1. Electrik Red - How To Be A Lady: Vol. 1
As good as The-Dream's new album is, I've still got reservations about him as a singer/performer/persona to the point that I kinda knew I'd like the record from his girl group more, but this is really far and away my album of the year so far, it's just fucking out of this world great. The kind of profane, perverse girl power of all these nasty sex songs has a pretty innate appeal to me, but what really puts it over the top is some of Tricky Stewart's lushest, strangest, most aggressive production to date. Every song seems to have so many distinct hooks, both lyrical and instrumental, all woven together into these anthemic songs.
2. Jarvis Cocker - Further Complications
I had no problem when he got married and mellowed out a bit on We Love Life and Jarvis, so the news that Jarvis Cocker was coming back when a mean grimy divorce record produced (ugh sorry recorded) by Steve Albini, I didn't really know what to think. I mean working with Albini can't even be considered a back-to-basics move for Cocker, since he never really worked in a sound like that to begin with. But I shouldn't have worried, because I've yet to hear a bad album from the guy (it helps that I've never heard any Pulp earlier than His 'N Hers), and this is no exception. The sound of the album isn't even as wild or raw as I expected, really it just brings Cocker's songs closer to the dry '70s sound that suits his songwriting really well anyway. "I Never Said I Was Deep" might go in a little too much for his old cheap cleverness, but for the most part this album hits as hard as some of my favorite Pulp songs, even if nothing quite kills me like "Big Julie" off the last record.
3. DJ Paul - Scale-A-Ton
It kinda feels like, based on Three 6 Mafia's last album, that the success and all the Oscars and the reality show kinda ruined them, or at least completely warped their self-image and musical ambitions, to the point that who knows if we'll get a good proper Three 6 again. But it seems like when the pressure isn't on to keep making hit singles, they can go off and do solo albums and Project Pat albums and make dope bleak uncommercial HCP music, which is reassuring. This album is pretty killer from front to back, and Paul's production palette feels kind of more varied and unpredictable here than the usual goth synths and occasional Willie Hutch sample.
4. Young Jeezy - Trappin' Ain't Dead
Despite the fact that Trap Or Die pretty much made his career, Jeezy's mixtape work since then has never been really essential or on the same level as his albums. But his first one since the maybe-classic The Recession seemed worth checking out anyway, and it's really surprisingly thorough, big album-worthy anthems and even some Toomp beats. I'm glad that an A-list rapper still at the top of his game dropped something this month, so that I wasn't tempted to try and listen to the new albums by the dried up husks once known as Eminem or Busta Rhymes or Cam'ron.
5. Gucci Mane - Writing On The Wall
Even though some of my best internet homies were way ahead of the curve on Gucci Mane's current surge of popularity, and I've liked a few of his songs in the past and did the Scratch article on "Freaky Gurl," I'm definitely one of those people that was kinda sleeping on the guy and is really just catching up and actively paying attention now that it feels sort of essential to do so. And so far I'm really liking his first new mixtape since getting out of jail as much as the underground stuff from last year, still retaining that kind of buoyant, cavalier vibe and weird colorful production that's kind of made him an unlikely star.