This Week’s Best Albums: February 26, 2013

This Week's Best Albums: February 26, 2013

Each week, editor-in-chief Chris Force and music editor Scott Morrow choose ALARM’s favorite new releases for This Week’s Best Albums, an eclectic set of reviews presenting exceptional music.

Atoms for Peace: Amok (XL)

"Judge, Jury, and Executioner"

You know the story by now: A few years ago, Radiohead front-man Thom Yorke started a band to help him perform songs from his 2006 solo effort, The Eraser, live. One thing led to another, and now he’s made the band into a full-fledged project that includes longtime producer/visionary Nigel Godrich and Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea, as well as Joey Waronker and percussionist Mauro Refosco.

From the onset, it’s obvious that this is Yorke’s brainchild. He describes the project as “a mixture of live and machine” (a supposed “compromise” between Godrich and Yorke, who initially wanted to make an all-out dance record). The music marries real instruments with digital loops, glitches, effects, and other Thom Yorke-isms that have become common practice for the Radiohead singer.

At its peak, Amok feels like a more focused, fleshed-out, multidimensional extension of The Eraser, with Flea and the other musicians providing texture, layers, depth — a supporting cast to Yorke’s increasingly mechanizable mindset, which delves deeper than ever into the electronica realm.

- Michael Danaher

Ill Bill: The Grimy Awards (Uncle Howie / Fat Beats)

"Paul Baloff"

Leave it to one of the elder statesmen of the Brooklyn hip-hop scene to teach a few lessons.

Ill Bill, with the help of a cadre of collaborators and producers, brings his powerhouse flow and boom-bap arrangements to The Grimy Awards — an album that serves as equal parts biography and wake-up call for a new generation. Unlike many rap albums where topics of violence and drugs are used as the crutch of an uncreative artist, Bill infuses his tales of a gritty Brooklyn upbringing with an insistence to question the corrupt institutions that plague us on tracks like “Severed Heads of State” and “Truth.”

El-P, HR of Bad Brains, Jedi Mind Tricks, and A-Trak are just a few of the artists who help to complement Ill Bill’s sledgehammer delivery. And with the backing of New York producing legends like Large Professor and Pete Rock laying hard-hitting drums over a wide range of samples (classical, orchestral, R&B, rock), The Grimy Awards strikes a balance between style and substance that makes the album worthy of revisiting.

- Adam Redling

The Rival Mob: Mob Justice (Revelation)

"It Must Be Nice..."

Keeping '80s East Coast hardcore alive and well, Boston's The Rival Mob plays fast, confrontational music with an ample dose of fuck-off-and-die lyrics. Mob Justice marks the band's jump to Revelation, and it's a stylistic continuation of its last EP, Hardcore for Hardcore.

With only three tracks that top two minutes, Mob Justice is succinct, uptempo, and has plenty of breakdowns, not to mention a handful of squealing dive-bombs and miniature rock solos ("It Must Be Nice..." and "Friendly Freaks"). It's not reinventing the wheel — but why mess with a good circle pit?

- Scott Morrow

Nader Sadek: Living Flesh (self-released)

"Petrophilia" (live)

In 2011, Egyptian-born and New York-based visual artist Nader Sadek released an exceptionally executed concept album titled In the Flesh. A reflection on a society whose main source of energy, petroleum, is literally necrotic flesh, the album was followed by performances featuring the musicians from the record as well as new artists.

Living Flesh, part of a forthcoming special edition (with one special copy that includes a chunk of Sadek's flesh turned to leather), is a live album of the band's first show. And this is no B-list cast: Steve Tucker (ex-Morbid Angel), Rune Eriksen (ex-Mayhem), Flo Mounier (Cryptopsy), and others deliver pummeling death metal with black-metal undertones and brooding interludes. If you missed this the first time around, get up to speed now.

- Lincoln Eddy & Scott Morrow

Honorable Mentions:

Braid / Balance and Composure split 7” (No Sleep)

Old Wounds: From Where We Came Is Where We’ll Rest (Glory Kid Ltd.)

Clint Mansell (w/ Philip Glass and Emily Wells): Stoker soundtrack (Milan)

Sunshine: s/t