After a month of inconsistent releases, I’m very happy to be writing about exciting new music again, and this week’s releases are a great way to kick off the new year. Highly acclaimed singer-songwriter Ani DiFranco is starting 2012 with her latest album Which Side Are You On?. This is her seventeenth album since 1990. Like DiFranco, Steve Aoki is also another musician whose body of work is very impressive. He’s remixed numerous famous songs, started his own record label and released several mixtapes. After fifteen years of material though, the electro house wizard is finally releasing his debut full length studio album entitled Wonderland.

Another exciting release that couldn’t come soon enough is from the controversial Captain Beefheert who is receiving a well deserved posthumus release of his 1976 album Bat Chain Puller. After thirty-six years of industry medling, Captain Beefheart's long awaited album is finally seeing the light of day. Unlike Beefheart though, Circa Survive band leader Anthony Green is releasing his next effort to legions of die-hard fans. His solo album Beautiful Things is being released today. Will it live up to the hype? Continue reading this week’s edition of LP Release Tuesday in order to find out!

LP Release Tuesday
5) Ani DiFranco - Which Side Are You On?
Unlike most female singer-songwriters from the 1990’s, Ani DiFranco is still making music. Her level of consistency in producing critically acclaimed albums is generally why people still love her after all these years, but it should also be noted that her humanitarian and feminist efforts have also kept the “Amazing Grace” hit-maker in the public eye. While DiFranco’s social work is obviously important, like any prolific artist she’s also improved on her craft in every album thus far. Which Side Are You On? is her latest effort and is no different from this trend.

Experimenting in a healthy mix of genres like indie rock, folk and Americana throughout her seventeen releases, DiFranco certainly mixes up her styles. On her latest effort though, the musician proves that she’s willing to break her own mold. Her “rock” tendencies come full circle on Which Side, with louder guitars, a heavier base and vocals that widely vary from track to track. With a folk heavy song to a jarring rock anthem, the album is an array of styles, moods and textures that’s exactly what we’ve expected from a prolific artist like her.

LP Release Tuesday
4) Steve Aoki - Wonderland
I consider Steve Aoki an odd electronic artist by current music industry standards. His creative output might stand with other musicians like Ani DiFranco, but the way in which he obtained the career he has today is truly remarkable. Unlike his contemporaries including Skrillex, deadmau5 and Girl Talk, the DJ did not gain popularity through media hype, but by the dedication to his craft. At age 19, Aoki founded his own record label Dim Mak Records. Under that label, he helped numerous electronic artists make a name in the industry, while also working on and perfecting his own stuff. His work included multiple remixes of famous songs by artists like The Black Eyed Peas and Drake, among others.

His “Forever” remix, originally by Drake, continued his success in the music industry. Aoki went on to remixing more songs that are now famously known among the electronic house crowd, and this led to his first mix-tape album Pillowface and His Airplane Chronicles. After a few years of gaining momentum from the 2007 release, his hard work finally paid off. This week marks the release of Aoki’s first full length studio album called Wonderland. While he’s certainly had an odd journey to success by the music industry’s standard repertoire, Aoki is a prime example of an artist who made a name for himself through hard work and determination.

LP Release Tuesday
3) Anthony Green - Beautiful Things
There’s a certain type of fan who follows a group's every move; let’s call them “die-hards.” Whether they’re a hippie who follows the jam band Phish around the country, a heavy metal enthusiast or those juggalos who like ICP, what’s evident is that some artists garner an obsessive following. Yet, with all of those niche fans combined, there is certainly no other fan out there that’s quite like those who follow Circa Survive front man Anthony Green's career. Unlike other bands that are mainly known for their universal efforts, Circa's main audience is almost entirely made up of Anthony Green followers. Is it weird? Maybe so, but I will say that their uncanny interest in everything Green is not unjust.

For instance, the guy is a seriously talented musician who works really hard. From his projects with Saosin, Circa Survive, The Sound of Animals Fighting, which involved members of Finch, Rx Bandits, Days Away, Chiodos, and numerous other collaborations throughout his career, Anthony has given his fans plenty of work to slave over. It should be no surprise then why fans like him so much. His endless work cycle is exactly the reason why his highly anticipated sophomore solo album Beautiful Things is gushing with media buzz. After Green's first solo project Avalon was released in 2008, he shied away from the math and progressive rock influences for an intimate, stripped down indie version. Expected to be similar to his previous solo efforts, Green’s latest album is finally here; and there is an entire mob of fans waiting to listen.

LP Release Tuesday
2) Busdriver - Beaus$Eros
While I can’t say that I have an affinity for Circa Survive or Green’s other projects, I can definitely say that I really like Busdriver. When I was first introduced to him back in high school, via the game Tony Hawk's Underground, Busdriver's extremely fast paced and highly literate style of rap took my head and banged it repeatedly against a wall of superb hip-hop. His music is so unique because unlike most mainstream artists today, he takes chances. Those chances include mashing up multiple genres during a song and album, his extensive catalog of releases, and pioneering hip-hop techniques way before Kanye West made them famous. Busdriver is still virtually unknown by mainstream audiences, but fans of his wouldn’t have it any other way.

Like his more famous counterpart Danger Mouse, there is an auteur style to his work that makes every song of his instantly recognizable. If you can’t take my word for it, take a look at his song “Along Came A Biter,” which came out in 2002. Busdriver’s latest album Beaus$Eros will likely be another collection of highly creative songs, but it will also undoubtedly shatter any expectations made from his previous work. Like I mentioned above, the great thing about Busdriver is in the way he can move swiftly between genres, making a beat heavy rap song in one instance and in the next, a sunny pop ballad.

LP Release Tuesday
1) Captain Beefheart - Bat Chain Puller
One of the complicated aspects about being a music critic, and moonlighting as an avid music lover, is that I look at artists in a different way than most of the general public. For instance, there are probably a few dozen of you who are familiar with Frank Zappa and probably even less who like his music. While I appreciate Frank’s work for the intricate time and effort he put behind every production and the mastery of his craft, most people filter in only the bizarre aspects to his music. The same can be said for Captain Beefheart, Zappa's friend and collaborator. They worked together closely throughout the late 1960’s, and were obviously not concerned with mass approval, but only innovation and art. In the midst of bands following the psychedelic rock trend that quickly died out in the early 1970s, Zappa and Beefheart wanted to experiment with studio devices, manipulate genres like Jazz, blues and orchestra, and work with music concert techniques that later influenced a number of future bands. Simply put, they wanted to create something different.

During the 1970’s their music was groundbreaking, but to current audiences it’s unbearable. While Zappa is obviously the more famous counterpart among the two, he still continued to help his long time friend Captain Beefheart after he found fame. Zappa did this by producing a series of genre defining albums that helped Beefheart's band, the Magic Band, break out into the rock scene with albums like Trout Mask Replica and Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller). After years of falling back into obscurity, there are still fans around today who understand both the innovator's style of abstract music and the reasons behind his sometimes odd work. That’s why for many years now, a legion of fans have endlessly fought hard to convince studios to release the last Captain Beefheart album. Finally their day has come, and Bat Chain Puller is now seeing the light of day after thirty-six years of gathering dust on a shelf. In 2010 the avant-garde artist passed away, and this posthumus release is the perfect way to commemorate both him and Frank Zappa’s groundbreaking work.

Other Releases This Week:

Attack Attack! – This Means War

The Big Pink - Future This

The Duke Spirit - Bruiser

Seeker Lover Keeper - Seeker Lover Keeper

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