Author: Justin Gallegos

Sub Pop
Street: 02.24 
THEESatisfaction = Shabazz Palaces / Lauryn Hill 

Hailing from Seattle, Stas and Cat of THEESatisfaction bring some of the most lyrically progressive and futuristic sounds in hip-hop today. EarthEE presents itself as a message of change from people who know they can’t force change. They’re message is not one of desperation like Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five delivered in the early ’80s, nor is it a metaphorical message that needs decoding like that of last year’s Lese Majesty from label mates and frequent collaborators Shabazz Palaces. On “Planet For Sale,” Stas raps, “I’m a planet in the planting, how we destroyed a planet when we didn’t plant things / maybe all we’re seeing now are clan games, but we can’t even see out of our damn shades.” Stas’ lyrics and Cat’s soulful singing turns hip-hop songs into universal hymnals that promote peace and growth but also pack enough swagger to rock a house party at the same time. –Justin Gallegos  

Read Justin’s interview with THEESatisfaction here.

Street: 06.11
Shamir = (Whitney Houston x Billie Holiday) + Sylvester
With a falsetto that ignores gender identity and production help from GODMODE head Nick Sylvester, the Northtown EP is an assertive debut. The digital pop of “Sometimes A Man” channels power disco with finesse, and the gospel treatment of “I’ll Never Be Able To Love” is a classic-sounding ballad à la the Kate Bush tearjerker, “This Woman’s Work.” Sylvester’s affinity for piano loops and lo-fi production qualities gives this EP an authentic feel that’s consistent with nearly every GODMODE release. Those elements, combined with the transparency of Shamir’s gut wrenching vocals, create music that leaves an imprint on the soul. House and disco fans take note—Shamir may be joining your list of favorites for 2014 debuts. –Justin Gallegos

Oscillator Bug
Bursts of the Million
Dymaxion Groove
Street: 09.09
Oscillator Bug = (David Bowie / Animal Collective) + (Of Montreal / Raleigh Moncrief)

Oscillator Bug’s Zaid Maxwell is offering a disturbing dose of “new” with his debut album. Befitting its name, Bursts of the Million is equally full of carnival-like synth explosions—some messier than others—and jagged guitar licks. Maxwell’s voice has a glam rock–influenced croon to it that gives visions of a New Age Bowie gone mad with synthesizers. Similar to Animal Collective, Maxwell has the ability to lay dreamy melodies over a bed of disjointed noise. There’s nothing polished or glossy about these 10 tracks. They’re just expressions of Maxwell’s slightly twisted mind, plastered with psychedelic fun. Bursts of the Million is a welcome addition to the world of art rock, and its songs are open invitations to audible hallucinatory journeys. –Justin Gallegos

King Krule
6 Feet Beneath The Moon
True Panther/XL
Street: 08.24.13
King Krule = Majical Cloudz / Ol’ Dirty Bastard + Tom Waits
There are certain artists whose styling pervades mystery. King Krule, aka Archy Marshall’s easily distinguished sound feels natural as opposed to sounding like an overzealous pop artist, which places him in that category of mystery. His debut LP manages to blend light jazz with minimalistic trip hop, while the music itself remains folk at its core. Marshall’s voice and spirit is a combination of the pain and torment of Kurt Cobain with the clouded confessionals of Waits. This album feels like Marshall took the vibe of classic folk album Moondance by Van Morrison, then dragged it through the London underground, encountering a few alleyway beatings and a few bad breakups along the way. It’s an impressive and intimate debut, one that needs to be experienced to understand. That experience undoubtedly goes down best at nighttime. –Justin Gallegos
Coloured Clocks
Street: 01.27
Coloured Clocks = Tame Impala / Beach House
Coloured Clocks’ minimalist formula for psychedelia reflects Spacemen 3, as well as the space rock of Pink Floyd by offering the mellow kind of psych or “dream-drone” that closes out a long summer day or welcomes in a sunrise when you’ve been up all night with friends. CC’s heavy use of reverb and harmonies whisk me away into a world of nostalgia for movies about the ‘60s like Easy Rider and Dazed and Confused, reminding me to live life freely. Lyrically complex and slightly dark, the album also causes me to reflect on my current point of view on life itself. “Icecream” shines in this way, offering that introspection with no traces of 2013 in its otherworldly nature. “Life is just a hole in my soul and don’t be surprised if you never understand.” Simply put, Nectarine isn’t sad—it’s just full of meaning. –Justin Gallegos

Les Sages
Blood Harmony
Deep Elm Records
Street: 02.26
Les Sages = Death Cab For Cutie + The Format x
Local Natives  
The idea of Les Sages’ third album sounds better than the outcome. It’s a baroque form of rock with a slight mariachi influence. The music itself sounds great, but there’s a sense of freedom lacking in the songs. The storytelling lyrics are intense, but the percussion-driven arrangements seem to inhibit the energy created by Joe Larson’s vocals. From “Chauffeur de Corbillard”: “Driver of the hearse, do you know the worth of the body in the box?” The song features subtle acoustic riffs, but the bells and hand-beaten drums carry the song. The incorporation of some electric guitar or guitar solos alone would bring the songs to life. It’s a very creative way to make music, but perhaps they could have a bit more fun. However, they brilliantly use the piano and harmonies to build emotion on “Cicatrice du Soldat,” my favorite on the album.


Frog Eyes

Frog Eyes
Pickpocket’s Locket

Paper Bag
Street: 08.28
Frog Eyes = Swan Lake / The Unicorns

Pickpocket’s Locket marks the ninth album for British Columbia quartet, Frog Eyes—an indie rock band known for lead singer Carey Mercer’s idiosyncratic songs and eccentric voice. Mercer’s intense display of frenetic energy is all over this album, along with the guitar and violin, which seem to be constantly battling his frantic vocals. If Dirty Projectors were to make a country album, I imagine it would sound something like this. Pickpocket’s unceasing drama makes me feel like I’m listening to an opera singer reciting country music, and the more I try to listen, the more I get annoyed. –Justin Gallegos

Stones Throw
Street: 03.03
Tuxedo = Chromeo / Slave 

Tuxedo is a perfectly balanced duo built on the soulfulness of Mayer Hawthorne and the G Funk capabilities of seminal hip-hop producer Jake One. Their debut album is stacked with modern-day funk that pays great homage to its predecessors. Influencers range from original funk greats such as Zapp and the Whispers, to the work on Snoop Dogg’s debut album, Doggystyle. Tuxedo’s “Number One” is a fantastic interpolation of “Ain’t No Fun,” and thankfully, it’s a version that the whole family can groove to. “Do It,” Tuxedo’s dance-floor-ready single, is as joyful as Pharrell’s “Happy,” but packs more sophistication and maturity, similar to Marvin Gaye’s “Got To Give It Up.” It’s Tuxedo’s sophistication that separates them from any contemporaries they might have, and it’s helped them make an original album that channels classic funk while standing as a reference point for future artists. –Justin Gallegos 

White Fence
For the Recently Found Innocent
Drag City
Street: 07.22
White Fence = The Left Banke + Roky Erickson / The Pretty Things
Tim Presley of White Fence is the stoned outlaw of psychedelic folk music. This is his sixth LP, which was recorded in a studio with help from fellow prolific rocker Ty Segall. It’s the first time Presley has completed a solo album outside of his bedroom. Though the difference isn’t palpable, it sounds slightly more polished without sacrificing Presley’s signature warping, lo-fi techniques. Throughout the 14 tracks, Presley relieves his hysteria from anger and currency through a ramble of riffs and sunbaked melodies. He tends to mix a punk aesthetic with country vibes, but most of these tunes are more country and less punk. While it’s reminiscent of the ‘60s, it’s like nothing being made today. “Raven On White Cadillac” features saloon-style piano chops among spread-apart, psychedelic riffs, and it’s a fun example of the bizarre music Presley creates that I find so unique and enjoyable. –Justin Gallegos

Wonder Where We Land

Young Turks

Street: 10.07

SBTRKT = James Blake x
Jai Paul

If this album is less “pop” than SBTRKT’s debut, it’s because it’s deeper and more emotional. SBTRKT is a producer whose sounds occasionally convey a sexual undertone, but overall, they exude class. They may have nothing to do with the sexual, but they’re so smooth and lucid that they never fail to reach your deepest emotions, especially on this album. On “Higher,” rapper Raury gives a subtly sinister rap about defying expectations, or carelessly exemplifying them, and caring less about a father who left him. There are some danceable numbers, like “Lantern,” that could lend themselves to some intense footwork routines, but the rest of the album finds SBTRKT in a paced and abstract atmosphere working with showy vocalists like Caroline Polachek of Chairlift and A$AP Ferg, who complement SBTRKT’s otherworldly dub sound. In terms of futuristic music, this is one of the most essential albums of the year. –Justin Gallegos