[Friday Playlist] Best Music of April 2016

By Adam Lehrer

As of today, Autre will be rounding up our favorite new music at the end of every month. This isn’t only because coming up with obscure scenes and sub-genres on a weekly basis is getting difficult (it is), but also because Autre strives to be contemporary. Daily, we try and inform our readers of the creative ideas festering inside the brains of artists, designers, photographers, writers, and filmmakers. Music, being the most joyous of mediums, deserves to have its story told at the moment the story is unfolding. These are the sounds driving us wild, today.

Note: The only reason Beyoncé’s Lemonade is not at the top of this list is that Tidal has the rights to her tunes, hence: not available on Spotify. But I’ll add that that record is every bit worth its praise capturing the world’s most talented and adventurous pop singer at the top of her career. So few artists have their souls ripped out every time they sing, opting for Instagram posts for direct communication to their fans. What Beyonce gives us she gives us in songs, and Lemonade is the best album of her career. The most staunch experimental music nerds would all be defeated by the record’s breathtaking scope and cohesion.

1. PJ Harvey, The Hope Six Demolition Project, Track: The Orange Monkey

The always-progressing PJ Harvey released The Hope Six Demolition Project this month, her first since her Mercury Prize-earning 2011 LP Let England Shake. The LP’s title refers to the HOPE VI projects in the US, where down run neighborhoods were revitalized and wiped of crime, leading of course to gentrification and social cleansing. PJ is extremely political here, leading to some of her most vivacious lyrics of her career, with a few missteps. But with PJ, even the lyrics that don’t hit add to her mystique. Her fearlessness makes her compelling, allowing to move through styles ranging from subdued folky tracks to alt-rock ragers.

2. Ihsahn, Arktis, Track: Disassembled

I was quite the metalhead in my youth, but I listened to a lot of the cheesy stuff (Korn, Spineshank). Luckily, that all led me to Terrorizers magazine where I read a glowing review of black metal band Emperor’s Prometheus. An extraordinary concept album matched in its brutality by its progressive textures and rhythms, I became an obsessive. Emperor leader Ihsahn has recorded solo for years now, but new record Arktis feels like the career statement he’s been working towards. Ihsahn’s music is unwavering its brutality, but peppers the thuds with shimmering acoustic guitar lines, moody synths, and here, even a saxophone. There are weaker tracks, but on the strongest ones, Ihsahn proves himself an artist unbound to the stylistic traits that define the genre he has chosen for himself. It’s music, before it’s metal, if you catch my drift.

3. Parquet Courts, Human Performance, Track: Two Dead Cops

New York’s best rock band of now, as anointed by new album Human Performance. No band captures the anxiety of living in the 5 Boroughs better than Parquet Courts, even at the band’s catchiest there is an undercurrent of fear and paranoia lurking beneath the melodies. The band captures a world when even its greatest city is still a shrine to monotony: the daily grind is a grind no matter the locale. Andrew Savage has become one of indie rock’s most literary of songwriters and scathing of cultural critics. But the best part of Parquet Courts, even at their most bummed out “I don’t get out, I don’t have fun” sings Savage} they still sound like their having a blast, like rock is the only thing keeping them through. I went to the album release party in Gowanus earlier this month, and very few indie rock bands are putting on shows as raucous as Parquet Courts.


4. Deftones, Gore, Track: Prayers/Triangles

Back in the early ‘00s, Deftones got unfairly lumped in with the nu-metal craze. After all, the band’s label marketed them as such to cash in on their association with Korn and the like. And while it made Deftones rich, it also made it impossible for them to get the artistic cred they deserve. Really, nothing sounds like Deftones. No band is able to capture the intensity of thrash and the dreamy haze of Cocteau Twins without sounding , well, dumb. All the better, Deftones makes their experimentation accessible, as best evidenced on the now rightly referred to as masterpiece White Pony. Recently released Gore is the band’s best since White Pony. The band’s leader, Chino Moreno, once against juxtaposes his ethereal whispery howl with murder and sex fantasizing lyrics. Stephen Carpenter’s riffs are meaty but muted, letting the atmospheric production dance around them. Now that the critics who have grown up with Deftones are of age, the band finally is getting their place in the culture they deserve.

5. LA timpa, Animals, Track: Animal

OVO is great and everything, but we can’t ignore all the other amazing music coming out of Toronto. LA timpa, an experimental producer straddling the lines of Portishead-esque dream-pop and the aural hijinx of Onehontronix Point Never with a culturally aware satirical voice, released an exciting set of five songs, Animals. This kid names Junya Watanabe and Harmony Korine amongst his influences, and I can already hear this music soundtracking the lives of cool kids everywhere.

6. Youth Code, Commitment to Complications, Track: Anagnorisis

Ryan George and Sara Taylor are Youth Code, the latest band to straddle the line between dance music and all out warfare heavy metal and hardcore. In an article for self-titledmag.com, George discusses his wish that Ministry were able to make a record that was as heavy as The Land of Rape and Honey without ever having to pick up guitars. The guitars that Youth Code does use on Commitment to Complications sound like call to arms sirens, weaving in and out of breakneck paced beats and glorious hate screams.

7. Kweku Collins, Nat Love, Track: Stupid Roses

19-year-old, Chicago-based rapper, singer, and producer Kweku Collins released his debut full-length this month, Nat Love. Though in-line with his more introspective hometown contemporaries like Vic Mensa and Chance the Rapper, Collins is far more of a sonic outlier. His father was an African and Latin percussionist, and that fluid rhythm sense manifests in Collins’ music, along with influences like D’angelo and Tame Impala. There is a remarkable sense of musicality on this record, especially considering Collins’ age. His more obvious forebear is Andre 3000; he constantly seems to be questioning the ideals of what it means to be a hip-hop star. He can find two hip-hop clichés, as with weed and woman like on ‘Stupid Roses,’ and use both clichés to subvert his lyrics into new meaning.

8. Beak, Couple in a Hole OST, Track: Battery Point

The world is better when Geoff Barrow is making music. Though Portishead is long gone, Barrow has been making Krautrock-recalling experimental music under the Beak> moniker for about a decade. Beak>’s newest record is a soundtrack to Tom Greens’ new film Couple in a Hole that depicts a couple living in the remains of their burned home that took the life of their child. Beak> beautifully captures the isolation-induced psychosis of the film. The record is ambient but suffocating. It reminds me of Popul Vuh’s work with Werner Herzog, in that the record provides Barrow with motifs to work with and expand on, letting the music stand on its own.

9. A$AP Ferg, ALWAYS STRIVE AND PROSPER, Track: Strive (featuring Missy Elliot)

Ferg is back and he is obliterating any sense of genre. ALWAYS STRIVE AND PROSPER, while not all together perfect, is an exhilarating listen. With vivacious production from Clams Casino, Skrillex, DJ Khalil, and more, Ferg proves himself the Mob’s most extraterrestrial weirdo. While Rocky in some ways has brought mad mid’90s Bones Thugs N’ Harmony rap-sing, Ferg is a pure futurist. His lyrics have also greatly improved.

10. Wire, Noctural Koreans, Track: Dead Weight

Jesus Christ. Wire literally invented post-punk with Pink Flag in 1977, and here they are 39 years later still making relevant and experimental rock music. That makes them the longest-running actually good band in history. While last year’s self-titled album seemed like an ode to the band’s history in rock music, Noctural Koreans is emblematic of the band’s fondness for experimental electronic music and Krautrock swirl. While last year’s LP was mostly recorded live, these eight leftover (but certainly not inferior) songs allowed for greater studio trickery.

11. Dalek, Asphalt for Eden, Track: Shattered

Experimental hip-hop group Dalek have been on hiatus since 2010, and lord knows there has been much to be disgusted over in the six years since. Dalek comes back on Asphalt for Eden with a revolutionary plomp, joining the ranks of Killer Mike and Kendrick Lamar as the rappers that really care. But of course, they do that while utilizing shoegaze feedback and noise-drenched beats, making their politicizing sharper and more jarring to the apathetic amongst us.

12. Elzhi, Lead Poison, Track: Alienated (featuring Smitty)

Detroit-based rapper Elzhi, formerly of Slum Village, released Elmatic in 2011 as a remake and a tribute to Nas’ Illmatic. It was a breathtakingly lyrical record, and yet outside of hip-hop circles it sort of fell under the radar. I hope that doesn’t happen with Lead Poison, Elzhi’s new album. The album almost didn’t happen, and a Kickstarter fund started in 2013 almost resulted in Elzhi being sued in January when he failed to deliver. Perhaps that angst brought out the best in Elzhi, as he viscerally details the woes of betrayal and loss with one of the fiercest flows on the planet.

13. Primitive Weapons, The Future of Death, Track: Ashes of Paradise

There is something comforting I find in Brooklyn quartet Primitive Weapons, a band that seems to recall the best of every band I loved at age 14; from the mathematic chaos of Converge to the abrasive melodiousness of Glassjaw. Members of the band actually own Brooklyn’s legendary metal bar Saint Vitus, and it seems the influence of the vast array of bands they see regularly has had its positive effects.

14. Bleached, Welcome the Worms, Track: Keep On Keepin On

This band is impossible to not like. From the ashes of all-girl noise punk band Mika Miko, Bleached was formed by sisters Jessica and Jennifer Clavin in Los Angeles. There is no noise here and only a little bit of punk. It’s straight ahead and melodic rock n’ roll, emblematic of the joyous creativity defining the city the band lives in.

15. Susanna, Triangle, Track: Texture Within

Norwegian singer-songwriter Susanna’s music has had many vehicles: as lead singer for art-pop band The Magical Orchestra, Cat Power covers, and in collaborations with Scandinavian artist Jenny Hval. But her one most consistent draw is her voice. It’s a fascinatingly beautiful voice, one that can evoke a span of emotions in the same note. Her first solo album, Triangle, is 70 minutes long, but the voice holds it together. Meditating on religion and morality, Susanna brings in numerous musical styles. It is hard to listen to in one go, but it’s a record with much room to explore.