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The Best Albums of April 2012

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Mike Diver Mike Diver | 13:56 UK time, Thursday, 3 May 2012

Well, that was one impressive month for high-quality new album releases. I've an idea that a fair few of these might feature in the year-end best-of lists.

Album of the Month

Death Grips - The Money Store
(Columbia; released 23 April)

Recommended by: Zane Lowe, BBC Introducing in Wales

"On this, the first of two albums due for release this year, Death Grips achieve the density and intensity of several Bomb Squads, Public Enemy's famous production wing. It hardly betrays signs of softening before their new paymasters, Sony. If anything, what they lose in sonic impact you gain in range: they seem to invent new rhythms and textures on each track. What is that sound on Lost Boys? Avant-dancehall? Industrial slowcore? System Blower is well titled: it, like so much around it, threatens to blow your speakers with every maximalist second. Bring the noise? It's already here."

Read the full BBC review

Watch the official video for Blackjack (external YouTube link; contains language which may offend)

- - -

The best of the rest...

Poliça - Give You the Ghost
(Memphis Industries; released 30 April)

Recommended by: Lauren Laverne, Nemone, Zane Lowe

"Already heralded by the likes of Justin Vernon and Jay-Z, this Minneapolis outfit has a lot of hype to live up to. And on debut offering Give You the Ghost, they do just that. It's difficult to pick holes in Give Up the Ghost, to separate its influences or pigeonhole it to a specific niche. Poliça have created something that is both unique and universal, with stunning production, intelligent musicianship, and creative use of sounds and samples. Something very pop."

Read the full BBC review

Watch the official video for Lay Your Cards Out (external YouTube link)

- - -

THEESatisfaction - awE naturalE
(Sub Pop; released 9 April)

Recommended by: Gilles Peterson, Lauren Laverne, 6 Music Album of the Day

"Over tracks that draw upon murky jazz ambience and hypnotic off-kilter hooks, THEESatisfaction run a discursive gamut: defiant and swaggering when stating their independence (QueenS, with its dancefloor-ready funk); playful and wise when musing on life's rich and sour ironies (the sunshine-through-the-clouds hit of Existinct); affecting and profound when touching upon society's darknesses, and the darknesses within themselves (the mesmerising Deeper). When Cat and Stas speak and sing, you really should listen."

Read the full BBC review

Watch the official video for QueenS (external YouTube link)

- - -

Actress - R.I.P.
(Honest Jon's; released 23 April)

Recommended by: Gilles Peterson, Benji B

"R.I.P.'s structure supposedly references Milton's Paradise Lost and the book of Genesis, but listeners might find the concept a limiting one, despite its scope. What persists here is far less epic, but also more penetrating: it's the way its maker infects the algorithmic certainty of his software with an all too human tentativeness, a trait that makes the album's title not a stock phrase, but something longed for."

Read the full BBC review

(No official video available)

- - -

Orbital - Wonky
(ACP Recordings; released 2 April)

Recommended by: 6 Music Album of the Day, Now Playing

"Nobody would expect an eighth album by a band 20-plus years into its career to sound this fantastic, but time away has obviously helped re-energise the brothers into crafting this triumphantly grand return. It will leave middle-aged ravers ecstatic, and should allow a new generation to understand what their folks have been banging on about all these years."

Read the full BBC review

Watch the official video for Wonky (external YouTube link)

- - -

Quakers - Quakers
(Stones Throw; released 2 April)

Recommended by: Zane Lowe, Gilles Peterson

"Lining up a constantly revolving lyric-spitting cast, Quakers negate any danger of a cypher-slash-compilation vibe via a production consistency that holds together the disparate rhyming contributions with the elasticity of freshly chewed gum. An astute mix of cult name vocalists - Prince Po, Dead Prez, Aloe Blacc - all weigh in with cameos of note, though a clutch of lesser names hit hardest, with 'less fat, more heat' the motto."

Read the full BBC review

Watch the official video for Russia With Love (external YouTube link)

- - -

Sweet Billy Pilgrim - Crown and Treaty
(Luxor Purchase; released 30 April)

Recommended by: 6 Music Album of the Day

"Although the product of many hours of writing and production, Crown and Treaty avoids sounding overworked or belaboured, creating instead a soundworld of dazzling vitality. Much of this invigorating freshness emanates from the numerous layers of musical information that's been lovingly threaded into each of these nine tracks. Without compromising their artistic vision one iota, Sweet Billy Pilgrim have gone from black-and-white art-house to breathtaking widescreen, and the results are quite simply glorious."

Read the full BBC review

Watch the official video for Joyful Reunion (external YouTube link)

- - -

Jack White - Blunderbuss
(XL Recordings; released 23 April)

Recommended by: Vic Galloway, Zane Lowe, 6 Music Album of the Day

"There's a sense throughout Blunderbuss - trust him to choose such an archaic weapon - that White is positively revelling in the role of the wronged lover. So you never get the sense that he's being entirely serious; he's too eccentric and machismo-camp to suggest otherwise. It's what defines him as an artist and it's why he may be the only great rock superstar of recent years. Indeed, after all these years, there's still nobody quite like him."

Read the full BBC review

Watch the official video for Love Interruption (external YouTube link)

- - -

Esperanza Spalding - Radio Music Society
(Decca; released 2 April)

Recommended by: Jamie Cullum, Jazz on 3

"She likes songs as well as solos. Her guiding spirits are Stevie Wonder and Wayne Shorter, both of whom she covers here. Hence there is no end of chordal finesse, finely wrought melodies, subtle but nonetheless hard-edged rhythmic pulsation, and above all a glowing sound canvas - electric piano colours à la Innervisions are dominant. We know that she has talent as abundant as her Afro. The essential question is: what will it grow into?"

Read the full BBC review

Watch the official video for Black Gold (external YouTube video)

- - -

Dean Blunt & Inga Copeland - Black is Beautiful
(Hyperdub; released 16 April)

Recommended by: Gilles Peterson

"Black Is Beautiful is this pair's most immediately accessible album, but its 15 tracks (14 of which are untitled) don't sound much like hits. Like its predecessors, this set works best taken as a whole, when its unstable collage has time to establish what turns out to be a powerful atmosphere. It's a rapidly changing landscape, where the thrashing live drums of (Venice Dreamway) melt into bleary soul, lo-fi G-funk and psychedelia. Their project is one that invites thought, but crucially doesn't neglect to elicit feeling."

Read the full BBC review

(No official video available)

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