1. Ben Goldberg - Unfold Ordinary Mind
I saw one of the first shows by Unfold Ordinary Mind, Goldberg's new band with Nels Cline and Ellery Eskelin, when they played in Baltimore late last year, really awesome show. And the album, which is pretty much the same material they played in December, definitely lives up to that performance, beautifully recorded performance. Really says something when Nels Cline is on a record but ends up not being what I pay attention to the most. Goldberg released another album in February, Subatomic Particle Homesick Blues, that's also quite good, I just didn't feel like making room for both here. As usual you can hear most of these records on my 2013 albums Spotify playlist.
2. Tiffany Evans - 143 EP
Five years ago, Evans was a teen star with a minor hit featuring Ciara, and I probably never would've thought about her again after that song came and went. But in the age of R&B singers on the margins of the industry finally getting some DIY spirit and doing mixtapes and indie releases, she put this EP out online and really impressed me with it. Of course, it's 10 songs, practically an album, but still feels like a nice little sampler of what she's capable of. Her voice has that kind of Ciara thinness but she has a great ear for melodies, if she wrote these, and the production is lush and fantastic. "I Found You" is a pretty dope Aaliyah-style song at a time when lots of people are paying respect to her without really capturing her emotional or vocal essence this well.
3. Bilal - A Love Surreal
I've never been a big fan of Bilal, who's the most indebted to Prince of all the neo soul singers but doesn't quite have the talent or the creativity to live up to that influence in any interesting way. This album is dope, though, really feels like his building his own sound and finding things to do with his idiosyncratic voice that aren't flat-out annoying like he's sometimes been in the past.
4. Atoms For Peace - AMOK
I resigned myself a long time ago to the idea that Thom Yorke is not really a very creative or versatile guy, and only writes 2 or 3 kinds of songs, which have had dwindling appeal for me for most of his career. But the idea of him collaborating with anyone outside of his usual camp is at least interesting, especially if it's someone as distasteful to most Radiohead fans as Flea, who is really a pretty brilliant guy no matter what you think of his band. Of course this sounds more like Yorke & co. than much outward evidence that the nimble, subtle bass playing is by Flea, but that's kind of the point. In any event, dig this way more than any of Radiohead/Yorke stuff I've heard in the last decade.
5. My Chemical Romance - Conventional Weapons
I've already written about My Chemical Romance so much in the last week or so since they announced their breakup, but really this little 10 song package of Danger Days outtakes is so much better than it should be, these guys really were awesome.
6. Kevin Gates - The Luca Brasi Story
This guy's buzz had been building for a minute and really ramped up with this tape, hadn't really heard him much before, I guess this is a good intro and a solid mixtape, but I'm not totally sold on him. He's got a unique voice but not necessarily a voice I want to hear a lot of, his looks leave something to be desired ("Narco Trafficante" is terrible), and his writing is impressive but sometimes kind of awkward. Still, though, the overall quality here is pretty high, wouldn't mind this dude getting big, given how few decent southern rappers are in the mainstream right now. "Around Me" is pretty dope.
7. Matmos - The Marriage of True Minds
I already reviewed this but it's a pretty neat record, feel like a lot of it kinda went over my head or needs context but just purely as sound it's really sonically unique and impressive.
8. Arlo Aldo - Zelie
This is the new project from Dave of Kadman, whose final EP I just wrote about here a couple months ago. This is less slowcore and more pastoral and folky, with male/female harmonies, but still really retaining his songwriting sensibility, just putting it in a new context.
9. RDGLDGRN - Red Gold Green EP
These guys are from Virginia and are getting a big push from the local alt-rock station in Washington, DC101, but I assume that push will be national later in the year when their full-length comes, because this EP has both Dave Grohl and Pharrell Williams on it. There's a lot kind of cringe-inducing about this band -- they have no vowels in their name, they're three guys who call themselves Red, Gold and Green, and wear nothing but those respective colors, they say their genre is "indie Go-Go," Green raps, their big single is titled "I Love Lamp"...so yeah, I dunno I'm kind of on the fence about them. But I actually do like the sound of the record, apparently they were recording at Sound City when Grohl was doing his doc, and agreed to play drums on their whole record, and it is kind of fun to hear Dave Grohl play kinda sorta Go-Go beats. The Pharrell track is OK, too.
10. Dan Friel - Total Folklore
I liked Friel's Ghost Town a few years ago, but this being his first solo release since the breakup of Parts & Labor maybe heightens my expectations or just makes me enjoy this less, mainly because it just sounds like P&L with the vocals and rhythm section stripped out. And I like those cool synth noises, but I enjoyed them more as part of the whole band's sound, so this just makes me miss the band more.
Worst Album of the Month: Young Thug - 1017 Thug
Guy has negligible talent and is genuinely unnerving to listen to, but people who rave about everything Brick Squad seem to like it. I got love for Tom Breihan, but his praise for this mixtape is so depressingly self-incriminating: "On a fundamental bar-for-bar basis, Young Thug is, of course, a completely garbage rapper. But he’s interesting garbage." People seem very amused by how he says "Pikachu," it's all really condescending and gross.