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Listed: Dusted Editorial Mid-Year Roundup

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Dusted Features

Dusted editors Sam Hunt and Otis Hart rack brains to come up with their top recordings of the first half of 2005.



Listed: Dusted Editorial Mid-Year Roundup


Spank Rock – “Put That Pussy On Me” (Money Studies)
This is the debut 12” by one of the most promising hip hop futurists around. Spank Rock (Naeem Juwan to his mom) combines the giggly filth of “legends” like DJ Assault and Too Short with the fancy-pants chopped up production of Prefuse 73 and his friend Diplo. His full-length (which will be on Big Dada) won’t be out until 2006, but this tasty pre-hype 12” is an awesome introduction to an awesome new artist. (Sam)

Smog - A River Ain't Too Much To Love (Drag City)
At first, I was bitterly disappointed by the new Smog album. Where was the hurt, the misanthropic barks, the cold discoveries? Then I sat down with the lyrics and realized this is the same Bill Callahan who wrote “Ex-Con,” after all. He’s just a little older, a little happier with his stock in life. ”There is no love where there is no bramble,” he sings on “Say Valley Maker,” which pretty much sums it up. And this dude’s an expert when it comes to bramble. (Otis)

OneidaThe Wedding (Jagjaguwar)
Everyone who’s anyone has been eagerly awaiting Oneida to release their ‘magnum opus.’ Only a few people knew that this one – many years in the making – was on its way, but when it was introduced to me as their career-spanning project, I was extremely excited. It didn’t pack the instant punch that I had hoped it might, but after a few weeks I realized that this was one of the best albums I would hear all year. As with all of their best efforts, The Wedding is all over the map, but increased production values and expanded instrumentation (strings!) give you something new to listen for, and look forward to, every time you press play. (Sam)

Magik Markers - I Trust My Guitar, Etc. (Ecstatic Peace!)
Everyone needs a supergroup every once in a while. During the first half of 2005, Magik Markers were my heroes. At first, it was just their live show, but then I picked up I Trust My Guitar, a bulldozer that took all my frustrations, plowed them into a corner and turned them into a big pile of tapioca pudding. The recording is flat, Elisa Ambrogio’s rants are nearly indistinguishable from each other, but after a few listens, I realized that this muddled mess mirrored everything broken about my psyche. Who needs inkblots when there’s Magik Markers? Not available on CD. (Otis)

Death Vessel - Stay Close (North East Indie)
As Dusted dearest devoted readership may be aware, Otis and I have an uncanny ability to argue about the minutiae of hundreds of CDs released every year, but always have no trouble at all settling upon three or four that we both 100% agree are great. From Black Dice in 2002 to Sufjan Stevens in 2003 to Joanna Newsom in 2004, our list-toppers have generally been in sync. The first half of 2005 didn’t provide a deluge of smash hits, but there were certainly some great moments, and Death Vessel’s debut, Stay Close is high among them. Death Vessel combines a back-woodsy feel with achingly catchy and touching tunes, all of which sound like they were composed and recorded in a single sitting. The only thing that disappoints me about this record is the lack of attention that it has gotten from everyone – Dusted included! (Sam)

Om - Variations on a Theme (Holy Mountain)
While I often love my music messy, Sleep’s rhythm section delivered the psychedelic precision that I needed during the first couple months of another Bush administration. Obviously best when experienced under an influence of some sort, Chris Hakius and Al Cisneros steal a couple riffs from Dopesmoker, reassign the lyrics and take off. While nothing will touch Sleep’s mind-numbing masterpiece, Om’s Quaalude hooks and chanted words from above sound like stoned Gregorian monks. That’s not a bad alternative. (Otis)

Konono N°1 - Cognotronics (Crammed Discs)
Who would have thunk that a choir of mbiras played by a Congolese ensemble living in the depths of poverty would have made the most psychedelic album of the year?! (Sam)

Markus Guentner - 1981 (Kompakt)
As if to brag about his advanced skills at a young age, Guentner titled his first album in 3˝ years after the year he was born. Hard to believe something this patient could come from someone so young. Sublime ambient drones accentuated by muted percussion, this is an example of the best Kompakt’s Pop Ambient series has to offer. Scratch that, it’s the best the label’s done this year, period. (Otis)

Doveman - The Acrobat
Rescued from the depths of the demo-bin, this unfortunately named act’s music seeped gradually and nicely into my subconscious. By taking, essentially, a piano-bar singer-songwriter act and adding a few bells and whistles, lone Dove (or main Dove, at least) Thomas Bartlett whispers and croons a handful of songs that very gradually made their way from the un-paid-attention-to background of my office all the way up to the top of my at-home now-playing pile. A modern day rags-to-riches tale if I’ve ever heard one! (Sam)

High on Fire - Blessed Black Wings (Relapse)
Matt Pike’s life after Sleep, like Mastodon, is metal for those who don’t listen to metal. I can handle that label, but I bet Pike would be pissed. Drummer Des Kensel starts with a slow fade in on “Devilution,” sounding like a cross between Lightning Bolt and Slayer, and it’s immediately apparent these guys are on to something. Pike and bassist Joe Preston can turn on the intensity so quickly in other places, it drives home the talent (and the practice time) behind all the howling. All but two songs are over 5 minutes in length, and the band uses the time wisely and adroitly, shifting from Pike’s buzzsaw riffs to introspective soliloquies before building it all back up slowly. They’re on the Sounds of the Undeground tour this summer with Gwar. (Otis)

Akron/Family - Akron/Family (Young God)
With Devendra Banhart’s departure to XL, Michael Gira’s Young God records was in need of a new (non-Gira) flagship artist, and it took him all of a few weeks to find one. Not bad for a guy who claims to not listen to any new music. NYC’s Akron/Family twinkle, pluck and harmonize all over the place, but remain completely coherent and terrific. I’m as surprised as anyone to say that a lot of their wankier moments remind me of Joan of Arc at their absolute best moments. But don’t take that the wrong way. (Sam)

M.I.A. - Arular (XL)
Not much left to say about Maya Arulpragasam. The only thing left is speculation. Can she deliver on the promise of Arular in a live setting? She hasn’t yet. Can she break through to MTV? Can she eclipse Missy Elliott as the most vital woman in hip hop? Probably not, but this record remains the best cross-section of pop in 2005, and that’s no small accomplishment. (Otis)

V/A - Yellow Pills: Prefill (The Numero Group)
I’ve never considered myself a ‘power-pop’ fan, but I like a catchy pop tune as much as anyone. And I think that just about anyone would love this record. The fourth release by the instantly vital Numero Group reissue label is a compilation, assembled by zine-writer Jordan Oakes, that contains 33 songs that I had never heard or heard of, performed by bands that I had never heard or heard of. Most of the bands featured released only a handful of 45s or a single full-length at the most, before vanishing from the few memories they were able to infiltrate. I’m not sure how this was narrowed-down, and am even more bewildered as to how it was licensed, but Oakes and the Numero Group have really achieved something fantastic with this release. Every single song is essential, catchy, cheesy, reasonably well-recorded, and generally excellent. I would say it’s the best mix-tape source to be released all year, but it’s best appreciated as what it is: the best mix tape you’re likely to hear all year. (Sam)

Isolee - We Are Monster (Playhouse)
Raijko Muller returns with his first full-length since 1999, and it’s not easy to capsulate. We could stop at techno and get away with it, but there are so many different faces to this record that I’m hesitant to settle on any one. That said, it’s consistently funky and spontaneous at the same time, reminding me at points of the way Herbert would scatter sonic debris over his best recordings to add a bit of flavor. (Otis)

Lungfish - Feral Hymns (Dischord)
Many of indie rock’s mainstays have released records this year: Spoon, Sleater-Kinney, Sufjan Stevens, Stephen Malkmus, Deerhoof, The Decemberists. Will Oldham, among them. However, since they seem to get less attention – by a great deal – than any of these, and because they are one of the great bands of the past ten years, I will gladly isolate Lungfish among others to give praise. This album really is not much of a leap forward from 2003’s Love Is Love, but it still contains some of the heaviest, droniest, prettiest, gnarliest growling you’ll hear all year. (Sam)

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