July was the month of concept albums. Few of our Best Music selections this month disregard motive, compartmentalization, or narrative. When Andy Falkous of Future of the Left lost his day job, he used his downtime to conceptualize a new band called Christian Fitness. Matthewdavid was so awestruck by the birth of his daughter, he channeled all that fatherly love into a full record. Yoshimi of OOIOO fused the traditional gamelan of Javanese folk music into her experimental rockist creations as a platform to internalize the nuclear disasters in her native country. Kilo Kish went Kerouac with Caleb Stone as her Neal Cassidy. But, it was Shabazz Palaces who strived for the conceptually grand, the big picture album.
In our review of Shabazz Palaces’ Lese Majesty, we noted mastermind Ishmael Butler’s willfully obtuse agenda, but even with his commandeering of the ship, the album is not seven highfalutin suites protected by bodyguards checking for pretentious credentials at the gates. Butler envisions Lese Majesty as having open ended commentary, which should be allowed due to its ability to openly explore territory as celestial and weird as a Sun Ra record and as viscerally depraved as a 3-6 Mafia mixtape.
The Best Album of July 2014
Contrary to what its title would suggest, Lese Majesty is more than half seduction—at times, Butler’s magnetic presence seems like the only consistent guide in this sneaky, zigzagging album. But Lese Majesty’s very real (if sometimes perplexing) power derives from a certain harmony of opposites: just listen to “Ishmael”, which combines some of the album’s most boastful tough-talking with its sweetest production, an almost childlike tinker-toy fantasia of woozy synths and shuffling beats. “Mimicking gods,” Butler intones robotically in its first few seconds, a promise that what’s to come will be something tempting and untouchable.
For more Shabazz Palaces, read our interview with Ishmael Butler.