Buke and Gase - General Dome (2013)

Progressive, experimental, and math-influenced indie rock; it's catchy too.

buke - a six-string former baritone ukulele.
gase - a guitar-bass hybrid.

Buke and Gase is a duo comprised of former members of a post-punk group, and it's not hard to hear elements of the post-punk sound contained on this record.  Wonderfully fun to listen to, particularly highlight track "Hiccup."

In Transit - Recycle Culture (2013)

A whole new year of releases to look forward to, and the first few good ones are starting to trickle in. Woot! Mostly ambient pads and swirls (and some acoustic instrumentation) with downtempo beats and the occasional funky bass line to keep everything grounded, this specimen is great for a background soundtrack while you spend your time being awesome. Happy (very belated) new year!

Alberto Iglesias - The Dancer Upstairs OST (2002)

Alberto Iglesias is a fantastic Spanish composer most famous for his scores of Pedro Almodovar's excellent films. here he provides the music for John Malkovich's directorial debut, which is predictably pretty awesome in its own right. like another of my favorite film composers Osvaldo Golijov (who is now apparently Francis Ford Coppola's go-to music dude), Iglesias uses indigenous musical elements to flavor his compositions, most notably in the opener "Pasito" and "Calle Diderot." but what separates him from similar composers is his modern aesthetic, which incorporates contemporary techniques like dense swarms of microtonal strings ("Theatre") and prepared piano ("The Dancer Upstairs 1"), but pairs them with nods to traditional classical idioms. for instance "Blackout Violino", with it's little repeated pedal drone, reminds me of the superb fugue from Bartok's Solo Violin Sonata. altogether it's a compelling mishmash of styles that maintains a stark edge without losing the lushness essential to the emotional resonance of the score.

Malkovich Malkovich?

Njiqahdda - Serpents in the Sky (2013)

Njiqahdda are nothing if not prolific, but the extra time spent on this one (the band's last release was in 2011, during which it was responsible for four LPs) could be the reason for its quality.  Serpents in the Sky shines as an avant-garde, though still coherent and accessible, 70+ minute black metal album.  Thankfully, this one avoids the most familiar of prog metal trappings during what is possibly the apex of the genre's popularity (and staleness).

Feature: J. Nolan and The Upbringing

J. Nolan is the CO behind what he has established as The Manifest Movement, the purpose of which is "to crate a platform for artists to reach the masses while encouraging fellowship within the community." Whether or not he'll be able to reach this goal remains to be seen, but so far he's done more than enough to be on the right path, and it seems he might be able to materialize his goals after all.

As an artist, I'm aiming to create a longstanding career and just bring another side to what a lot of people would call 'street music.' Most times you'd think of senseless violence and ignorance for a tagline like that, but people overlook the ethics, spiritual inclination, and awareness that can come from it.
Nolan's work is riddled with interesting and impressive elements; his lyrical delivery has a certain amount of efficacy that stands ground among the most bare-bone and honest songwriters - furthermore, his work with Yung B has spawned one of the most solid duos in the scene. The beat selection is left-field and reminiscent of some of the west-coast street-strange experimentation that is going on (Maddgibbs, Ghostpurp, etc), as well as being in par with some NY aesthetics. A very powerful release, it'll be interesting to see where things go for Nolan and his movement.
Cover for "The Upbringing"
We did an interview with the artist, who currently makes his home in Atlanta, GA, about his work, working with Yung B, and what is next after the release of The Upbringing.

WFLM: First things first, tell us a little about yourself, what your mission is and anything else you'd like to mention.

JN: Well, my name is Jamar Anthony Nolan. Many people know me by the stage name, J.Nolan or simply Nolan. I'm originally from New Haven, Connecticut and have spent a majority of my life in various areas of Atlanta, GA. Part of my childhood was split between Atlanta and San Jose, California so I got to experience a few regional differences in my younger years and each place has played a role in who I am today.

My mission is pretty simple. I have a personal motto that I recently adopted: "Excellence is the only goal." What that means to me is that I'm striving to do my best in whatever I take part in. As an artist, I'm aiming to create a longstanding career and just bring another side to what a lot of people would call 'street music.' Most times you'd think of senseless violence and ignorance for a tagline like that, but people overlook the ethics, spiritual inclination, and awareness that can come from it. I feel like that's where people like myself and Yung B Da Producer can kind of connect the dots. Whatever influence I'm able to gain, I'd like to help bring others closer to that side of life and let them know that they can embrace their higher selves regardless of their past. The toughest thing is to do that without coming across as corny so I make sure to make the best grade of music so I can still appeal to folks' worldly senses. They'll relate to me on one side, if not the other.
A lot of people feel pressure to 'dumb themselves down' and I'm more about pushing that part of the culture forward. Whether it's conveying spiritual ideals or just explaining life in a slightly more articulate fashion, I think that's something I'm able to do pretty easily.
WFLM: How would you summarize the process of recording and releasing this album?

JN: The process of recording the album was a bit out of the ordinary for us. We actually had to record everything separately and collaborate through emails. That's pretty standard these days for random features or when dealing with producers, but to complete a whole album with the kind of chemistry we have was definitely an interesting process. Releasing it was another obstacle. We originally expected to have it out between mid October - early November, but personal life kind of had its way of slowing things down. But I was really adamant about getting The Upbringing out before 2013 hit so we just went for it. It was a blessing that we ended up finding a reliable distribution source for all the outlets we ended up covering (iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, Rdio, etc). This was both of our first times having an official product for sale even though we're giving people the choice to purchase or not.

Watch an old interview of Nolan

WFLM: You mentioned that you like to make sure that the music is top notch so you can deliver your message better, could you elaborate on how you make that happen?

JN: That's really just in terms of making sure the overall theme is apparent to the listeners. You want people to be able to navigate through your project pretty smoothly. Even if they don't completely understand what you're talking about, you want them to feel a certain way when they hear it. We're very big on the spiritual element of things, but we weren't always this way. Our experiences that led us to this point are what we touched on with The Upbringing. That picture is painted with the production, the rhymes, and even the artwork. Everything about this album is pretty aggressive.

WFLM: On that topic, the music selection is actually pretty left field for the subject spoken, how did you and your producer come to select the beats for the songs?

JN: When I work with Yung B, I let him pretty much take the driver's seat. He came up with the beats and in a lot of ways, he orchestrated the direction of the songs. Before we started on anything, we both had been talking about wanting to make something that felt like the early 2000s era of Roc-a-fella/Dipset/State Property in terms of production and bringing our personalities to that sound.

WFLM: Is collaborating something you want to make a priority?

JN: I wouldn't say it's really a priority. My whole thing is carving out a lane for the full dynamic of our sound and message. Once you develop your own space, it's interesting to bring other artists into your world. And I understand when other people want to bring me into their world as well; it just makes everyone's movement
that much more exciting.

WFLM: You said that you wanted the project to be easy to navigate through even if the listener doesn't completely understand your message from first listen, do you find that doing this makes the album more enjoyable, making it easy for the listener to come back and decipher deeper meanings within songs?

JN: Yeah, for sure. I feel like music should be enjoyable at surface level first. The object is to make a good song that people want to listen to. It's just about having the songwriting ability to make something that's thought provoking at the same time.

WFLM: So while you liked to work with Yung B, would you say there is a high chance you would try other producers? Lately, it seems like everyone is collaborating with everyone.

JN: Of course. I've worked with a variety of producers on my previous work and even my upcoming projects have other producers on them. The situation with Yung B is that we're family and we started out making music together before anyone even took notice to who we were, so it's more than just making tracks with us. It's about crafting a whole sound and bringing forth our personal image as a team.

WFLM: Do you feel accomplished with the language you used to convey your ideas in the songs?

JN: Well, if you mean am I satisfied with the language used, then yes. I personally don't use any profanity in my lyrics and I've gotten to the point where I can speak about anything I want without being vulgar. That's an accomplishment in and of itself in Hip-Hop. Beyond that, our genre of music seems to have a very limited vocabulary at times. A lot of people feel pressure to 'dumb themselves down' and I'm more about pushing that part of the culture forward. Whether it's conveying spiritual ideals or just explaining life in a slightly more articulate fashion, I think that's something I'm able to do pretty easily.

WFLM: And finally, where do you stand now that the record is released? Do you plan on trying to instigate touring, or supporting it in similar ways? What's next?

JN: We're definitely entertaining the possibility of touring. It's a bit tough to call since we're virtually doing all of this alone so the resources are scarce, but I'm a firm believer in timing. So even if touring doesn't come directly from this project, our time will come. We will have some music videos for The Upbringing released in the near future, though. Outside of that, I'm preparing my next solo project "Distinction" and putting the pieces together to launch my #DistinguishYourself campaign. Yung B is also getting ready to make his solo debut.

Nolan has decided to release the album in a "pay what you want" fashion, so don't forget to pick a copy of The Upbringing at his bandcamp page.

Aksumite - Prideless Lions (2012)

Pretty killer experimental black metal from DIY label Colloquial Sound Recordings, complete with tape hiss.

Cool things about this one:
- African tribal religion theme
- Punk meets black metal

For that second one, think punk riffs and vocals with the occasional shriek and/or blastbeat.  Still much darker and more metallic than your average hardcore release.

Talking Heads - Remain in Light (1980)

If there's one thing David Byrne's recent outing as long-form non-fiction writer, How Music Works (looks at the societal, cultural, and business aspects of the creative process; written for the layman and, though I'm only about halfway through, highly recommended), accomplishes, it's a startling good advertisement for his music, particularly his tenure as co-founder of the Talking Heads.  Byrne describes the creation of Remain in Light as a sort of contrast to what went into TH's previous albums (first and formost, the band started with a completely blank slate).  Byrne's just finished collaboration with Brian Eno, a groundbreaking experiment in sampling titled My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, influenced the group to use a similar method.  Without going into too much further detail, songs were crafted around a certain musical motif (which varied from drum beats to guitar licks) where the rest of the band would simply expand on each song's "motif."  The result is an album with undeniable groove, catchy choruses, and artsy bits: a mixture with massively broad appeal.  

Swimful Buterfly - 馬路天使 [Street Angel] (2013)

some blissful, sprawling stuff from china. the scene in some pockets of the country is growing pretty strong, and this bliss-hop/420/cloud shit is a fine example of that. really impressive stuff. also, he produced for lil b once. go figure.

Timeghoul - 1992-1994 Discography (2012)

Old school DM group formed in 1987 as Doom's Lyre.  This is a compilation of their complete discography.   Sadly, it's only comprised of two demos: Tumultuous Travelings and Panaramic Twilight (misspellings are kvlt) released in '92 and '94, respectively.  Regardless, this is an excellent sci-fi spin on the genre, complete with an over-abundance of excellent OSDM riffs.  The music here definitely leans progressive/technical, but it retains a raw edge and, despite the recent rework and the on-going loudness war, is certainly not overproduced.  This one's neither bricked nor shiny-clean.  One of the very best releases of 2012.

Suhnraw - Beat Addict. (2013)

now this aint no sun ra, but it sure does justice to the name. beat-based venture dabbling in everything from glitch-hop to sample based cut-wizardy from japan. savvy in what it does, this guy delivers frequently. 2013 not being terrible once more.

Lil Ugly Mane - Mista Thug Isolation (2012)

This is trill (for the uninitiated, that's a combination of true and real) gangsta rap made by some white guy from Richmond, VA.  It's also trap at its finest: there's nothing intelligent or obscure about the lyrics here (as opposed to, say, a verse from Madvillainy), and if you take offense to misogyny, near-constant weed babble, or the like, this album isn't for you.  If you dig deliriously heavy and sludgy trap beats, produced by Lil Ugly Mane co-conspirator Shawn Kemp: look no further.

Oh, and let's have a hand for that killer, LUM-original album artwork up there.

V/A - Living Is Hard: West African Music In Britain, 1927 - 1929 (2008)

Really fascinating collection of recordings from West African musicians living in Britain in the 1920s, originally found and recorded by Reverend J. J. Ransome-Kuti, Fela's grandfather.

Lots more written, and available for purchase, here.

CHARMS - Hillary (2013)                               

look at that fucking cover jesus christ. anyway, charms is a seattle based jangle-pop-garage-indie-rock group recently formed, with a sound that recalls the great "lost" 90s classics (lovelyville, alien lanes, stratosphere, bakesale, et al.) with ease while interpolating all that with scrunchy, jangly garage rock.


Norwegian Arms - Wolf Like a Stray Dog (2013)

so far, 2013 is shaping up. norwegian arms is a neo-freak-psychedelic-folk band that released a stunning ep 2 years ago, and with their debut, they prove to be a budding force. complex, energetic, and somberly fun - all wrapped up in this great album. 

Hiatus Kaiyote - Tawk Tomahawk (2012)

i'm adding this as an addendum to the best of 2012 list. this sprawling release is smooth, fresh, interesting, experimental, and most notably of all: good. damn good. nu-jazzy, trip-hoppy even, smooth interesting pop ala the collab between gorillaz and little dragon. expect this on the next mix.

On Retrospect: Best of 2012 & Playlist     

disclaimer: this is my list only. this does not reflect the blog as an entirety, unlike that picture would have you believe - I didn't make it, but the one who did is a liar. 

samples of these albums are on the below "BESTOF2012" mix:

in order of playlist appearance

Totems - Island EP
Track: BEING

Skeleton Lipstick - Glows Then Melts
Track: Heart Keeps Beating

Animal Collective - Centipede Hz
Track: Mercury Man

 Ravi Coltrane - Spirit Fiction
Track: Spring & Hudson

A Shoreline Dream - three
Track: February Truths

Fault Usura - Elysian Dreams (single)
Track: Elysian Dreams

Imbogodon - And They Turned Not Wen They Went
Track - Slate Grey Light

Prutsers - Volume 1
Track: My Generation

Mount Eerie - Clear Moon
Track: Lone Bell

Trans Upper Egypt - North African Berserk
Track: I'm Not Good at that Stuff

Teen Daze - The Inner Mansions
Track: Divided Loyalties

Yeasayer - Fragant World
Track: Henrietta