After a slow start, August got swamped in it’s third week bringing releases by UNKLE, War On Drugs, A$AP Mob, and a few others. As solid as they were, none of those albums made our list due to the high quality of our selections. I’m not exaggerating. Some of these month’s picks might easily end up on many “Top 10 AOTY” lists. Even though they didn’t make the cut, I gotta shout out a few dope albums. Action Bronson dropped arguably his best Blue Chips project. Danie Caesar’s Freudian was a great R&B album that definitely delivered from top to bottom. Three Oh Sees’s Orc is a must listen for fans of experimental rock. It borders on all sorts of genres such as alt metal, punk, etc. Also, if you didn’t catch Kendrick’s VMA performance, do so right now.
Enough talk, here are TMG’s 5 best albums of August.
Sean Price – Imperius Rex
(Album Of The Month)
It’s been two years since the world lost Sean Price, one of underground rap’s most respected MCs. The artist, formerly known as Ruck, was working on this album at the time of his untimely death. Many feared the album may not be releaed, or even worse, a half-assed, half finished project would drop. Instead we are treated to an album that gives the best that Sean P was, and album that ranks among his best and one of the hardest projects of 2017. Imperius Rex is less of a solo album and more of a team project. According to his wife, Bernadette Price, Sean was only 4 songs into the making of this album. It was through her guidance, and that of Dru Ha with the entire Duck Down family, that this album was completed.
A well arranged audible beatdown is handled by a lot of P’s previous collaborators such as Alchemist, Nottz, Harry Fraud, among others. They give Imperius Rex the boom bap foundation that Sean P shines over with punishing verses. Lyrically, P’s wordplay remains untouchable and as always he has moments that are equally hard body and humorous. On the album’s eponymous opener, P spits “Ruckus rule shit, get down when the tool click/Tool spit back, impact is like a mule kick/P nice and funky fire/I will fuck you up, He cypher monkey cypher/Medicated, dedicated bastard/Level elevated, tame the educated rapper”. Ridiculous lyrics such as this fuels the album and epitomizes one of the many reasons why Sean P was an underground super hero to rap fans.
Posthumous albums have rarely been anything more than a cash grab, but not this one. Bernadette and the Duck Down team managed to release a project that would make Sean P more than proud. Easily one of his best albums from any stand point. Imperius Rex is a bittersweet gift to rap fans, one of the best albums of the year from an artist who is no longer with us. R.I. P!
Stand Out Tracks: Dead Or Alive, Refrigerator P!, Rap Professor.
Manchester Orchestra – A Black Mile To The Surface
A friend who shares a similar taste in music hit me up earlier this summer and told me I had to listen to Manchester Orchestra. I’ve been familiar with the name for a few years but sadly never really sat down and gave them the full listen they deserved. Seeing as how they had a new album about to drop a few weeks later, I decided to wait until this release to really check them out. Even though I’m unfamiliar with their previous work, I don’t regret waiting one bit. I normally dive into an artists past work as soon as I realize I’m into them, but right now I’ve been too preoccupied with A Black Mile To The Surface. Even with as many listens as I’ve given it, this album has enough layers and too much to offer and I can guarantee that it will have grown on me much more by year’s end.
I’ll start off with the most obvious reason I love this album, the production is pretty fucking flawless. From the opening number, The Maze, we are greeted by Andy Hull’s soulful vocals and a gospel like chorus drowned in reverb that bleeds right into his own. The instrumentation through out in brilliantly mixed, such as the way the hook explodes on Lead, SD. One of the most standout features in this album is how effortlessly tracks transition from one into the next. The sound design in the transition which features static and background chatter smooths out the listening experience tenfold and creates a truly enjoyable listening experience. Combine all this with beautifully written lyrics and grandiose production through out every track and you have an album that doesn’t deserve to be picked apart into individual songs but explored as a whole. A Black Mile To The Surface is a phenomenal album and I’m kicking my own ass for sleeping on Manchester Orchestra for so damn long.
Stand Out Tracks: The Moth, Lead, SD, The Alien
Queens Of The Stone Age – Villains
Josh Homme is one of rock’s most brightest renaissance men. A year after producing Iggy Pop’s Post Pop Depression, he takes a backseat in one of his many bands, Queens Of The Stone Age. This time, Homme hands over the reins to Mark Ronson. Ronson is one of the most renown names behind some of music’s biggest talents. From Amy Winehouse to Bruno Mars, Ronson has taken over the pop landscape in the past few years, yet he has never worked with someone as heavy as QOTSA. Villains is the result of these two talents colliding. Keep in mind that QOTSA have always had dance rock tendencies and that base sound gives plenty for Ronson to work with.
The immediate connection is seen on the album’s first single, The Way You Used To Do, a riff heavy ear worm that stomps its way through the speakers. The album’s opener also deserves high praise, as it is one of the best QOTSA songs ever. Feet Don’t Fail Me Now briefly details Josh Homme’s desire to keep moving and make music as it calls to him. “Time to go, regret it later, we’re gon’ take it as it comes/ Future tense meets middle finger, we take the long way home.” he calls out on the song’s final verse. In a way, this might be Homme’s most personal QOTSA project. Villains’ most melodic track, Fortress, finds Homme giving poetic advice to his kids in times of crisis: “Every fortress falls, it is not the end/ It ain’t if you fall but how you rise that says who you really are…” Villains is not as good as Like Clockwork… or Songs For The Deaf, yet it remains a solid effort on a a pair of great discographies for both Homme and Ronson.
Stand Out Tracks: Feet Don’t Fail Me Now, The Way You Used To Do, Fortress
Brand New – Science Fiction
The past few years have been bizarre for Brand New fans. It’s been eight years since they’re last album, Daisy. In between, there have been rumors, RIP t-shirts, new singles, breakup announcements, etc. All this made it seem like their fifth LP was becoming more and more of a myth. Then out of nowhere, a schedules October release date, which led to a completely surprise album release in the middle of August. The few so-called singles that the band had released are nowhere to be found in this LP, instead choosing to give their fans 12 brand new Brand New songs.
Science Fiction is a departure from Daisy, which was considered their heaviest and darkest release. But they’ve always been a band that celebrates growth, with every release a further change in sound from their pop punk roots. In a melodic sense, Science Fiction ties itself closer to their biggest critically acclaimed release, The Devil And God Are Raging Inside Of Me, but takes it one step further. There are no post-hardcore screams, and even in it’s hardest moments, it’s tame in comparison to previous albums. What Science Fiction offers an acoustic guitar taking the lead in most songs and Jesse Lacey’s vocals at their most tender. The melancholic tone of the album can’t help but feel as a final swan song for the Long Island rockers as their career fades to black. Whether this is really Brand New’s last album or not, they’ve left a legacy that most bands will never achieve, and a stellar final project.
Stand Out Tracks: Can’t Get It Out, Same Logic/Teeth, 451
BROCKHAMPTON – Saturation 2
Only two months after their first release this year, the Texas rappers drop the sequel in their Saturation trilogy, aptly titled Saturation 2. In case you’re out of the loop, BROCKHAMPTON is a 15 man collective and one of the best young crews in hip hop today. The group has been hard at work ever since Kevin Abstract’s vice series, American Boyband, placed a spotlight on them. Production is once again almost exclusively handled by Romni Hemnani who provides some cohesiveness across the sixteen tracks with bouncy rhythms through out. Whether it’s Ameer Vann’s syrup like monotone flow, Kevin Abstract’s animated delivery, or Meryl Wood’s Jamaican ODB-like shouts, the diversity in each member’s flow gives the group it’s unique identity.
The album starts out on fire with GUMMY; a neck breaking beat serves as a backdrop for all the BH members to shine over sinister keys and a high pitched synth that pierces through your headphones. Out of the whole crew, Ameer and Kevin deliver the best performances through out the album, and they each get a short solo track to demonstrate this such as Ameer’s emotional verse on TEETH. But as strong as their individual verses are, they are strongest when their chemistry shines together. SWEET has the crew at their all around best with upbeat production as Dom McLennon’s wordplay weaves in seamlessly “The original lick-splickety, higher than Yosemite/ Breaking the mold mentally, master with no limiting/ Making ’em say “ugh!”” With their 2nd release this year and almost a dozen videos, BROCKHAMPTON aims to over-saturate the viral hip hop market with quality and originality, and part 3 is only a few weeks away.
Stand Out Tracks: GUMMY, JUNKY, SWEET