This Month's Picks

Epoch (CD)

Tycho
Is Tycho's Epoch the ambient feel-good album of the year? Are those words mutually exclusive? After giving Epoch a spin, it's clear that Tycho main dude Scott Hansen has created a vibrant, evocative work that's simultaneously vivid and alive and very, very chill. The San Francisco producer's beats and smooth production style are epic, conjuring whole worlds before effortlessly segueing into the next step of the journey. A very relaxed toe-tapper of a record. More

Hang (CD)

Foxygen
On Foxygen's Hang , the Westlake Village duo dive into soul and sunshiney '70s rock to create complex yet catchy indie pop gems. Opener "Follow the Leader" will instantly transport you to a funkier time, with swelling strings, ebullient horns, and ultra-confident vocals. Four tracks into the album, the band swerves into lilting '60s crooner territory with "America." This is a polished, sophisticated, eclectic excursion you'll never want to take off your turntable. More
Genre: Rock

Apocalipstick (CD)

Cherry Glazerr
When this trio of fresh faced weirdos popped into the scene four years ago with their first album, Haxel Princess , it felt like a fresh change from the garage sound of Burger Records. Their blend of psychedelic humor, punk attitude, and anime kawaii cuteness all wrapped in the feel of the '90s indie rock scene was unlike anything else. While band leader Clementine Creevy still writes the songs and leads the direction of her dreamy rock group, old bandmates Hannah Uribe and Sean Redman have split to pursue other projects. With the new addition of drummer Tabor Allen and synth guru Sasami Ashworth, Cherry Glazerr have lost the low-fi atmosphere and hit hard with a sophisticated, beautifully produced sophomore endeavor. Dropping the joyous, California rock expected from a group that emerged from its garage scene, Apocalipstick feels like the real Los Angeles: smoggy, bad trends, annoying strangers, and oppressive sunshine. It's a sponge soaked in tears, bad memories, and bad vibes that's represented perfectly with distorted guitars and drums right out of a skate punk track. From the opening dirge of "Told You I Would Be with the Guys," there's a sense of existential dread that was never apparent on their first album. It's a strange feminist manifesto about finding strength and solidarity with other women, but this comes with the uncomfortable realization that she has a dependency on men. "Nuclear Bomb" gives Ashworth, the synth player, a chance to show off some great harmonies as Creevy tears through the song. It fits perfectly with the self-loathing, destructive perspective of the song's fierceness. But Cherry Glazerr's new direction is embodied no better than on "Nurse Ratched." The track, named after the terrible nurse from One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest , is bitter and almost violent, without a single ray of sunshine in this bleak landscape. If anything, Apocalipstick feels optimistic in the sense that the world of Los Angeles rock might be going into weirder directions. A perfect soundtrack for strange times. More
Genre: Rock

The Wave (CD)

Tom Chaplin
Since Keane announced their hiatus in 2013, their brand of tragic pop has been missed. Try listening to their seminal hit "Somewhere Only We Know" without getting emotional with all its baroque beauty. Lead singer Tom Chaplin's first album, The Wave , comes from an emotional place itself. Famously, he battled a cocaine addiction in the mid-2000s, and relapsed in the anticipation leading up to his first solo album. But The Wave feels like a victory in the wake of that type of terror and horror. If you miss the forward-thinking and simultaneously nostalgic Brit-pop sound of 1995, this album sounds like a spiritual successor. The Wave has a lovely production with luscious string parts and drums that are as elegant as Hal Blaine's famous drumming on The Beach Boys' Pet Sounds . The lead single, "Quicksand," opens with a small orchestra playing thick harmonies against a twinkling piano. Chaplin sings about being beaten, worn and exhausted by the world, but sees optimism at the end of the tunnel. He smoothly croons that there's victory and happiness to be had in small failures, and that you can eventually find success, even in your darkest moments. "Hardened Heart" comes from a similarly optimistic viewpoint, unfortunately born out of sadness. In a quiet intro, he questions how he made it to this point and how he maintains his existence in this world, and then the song hits a crescendo that feels like happiness made into soundwaves. There's a type of fragility in his vocal bravado that is almost on par with similarly introspective albums like Frank Sinatra's famous September Of My Years . With his upcoming Los Angeles performance at the El Rey Theater in February, The Wave is a perfect way to feel the spiritual connection and power of his music. More
Genre: Rock

Run The Jewels 3 (CD)

Run The Jewels
El-P and Killer Mike return with another gorgeous, hard-hitting turn as Run the Jewels. The beats are cinematic and distinctive; the lyrics are bold, political, and timely. The genius of the LP is in its seamless blend of thought-provoking lyrics, whip-smart production, and seriously catchy songwriting. Run the Jewels 3 is top notch work and features an equally excellent crew of guest artists, including Danny Brown, Kamasi Washington, Joi Gilliam, Trina, Boots, and Tunde Adebimpe. More
Genre: Hip Hop

Reflection (CD)

Brian Eno
At 68, Brian Eno constantly takes incredible leaps and new experimental risks with every album. It only makes sense that one of the godfathers of electronic music has been making some of his most forward-looking music since signing to the similarly forward-looking Warp Records. The Ship 's structure was somewhere between dream pop and ambient poem and his collaborations with Underworld's Karl Hyde recalled the Afro-future sound of his experiments with David Byrne. Reflection continues his fascination with sculpting ambient music in surprising ways that feel like a completely different experience with each album. His previous ambient albums were created through various methods including tape loops, manipulation, and computers or through his famous "Oblique Strategies" cards. Reflection is the recorded version of his new ambient music and visual app for iOS and AppleTV that creates a constant stream of sound and sonic serenity. This version made for CD and vinyl represents one of the possibilities the app can create through various algorithms. This is all very heady and out-there stuff for one of the most peaceful and meditative albums in recent years. Unlike some of his prior ambient works that required you to almost not listen and to let it create an acoustic soundscape for you to inhabit, Reflection has a thicker, heavier sound that is like a thunderous wall of organ ambiance. It shifts somewhere between computerized drone and church organ as the heavy bass creates a zone of clear thoughts and angelic sound. It's anti-chaos that can make you stop and really calm down in our increasingly insane world. After the dire nightmare that was 2016, it's wonderful to have the first major album of the year be as contemplative and relaxing a listen as this. More

Kairi Chanel (CD)

Dave East
Dave East brings it hard on his tenth mixtape (and first album on Mass Appeal Records). Kairi Chanel feels like a return to the rough, gritty sound that defined the artists of New York rough past: Ghostface Killer, Nas, and Cam'ron. The beats are shamelessly old school with heavy bass, vintage drum machines, high-pitched synths, samples with gun shots, and even an element of Middle Eastern sounds. He flows like the great street storytellers who talk of wannabe Scarefaces and gangsters who sell drugs, kill, and deal with their newfound wealth. His rhymes are clean and feels like a poet giving a ghetto oratorio or soliloquy. "Type of Time" is reminiscent of the underground sound of the early naughts. Rife with violent imagery over a melancholy piano riff, there's a lonely mood to all the killing and street-earned arrogance that it teeters between straight-out condemnation and joy. "Can't Ignore," which features 2 Chainz, is almost deranged with their flagrant selfishness over all the stacks they got. It's almost an ironic statement over how much expensive stuff they have and what it represents, as 2016 has been a year that's disenfranchised the poor even further. But the much more relaxed "Keisha" is also a fiery-filled rant where he vents about a woman he loved and how it fell apart. Behind the machismo and hard attitude, there's a type of regret and sadness in the song as he obsesses over her. Ruthless and direct, Dave East is going to start sneaking on the radio more and more by doing an album like no one else does anymore. More
Genre: Hip Hop

Atomic [OST] (CD)

Mogwai
Mogwai – the Scottish purveyors of contemplative, swirling, cinematic instrumentals – have certainly found an extracurricular niche scoring diverse projects such as the documentary Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait , Darren Aronofsky's film The Fountain , and French TV series Les Revenants . Their latest album, Atomic , is a re-recording of their soundtrack to the Mark Cousins' Hiroshima documentary for the BBC, Storyville - Atomic: Living In Dread & Promise . More of an art-piece than a documentary, Storyville  deals with the horror, fear, innovation, and hope surrounding the events of the Hiroshima nuclear bomb with images and moods as opposed to a structured narrative. Mogwai’s  Atomic  matches the film’s contrasts at every turn with their trademark shifts from shimmering minimalism to grand noise-oriented rock, sometimes in a sinister vein. The dualities of the modern world – innovation and obliteration – are heard in these revelatory shifts.  More
Genre: Rock, Soundtracks

Awaken, My Love! (CD)

Childish Gambino
Things move fast in the internet age. Only three weeks ago did Childish Gambino announce his new album and now here it is. His second album, Because The Internet , was more complex and sensitive than any other hip hop album of 2013 as Gambino would jump moods from self-loathing to good humor to long passages of loneliness and 21st century angst. Now, at nearly three years since that album and at the end of the first season of his television show, Atlanta on FX, comes his hotly anticipated third album. In the wave of Kendrick Lamar's and Kamasi Washington's spiritual journey of African-American music that's simultaneously spiritual, retro, and futuristic, Awaken, My Love!  shows more influence from George Clinton, Prince, and even King Crimson than it does with the world of modern hip hop. The epic three-part track "Me and Your Mama" opens with a chorus crying out against some new agey rhythms that suddenly cut out amid a glut of drum machines and prog drums that turns the song into classic psych funk by way of gospel. Childish Gambino cries out with real pain "This is the end of us / Sleeping with the moon and the stars" as his voice distorts into a cacophonic echo of insanity. But the song mellows out by the end with a soft melody that feels right at home in the world of The Isley Brothers. "Redbone" is a smaller, less ambitious song that instantly catches you with a simple melody that trots along at a more leisurely mood. Channeling Prince, he turns up his falsetto into a screechy performance that shows off his chops as an R&B singer. The minimal funk gives him a chance to show off his real range that stretches beyond what he's shown on other albums. 2016 has been a great year for hip hop and Awaken, My Love  caps the year off beautifully with new directions and more far out ideas than anyone else. More
Genre: Hip Hop

Starboy (CD)

The Weeknd
The Weeknd's Starboy represents a further evolution in the alternative R&B singer/producer's sound. Featuring guest appearances from Daft Punk, Kendrick Lamar, Lana Del Rey, and Future, the album is brighter, splashier, and more polished than his early, ultra underground mixtapes. Fortunately, it works and that's due to Mr. The Weeknd himself, Abel Tesfaye's impressive ability to merge pop culture into his own dark vision. Want to know what an album inspired equally by The Smiths, Prince, Bad Brains, DeBarge, David Lynch, and David Cronenberg sounds like? Take a listen to The Weeknd's latest LP of artfully produced dystopian afterparty jams. More
Genre: Soul