The 405 choosing to toss a bit of shine on 5 albums just makes a (silly) sort of sense, doesn't it? Drop by monthly to catch our top picks each and every, well, month. In no order, these are 5 LP's we adored in February 2018.


Black Milk: FEVER.

Unfairly destined to become one of the most overlooked and underrated hip-hop releases of the year (y’know, unless clued-up, venerable publications like The 405 refuse to stop banging on about how great it is), Black Milk’s FEVER sees the legendary Detroit producer/rapper, Curtis Cross, stick a thermometer in the mouth of a nation and deliver an unsurprisingly dire prognosis on the state of things. With FEVER, Cross had in fact set out to make more of a vibey, feel-good album in an attempt to break away from the relative darkness of his previous solo rap releases, If There’s A Hell Below and No Poison No Paradise.

That feel-good album is certainly there in the instrumentals - note the silky smooth chorus vocals on opener, ‘unVeil,’ or the Summery bounce of ‘Could It Be’ - but, lyrically, Cross has got a bone to pick (“Fuck the leader, and your leadership”) and a hell of a lot to lament, from police brutality on highlight, ‘Laugh Now, Cry Later,’ to a culture consumed with petty shit at the expense of what really matters. It’s that juxtaposition of funky, assuredly light-footed production and hard-hitting, socially conscious lyricism that lends FEVER its unique, addicting energy.

While his beats have never sounded so organic and effortless (and yet rife with so much depth and detail that relistenability becomes one of the album’s chief assets), it’s as an emcee that Cross makes his greatest leap forward. Get on the right side of history, folks: don’t sleep on Black Milk’s FEVER. -Andy Johnston

Hookworms: Microshift.

Hookworms’ third album came after an extended break of over 3 years. In listening to Microshift, you’d think this was purely because of the way they’ve expanded and emboldened their 21st-century kraut rock making the writing and recording process longer. But it turns out that there were natural forces at work too; the River Aire overflowed on Boxing Day 2015, flooding their studio and destroying all of their equipment. For bands with less desire, this might have spelt the end.

For Hookworms, however, it was a new beginning. Rather than rue the disaster, they used it to their advantage, using it to fuel the album not only in the lyrics but also in the gurgling synths that run throughout, underpinning Hookworms’ expansive psychedelic pop rock sounds. Microshift shows a band not only a band with bigger, heftier hooks, but it also has an ambition that was previously unforetold too. It flows together as one majestic suite, demanding to be listened to as one piece. -Rob Hakimian

U.S. Girls: In a Poem Unlimited.

Having produced music under the U.S. Girls moniker for nearly a decade, Meg Remy’s vision and clarity jumps up several notches with each project. 2015’s Half Free‘s cut-and-paste style sample pop has been eschewed, and here on In a Poem Unlimited, Remy instead employs a full band funky enough to tackle Remain In Light-era Talking Heads all the way to bubbly eighties pop. When her voice cries “It’s all just fiction!” on opener “Velvet for Sale,” you’ll be hooked until Poem has played its final note. This is a much different record than Half Free in terms of scope and composition, but you won’t have to second guess why after hearing it. -Michael Cyrs

Kendrick Lamar et al: Black Panther.

Can't the King have some fun? Granted, curating a soundtrack for a damn Marvel movie is no small move, offering Top Dawg Entertainment the kind of platform (and press) that many would kill for. Perhaps for this very reason, the naysayers were quickly circling: Lamar sounds uninspired, a soundtrack is too limiting of his genius, the white noise droned on.

In actuality, Black Panther allowed for the arrival of Kendrick Lamar, the curator. Getting his Dr. Dre on and ceding the centerstage, Kendrick is nonetheless present throughout, offering some form of backing vocals or gleeful shout outs on every track, sounding the excited cheerleader for his compatriots, happy to go uncredited through a varied, versatile ride. Is this the best rap album of the year? Perhaps not, but it may damn well be the one you listen to the most. -Chase McMullen

Car Seat Headrest: Twin Fantasy.

After the all-conquering success of 2016’s Teens of Denial, it was always going to be interesting to see how Car Seat Headrest’s temperamental leader Will Toledo would follow up. The answer was to go back to his most fragile mindset and most ambitious self-recorded album, 2011’s Twin Fantasy, and re-record it with a much bigger budget, know-how and ambition. The resulting new version of Twin Fantasy is an odyssey into self-examination and the fraughtness of an unstable mental state.

Twin Fantasy plays out like a concept album in which Will Toledo meets his alternative persona. This is no artistic metaphor or Hollywood comedy though; when he veritably screams “I don’t want to go insane/ I don’t want schizophrenia” on the 13-minute ‘Beach-Life-In-Death’ you feel the rawness of genuine terror in his voice. Within this split-personality story that he tells across the album he touches on his mortality, self-worth, unhealthy dependencies, sexuality and emotional evolution, all twisted together into a 75-minute alt-rock opus replete with several guitar explosions, hair-raising 90-degree handbrake turns and spoken-word asides. The big hooks from Teens Of Deanial can still be found in songs like ‘Nervous Young Inhumans’ and ‘Sober To Death’, but here Toledo is more interested in making a big, album-length statement akin to a two-act play.

The two halves of the album mirror each other, like the two halves of Toledo within them, with lyrics and track titles from the beginning of the album re-occurring in slightly modified form. The countless repetitions of the line “don’t worry, you and me won’t be alone no more,” in ‘Sober To Death’ moves from comforting to uncertain to actually quite terrifying, as the split personality starts to take hold. This descent is followed all the way down to the end of the album, when we’re left with the final happy (but is it actually?) ending in ‘Twin Fantasy (Those Boys)’: “they just want to be one/ walk off into the sun/ they’re not kissing/ they’re not fucking/ they’re just having fun.” -Rob Hakimian

Honorable Mention:

A bit of love for a record that took many of us by surprise late in the month~

A.A.L.: 2012-2017.

The mercurial Nicolas Jaar dropped 2012–2017 – essentially a compilation of tracks produced in the last five years – under his little-used pseudonym Against All Logic and with absolutely zero fanfare in mid-February. While it’s a stretch to paint Jaar as a cult figure, his fandom is composed of zealotry, ascribing genius immediately and ardently to his every lesser-spotted release. With 2012-2017, such magnification is pretty correct. Given its ostensible format as a compilation, there’s no tangible uniformity to its eleven tracks, but this erratic, diasporic feel serves it wonderfully, with each track idiosyncratic and accountable and positively soaring.

Although there are flourishes of techno bass and disco flourishes, it’s mired in 4/4 beats and classically house arrangements, not to mention its house quintessence in foregrounding its sampling (including Yeezus samples, which, given that record’s own status as a sampling masterwork, is some proper John Ford/Akira Kurosawa/Sergio Leone-style inheritance). Given their own individualism and singular gratification, it’s challenging to pick a cut that’ll be a canonical club favourite – though mine is the unflappable marcher ‘Cityface’ – but this is only a mark of its relentless, dogmatically stable bangerdom. One of the most thrilling the house records in a long time, and an early frontrunner for dance record of the year. -Kieran Devlin