December is traditionally a pretty dire month for album releases, and this year is no exception — but still, having said that, there’s enough noteworthy records dropping over the next four weeks to at least make our regular monthly “Albums You Need to Hear” post worth writing. It’s not just box sets and fancy reissues, either! The headline attraction this month is clearly the new Scott Walker record, which stands as one of the most remarkable things anyone’s released in 2012 and also a testament to the danger of starting your end-of-year-lists in November, but we’ve also tracked down a bunch of other releases that will do a fine job of bulking out your Christmas stocking. As ever, do let us know in the comments section what’s on your shopping list this month.
Scott Walker — Bish Bosch (December 4)
Superlatives get thrown around far too often in the music industry, so we’ll avoid using descriptions like “amazing,” “astonishing,” and “entirely deranged” and simply say that this is unlike anything else you’ll hear this year. Bish Bosch — Walker explains the title here — is a series of strange, extended freeform lyrics that address topics as diverse as Montgomery Clift and Nicolae Ceaușescu, set over curious backing tracks that feature sampled knife sharpening, fart jokes, and lots and lots of silence. The result is a thoroughly idiosyncratic listening experience, one that means Bish Bosch is right up there with Swans’ The Seer as this year’s album most deserving of an extended, deliberate listening session.
Willy Mason — Carry On (December 4)
Mason is one of our favorite contemporary alt-country artists, and one whose precocious talent has never quite won the plaudits it deserves. This is his third studio album, and his first since 2007 — his voice has only gotten more world-weary in that time, and listening to Carry On, it’s hard to believe he’s still only 28. But then, he’s always had the air of an old soul — which, perhaps, is one of the reasons we like him so much.
Billow Observatory — Billow Observatory (December 4)
When we did our Flavorpill Thanksgiving feature a couple of weeks back, your correspondent mentioned being grateful for a bunch of soothing ambient albums released this year. This is another album that’d fit that particular bill, a collection of beautiful, multi-layered guitar textures from Danish producer Jonas Munk and guitarist Jason Kolb.
Raime — Quarter Turns Over a Living Line (December 4)
Most excellent and thoroughly appropriately named London label Blackest Ever Black have been responsible for some of the best dark electronic music of the last few years. Raime are their signature act, and this debut full-length album delivers in spades on all the promise the duo have shown since they released their first material for Blackest Ever Black back in 2010. We’ve been loving first single “Your Cast Will Tire” (above), and you can hear a couple of other tracks off the record here.
Sigha — Living With Ghosts (December 4)
For some reason, December seems to be a good month for brooding techno releases, because as well as Raime, there’s this new record from Berlin-based producer Sigha. This album’s definitely more dance-floor-oriented than Raime, albeit a dancefloor where there are no lights and you’re wondering whether the pill you ate half an hour ago was in fact ecstasy or something more sinister. Apart from the track above, there’s a series of excerpts here.
Ke$ha — Warrior (December 4)
It’s come to this, eh? We do like the Iggy track, though.
Memory Tapes — Grace/Confusion (December 4)
Remember the halcyon days of 2009, when Memory Tapes was a standard-bearer for a blog-based faux-nostalgia revolution? We always rather thought Dayve Hawk was rather more interesting than the chillwave crowd he was lumped in with, and happily, he’s survived the summer of chillwave’s winter of discontent to return with a new record. There a few tracks to hear at Hawk’s Soundcloud page.
Big Boi — Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors (December 11)
The rather amusing stories about Big Boi’s recent sniping at Andre 3000 — “[Andre] could have been on any song he wanted to,” he told the Village Voice in mid-November, “but I guess he was just too busy… he said he had to do some Gillette shit” — has rather overshadowed the release of this record. We’ve always found Big Boi’s solo work rather underwhelming, the majesty of “Shutterbugg” notwithstanding, but still, this should be worth hearing, especially in such a slow month.
Heathered Pearls — Loyal (December 18)
Also on the ambient tip, this is one of our very favorite records of the year, and has been on fairly heavy rotation chez Flavorpill ever since we got a promo copy last month. It’s a collection of subtly melodic, slowly evolving instrumental pieces that are both delicately beautiful and full of calming, serene atmospherics. If this sounds like your sort of thing, you can stream the album in full via Resident Advisor.
The-Dream — 1977 (December 18)
Love IV MMXII, the long-delayed fourth studio album by Terius Nash, may or may not see the light of day this month — we’re hearing that it might drop on New Year’s Eve, although frankly we’ll believe it when we see it — but either way, you’ll be able to purchase an official copy of this stopgap release, which he originally released himself via his website last year, via Def Jam as of December 18. A chance to buy an album that’s been available for free for the best part of 18 months? God bless the music industry, eh?
Also out this month:
The Prodigy — The Fat of the Land reissue (December 4) This month’s making-us-feel-old fact: it’s 15 years since this got released. (Fifteen years and six months, to be precise.)
Wiz Khalifa — O.N.I.F.C. (December 4) Oh, and to think we missed the listening party.
Blur — Parklive (December 4) Albarn et al cash in on celebrate their Olympics closing ceremony show with a “deluxe five-disc set.”
Green Day — ¡Tré! (December 11) No, it’s not bad Spanish — it’s a clever pun on their drummer’s stage name! Oh, what witty bilingual scamps.
Bruno Mars — Unorthodox Jukebox (December 11) Includes, inter alia, a song about “Good old animalistic sex.” Raaaaargh.
The Game — Jesus Piece (December 18) Here is The Game’s explanation of the title, which we present without further comment: “I’m calling it Jesus Piece ’cause last year in August I got baptized and so I’ve been going to church, but I still been kinda doing me out here. I still love the strip club and I still smoke and drink. I’m faithful to my family, so I wanted to make an album where you could love God and be of God, but still get it poppin’ in your life.”
Angels and Airwaves — Stomping The Phantom Brake Pedal (December 18) Yes, Tom DeLonge’s prog angst side project still exists. Merry Christmas, everybody.