Nov. 111. A Tribe Called Quest, “We Got It From Here, Thank You For Your Service”Earlier this year, and seemingly out of nowhere, ATCQ announced their return to the music industry, and their first album in 18 years. As they were putting the finishing touches on their glorious return, tragedy struck. Phife Dawg died suddenly due to complications from diabetes. His presence is felt throughout “We Got it From Here.” The album features all four original members of the group, as well as frequent collaborator Busta Rhymes, along with other guests including Andre 3000, Elton John, Kendrick Lamar and Jack White. I feel like this is a perfect time for a new Tribe album, a band so focused on both positivity and Afrocentrism. The world needs it and the people need it. RIP, Phife Dawg.
2. Enigma, “Fall of a Rebel Angel”Oh man, I don’t even know where to start with Enigma. If you know me casually, you would probably be surprised that I even know them. If you know me well (as all my readers here do), you will know that I love to belt out “Return to Innocence” vocals out of nowhere to no one in particular. Enigma was started in the early ’90s by Michael Cretu, a worldbeat composer with a love of classical music and opera. Enigma albums became a way for him to fuse those two loves. He created broad, sweeping orchestrations based on classical music and infused them with ethereal electronic atmospheres reminiscent of Tangerine Dream or Jean-Michel Jarre. It is super-cheesy and wonderful, and I adore it.
3. Sleigh Bells, “Jessica Rabbit” “It’s Just Us Now,” the lead single off “Jessica Rabbit” scared me the first time I heard it. It’s jarring in a way that pop music isn’t supposed to be. It reminded me of weird parties where your friends convince you to wear makeup and you end up in fishnets and a feather boa and, hours later, eating fast food in a parking lot with strangers. Just me? “Jessica Rabbit” strikes me as fairly crucial weird pop, easily likened to classics of the genre like Grimes’ “Visions,” the first Die Antwoord album or Ke$ha when she wasn’t sad. There are distorted kicks and time changes out of nowhere. It’s delightfully bubbly and almost horrifying in ways that only this new subset of pop music can be.
4. Animals As Leaders, “Madness of Many”Animals As Leaders is an instrumental three-piece metal band, and they make sounds unlike anything you have ever heard. When I first saw them live in 2009, the drummer broke his snare head less than 30 seconds into their set because he was hitting it so hard and so fast. To call these guys technical is an understatement. If you are a music theory nerd, they employ the practice of polymeter to an astounding degree, playing three different time signatures all at the same time and it doesn’t sound like absolute trash. It’s hard to describe AAL’s sound cleanly, but here goes: Jazz guitar with distortion, Frank Zappa with less pretention, bass played by a 15-fingered frog from the future.
5. In Flames, “Battles” Oh In Flames, what happened to you? Originally the basis for the “Gothenburg” sound of melodic death metal, over the years the band has slowly lost what made them special. A lot of fans cite the end of the “good era” with the album “Come Clarity.” I disagree; I love that record. What followed, though, was watered down nu metal, a mixture of Korn and At The Gates. Just typing that made me gag a little bit. If you like modern popular hard rock and radio metal, you will probably like In Flames. “The End” has some cool moments, including a killer guitar solo in the latter half of the track. I wouldn’t call this a return to form, but it is head and shoulders above whatever “Sounds of a Playground Fading” was doing.