In 2012, The Orchard’s large catalog grew way larger, thanks to mergers with IODA and IRIS. To manage the influx, we put all of the new tunes onto a 50TB external hard drive, stuck the USBs into our left ears, and swallowed 168 hours-worth of “5 Hour Energy.” When we were finally discharged from NYU Medical, we compared notes and decided that these ten under-the-radar releases deserve your love and affection.
Masta Ace, MF DOOM: MA_DOOM: Son Of Yvonne [Fat Beats]
1990s rap legend Masta Ace rhymes about his Brownsville childhood over MF Doom’s throwback beats. Big Daddy Kane (!) and Doom guest on “Think I Am,” which revisits Doom’s own “Who You Think I Am,” from his 1999 album Operation: Doomsday (same killer Yusef Lateef sample too). Listen to “Slow Down” on SoundCloud.
Various Artists: Light In The Attic 10 Year Anniversary Single Series [Light In The Attic]
Limited edition 7″ singles featuring covers of LITA artists backed with the original track. They’re all burners, but standouts include Ariel Pink and Dam Funk‘s smoldering take on Donnie & Joe Emerson‘s soul-pop masterpiece “Baby,” Charles Bradley and The Menahan Street Band‘s wrenchingly soulful cover of “I’ll Slip Away” by comeback kid of the year Rodriguez, and a stunning take on Wendy Rene‘s classic “After The Laughter Come Tears” by Sweet Tea [Alex Maas of The Black Angels, and Erika Wennerstrom of Heartless Bastards]. Stream the latter here.
Matsuki Ayumu: One Billion Year Record [Ample Play]
Q: What would happen if The Apples In Stereo had recorded Fun Trick Noisemaker in Tokyo, Japan?
A: This double-album whopper of fun Lo-Fi Psychedelic Indie Pop, issued by Cornershop’s label. We don’t know Japanese, but we dig fuzzy Elephant Six sounds and kitchen-sink instrumentation. Stream it via SoundCloud.
Dean Blunt & Inga Copeland: Black Is Beautiful [Hyperdub]
Formerly known as Hype Williams, this mysterious duo has made have one of the most enigmatic albums of the year with Black Is Beautiful, a post-modern collection of sonic vignettes that incorporates Dub, distortion, drum machine rhythms, abstract Electronica, free Jazz, ambient sounds, Lo-Fi R&B and Pop, but nevertheless maintains a strong emotional core. As an added bonus, they also cover Donnie & Joe Emerson’s “Baby” [“2″].
Badknight: It’s Alright [GHouse]
If you like delicate string-laden Nick Drake-like Folk, put an ear to Bostonians Emily Lenae (vocals) and Devin McKnight (guitar). This seven-song debut snuck out last November, so we’re cheating a bit. Download the standout “Just Like That” for free from their Bandcamp.
Thee Oh Sees / Total Control split [Castle Face Records]
This has been in steady rotation since I saw both bands play two of the more raucous sets in recent memory at 285 Kent last year. San Francisco garage titans Thee Oh Sees deliver four scorching versions of old favorites recorded in a live session that effectively captures the band’s raw, manic on-stage energy. On the flip, Australia’s Total Control play icy but compelling Gothic Synth Punk that nods to influences like Suicide, Swell Maps and Joy Division. Watch the video for Total Control’s “For Lease” here.
Agent Ribbons: Let Them Talk [Antenna Farm]
In 2010, this female duo’s second album Chateau Crone caught our ears with unpredictable hooks that jangled like The Aislers Set and “Kinks-era” Lilys. In September, they issued this digital-only five-song EP to whet appetites for a 2013 full-length. Listen to “Family Haircut” on SoundCloud.
Lee Hazlewood: A House Safe For Tigers [Light In The Attic]
This 1975 album has long stood as one of the Lee Hazlewood‘s most obscure recordings, but it’s on par with some of his finest work. The soundtrack to an equally obscure made-for-television quasi-documentary Hazlewood made as a recluse in early-’70s Sweden, it’s an album that’s majestic, cinematic and uncharacteristically upbeat.
The Twerps: Work It Out 7″ [Underwater Peoples / Chapter Music]
These Australians scratch our Flying Nun itch with a nonchalant breezy breakup kissoff (“Work It Out”), a snotty escapist youth anthem (“He’s In Stock”), and a bittersweet boy-girl duet (“Recall”). Important: not to be confused with these guys, who look like a good time nevertheless. Listen to “Work It Out” via SoundCloud.
U.S. Girls: GEM [FatCat Records]
On her FatCat Records debut, Megham Remy has created a hazy and hallucinatory exploration of ’60s girl group Pop and ‘70s Glam Rock filtered through experimental abstraction, DIY recording techniques, and a marked interest in tweaking gender perspectives. GEM is a pop record that tears away many of the genre’s conventions to get to the heart of its most obsessive, hedonistic, and masochistic impulses. Her cover of Brock Robinson’s “Jack” [video] exemplifies this in spades.
Want more? Here’s last year’s list.