The Thomas Top Five: 5/30/16
Our Editor-in-Chief listens to upwards of 50 albums per week, so why not let him share the five, presented alphabetically by artist, he thinks are the best for you to hear on this week’s installment of the Thomas Top Five?
The Allman Brothers Band – EAT A PEACH
Genre: Southern Rock, Jam Band
Favorite Tracks: “Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More,” “Mountain Jam,” “Blue Sky”
As summer fast approaches, what better music to put on than jam-based southern rock to ride out the long, hot afternoons? And for jam-based southern rock, you can’t do much better than The Allman Brothers Band. Still merely dabbling with radio success in terms of their historical trajectory, EAT A PEACH features an electric grabbag of poignant blues inspired by the death of Duane Allman (“Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More”), attempts approaching the nearly psychedelic (“Les Brers in A Minor”), pop-friendly balladry (“Melissa”), and of course, the monolithic, 30-plus-minute “Mountain Jam,” which arguably kicked off the entire concept of a marketable jam band to begin with. Endlessly technical and kinetic due to the constant presence of advanced blues scale soloing, but always making sure to keep ready accessibility in mind, EAT A PEACH is an album that’s perfect for both focused listening and having on in the background as you knock back a few cold ones in the late afternoon. CCR may have more memorable vocal hooks, but The Allman Brothers Band will forever be the southern rock band with the most impressive chops.
Count Basie – BASIE IN LONDON
Genre: Big Band
Favorite Tracks: “Jumpin’ at the Woodside,” “Shiny Stockings,” “How High the Moon,” “Blee Blop Blues,” “Alright, Okay, You Win,” “Corner Pocket”
Considered in somewhat less rarified terms than more straight-cut jazz, big band performers are often unfortunately written off due to the nature of the genre beast necessitating less myopic virtuosity. And while certain manifestations certainly can grow tiresome and “same-y,” BASIE IN LONDON is easily just as essential as anything coming from the two decades that would follow. Manning the ivories with commanding force, what’s most impressive about Basie and the orchestra behind him is their impressive mastery of rhythm, slamming sharply from one lick to another in perfect unison. Speaking of licks, it’s a pleasant treat to hear honest-to-goodness melodies being introduced, developed, and recapitulated instead of a brief melodic head segueing into extended soloing. Not to say that solos aren’t present, as Basie takes more than enough time to demonstrates his capabilities, with Frank Foster and Benny Powell standing out on the saxophone and trumpet respectively. Even when things take a turn into the vocal, the warm tenor of Joe Williams manages to keep the ship afloat, and the result is a nearly perfect hour of big band jazz.
Noise/Girl – DISCOPATHOLOGY
Genre: Power Noise
Favorite Tracks: “Discopathology,” “King of Pop,” “Smoke’N’Mirrorz”
This is admittedly a bit gimmicky, but most gimmicks work well once, and this entirely unexpected mishmash of harsh noise consisting of samples from popular disco songs is just what the doctor ordered. Considering that it’s a genre that should never have the word “fun” even remotely attached to it, Noise/Girl manages to make harsh noise as danceable and groovy as it will ever be with beat-oriented tracks such as “Discopathology” and “Alive,” as the more aggrandized elements of the noise add a delicious anger and vitality to tracks from what many consider to be amongst the most toothless of genres. However, considering the act’s heritage in the Japanoise scene, the album does consist mostly of more straight-cut harsh noise tracks (despite still being culled from disco samples); however, all of these are exemplary in and of their own right, and the philosophical connotations of inverting the intention of these easily consumable and accessible musical creations is worthy of consideration. Also occasionally weaving influences from the sheer insanity of breakcore, DISCOPATHOLOGY is a shocking record that proves that noise isn’t a one-trick pony.
Oneohtrix Point Never – ZONES WITHOUT PEOPLE
Genre: Progressive Electronic
Favorite Tracks: “Format & Journey North,” “Zones Without People,” “Hyperdawn”
Although CHUCK PERSON’S ECCOJAMS VOL. 1 will forever have my heart, ZONES WITHOUT PEOPLE controversially remains my favorite release under the Oneohtrix Point Never moniker that Daniel Lopatin most prolifically utilizes. On ZONES WITHOUT PEOPLE, Lopatin does his best Tangerine Dream impression, utilizing an arsenal of crystalline, retro-fitted synthesizers that casually refer to the past without sinking the project under the weight of manufactured nostalgia. What we have on our hands is an intricately-layered odyssey through worlds and times not our own, all colored in subtle, pulsating neon glows as chords arpeggiate and contrapuntal melodies boil and bubble underneath. However, every journey is not without its challenges, and every so often bursts and interjections of harsh, industrial futurism make their presence well known, disrupting tracks just as soon as we’ve become comfortable (“Learning to Control Myself,” “Emil Cioran”), preventing us from becoming too tacitly lulled. The result is an awestruck, wide-eyed hovercraft ride down a highway across the heavens.
Rich Gang – RICH GANG: THA TOUR PART 1
Genre: Trap Rap, Pop Rap
Favorite Tracks: “Givenchy,” “War Ready,” “Flava,” “I’mma Ride (featuring Yung Ralph)”
Another album perfect for summer listening, although it couldn’t be further from EAT A PEACH. In many regards, RICH GANG: THA TOUR PART 1 is the pinnacle of the controversial and constantly feuding Cash Money/Young Money empire’s output. Although anyone expecting Birdman verses will be as disappointed as always, there was absolutely nobody with the same infectious joy and chemistry in 2014 as Young Thug and Rich Homie Quan. The two play off each other’s bizarro and idiosyncratic flows and rhyme schemes perfectly, switching up rhythmic leanings in verses at the drop of the dime and delivering an umpteenth amount of masterful hooks in the process. Coupled with a surprisingly light and breezy interpretation of the Atlanta trap sound, all elements combine to result in one of the only records featuring tracks that could be as comfortable on mainstream rap radio as the iPods of the inner city’s most discerning members. This is a ridiculous, pastel-colored, nonstop onslaught of hedonism and partying, and if that’s not a summer rap record, then I’m not sure what is.