Originally a touring festival with a name defined by “an extraordinary or unusual thing,” the mammoth that is Lollapalooza continues to live up to its moniker. The crowd continues to swell, the corporate signage multiplies, and the average age drops with each installment of the Chicago festival.
Last month ALARM presented its 50 favorite albums of 2012, an eclectic, rock-heavy selection of discs that were in steady rotation in our downtown-Chicago premises. Now, to give some love to tunes that were left out, we have our 50 (+5) favorite songs of last year — singles, B-sides, EP standouts, soundtrack cuts, and more.
Despite getting the highly successful collaboration with Damian Marley in 2010, fans have waited a good bit for a new solo album from Nasir Jones. Life is Good, a personal album with overt references to his split with Kelis, may or may not continue his platinum-selling streak — but it’s a return to form either way.
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During his 10 years of deejaying, DC the MIDI Alien has racked up an impressive résumé. He’s worked with Immortal Technique, AZ, and Wordsworth as well as remixed Nas and others. In 2008, he formed the group East Coast Avengers with MCs Esoteric and trademarc, and their gritty, politically charged debut Prison Planet garnered them national media attention with its lead single, “Kill Bill O’Reilly.” DC returns this February with a semi-solo LP, Avengers Airwaves, which further cements him as a force to be reckoned with in the hip-hop world.
DC produces the record and brings in a gaggle of rappers to provide the rhymes — from his East Coast Avengers bandmates to Jedi Mind Tricks’ Vinnie Paz and DJ Premier acolyte Termanology. DC’s production style is decidedly old-school: the songs are built on steady, mid-tempo drum beats with only a few looped samples. Standout track “Man Made Ways” exemplifies DC’s old-school skill — an echoing, droning organ loop creates an atmosphere of paranoia and foreboding, punctuated by bursts of loud, crunching guitar. The production doesn’t falter throughout, recalling early RZA with DC’s ability to create maximum effect with minimalist beats. Although DC doesn’t speak a word on the record aside from skits, the album has every right to bear his name on the cover.
Minneapolis rapper P.O.S takes political and social issues head-on from an “everyman” point of view. His critical eye and grounded personality come naturally — a product of his modest, Midwestern upbringing.