It'd be very easy to talk about how adventurous and creative the production is on the album, but that'd probably make it seem like some noisy Def Jux bullshit, when DJ Quik is quite simply taking his 20 years of experience in making G-funk and laid back Cali rap to tweak the formula in distinctly different ways on every song while still maintaining the filthy party rap vibes, dropping weird esoteric "hip hop is the music of the devil"-type lines into songs about fucking. "Whatcha Wan Do" and "Hey Playa!" are trunk-rattlers with only slightly unorthodox production elements, but Quik goes all out on "Jupiter's Critic & The Mind Of Mars," adopting one of the many vocal effects besides AutoTune that's usually ignored by hip hop to dart around the hyper beat, mixing wisdom with nonsense: "I don't talk about swag, what is it? A blizzard, can you thizz it? Can you diss it? IT'S CHARACTER! You miss it? It's America, you visit? Did u get on a boat without a ticket?" Any aging rap veteran that's just coasting on diminishing returns and forgetting how to flow needs to listen to this album and feel ashamed of themselves.
2. Sonic Youth - The Eternal
Now that the decade is coming to a close and Sonic Youth have released their 5th album in it, I think it's fair to say they've equalled and then surpassed their '90s output -- Murray Street and Sonic Nurse are two of my favorite rock albums of the past 10 years, and this one is quickly coming up as my third favorite of that period. I was a little afraid that another 12-track album would mean that, like on Rather Ripped, they'd pare down the extended instrumental sections in search of more songful material that doesn't necessarily suit them best. But somehow the balance is achieved between 2-minute bursts like "Sacred Trickster" and the more luxurious jams of "Massage The History," and "No Way" might be their tightest indie guitar swing anthem since Dirty. Every time I listen to this album, new pockets of gorgeous noise seem to open up where I'd never noticed them before.
3. Dinosaur Jr. - Farm
The last two months bringing new albums from Sonic Youth, Dinosaur and the Meat Puppets has been a real bonanza for someone like me who grew up devouring SST's back catalog. The other day I joked to somebody that it's like the return of "the 1987 i've been pining for since 1994." I'm not totally sold on this one as much as a lot of people seem to be, though; I definitely don't like it as much as Beyond, and J's guitar seems way too prominent in the mix in a way that I've never noticed with previous records. Plus it kind of throws me off to have a Dinosaur Jr. album that's over an hour long, considering that every previous one's been under 50 minutes, usually by a lot. Or maybe there's just no way this album can live up to the incredible cover art. It gets better towards the end with "See You" and "I Don't Wanna Go There," though.
4. Mama Digdown's Brass Band - We Make 'Em Say Ooh
Although I played in marching band in high school, I don't really know much of anything about New Orleans brass bands (although once years ago I got a Youngblood Brass Band album that was pretty good). But a guy I kinda know from bullshitting on message boards about music with, Jordan, plays in a pretty good brass band that came through town recently, and I reviewed the show and got a copy of their new album, which is a lot of fun.
5. Elvis Costello - Secret, Profane and Sugarcane
The conventional wisdom about Elvis Costello's catalog for non-diehard fans is to avoid the restrained genre pastiche museum pieces and just follow his rock records. And generally speaking that works out pretty well, but for the first time in a long time, perhaps ever, the former is better than the latter with regards to the rootsy, downtempo Secret and last year's Imposters record, the utterly lame Momofuku. Maybe I'm benefitting from lowered expectations, since this album is a spiritual descendent of King Of America, which I've always regarded as pretty overrated, but it just feels so much more comfortable and relaxed, with the added feel of off-the-cuff spontaneity that the first track abruptly cutting off lends to what follows.