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AUX’s Top 10 albums from August 2014

September 10, 2014

Each month at AUX, our specialists in punk, metal, indie, hip hop, electronic, and pop vouch for their favourite releases of the month and have it out behind the scenes to bring you a trim, alphabetical, genre-representational list of the Top 10 Albums of the Month. Such fun!

Here were our favourite releases from August 2014

By: Jesse Locke (JL), Jeremy Mersereau (JM), Tyler Munro (TM), Mark Teo (MT), and Aaron Zorgel (AZ)

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Actual Water
Call 4 Fun
(Bad Actors)

It’s unusual for bands to mature into, uh, immaturity. But Toronto band Actual Water’s evolution has inched closer to their Cro-Magnon roots: While the Toronto act built their name of art-damaged psychedelia, Call 4 Fun trades in whippet-fuelled power pop, which comes off as sloppy as their LP’s washroom graffiti-referencing title suggests. Fortunately, it’s a style Actual Water wears well. And as tongue-in-cheek as some of these songs are — I mean, “647-445-1141”’s chorus chants some poor rat goof’s phone number, almost daring listeners to call — these songs are built around searing solos and undeniably compelling melodies: “Fire on George Street,” a reference to a seedy east-end street, fits neatly into Bad Actors’ punk-pop catalogue, easily recalling Young Guv or Marvelous Mark’s work. Elsewhere, their power pop tracks come dazzlingly close to touching the genre’s platonic form: At their glammiest moments, New York Dolls comparisons could be made, but more aptly, they scrape perfection — on “Waldo Jackson,” “Three O’ Clock Kids,” and countless others — on par with the Exploding Hearts. Add on a liberal does of shit-eating snark, and Call 4 Fun is a Toronto summer classic in the making. (MT)

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Columns
Please Explode
(Relapse)

Like the Red Chord before them, Columns float effortlessly but with unbridled aggression between grindcore, death metal, and d-beat infused thrash that the only thing to call them is extreme metal. And while Please Explode isn’t their debut, it’s their first for Relapse and, following 2010’s Just Another Species, the first time their sound has fully come together. It was totally worth the growing pains, too, because the North Carolina quartet, which features former members of Glass Casket, Vehemence, Wretched, and Hemdale, has crafted an album that’s as ferocious as it is groovy. Sure, these songs can seem haphazardly tossed together at first, but their jarring shifts are no accident; not simply a collection of sounds stuck together, Please Explode is, more than anything, a collection of songs. Really good ones, too. (TM)

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Lewis Baloue
Romantic Times
(Light in the Attic)

The singular softness of the 1983 private press paragon Lewis’ L’Amour has long been the subject of whispered reverence. Recent months have seen Light in the Attic’s reissue come complete with a captivating tale of rediscovery, from a previously unknown second album to the man himself and even beyond. Yet the music of Romantic Times must not be eclipsed. In the shadowy space of 1985, L’Amour’s muted pianos and unintelligible mumbles have been replaced with pained moans and saxophone siren calls. The shimmering strains of “We Danced All Night” emerge from the ether with eerie similarities to a Sinatra staple. Stuttering waltz beats guide the trio of “Bon Voyage,” “It’s A New Day,” and “Don’t Stop It Now” through a déjà vu dream sequence. The lyrics of “Bringing You A Rose” veer into unsettlingly Lynchian territory, yet Romantic Times’ truly transcendent moment is its synth-driven centerpiece, “So Be In Love With Me.” Set against a starkly pulsating backdrop, the song’s opening line is repeated with the passion of an idée fixe: “There is always real love / Just as long as there is you.” (JL)

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Merchandise
After the End
(4AD)

Even months before its release proper, After the End was already the album that spun a thousand thinkpieces. For good reason: Merchandise has created a grand mythology, first as high-minded Floridian hardcore scene refugees, then as fringe-dwelling experimenters living on the edge of America. And After the End, they told everyone who’d listen, was their rebirth as a pop band. And is it? Yes and no. It’s their most ambitious LP yet: Carson Cox’s croon has developed into something singular, defying those early Morrissey comparisons, and David Vassalotti’s guitar — which was so hypnotizing, it could transfix for 10-minute songs — stretch out larger than ever, reimagined with 12-strings and five-note power ballads. Still, it’s also Merchandise’s most uneven effort yet, and their most pop moments, in fact, are where the band falls flat: “Little Killer,” After the End’s first single, feels reductive among the album’s more grandiose moments, and “Telephone” — whose cascading chorus is the LP’s most earnest earworm — is sandwiched between verses that feel, at worst, tedious. Still, while it’s not as breathtakingly brilliant as Children of Desire, After the End occasionally reaches peaks so high, it reminds why Merchandise are one of the best bands on the planet. (MT)

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Tre Mission
Stigmata
(Big Dada)

Tre Mission’s probably the only Canadian grime rapper/producer currently recording, but don’t let the 416 area code fool you: his debut album is real grime through and through, and it has the features to prove it. When the don himself Wiley deigns to lend his off-kilter flow to your album, that’s a co-sign that means something. The strange, busy rhythms on tracks like “Rally” and “Jack Pot” might sound completely unfamiliar to North American ears, if not outright alienating, but anyone tuned into the UK spectrum of underground music will recognize that this is a real disciple of the sound at work.
Lines like “boy in the corner/she was calling me dizzy” might be a bit too on-the-nose, and some beats are a bit under-baked, but for the most part, Tre nails the momentum that makes grime the most exciting underground dance music. (JM)

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Panopticon
Roads to the North
(Bindrune Recordings)

Kentucky missed the mark. Its promises of blending Panopticon’s atmospheric black metal with Austin Lunn’s southern heritage didn’t quite gel, and its folky interludes of plucky banjos and fiddles felt incongruous to the album’s overall sound. Follow-up Roads to the North rectifies that. By being naturalistic and violent, it solidifies itself as the next progression in whatever the fuck “cascadian” black metal is supposed to represent. The bluegrass flourishes are organic to the songs, which now feature Lunn’s newfound love of guitar solos within Panopticon’s already expansive song structures. While perhaps longer than it needs to be, “The Long Road” trilogy of songs, clocking in at more than 20 minutes, make Roads to the North a must hear for open-minded black metal fans. (TM)

[bandcamp id=”3456041268″]

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PARTYNEXTDOOR
Two
(OVO Sound/Warner)

Put a Jenner in your video so we know it’s real. Since signing to Drake’s OVO Sound last year, Mississauga-born Jahron Brathwaite (a.k.a. PARTNEXTDOOR) has enjoyed a steady rise to relevance as the Champagne Pupil, one of a select few Drake has taken under his owl wing. The producer/crooner’s sophomore release Two dropped less than a week prior to a career-catapulting mini-set at this year’s OVO Fest, and if we may put it in “The Language,” Party has a #1 album on Billboard’s R&B/hip-hop charts, he’s hanging out on a boat with Kylie and Kendall Jenner, and Nothing Wasn’t Not The Same. Two is PARTYNEXTDOOR at his peak, with twelve palatial self-produced beats with hooks to match, proving that Party will be instrumental the 2015 6ix summer takeover his mentor is crafting. (AZ)

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Rustie
Green Language
(Warp)

Russell Whyte’s follow-up to his breakout, 2011’s Glass Swords, isn’t
quite the quantum leap forward that neckbearded Warp-heads like me
were hoping for, but it’s still more listenable and has more
interesting moments than the average 2014 trap album. Tracks like “A
Glimpse” and “Paradise Stone” recall the best elements of Glass
Swords, managing to sculpt busy arpeggios and ringing bells into
blissed-out bangers. “Raptor” and “Velcro” come complete with massive
808 percussion and huge drops, and it’s a testament to Rustie’s skill
that these now-familiar elements retain every bit of their power.
Danny Brown and grime star D Double E lend some bars to “Attak” and
“Up Down” respectively, but the effect is counter-productive: the
rhymes genericize rather than elevate. It’s disappointing that Rustie
didn’t aim higher than just-above-average trap (now with 100 per cent more
bird samples!), but I’ll still take it over DJ Snake. (JM)

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Travi$ Scott
Days Before Rodeo
(Grand Hustle)

Who is Travi$ Scott, aside from a Texan with two first names and a dollar sign? A producer? Sure. The Very G.O.O.D. Beats ringer has three credits on Cruel Summer, and share of those Yeezus royalties to prove it. Is he a rapper? Evidently. Features alongside Meek Mill and Pusha T gave way to Scott’s first full-length mixtape Owl Pharaoh last year. On Days Before Rodeo, a free mixtape released in advance of his official Hustle Gang debut, Travi$ Scott: the producer and Travi$ Scott: the rapper finally coagulate in the shape of Travi$ Scott: the unfuckwithable artist. The 12-song offering boasts features from nouveau rap-game glitch Young Thug and hubbie Rich Homie Quan, Big Sean, Migos, with production from Wonda Gurl, Metro Boomin, Lex Luger, and oft-collaborator Mike Dean. Days Before Rodeo accomplishes exactly what Travi$ Scott needed it to do, giving the listener a sense of just how much Scott influenced Kanye West’s approach to Yeezus, and by extension, how hip-hop sounds right now. (AZ)

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Various Artists
Meet the Factory
(Plastic Factory)

In classic scene-surveying fashion, this 20-song double LP compilation serves to document the hub of activity surrounding Montreal venue Drones Club. Mike Wright of Each Other and Greg Napier of Sheer Agony/Special Noise/Museum Pieces/etc. launched their label in March with Nap Eyes’ heartrending Whine of the Mystic, and have stepped up even further with this front-to-back stacked sonic time capsule. Fellow Halifax expats abound, from Monomyth’s seasick psych-pop to the jangular pomp of Sheer Agony, Hand Cream’s ear-scratching anthemia, playful bounce of People Tanning, and a posthumous cut from the late, great Play Guitar. Sights are set westward with a haunted highlight from Victoria’s Freak Heat Waves and the deconstructed Flegel rock of Calgary’s Un Blonde, yet these ships have since set sail for Montreal as well. Both members of Tonstartssbandht make an appearance in their solo guises, with Andy Boay’s stereo-panning “Nightmare” and Eola’s hovering “Hibernia at Down” leaving lasting impressions. The Fixture Records stable is repped by the meticulous moves of Freelove Fenner, slinky grooves of Homeshake, and subtle shapes of the perpetually underrated Brave Radar. Tucked away on side D but not forgotten, Mozart’s Sister offers another surprise standout with the quivering beauty of a missed connection. Meet the Factory is 2014’s bizarro world Big Shiny Tunes. (JL)

[bandcamp id=”2464457938″]

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