2014: Third Quarter Favorites From Suzi Ecto and Suki Girlz to The Abyss of the Dark Web

For each year's first three quarters, we celebrate by sharing a list of our favorite music releases. Unlike our year-end lists, these quarter features are casually compiled, with an aim to spotlight the underdogs and the lesser-heard among the more popular picks. More from this series

Jenny Hval & Susanna
Meshes of Voice


Like a classic 60s film in which the scrolling opening credits unspool exhaustively, down to that clover-eyed MPAA logo, Meshes ushers in its harrowing tableau furtively, with an exquisitely textured, wobbly clump of repeating harpsichord­like figures. Once things are properly under way and the twin attack of stately dirge and unsettling drone that is “Black Lake” deftly twists its way out of however your musicdrunk head tries to pin it down, one’s awe is already palpable. This experience is worth having not just for its rarefiedly subtle genre cross-pollination (or for its amazing artwork), but because it positively radiates as something built to last. The album is neither a short listen nor without a borderline proggy air of grandeur, but its 15 tracks are seamlessly enthralling enough to discourage idle nitpicking. It’s as intimidatingly intricate as it is an embarrassment of pitch­perfect dark-pop riches. It’s a testament to free collaboration that overwhelms and beckons in the same breath. “The Black Lake Took” and it gave, and we’re left with a satisfyingly eerie yet decidedly panicked silence, best broken by further immersion.

Dustin Wong and Takako Minekawa
Savage Imagination

[Thrill Jockey]

To create is chaotic. It’s the most basic and ultimate form of disruption next to destruction, since your interactions are adding something to the whole. The process is never profitable, unlike what some idiotic techno-narcissists might have you believe. At the same time, such chaos is integral to the basis of nature. What you create isn’t anything that takes organized shape. Instead, it becomes multiple forms that aren’t immediately, if ever, recognizable to you, the creator. To say your works branch out like trees is too simplistic an explanation, for it goes places you can’t venture. Without place, you have no understanding of what you have made. And that’s fine. By adding something, you lose control of it. But perhaps that’s the whole point of the exercise. Maybe all you’re doing is fulfilling a role nature needs completed. But then that would require accepting that nature is chaotic and not entirely bound to laws that make sense. Are you willing to do that, to eliminate the self and its intellect, to eliminate the political that has become the personal for reasons that escape everyone, for the sake of creation? If so, you may just make something incredible.

Shabazz Palaces
Lese Majesty

[Sub Pop]

Loosely translated as “disrespecting the reigning sovereign,” Lese Majesty couldn’t be a more appropriate title for Shabazz Palaces’ second full-length. While Black Up nudged the boundaries of hip-hop into new territories, Lese Majesty adds a whole new chapter to the rulebook. Burying their trademark skitterish samples and beats beneath layers of gauzy synth washes is only the beginning of Ishmael Butler and Tendai Maraire’s exploration mission; the album’s 18 cuts are broken down into seven thematic suites that sees each song within meld effortlessly into the next, coming off like one track broken down into separate movements. But fear not: one listen to Lese Majesty allays any concerns that Shabazz Palaces are letting their ego shape their art. In fact, the suite is a perfect reference point for the ensemble approach the group takes to writing this future-gazing brand of hip-hop, roping in like-minded collaborators and using their contributions not as a byline on the tracklist or to dial-in a verse to disrupt the flow, but as another instrument in the composition of the album. And these are just the preliminary ways Lese Majesty is disrespecting the gravitas of current “sovereigns” in the hip-hop game; repeat and closer listens reward listeners who desire to unpack the dense, literary wordplay and dissect exactly what is musically going on in this album.


[Psalmus Diuersae]

pq​:​f (retitled from ƒ sj J¶JF : Pq​~​; ?​?​?​/​a​/​a/ J#​(​. . a a9) is another grab at the palsy-shaking enigma behind Susan Balmar, WARM THIGHS, 0000-A70U-0075, _lip/, Perry Trollope – *exhale* – SLF Tapes curator, LEWIS CARROL & THE ACADEMY, PRADA & OREGON, index of/sampler, and lord knows what else. All situated in their much-varied corners of the web, all cloaked in obscurity, a dish on top of a table in a foyer of a home bowing at the edges from short-circuiting wires known only to the soul who put them there. The depth of the body of work behind /F, and /F itself, far reaches a series of sonic branches connected to a single trunk, like previous releases. WARM THIGHS had SLF Tapes. PRADA & OREGON had auditory field theory. /F has Psalmus Diuersae. The discography of the five-month-old label, its name Latin for “different song,” as Bort pointed out, mesh with the vibe of Susan Balmar and could very well be Susan Balmer, but the thought is lost among the steady flush of new sounds (already 25 releases since its conception), and rightfully so. Put whoever/whatever blended the album’s six-part, 23-minute overture of overheating jabs and resoldered harmonies on the back burner, and take some time to savor it all.

FKA twigs


Everyone’s a critic, and as I know intimately, every critic secretly moonlights in creative storytelling. One of last year’s juiciest characters was Tahliah Barnett, a plainly spoken British singer and dancer who made a few cryptic, sexy trip-hop tracks with sample destroyer/Yeezus crony Arca. What happened to that story? With LP1, Barnett tells her own version. It seems entirely unrealistic that our Barnett would pose for magazine covers, open up about her career as a video girl, and sing frankly about sex. Thankfully, she’s no longer our Barnett. These songs ooze, ache, moan, creak, drag you into their emotional quagmire. The immediate beauty of LP1 is such that it’s easy to forget that we’re listening to the future. Music to put one’s pen down to.

For each year's first three quarters, we celebrate by sharing a list of our favorite music releases. Unlike our year-end lists, these quarter features are casually compiled, with an aim to spotlight the underdogs and the lesser-heard among the more popular picks. More from this series