To preface, I’m hardly a worthwhile musician. More of a clumsy dabbler or something of that sort. I don’t listen to much in the way of new releases for whatever reason, so what I do listen to tends to be very calculated. Therefore my list will consist mostly of things you probably could have predicted.
Open Mike Eagle’s “Rappers Will Die of Natural Causes”
This came out over the Summer. I’m a camp counselor for one week in Wisconsin, at a political science humdinger sort of thing. It’s a great time. This tape dropped in the middle of that week, and I can’t say I did anything except listen to it. I remember purposely crafting fables and excuses to drop away from the haps of this camp and listen to this tape. Open Mike is a demi-god of this rap stuff. Check the song “Dishes” it’s the sort of delicious marmalade Studs Terkel would tap dance to.
Shabazz Palaces’ “Black Up”
“Black Up” gave me hope. I didn’t understand it at first. It’s an album you digest, that overcomes you. That you fall asleep to and wake up the next day trying to imitate Ishmael Butler and you can’t really recall why ‘cos you thought you hadn’t like that one track with the overly locquatious and long title. Then it envelops you, and you’re playing it all the time for anyone with ears. This album made me proud to be a human being. As a philosophy major, I dig the discursive nature of Shabazz that runs counter to everything these professors stuff into my head. “I run off feelings, fuck they facts!” Stuff like that makes this worthy of so much more writing. I’ll curtail it though.
Fleet Foxes’ “Helplessness Blues”
Robin Pecknold sang at Kim Jong-Il’s eulogy. J. Tillman arm wrestled Stone Cold Steve Austin, and although he lost, managed to remain great friends with the man afterwards. Skyler Skjelset bought a lady a baguette once and inside was two tickets to a Susan Lori Parks play, she was overjoyed. Christian Wargo is very kind. Casey Wescott is the white man’s Ravi Shankar. Morgan Henderson is the obligatory brown man, but more than that, he taught the rest to properly understand Nietzsche as a reactionary to Schopenhauer. This is crucial. Helplessness Blues saved my life. When this album came out, I was very very sad– all the time. Afterwards, I wasn’t. That’s all I can say about it.
Shut-ins’ “Underwrought Works”
The Shut-Ins is the pseudonym or nom de guerre or whatever you call it of a dude named Ed who makes beats on an ancient e-mu machine. He names tracks stuff like, “The King of Sandwich Island.” As a lonely person, I can’t tell you how important it is to actually listen to this release. There’s this beautiful idea behind the album of expressing humanity and human error through gadgets, gizmos, and electronics. Calculated, off-rhythm bleeps and bloops tunneling all around you but never drifting so far away as to being cerebral. Absolutely beautiful album.
Serengeti’s “Friends and Family “
Geti King Spaghetti String is a minstrel. I know because I played a minstrel in Lord of the Rings Online. Serengeti’s tape is wicked. I played “The Whip” for my Father over the phone and afterwards he cleared his voice and said, “Wow. That was a fantastic film.” Do you understand why that’s such a great thing to say? Serengeti is the David Lynch of this rap stuff. We need more of that.
Baths’ “Pop Music/False B-Sides”
This isn’t a proper release or something I read online once made me feel like Baths didn’t think it was. I don’t care. Baths is one of 3 producers who has made me cry. I don’t feel like telling you the other 2. When this tape gets overly self-aware and glitchy it acts as the perfect rise before descending into these stripped down odysseys of sound. When I listen to this release, I sit on my carpet and read old comic books and think about all the cream sodas I’ve devoured in my life time.
King Krule’s “King Krule EP”
Without overloading you with philosophical jargon let me say this: what this lad is doing is important. I listen to this EP and I get the sense this kid is super concerned with morality, and ethics and being a generally ‘good’ person and girls. These are all the things I think are important, too. Without falling into the typical language traps (see: boredom) when grappling these topics, King Krule turns them into these dreary, dizzy, hazy, drippy, gloopy, loopy, and all those other dwarves’ names, and makes you gyrate in your chair. Factor in that this guy is 17 and I already want to stop making music. I’ll throw what little internet credence I have to support this guy and his music.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.’s “It’s a Corporate World”
Sometimes in between reading David Foster Wallace novels, I like to smile. Depressed is certainly my neutral state, but there are times when I have to wipe the tears from my eyes, throw on my crystal moccasins and dance. Such is Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.’s “It’s a corporate World,” add to the matter that these guys jam in NASCAR racing suits and have a co-sign from Dale Earnhardt Jr. and I need say no more.
Kurt Elling’s “The Gate”
This is jazz. While “The Gate” is a serious departure from my favorite Elling albums (Live in Chicago, Flirting with Twilight) it’s groovy. The Stevie Wonder redux on this album is devastating! “The Gate” has the ability to make you toe tap, and enter an intense Galaxy of Groove.
Nizm’s “A Rapper and a Drummer”
As a rap guy I try not to listen to much hip hop, especially new stuff, because I’m afraid of influences and being influenced. This tape straddles the line of being contemporary and old school. There’s a lot of bounce, and as Nizm let’s you know this is a record frequently spun at the local skating rink. What most alternative hip hop releases have in an overabundance: existential crisis, this tape lacks and that’s a serious plus. Put this on Friday night while getting ready / driving to your weekend entertainment and make note of the blueish green aura of absolute cool that will appear around your person. Yeah, Nizm’s got it like that.