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The Best Albums of May 2012

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Mike Diver Mike Diver | 10:23 UK time, Friday, 8 June 2012

Plaudits aplenty went the way of one man in May, the driving force behind two special hip hop albums. With his third solo album proper, Cancer4Cure, Brooklyn producer/MC El-P broke new mainstream ground with wall-to-wall positive reviews, and performed on iconic US talk show The Late Show with David Letterman (said performance can be watched on YouTube; that's an external link). He was also heavily involved in Killer Mike's sixth album, R.A.P. Music - "This album was created entirely by Jaime and Mike," says the Atlanta rapper at one point, the Jaime (Meline) in question being El-P. So it's perhaps no surprise that the Album of the Month is...  

Album of the Month

El-P - Cancer4Cure
(Fat Possum/Turnstile; released 28 May)

Recommended by: Rob da Bank

"Cancer4Cure won't replicate the chart success of Drake or Mac Miller; but it's far ahead enough of that competition, intellectually and inspirationally, to exist on another plane of appreciation altogether. This is an uncompromising, unflinching collection that blows away almost any other rap release of 2012 so far. Tune into it, find another place, a welcoming 'elsewhere'. May it be the fire in which the falling-short burn."

Read the full BBC review and listen to clips

Watch the official video for The Full Retard on YouTube (external link; contains language and imagery that may offend)

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The best of the rest...

Killer Mike - R.A.P. Music
(Williams Street; released 15 May)

Recommended by: Rob da Bank

"Jaime and Mike have crafted an abrasive pièce de résistance that grows more agitated as it plays, condemning crooked police officers and the American justice system, among other things. This music declares war: face-punching, heart-stomping, no-holds-barred conflict for your ears and mind. It's an all-out assault on pop culture and its worldly accessories. It's a battle cry for change and a call-to-arms for the socially disadvantaged."

Read the full BBC review

(No official videos available)

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Cadence Weapon - Hope in Dirt City
(Upper Class Recordings; released 29 May)

Recommended by: BBC Introducing in Wales

"Hope in Dirt City is a third album that improves on the Canadian rapper's past releases substantially without wholly detaching its maker from familiar-to-some sounds. Ultimately it stands little hope of entertaining the masses (again); but Cadence has outdone himself, presenting variety with commendable cohesion and experimenting where others might've chased trends for overdue commercial returns."

Read the full BBC review and listen to clips

Watch the official video for Conditioning on YouTube (external link)

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Alt-J - An Awesome Wave
(Infectious Records; released 28 May)

Recommended by: Nemone, Huw Stephens, 6 Music Album of the Day, Zane Lowe, Chris Hawkins

"It's hard to place Alt-J. Originally from Leeds, they spend their time in a Cambridgeshire basement making their own brand of uniquely dubbed "folk-step". However, the noises that An Awesome Wave emits far escape the dull, dark depths such a creative location suggests. Instead, it's a stunning and encompassing affair of both innovative and electrifying musicianship and exemplary song writing."

Read the full BBC review

Watch the official video for Breezeblocks on YouTube (external link)

- - -

Paul Buchanan - Mid Air
(Newsroom Records; released 21 May) 

Recommended by: 6 Music Album of the Day, Bob Harris, Tom Robinson

"Sparse in texture, Buchanan's solo debut yields an almost overwhelming emotional kick, best received in the wee small hours. He carries the torch of Sinatra's sensitive-masculine phrasing like no other. His wilfully imperfect vocals defy pat resolutions, hanging in the air like smoke plumes. It's about the notes he leaves out, the spaces between, which, regarding loss, heartbreak and the yearning for beauty, say it all."

Read the full BBC review and listen to clips

Watch the official video for My True Country on Youtube (external link)

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TrioVD - Maze
(Naim Edge; released 21 May)

Recommended by: Jazz on 3

"Almost every second of this new album bubbles over with a sound that's either intriguing or downright baffling. And with its hurtling, remorselessly breakneck pace this isn't an set you listen to as such; rather, you grapple with it. Engaging but volatile, these two often-contradictory states perfectly summarise one of the most inventive and transgressive albums you'll encounter this year."

Read the full BBC review and listen to clips

Watch the official video for Brick on YouTube (external link)

- - -

Beach House - Bloom
(Bellla Union; released 14 May)

Recommended by: 6 Music Album of the Day, Bob Harris, Radcliffe & Maconie, Another Country with Ricky Ross

"After spending time with Bloom, what it most calls to mind is macro photography. An extreme close-up shot often reveals hidden depths and textures of familiar subjects. So too with Beach House on this record; guitar lines are blown up, Legrand's vocals are heady and intense, while melodies reveal like time-lapse videos. Once you manage to pull away from its magnified scenery and consider the record as a whole it's difficult to think of it as anything other than its makers' best work so far."

Read the full BBC review and listen to clips

Stream the track Myth on Beach House's official YouTube channel (external link)

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Niki and the Dove - Instinct
(Mercury; released 14 May)

Recommended by: Nemone, Nick Grimshaw

"Seldom do bands enjoying such hype deliver on the promise. But Instinct is the album Stevie Nicks might've made had she had fallen further from the Fleetwood Mac tree. Doubtlessly Niki and the Dove will one day relinquish this youthful pop abandon in favour of wilful experientialism, but until then be sure to enjoy one of the essential debuts of the year so far."

Read the full review and listen to clips

Watch the official video for The Fox on YouTube (external link)

- - -

Willie Nelson - Heroes
(Legacy; released 14 May)

Recommended by: Another Country with Ricky Ross, Ralph McLean

"Still playing, still with a twinkle in his eye, Willie Nelson at 79 sounds like a man with nothing to prove. And he's all the better for that. And if anyone asks how Heroes differs from the 65 Willie Nelson studio albums that preceded it, the happy answer is: not much. The expressive, intimate tenor, the matchless musical instinct and Willie's distinctive ringing guitar lines are just as compelling, and just as delightful, as ever."

Read the full BBC review and listen to clips

Watch the official video for Just Breathe on YouTube (external link)

- - -

Slugabed - Time Team
(Ninja Tune; released 7 May)

Recommended by: Nick Grimshaw

"Time Team represents Greg Feldwick's debut album as Slugabed, and it would seem that the British producer's early promise has been delivered in some style. He manages to combine humour, melody and movement with thickly layered funk. This is an album worth living and breathing with, and which rewards acquaintance with its wealth of emotional nuances and playful eccentricities."

Read the full BBC review

Watch the official video for Sex on YouTube (external link)


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