Exclaim's Most Unappreciated Albums of 2012:
(Clown & Sunset)
Known for his 14-hour DJ sets at Berlin's Bar 25, Acid Pauli is the moniker of Notwist member Martin Gretschmann, who also has amassed a substantial discography as Console. Mst was released in July to much less fanfare than it deserved. Sharing the Latin-infused, off-kilter, downtempo rhythms of label boss Nicolas Jaar with Mr. Scruff's jazz-sampling sense of humour, Mst is one of the most unique releases of the year.
Sounding like he snuck into Nas's Illmatic recording sessions then cranked the dial on his DeLorean forward 18 years, Joey Bada$$ raps with a style and an assuredness that belies his age (17). From its title to its creator's stomping grounds (Flatbush is back!) to the dollar-sign S's, 1999 is a refreshing, essential throwback. "I'm in Marty McFly mode," Joey spits, "so tell 'em that the future's back." Welcome home, New York.
Live from the Underground
Blame the mixtapes. Big K.R.I.T. — a triple threat who raps, produces and sings hooks — wrung his soul into the pre-album freebies, K.R.I.T. Wuz Here and 4eva N a Day. So when he opted for live instruments for his proper debut, not enough of us paid attention. Even though it's tricky to label a CD that hit No. 5 on U.S. Billboard overlooked, Underground deserves a second spin. From a slavery tale voiced from three disparate viewpoints to a strip-club banger in which the lyrics are actually subtler than the bass, the King seizes his role as the heir to the trunk-rattling artists who first dirtied up the South.
Mourning In America and Dreaming In Color
The same elements that make Mourning In America and Dreaming In Color a solid album are perhaps the same aspects that made it one of the more overlooked projects of this year. Politically charged as all get out, the Muslim rapper Brother Ali (by way of beats/production from Jake One) crafted a deeply honest, utterly incisive album that serves as social message via head nodding medium. It's an album that deserves to bend a few more ears.
Ryan B. Patrick
(Hippos In Tanks)
Hard to believe that "an oratorio in four movements" based around a concept of searching for Gabriel the Angel of Truth in the internet to "demand an explanation for God's communication blackout" could be overlooked. But the Montreal producer's classical/R&B/electronic pop opus failed to capitalize on his previous split with Grimes. It's a shame considering he even managed to make some highly accessible moments that you could ostensibly dance to.
Life Is People
The famously reclusive Fay was finally coaxed back into a studio by his biggest fan, Wilco's Jeff Tweedy, and the results are stunning. The 60-something Brit's fragile folk-pop seems more relevant today than it was when he first appeared over 40 years ago, and his sage-like lyrics are never less than inspiring. Fay may be the Terrence Malick of the music world.
Frankie Rose is restless. After the '50s girl-group vibe of her debut, the drummer-turned-frontwoman embarked on a journey deep into new wave and synth-y soundscapes that somehow eschewed reverb yet retained a thick, atmospheric vibe. The result, Interstellar, is a mix of ponderous soundscapes and bouncy, energetic numbers that demonstrate Rose's ability as both a songwriter and a producer.