 Mello Music Group – “One of the Last”
There seems to be some moniker identity crisis here because MMG’s “One of the Last” is credited to one “Marlowe” on Genius, but anyway his spitting here is direct and old-school in that it actually exhibits any skill of rap delivery (like he doesn’t sound like he has Down’s Syndrome). “One of the Last” is ultimately an homage to the “old school,” with the double entendre being that he’s part of a dying breed of rappers who speak from the heart with skill and rhythm and actually take this craft seriously.
2 Bruiser Brigade – “The Dopest in the Building”
It wasn’t on purpose but still I seemed to accumulate a mass of these “producer” hip-hop albums, where the name of the “group” pertains to the beat-makers, then leaving any number of otherwise unrelated rappers to come in and mark their territory as they see fit. Well, the dude rapping on this dude is Bruiser Wolf, which should thicken the plot, as should the fact that when he articulates the chorus of “The dopest in the building / You tell / You the first one we killin’ though / You sell” he’s speaking in this bizarre high voice like he’s trying to pose as Little Red Riding Hood over his Big Bad Wolf teeth.
1 St. Vincent – “Pay Your Way in Pain”
I was like do I REALLY have to listen to this St. Vincent album of her posing as a sleazy version of Mia Wallace on the cover? Uh, the answer is yes, as the opener “Pay Your Way in Pain,” after trashy 10-second fu**ing sound bite, weaves up a tapestry of some of the most complex, angular and funky electro-pop, where the Jack Antonoff mix is lavish and ostentatious but the real virtuoso is Annie Clark’s voice as she depicts a wild environment of urban heartbreak, starvation and of course, inspiration.